What really counts is that you have someone that will be there for you no matter what. And in return, you are there for someone too.
The next weekend Snehali came back to Delhi after 6 months. Everyone who knew her in the company was now impressed with her work in Mumbai and wanted to catch up. Everyone wanted to hear to her stories and how she went about her work. She was also awarded a promotion. She was now a Project Manager and assigned to a totally new project that was in tandem with the work related to office communication that she had done in Mumbai. Her company now wanted to sell the same as a product customisable per customer’s needs.
Not only on the official front. It was like her personal life also wanted to catch up in Delhi. Her best friend Kanu who had went to UK for a phD was now back and she wanted to meet her and get all updates about her. Her parents and her brother who had missed her now were looking for some undivided attention from her and she also understood that fully.
That week passed in a haze and all Snehali and Neerav could do was greeting each other in the mornings and evenings in the name of communication.
That weekend was the first weekend after Snehali was back from Mumbai and her Parents wanted to make the most of it. After all their dear daughter had been away from them for so long. They had planned for a family weekend getaway.
The decided destination for their trip was Mathura and Vrindavan. They had arranged to stay in the Radha Ashok hotel in Mathura and visiting the various temples in Mathura and Vrindavan.
It was 7am in the morning and they were on the newly constructed Yamuna Expressway for the first time in their car. They were enjoying driving on the expressway and were discussing its advantages and disadvantages.
The conversation was interesting and Snehali was thoroughly enjoying herself but Lavit wanted to steer the conversation to some other topic. What he said was a bit confusing for Snehali “Hmm so, Mom what are your plans for Vrindavan.”
“Nothing, we will just visit few temples there. Snehali has got promotion, we will thank God for it. Also, most of the people from our society have already been to Vrindavan so I wanted to see it for myself.”
“Ok, is it just that?” Lavit said feigning innocence.
Snehali’s Mom Kavita looked at her Husband Ashok, they seemed to talk to each other through their eyes. It was Ashok who said finally, “Its ok Lata, let us discuss with Snehali now. We don’t need to wait anymore.”
“What is it Papa?”, Snehali had asked curiously.
“Snehali, the time you have been in Mumbai. Your Mom got a few proposals for you for Marriage.”
“Oh, Why am I hearing about them now?”
“Just that we did not want you to bother about it while you were alone in Mumbai. ” her father answered her while driving the car.
Her Mom took over “Yes Dear, you are already 26 years old, have already done your MBA and are pretty settled in your job. Its time you start looking at the proposals for marriage. Its a good age to get married.”
But her father added to her relief, “Only if you are ready Snehali, we don’t want to pressurise you ever. Marriage is supposed to be next step but only when you feel the same way. Think about it and let us know if there is anyone in your mind already or you want us to help you in that.”
Lavit was again looking at Snehali and teasing her “So Di, is there someone you want us to know about?”
Snehali acted getting angry and ignored him. She thought for a bit and said “Give me sometime, I will think about it and will let you know.”
Both her parents agreed. She knew the timing was perfect. It was the thing she wanted to discuss with her parents anyways. But it was Neerav who wanted to talk to them first so she thought she could wait for a bit. While thinking about this she dozed off with her head on the window.
Neerav had not met Snehali for about 2 weeks now. 1 week in Mumbai and 1 week in Delhi. They had been in touch on messages but calls had not been possible. Snehali was busy packing her stuff in Mumbai and then her parents had reached their to help her. Then in the office she had been busy and almost every day she was late to reach home and then she was dead tired. Neerav was understanding enough to not pester her for a call or time when she was clearly busy but that did not mean that he did not miss her.
Snehali had gone for a weekend trip with her parents and Neerav did not have any plans. So he decided to sleep in till late. The moment he got up he sent a good morning message to Snehali to which he received a sweet reply
“Good Morning Sleepyhead. We have reached Vrindavan and already missing you like hell. Hope the next trip we have, you are there with us too.”
“Enjoy the trip, I hope so too Baby. I am off to fixing some breakfast for myself.”
Neerav prepared breakfast for himself. Omelette with two eggs and a cup full of strong coffee.
He sat on the table and finished his breakfast. He decided to watch some show on Netflix. He could not find anything interesting and switched it off. He again started thinking about Snehali, after all he was missing her badly. And then he realized he needed to plan a trip to his home before he could a plan a trip with Snehali so he dialled his Mom’s number.
“Hello Beta, had your breakfast?” His mom chirped happily.
“Yes Mom, just had it.”
“Let me guess. Mmm… Boiled eggs and strong coffee?”
“You are right about the Coffee but wrong about the eggs.”
“Oh” his Mom said acting sad “did you order something then.”
“No Mom, I made Omelette”
“Great, so you have time on your hands today.”
“Yes, Mom” Neerav said smiling.
“Ok, so what are we discussing about today?”
Neerav rolled his eyes. He loved it when his Mom acted this way, that meant she was in good mood. “Nothing Mom. Just tell me what have you been up to?”
“Karuna came over last night, and I am preparing chidwa for her.” It was her favourite, Karnua loved snacking on chidwa. Neerav thought lovingly.
Karuna was Neerav’s elder sister who got married few months back in the same city of Aligarh.
“Wow, she is back, I am also planning to come. Actually I called for that only. Next weekend looks good?”
“You forgot Neerav, I told you already, next weekend we are going for Karuna’s brother in law’s engagement that will be on Monday. But Karuna’s in-laws would appreciate if you could turn up there.”
“Oh yes Ma, you told me. A leave on Monday is tough for me, there is a release to go next week which I am handling. Sorry.”
“Okay, no worries. So then you can come the next weekend after that. I will ask Karuna to come over that week.”
“Yes, that will be good. I will do that.”
“And what’s up with you?”
“Nothing much. I will get the tickets booked for next weekend.”
Mother and Son continued their banter for sometime. Neerav booked the tickets soon after the call was over.
He also messaged Snehali that he is going to go to his home next weekend to talk to his parents.
On Tuesday next week, Snehali met Kanu after about an year. Snehali told her everything about Neerav and how her relationship evolved.
Kanu was genuinely happy for her.
“Oh my God! So much happened Snehali and you are telling me now?” kanu looked at her with surprise and mischief twinkling in her eyes.
“I did want to tell you Kanu, you know that. But I wanted to tell you in person. ” Snehali said with warmth for her best friend.
“You know I am so happy for you.” Kanu was grinning from ear to ear “and whatever you have told me about Neerav. I have become his fan.” Kanu thought for sometime and then said “I need to meet him.”
“I know. I want him to meet my parents too. He has proposed but no one knows yet.”
Kanu opened her already big eyes wider “Your parents don’t know yet?”
Snehali nodded her head with a sad face.
“But why? They would love it. You should tell them now.”
“He just proposed last week and then he himself wants to tell them.” Snehali shrugged. “I do feel bad that they don’t know yet but I guess it would be better if he tells them.”
Kanu again resumed her happy face “Oh! Chivalry!” He clapped her hands and said “It will be the best surprise ever and then You getting engaged.” and she jumped on her seat in the cafe.
Snehali looked at her sternly looking all around “Control control!” she said in a whisper.
“Anyways I want to meet him!” Kanu was stern.
“Ok ok, this week Saturday?” Snehali said finally giving in.
“Perfect!” Kanu grinned
It was Friday night and Snehali had been very busy. Neerav was missing her and had messaged her “Call me when you are free tonight.”
It was about 11.30pm when Snehali finally felt everyone was sleeping, she closed her room’s door to avoid any noise to wake them up and dialled Neerav’s number.
Neerav picked up the call on its 5th ring and said sleepily “I thought you would not call today.”
“But I promised.”
“Mmmm.. Yes you did.”
“And you slept?”
“I was thinking about you and just drifted off. We were always on the call at night remember?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I miss being with you. This week we could not even talk. These have been very testing times for me.”
“And what do you think? Was I enjoying? I am waiting for that day when we could be together forever.”
Neerav just held the phone and Snehali could hear the sound of his breathing as if deep in thought.
“What is it?”
“We should get our parents involved now.”
“Really? I was thinking we are going to elope.” Snehali joked.
“If you want to, I am game.” Neerav teased.
“Ok then, tell me when?”
“And where are we going to elope? You do know we have our jobs here that pay for our bills?”
“Yes, I was thinking about that, it would be hard to run away from this city. Plus our parents would be worried too.” Neerav said as if he was seriously considering eloping.
“Hmm, you are right, might be we should talk to them.” she giggled and then continued. “On a serious note though Neerav, when are you coming to talk to my parents.”
“Soon baby. I am going to talk to my parents next weekend. Hopefully then I will come to your parents to finally ask for your hand.”
“Neerav?” Snehali said with a bit of apprehension in her voice.
“Everything will turn out fine na?”
“I am counting on it.” Again this was the time Neerav should have told his reservations to Snehali but he did not. He told himself that he will get it to work.
“Ok, so let’s meet tomorrow?”
“You read my mind.” Neerav said grinning.
“I told Kanu about us, she is going to meet you tomorrow. She was adamant about that.”
“Should I be scared?”
“No, nothing to be scared of. I told her all about you, she is already your fan.”
“Oh! What have you been telling her? Now I have a high standard to live upto.” Neerav acted hurt.
“Nothing but the truth. Anyways, Mr. Neerav, she is my best friend, make sure to leave a good impression.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” and they both laughed.
Snehali was getting ready to go to meet Neerav and Kanu on Saturday.
She still could not tell her parents about Neerav so she told them partial truth. She told them she was going to meet Kanu because she was back after a long time and she wanted to go shopping and that they might even watch a movie together too.
Her brother Lavit was playing with a tennis ball in his hands and said “Earlier, you never went outside for so long.”
“Yeah, I am going to meet Kanu after a full year and she needs to do some shopping for her cousin’s wedding. She has a lot to catch-up on so she suggested and I agreed.”
“But, since when have you been so enthusiastic about shopping, even Kanu Didi – I don’t remember her doing so much of shopping.
“How do I know?”
The ball fell out from Lavit’s hand and he got up to catch it. “Yes, how would you know.” He looked back at Snehali. The glint in his eyes and that goofy smile told Snehali that she had guessed the reason but decided to let it be for a while.
“Oh, come on Lavit, I would of course tell you if anything like that happens.”
“Okay!” and he went out taking the ball.
She heard him saying “Mom, have you ever seen Snehali Di going with so much makeup on with Kanu Didi?”
Snehali rolled her eyes “Oh God! This boy!”
Kavita reprimanded him “Leave her alone Lavit” while she was taking out clothes for the dry-cleaner.
To be continued….
They reached the venue where Manas and Nisha were throwing the wedding party. It was a beautifully maintained open lawn, the grass was trimmed to the perfect length and the morepankhi plants were symmetrically placed on the borders , in one corner stage for orchestra was set. Covered food stalls were arranged on one side, on the other end where the rooms ended there was a porch decorated heavily with pink and white roses which set the entire theme. Such pink and white flowers were used throughout the sitting area which was interspersed with circular tables.
As soon as they entered the venue, they spotted Manas and Nisha, Nisha was sitting on one of the tables talking to someone on the phone and Manas was standing near the stalls checking the arrangements. They both looked tired and not dressed for the event. They had called Neerav and Snehali early to help out with the last minute arrangements.
It was Manas who saw them first and walked towards them, Nisha joined soon. “Thank God! You came.I have never organized a party at this big scale and I feel like nothing is getting wrapped up. I don’t know why I needed to act like I will get everything done. Nisha’s brother was offering help too.”
“I know you wanted to act like a hero. Not your fault bro.” Neerav consoled him tapping his palm on his shoulder and also winked.
Manas did not let a minute go to waste and started giving him account of everything that was happening around “These flower arrangements should have been completed and they are still working on them. The cook is now complaining that he needs more gas cylinders, I don’t know what he was thinking when I asked him yesterday about what he needed from us. The orchestra people, please remember to call them up. I am just sending you their number they should be here within the next hour. And Neerav, I need to be ready too.”
Neerav was trying to placate him “Its ok bro, I will get all of it sorted.”
“I just hope that we get through this party in one piece.”
“Don’t worry bro. How can it be an event if some complications don’t happen at the end time. How will we remember it? Be happy that now you have so many stories to tell.”
“You are right, I do love telling stories.” and with that Manas was laughing again. And so was Neerav.
The bond and energy they shared was infectious and Nisha and Snehali could not stop themselves from giggling too.
Manas started “And what are you doing here Ma’am. Aren’t you supposed to get ready and look the most beautiful today?”
“Oh yes, come Snehali.” Nisha held her hand and took her to one of the rooms attached to the lawn.
Inside Nisha told Snehali that she was talking to the beautician who was already late.
“The beautician is stuck in a huge traffic jam at her place. Mumbai and its traffic are always the worst. I just told her no need to come now. But you will have to help me with my makeup and dress.”
“I do want to help you Nisha, but I am the person who knows just the basics of makeup and nothing else.” Snehali said with worry writ on her face.
The expression on her face made Nisha laugh “Don’t worry, I am fine with makeup. I can do myself. But you will have to help me with the hair and dress.”
Nisha did know what she was doing in terms of makeup and her dress and Snehali had to just follow her instructions. Within 30 minutes Nisha was all ready and looking radiant as ever. She also did some touch ups for Snehali.
“I wish you could have stayed in Mumbai for some more time. We are going to miss you guys.” Nisha told Snehali. They had become good friends chatting on whatsapp sometimes. Nisha even took her advice for some of the shopping she did for the new home they were setting up for themselves.
“I know, I would have loved too. But I am employee only. I will keep visiting you guys for sure. Also, Manas’s parents live near Delhi only right. If and when ever you go there, make sure you let me know.”
Snehali realized what she had said after she said it.
“Oh, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Snehali could see tears that had appeared in Nisha’s eyes.
“Of course I know you did not mean to hurt me. It’s just that it is a weak point. I am not even sure if doing a marriage without them was a good idea. Just Manas was so sure he wanted to go ahead with it.”
“Why are you saying this now? Is everything okay?”
“I don’t know. I just hope whatever I am thinking is not true.”
“What is it? Oh, never mind, I am sorry I am being too intrusive.”
“No dear, you are not. You are my friend. It’s just that the 5 years I have been with Manas, I have never seen him like that. He was never the one to hide anything from me. He always had things to say. Even when we were having fights. He never stopped talking to me. But since he realized his parents are not supporting him in the marriage I have seen him zoning off. I have tried to talk to him about it but he just does not let me know what is going on in his mind.” Nisha was looking at Snehali with expectant eyes as if asking her to say something comforting.
Snehali felt bad for Nisha, this was not something she was expecting to hear, but she had to say something to cheer up Nisha. “I am sure you guys can sort this out. Manas is a very nice and simple man. He will share with you whatever is bothering him, give him some time.”
Nisha just nodded her head. “You are right, anyways I should be happy today. It is not everyday that someone gets married” she said winking.
Snehali let out a laugh and hugged her.
Soon people starting coming for the party. Her friends and relatives were all coming to meet her. Nisha was meeting all of them and smiling her best.
She did not let Snehali out of the room and insisted that she would go with her. She also introduced her parents and relatives to Snehali.
Soon Snehali came out with Nisha on her side. When Snehali looked in front she saw Neerav standing beside Manas, she was sure Manas would be looking at Nisha but she could not take her eyes away from the way Neerav was looking at her. His look told her what he was thinking. Snehali had never felt happier. She gave him a smile which he acknowledged with an affectionate blink of the eye. She knew he loved him but the care in his eyes made the world a better place. She wanted to tell Neerav how he made her feel but she knew this was not the place and not the right time. This day was for Manas and Nisha and she wanted to help Neerav make it as special as it could be.
After initial round of drinks when everyone was seated. Neerav took the mic and stood under the porch. He was all praises for Manas and had everyone’s attention when he said
“I grew up with Manas in the same city and same school. We shared our lunches while we were in school and had many play dates with each other. We were not in contact in our colleges but when we connected it was like we never lost touch. It is Manas who I can count to always be there without any conditions. In him, I see a grown up man whose heart is filled with love and compassion and what makes me the most happy is the fact that he has the best companion he could have ever asked for – Nisha, who has been with him in all his highs and low. Friends, a relationship cannot survive for 5 years so beautifully as there’s has. For this beautiful couple, I just wish that their love for each other continues to grow. They become strength for each other every part of the way of their beautiful journey together. Wish you a very Happy Wedding Guys!”
Neerav toasted his glass to them and sat at his designated seat beside Snehali. After him a couple of more people – two of Manas’s friends gave their toasts and the orchestra started playing a Bollywood tune “Tum Dena Saath Mera…”
Neerav and Snehali got up and pulled Manas and Nisha to the dancing area. They both started dancing and then were joined by others. Neerav and Snehali too danced with all of them. Soon the food had to be started and Neerav took off to have a look at the arrangements, Snehali took her seat and removed her sandals.
Soon Snehali was joined by Nisha and Manas. They all had dinner together and it was time to leave.
When Neerav sat in the cab with Snehali. He was quiet and thoughtful. Snehali kept looking at him but he was looking outside the window as if something was disturbing him. She waited for sometime but when Neerav did not seem to move she kept a hand on his shoulder and asked “Are you Okay Neerav?”
When Neerav looked at her, she saw pain in his eyes and she was filled with dread. She did not understand why she was feeling this way. She kept her hand on his cheek to comfort him and asked “What is it?”
Neerav took her hand and kept it in his other hand. At that moment he decided to let Snehali know, “I am worried about Manas. He is sad that his family was not a part of the celebration and I can understand. He has always been a family man, he always took care of his parents and they shared a great bond, I am not sure what went wrong. Why uncle aunty are not at his side now.”
Snehali understood what pain it could be to not have parents to share such an important moment of your life “I hope they will soon be with him. After all they are his parents, how long can they live away from their own son.”
Neerav squeezed her hand in his as if reassuring himself “I hope they do.”
Neerav was sitting on the legendary sheesham wood Dining Table that his family had for 20 years now, his father was sitting beside him at the head of the table and his mother was serving fritters, his two sisters Karuna and Aarti were sitting on the table giggling at some private joke. Neerav was observing all of them and was thinking how to let them know about Snehali.
His mother was coaxing him to eat the fritters which he had not started yet.“Start eating Neerav, why are you not taking any? As it is you look weak.”
Well, how could she be his mother if she did not complain about him getting weak every time he visited.
Without saying anything he took few potato and onion fritters and put them in his plate along with the green chutney. He thought to wait for his mother to arrive.
After about five minutes, she came with a big batch of fritters in a big plate again, kept them on the table and sat on the other side of his father. She started serving on her own plate.
Neerav thought this was the right time and addressed his parents with a feeble voice “I need to talk to you guys.”
His father said “Yes son, we are listening.”
He was looking at his mother who was busy eating.
“I love someone.”
His mother stopped moving and looked at Neerav. “Did I hear it right? Did you say you loved someone?”
Neerav was looking at the expression on his mother’s face feeling a fear grip his heart and said “Yes”
His mother’s eyes were getting bigger and bigger. He moved his eyes towards his father and he looked confused.
“Okay so after everything we have done for you, you decide to rebel. I never thought you would turn up that way.” He looked disappointed.
Neerav felt sad listening to his words, All he ever wanted was to make his parents proud, how did he become the person to disappoint them. But he could not understand how loving someone was rebelling. His brain was buzzing.
“No Papa, I am not rebelling. I seriously don’t intend to be any kind of rebel. But how is loving someone being a rebel?”
“If you can’t understand then I don’t have any hope from you.” His father got up and left without finishing the food on his plate.
His mother was giving him a pitying look.
His mother too got up and left taking his father’s plate. He was looking at his sisters now who had stopped giggling and were looking at Neerav as if he was an alien.
He heard the sound of an alarm, soon he opened his eyes and realised this all was a dream. He sat up on the bed holding his head in his hands.
Neerav and Snehali were walking towards the exit of the Phoenix Mall in Mumbai after watching a movie together when Neerav stopped in his tracks. He was looking at someone entering the mall.
He told Snehali who was standing beside him “I think I saw a friend I know, wait here ok.” and then he ran towards the person.
Snehali looked at Neerav running, the way his hair was bouncing and the way he was looking at a person in front of him trying to call out his name. She could see the quality that always attracted her towards him, how he always carried himself with ease and exuded the warmth of a person who cared about others.
She saw him finally catching up with the person he had been trying to call. The man turned and was pleasantly surprised to see Neerav. They shook hands as soon as they met. He introduced Neerav to the girl with him, Neerav shook her hand too and then told them something and pointed towards Snehali. They all started walking towards Snehali.
Snehali felt a bit awkward standing there watching them coming to her, she was not sure if she should walk towards them too.
When they finally met. Neerav introduced them to Snehali putting his arms around her shoulders “This is Snehali, my girlfriend”.
It was Neerav’s childhood friend Manas with whom he had studied in the same School. Their parents also knew each other well. They had tried to stay in touch after school but college life and other things had kept them busy and they had drifted apart. It was only via his parents that Neerav got any news about Manas.
Manas was with his girlfriend Nisha at that time. He was working in Mumbai in an animation studio. Nisha had been with him since college days. They were dating for about 5 years.
Manas and Nisha were about to go to a Cafe and they invited Neerav and Snehali too.
When they were seated comfortably, Manas asked Snehali, “So, who proposed to whom in your case?”
Snehali just looked at Neerav confused. She was not sure if she should say anything.
Manas looked like a man who loved to laugh. He continued “Don’t worry about him, I have known him since childhood.” He put a hand around Neerav smiling widely, mischief clear in his eyes.
As if understanding Snehali’s confusion, Neerav said shrugging “I did. Big deal!”
“Well, just so that you know. He was a flirt at school.” Manas said as if he was the most responsible person ever.
Neerav turned and looked at him stunned “What?”
Snehali looked equally shocked.
Manas laughed. Neerav then said to Snehali warning her, “Don’t believe anything he says, he is just good at making up stories.”
Manas acted being serious and put up both his hands, “Ok ok, now only the truth. You don’t know Snehali, how many girls he let go just because he had decided never to propose. Girls kept on dropping the hints and he kept on ignoring them till one day a girl proposed him. I thought finally he will have a girlfriend and was going to go to a temple to offer my thanks to God. But you know what he did?”
Snehali did not know anything about this, all she knew was Neerav was a very shy person at the time they had met and slowly he had opened up to her. She shook her head again looking at Neerav. Neerav was looking everywhere else but at the table they were sitting on.
“He turned her down.”
“Oh, poor girl!” Snehali acted sad though she did not feel even a bit of it.
Manas resumed with a sigh, “Well, that is not the sad part.”
Neerav’s head was bent low now and no one could see his face. Snehali had never seen him like this, she could not help smiling, “Then, what is?”
“After that, no girl approached him ever. It was like he had become a taboo.”
It was clear this was not something Neerav wanted to share with anyone and added: “It really did not impact me at all.”
Manas was shaking his head and feigned being sad “Clearly, that made him the nerd he is today.”
Nisha chided him. “Come on now Manas, Neerav is already embarrassed. Go and get the order.”
Manas stood up to place their orders asking everyone what they will be having. Neerav joined him.
Manas and Neerav had a lot to catch up on and Manas told about him and Nisha as well.
It was the expression on Manas’s face that did not seem right when he said: “Yes, we have been dating for a long while and are planning to get married.”
Neerav felt excited at the thought but he did not see the same excitement on Manas’s face.
“If you two are planning marriage, shouldn’t you be looking happy and excited, bro?”, Neerav asked Manas.
“Just that my parents are kind of in the way, I never thought my parents would have an issue with a love marriage.”
“Oh! Is there anything I can do? Should I try talking to aunty?” Manas’s parents were old family friends and lived nearby.
“No, I have been trying to persuade them since about 2 years but they don’t seem to budge, they are thinking I will give up someday. It is so ironical, they supported me in all my endeavours and now it’s like they don’t understand me.”
“That is weird. What are you planning to do?”
“I am not sure yet, but if marriage is what is needed, it will be Nisha.”
Neerav patted his shoulder and said “I am confident whatever decision you take, it would be the right one. As far as I know, Uncle and Aunty will eventually agree.”
“I hope so.”
They had gone back to their seats after placing the orders.
While two old friends were catching up there was a new bond that was starting to form.
Nisha was the one to break the ice “Don’t mind Manas, He was just trying to lighten the mood, I am sure.”
“Yes, of course. In fact, I am glad he talked about Neerav’s childhood days.”
So, how long have you two been dating?” Nisha asked her.
“It has just been about 6 months. But we knew each other for 2 years before that.”
“Wow, you two do look like smitten by each other. Any plans on getting married?” Nisha asked with a grin on her face.
“Thanks, you two look very comfortable with each other. About marriage, We have not discussed yet, but the way things are going, hopefully.” Snehali had replied with a smile and twinkle in her eyes.
“Great, but speaking from my experience, dating period is the best time. You two should enjoy it till the time you can. When you start involving parents, things start changing. Too many opinions if you ask me.” Nisha seemed to shudder while saying all this.
“Yes, I know. The different perspectives.” Snehali quoted the last three words using her fingers in the air.
She continued after a pause “So when are you guys planning to get married?”
“We have been planning for two years, I hope soon. It seems like a big hurdle to cross.”
Snehali sensed she was not willing to divulge any more information than that.
“I hope and wish you guys cross this hurdle soon successfully,” Snehali said with a smile showing genuine care.
“I hope so too.” Nisha was beginning to like her.
The four of them had a great time together and parted with the promise of meeting again. It was not only Manas and Neerav that exchanged their numbers, Snehali and Nisha did too. They promised to go out on some girls only outing together as well.
It had been about a month since Neerav and Snehali had met Manas and Nisha. Snehali was wrapping up her work in Mumbai and packing her stuff to move back to Delhi.
Neerav was busy in his work and had been unable to go to Mumbai for the last 2 weekends.
It was Friday night and Snehali was chatting with Neerav on whatsapp and also packing up some stuff.
“The amount of work that I am doing, I am soon going to turn into a Zombie.” Snehali received this text from Neerav.
“How much time you have?”
“Considering I have not slept properly this whole week, anytime now.”
“Before you turn into a Zombie, just want you to know I love you.”
They both were laughing. And Neerav continued with his work while Snehali continued with her packing.
Neerav loved these moments when he could talk to Snehali about anything at all and feel refreshed.
Snehali loved the fact that Neerav always talked to her even if he was stressed. Even if it was for a couple of minutes. She had heard of men becoming unresponsive specially when they were stressed and Snehali was glad that at least now such was not the case.
When Neerav came that Saturday, Snehali gifted him a Zombie figurine. And there was a note written on the bottom “Zombie or not, I love you a lot.”
That Saturday evening, they also had a party to attend. Manas and Nisha were throwing a reception party post their marriage registration 2 days ago.
Snehali and Neerav were sitting in the backseat of the cab all dressed up. Snehali was wearing a royal blue saree with golden border, she had paired it with an intricately embroidered full sleeve Golden blouse with a deep neck. Her hair were left open with a middle parting and she had put light makeup. Neerav was wearing a white shirt and black pant that looked well on his lean and muscular body structure.
Neerav was just looking at her and marvelling at her beauty and her simplicity. “You look beautiful.” he told Snehali looking in her eyes.
“You already said that Neerav.” Snehali said embarrassed.
She continued after a pause
“Manas must be feeling bad that he can’t share this happiness with their parents.”, Neerav knew this was not a casual conversation and not knowing what to say was something he was experiencing for the first time with Snehali.
He finally decided on what to say “Yes, he was worried that this could happen when we met a month ago.”
“Is anyone coming from his family at all?”
“I think his brothers should be there. Lets see who we meet.”
“Did you talk to your parents about Manas? What was their reaction?”
Neerav did not know what to say at that moment. He had not talked to his parents about Manas. He was worried about their reaction. One thing he knew, he was certain about Snehali. He could not imagine a life without her. But he was not sure how his parents were going to react to this. They were quite supportive all throughout but they were also people who worried about society sometimes. Neerav was not able to decide how this topic should be approached with them. He was lost in thought.
“Mmm” Snehali had her hands around his arm and now Neerav had kept his palm over her fingers as if to make sure she was there.
“Will they agree for our marriage?”
Was Snehali able to read his thoughts? Neerav had felt a fear take shape inside himself but he held onto her hand tighter and had nodded his head.
“You know, since the time I got to know about Manas and Nisha, I have been thinking. I want our parents to be included in our marriage. I just want that we put our best efforts to make it possible.”
Neerav had reassured her, “Yes, we will.”
Snehali had felt happy and hugged him from the side fiercely. She kept her head on his shoulder sideways and let out a deep sigh.
“Yes?” She was staring straight ahead while her head was on his shoulder.
“Don’t start beating me up but isn’t there one thing that needs to be done before we start talking about marriage?”
“Umm, I might be wrong but I think one of us needs to propose for marriage first right?” Neerav mentioned innocently. He continued “I mean, do we know we are ready?”
Snehali felt her cheeks burn and she had turned red. She felt more embarrassed than she looked. She spluttered “Oh ye, yes, you… you.. you are right. How can I be so presumptuous! And please no pressure Haan!”
Snehali felt she was talking too much and thought it best to stop talking. She just shifted away from Neerav and started looking outside the window.
Next she heard a loud guffaw from Neerav.
“Caught you, and you thought I could not pull pranks on you!”
He was laughing but Snehali did not turn to look at him. He felt something was wrong and placed his hand on her shoulder. He saw her use the front of her index finger to dab the area around her eyes and then look at him with red eyes and the red nose. She was trying to give him a smile.
“I never could have guessed.” she said in a nasal voice.
“Oh shit! You are crying. No Snehali, that was not…”
Snehali did not let him finish his sentence and kept her
hand on his lips. “It’s ok. The fact is I was being presumptuous. I should not have assumed.” She gave him a weak smile.
“Oh no no. No no. No! I did not want it to turn up like this.”
Snehali gave him a smile but Neerav also saw that she had just stifled a sob.
Neerav put his arms around her such that she was now resting her head on his chest and whispered in her ears “I am sorry”. He took his other hand and held his ear.
“It’s ok. Seriously!” she said pulling his arm down away from his ears.
Neerav took out his white handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to Snehali.
Snehali took it and started dabbing at her eyes. Snehali felt something small slip from inside the folds of the handkerchief and fall onto her lap. She looked at it surprised, it was a solitaire ring. She picked it up and moved her head back to look at Neerav
He said to her with wet eyes that were fixed on Snehali’s face “Will you marry me Snehali?”
Snehali put her head back on his shoulder and punched him on his chest with the hand that also had the ring “Ow! ok ok, will you make me your punch bag for life?” Neerav said laughing.
Snehali gave him the ring and said “Only if you improve the standard of your pranks.”
Neerav nodded solemnly and made her wear the ring.
After making sure Snehali was fine, he said “You know, the fact that you don’t like my sense of humour has hurt me more than your punches.”
Snehali hit him again in the same spot, this time harder.
“Now?” Snehali asked her acting angry but failing to do so.
Neerav nodded “The punch hurts more.” And tightened his grip around her.
They were both waiting to hire a cab after they had spent the day walking on the beach hand in hand.
“I seriously want to see you off.”
“It is late, I can’t risk you coming back alone, I will drop you and then I will leave for the airport.”
She rolled her eyes and said “Its only evening Neerav.”
“Ok, I just need to drop you first. I might not be able to check with you on time that you are back, you know I have to board a flight.” he looked at her pleadingly.
Snehali made a face and agreed petulantly.
“I will come to see you next week, I will book a flight for Saturday Morning.”
Snehali smiled enthusiastically, “Are you sure? Wouldn’t it be too hectic for you?”
Neerav shook his head as if to say it was what he wanted the most.
Snehali was smiling widely this time holding her hands together in front of her “I can’t wait for the next weekend to come.”
Neerav had smiled and was looking at Snehali’s face, how her face betrayed her feelings. He knew this was not a girl who could even attempt lying ever, looking at her face anyone would know what was going on in her mind.
“But when I am finally settled in my room, we will be coming over to each other’s places alternate weekends. I don’t want you to tell me later, it was only you who put in all the efforts.”
“Come on, Why would I ever say that? And yes, you are welcome to come over to my place whenever you want to. “
“No, just wondering, what if, someday we get married and we have a fight and this is the first thing you come out with. I don’t want to give you any such material you know.” She had said with a mischievous look in her eyes.
“That someday, I would be the luckiest man on this earth.” he had said with utmost seriousness.
Oh! the days just after a proposal, when both the parties know about each other’s feelings really well. They don’t know if they should be in the air flying or should they get along with their day to day work. They don’t have eyes or ears for anyone else but for their partner. And there is a smile plastered on their faces that does not go away even after a lot of tries. These two people, so much in love, can spend 24 hours of a day talking to each other without batting an eyelid or stifling a yawn. And it appears they don’t even need food to survive. The “Love in the air” is sufficient to keep them full.
As anyone would guess, the weekdays were proving hard to go by for both of them, It was only Wednesday and Neerav felt like it had been ages since he saw Snehali, He sent her a message “Woah! It is only Wednesday yet!”
“Glad to know you know the days of the week Mr Anand.”
“Feels like ages since I last saw you.”
Snehali sent him a lot of her pictures “To lighten your load. Don’t forget to repay my good deed.”
“You made my day Ms Pandey. I look forward to making this our little tradition. Please send me a picture of yours daily.
Though not so fond of taking my own pictures. Your wish is my command.” He took a picture of himself just then and sent it to her.
Neerav had sent a picture with a tongue jutting out in a manner to tease her.
Snehali had laughed out loud seeing the picture. She only stopped laughing when she realised that everyone around was staring at her.
Neerav had a flight booked for himself for Saturday early morning and it was Friday.
“TGIF?” Snehali received this message from Neerav
“Disappointed that it’s not Saturday”
“What happened to the girl who could only think about work even on team outings?”
Snehali was rolling her eyes seeing this message from Neerav when another arrived. “;-)”
The world felt surreal as they kept meeting each other every weekend. Initially they both liked the idea of spending days on a beach and Snehali used to look for different beaches every time Neerav arrived.
After one month, when Snehali went to Delhi, she stayed with her parents and met him on Sunday for a brunch. They used to be together from morning till evening.
It was after about 2 months that Neerav was about to come to Mumbai the next Saturday and Snehali had prepared an extensive itinerary for their weekend, she now knew more about Mumbai. She was also comfortably settled in her room. She had already messaged Neerav about the places she had in mind to visit.
When he finally arrived, Snehali was nowhere to be found, she usually came to meet him at the airport itself. Neerav again looked at his phone and seeing no message from Snehali started worrying why she was not there, he was just calling Snehali when the phone buzzed with a message. It was from her, he had a puzzled expression on his face while he started checking the message.”Has your flight landed? I am stuck at office because of some urgent work. Hopefully, I will be free in 30 minutes, Can I meet you at Panache cafe directly?” He thought this was odd. She did not even call to ask about my flight. This is so unlike Snehali.
He hired a cab and went to Panache cafe. When he arrived after about 40 minutes, Snehali had not reached there yet. He got seated on a table for 2, and took out his phone to ask her how much time it will take her to reach, just then he received a message from her. “It will take me 30 minutes more, did you reach the cafe already?”
Reading the message, Neerav felt more intrigued, and was blinking rapidly looking at the message as if he was trying to see some hidden message there. Just then he heard a muffled sound of laughter coming from a corner of the hotel lobby, just near the door. He felt the laugh oddly familiar and turned to see the source.
Yes, it was Snehali. He was now narrowing his eyes at her and had a tight smile on his face “I knew you were up to something. What was it with no calls and only messages?” he asked her, bewildered.
“You know, I am not good at playing pranks. If I had called you, I am sure I would have laughed on the phone and how could I miss the precious expression on your face right now?” she pinched his cheeks laughing.
He pulled his cheeks from her hold and took her to the table holding her hand.
“Not that I want to take your moment away, but just as I saw your message after I landed, I was sure you were up to something. You would not have messaged me at the last moment if it was happening for real.”
“You know me so well.” Snehali continued in a child-like accent but Neerav rolled his eyes at her. Soon after that, he had a wide grin on his face when he said “You know I discovered one thing, your laughter is my stress buster. When I heard your laughter I felt all my tension disappear.”
“And you know I can always count on you to say something so romantic even in situations like these.” she said giggling.
“Come on, let’s order, Our banter can continue even after that.” Snehali called the waiter.
“What will you have?”
“Whatever you will have.”
She ordered food for both of them.
He was observing her the whole time. When the waiter left he said with curiosity writ all over his face, “You are different today, you are very happy. What is it?”
Snehali felt her cheeks redden, “Of course, I am seeing you after a long time.”
Neerav shook his head and stated, “We have been meeting for about 2 months now and we were friends before that. So, sorry, but you can’t fool me!”
Snehali gave in, “It is mostly because I am seeing you today and a bit because I am very excited to visit the Elephanta caves.” She was grinning like a child and pulled up her shoulders excitedly.Neerav looked at her affectionately and thought I can always count on my Snehali to find happiness in the most unlikely of places
After having breakfast, they rested in Snehali’s room for a while and then took off for Elephanta caves.
First, they went to the Gateway of India to buy the tickets for boats that would take them to the Elephanta caves.
Just when they reached the Gateway of India, some clouds had started gathering. Neerav noticed and asked her “Is it ok to go there if there is a chance of rain?”
Snehali replied, “Yes, of course, if there had been a problem, they would not be selling any tickets for it right.”
Neerav nodded “Makes sense.”
He got the tickets and stood in the queue to the boats, it took them about 15 minutes before they boarded one. The boat had 2 seating levels, they could sit on the lower level which was covered or they could climb to the top which was open and had a better view of the sea. So they paid a little bit extra and sat at the top level.
They had been spending almost every alternate weekend on beaches and yet the sea seemed refreshing to both of them. They both seemed to assimilate and appreciate the calmness of the sea. And now, they were sitting inside a boat, enjoying the sea all around with seagulls coming into view sometimes. They felt content.
When they reached the entrance to the Elephanta caves, more clouds had gathered and the sky was getting darker.
Neerav looked at Snehali with some doubt, “How will we return if it rains heavily?”
“We can always wait for the rain to stop. And besides that is their job, they know how to do it.” she said pointing towards the people driving the boat.
“And don’t worry, we are not alone here.”
They had to walk for about a kilometre before the stairs to the caves started. The path was strewn with shops at regular intervals. Snehali liked eating raw mango with the spices so she bought one and went munching on it all the way. They walked hand in hand on the stairs leading to the caves.
Finally they came in view of the caves, it was a long walk before reaching the caves and it was all proving to be worth it. Such big caves made out of just rocks with intricate carvings. The humungous amount of work that must have gone into making such sculptures out of mere rocks was astounding. The larger than life figures of hindu deities carved on the walls and the cloudy skies were adding to the grandeur of it all.
Just when they entered the main enclosure of the caves, the clouds started rumbling.
Neerav looked worried “Any minute now.”
And soon it started raining. Everyone around took refuge under the caves. Neerav too took her hand and started running towards the cave trying to protect both of them from the rain. But he realized Snehali was not moving, she was holding his hand trying to stop him.
Neerav looked at her with wide eyes, “Snehali, we will get sick. Come on.” he pleaded.
Snehali was getting drenched in the rain with her arms wide open and her palms facing the rain as if to take in the beauty of the moment in the best possible way. Standing in the rain in front of the large caves that were reminiscent of the golden era gone by, was making her feel very special and she did not want it to go to waste. Just then she thought of something and said, “I have always wanted to dance in the rain. Now when I have you and we are at such a special place, I can’t let this opportunity go. Can we?”
“But, here?” Neerav whispered.
Snehali looked at the crowd standing under the roof of the caves.
They went outside where there were a lot of trees but the place was deserted.
Neerav smiled, “Perfect!”
And they danced there, in the rain. They danced like no one was watching. They danced forgetting any worries.
The moments when we are our true selves are the moments when we are happy, when we have nothing to hide and when we feel at peace. It is at these moments when we are the most likeable. In a relationship, these are the most cherished moments because no one is putting up any acts, no one is doing things the society has been dictating them to do, no one is worried about the outcomes of their actions. We are not judging any one and no one is judging us. Sharing this moment was going to be a milestone in Snehali and Neerav’s relationship.
For Snehali, it was a dream come true and she loved how Neerav was willing to dance with her just because she always wanted to. For her, it was her eternity. Of course, he did not know how to dance which was another matter altogether. For now, what mattered was that he was with her.
For Neerav, he was happy he was part of what Snehali always wanted to do. He cherished her and loved her the way she was. This moment when he had let go of any inhibitions just for Snehali was a first for him and he wanted to treasure this moment forever. For him, For her and for their relationship.
Neerav used to book a hotel for himself near the airport whenever he came to Mumbai to aid him getting to the airport quickly.
When they came back from the Elephanta caves, and their cab reached Snehali’s residence, she was sleeping with her head on his shoulder. When the Cab stopped, he tapped on her shoulder to wake her up. When she did not wake up, he touched her cheek. Her cheek was very hot to touch which made Neerav touch her forehead immediately. It was burning. He got scared and started shouting.
“Snehali, wake up! wake up Snehali!”
Snehali woke up startled. Her throat was paining. She opened her eyes with an effort. “What happened?”
Then she realized, “Oh! we reached my room?”
“Your head is burning Snehali!”
“What? No no I am fine. I will just sleep and I will be ok tomorrow.”
“No, wait I am coming with you.” Neerav said creasing his forehead.
He paid the cab driver hurriedly and asked Snehali to come out, she stumbled a bit when she got up but he caught her. He took her inside giving support to one of her shoulder.
When they entered her room, Neerav went looking for the first aid box and Snehali got herself changed.
He gave her a medicine for fever and kept cold towel cloth on her forehead till her temperature went to normal.
Snehali’s fever made her sleep as soon as she lay on the bed.
It was when her temperature was back to normal that she woke up and found Neerav sitting on the flour on the side of the bed. He had one hand on her forehead and was resting his head on the side of the bed. She looked at him benignly. What had she ever done to deserve such a caring person.
She looked for a blanket, covered Neerav with it and went back to sleep holding his hand.
The next day, when Snehali woke up she found Neerav looking at her with a weird expression. She realized that he was worried for her the whole night and gave a sheepish grin. He asked amused “What was the reason again, that you could never dance in rain before?”
Snehali’s face drooped when she said “Once when I got wet in the rain returning from school, I got high fever. My Parents have been extra careful to not let me get drenched in the rain since then.”
Neerav replied wryly “I am hoping the fever was not as bad as this one.”
“It was worse.”
“Oh that is why you forgot to tell me about it.” He crossed his arms and looked at her sternly.
Snehali could only look down with a sad face.
His voice softened when he said “Do you even realize what could have happened yesterday? You had high fever and it took about an hour to get normal. I was so worried. if I had not known you had a fever, I don’t know what would have happened to you.” he seemed agitated at the thought.
He took a deep breath and then continued softly “We could have avoided all this if we had not got wet in the rain, right?”
She looked at him hopefully this time as if she was forgiven “I know, but for me yesterday was the best time I ever had. And you know, a dance in the rain is every girl’s dream” she grinned.
Neerav could only roll his eyes at her “Oh, whatever!”
To be continued….
It was evening time, Snehali had just entered the restaurant. She just took a few moments to find Neerav sitting by one of the tables in the corner. He was wearing a blue checked blazer on a white shirt and jeans. He looked dashing. On the table was lying a big thin rectangular packet covered with brown paper. Near the rectangular packet was kept a big bouquet made up of Snehali’s favourite Orange Daisies.
Neerav had called her in the afternoon when she had just eaten her lunch. He did not tell her anything, just that he was waiting for her at the Taj Hotel. He said it was not urgent but he would appreciate if she could come. He did not tell her anything else. Snehali was thoroughly confused and had got ready in a hurry. She was wearing a baby pink shirt with black pants that she had handy.
Neerav coming to Mumbai and asking her to meet was not something she was expecting. Not now when he had called her after about a month. Yet here he was looking at her with that affectionate smile that always made her forget all the worries.
“Hi Neerav, I am here. Now Please tell me what made you come to Mumbai? Have you just come here to meet me? Is there something I should know? I hope there is nothing I should be worried about?”
Neerav was looking at all the expressions that had flitted across her face in a short span of time, he was taking it all in.
“Yes Snehali, I have called you here to let you know precisely that. But please be patient with me. Give me some time to get my point across to you. I don’t want it to get wrong. I can’t let it go wrong.”
With the last sentence, Neerav looked emotionally vulnerable. Snehali did not remember a time when she had seen him like that. Something was up for sure.
“What is this brown packet for?”
Neerav took in a deep breath and looked up at Snehali with a raised eyebrow, “What do you think it is?”
“Is it a gift for me?”
“You can say so.”
“Why so cryptic Mr Neerav?”
“You will know.”
“Do you want me to open it now?”
“Absolutely, go ahead”
“And these flowers?”
“They are for someone special”
Snehali felt some colour leave her face, she was not expecting that “Oh, is someone else coming here too?”
“You will know.”
“You are doing that again.”
Neerav grinned, “Sorry, I don’t have any other way to say it right now, come on, open the brown packet already”
She unwrapped the brown packet quite quickly. All the mystery was making her anxious. The Brown packet had a photo frame which was visible but the photograph section was again covered with six big sticky notes. It was Snehali’s turn to roll her eyes, “Now, what is this supposed to mean? Are you playing some prank on me?”
“Of course not, why will I travel this distance to play a prank on you?” Neerav looked stressed.
Snehali waved her hands with a grin, “ok, you are right, then please tell me what does this mean?” she was looking at him with slit eyes from an angle as if she was still not sure about this not being a prank. Yes, spending so much time with a prankster brother can do that to people.
“It means that we are going to unwrap this gift in steps,” Neerav said with an indulgent smile.
The sticky notes were numbered from 1 to 6. Snehali looked up at Neerav, “Let’s start with number 1”
He removed the 1st sticky note and behind it was a date and a name. Snehali knew the name Timber, the code name of the project they had worked on together, but the date, she could not place it. And then it hit her, the date that the project had started. She said excitedly “The project Timber, we worked on and is it the date it started?” He nodded, “Wow, you do have a sharp memory Neerav. It took me to some time to guess what it was.” she added.
“Yes, This was the day when this project had started but it was not only the project that started that day. It was also the first opportunity I got to collaborate with someone, the person that has now become the most important part of my life.”
Does he mean me? Can he mean me? and she felt her heart beat quicken
Neerav now removed the second slip without looking at Snehali, as if giving her the time to absorb the moment. It was a photograph of the pantry area of their office. On the side slab of the pantry were 2 filled cups of coffee kept together.
“You remember Snehali, we shared so many coffees here that I have lost count of them. But you know I remember everything we talked about. I remember every expression you made. I remember every conversation that we had to leave midway. Those are the conversations I regret the most. Because I don’t want to leave anything incomplete with you ever.”
Neerav was now looking into Snehal’s eyes one at a time, it was as if they were spell-bound and her eyes could not leave Neerav’s. Without looking away he removed the next sticky note. Snehali peeled her eyes away now to look at the third picture and could not stop herself from laughing. It was a plate full of samosas and one of them was photoshopped to look like a heart.
Neerav looked at Snehali’s laughter with affection in his eyes. He felt the sound of that laughter endearing and satisfying. What would I not give to hear to that sound all my life?
But it was Snehali who knew she was not only laughing, her eyes were welling up too. This was a very intense moment for her. She had read about these in novels and watched in movies but she never imagined she would experience it, for her everything was like a dream and she wanted to hold onto each and every detail of it.
Neerav started when Snehali looked at him again, “I am not sure when I started falling for you but it had happened already around this time. I so wanted to see you happy that I started doing things for you unknowingly. I want you to know, now, that I got these samosas only for you. I was somehow presenting my heart’s feeling to you that way. But I never even told this to myself until I realized what you meant to me.”
He looked at her as if asking for forgiveness and Snehali’s eyes were telling him that it did not matter.
He removed the next note, the 4th one. Snehali was too curious to know what it was, she was already overwhelmed by how Neeerav was opening up to her about his feelings. She felt a tug at her heart, realizing that her heart knew all along that something was there between them but her brain was not deciphering the signals. Or might be her brain did not want to. But now things were getting clear. When she saw what was behind the 4th note, she felt her heart melt.
You feel happy when someone tells you about their feelings but you feel on top of the world when they understand you and your feelings without a doubt. It was that moment for Snehali.
The day when she had brought homemade food for him in a big steel tiffin. He had opened the tiffin, arranged all the bowls neatly on the table and had taken a photograph of it, saying excitedly “I want to savour this food for a few more days at the least.” It was the same picture.
Neerav was not only proclaiming his love for her but was also understanding enough to recognise her feelings and efforts in the relationship they had. She knew she could not ever ask for more.
Snehali’s train of thought was once again halted by Neerav’s voice, to her it seemed like a voice dipped in honey. “Yes, I guess this was the first time when I realized that you cared” Neerav was blinking back tears and looking at her lovingly. Snehali was enjoying the moment but she also knew that there was something more to it. So this time she removed the fifth note.
There they were – standing next to each other, not touching, looking in the camera. There were other people in the photograph too but the chemistry between them was evident. It was Neerav’s last day in their company, the next day he was supposed to work with a new firm. Snehali felt bad. what was this photograph doing here, if he is proposing then why the departing picture.
Neerav cleared his throat, “I know you don’t like it, but it is important for me. If we had stayed together, I am not sure I would have ever realized that we belong together. I was so used to being with you that I did not realise it.”
And he stopped, looking at Snehali, observing each and every expression on her face and trying to understand what was going on in her mind and readying himself. Neerav got up from his chair, walked to Snehali and sat on the floor near Snehali. “That is when I realized I love you Snehali.”
Snehali had understood by now that this was what Neerav had been meaning to say all along. But she felt the true impact of it all at the moment when the words were put in front of her. The words she did not know she wanted to hear so badly. He said it so earnestly that Snehali felt like there was no one else in the restaurant, in the building, or in the world. At that moment, Neerav became everything for her.
He extended his right hand towards her and she automatically put her right hand in his. Neerav enclosed her warm fingers around hers, Snehali felt the warmth spread to her heart. She now knew she had been in love with Neerav all along.
Neerav stood up with her hand and Snehali stood up too. He took her to the terrace facing the sea. The view was spectacular, the sun was about to set, the sky was painted orange, there were birds chirping and returning to their nests, the sea was receding and coming back again to meet the shore. The sound of the crashing waves and the birds chirping and the wind playing with Snehali’s hair was perfectly complementing the moment they were sharing.
Neerav was now looking at her expectantly, in her eyes. He saw something there, something endearing, something he had never seen before. But why was she not speaking. He said it again, “I love you Snehali, I know it has been sudden for you. I took you by surprise.” He then released Snehali’s hand.
Snehali was lost in the beauty of the moment but when she felt his fingers loosening their grip she came back to her senses. She saw doubt in Neerav’s eyes.
“You know if I held your hand, I would never ever loosen my grip, forget about me relinquishing it,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone and held on to his hand tightly that.
They were grinning now. Neerav leaned in towards her forehead. From his left hand he took out his phone, brought the phone in front of them to take a selfie and then said “Say cheese”, Snehali looked towards the phone and Neerav captured the most beautiful moment of their life.
“This photograph goes under the 6th note, on our collage,” Neerav told Snehali.
To be continued…
Sometimes heart knows something and takes time to convey it to the brain. And then sometimes even though the brain and heart know that something, it still takes a lot of courage and convincing to get those body parts moving as if they were working on their own will.
Was it the work pressure, was it his own guilt of realizing it too late, was he still working out the reasons for creating a distance between himself and Snehali – Neerav could not figure out but it took him a month to process the information and get the courage to share it with her.
“What was it about telling someone that you loved them?” “How would I know, it is happening for the first time with me?” Neerav found himself wondering often.
One day he found himself standing in front of the mirror imagining he was standing in front of Snehali, “Hi Snehali, umm… umm… Why did you not message me for so long?”
He thought to himself “Come on Neerav you can come up with something better”. But the truth was now he was not able to understand why had Snehali not bothered to ask his whereabouts for so long, it was true that they did not talk regularly but after their last meeting he thought they would be at better talking terms. He again hit his forehead with his palm “Might be that was only inside my head again”.
He asked himself for the umpteenth time “What if she does not have the same feelings for me?” and sat on the bed with a dejected look. He had not shaven in the past 2 weeks and was wearing a loose t-shirt and tracking pants that gave him the look of a person who was starved and tense.
He stood again with a new found determination and told himself “Whatever it is, I need to know and I will.” He noticed himself in the mirror after a long time and saw his dishevelled looks. “With these looks, any feelings in her will simply evaporate.” he mused.
He went to the barber’s shop and got his shave done, his hair cut, his face messaged. He came back home and started messaging Snehali and cancelled it muttering to himself “No no, no message this time, I will call her and surprise her.”
He dialled the number he had looked at so often in the past month that it was etched in his memory forever. It took a long time for any voice from the other end but when it came it said “The number you have dialled is switched off.”
Yeah – totally unexpected, the moment when Neerav’s mind gave a loud thud. He was totally not prepared for a situation like this, he had known Snehali for such a long time and he was always able to reach her when he needed, he could not comprehend the reason behind the circumstances he was facing today.
He again picked up his phone and redialled the same old number again. Again it took sometime as if the phone too wanted to connect desperately but the same voice came up again. “The number you have dialled is switched off.”
Neerav weighed in his options, should he go to her house to check? Should he ask someone at the office if everything is alright? He settled with waiting for an hour before trying again. He reasoned might be her battery just went off, I am sure she will put it in charging soon.
He tried being busy in something else, he cooked maggi for himself, ate it. Flicked through the channels on the TV and when he could not settle on anything he wanted to watch, he picked up his phone again, again tried to call up Snehali and again he met with the same recorded message.
“Yeah so now heavens are playing games with me. It is so funny to keep me hanging. Isn’t it?”
It was funny to see a patient, calm, always in control Neerav hopping from one place to another in anticipation changing to hope changing to dismay in a loop.
He sweared to not try her number for an hour now and left the phone in his flat and went to the nearby market to grab some household stuff he had been planning to buy anyways.
It took him about 30 minutes to buy all the things, he kept on checking his watch again and again as if he had a planned meeting with someone soon. How would people know it was just love that was making him behave this way.
It took him another 15 minutes to reach back to his flat. This time he was worried that Snehali must have called and he must have missed it. As soon as he entered he heard his phone ringing. Neerav’s heart was beating too rapidly now and he jumped to get his phone. All his excitement died away when he saw it was just Karan.
“Hello Karan”, he said in a defeated tone.
“Why, you did not like I called you? Or were you expecting someone else to call?” Karan teased him.
“Stop it Karan, I have been trying to call Snehali and her phone is switched off.” Karan could hear Neerav’s disappointment in his voice.
“What’s the urgency bro? Might be she just forgot to put her phone on charge and is enjoying somewhere?”
“Karan, seriously! I am dying with tension and you are not helping.”
“Ok Bro, see – don’t worry. She might be busy somewhere, you just wait for sometime. I am sure she will call you as soon as she realises you were trying to reach her”
“I hope so”
“Ok, you want to go grab some food? I am hungry.”
“Karan, when are you not hungry huh? Ok, lets go to some nearby place, I guess I too need a change.”
“Ok lets meet in 20 minutes.”
Our minds make some telepathic connections with each other which are tough to explain most of the times. You are missing someone and they would call at that very moment. You just went to meet someone and they swore they were thinking about you all the time. Some kind of telepathic connections for sure.
Something similar was happening to Snehali – she was busy with her work, packing and everything but it was like Neerav had reserved a place for himself at the back of her mind and she was not able to displace him. She was genuinely busy and the thought of contacting him always seemed implausible. So she had decided to call him once she was settled in Mumbai.
That day she was on the plane to Mumbai. Last month had been a roller coaster ride for her. She had never imagined that her idea of creating a catchup centre in the office would be so appreciated that she would be asked to visit the head office and create plans for that. This was an excellent opportunity for her and she was excited. She was off to Mumbai for atleast 6 months. Everything happened so quickly that she could not update everyone she wanted to. She had all the intentions of letting Neerav know but he too had not contacted her. Snehali had noticed that he had a habit of disappearing from the scene for a while and she was not worried, hence the situation now.
Snehali still could not dislodge the thought of Neerav from her mind but she did not have an inkling of what magnitude of worries he was getting into and what they would make him do eventually.
Snehali’s plane was now landing in Mumbai and she was finally able to switch on her phone. The missed call messages from the network took some time to arrive but Snehali was not expecting any, so she just dialled her Papa’s number and told them she had arrived safely.
Now she had to worry about getting to the guest house that was her temporary accommodation for the next 15 days.
While in the cab taking her to the guest house she took out her phone again and to her horror, she saw 10 missed calls from the same person. Clearly it was something urgent if someone like Neerav had called 10 times. She had never seen him calling her again and again. Even if he messaged, he only sent another one once he saw a reply. It had to be something urgent.
She dialled his number and soon Neerav had picked up the phone. Snehali was about to say hello in the same happy tone she had unintentionally reserved for him when his serious voice on the other end made her nervous.
“Are you alright?” she heard him say in a faltering tone on the other end.
“Yes, perfectly fine. I am sorry to get you worried. I just saw your missed calls.” she was feeling bad now for not letting him know earlier.
He did seem relaxed, like he was able to breath after a long time “That is good, I am almost glad that my worries were rooted in nothing.”
There was a pause where she waited for him to say something more while he did not say anything.
“I have something to tell you” they both said in chorus.
They laughed together but it was Neerav who said “Ladies First!”
She told him about how she got a chance to be in Mumbai for the next 6 months to work in the company’s head quarters and how her idea was so appreciated.
“I meant to tell you but I had no time and I had to get ready to come here.”
When Neerav spoke next it was as if he was recovering from a shock “Wow, Congratulations. I am so happy for you.”
“Now it’s your turn, what were you going to tell me?”
“No, I just realised it was nothing, not now at least. You go and take some rest. You have had a long day. “
Snehali was confused by the way he was behaving. She had never seen Neerav change his mind like that. He always gave the vibes of someone who was sure of things and had them in control.
The feeling it is to be gifted something that was in your mind for so long and not just because gifting was essential but because they cared, they genuinely cared!
Snehali too had got such a gift from Neerav last weekend and today she was setting it up in her office cubicle. To say she was happy was an understatement. She had not felt this way for a long time. She had a smile pasted on her face and a light in her eyes which was tough to not notice.
Karan, Neerav’s old friend who was now in her team, noticed her lively mood and came to her.
“Wow, nice organizer.”
Snehali’s reply was full of excitement when she said: “Thanks Karan, you know where I got it from?”
”No! That was supposed to be my next question”
“Neerav had messaged last week, so we planned to meet up and see what he gifted me!” Snehali had replied excitedly
Karan knew Snehali could only be talking about his friend Neerav but he had to verify “You mean you met Neerav Anand this weekend?”
“Yes, who else. He is your friend right.”
Karan was a bit lost after this. He left from there talking about some pending work but instead of reaching his own cubicle went outside. Once outside, he took out his phone and dialed Neerav’s number.
The moment Neerav picked up his call, he started “I had messaged you last week, did you check?”
”Sorry yaar, I had seen the message but I was in a meeting so could not reply. Then it just slipped out of my mind.”
“Yeah, I heard you are very busy in your new job but I also heard you were busy strolling in the market with Snehali yesterday “
”Oh, did you talk to her? I forgot she is on your team now.”
”We can discuss who is in what team later. Let’s first meet before I start thinking ‘At one point of time we used to be friends.”
Karan and Neerav were friends for more than five years now and they understood each other. Not replying to one’s message or not being able to call often was never an issue between them because when they met they always continued from where they left.
”What are you saying bro, actually I was busy setting up the new apartment I moved to. Come to my place today, let’s enjoy there.”
”ok done, I am coming to your place after work in the evening. Send me the address.”
And he cut the call.
Karan came to Neerav’s apartment in the evening after work. They both ordered food from outside and started setting up a video game on the TV. While they were busy with the setup Karan asked Neerav “I thought you would let me know when you find the one ”
Karan rolled his eyes at Neerav and said “Don’t act friend. You know I am talking about Snehali”
“Oh ok, what about her?”, Neerav was busy setting up some wires behind the television set and was not listening attentively.
”Have you proposed her already?”
Neerav looked at Karan in shock “What!”
”You have not? What are you waiting for man?”
Neerav took some time to reply but Karan understood that Neerav was not ready to discuss on this topic and did not pry further.
They both sat together and played the video game.
Karan had left next morning and Neerav found himself in a confused state. All his time with Snehali was running in front of his eyes like a movie. He still remembered clearly the first time he had seen Snehali – a girl who was satisfied being her true self. Her coolness had attracted Neerav. He had also wanted to be like her. But it was when they were working in the same team – after about 2 years of being in the same company that they had started talking to each other. Snehali had started looking more mature than she looked when he had seen her for the first time but her simplicity had still made her unique. She had always tried to understand Neerav – each and every aspect of him. Neerav had only found himself a bit reserve. He wished now to get back to that time and talk to her more freely. He was now trying to find the reason why he changed the company, why he increased his distance with her.
He now accepted to himself that he missed being with Snehali. He missed their conversations, their coffee sessions and most importantly he did miss her after all. It had been a couple of months since he changed the job and it had to be something if he was missing her still.
He now realized that it was when he was with Snehali that he liked himself more.
He always noticed every little thing about Snehali and remembered it although he always gave the excuse of having a poor memory because he usually forgot trivial things about people in general.
It was when he was with her that he had no worries. And he was sure he knew Snehali as much as she knew him. Now when he knew all this he could not understand why it took him so long to realize the plain truth of his life. He just had to look at himself while he was with her.
Guess these are the simple pleasures of life, if that change had not been so subtle and gradual to go unnoticed he might not have appreciated it.
It took Neerav time to notice the change and now though he was liking it, it was taking him time to accept it.
When he should have gone to Snehali and told him about his feelings, he was taking the time to deal with them himself first. Had he known what was going on in Snehali’s life he would have done things differently for sure.
To Read all the previously written parts of my story “Snehali & Neerav”, Please visit the link: https://keeperofthoughts.com/snehali-neerav
I would really like it if you leave your comments about how you feel about this story.
मुझे नहीं पता प्यार क्या है पर कभी-कभी कहीं-कहीं उस प्यार की झलक ज़रूर देखी है,
वो दादी की कहानियों में,
वो नानी के हाथ के बनाये आटे के लड्डुओं में,
वो नाना की रोज़ दिलाई हुई टॉफ़ियों में,
वो पापा के सर पर फिराए हाथ में,
वो मम्मी की रोटियों में, वो मौसी की आती कॉल में ,
वो बुआ के आशीर्वाद में,
वो बच्चे की मुस्कराहट में।
मुझे नहीं पता प्यार क्या है पर महसूस किया है कभी-कभी कहीं-कहीं उसकी खुशबू को।
Photo by Adrianna Calvo from Pexels
Neerav was already sitting in the corner seat of the Cafe Atelier 30 minutes before they had decided to meet. He had chosen the corner seat because it was away from the noise and was more spacious and cosy. He was wearing a crisp white shirt and light blue jeans and casual leather shoes. He had one-day stubble and nicely done hair. He was drumming his fingers on the table and from his expression, it looked like he was thinking hard.
He had 30 minutes before Snehali appeared and he wanted to get a gift for her. He was not a person who brought gifts for people but he remembered her mentioning once that she loved gifting people and loved it if she received good thoughtful gifts. But he was not able to think of what a thoughtful gift could be.
After much deliberation, he got up from his seat and went to the nearby flower shop to buy a white lily bouquet for her. He came back with the flowers and still there were 10 minutes to 12.
He sat there in the café waiting for Snehali. He checked his shirt was tucked in properly and his hair was alright. And then he thought to himself, why do I care how I look. But Neerav did not notice that his heartbeat had increased a bit more and his face had a smile just because he was meeting Snehali. He did not know that this was the first time he was feeling so happy without knowing the reason.
Since Neerav had joined the new company, his conversations with Snehali was what he was missing the most. The new company had kept him busy. He had to get comfortable with a new team and a new company. It was now this weekend that he had felt settled and at ease with himself. Now that he had a bit of time, he could only think of catching up with Snehali.
He again did not notice why he did not think of meeting anyone else.
He had messaged Snehali on the Friday night when he realized he would be free on the weekend but he was not sure she would agree to meet. He was not sure how the workload was for Snehali and besides, she might have some other plans but she had agreed to meet and Neerav was quite happy. He was sure he was going to have a great time. He had just one thought “We would relive all the happy moments”.
It was still 5 minutes to 12 ‘o’ clock when he messaged Snehali:
“Where are you?”
Snehali was about to reach the café but she decided to surprise Neerav and replied
“I am at my home, what happened?”
Neerav’s face went from happy to confused one to sad one and he started to type a reply to her.
Snehali entered the café while Neerav was typing his reply, found him sitting in the corner, reached his table and said in a very low tone
“Still busy with your phone?”
Neerav literally jumped out of his seat, saw Snehali and started laughing, they both shook their hands and Snehali sat in front of Neerav.
Snehali was dressed simply, she was wearing a baby pink cotton Kurta with Jeans and had a sling bag. She had left her medium length hair open and had no make-up.
“So, what’s up?” asked Snehali.
Neerav still had a smile on his face and said “Lets first give our order otherwise these people will seriously ask me to leave, I have been sitting here for 30 minutes”
he called the waiter and asked for menus.
They both ordered Cappucino coffee.
Just when the waiter started to go, Neerav found Snehali staring at the bouquet on the chair between them and said: “So, this bouquet was giving you company since you arrived or are we expecting someone else too?”
“Oh, no no. This is for you” Neerav said while presenting the Bouquet to her like he should have initially. “By the way, you completely scared me. I thought you forgot that we had decided to meet.”
Snehali took the bouquet, admired it and then kept it on the chair beside her and said “Thank you so much, I love it. Haha, good that you got scared. Those times are rare. And how could I have forgotten! Anyways, I must say you are looking smart today, but you do look sleep-deprived, the new company not letting you sleep or what?”
Neerav was actually not able to sleep properly for about a week and said “You are right, I am sleep deprived. Actually, I shifted to a new flat and have been busy with setting up things there and then new team, new company. But now things are settling down, I should be able to sleep better now.”
They talked about their projects and team. How Snehali missed him during coffee breaks and how Neerav missed their conversations. Meanwhile, the coffee they had ordered had arrived.
Snehali had to ask him “So, do you think changing the company was worth it? why did you not look for a project in the same company?”
Neerav knew this question would come up, he had dodged this question while in the last company but this time he told Snehali, “I had not wanted to change my domain and these people were offering me job since a long time, I thought the opportunity was right and at the right time so I grabbed it.”
They were silent for 5 minutes when Snehali said: “We have been sitting in this café for a couple of hours now, are they going to mind?”
Neerav said, “Let’s order one more round of coffee and then let’s go from here.”
This time they both ordered cappuccino small again and one croissant to go with it.
They had their cappuccino and croissant, paid the bill and started walking to the market.
Neerav asked her “You had been meaning to buy an organizer for your desk, did you buy it, now that you are in a new team?”
Snehali was warmly surprised to know that Neerav remembered and said “No not yet, could not find a piece I liked”
He asked her, “We can go shopping for the organizer for you or if you want to leave right now, I can call an auto for you”
Snehali just said “If you are up for it, we can go shopping for sure.” and then they left.
The weather was good so both of them walked to the shopping complex which was about a kilometre away from the café. Neerav was telling her anecdotes from his office and how people were there. He also cracked a few jokes and they both enjoyed their walk.
They went to the stationery shop in the complex, it was a big shop and had a lot of products. The products were displayed on shelves in aisles where customers could walk.
Snehali and Neerav went inside and started looking through the organizers. Neerav liked almost all the organizers there and kept suggesting them to Snehali one by one but she kept rejecting and saying “No, this is not how I want it.” Neerav was confused and finally when Snehali chose a piece, was relieved and said: “Thank God, I was beginning to think, we will be going empty-handed from here.”
They went to the counter and gave the organizer for packing and Snehali started to pay but Neerav stopped her and said: “No, this is my gift to you”.
“But you already gave me the bouquet, I can’t take this from you.”
“I wanted to gift you something thoughtful, so this one is from me.”
“I am feeling bad, I did not get anything for you, you don’t need to gift this to me.”
“I want to.” and Neerav paid.
When they were walking outside he said looking at Snehali’s sad face “You can get me something next time, this time I really wanted to get this for you.”
Snehali smiled and said, “Thank you for being so thoughtful Neerav, and of course I will not forget to get something for you next time.”
To be continued …
Catch all the parts here on this page