Snehali and Neerav Part 10, a step ahead

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.

Neerav yelped.

“Now?” Snehali asked her acting angry but failing to do so.

Neerav nodded “The punch hurts more.” And tightened his grip around her.

Snehali and Neerav Part 9, Now that we know

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.

Neerav grimaced.

“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.

“Come outside.”

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!”

Photo by Pok Rie from Pexels

To be continued….

Snehali and Neerav Part 8, For Us

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…