The wind was blowing quite strongly and it was evident by the drapes moving on their own. It was the month of January and the only time Mumbai could get a little chilly was past midnight. Yashasvi’s tears were fresh as she just got done with her routine crying session for the day. She stopped keeping the daily crying-count after a while. Yes, it was an evening routine for her, which she didn’t choose herself. She did choose the values that led to this routine which included self-loathing, looking for validation, etc.
She got up to stop the cool breeze from entering the room. While standing before the balcony, she glanced at the moon which was shining too brightly. It felt like the moon, after all these years, was finally emitting its own light. But even the beaming light couldn’t stop the self-loathing. She kept thinking about how irresponsible she was when she didn’t complete the article on time at her job. Earlier in the day her boss, Rahul, shouted at her and called her ‘useless’. She was deeply hurt by this incident. Lately, this was often the case with her.
She was well into the process of self-detestation when someone knocked on her door. She got a little shocked. It was Shreya, her Flatmate. She never had a flatmate before. Ever.
“Is everything fine?” Yashasvi asked with a little worry.
“Yes-yes. I was just not sleepy enough. I just thought of talking to you. I hope you were not sleeping?” Shreya said in one go as if she was preparing the bit for a while now.
“Oh…Okay. Sure. Come in. Get yourself comfortable.”
“Thank you!” Shreya exclaimed.
Shreya just shifted into the 2BHK on Thursday. It had been 2 days but both of them were busy with their jobs so couldn’t get to know each other. Shreya looked very impatient even at that hour of the day. She stood beside Yashasvi’s study and was looking at her books and artefacts.
“‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd,’ ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ hmmm… seems to me, you are planning to kill someone. Haha! Never mind.”
Yashasvi just smiled slightly as her mind was too busy at finding negativities in her own character.
“I am sorry. Were you about to sleep? I shouldn’t have made that joke. It was idiotic of me,” said Shreya apologetically, as she sat down. She got a little nervous after Yashasvi’s reaction.
“No dear, it is fine.” Yashasvi lied.
“Actually, I was just going through the book again.” She continued.
“Again? You read Crime fiction again and again? What’s the point? There is no surprise anymore.” Shreya asked as she again started feeling comfortable.
“I think, there is so much more to a story than the ending. As I read the book again, I understand what the writer wanted to tell me about the psychological condition of the characters. I understand how the words were meant to be used. I myself am trying to write a book for a while.” She said. Well, it is barely trying as I haven’t even written a word for the story.
“Oh wow, I am living with an Author in making! I hope you write it soon and get famous so that I can brag about being your flatmate. Hahaha!”
Yashasvi again smiled.
“Oh! I forgot to tell you. I work in the HR department in Mannar Technologies.”
“Ya, I got to know that when my friend told me about you.”
“Ya right, I am such an idiot. I got this place through your friend, Jayesh. I swear I am smart. Just that it is past midnight. Don’t judge me. Or as it goes by amongst the readers, ‘Don’t judge the book by its cover.’ Hahaha!”
For the first time in a while, Yashasvi laughed a little. She was aware of this fact, she tried to remember the last time she laughed. Her cousin, Ananya’s wedding, 6 months ago? Well, she was happy about it but a memory of laughter is still missing.
“You are so tall. Guys must hit on you all the time.” Shreya said out of the blue.
“Ya, they do.”
Shreya kept on chatting and trying to endorse Yashasvi into a conversation but Yashasvi’s thoughts were out of the room, and this was finally noticed by Shreya. She left the room with a thirst for conversation.
It was December yet Rahul liked the room temperature to be low. She was freezing while waiting for him in his office. She was looking to ask for a half day’s leave for no reason other than her out of sort fears.
Looking out the window, towards her right, she saw the ocean. She was so into it that she could even hear the sound of water hitting the rocks. It was just her imagination but it became a very blur reality for her.
It was very peaceful until she got a notification. It was Aditya, the guy Yashasvi was seeing lately. They had been going out with each other for a whole month then. The simple notification made her body shiver. She got up with watery eyes, took her bag from her desk and hurriedly left for the lift. Few of her colleagues were looking at her with confusion and worry.
It is not that confusing. She was suffering from some sort of mental illness. At this point in time, we can’t even conclude it to be an illness. Maybe the tears were just triggered by the notification. Being a girl in a patriarchal world is already tough. The gender-based judgement doesn’t make it any easier.
“Madam, this is not your vehicle. This is Sanjana madam’s. You came by a rickshaw today.” Shamu, the watchman of her office corrected her as she was trying to put her key in a foreign vehicle.
“Oh. Okay. Sorry!”
The watchman stood there, confused, as she ran towards the exit of the building. She took a rickshaw to The Ivory Stop where she was to meet Aditya. It was an open-air cafe on the 20th floor, just near Juhu.
This time, she was closer to the ocean. She could smell the saltiness in the breeze and be wondering how everyday when the sun met the ocean, the sky celebrated bizarrely. It was like the Sun bringing home the colourful sky with him for the ocean after the day’s work. She always felt that Aditya’s aura was colourful and joyous and she thought of him to be the Sun to her Ocean.
“Hi, Yashasvi. I hope I ain’t very late” Aditya said as he hugged her from behind while she was in the depths of the Arabian Sea.
“No-no. It is good that you were late. I got to feel the ocean and it was…Never-mind. Tell me, how was your day?”
“What? ‘it was’ what?”
“I just wasn’t feeling really good. I can’t explain it,” she could explain it but didn’t want to. She could have said that she was into this tornado of negativities surrounding her. She was the eye of this tornado and every now and then a different part of negativity-tornado hit her. But, whatever.
“Are you fine?” Aditya held her hand in a concerned way.
“Yes. The usual. Nothing new. You tell me?”
“The usual, Yashi. The usual!” Both of them giggled as she noticed that this was the first time Aditya called her Yashi. Only her Dad called her Yashi. Even though it was an obvious nickname for her name, she didn’t have enough friends to decipher this code.
“Let’s order some food. I would have a white-sauce pasta and a kit-kat shake.” Trying to fade out the conversation, she waved towards the waiter.
“Spaghetti for me and white-sauce pasta and a kit-kat shake for her. That’s all. Thank you.” He passed a smile to the waiter.
“So I have news for you. Brace yourself!” Aditya looked excited but Yashasvi was now feeling nervous. She always looked for comfort zones and excitement usually meant getting out of comfort zone. A big NO for her. She just nodded.
“I am planning a two-day trip to Goa,” Aditya said it just like that. Yashasvi faintly shivered.
“Everything is going to be perfect and planned.” These words were not helping Yashasvi in any way. In fact, she was close to breaking out.
“Are you in?” Thoughts were taking over her. Voices melting down. Now the storm reached the beaches of Goa and the anxiety-sand is sprinkling from all directions.
“Yashi? YASHASVI!” Some voice reached her amid the storm and she looked at him for a while before saying: “Yes.”
She was not sure why she said it but was sure that she is going to regret it every day from now onwards.
“This is going to be amazing.” Aditya held her hand and kissed it many times while Yashasvi resumed her adventures of the negativity-tornado.
The next day, she received Aditya’s texts but the scary thoughts of commitment had taken over her and she was overwhelmed by him and the idea of the trip.
A: Are you fine?
Y: Listen. I don’t think this will work out.
Aditya called her multiple times but she didn’t pick up.
A: Yashasvi. Can you please just tell where am I wrong?
Y: Please don’t call me. Sorry.
A: Would you just tell me what is happening!
Y: Don’t call me otherwise I will have to block you.
She struggled with her thoughts for a few days and had more sleepless nights. She wasn’t ready for what was coming her way. Losing, or rather leaving a guy like Aditya high and dry made her feel guilty.
But she was too afraid of being herself in front of anyone, even herself. She always pretended to be someone else. This was one of the reasons why she loved reading books with multiple characters and writing them too. She was broken from inside and writing helped her in assassinating a whole different character than herself. She could build up a character from scratch in anyway she wanted and could control her thoughts. While her thoughts were autonomous. She felt like being on the passenger’s seat while her thoughts were driving her around wherever they wanted to. They wanted to leave Aditya so they just kicked him out on the way.
One morning, she was woken up by a series of knocks on her room’s door. She got up and while walking to the door wore her shorts and got hurt by the cabinet near the door.
“Arghh! Shreya?” She was in pain but noticed that Shreya had moist eyes.
“Yashi!” Shreya whispered while being sad.
“What happened? Is everything okay?”
“No. He is dead. Dumbledore is dead.” Yashasvi fired a look at her and immediately took her hand off Shreya’s shoulder.
“But I am sad. It does count as a loss.” She continued.
“Get out!!” Yashasvi pushed her just hard enough to let her know she is irritated.
“Okay! Okay! Leaving.”
Shreya was walking just when she heard, “Do you know how to use this Tinder thing?”
“Damn. But you were with someone. Is it over already? And are you ready to see others? Clearly, you are. Oh, I’m excited. Yippie!”
“Do you know or not!” Yashasvi gave her a cold stare.
“Yes-yes. With this attitude, only gonna get fuckboys, dear.” Shreya giggled.
Now Yashasvi was on her way to finding guys on Tinder. She had to filter a lot of guys and as it works for girls on Tinder, a right swipe always meant a match for her.
This time the Arabian Sea waves were very strong. She was waiting for a new guy at the same cafe where she met Aditya the last time. It had been months since she did not meet Aditya. She did reject one or two calls of him but he has been cold for the most part.
“Ma’am, your order?
She stared at the waiter for a few seconds before saying, “Umm, I am waiting for someone.”
“It is okay ma’am.”
She was again in one of her Thought storms. This time the clouds had covered the sun and she kept ferociously looking for the sun but to no success. She was always fascinated by the sun. Even though she was not an outdoor person, she liked reading books on the balcony and the terrace and in the parks when it was a sunny day.
She pulled back herself from the storm to look at the guy sitting in front of him and said: “Huh? I mean hi. When did you come?”
“It has been more than a minute. I am surprised that you didn’t notice me.” He was smiling gently but in the depths of his blue eyes, one can see that he was doubting his identity.
“I am sorry. I do that sometimes. How are you Sahil?” She maintained a poker face and drank some water.
“Okay…Anyhoo, I have news for you! Brace Yourself!” Sahil looked excited. Yashasvi started pinching the palm of her left hand with the right hand. What!!! This cannot happen. No. Not again. Calm the fuck down. Probably something else. She nodded, just like the last time.
“My roommate is with his girlfriend for the night and you and I can spend some quality time together. What say?” His eyes were shining like pearls when he said that. She was now in the depths of Sahil’s darkroom and was looking for someone or something to hold on to. It was uncomfortable. Her truth is going to be naked now. All these years, she tried her best to preserve it. But, now she has to let it out. She felt kinda good about getting to do the unboxing of her truth with Sahil. She did like him.
“I am in,” she said with a crescent moon smile.
“I thought so.”
Once they had their lunch, he asked if she wanted to accompany him to his room but she said to arrive later that day. She had butterflies in her stomach but couldn’t remember when the caterpillars started to build the cocoons. Now they were all in there. But there were also the remains of the cocoons which were scary for her. Damn the metaphors. They do help in making us live the stories but they make them too real. And sometimes, just sometimes, too real isn’t too good.
“Hey! Can we talk? Are you home?” A Panicky voice-note went straight to Shreya’s WhatsApp and she was always too quick to reply.
Shreya: I am waiting for you in the hall. Come soon 😉
Yashasvi: On my way. Bye!
Yashasvi knocked on the door thrice which was unusual as she never knocked more than twice.
“Are you okay?” Shreya tried to hug Yashasvi but she was quick to reject.
“I am sorry. But I am panicking. He asked me to spend the night at his place. Shall I go?”
“Oh wow. Okay. Okay. Do you like him? Yes?” Shreya got excited like a puppy.
“Of course I like Aditya…I mean Sahil. It just came on my lips. I like Sahil. He has been good to me till now.” Yashasvi was very aware of the tension in the room.
“Umm…You sure?” Shreya asked.
“Just because I…Yes I like him.” Yashasvi got a little irritated. With herself or Shreya or just the conversation was still to be questioned.
“Where does he live? This Sahil guy.” Shreya asked.
“Hmm…I don’t know, yet. I forgot to ask him. But it doesn’t—”
“It does matter. How can it not matter? Are you in your senses? You are still hung up on Aditya and you are not giving him or anyone clarity that why did you break up. And here you are going to spend a night with a guy whose address is still a mystery. I am just worried about you, Yashi. Nothing else.”
“I am not a kid anymore. I can live on my own.” She picked up her bag, mobile and keys in one swift movement and banged the door while leaving.
“Listen. I am sorry. Come. Let’s talk about it. Yashasvi, stop na. Yashi. YASHI!! Goddamit!” Shreya ran behind her but she didn’t listen.
She had an hour with the blue sky before the sun would set. She went to one of her favourite places, Juhu Beach. Sat alone and just looked up towards the sky. She liked clouds a lot. Clouds felt like a safe zone for her. And because of a little traumatic incident in her childhood, she started hating on Eagles. She thought how her anxious thoughts were so much like eagles. She wanted to look at the clouds but her warm breeze helped the eagles rise one-by-one in circles towards the cloud. And just when she started to feel a little comfortable about the whole situation, more eagles made their way towards the clouds. And she can’t do anything about them because they are just tracing her warm currents.
She also feels that I was wrong. And maybe I was wrong. But…Arghhh!
She stood up and started walking, pushing the ground beneath too hard with every step. She put on her helmet but left the buckle open. She started driving her scooter. At this moment, anxiety hit her. I can’t tell Sahil about it. I haven’t told this to any living entity. He is going to leave me after this. Sahil will hit me like ‘he’ did. Apparently, anxiety and driving aren’t the best of the companions. And now her eyes went teary and were not letting her drive. Some part of her brain wanted to stop the vehicle but that part was not visible to her because of all the eagles. She skipped a red light and saw the silhouette of a car coming from her right side but it was too late.
She was thrown away by the push and her helmet came off while she was in the air.
When she opened her eyes, she saw people around her. The next time she opened her eyes, she knew she was in an ambulance with a doctor sitting on the right side with a mask on her face. And the next time she opened her eyes she was in a hospital, as she assumed it to be. But there was something strange in here. She could see her father sitting right next to her. It was very late in the night. No one else was around.
“Papa!!!?” She was shocked to her core.
“Hi, Yashi!” Her father smiled gently.
“But…Why are you here? Go away!” Yashasvi couldn’t comprehend what was happening and got angry. Her heart rate was increasing.
“Yashi, do you remember when I bought that doctor’s toy kit and you used to play it with me. ‘Look at me, papa. Hold your breath papa. Open your mouth papa.’ hahaha. Those were the days.”
“Get out! I don’t want to talk to you.” Yashasvi was furious. She started pressing her nails against her palms.
“You haven’t forgiven me, yet. Have you?” His father frowned a little.
“You raped me when I was six. You expect me to forgive you. FUCK YOU! GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” She was shouting through her mask.
“You don’t need to shout. Dead people can hear whispers too. Don’t shout Yashi. It pains me.” He was still smiling.
“Why are you here?” Yashasvi said while trying to curb her anger.
“I don’t know. You called me. I am your imagination dear.” Yashasvi was staring into his eyes and her heart rate kept on increasing. Heart rate monitor was beeping out loud.
Her father slowly stood up with his right hand over the left wrist and said: “Forgive me, dear, not because my sin is forgivable but because you deserve better than an anxious and insecure father. Forgive me, because it is not for me but for you.”
He started walking towards the window and opened it. Then he climbed on the windowpane looking towards the sky. Finally, he turned his face towards Yashasvi and said: “Be gentle on yourself honey. Be gentle.” He nodded in the end with a slight smile on his face and jumped out of the window with arms wide open.
Yashasvi’s eyes couldn’t believe this. Her brain was playing games with her memory. This cannot happen again. This is not true. She was staring at the window when the nurses came running in towards her. They were talking to her but she couldn’t move her eyes from the window. Her pupils were dilated. After she was given an injection she slept peacefully.
6 Months Later
A: So this is the way to apologise?
Y: Who said I am apologising?
Anyway, I wanted to meet and talk to you about somethings.
A: Why should I agree, after you left me without giving any reason.
Y: Okay. Correction–I think I am a little sorry about that. So can we meet?
Y: Tomorrow. The Ivory Stop. 8.
She was waiting for him at the cafe. Just like the last time. Just that, this time the metaphors were at a rest and she was living the reality. She was wearing her favourite blue cardigan, with bangle sized earrings. She had a gulp of water and could feel her hands shivering a little. She looked at the clock and there were still 10 minutes to eight.
She smiled and took out her sketchbook and started drawing an eagle. Its sharp eyes, strong wings, and big chest were intimidating to her. It is interesting how eagles from time to time break their beaks by flying down from great heights towards some rock so that they can get a new beak. In the process of breaking their beaks, some of them die. Just like that, sometimes we have to go through hard times for a better future. And people say that hard times don’t last but that’s not the truth. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they force you to take your lives and sometimes they take the onus upon themselves. The patterns and lines that emerge out of this “Generic-human-life-painting” are random. There is no single truth and there is no definite truth. We are a young species constantly looking for better answers, and in this process, we are defying our old beliefs.
She saw Aditya walking towards her. She stood up to wrap him with her arms, tightly. He was gentle with the hug. Then they both sat down.
“You look good. I like your beard.” Yashasvi said.
“I like your nose ring. New?” Aditya asked and Yashasvi nodded.
After a small pause Yashasvi while passing a smile said: “It is good to see you, Aditya.”
“It is good to see you too…Yashasvi.” Aditya looked nervous.
“I think you want answers.”
“I am sorry but I can’t give you the exact reasons. I am not that comfortable yet but I will be, later. For now, all I can tell you is that I had an unhealed memory wound which I kept on subduing. It started to pain me and interrupt my life in all ways. But It is better now. Not completely healed. But yes, better.”
“Okay. I don’t know what to say?”
“You can ask me things? We probably have a lot to catch up.”
“Umm…Okay. So tell me, what do you expect from me? Like, why are meeting now? Do you want us to get back together?”
“I don’t know. Are you single?” Yashasvi giggled.
“Will it matter?”
“Of course. I can’t ask you out if you are with someone.” She and Aditya laughed together.
“Okay, on a serious note. How can I be sure that you are not going to leave this time?” Aditya tilted his head.
“To be honest, I can’t say if this thing is going to work out or not. It is for time to decide. We can only try. I know I did a stupid little thing by leaving you in the middle of nowhere but I promise you to not do the same.”
“Okay,” Aditya said.
“Okay? Just that? You are the talkative one and I am the cold one. Come-on, get into the character, mister Aditya!”
“haha. Okay. I am hungry. White-sauce pasta is it?”
“haha. Yes and a kit-kat shake.”
After their meal, they went down into the parking lot together. Yashasvi stopped before her vehicle and held Aditya’s hand. She kept looking deep into Aditya’s eyes. Kissed his fingers and said: “I am sorry for before.”
Aditya put his finger over her lips and said: “Don’t uncover the deserted past.”
He held her face with one hand and her waist with the other. He gently gave her a peck and then looked into her eyes, before they kissed again…And again…And again.