When She Looked Away | Samudra
Arpitha stood staring at her image in the bathroom mirror. Her gaze seldom wavered even as the neighbourhood broke morning with the exploding of fire crackers. The mascara from her eye lashes mixed with her kajal and left a dark trail around her eyes and down her makeup laden face. Her inanimate eyes that had wept rivers the last night now looked like a parched red desert.
The scene at Arpita’s bourgeois apartment could be described grisly at the best. The serial lights she and her friends had so excitedly put up all around the place still shimmered and shone. While some lit up the walls; some lay strewn all around the living room as standing testimonies to the horrors that had unfolded the last evening.
The muted space of her bedroom came alive with the buzzing of her mobile phone whose light showed the damage around. The elaborate drapes to the French windows that opened to a grand vista of the lake dangled from the broken pipe that held them.
Arpita now turned her attention to the buzzing cell phone and walked towards to the side table to answer it.
It was her mom calling, probably to wish her Happy Diwali but she would never know as she wasn’t the least interested in talking to her right then. She squinted her Goth looking eyes to look at the part of the window that lay shorn of the drape. The sun had almost risen outside as she waded across things, her things that lay scattered all over the carpeted floor of the bedroom, towards the sprawling balcony.
It was cold and damp as she stepped out and the steel rail felt like touching frozen meat. Arpita clenched her teeth and curled her feet as a wave of cold breeze blew towards her. The buzzing of the phone continued relentlessly. Arpita’s mom was not expecting her daughter to avoid her calls. After all, she was the first person Arpita had been speaking to every single morning ever since she moved to Bengaluru.
Her face showed a tiny trace of emotion when she looked back towards the phone one last time.
A lot had changed in Arpita’s trouble free life in the last three days.
Arpita had made the move to the big city six months back where she had landed her dream job as a business analyst at an Avant Garde IT security firm.
The gorgeous and suave Arpita had no trouble inviting attention and appreciation from her male colleagues and was soon seen around the town with the boss’s blue eyed boy Mayank.
Arpita had always been an extremely confident and independent woman and she had always wanted to be at the top of things. Her status in her relationship with Mayank was keeping in line with her attitude. It was clear to both Arpita and Mayank that it was she who wore the pants in their relationship. While Mayank looked the part of a total stud and played it too, he had a very conventional mindset for someone who played uber cool and ultra modern.
Arpita was smart, intelligent, had a great job and to top it all was an above average beauty. Mayank was more than happy to let Arpita to be on top of the game.
It was Arpita who had taken the initiative to take their relationship to the next level. They were both attractive young people and were earning figures many people could only dream of.
Mayank and Arpita had moved into this splendid apartment complex closer to the office as Arpita wanted them to spend more time together.
Mayank had not hesitated to make the move since he had already seen Arpita as his companion for life.
Diwali was on the horizon and Arpita wanted to make this Diwali an occasion that Mayank would never forget in his life. For the first time in her life she was going to take a decision so big that could alter the course of her life and for the first time in her life she had chosen to take that decision all by herself. It would be a surprise for her mother and Mayank as well.
That Diwali Arpita had made elaborate plans to propose marriage to Mayank.
Just like the scores of white collared workers in Bengaluru, Mayank also had stepped out of his hometown in Shimla to make it big in the IT capital of India. Diwali was the one big occasion when Mayank’s family had a huge gathering back home in Shimla.
Mayank had promised Arpita he would return to her a day prior to Diwali and that he would be taking off for Shimla to spend time with his family.
Arpita who had always been on charge of things around felt that a few days away from Mayank would be just the right time to break the news to her mother and her girlfriends. She had even finalized plans on how the proposal would progress, the decorations around the apartment, the chocolates, the food, the crackers to light up the sky after Mayank said Yes! The whole thing.
Arpita was her parents’ only child and had been brought up with a lot of pampering and loads of attention to her needs and wants. Arpita could hardly remember a time in her life when she had to throw a tantrum to get what she had wanted. She was a bright student and secured good ranks throughout her school and college to add much pride and happiness to her doting parents, especially her mother.
Mayank arrived at the Shimla railway station with two days to spare before he had to come back to Arpita as he had promised her.
What Mayank had not disclosed to Arpita or even insinuated when he left that he had his own plans of proposing marriage to her on his return. Being the conventional – traditional guy that he was he had planned to couple his visit to his home as a “permission seeking” endeavour as well.
Mayank’s folks were simple people. His father used to work as a manager with a private bank and had yielded to his son’s persistent demands to take early retirement when he had landed a job in the hot bed of the software industry.
Mayank had butterflies in his stomach when he had arrived at the railway station. For someone with a cool guy attitude and personality to go with it, Mayank never was in any real relationship with any girl before Arpita.
Though he was convinced his parents wouldn’t reject his decision especially when they would see what a prize catch Arpita would be for their son, he was more worried about the embarrassment that would be meted out to him by his sisters and the lone sister – in – law. He would be welcomed by a gathering large enough to let the entire neighbourhood know that he had arrived.
Back at the apartment, Arpita had broken the news about Mayank and her plans for the future with her mother. The poor old lady could not trust her own ears that her daughter who had just six months back left their home was now having plans of settling down in the big city.
Not only was Arpita’s mother supposed to convince herself but she had to convince her husband and a host of suspecting and investigating relatives, neighbours, friends and ‘well wishers’ as to why her daughter’s decision was the most ideal.
After a marathon chat session with Arpita on his way to Shimla, Mayank had called her to confirm his arrival at Shimla and comforted her after assuring that he would call her soon and would see her for Diwali as promised.
Mayank’s family house was getting all decked up for Diwali. He could see his dad, sisters and brothers – in – law out on the courtyard busy decorating the house and his two little nephews playing chor police.
Mayank loved it every time he came home. Being the youngest one in the pack had its pros and cons. The cons being forced to wear your brother’s old clothes, ride his old cycle and get your marks compared each and every time. The pros always however beat the cons – a photo finish of sorts, a deluge of cheek pinches and kisses from your sisters, mum and dad and all the aunts who visited every Diwali and always being the centre of attraction and the life of family get-togethers.
Mayank received an expectedly warm welcome, a tight hug from dad, a tight slap on the arm by his brother – in – law and more hugs from mum and the sisters.
On seventh heaven after having obtained her mother’s grant, Arpita called up her girlfriends and explained her plans for Diwali night. All three lines on the conference call get simultaneously filled with the excited shrieks of the girls once the words “propose” and “marriage” make their way into the conversation.
The girls however did complain to Arpita that they had been ‘informed’ about her plans way too late and that they had very little time to make the whole occasion one stupendous memory.
The hastily conjured up and agreed upon plan was to decorate the whole apartment with lights, lanterns, drop lights and the whole lot. The girls would get their ‘friend zoned’ male colleagues to get some cool crackers to be used just at the right moment. That One Moment.
Back in Shimla, Mayank had decided to break the news to his folks around the dinner table that evening. When the family sat around the table, Mayank waited for that small interval of time when everyone around did not have anything to say. Painfully for Mayank, that small interval of time did arrive an agonizing 25 minutes later.
Not everyone reacted similarly when Mayank sheepishly delivered the message he had found so hard to keep with himself ever since he started from Bengaluru. While his sisters had an impromptu laughter session, the brothers – in – law couldn’t help but stare at each other in utter disbelief and jealousy. After all, all three marriages in the house were ‘arranged’. Mum and Dad felt like they had the carpets taken away from under their feet. They couldn’t fathom their little boy was going to marry some girl he had met just a few months back.
It took close to over a quarter of an hour for Mayank to finally convince his folks after having taken the big brother on Skype to discuss the all important issue. Big brother, however after a round of ‘friendly cursing’ gave his stamp of approval much to Mayank’s relief.
Mayank’s sisters whisked away their little kid brother to hear more about his girl and other intricate details of their love story. Mayank painted a mental picture of Arpita for his sisters who concluded that Arpita was the bossy type and it was time their brother upped the ante and become the ‘man’ of their relationship in the spiritual sense.
Mayank’s sisters had a sly plan on their minds to make sure Mayank’s proposal to Arpita would be a total shocker for her and she would have no other response but Yes.
It had been a little over two days since Arpita had spoken with Mayank. Her messages remained unanswered and there was no call from him either. Arpita wanted to dismiss this ‘sacrilege’ by Mayank and decided to wait for his call.
To Arpita’s credit she did have very little time to think about Mayank not texting or calling her. She had gotten busy with her girlfriends buying stuff and decorating the place. The girls had two consecutive sleepovers at Arpita and Mayank’s apartment.
On Diwali eve, Arpita sent off the girls and almost immediately the thought of Mayank’s silence occupied her mind.
She willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking his ‘last seen at’ status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago. Yet she couldn’t stop herself. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable, almost torturous.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message.
But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn’t know if he was joking or not. What was this?
“Hi Aru, We need to talk, I will be there by evening tomorrow” read the one line message. No “I Missed You” or “Love You” nothing.
Arpita felt like the whole world collapsing around her. Her brain went into overdrive imagining all possible interpretations of the one line Mayank had texted her. While her heart cried out to her consoling her that it was probably nothing, her mind yelled that it was “ALL OVER!”.
With her ego badly bruised, Arpita wrecked the place just like what a hurricane does to a tin roof shed.
The next morning, Arpita had walked past her buzzing cell phone to the balcony. She looked away from the phone that kept lighting up every other moment. Arpita stood on the dew soaked floor and seemed to contemplate the very reason for her existence. Her body quivered both because of the cold breeze outside and because of what she had thought about Mayank’s message the last night.
Arpita had stood there for what seemed like an eternity just when she heard the faint creaking noise of the front door followed by a continuous tinkling sound.
The mix of familiar and strange sounds jolted Arpita out of her trance and she followed the source of the tinkle which was erratic and seemed to wander all around the apartment. She found the front door ajar. Was Mayank back she hoped but her attention was diverted to the tinkle coming from the kitchen.
Arpita’s stoic expression immediately thawed down and her eyes welled with tears.
These were however tears of joy. In the kitchen, slurping away at the milk from a pan was a young beagle which had a large round & bright tag around his neck.
“Marry My Owner” it read.