Vivek woke up earlier than he should be waking up. He woke up at 3:40 A.M. He picked up his mobile, which was charging up. He frantically checked if there were any messages from Ritika.
Ritika, why you doing this! He exclaimed, and her name was nailed strongly in Vivek’s head.
He picked up the bag, which he packed last night for the day’s journey. He ran quickly through the checklist of the things that need to be kept. He knew this journey is not his weekend outing. It was a journey which would solve his life’s bigger problem. It would take time.
Ritika! Once again the name crossed his mind.
He went into the shower, and the cold splash of water hit him hard. Bathing with cold water made him kind of uncomfortable. He felt as if he is the most unsecured person in the world. Vivek was secretly embracing the feeling of uncomfortable, but he started freezing. He turned the geyser and made water a bit warmer. He stood in the lukewarm water still and let the warm water do its part. It wasn’t doing any good. His body was completely drenched with water, and his thoughts with the moments he had spent with her. He quickly dressed up and checked up his mobile obsessively if there were any messages. Vivek neither knew where she was nor her phone number. It was an aghast feeling
Vivek’s life took a very drastic turn when he completed his degree. Due to circumstances, Vivek lost touch with Ritika. The number Ritika was using turned out be invalid. He couldn’t find her on Facebook since it became a very popular option to search friends from school and college days. Vivek typed every possible permutation and combination on Facebook search, with the type phrase, “Ritika Dhingra.”
Each time the search showed empty results, his hearted resulted in more emptiness.
One random day, when he was checking his Facebook, in Vivek’s friends’ suggestion, one girl uploaded a selfie, and in corner, it was Ritika in the photo. Vivek looked the photo closer, and it was Ritika. She changed a lot within the last 4 years, she had spectacles. Her hair was left loose, unlike the ponytail she used to wear. He opened the picture and checked if she was tagged with her Facebook profile. There wasn’t any tagging on the profile. His experience in college, as an “expert stalker” came into the picture to figure out his “love of life.” He was ready to give up his future for Ritika in one turn, to just have a conversation of 2 minutes.
He had things to explain.
Vivek caught a cab to Lokamanya Tilak station, the journey on the flight would almost burn up his pocket completely.
The airline companies almost know every trade secret rob from the books and off-books to rob money on weekends. Vivek thought.
Vivek reached 2 hours earlier than the train’s arrival. The traffic in Mumbai is completely unpredictable and untraceable. Anything can happen.
Vivek walked quickly from the local train platform to the platform, where the Deccan express would arrive.
Vivek bought himself a bottle and took the book out of his bag. It was Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress. It’s a story about USA supercomputer, which has failed to crack to a particular code, and Susan Fletcher is given that task. It was the synopsis of 100 pages, and Vivek wanted a Susan Fletcher in his life. He wanted to decode everything that has happened. Vivek became so desperate. He found Ritika in every possible thing, he was doing. His Google and Facebook search was filled with her name. His self-awareness didn’t contain him, it was her.
After 1 hour, Vivek reached a point in the book, where things took different turns. A character Ensei Tankado popped up, who turns up creepy and intelligent at the same time. One guy came to the station, and extended a hand towards Vivek and greeted, “Vivek anna! How are you?”
Vivek recognized it was his school friend, Vikranth.
“Hey! Vikranth how are you doin’ man. Long time.” Vivek gave him a hug. Vikranth was Vivek’s friend from his last job. Vivek continued the same friendship, even after he left the job after the tenure of contract. They both shared the same cubicle, during work. It was quite unusual and extremely accidental, Vikrant being there.
They started from pleasantries to words, which went to the conversation and then turned into giggles and guffaws. Vikranth wanted to get down at Pune, which was three hours from there. Both of them thought they would travel in the same compartment and make some arrangements, to Pune.
“So you are going to Chennai?” Vikranth exclaimed.
“Yes!” Vivek Shrugged.
“Anything related to work?”
“Care to tell.”
He took a long break and a breath. He pronounced the word out loud after 5 long years.
“I am going to meet Ritika.”
“Long story man.”
“We got three hours, and a train filled people seeing mobiles through their complete journey. They won’t even know, that you will exist here. Care to tell now.”
“The story is a bit tangled, the problem is where should I start?”
“Start, where you have started this journey and end it where it should have ended.”
“I lost her long back when I was in Chennai. I found her a week ago from one of her common friend, Mounica Dev. Mounica knew Ritika from her friends’ friend. She didn’t have any contact of hers, but this girl, Mounica knew where she is working. So I am going to meet her.”
“You will reach Chennai on Sunday. But offices are closed on Sunday.”
“I will be meeting her on Monday.”
“Oh! By the way, who is Ritika? Your girlfriend, you never told me.”
“Girlfriend. She is more than that. I have planned my life with her until death. I have planned every single minute of our future, both of us together. But she isn’t with me now, and I miss her every single minute and every second.”
Vivek’s eyes became moist and he rubbed his eyes and to stop the tears down.
“Tell me where it started.”
“From my childhood, I couldn’t see properly from my left eye, and I am bit tall. I was born with a defect with the left eye. I have trouble viewing long distances even today. Being tall, in my school, I was made to sit on the last bench, and it was very difficult to cope up with what my teacher was writing on the board. I was in 3rd class then. Then a girl showed her book to copy, what I have missed writing.It started there. Ritika Dhingra class –III roll no 35 section-B, she introduced to me. She became my best friend later than. Life wouldn’t matter that much. She was my best friend throughout my school. There wasn’t an exam, which we didn’t cram up together. Then my father was transferred from Chennai to Delhi, and I had to move away from Chennai. Those were tougher times.”
“Oh! Now you are meeting her after this long time?” Vikranth smiled.
“Hold on! Life would have been much happier if it would have been like that. Maybe it had some other curses holding in the name of gifts. We spoke over the phone, and I would non-stop chatter about my new life in Delhi. There were times I would talk non-stop for hours together. Probably she got bored probably and would avoid talking to me. I almost lost myself, when she stopped talking to me.”
“I was 18, I ended up making the biggest mistake of my life.”
“I ended up begging a girl to love me. Her name was Shikha. Of course one fine day, she agreed to love me, and we were in a relationship. Shikha was the typical rich girl, and who love to take every opportunity to show off and brag. ”
Vivek took a sip from his water and removed his eye lens, and put them back.
Vikranth watched carefully and he almost felt a chill, when he placed the lens on the pupil.
“Then?” Vikranth waited for the next dialogue.
“I called Ritika one day to tell that I was in a relationship with this Shikha. She was very happy for me, then. I didn’t like her being happy. I wanted her to feel sad, jealous. I don’t know why I wanted that. But I wanted that.”
“I would find every opportunity to find faults in her doings, and scold her for pretending dumb. I was 18 then. I deserved what I got. I found Shikha cheating me, with someone outside our college. I caught the affair red-handedly and she would end up telling me, that she accepted to love me only because of my desperation. The world just went upside down at that moment.”
“My God! You had a past hard to forget, and scary to think. Then.”
“I often feel, why I used to feel bad for that bitch Shikha. I often laugh at myself now, for crying hard for her then. She was being a bitch probably lost in her dreams like me. Poor soul! But I was dumb then. Every time, I felt sad, I studied hard. Life took a miraculous turn, at my 22 years.”
“So, do I need to ask a question, every time, when the story needs to move forward?” Vikranth joked.
“I didn’t think I would ever fall in love again. I know that everyone says that after a heartbreak, but the difference is that I’m not heartbroken. I’m not cynical, or pessimistic, or sad. I’m just someone who once felt something bigger than anything else I’d ever felt and when I lost it, I honestly believed I would never have that again. But… I was 22 then and life is long. And I’m feeling things right now that I haven’t in a long, long time.”
There was one bigger breath from Vivek. This time the breath was bigger than expected.
“So, you mean you fell in love with Ritika.”
“You mean like real love.”
“It’s the happiest thing that happened. I was the most elated person. It’s the disgusting thing that happened too because it didn’t go.”
“Dude, trust me, you got very poor storytelling skills. You end up telling bits up pieces, a bit here and there. It’s absurd, but it feels good.”
“Non-linear storytelling dude. Have you watched Momento or Reservoir dogs or read Ishmael of Syria or Night circus.”
“Haven’t watched or read. Not a big fan of serious movies. I would love to watch Hera Pheri once again. At now I would love to hear your story, and I have only 1 hour. So non-narrative or whatever has happened.”
“Why are you so interested in my story? We both met in Chennai once again, because of the marriage of our common friend, Chiku. Chiku was very close to both Ritika and me. Ritika resembled as an angel after 7 years of reunion. Remember I took a leave for 3 days and extended to 6 days and that Rathi was crazy at me, and dumped me more work. Chiku, Prasad, and Ritika picked me at Egmore station, and it was one heck of the reunion. There were stories about everyone. Everyone went through same and some twists and tantrums life has thrown. But Ritika had many such. Her parents went through a divorce, and both her parents re-married and she was living with her mother and her half-father. The second marriage of her mother was also in a problem. Ritika would also get into a relationship with some other guy and where she got pregnant. She was 19 years old. The guy would later refuse the responsibility. He physically abused her constantly in the relationship. One day out of rage he pushed her down the stairs. She was badly hurt and crying for help, but he stepped over her and left. The ruckus caught the owner’s attention and called up her parents. The whole thing was a secret then, but the owner almost revealed everything that happened and the owner asked her parents to leave the home. The next morning she pleaded to file a complaint against her boyfriend. They later vacated from that home and she was subjected to continuous mental and physical abuses every day. They made her discontinue her studies. She pleaded with her parents to let her study. Her half-father was a beast she would say. He would hurl punches on both her mother and her. One day, she would return late from her college because of some fest in college, her mother and father would reach the college and hit her, then and there. There were hundreds of slaps and when she fell down, her mother would kick her continuously in her gut. Her half- father stopped and took his boots and started hitting her on the face, with its heel. She just went numb and stopped crying. Blood gushed down her face. She faintly clutched door trying to escape, but she was out of strength.”
“Vivek! Seriously she told all that happened to her?”
“Her face was filled with scars, and she had a beautiful hair and wide smile to hide the scars.”
“But the way you narrated, gave me chills.”
“You wanted a narrative herapheri not a non-linear plot. I am doing that. As the listener commands, the storyteller takes listener’s command seriously.”
“Whatever, then what happened.”
“They dumped her in one corner of the home, and both her mother and half- father fought.” Vivek laughed.
They both laughed.
“She would apologize for day-in day-out and they pretend every day nothing happened. But Ritika was badly insulted in front of friends and classmates in her college. Going to college and facing people became a painful affair. Chiku’s marriage was a vent out for her.”
“I fell in love in Ritika, then and there. It was more than love. Love would be a smaller word for what I had for her. When I was leaving, I expressed my feeling for her.”
“What did you say?”
I told her the 4 torturous years of my life. The reason, I loved a girl Shikha, to avoid the pain that Ritika would stop talking to her. But the reason, why she stopped talking to me is giving me chills. I curse every day for falling in love with Shikha. That was not love, I told her her..”
One more big breathe he took.
“I love you and it is a mere combination of words, what I feel for you. It’s a bigger than love, what I feel for you. I fell in love that day when you told roll class –III roll no 35 section-B. The day we used to read together, I don’t know it was called love. If I would have known that then, I would have expressed you then. I was stuck in a time loop that you would never leave me. Both of us suffered.” Vivek erupted in tears.
“Both of us suffered and went through the pain. Please let’s be together.”
“You told exactly the same.”
“Each and every word. I say it every day. Not a day goes, without saying it in my mind. The other day, I saw her, my mind was nailed with the memories of her. Later she moved to Delhi, after carrying a lot of guilt, her parents made her carry. She moved to Delhi. I searched her crazily after that. There wasn’t any reply from her.”
“So let’s hope everything happens great?”
There were 2 minutes of silence.
“Vivek, I want to you ask something?”
“What happened to Shikha?” Vikranth asked wryly.
“Shikha…what happened..” he was interrupted by his phone ringing.
“Hello!” There was continuous disturbance from the other side.
“Hello….and buzz.. A lady’s voice erupted. ”
Next second Vivek recognized it was Ritika’s voice.
“Ritika…Hello..Ritika !” Vivek screamed at top of his voice.
Vikranth came running towards him.
“Hello, Ritika!! Hello..the voice would just buzz.”
The train was moving and the signals were interrupted continuously. In a verge of seconds, Vivek ran and pulled the chain. The train came to a screeching halt and Vivek ran out of the train and called the number back.
It was Ritika on the other side of the phone.
“Vivek, how are you?”
“I love you, Ritika and I love you a lot. It is a mere combination of words, what I feel for you. It’s a bigger than love, what I feel for you. I fell in love that day when you told roll class –III roll no 35 section-B. The day we used to read together, I don’t know it was called love. If I would have known that then, I would have expressed you then. I was stuck in a time loop that you would never leave me. Both of us suffered. Both of us suffered…”
“You are still searching for me, Vivek” Ritika asked.
“Every day Ritika, not a single day goes without searching.”
“Where are you now?”
“I am working in Mumbai.”
“So is it Yes or No.”
“My past left me some scars…”
“Is it a yes or no.”
“Vivek give me some time to explain.”
“I pulled the chain of the train and standing outside the train to listen to the word from you. I don’t care about past, I only care about the future with you or without you.”
“Where did you borrow your lines from?”
“Ritika yes or no. Can we meet?”
“I am in Chennai. ”
“I will be in Chennai tomorrow evening.”
Ritika started crying.
“Ritika why are you crying?”
“Let me cry, Vivek, let me cry. I have been hiding this for ten years. Let me cry.”
The TC came running towards Vivek and Vikrant took him aside and explained the situation and paid him the 1000 bucks.
“Meet me, Vivek.”
“For you, thousand times over.”
“Kite Runne,” Ritika would laugh.
Vivek would scream at the top and the train started after 10 minutes.
When Vivek settled, after 10 minutes, Vikrant would tell, “You could have used my phone, instead of pulling the chain. It was too dramatic.”
But of them laughed out hard
“What is Kite runner, where are you meeting?”
“It’s our little secret.”
“Ok,” Vikranth would say. “Man I saw a great love story today with unexpected twists and I would love some secrets to be hidden. Just call me as soon as you reach Chennai. The train would reach 10 minutes because of your ‘train pulling act’, remember that.”
“By the way, Vivek, what happened to Shikha?”
“Why are you so concerned about Shikha? ”
“I am getting married to a girl called Shikha. We are meeting today in Pune. Vikranth pulled out his phone and showed the photo of Shikha. By chance is she the one.”
Vivek gave a long glance at mobile and then he lifted his head to see Vikranth.