Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kurai Ondrum Illai....Part 8

‘You know what Ashok? Maybe you are not ready to let go of yourself.’

‘You seem to echo what my sis always tells me. Congratulations.’, said Ashok to Shantha.

‘Oh yes, you are afraid of being rejected Ashok. And hence you want to play it safe. But why don’t you for a moment think are you right in your premise? If LOVE as you always say is not supposed to be reciprocative, then why fear rejection? You anyway will continue loving the person concerned. But if however, that person accepts your love and is turn loves you back? You are not giving yourself a chance to experience true love, my son’

Ashok kept silent. He just smiled and replied, ‘I agree with the reciprocity and rejection part. Let me see if I can do anything about it. Now can we talk of something else please?’ Both of them laughed. They knew he wasn’t trying to abruptly cut her off. He seriously meant he would think on the matter.

‘What am I to do now? Go with a poster that “I am available and somebody love me” on my head?’ Ashok was talking to Anu about what transpired between him and Shantha. Anu smiled,’Idiot, no one expects that. You know better than put such idiotic questions. See, I may not be the all knowing sage. But I can tell you this. You needn’t be going around with any posters. Just listen to your heart and speak what’s in your mind. Don’t ever and I mean EVER worry about what the other person might think, everything will be alright’.

‘Oh yeah?? Well then, you suck when you are talking like this!!’ said Ashok. She laughed. Even as Ashok was talking with Anu, he was playing with Raju his nephew. He was all of 5 months old and resembled Karthik a lot. For the last 8 months, Karthik was taking care of the business. Anu stayed at home and did whatever she could over phone and net. Ashok was wary of Raju. Only last week, he had pee’d on his uncle. And Ashok didn’t want a repeat telecast. He kept Raju at more than an arm’s distance. ‘I do hope Raju doesn’t grow up like me’, said the loving uncle. She just smiled. She could relate to the agony her brother was facing. And he couldn’t even talk about it. He was actually a very sensitive guy. Just that he pretended to be the indifferent and detached type.

From Jambu Nagar, Ashok used to go to his college in his Max100. He was never good at maintaining vehicles. Even in school days, his cycle used to be like a scrap. It was no different now. He didn’t care. All that mattered was he could commute from house to college and back. All in one piece. Recently a lady joined his college as a lecturer in the English department. Her name was Lisa. She was from Goa and had done her graduation in Stella Maris. Her house was in Anna Nagar. So it was not unusual for Ashok and Lisa to be going and coming together. He took an instant liking to her. And vice versa. Partly because they were the only young ones among the staff. And partly because…well..the chemistry clicked. While in college they didn’t speak much. Ashok was much too engrossed in gleaning the wisdom from Shantha. But it was during their commuting that they had a ball. They used to speak of some of their students, their family, their likes and dislikes. Lisa stayed with her mother. Her father died when she was young. Her mother earned her bread by running a boutique. She was very sprightly old lady. With lot of life. She liked Ashok a lot. She could see in Ashok some amount of decency she had not seen in people of late.

Lisa had an accented way of speaking Tamil. This made him laugh always. And Lisa used to love the way Ashok used to speak non stop, once he got cranked that is. It was a Friday. They were returning from their college. ‘What is your plan for the weekend?’ asked Lisa. ‘Nothing much…will be spending some time with my sis and her kid.’ ‘Can I come to see your nephew?’ ‘Well sure. Why not?’ And so they decided that Saturday evening she would come home to see his nephew.

‘Ha ha ha….You dud. She HAD to make the first move? I pity her’ was what Anu was telling Ashok. ‘As if I care. Look Anu, nothing between us. We just enjoy each other’s company.’ ‘Well, that’s the way it was with me and Karthik too. Remember?’ ‘Don’t unnecessarily draw parallels’ ‘Ok da, don’t blushJ

Karthik was getting busy these days. The business was booming and he was taking a lot of pressure. Anu felt for him, but then she had to take care of their kid. She suggested to Karthik that they can wilfully limit their growth for a more comfortable and stress free life. But he was adamant. Strange it is, the way in which success tends to make people want more. There is no limit to this. So when Lisa came the next day, Karthik wasn’t at home. He had gone to Delhi on business. Anu and Lisa hit on pretty well. Probably the way in which two people gel when they know they are going to be related pretty soon. She played with Raju. Even Ashok’s mother was impressed with Lisa, even though she didn’t harbour any marital thoughts for her son with that girl. Ashok went through all this with an amused look in his face. He didn’t like the way people were assuming that they are gonna live a life together. He didn’t intend to. And that was because he didn’t feel confident enough to bring somebody else into his life. He didn’t want to lose his freedom.

Just then they received a phone call. It was from their appa. He asked them to switch on the TV and watch the news. There was a hint of anxiety in his voice. All the news channels were showing that the Indian Airlines flight from Delhi had crashed. And they knew that Karthik was in it. Anu burst out crying. She felt guilty. If only she wasn’t with the kid, she would have been on that flight too. Ashok was shell shocked. His mother was numbed. Lisa didn’t know how to react. Ashok then got to his senses, he politely asked Lisa to leave and not worry about it. ‘I will take care’ was all that he said.

Events happened very fast. The whole Jambu Nagar felt for Anu at Karthik’s funeral. They were the darling of the locality. Fortunately Anu had gathered her wits. She was in total command of the situation. She ensured that the funeral went on without any fuss. Two weeks later after all the add-on ceremonies were over, both Anu and Ashok were spending some time in their terrace. ‘Well…shit happens…and you have to cope with it right?’, mused Anu. He kept quiet. For once he didn’t know what to say. ‘There is still this business to be run; there are customers to be satisfied. What he started, I have to continue. That will be my way of ensuring his efforts don’t go waste. I am just worried about Raju. But I think mom will take care of him’. ‘Hmm’ was all that Ashok could reply.

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