“There is a thin line between boys and men, that thin line is circumstance...”
Now that Arihant knew Kanya was a dream that might well come true, he was caught in two minds; one telling him that he should call her over, the other...well, it called for more care, since he couldn’t bear her getting angry. Nonetheless, when he made the call he had made up his mind. Well, almost...
“Hi, Rehan is Kamli alright? Did you talk to him?”
“Kanya, he’s not picked up yet...should I go over to Madhuri’s?”
“No, that would be foolish; he could be getting lucky, you know!”
“Why would he be getting lucky...Oh! That way...”
“Yes, thick head!”
“Hehehehe...I am a numbskull sometimes.”
“Yes, you are...” That was the moment Arihant decided to take the plunge. He had waited long enough and it did seem a come-on when someone talks about guys getting lucky, now or never is what he thought.
“You know, Kanya...ummm...you know...”
“No I don’t! What is it that you want me to know?”
“You...your caller tune, I could have sworn it was a different tune the last time I’d called and now it’s Bryan Adams”. Quick thinking had always been one of Arihant’s strengths to get him out of tough situations.
“Why, you don’t like Bryan Adams?”
“No no, I do, my favourite is ‘Summer of 69’ but you changed it so soon, the caller tune.”
“That was because I expected your call...”
Now, Arihant would have to be really dumb, or so he thought, if he couldn’t deign that that was a come-on, one that even a numbskull like him could infer. So he went ahead with his line, which he had been thinking about in the interim.
“Kanya, you mentioned that you would love to visit our place; did you mean it?”
“Of course, I did! Why would I say it otherwise?”
“Well, I could, we could, meet today.”
“Meet, where Arihant?”
“Here, in my place; we could have coffee...I make very good coffee.”
“But you said that coffee does things to you. I remember vividly that you told me that, infact I was under the impression that you deemed coffee an infernal concoction!”
That released some of the stress that had built up with Arihant’s question. He wondered if he had blundered but he knew that he had little choice in the matter. Things of the heart are better expressed than kept within.
“Let me see, Rehan...”
“You mean you can’t?” Disappointment was obvious in voice, even Kanya guessed it. Just as he was about to give up, he received a call on the call-wait, the number was Kamli’s...
“Kanya, I’ll have to call you back, it’s Kamli on wait.”
“Yes, do so, I’ll wait!” Did she say she’d wait? He hoped against hope but then he also needed to know what happened to Kamli.
“Hello! Kamli...are you alright? God! I was so worried, why hadn’t you picked up the phone, seriously dude, you make people real worried.”
“Rehan, I am at Madhuri’s place. There is nothing to worry about since I am safe here. By the way, who do you think you are, my pop?”
“No, I don’t, but I was scared nonetheless.”
“Alright, there are lots of things I need to tell you, but tell me Rehan, would you call it strange if an auto followed your auto through the streets of Bangalore and parked itself right outside the place you’ve come to?”
“Wha...what? Man, you must be bonkers, of course it is strange, very strange, don’t tell me that an auto followed you to Madhuri’s place and is now waiting outside her house?”
“Yes, Rehan I noticed it when I went out of Banerghatta road and was near Jaynagar, the reason I noticed was because the auto had pulled up next to my auto and the passenger looked as if to confirm that it was me who was in the auto. Then I could see in the auto’s rear view that the auto kept abreast of mine.”
“How did he look? Did you get a look at the man who was in the auto?”
“Yes, he had a tilak on his forehead and seemed to be middle-aged.”
“That is strange because Rajen had called me and said that a man with a tilak was asking about us, about Sankardev! Do one thing, stay in Madhuri’s place till I come. I will call Ravi and we will go there to pick you up.”
“Ah! Nothing doing Rehan, just not possible...”
“Why, are you crazy? You might be in trouble...”
“See, Rehan, I think I am on the verge of...I’ll tell you when I come home. I can take care of myself, rest assured.”
“If that is what you say, and when are you going to come back home?”
“I’ll be a little late...I have plans, actually, we have plans, me and Maaaadri.”
“You lucky Custard! You vegetarian wonder!” Rehan could hardly hide his glee that his friend was getting romantic, he’d never imagined his friend, his silent, prudent, careful friend, would one day be with a girl. There was hope after all for people of the world. With renewed vigour, he called Kanya. This time her caller tune had changed again, ‘I don’t wanna miss a thing’-Aerosmith...
“So, what did Kamli say?”
“He would be late, he is alright, they are...”
“That he would be late, that he was with Madhuri, that he was on the verge of...”
“I don’t know, he said he would tell me when he came home.” Arihant thought it prudent to not tell Kanya about the auto that had followed Kamli. He didn’t want to worry her, not when he had a chance.
“Why do you keep changing your caller tune, Kanya?”
“To make people familiar with the songs you like, probably...”
“No, dimwit, for someone whose call I was waiting for...”
“Oh! You are...should I, should I keep the phone?”
“You are thicker than I thought...”
“You mean, you were waiting for my..., me?”
“Say Eureka dimwit, you have hit the nail right!” If that was not a come-on sign, he didn’t know what was...
“I was saying, we were discussing the possibility of you coming over.”
“What would you do if I told you I would come over, would you drink coffee I make?”
“I would drink any concoction you give me, Kanya...I just want to be able to see you and you would like M.Narayana mansion.”
“Okie Dokie, see you in an hour’s time. Don’t worry I know where you live, you have described it enough. I can navigate, Rehan...”
The words were magic, he would finally be alone with Kanya, he could talk about things he had in his mind. Then he remembered the lines of Kanya’s caller-tune. “I could stay awake just to hear you breathing” and she had put in on for him. He decided to call Kamli to make sure that he didn’t come early. He would have to tell his friend why and he would have to make it sound real important. One part of him was saying that it would not be safe for Kamli to come late, especially as he was being followed, but love is a stronger emotion than fear, or so they say. Love is a stronger emotion than fear. This time the phone rang twice and Kamli picked up;
“Rehan? Is something the problem?”
“No, Kamli, the opposite, I have some good news and bad news, which do you want first?”
“The bad news”
“You will have to come home late”
“That is good news, so the other news has to be better.”
“Yes, Kanya is coming over for coffee.”
“Oh! You lucky man...alright, I will have dinner with Madhuri and will come late.”
If mornings could have been described in words, then dawn would be sheer poetry. Arihant felt that this was as close to dawn as he would ever have, a dawn, not just for him, but his friend Kamlesh too. He still had some time to kill, so he decided to clean up their mansion as best as he could, he took special care to clean the bathroom and the kitchen, places that needed to be clean, in a girl’s eye. He then sat on his bean bag and smiled, he realised one thing, that he was happy. He also realised that this was the team they were making, the people they were with, and the bonds they were building though this was happening with no real effort on his part. He wondered if life was like a game of dice that was played by someone, somewhere. He suddenly remembered his dream; he had been told that the plot would reveal itself and he realised that it was doing that. A part of him was also worried, who was the tilak marked man who was following Kamli, why were Kamli, Rajen and Kanya receiving calls about his Gurujona? He waited and in that wait was a heart that had prayed in Shillong, he decided to call his ma and tell her that everything was alright, as it was, she was happy with him and with the life he was building. He missed her solid advice and calm demeanour, which was always a strength when he was caught in two minds.
“Rehan, good you called...I was thinking about you.”
“Yes, Ma...everything is alright here. How are things there in our Shillong?”
“Things are good. I had been to the Naamghar today and had given a Xorai in your name, you and Kamlesh both.”
“Thank you, I believe that is the reason I am receiving gifts that I had never thought I would.”
“What gifts has my son been receiving?”
“Oh...this and that.” Surely Arihant couldn’t tell his mother about the things happening in his life but he decided to tell her part of it.
“Ma, remember what you said about me finding my future here. Well, I believe I am happy.”
“That is the best gift you could receive, being happy is a gift. Thank the Lord and your Guru.”
“Yes, I should...Now I got to go, Bye, take care of yourself.”
As he still had a while to kill, he decided to read the morning papers. The news was mixed, the economy was on the brink of a depression which meant that there would be more joblessness, an ex cabinet minister had expired of old age. He reread that bit, because the man had been someone he’d had a lot of respect for. India had won their match with England, which was divine justice, as Arihant thought wryly, then he saw an ad where the man on the picture had a tilak and had folded hands as though in reverence. Below the picture was a caption. It read; ‘THE ONE TRUE LIGHT-GURU RAMESHWARAM’ He wondered about this Guru and a part of his wondered if he was like his Guru, then he remembered that the man who was following Kamli was a man with a Tilak on his head. He decided not to tax his already teeming mind when the bell rang. It was a strange bell as bells go, but never had it sounded better to Arihant’s ears. This was the best bell in the world!
“Hi!” Kanya was in front of him, at the door but Arihant was transfixed, he couldn’t utter a word, he infact stood staring at her. She was more beautiful than he had ever imagined and the dress she wore made her seem better, a skirt with boots and eyes that seemed to penetrate the very skin of Arihant. He remembered that she was a guest all of a sudden, and blurted;
“Wel...wel...welcome, Kanya! I am so glad that you came.”
“Hmm...I am glad too, and you are looking good Rehan! Did you dress up for me?”
“No, I always dress this way...”
“What? Jeans, blazer, goggles...you stay at home in this dress?”
“No, why are we talking of attire when we could be seated...”
“...and drinking coffee, show me where the kitchen is, I will make special coffee for you today.”
“Come right in, Kanya, so glad you could make it...”
A part of Arihant told him that this was as close as he would ever come to euphoria and he believed in the dawn that his life was in the midst of. But evenings and dawns are so similar, only a night between them...
(c) Arunav Barua (email@example.com)