Wednesday, September 14

"Aakankshya" : A short story.



That’s the meaning of her name. Her parents named her so, when she was born after years and years of their prayers. She was their only desire after 10 years of their marriage. And she arrived 32 years ago for them in flesh and blood and they have cherished her since then.

She was the apple of her parents’ eyes and was a pampered kid. She was loved and loved and only loved. Not a single wish of her ever went in vain. If she wanted a doll, she got two. Everything ever she wanted was hers. She was doted and loved. She was cherished and protected.

Time passed and she grew up to be a beautiful girl and then a gorgeous lady. To her parents she was the prettiest pictures of all. She spent her time reading books, painting pictures, dreaming about a prince charming who would come and sweep her off her feet just like the prince in her books. She was living a fairly tale dream and her parents wanted nothing less than a prince for their daughter.

When she was in her mid twenties parents got frantic to find her a suitable match. Match makers were called, relatives and extended family informed and friends were alerted, a prince had to be found. But do you find them in this modern world? The answer was soon found to the question and it was a ‘Yes’.

They met a handsome guy, working for a multi-national, living the NRI dream; belonged to an affluent family who were looking for a match for their only son. As soon as the word reached and they saw her pictures they wanted Aakankshya to be the daughter-in-law of the family. Horoscopes were exchanged and they matched perfectly. The boy and the girl liked each other as soon as they had set their eyes on each other. It was the quickest decision she had ever taken and she wanted to be his wife and the mother of his kids. It was a match made in heaven.

The wedding day arrived and she, the dreamy eyed bride, looked absolutely stunning under the veil. The groom so handsome like a real prince came riding on a pure white horse. The entire town was invited to the wedding of their only daughter. No stone left unturned to make it the most perfect and most talked about event in the whole little town of theirs.

As soon as the wedding was over they had to leave for the groom’s place of residence. She was moving to the US. Finally her dream will come true. She and the love of her life, setting on a new journey, new adventure. They both were so excited. Finally they bid farewell to their families and said hello to their love and togetherness.

He was the perfect guy for her, and she was the perfect girl for him. They were a happy couple, totally in love. Life was good to them and they were happy with each other. She would cook for him, take care of his house, and dress up nicely for the evenings when he was supposed to return from work. He would bring a bunch of flowers or a bunch of hugs and kisses with him every day when he returned from work. They would spend the evening in each other’s arms and would talk till one of them falls asleep. On other nights they would make sweet sweet love to each other and would not let the other sleep. Life was perfect.

Days went to months and months to years.

It was almost 7 years of marriage.

Now they wake up in the same bed but at two different ends. She makes breakfast and he leaves for office. She gets on with her household chores, goes out for a walk in the evening all by herself and on her way back buys some flowers for her house to put in the vase by the window sill. She makes the dinner and keeps on the dining table and when the clock strikes 11 she comes to bed. She reads herself a book and sleeps.

He works his ass off in his office; he has dreams to buy a big house and a bigger car. He has set himself a target of the end of the year. He is sick of staying in the same 2 bedroom apartment and says ‘its time to think big’. By the time he comes back from office he is so tired he does not even have the energy to look at the clock to know what time he came in. He only knows to keep his alarm on for 8 am the next morning. Monday to Sunday all days it’s the same routine.

She often sits in her small balcony and wonders what is wrong with this house. Why he wants a big one. ‘In this tiny apartment also we have got so much space between each other already, what will happen when we have a bigger house’. She does not remember when they last kissed or when they last were holding hands while having a dinner or when he last said he loved her or when they went for a walk by the lake, but she remembers the last time he came home drunk from a office party and wanted her. She did not resist even if he reeked of smoke and alcohol. She wanted her husband to make love to her but he wanted to show his dominance over his property. She belonged to him and only him.

Days went by and the routine continued.

She thought their marriage was falling apart and needed to do something to keep it together. How about having a baby she thought. But she knew his answer. He was not ready for it and not ready for the expenses which comes with the baby. He was mentally and financially not ready for this big step. She wondered how about some vacation together, may be a change of scenery will rekindle their love. After-all he is the same guy she fell in love with once. But was he still in love with her? And most importantly, was he the same guy he once was? His absence from her life bothered her, she had her moments of doubts also, if he was cheating on her, but she discarded this thought as soon as it came. She knew he was a workaholic person and very ambitious. And she had fallen in love with him for all that once. But, then she was always his priority. Now she does not know anymore. Whenever she tries to talk to him about anything about themselves , he says he is not in a right frame of mind to handle her dramas, he says he gets his peace time very less often and she should not spoil it for him. She keeps quiet and keeps her feelings to herself. Once she used to laugh and smile, now she locks herself in bathroom and cries with the faucet on so that no one hears her, the apartment walls are really thin. She does not want raised eyebrows and his chuckles and to be a labeled ‘the stupid housewife who cries for no reason’.

The days went by.

She maintained her routine. She was her own company now and she was trying to get used to it. She missed the feeling of skipping a heart beat with his touch. She often would close her eyes and play a movie to herself, a movie of them 7 years back. She still loved him and wanted him in his life. She wished to be his priority one more time. The way he used to talk to her about their future, about his dreams; the way he treated her like a queen; the weekends when he would get her breakfast in the bed and then they would not leave the bed for hours. It was all a memory now. Some distant past and she still was holding on to them. Not knowing what happened to them and definitely not knowing where they were headed to.

One regular day when she was returning from her evening walks with a bunch of yellow lilies in hand, oblivious to the world around her. A unfamiliar voice in the elevator said ‘so you love lilies?’ She looked up to see a new but very handsome face smiling at her. A tall, well built young guy, must be younger to her she thought, holding a bag of groceries himself, smiling at her. She smiled back in courtesy and replied ‘No I don’t, but my husband always brought them for me, as they symbolize passion and celebration’. The thought of it made her eyes swell up and she turned her face to hide her tears, lest they roll down her eyes, and that too in-front of a stranger. But he did not miss any of it. He has seen a beautiful face with sad eyes entering the elevator and he felt like it was his duty to spread some love to the loveless one with yellow lilies. He noticed the way she talked in past tense when she talked about her husband bringing her flowers. The elevator reached her floor and he too was getting down on the same floor. He was her new neighbor; recently moved from India to pursue his higher studies and job.

It was now a regular thing they would bump into each other. He would always give her his best smile and greetings. This young man made her remind of her husband when they had moved newly to this flat after their one year of marriage. She started bumping into him in the park by the lake also where he would jog around like a maniac for hours when she would take her leisurely stroll and every time they cross he would invariably give her a smile.

Smiles led to small talks and laughter’s and she found a new friend in him. She could talk anything and everything under the sky with him and he too reciprocated to the topics with his two cents. They used to laugh saying ‘how weird are we’ and ‘it only takes one crazy to appreciate and admire another crazy’.

The days she met him she beamed with happiness, her loveless marriage did not bother her anymore. She would sometimes cook something special and invite her new friend over for a meal. He was more than excited to accept the offer not because she was the world’s best cook and also not because he missed home food but because he liked to see the smile on her face and the twinkle in her eyes.
Their friendship was growing stronger every passing day and now they spend more and more time together, sipping a cup of coffee or watching some stupid romantic flick and making fun of it. What they did, it did not matter as long as they were doing it in each other’s company. She knew very well that her neighbor is more than a friend to her now and she too was growing fond of him, but she discarded the notion as soon as it came to her mind saying to herself ‘he knows I am married’ .
Sometimes while watching a movie, he would sit very close, keeping an arm around her. She would not say anything. Sometimes she also felt her body leaning towards him and then she suddenly would excuse herself to make some popcorn to go with the movie.
He too understands her hesitation and says nothing or does nothing to offend her.

One day while she was almost finished making a special dinner for her husband; she sees a message on her phone saying ‘don’t wait for me, going for dinner with boss and client.’ She feels rejected. She tries to remember when last they said ‘I love you’ to each other and truly she could not remember, was it last anniversary or was it valentine’s day or was it his birthday when she said she loves him and he said thank you in response. She can’t remember. ‘Was it really that long time ago’, the thought made her eyes swell with tears.

Just then she sees another message on her phone from her neighbor ‘getting bored! L’ . It instantly brought a smile to her sad teary face. How did this guy know when she needs some company desperately and how he always knows how to cheer her up? She replies his message ‘made my special rajma, want to taste? Come over’. Reply comes ‘I am drooling already, cya in 15’.
She quickly changes clothes, applies a little makeup and checks if the house and she herself look presentable enough. Everything looks good. She feels a little butterfly suddenly in her stomach. What is that feeling?

Just after 15 minutes, she hears a knock at the door. She quickly gets up and runs to the door, or is she running to him? She opens the door to see the same young man with the big infectious smile holding a bunch of tulips. She looks at the tulips and at him, he says ‘for u ma’am’. And she could not even understand how he remembered tulips were her favorite flowers; her husband also did not know it after 7 years of marriage. She feels overwhelmed. She does not know what to say. She meekly says. ‘You remember our first conversation?’ And he says, ‘I cannot forget any of our conversations ever’. She feels at a loss of words.

She goes to the kitchen to get the dinner. He follows her. He helps her set the dinner table and they as usual talk about all the topics sense or non-sense. The dinner which usually is over in minutes with her husband, lasts for more than an hour with this friend of hers. She laughs till she cries and till her stomach hurts. And he makes her laugh till she begs him to stop because she cannot take it anymore. She loves the time they spend together, how quickly it passes they both don’t understand.

At the end of dinner it’s almost midnight and he is still here. He has never stayed this late. And today she has not asked him to leave yet. She goes to the kitchen to arrange things and call it a night. She suddenly feels an arm around her waist hugging her from behind, his other hand gently touches her hair and tucks it behind her ear tracing it all the way on her neck and shoulder and arm to hold her around her waist. He pulls her closer and his lips now kissing her on her neck, where earlier her hair was cascading. She could hear her own heart beat now, her heart thumping in her chest. She likes what he is doing, the woman in her surely is responding to his beats and groove. He does not stop kissing her neck and ear, in between he smells her hair and she knows he likes it. His arms are now holding her tight and she is melting away in his strong but loving grip. She turns her face towards him and lets her body face his. They are hardly inches away from each other. He holds her in his arms and this time her face is buried in his chest listening to his heart beat, his heart is also racing wild while a old Kishore Kumar song is playing in the background. She moved her hands on his back embracing him while she could and he is growing wild in her passion. At this moment she is no one , but a woman in a man’s arm who wants her and who wants to love her, pamper her, and as she remembered him once replying to her question ‘what does your name mean?’ , ‘it means the one who could show you heaven ;)’ and she wanted that little heaven for herself one more time.

She is just there in that moment feeling the love that she has not felt in a long while. She looks up and sees it in his eyes, there is no lust for her, but its filled with love, respect, passion. She looks deep in his eyes and she sees herself ‘Aakankshya’, she is his desire and he is her temptation. She feels him leaning closer to her, his lips reaching for hers and at the moment she makes the mistake of seeing his face, instead of concentrating on his eyes.
It’s not her husband!

She gets out of the trance and pulls herself out of his grip. He stops before his lips could touch hers. The wife in her had triumphed over the temptation and had successfully crushed a woman’s desires, aakankshya.