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Twice in a lifetime (Part I)

“Ma’am, that fax you were waiting for has arrived.”
Namrata in her formal pant suit and tight bun at the nape of her neck, turned back to look at her chirpy assistant, no she corrected, assistant to her assistant, whose smile and optimism always put a smile on her face. She just nodded towards her and said “keep it over that table, I will have look at it later”.
As soon as the assistant left, Namrata rushed to the table to pick up the fax and read the contents in it.
“Dear Mrs.Namrata,
Attached herewith is the receipt of the donation made in the name of Kapil Niranjan........
.....................”
Her eyes were stuck on the line Mrs.Namrata. After a long time her eyes filled up on their own and she just wished that she didn’t feel so vulnerable after 3 years of Kapil’s death.
She sighed and folded the fax and crammed it into her purse.
Namrata Niranjan was the head of the legal department of “Rajput Group of Companies”. She was driven, head strong and a hell of a negotiator. When she joined the company 8 years back as a member of the legal team, this coveted seat had been her goal. And she relentlessly had fought to achieve this. And after achieving she did a hell of a job to keep it like that for a long time. It had been year since she had become the head of legal department, and she was still getting giddiness by thinking of the power she wielded in the company. And that was keeping her friendship with the Chairman apart.
The phone rang, Namrata picked it up and said “Hello”
“Namrata am just sending over the copies of the contract to be signed, and am leaving London now in a few minutes, just go over those contracts and make sure that they are in order........ More over I wanted to make sure you are ok. I should have been there. But... “
Namrata started to say “Arvind....”
He cut her off in the middle and said “Anyways, Bye will call you as soon as I reach. Take care”
Namrata smiled while she kept the receiver down. Arvind was always like that, he never gave a chance to open her mouth and he would talk enough for both of them. The doors of memory lane were especially inviting today, so Namrata just leaned back on her chair and gave over to the nostalgia which was threatening to overcome her will from past few days
Arvind Rajput, the Chairman of “Rajput Group of Companies” was a formidable man to cross, but he was the fun boss that every employee dreamt about. And matters didn’t help with the female employees that he was devastingly handsome to look at. As they say “eye candy”
The first time Namrata met him in her first meeting with the then Chairman, who was Arvind’s father. Arvind was just promoted to the team from his internship. Namrata was sitting in front of him in the meeting room. Arvind looked distracted while he chewed the end of his pen and was in another world,  in the middle of the meeting. Namrata was watching at the boyish face with amazing black eyes, with his hair flopping on his forehead. When the Chairman asked “Do you agree Arvind??” , Arvind was jerked back in to the reality and with confused filled expression he looked around for help, when his eyes settled on Namrata she smiled and nodded an Yes. Immediately he smiled and said “Yes, ofcourse”. That seemed to appease the chairman as to his attentiveness when he looked back at the team leader who was handling the presentation.
Arvind with an obvious sigh of relief looked at Namrata and gave a wicked smile and a wink, sharing the comradeship Namrata had smiled back. After the meeting, Arvind was waiting by the door for Namrata and he very sweetly pulled her aside and said “Come on, let me buy a cup of coffee as a thank you and you can tell me all about the provision for which I agreed in the meeting”
And thats how their friendship started. Arvind didn’t have any qualms that he was working in the low position after being the son and heir of this business empire, he was fun and life of the place he stood at any point of time. Namrata was very collected, sensible girl with tremendous amount of ambition and an easy smile to go with it.
As they grew in their life and career their friendship also grew closer. The difference of his status or hers never ever came between them. Even today in the formal atmosphere of the office it was not unusual that Arvind would just pop his head inside her cabin and ask if she wants to have coffee, or the Chairman and the Head of legal department sit in the cafeteria sharing a joke.
It was Arvind who had introduced Namrata to Kapil Niranjan, the young and dashing advocate who worked as the legal advisor of the company which Arvind was trying to buy. By the time the deal was finalised to the satisfaction of Kapil and Namrata, they both had realized that they felt for each other.
And that was 6 years back, sighed Namrata as she straightened up and pressed the intercom button to speak with her PA “Call Mr. Malik and ask him check the papers that Mr.Rajput sent over”
She again settled down on her chair and let her mind drift to her wedding with Kapil after having dated him for only 3 months. Somehow she had instinctively felt that he was her partner.
And just after 2 years and some months, he was taken away from her in a horrible car accident. And today was Kapil’s birthday.
“No wonder am so nostalgic today” thought Namrata.
She glanced at her watch and saw that it was 3 in the afternoon, for the first time in these many years she wanted to leave early. It was 4 in the evening by the time she reached her home. Namrata took a long hot bath, wore old t shirt and pyjamas of Kapil and sat in front of the TV watching his favourite movie.
She never realised when she dozed off in front of the tv. But she was sleeping on the couch when her phone rang. She checked to see her phone blinking “Arvind”
She answered the call with a sleep filled voice of “Hello” and said “did you land??”
He words held the smile in it when he said “Open the door, I bought sustenance.... food”
Namrata had a sweet smile of knowing on her face when she opened the door. And there he was standing all tall and handsome and those amazing black eyes. He had a wicked smile and a wink for her when he hugged her hello.
And he had bought Chinese food. She was enjoying the company and food while she glanced towards him sitting and chatting about his day.
And her mind started turning the wheels and thinking “What do women see in him to virtually swoon at his feet when he smiles at them, he is handsome in a obvious way, but he is just so friendly and caring, than attractive” she shrugged to herself and thought “she would never understand”
Arvind noticed that Namrata was not hearing anything he was saying. After they finished eating and cleared away all the plates. He sat down beside her and said “Can I ask you something ?”
Namrata was browsing through the cds to watch a movie and just said hmmmm
When arvind didn’t ask the question and was silent, Namrata sat back and asked him “what happened?”
Arvind looked her, his eyes were black and it was sad when he asked “When are you going to start living”
Namrata had questions in her eyes and astonishment written all over her face. She said in a questioning voice “What are you talking about Arvind”
The serious look on Arvind’s face immediately changed to one of smiles and he said “Forget it, I am just very tired to think now. I will leave now and see you at the office tomorrow morning”
Namrata just nodded her assent, and walked him to the door where Arvind gave a good bye hug and she closed the door after him. But her mind, which was over wrought today with memories and thinking was not ready to rest. She was thinking about what Arvind asked “When are you going to start living” .. what did  he mean by that? Am I not living now.
She went to her bedroom and stood in front of the floor to ceiling mirror which Kapil had insisted to have for her. And then she looked at herself and questioned again “Am I not living?... I look alive enough” and then she scooted nearer to mirror and started noticing the little details. Those weak eyes, black circles below them, the pale complexion, the sad expression, the lifeless hair. It didn’t look like the woman she knew as Namrata. Reluctantly she told to herself, “yeah maybe I look tired, but that is because am tired, but i look alive.....” after a few seconds she added “don’t I???”
After a few minutes she discarded that thought and went to get ready to sleep.
Arvind opened the door to his penthouse apartment, but he had no recollection of his way from Namrata’s house. His mind was on the fact that she was still suffering. Its as good as she died with Kapil.
He remembered the time before Kapil and even after marriage with Kapil. She was all smiles and sparkles. Agreed she never talked as much as him, but still she as always easy going, soft and a person with amazing drive in her.
Arvind was always jovial and fun loving, only when he was dealing with business he was very ruthless and formidable. But Namrata could somehow bring life to any gathering, her wit, her smiles, her arguments. Oh he missed it, and he missed her so much.
Arvind dropped on his couch and started remembering the times when she would talk with such openness and easy smile, it was no wonder that he was madly attracted to her for a long time. But then she met Kapil. Arvind always wanted her happiness, he just sidestepped and let them bond with each other. He was happy that she found love and he was very sure that what he felt for her was just attraction, those feelings which he was sure are now buried deep inside his heart.
After Kapil’s death, Namrata had just stopped living, for months she didn’t come out of her apartment. And when Arvind went to meet her, he felt like he is meeting a ghost. After 10 months had passed and she still didn’t come out of the grief Arvind was scared. He was never scared in his whole life and first time he was really really sacred.
He had literally dragged her out of her apartment and brought her to his penthouse and made her stay with him for a week, and eventually made her get out of her shell. But her house was still like a shrine to Kapil, all his things were exactly where it always was.
He remembered when he offered her old job back to her in the same position she held before the tragedy. He had to use all his bargaining skills to convince her and finally when he threatened that he will break up with her, did she agree to work again. He had thought that once her mind gets diverted from Kapil she might return to optimism in life. 
She came back to work and work she did with so much force, she didn’t sleep or eat properly for days. She just did work, work and work. She did more work in the last one year than in the 7 years before that. But she didn’t return back, she never moved on. No matter how much Arvind tried to make her laugh or argue or even cry, she would give a blank expression or a weak smile which never even reached her eyes.
And such beautiful eyes she had, honey brown and those artfully shaped eyebrows, that pert nose and full lips. But what Arvind loved the most was her long black hair, which tumbled down till her waist. Her hair was her mesmerizing factor, so silky and long. He always wanted to bury his hands into her hair and feel them from scalp to tips. Arvind groaned at the way his thoughts turned. He chided himself and said “Damn, I must be really tired to think all these many things. I must just stop my thoughts and sleep now”. He pulled himself up with all the remaining strength and dragged his feet to sleep off the tiredness.
When the first rays of sun were peeking through his window, he just shifted to the other side so that he can’t be disturbed. But when his phone rang with Namrata’s name blinking, he jolted up from his bed and answered in urgency and said “Are you ok?? Did something happen. Did you hurt yourself?”
Namrata was smiling at his panic and said “Calm down Arvind. Am fine. Why wouldn’t i be fine. you just saw me 6 hours back”
Arvind wiped his hand over his face and said in a calm tone “Because you haven’t called me in 3 years”
Namrata was speechless for a moment, then she said “Sheesh that is not possible, i call you all the time. You are joking right”
“Check your mobile and tell me when was the last time you called me. Personally never, and work wise your assistant calls me to connect it to you”
Namrata checked her mobile and saw no outgoing calls to Arvind,
Arvind suddenly said “Ok, forget that now. Tell me why did you call me this early in the morning”
Namrata recovered enough and said “Yesterday you asked me a question and i want to know what do you mean by that?”
“What question?”
“You asked “when will you start living”
Arvind thought for a moment and said “we cant talk about this on phone and this early in the morning. Let me get some fuel inside me and by the way we are meeting in office. Today is Saturday so nobody will be out there. So lets talk there”
Namrata very reluctantly said “Ok, of course”
By the time they both reached office and finished up the scheduled meeting, Arvind was regretting asking that question and Namrata as anxious to the tips of her toes.
Later in Arvind’s office, Namrata was sitting on the couch with a coffee cup and Arvind was standing by the window.
Namrata waited sometime so that he can pick up the subject, when he didn’t show any indication of doing so. She just addressed him “Arvind...”
Arvind just looked back without fully turning and said “I know Namrata... “
Then after some time he added “ look i was very tired yesterday, i had seen you after many days and i was bit worried about you thats all... its not a big issue”
Namrata kept her cup down and walked to stand beside him and said “But you never questioned about anything Arvind. You were just there for me always. Then why that question yesterday. I just want to know from where did it come out”
Arvind could smell her perfume and herself, it was like flowers and rain on a summer morning. He lost himself for a minute and then shook himself out thinking “Something is wrong with me today”
 He turned back to find her standing very close to him there was just an inch of space between them, he couldn’t handle the closeness and he took a step back to revive and then he said “Because i care about you. Have you seen yourself lately. Did you even know how you were 3 years back?”
Namrata was not unaffected by that sudden closeness, the sudden charge in the space between them had jolted her for the first time. But his words didn’t let her ponder on those for now. She turned her back towards him and answered “Am the same Arvind, i don’t know what do you see different in me”
After a few minutes she turned back to face him and said “Tell me what is different, i look the same, the eyes, the face, the smile. My work has never been more efficient. My house is clean and proper. If i was not living then i wouldn’t be doing all these isn’t it?”
By the time she finished, Arvind’s eyes were sparkling with fire and anger and he said “Your life is same huh? It hasn’t changed or you haven’t changed in any way. And of course your work will be more fantastic then previous years, because all you do is work. You don’t rest, you don’t eat, you don’t even smile when work is there. And what house are you talking about, that house is still a damn shrine to Kapil. Who is not even alive anymore to enjoy those. When are you going to realise that he is dead and you are still living.”
Arvind came very near to Namrata and trailed a finger near her eye and said “And yes your eyes is same, such beautiful eyes but where is the spark i know, this face is identical but where is the glow i saw, and these lips....” his fingers trailed down to hover over her lower lip and Namrata had stopped breathing, when he said in a whisper “they smile, but where is the happiness which was the life of it”. They stood like that for a minute and Arvind stepped back with great difficulty wondering again and again “what is happening to him today”.
As soon as Arvind stepped back, Namrata let out her breath not realising till now that she was holding her breath. She didn’t understand his words, because all her focus was on the burning trails of his fingers. She slowly touched her face with her fingers and gradually her mind came into focus and his words started filtering. Her anger rose with each syllable and each word she understood.
Arvind was still confused with his actions and reactions when Namrata in a very cold voice asked him. “What do you mean by that? That i should forget Kapil, i should throw away his things, i should find some other guy and just forget the love we shared. Ofcourse my house is a shrine to him, because he is still alive in me. I don’t want to kill him in my heart, i have already lost him once, i don’t want to lose him again.”
Arvind knew that even though she was not shouting that voice held more anger than shouting. But his anger, his helplessness was way more stronger than hers. His hands were clenched and his eyes were spitting fire when he said “Do you think that i hated Kapil that i will want you to disrespect his memory. All i am saying is dammit you are alive, you are breathing. Do you even have an idea what do you call me now a days?”
Namrata folded her hands and said “Arvind”
 “Arvind, and let me stroke your memory you always always called me Raj before, never Arvind unless you are angry. You don’t connect with people, you don’t laugh, you don’t even go to movies, you sit at home wearing Kapil’s old t shirt and watch his favourite movies or shows. You are trying to become Kapil so that he can be alive. But where is Namrata in this?” Arvind’s voice raised a decibel with each word he uttered.
Namrata started to leave and said “I don’t want to discuss this, i am leaving”
Arvind immediately sobered down, grabbed her hand and made her sit, he kneeled down and ran his hands through his hair and said “Gosh, am sorry dear, i shouldn’t have shouted. I know all this is difficult for you. But please, i wouldn’t say anything which is bad for you. I liked Kapil a lot, i respected him a lot. His death is a huge lose for me too. I can understand your situation. God when dad died, i couldn’t even sit in his chair without feeling guilty. And this is the love of your life, I know you cant let him go, but you are living with a ghost. Do you think Kapil wants you to be like this, Do you think that just by moving on you will forget him, is he so forgettable?”
When Namrata didn’t answer anything, Arvind could see that her eyes were filling. He took her small, fragile hands into his big, hard hands and said “Shout at me, Hate me if you want, if that makes you feel good, hit me, hurt me. Just live, please start living, he is dead and that is horrible, but you are still alive and you are worth every happiness he ever dreamt for you. Please”
When Namrata burst out crying, Arvind held her to his chest and soothed her, his hands running down her back he talked to her in a soft voice “Cry it out dear, let all of it come out of you. Am there with you, will always be there”
It took long time for Namrata to calm down, but she loathed to come out of the comfort he was offering. He was holding her to him and rocking her in rhythm, she could hear his heartbeat and breathe his smell. Gradually both of them became aware of each other’s nearness, each other’s proximity. And for the first time in all these years, the hug between them was far from innocent.
Namrata realised the change in atmosphere was so not usual and started relaxing out of his arms. As soon as she started to come out of his arms, Arvind’s first instinct was the hold her tighter but his logical mind told him to not do. With great control he was still, not moving and let her out of his arms.
Namrata smiled through her tears and said “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to......... I don’t know......... I, I “
Seeing her indecisiveness Arvind said to her “Its ok to cry, and you don’t need to explain or justify anything, its me here. I was always there, i will always be there for you. Now you are going to be my sweet girl and go home, relax and when you are sure of yourself, i want you to just think what i said.”
Arvind very sweetly pushed the tendrils of her hair behind her ear and held her chin up to see her agree and when he saw those beautiful honey eyes sparkling with moisture, he knew he was drowning in them. Namrata nodded a yes and with a big sigh got up to collect her things and leave his office with a smile as a good bye to him.
As soon as Namrata left, Arvind collapsed on his couch and started thinking what was wrong with him today. All those yearnings of past which he had buried were stirring their head up. He was tensed, he was angry with himself and he felt ashamed to get attracted to her in her most vulnerable times.
Namrata reached home in a daze, changed, washed and was sitting in front of her mirror to comb her hair and all she could think was how his hands were caressing her back, the soft way he pushed her hair behind her ears. She put down her comb down with frustration and tried to think about all the words he said about Kapil, about her.
She looked about her to realise that Kapil’s watch was still in the position on the night stand, his comb, his deo on the dressing table. She tenderly fingered all the small knick knacks of Kapil spread all over the apartment as if she was waiting for him to just walk through that door.
She had a platinum chain and locket around her neck which kapil had presented her on their first anniversary. She kept fingering it, trying to remember Kapil’s face and voice. But even though her dedication towards him was the same, her memory was slowing blurring, she couldn’t remember his face in extreme detail or hear his voice through the hollow walls of heart anymore, she took a deep breath to remember his smell and all she could remember was Arvind’s intoxicating musky smell when he held her in his arms. She tried to remember his smile and all she could remember was Arvind’s wicked wink. She stopped trying to remember anymore and lay down on her bed. Her body was tired with all the emotional turmoil she went through, but her mind was over active with so many thoughts inside her. She fell into a fitful sleep filled with dreams about Kapil and Arvind.
Here Arvind’s state was not much different, after a long time he was totally drunk yet sober. He was confused about his actions, her reactions. Too much was at stake here to take anything lightly and he needed respite from his ever thinking mind. He was going through all kind of feelings, from guilt to passion, from sadness to triumph. He didn’t want to think anymore. When he fell into a intoxicated sleep, his mind was still trying to sort things out for him. All night through he tossed and turned in his dreams.
When both of them got up in the morning, nothing was sorted out rather they felt more muddled and confused.
Namrata took a huge breath and decided that today she needs a change of scenery. So she got ready and took out her car after a long time and took a long long drive. She drove without any  sense of destination or time. But the most amazing part was after so many years of friendship with Arvind, this was the first time he didn’t call for a whole day. She peeped at her mobile frequently to see if he has pinged her in any way. By the time she reached home, the sun had set and stars were up. She had formed a decision in her mind. When she deftly packed her bags and locked her apartment behind her, she thought of sending a message to Arvind informing of her plans. But she couldn’t do that, for the reason unknown to her.
The hardest thing Arvind ever done in his life is not contacting her a whole day. But he knew she needed space and time from him to think. But when her assistant called in a baffled tone to inform him that she is taking leave for few days, he knew she had passed threshold. He smiled in relief, yet the feeling of ignored snaked its head high in his heart. “She didn’t call me to tell this?” was his thought. But he promised himself, if she needs space, he is going to give it to her. He always wanted her to be happy.
Namrata visited Kapil’s father after a long time and talked with him in length. He was a very gentle soul, who emphasized the same thing which Arvind had said. Talking and staying with him for two days, gave Namrata a new insight into her life.
She reached home with a smile on her lips and a new shine in her eyes. She immediately messaged Arvind “Raj, am back”

Immediately she got a reply “Oh sweetheart, thank god you are back :) ”

(Read the second part of the story here)

 

Comments

  1. “When are you going to start living”....Superb line for this story. I admired the way Arvind spoke about Namrata's present situation. Even though a great friendship is beyond any affection or love, the angry words from Arvind and cool emotional reaction from Namrata had been sketched really well. Always i admire the way you start the story, you have believe, when i start reading all your write ups... the alphabets, the words looks very small...and gradually it increases its size to fill the vacuum in the heart as i read along. Your pause to the story at a great turn around literally makes me to gasp for the air....expecting nivi special in the next part!...Great story..Thumbs up!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nivedita, this was indeed very touching. I coudlnt wait to get back to the story every time I had to pause and go back to work :) I am sure you would keep this interesting till the end, if it has to end :P

    ReplyDelete
  3. well narrated, Namrata - Aravind and Kapil the trio have depicted well here. will read Part II.

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