Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Random Chapter
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He got on his bike and kicked to bring the motor to life. He looked into the rear-view mirror to check himself with unusual care. He smiled at his own reflection in the mirror as he adjusted his hair a bit. The constant smile was now becoming an accepted expression on his face. A welcoming and pleasant change for a strict cop, who never smiled when he wore his uniform. His bike halted in front of a bookshop. He did not realize that he was still smiling wide.
‘Hello sir, how can I help you?’ the person at the store asked.
‘I need the book that got released two days back. I think it’s from some famous author.’ he said.
‘Do you mean Febbon’s “The smiling last”?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, that one. Do you have all the books by that author?’ he asked, still smiling.
‘We do have. Come and have a look sir,’ the store keeper said.
‘No. I have no idea about these books. Can you give me the full set of his books in case you have some special editions? Can you also gift wrap it please?’ he said.
‘We have a box of his books all signed by the author himself. But it is little more expensive than the other copies.’
‘That’s not a problem.’ Rohan said as his sight fell on greeting cards showcased up on the side of the store.
‘Is this for your girlfriend sir?’ he asked.
It took him a few seconds to comprehend what he had meant by the word girlfriend. ‘Oh,.,’ he paused and widened his smile the best he could and added ‘Yeah, for my girlfriend.’
He paused.
‘How did you find that?’ he asked inquisitively.
‘You are constantly smiling and your smile says it all sir,’ the storekeeper who looked as though he was somewhere around his twenties said and got busy packing the books. Rohan instantly brought back his strict, police officer like face.
‘Is this gift paper okay sir?’ the boy asked.
‘Yeah.’ Rohan said, not even turning to his side to see the wrapper. He was still a little embarrassed. He thought that he was in his late twenties, but had to start with the basics of love like smiling, blushing, gifting.
He managed to look busy with the cards, but his awkwardness consumed him, leaving him distracted and without any focus on the cards. An old man entered the shop and stood next to Rohan. As he was busy looking at the cards, the old man picked up cards from the sweetheart section. After meticulously checking almost all the sweetheart cards there, the old man picked one.
“To my sexy girlfriend” was written over it. Rohan was curious to understand the hows-and-whys that popped up within him.
The storekeeper billed the old man’s card and stuck the last bit of cello-tape on Rohan’s gift.
‘Sir, can I paste a ‘love you card’ over the gift?’ he asked with a special emphasis on the word Love you, like it was the most significant feeling that ever existed.
Rohan’s awkwardness rose to a new high. ‘No,’ he paused and looked around to ensure that no one other than the three heard what was said.
‘Just paste best wishes,’ he stuttered.
When the boy was about to stick the best wishes card, the old man snatched it from him. He went to the card section and picked a card that had a huge heart drawn over it. It also read
"You are not the moon to me as the moon is so far
You are not the sun to me as its always hot
You are not an ocean to me as I can’t own it all
You are not the sky to me as others admire it too
You are the air that has no shape or face, but I can feel
You are the thirst that makes me want an ocean of water
You are the night sky that no one can see but me."
He brought it to the counter and asked the boy to stick this over Rohan’s gift. Rohan was puzzled.
‘No, sir..’ Rohan said with a nonconforming tone.
‘Shut up.’ the old man said, raising his voice a bit throwing Rohan into shock.
The shopkeeper gave the old man the gift and the card as he demanded to get both. The shopkeeper shivered. Rohan froze for he did not quite understand what was going on.
‘Come with me,’ said the old man to Rohan. Rohan went behind him like a child who had been asked by the magician to follow him.
‘Sit here, son,’ said the old man, seating himself on a raised platform, at the entrance of the shop.
‘Are you in love?’ asked the old man.
‘Yeah. And please don’t start the lecture. I am in no mood to listen to any,’ he said.
‘Okay. I will just tell you my story and not lecture you. But understand that it’s not wrong to express your love well enough to your beloved. If you will not, you will become someone like me. I failed to express my love at the right time and in the right way. One day, after six months of falling for her, I bought a gift and, just like you, pasted a best wishes card over it. I was all set to propose her for marriage but felt awkward to express it. I thought it was not manly to be romantic with every act. I took it to the bus stop where we usually met. At a distance I saw a guy talking to her and giving her a card. She opened it. While she was looking at it, he went on his knees in the middle of the road, and proposed his love to her with a rose. I wished badly that she should slap him,’ he paused.
‘Did she?’ Rohan asked curiously.
‘She did. She walked to the bus stop and ensured that the guy was nowhere close. I did not delay even a second more. I gave her the gift. She looked at it and smiled. I was jumping inside, with my foot still on the ground,’ he took a deep breath.
‘So you got married to her and today you are buying the card for her. Happy love story, right?’ Rohan said disinterestedly.
‘She asked me how I knew the guy who went on his knees for her, earlier. Before I could understand much, she thanked me for the best wishes gift for her love story. “So cute right? Very romantic, right?” she asked me all the questions that I had to say no for myself in my head and a yes for the guy who I thought was not an appropriate match for her and not manly enough for doing all that drama. Girls like drama a lot,’ he sighed.
‘Then?’ Rohan asked, with an increasing interest reflecting in his tone.
‘Then what? I was not a hero from a Bollywood movie who would remain single all his life thinking about his love. I changed the bus stop, found a new girl. Proposed her like the shameless guy, with all the drama, going on my knees. She slapped me. I understood that she had fallen the moment she slapped me. This is a girl’s way of saying yes. From then on, I always try my best to do the awkward drama which women call romantic,’ he got up with a lot of effort.
‘That’s a nice love story uncle. So, you are giving this card to your wife today, right?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, but not to the first one, to the second one. It’s her birthday today. If you learn to put up with the drama you can manage any number of wives, you see,’ he smiled and walked away with his walking stick.
Rohan couldn’t control his laughter. But he understood the point. He bought a beautiful red rose on his way. He drove straight to Riya’s college and stood at the entrance. He called her out.
Riya walked to him with a puzzled look. The moment she halted to walk and stood, facing him, he went on his knees, giving her the rose. Riya quickly got it and dumped it into her bag. She looked around to make sure that no one saw what had happened. She looked tensed.
‘Will you marry me?’ he asked with a romantic smile, holding the gift in his hand with the card stuck on it, still on his knees.
‘What’s all this Rohan? Please get up before someone sees,’ her tension rose.
‘Take this first and please slap me Riya,’ he said with the romantic smile still on his face.
‘Get up, Rohan. Quick. Now,’ she commanded still fixing her concentration on people around. Some of them had already turned to see the man in a police uniform, aged around thirty, and go on his knees with a big gift in his hands. She knew that this would become the headlines of the college Facebook group page for the next few days.
‘Chill. I know how this scene goes. Get this, quick. Slap me. Fast,’ he said, showing her his cheek.
She wanted to end the drama, somehow. She quickly snatched the gift box from him. ‘Okay, I got it. Get up.’
‘Come on, Riya. You are still a kid. This scene must end with a slap. Then, you should walk away and smile to yourself, telling people that I am cute, romantic and all that,’ he said with his cheek still facing her.
‘What nonsense?’
‘Slap me first!’ He said.
‘Don’t act stupid Rohan. Get up,’ she sounded serious with tears brimming her eyes.
He removed the imaginary romantic clown robe and stood up. ‘Sorry. I thought you will like this drama,’ he said with a serious tone.
She started crying with embarrassment as the number of faces, turning to see the drama, started to increase.
‘Come with me,’ he pulled her and made her sit on his bike. They drove to a coffee shop.
‘Why did you do all this? Was it just to embarrass me or was it to make me cry?’ she asked.
‘You didn’t like it?’
‘I hated what you just did. You have embarrassed me enough. I can’t go to college for the rest of the week. People who watched the show have even clicked photographs of all this nonsense. Today, people are going to have fun, making us clowns, in my college group,’ she said, still looking away.
‘What? On the internet? The photograph?’ he stammered.
‘Yes. You will also get embarrassed. Why did you suddenly do this?’ she asked with a serious face.
Rohan told her the story of the old man. Riya burst out in laughter. She lost control and kept laughing.
‘So you thought that was a pattern that people follow to propose?’ she asked still laughing out louder than before.
‘No..’ ‘actually, yes.’
‘So not romantic,’ she laughed again.
His face shrunk and he looked down.
‘Maybe for other girls. It doesn’t work like that for me. I am not so girly you see,’ she said as she opened the card.
The laughter was replaced by tears, which now edged her eyes. ‘Do you really mean that?’ she asked, pointing to the words in the card. He nodded.
‘You looked at so many cards to finalize this one, right?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ he nodded.
She opened the gift impatiently, tearing off the wrapper haphazardly. The moment she saw the book case, her jaw dropped and eyes widened, shedding few more drops of tears. She opened the cardboard box as patiently as she could, making sure she didn’t damage or tear the books it held. She took out a book and laid it open on the table. The moment she saw the author’s signature, she cried louder.
‘What happened? Why are you crying now?’ he asked.
She sat silent and froze for a few seconds.
‘I love you. I really mean it,’ she said and stood up along with him. She hugged him tight repeatedly saying “I love you”.
‘No matter what, girls like drama and call it romantic,’ he murmured.
Suddenly, she stopped the chant of “I love you” and raised her head to look at him. He looked down puzzled. She got out of his grip and turned around.
‘What happened?’ he asked.
‘I am angry.’
‘You did not even bother to sign the card. You just bought it and dumbly gave it to me. Didn’t you know I like pink better than green? You have selected a green gift wrapper. You don’t love me at all,’ she said as she walked to the bike.
Rohan settled the bill and ran to reach her.  
She stood there, thinking.
‘Can we go Riya?’ he asked.
‘You did just like the old man said, knowing very well that he had two wives, didn’t you?’ she asked with her eyebrows raised.
He stood still, not knowing how to react.
‘So, you want to marry someone else. I understand,’ she said sarcastically.
‘No Riya.’
She interrupted ‘I know for sure that you will marry someone else.’
Her face was so serious when she said that.
‘No. Trust me, please. Will you?’
Riya broke into laughter. ‘You really thought that I was serious? Come on. Now that I am here, I will never let you even look at another woman,’ she hit his chest with her fist.
‘By the way, is there any updates regarding Avanthika’s case?’ she asked.
‘Nothing much after you left. We will see that tomorrow,’ he said as he got on to his bike.
‘I left my bike in college, can you drop me there?’ she asked.
‘Okay. Sit behind,’ he said plugging the buckle of his helmet.
‘Who is stopping you from hugging me?’ he asked, holding the bike with both the hands and lifting the shield of the helmet to look at her.
She blushed and hugged him tight.
‘You are so romantic,’ she said, tightening the hug.
‘Girls really like drama,’ he said to himself as he took off.

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