He is standing on top of his 16-floor tall office, with a cigarette between the index and middle finger of his heavily jeweled-with-different-stones left palm, already nearing its filter now. A thousand stars, a hundred thoughts, a chilly night and just a half step for the penultimate ending of the story. He takes the last drag and stashes the bud, among the pile of other buds on the floor. He looks up in the sky. But that is not where the thousand stars lie. The zooming cars with their headlights set on high beam below, the street lamps, and the neon signs of Deloitte, Yahoo, Microsoft and other giants around, are the stars that are visible now. As he looks up, and inhales the smoke in a long deep drag, and feels the familiar sense of satisfaction and relaxation spread through his body, followed by the unpleasant sensation of burning in his throat and lungs, he mentally reminded himself to cut down. But now was not the time to think about himself, there were far more important things to deal with right now; and the tobacco converted into smoke vanishes into the cold air with fog.
Things had taken such great turns in life, that he forgot what the stars in the sky looked like anymore.
“Is it over now? Is this it?”
He asks himself. He no longer remembers what the fight was for. He no longer remembers what brought him here. In this moment, in these times. He knows he must run for it, but the question is,
“Run for what? What is the final destination? When am I supposed to stop running? When does it end?”
He looks at his palm. Shaking today, not the firm and stable palm he had just yesterday in the meeting room. He can’t understand why is it shaking, even when the telecom giant, InterNetworks had won the deal. Another feather in the hat. Last three-quarters had seen an exponential growth in the value of his company. A company today, a young start-up yesterday. Maybe it is the cold winter air and the only-good-for-looks business suit that can’t keep him warm.
10 years. It has been 10 years since he started out with his life like a Phoenix. Burnt to ashes and rose to heights. For 10 years the only thought he lived with was to reach a point where the world knew who he was. Of course, in that everyone was hidden just that one whom he wanted to win back.
” Hey!! How are you dude?” asked Pushti.
” Stop calling me dude. Hate the usage.
Told you so many times Pushi!” he said.
” Haha! My grumpy old man! Alright. How are you doing Mister Prayank?
How was the day? ” she asked in her always notorious voice.
She was always so uplifting. Nothing seemed to go wrong in her life. Ever.
” Quit it Pushi! I am fine.
Same old same old. What are you up to?”
” Ok ok! I baked some brownies. Meet me tomorrow?”
” Just for the brownies. I’ll pick you up after
your classes get over…?” he spoke in a way
that is in-between informing someone yet asking politely for agreement.
” Noooo!! Don’t drive all the way. It is too far from your college.
Besides, I want to stay alive!
You are still a newbie when it comes to driving!” and she laughed away
along with a little snort that always came up when she tried to
laugh harder than needed just to bring a little smile on Prayank’s face.
” Don’t worry. I won’t get you killed. Too important a person.
Babe I am sleeping early today. Really tired.
Plus you got to cover up for your internal exams.
Good night! Sleep tight.
Don’t stress too much.”, Prayank replied in his ever flat tone.
” Wow. Aren’t you the most romantic guy alive?
Anyway. Thanks! You take your 8 hours.
I will get back to my course. Love you my rockstar!”
It is not that Prayank did not realize the efforts Pushti would put in to bring a smile to his face, if not a laugh. It is just that all this was still pretty overwhelming for him. He had led a simple unattractive life for the first 18 years. And just like some movie on the TV, everything changed for him. Like they say, two opposites attract, that’s exactly what happened here.
Prayank’s whole life had been the one of an introvert. While Pushti was a “you only live once” kind of person, who believed that every moment of life must be enjoyed. He never had any faith in God; was never seen near a temple. While she was a believer. At all major cross-sections of his life, she would say a little prayer for him. She always had intuitions that proved to be right with a 100% success track record! The ones in favour and the ones in not. She would always tell him how she felt. And as if he found his own God, he would go by what she would say and always end up taking the right decision. He called her his lady-luck!
What was in it for her? Well, she was someone who lacked self-confidence when it came to her own career. She was an excellent advisor but when it came to taking decisions for herself, cold feet is what she would have. And this is where Prayank would step in. He was the force she needed to take a step ahead for herself. People would try to take her for granted, but his rational nature would always protect her from getting hurt. He valued her too much. More than himself. The two of them worked perfectly in sync with each other. Whenever one would run low on spirits, other one would become the infinite source of it. Thus, making their system run ever so flawlessly, for over 3 years now.
It was winters, the best time for one to stay lazy and stay cozy. Also, the two of them could easily sneak a phone underneath their quilts and fall asleep while talking all night. He waited everyday for her to fall asleep first. It gave him some comfort in a strange way. She would use the white coloured earphones that came with Nokia phones. At night, the microphone would transmit crystal clear voice, and when she would fall asleep, he could hear her breath. The rhythms of her respiration calmed him and make him forget all his problems.
The next day, her Mass Communication class got over earlier than expected, while his Advanced Computer Networks class over ran its length.
Time: 3:09 pm
Hi babe! I gt free. Wher r u?
(Hi babe! I got free. Where are you?)
To: Pushi (+91 – 9899000000)
So soon? How come? I still have 30 minutes for this lecture to end.
U study. M leavin 4 ur college.
V’ll meet @ sum intersection! Love you loads!
Happy studyin kiddo! 😀
(You study. I am leaving for your college.
We will meet at some intersection! Love you loads!
Happy studying kiddo! 😀)
To: Pushi (+91 – 9899000000)
Ughgh. Alright. Just take care of yourself.
Take a metro that’s less crowded and make sure you sit.
Will try to sneak out ASAP.
Yeah right. As if I can concertrate on studies now.
Love you too beautiful. Cya!
Connaught Place is what the intersection usually meant. Centrally located and equidistant to the both of their homes. The Cafe Coffee Day at the B-Block was their fixed venue. It was a routine drill for them, first a cup of coffee, then take a walk around the Central Park till the sun would set. Ofcourse, they never could have enough of each other.
Prayank and Pushti had been school time sweathearts. They were inseperables. Everybody knew theirs was a story that would never end. The heavens had created a story so beautiful in their own tiny world that they stopped caring about the outside world. Both of their families knew about their relationship. Like every Indian family, parents initially never accepted it but seeing them together for over 4 years had them come to terms with it.
She was sitting at their favourite couch when he reached. Two Irish Coffees were already ordered by her. He bent over to kiss her cheek and that’s when he saw her eyes were red. He knew her for far too long that something was not right.
“Huh? Nothing! The coffee is here!”
“Pushi. What happened?”
“Nothing Prayaaaank! Nothing happened baby!
Won’t you ask how my exam went?”
“Your exam went fine.
You are the topper of your batch. What
happened last night, tell me that. Your eyes are red.”
“You know what happened. Why do you ask always?
Just let it be, alright?”
” I will take you away from that hell of a place.
I promise. I will not let anything hurt you.”
“And that’s why I say. You are worth every bit of it!”
Pushti’s family was a one that was considered modern. But they did not prefer Prayank in her life. According to them, their daughter must have a guy that she could flaunt. That she could show-off. Not a plump boy with messed up hair, who looked nothing like the models they show on the f-TV. They would ask her to leave the boy and look for someone “right”. Her father belonged to one of the most popular political family, who got his love for his daughter mixed up with his own pride. “Providing only the best for his daughter” had been overtaken by “providing what his daughter wanted the most.” The same egotistical attitude was shared by his wife and genetically transferred to his elder son Vedansh, a year elder to Pushti.