Message in a Pen – II

angst-of-existence

Read Part 1 of the story here – Message in a Pen – I

The gang of ten was now two concentric circles – eight of us as a surreptitious circumference around Saahil and Neelam.  We savoured their melting. We were elated when their meetings multiplied, when their eyes oozed their enviable blissful future. I kept raising doubts at intervals in various octaves, sometimes guilty of vehemence because I was scared for them. Neelam and Saahil would then sit with me and pacify me. They were devastatingly optimistic. It almost broke my heart but I always smiled in the end. Sometimes the gang agreed with me that the gap between their communities was too wide to be filled up in our lifetime. Honour killing was still a rampant reality. But Saahil and Neelam were sanguine, with a thick veil of love settled on their existence. 

“If the need arise, will you contemplate running away?” I asked both of them once over a cup of coffee in the canteen. It was just the three of us.

“We haven’t thought about it but we might,” Neelam said.

“You haven’t thought about it or you are scared to think about it? Do you realize what will happen to Saahil’s family after both of you elope?” I asked. Both of them looked at each other.

Saahil had discussed the relationship with his family and his parents had no problems with the match but they made it very clear that their family getting insulted will never be a part and parcel of the deal. If Saahil had to elope or marry secretly, then he was on his own. 

The couple persisted. The courtship was now about to complete a year. It was the first time that I had seen a woman blush a beetroot red at the sight of a man. The smile won’t leave their faces as their fingers found each other’s hands. Their eyes gleamed with dreams of their future together.  

                                                *           *           * 

The lunch was eventful. The five of us talked about various lecturers and professors who taught us during the one and a half years we studied together. There were too many people we had mimicked and made fun of during that time. We lived it again, choking on our food as we laughed. Arnav clapped his hands while Kirti moved her head from one side to another and smiled. Our past danced around the dining table but the girls were not in it. It was a tacit decision to erase them. I had no idea how much Kirti knew and so I went with the flow.

I loosened up a bit by the time we finished eating. We clicked a few pictures. One of them had Rajat and Saahil sitting in front while I, Gaurav and Sumit stood behind them. It was exactly like a photograph clicked during our college farewell. The faces were not the same. Mouldings were seeping into our pictures with time.

“Arnav needs to sleep. I am going in the bedroom for a while,” Kirti said to Saahil and went inside.

“Come,” Saahil said as he held my hand and asked me to get up.

“Where are you guys going?” Rajat asked in alarm.

“We are taking a stroll in the park. The three of you can take a nap,” Saahil said.

I got up and went out of the house with Saahil as Rajat, Sumit and Gaurav gave difficult-to-comprehend expressions. 

                                                *           *           *

We had a preparatory break twenty days before our final examinations. Most of us stayed in the hostel because they were our last few days together. Neelam went home as Saahil would not let her study. She talked to him in the evening after reaching home and that was the last time any of us got a phone call from her.  

No one had any idea what had happened for almost four days when a call came on Saahil’s phone one evening. The five of us were in his room discussing what to do next when the phone rang. It was Neelam’s father on the other side. He was shouting so piercingly that all of us could plainly hear his words. Saahil tried to reason with him but his reasons were not working against death threats. Fifteen minutes and an avalanche of swearwords later, the phone was abruptly disconnected. We sat in stunned silence. It was a perfect I-told-you-so moment but I kept my mouth shut. Saahil was blinking away tears.

“I have to go home and talk to my parents,” he said as he suddenly got up and started packing.

“Tomorrow,” Gaurav said.

“No, I have to go now.”

“I said tomorrow Saahil! You are in no position to ride a bike on the highway,” Gaurav said.

Saahil threw his bag violently on the floor. The clothes tumbled out of the bag. I got up to pick them up and kept them back in the bag.

He went home the next day to convince his parents to talk to Neelam’s family. They were very clear that Neelam’s family has to spit out the anger and talk to them in a civilized manner. Saahil called up Neelam’s father to convince him for a meeting. He was told that the next time he calls, his family will not find a single piece of his body.

“Please tell me if she is alive,” he pleaded. The line went dead.

I kept calling Saahil that day but he did not pick up his mobile. Optimism was now an unrecognizable corpse buried deep within the soil of practicalities; the practicalities of staying alive. I had never thought that I would wait for Saahil in our hostel room with my heart ramming into my ribcage with a deafening ferocity. I imagined reporting him missing to the police and then identifying his body. I imagined Neelam hanging from a ceiling fan, her battered body swinging slowly. Love had turned into a blinding pain from being blind.

Saahil came to hostel the next day. His face was different now. He had woken up from the dream. 

                                                *           *           * 

We sat on a bench in the park. The weather was agreeable.

“Neelam is in America with her husband. They went to Egypt on a holiday. She loved the Pyramids,” Saahil said. I stared at his face for a while.

“Are you in..”

“No. Rajat told me. He got an e-mail from her one day. Now she writes to him sometimes to let us know that she is happy.”

“What about you?”

“What do you think?”

I silently stared at the swings moving slowly with the winds.

“You really don’t get it, do you? You saw what I went through, what Neelam went through. You saw her when she came to write her exams. After going through all that turmoil when I had no intentions of staying alive, here I am sitting with you. I am married and I have a kid. Would I be able to lead my life like this if I still loved Neelam?”

“But how can you fall out of love with a person like this Saahil? You were crazy about each other.”

“I am in love with Kirti and Arnav. Right now that is all that matters. Our life is not as one dimensional as it seems. The seasons change for a reason my friend. The pendulum swings without rest. The first few months were difficult, when she was forcefully married but there was nothing I could do. Her house had turned into a fort. I tried reaching her. You had left for Chennai. Rajat, Sumit and Gaurav were there but I knew that I had to come out of it or I would have gone crazy. Even then, when Kirti was refereed for an arranged match, I said no initially.”

“I know.”

“I told her about Neelam the first time we met. She was very understanding. She told me that she liked me but I cannot enter her life with the burden I was carrying. We started talking and said yes a month later. Neelam was already in America by then.”

“And now?”

“I am madly in love with Kirti. Don’t you see? She healed me. I was never so much in peace with my life as I am now. When I see Arnav’s face, I don’t remember any sadness that existed in my life. It was always about Kirti and me. This is where the path was destined to lead me.”

“I am happy for you,” I said as I caressed a piece of paper in my pocket. 

to be continued…

[image from here]

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48 comments on “Message in a Pen – II

  1. Pingback: Message in a Pen – I | Mashed Musings

  2. The fact that this is a true story saddens me…But i’ll wait for the 3rd part before commenting any further. Kuch toh chupa hua hai abhi tak…that paper may be.Okay I won’t imagine things now but wait for the next part. Completely hooked to this story…

    • Haha. :) There is no big suspence here. But I am actually surprised that no one is asking anything about the title of the story and what it means.

      • I have a feeling it has something to do with the paper in the pocket. Maybe it was given by Neelam inside a pen, substituting it with the refill for Sahil which never reached it because the narrator, who already was apprehensive about their relationship didn’t want to put their lives at stake! Never mind my wild imagination! :P

      • Haan na, the title..didn’t think about that, may be because it isn’t mentioned anywhere else in the story.the paper inside the pen may be..how else can we give messages through pen..! Well, no more wild guesses…I’ll wait. Have mercy on us, and write the 3rd part soon. :(

  3. :-( sad story but there is a new beginning for your friend, but time heals for sure,,
    Nicely written, I for a moment was lost in the story and did not realize it was a true story for some reason..

  4. Now what’s with the paper…. I hate suspense that too you claiming it being a real story is adding to my agony. Please please let it have And now that you have claimed its a real story will you also be going to tell who are you in the story.

    You have touched the topic of honor killing which has always been beyond my understanding. I do not understand the mentality and upbringing of families where its an issue of prestige.

    • I am the narrator of the story. :) Next installment will be coming soon. Some patience. :)
      I was under the impression that India was coming out of the clutches of these backward thoughts but no, they are very much rampant.

      • It was no brainer but I just wanted to confirm :P.

        And yes such issues are very much there. They exist, they flourish and they don’t seem to end specially in the parts of the country we reside.

  5. Part II just got better! Sad nonetheless but I find Sahil & Neelam’s fates to be much better than those who kill themselves or get killed in the name of honour. Eagerly waiting for the 3rd part!

  6. In your comments in Part 1 you said you were in shock at the level of backwardness in some families. Now, although the young man has made a wonderful new life with his wife and son I can’t help but believe part 3 is going to reveal something awful about those stupid parents of the college girl. Parts 1 & 2 A+++. Awaiting part 3.

  7. About the title, it is intriguing, and, it has been on my mind. But I’m patiently letting the story unfold. I’m not new to the story so far, but gotta say, the narrative is really good. :)

  8. True story? I had forgotten about that.
    Painful isn’t it? this part of the story brought back some college memories…. had a friend in similar circumstances (inter caste love, parental opposition and hyper families).

  9. I wonder what these people gain from making a mess talking about family honor, caste and religion.Breeding victims of caste system I feel
    waiting for the next part :)

  10. sad state of affairs as always. Honor killing , no freedom to marry the one u like :(
    Am eagerly waiting for ending and u kno where exactly to end the episode :D
    kudos

  11. It is so difficult to comment and not comment without reading all the parts. All I can say for now is that your writing is so compelling that you may get stalked or something for the third part. And it is taking a superhuman control to not say anything about this story.

    (I hope your girl inherits your word weaving :-))

  12. Pingback: Message in a Pen – III | Mashed Musings

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