Please read Part 1 of this fiction based on real life events here before proceeding to read this part. Continuing
So, on went the conversations, mostly honest yet carefully sugar coating the tricky scenarios. They wrote back and forth every day. As they got a little friendly, banter and jokes got added to their mails. Though, Gaurav said that he was the silent one, he was conscious of writing detailed answers to all her queries. Who knew what could irk a woman and make her clam up! They were beginning to enjoy the easy friendship they now shared. And slowly but surely, they embarked on this dangerously thrilling journey which neither was sure was leading where.
April had gone by. Avni and Gaurav had covered a lot of ground via emails that included anecdotes of their childhood, their siblings, parents and friends too. They spoke about their past heartbreaks, their dreams and aspirations. Gradually, they discovered many things common in each other. Avni was beginning to like this guy. He was funny and entertaining. He was sentimental too and valued family. Gaurav was feeling drawn to her as well. Both lived with their parents. And something which brought them closer was that each had a parent with health issues. Having been caregivers, they understood what the other went through. Gaurav was becoming her single best friend. She was opening out to him much more than anyone else. It felt scary in a way! What if things did not work out? It would hurt.
Finally they exchanged photographs. He sent her one of his college ID snaps. He looked nice in a very clean sort of way. She found his boyish good looks appealing. Check! She sent him a few snaps taken in a couple of salwar kameezes and her mom’s sari with her own ill-fitting blouse. She hated saris. Gaurav liked her pictures too. Of course, neither of them cared about looks, did they!
So then, it happened!
They finally spoke over the phone. She had a lovely, ringing laughter, but he never mentioned it. He had a normal, masculine voice. Just like any two regular people. They were dying to meet face to face. And, the opportunity came pretty soon. Avni had an official tour planned for 1st week of May. It was coinciding with the launch of a brand. She was entrusted with dealer displays in Mumbai. She loved the city having spent a substantial part of her life there. She suggested to Gaurav to come meet her there.
Gaurav was game. Though, he had not been to Mumbai, he could take a couple of leaves and come down to meet her. She suggested a hotel where he could stay. She shared her guesthouse phone number with him. That was the only way they could communicate. She had no internet access at her guesthouse or in her Sales office. Remember there were no mobile phones in those days. Both felt a tinge of nervous excitement.
Avni got busy with work on her arrival in Mumbai, but there was a strange tension building inside her. The schedule was grueling, and the heat and humidity were driving her crazy. She and her team scoured the streets during the day putting up displays. After a really tiring day, she did not need much to hit the bed. On the last day of her tour, she had to be on the field only for half the day. That was the day when Gaurav was coming to meet her.
The day had arrived! Avni was finishing her breakfast and glancing at her wrist watch. She was a couple of minutes late. Cursing, she gulped the food. Suddenly, the phone rang. It was Gaurav. And, he was in trouble. He found that the hotel had no room available. What was he supposed to do now? He was stranded. She did not have Yellow Pages at hand, so she promised to ask a colleague and call him back. She quickly found another hotel and called Gaurav to give the address and the phone number. She was in a rush and it showed. She did not ask him how his journey was or how he was feeling. Gaurav was put off with her cold behavior. What was he doing coming all the way for her? They had begun on the wrong note. Avni was cursing herself while on her way out.
After a tough afternoon, Avni came back to the guesthouse. As discussed, she and Gaurav had decided to meet at the local train station. Dressed simply in a lavender churidar kurta, she left for the station. It was around 5 pm. The station was crowded. She waited for almost 10 minutes and did not see him. She disliked people who were not on time. And the butterflies in her stomach were getting worse. Then she saw him. He stood in front of her and asked hesitatingly, “Avni?” “Yes! Are you Gaurav,” she asked? “Yes,” he replied and offered his hand to her. They looked at each other while shaking hands. Avni thought he looked plumper than his picture and he was just a bit taller than her. There go the 6 ft. dreams! Gaurav was looking at her. “Is she the same girl?” Something looks different? “She looks rather plain!
Avni quickly bought tickets for them, and they caught a Churchgate local. Sitting across each other, they were quiet and immediately felt the strange discomfort that two people feel who have met in the virtual world but are meeting face to face for the first time. Slowly, hesitatingly, the conversation picked up. She started regaling tales of her infant niece who was the apple of her eye. He started telling her about this funny guy at office. They even discussed politics and the outsider issues. Both of them had faced it in their respective cities. Their conversations were interspersed with long silences. “He sure smelled great,” she thought to herself. “She has a great smile,” he said to himself.
Getting off at Marine Lines, they walked till Chowpatty. Avni had decided to take him to Marine Drive, the crown jewel of Mumbai. What could be better than sea and setting sun for some great conversation? They walked down Chowpatty and quietly watched an amazing sunset. Avni tied her hair that was blowing in her eyes and irritating her contact lenses. Gaurav instantly smiled. She looked familiar now. Almost as if unwillingly he whispered, “You must tie your hair more often, it suits you.” She looked at him and smiled back. And, they started walking down the Queens’s Necklace amid glittering lights, cars, vendors and loads of people. Two people lost in a crowd trying to find something special in each other.
At one point, they sat on the parapet facing the sea. He gave her his hand to help her sit; the touch of his hand felt good – electric and warm. Stop it! You are making it feel like a corny movie scene.
Gaurav loved to crack jokes, some good, some terrible. And his eyes glinted with laughter every time he did. She found that very amusing. They munched some groundnuts and chana from the vendors and continued listening to the sounds of their voices and their silences. It was a heady date on a muggy, Mumbai evening.
Casually Gaurav mentioned that he wanted to go to the US. His sisters were there. Being in IT, he wanted to experience working there. He had applied for his visa already. That was a rude shock to Avni. Where did that come from? He hadn’t mentioned it ever. She was dead against making such a big change in her life. Was it not enough that marriage was a huge upheaval? She looked at him very confused. Gaurav fell into silence sensing her discomfort. They hopped into a cab to go to Gateway of India, each quiet and reflecting. Suddenly the magic of a beautiful evening had diminished.
To be continued…
Read concluding part here
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