This is the eleventh part of a long story.
First part of the story: Long Story 1
Second part of the story: Long Story 2
Third part of the story: Long Story 3
Fourth part of the story: Long Story 4
Fifth part of the story: Long Story 5
Sixth part of the story: Long Story 6
Seventh part of the story: Long Story 7
Eighth part of the story: Long Story 8
Ninth part of the story: Long Story 9
Tenth part of the story: Long Story 10
He was all set to leave to Canada today. His baggage was packed. This is was not the first time he was travelling to the cold country. He’s lived there most of his life. Although his parents kept telling him he is an Indian. He has never felt like one. He grew up in Canada and has been working in India for the past 8 years. For a gay man who was openly gay in Canada, India was a big step back. He used to feel suffocating lonely; that was before Arun. Radha was about to leave India for good when he met Arun. Arun had come for an interview to his company. He did not get selected but stole Radha’s heart instead.
Arun had informed him that he had told his wife about him and Radha. That meant Arun was considering coming with him to Canada. Radha smiled. He wanted to give Arun the world. The fact that he was legally married to a woman was a big road block. “I cannot leave without making sure Prabha is alright.” Arun had said.
Radha smiled. His sweet, sweet Arun. His kind heart and the smile that reflected it was what attracted Radha initially. And as he got to know him more, the love only grew. Arun talked a lot about Charan. His son. Radha somehow felt like Charan was his son too. Hearing a truck load of anecdotes and loving the person narrating the anecdote that to you.
Radha’s phone buzzed. It was Ranjit. “Hi Ranjit!” he answered.
“Sir! I just spoke to Maya. You are to go the hotel first. The meetings are scheduled only the next day after you arrive. So, do not worry!” said Ranjit.
“OK!” said Radha. “When are you leaving Ranjit?”
“I will start in 2 days sir.” Ranjit said.
“OK! Let us catch up then!”
“Sure! Bye sir.”
Radha opened the mail from his mobility team to check the venue of the hotel where Ranjit was going to stay: Shelton Royale.
Shalini and Prabha; USA
Shalini and Prabha were in a cab passing though the picturesque California landscape. Prabha was preoccupied with the nuclear bomb news she’d received in India. As the scenery changed, Prabha tried to numb her brain with constant change. ‘One… two… she kept counting all the road signs. “Hey! What’s the hotel’s name, Shalu?” asked Prabha.
“Shelton Royale.” Replied Shalini, as she was working on her laptop. Prabha wanted to sleep forever and Shalini acted like she just got up form a nap. “Woman! Do you ever tire?” asked Prabha teasingly. In spite of the annoyance that her manager was a workaholic, Prabha admired her friend.
“Hey! I need to send this mail. I’ll just type it now. Also, Kripa has sent the analysis on the requirements. Khuzem and her are working on the architecture diagrams. They have doubts. I’ll just draft this and done!” replied Shalini not taking her eyes off the laptop.
Prabha smiled, “Sure busy bee. I’ve reviewed the first draft of the requirements document. It seemed fine. I’ve asked Manjari to send to the client.” Prabha filled Shalini in. Shalini nodded and kept typing.
“We’ll keep our bags and go straight to have dinner. And then we have to try and sleep,” said Shalini.
“I told you not to sleep on the plane Shalu,” said Prabha.
Shalini shrugged and gestured with her hand meaning ‘you know me’.
Ranjit deliberately, by chance, tried to meet Prabha. He searched for her Activa in the parking lot, but in vain. Is she ill? he thought. He had got her a present and wanted to give it to her. Is it too early to give a present? He thought. When he had looked at the ceramic doll, it reminded him of her. So, he just went ahead and bought it. He did not gift-wrap it. Should he just keep it instead of giving it to her. She might think it is too early. How early is too early? He thought. He had paced the distance from her office entrance to the window 6 times. He was conflicting with himself over going in and asking for her. What is wrong with him?
The last time he was this jittery and high, he was in first year of college. He smiled to himself. He had never been interested in marriage or the matrimonial bliss. He had an elder brother whose life was turned upside-down because of this useless institution. He had long ago decided he did not want to marry. But, harmless flirting is OK right? It was not like he wanted her as his girlfriend. He did not even know if she was married. Or if she wanted to marry. He just wanted to see her, talk to her. What is this weird wanting?
He has a ton of work. He was leaving to USA in a day. He sighed and leaned on the window sill. A girl was talking rapidly on the phone. Something about a girl who had backbitten her. He looked at the ceramic doll again. It was a doll of a woman wearing a jeans and a red t-shirt and holding a handbag. The doll’s hair and smile reminded him of Prabha. The first time he saw her, she was crying. He wanted to know why! Baby steps. He reminded himself. Baby steps.
Prabha came down for a small walk in the hotel’s garden. It was vast. She removed her slipper and started to walk on the grass. A habit that was long formed because of her grandmother. She had called home and talked to Charan. Her mom-in-law had many questions and asked her to drink butter milk. She smiled. Her mother had said the same thing, “Drink butter milk Prabha! Ok?”. Charan was aloof and acted cool, but she knew he missed her. Her home. Can she even call it that now? Aren’t Charan and Arun her home? What is she supposed to call her home now? Tears started to flow. Why God? She asked. She sat down on the grass and started at the orangish-black evening sun. Why God?
Vishva and Jaya had not spoken for quite sometime now. His son, Rohit, was catching up on the developments. Vishva sat near his pool with a beer. He should decide soon, he thought. This is not good for his son. He took a quick swig and kept the can down. He took the wooden key chain out. He surprised himself when he told Mitch the truth. He made sure the key chain stayed in office. He did not want to hurt Jaya. He read the name in his mind, Prabha, and closed his fingers around the key chain. After almost 13 years, he thought, maybe he should not have broken up with her. Maybe she was the one. Maybe he would have been happy with her by his side. Maybe she feels the same way about him. Maybe he should ask her. Maybe he was going insane! Vishva cradled his head in his palms, the key chain pressing against his forehead.
Twelfth part of the story: Long Story 12