Twentieth – 1.5

Recap: Nandita invites Kunal for lunch at her residence where he doesn’t show up on time. This upsets Nandita. Upon his arrival, Nandita gets more upset by the colour of his Tshirt and his remark on her photo. Later she decides that she will not communicate with Kunal any more. 

 

6 weeks later….

“Uiyhjknm./

dfgregFV”’’’’’’’’lllll//^&ythgfkbdnkndkefnrnmcsmlkfnjd” Nandita received a Whatsapp text from Kunal.

“Old trick of initiating a talk” she stared at her mobile screen and didn’t reply.

But her mind kept getting diverted to that message and ultimately post lunch, she replied “a new kind of communication it seems to be”

Within a few minutes, Kunal replied “Sorry! It must have been sent by mistake. I didn’t notice it though, otherwise would have apologised to you myself.”

“I am sure it must be a typo… after what you said the other day.” Nandita replied and put her phone on silent to ignore any further conversation. Her boss called her in his cabin and in between the work she forgot about her rude response.

In the taxi on her way to Reay road station, she opened Whatsapp and there was a lengthy reply from Kunal “I don’t regret what I said the other day Nandita… because I still believe in it. I am still the same person and have the same amount of respect for you but perhaps your perception towards me has altered which nobody else can change but only you… and I am saying this again that you need to hear out my point once. The ball is in your court. Bye!”

Nandita got furious on his reply but she preferred not to answer as she had to leave for Bangalore next day early morning and had a lot of work to be finished before that. But Kunal’s reply had taken Nandita to the memory that had taken place between them 6 weeks ago.

6 weeks before

The very next monday after the lunch get together at Nandita’s place Kunal called her up while on his way to office.

“Hi Nandita”

“Hi Kunal”

“I think I have left my pen drive at your place. I showed the photos on the TV and perhaps didn’t remember to take it back.”

“Okay. Let me check.” Nandita walked to the living room and checked the USB slot behind the TV.

“Yeah there is a black HP pen drive inserted here.” She told Kunal.

“There you go. It is mine” Kunal said.

“Okay so I will return this to you soon.” Nandita said.

“I need it as soon as today Nandita. My important files and presentations are saved in it.” Kunal insisted.

“Ummm… Kunal, I have a busy calendar today and tomorrow. So I can’t really meet you.” Nandita made an excuse to avoid meeting him one more time.

“Is it okay if I parcel it to your Lower Parel office?” she suggested to cover up her unwillingness.

“Umm… no no no don’t parcel it. I’ll send my guy to your office and hand it over to him.” He instantly said.

“Alright… Sure! But send him in the first half because I have an important meeting in the second half.” Nandita said.

“Got it. Thanks so much. Bye!” and Kunal hung up.

Nandita cursed her fate as to why Kunal forgot his pen drive at her residence but then took a sigh of relief as she escaped a plan of meeting with him again.

Nandita packed the PD in a small envelope after reaching office and kept waiting for Kunal’s guy. She frequently checked her wrist watch in anticipation but till 1.30 pm, nobody turned up. She also thought about checking up with Kunal but “He’ll call.” her mind always reminded this to her and thus she did not call him.

Later, she headed to fort area with her boss for the meeting and since nobody had come from Kunal’s side, she carried the PD with her.

Nandita was sitting in a meeting room with her boss when around 4.00 pm, Kunal called her up.

“Hi Nandita, a guy named Alok must have come to your office. Did you hand over the PD?” he questioned.

“No one showed up. I was waiting…”

“What?” Kunal interrupted Nandita. “But I had told him to reach you by 1… Wait… I have to check with him first.” And he hung up the call immediately. Nandita felt weird, angry and miffed – all at the same time on Kunal’s quick interruptions but she couldn’t emote herself in presence of her boss in their client’s office.

Till 4.30, Nandita waited for Kunal’s call and then put her phone on silent mode as they were starting with the meeting.

Just when she got a minute free from the meeting, she checked her phone to find 5 calls missed from Kunal. She quickly called him back.

“Nandita, Hi… I am reaching your office in half an hour. I need that Pen Drive today in any case.”

“But I am in fort area.” Nandita quickly replied.

“Great… I’ll reach you in 15 minutes then. Just text me building’s name and wait for me. I need that PD today in any case.” He said and hung up the call.

*“PD PD PD..!! As if I am his delivery boy.”* She thought. annoyed though, she was left with no other option and thus sent him the location.

“I am in a meeting Kunal. In case, I don’t pick up your call please wait for me for a bit. If you’re in a hurry, let me know I’ll send that PD at the office reception.” Nandita texted after sending the location in order to avoid a chance of meeting him. Post her meeting at 6, she quickly checked her phone but there was no missed call from Kunal. She opened Whatsapp and there was a message from Kunal “I am waiting outside your building. Let me know when you’re done with the meeting”.

Still miffed though, she replied “I am coming.”

Nandita discussed some briefs with boss and left. Her heart felt a certain kind of uneasiness but she was helpless and therefore, she reached him and said “Hi” with a not very pleasant smile.

“There it is.” She handed over the envelope to Kunal and he immediately opened it and took a sigh of relief.

“Thank you so much Nandita. And I am really sorry for bothering you so much today.” Kunal said.

“It’s okay.” Nandita replied with a fake smile.

“No No No… it’s not okay… I owe you big time… may be a beer… or a coffee… whatever is your choice.” Kunal said and Nandita couldn’t control her laugh on this.

“Well, this is the first time somebody has invited me like this?” her mood had got lifted up with Kunal’s sentence.

“Really…” Kunal laughed “So what is your choice!?” he pleasantly asked.

“Well, looking at your current condition…” She looked at him from head to toe “I think caffeine will work better for you.” She smartly answered and Kunal laughed.

“Hell yeah… as it is, it was a hectic day and then this PD thingy… Beer isn’t gonna help me tonite, I require caffeine.” Kunal said and directed Nandita towards his car; opened the door for her and then sat on the driving seat.

“Do you like any particular place for dining in this area?” Kunal asked Nandita while starting ignition.

“No.” Nandita replied with a little anxiety in her mind.

“No problem. So I’ll take you to a place of my choice.” Kunal said and smiled at Nandita and she smiled back.

*“He is being overfriendly don’t you see that… you shouldn’t have agreed for this coffee.”* Nandita’s conscience warned her.

*“I know… I know he is being overfriendly. I tried to avoid him the whole day but what do I do if he comes and stands in front of me… and his sentence did make me laugh so loudly what to do?” And if I am meeting someone, I should meet properly. This is what etiquettes are… isn’t it?”* her mind defended. There was instability in her thoughts now but her facial expressions concealed it very well in Kunal’s presence.

And they reached Caffe Primo in fort.

After placing the order, Nandita checked her wrist watch and said “Don’t mind Kunal, but I will have to rush early as…”

“Yeah yeah I understand… Myra is waiting for you at home.” He interrupted and Nandita nodded.

“Actually, it’s my mistake” Kunal said “Instead of asking you to bring the PD with you, I could have collected it from someone at your house.”

*“Exactly”* Nandita thought but didn’t emote on face.

“But at that time, this idea didn’t strike and hence you got so much bothered because of me.” Kunal expressed his apology.

“Never mind.” Nandita said and they did a bit of chit chat on common topics like climate and population of Mumbai.


 

“This one is on me.” Nandita took the bill from the waiter as she saw him reaching their table.

“No, that’s unfair. I requested you for a cup of coffee so it’s on me.” Kunal forcefully took it from her grip.

“Next one will be on you.” He said while taking out his wallet.

*“I don’t want that next turn.”* Nandita thought and watched him pay.

“You can drop me at CST. I’ll take train from there.” Nandita said when they were heading towards his car.

“I’ll Drop you home. Don’t worry.” Kunal insisted.

“No No No… pls don’t be bothered so much. I’ll go by train.” Nandita said and suddenly they heard a loud screeching sound coming from behind. Both of them shockingly looked at the back and saw an over speeded, totally out of control Red colored Mercedes and Bam! Before they could understand the scene, the Merc had already plowed into a parked SUV a few hundred meters ahead and crushed it totally.Loud screams from all directions overtook the sound of the vehicle horns.

“Oh Gawd!” Kunal said in a shocking voice and started moving towards the scene but then he stopped and looked back at Nandita who looked traumatized.

“Do you want to come?” he asked and she didn’t respond at all. He sensed that she has got scared with this horrible accident and to make her relax, he asked her to sit inside the car.

“Nandita, I’ll go and check and come back to you.” He said but she didn’t reply. Her eyes looked terrified.

“Nandita, I’ll come back… Do you hear me?” Kunal shouted this time and she looked at him. He rushed.


 

The whole scenario had gathered a lot of crowd and traffic jam. Kunal reached the chaos and came to know that aid was provided to the victims on time.

“Thank God! The police and ambulance reached them on time.” Kunal said after sitting on the driving seat. “There was one guy in each of the cars….The guy in the SUV has faced critical injuries on head and shoulder… he has been taken to the nearest hospital. Both of them have been taken there actually… The Merc guy was bleeding on forehead and from mouth but isn’t facing any critical injuries, the onlookers told…” Kunal completed his statement and looked at Nandita who kept staring at the Lord Ganpati’s statue fixed on his car’s dashboard. “Nandita, are you listening?” Kunal asked.

“Nandita?” he snapped his fingers in front of her eyes and she got back in senses.

“Don’t worry too much! There are no fatalities.” Kunal tried to console her and started the car ignition.

Nandita kept looking outside the window glass at the Marine Drive and there was no conversation between them for the next ten minutes. Kunal was purposefully driving slow and more carefully right now.

“I need to breathe in some fresh air.” Nandita broke the silence and switched off the AC and opened the glass on her side. Kunal sensed the turbulence in her mind and stopped the car at a vacant parking space. Nandita noticed but didn’t question him.

“Let’s sit alongside the water for some time… you’ll feel better.” Kunal said but his words didn’t make any change on Nandita.

He got down and opened Nandita’s door. With his gesture Nandita realized her upset mind and got down but her heart still felt shaky.

Nandita sat facing the sea where as Kunal sat facing the road. Both were sitting quietly and only waves did the talking. Street vendors came to sell stuff and Kunal hushed them so that Nandita doesn’t feel disturbed. It was dark. There was sufficient light on the road but the sea was not visible yet Nandita kept looking at it. The noise of the waves matched with the stirring thoughts in her mind. Kunal did not disturb her at all and sat silently beside her.

“I fear death.” Nandita spoke after a long time and Kunal looked at her with surprise. The words that had come out of her mouth shattered him.

“That fear always gets me. And more than my own death, I fear death of my near and dear ones.” She said. “And yet… God gave me this test to live alone for my lifetime now. He took away Vishal and my parents from me.” she bursted into tears and hid her eyes behind her palms. Kunal was palpitated with her last words and didn’t know how to console her. He thought about putting his hand on her shoulder but resisted.

“I so wish it was me who would have stayed at home instead of Vishal so that the earthquake could take me with it and not him.” She said and cried again. Kunal’s heart was shivering with her sentences and all he could do was to take deep, very deep sighs. He understood her pain because he had faced the same.

Nandita kept crying and Kunal kept sitting beside her without saying a word. The street vendors looked at their faces and walked ahead as they understood it is not good time to sell things to them.

“You know… Vishal and I had a small, very small argument over Myra’s milk powder. I had told him to get it from the market one day ago but he kept delaying it…. Ultimately, I lost my temper and left home with Myra and two wheeler keys to go to market. And the very next moment when I bought the packet, my life turned upside down…” Nandita said and got thick tears in her eyes which rolled down quickly and her eyes got filled with another set of thick tears.

“Wouldn’t it have been better if Vishal had bought Myra’s milk powder a day before… at least all of us would have died then together and death would have saved me from this everyday’s yearning.” Nandita cried her heart out. Kunal silently looked on and took deep sighs.

“That day… changed everything around us; everything in our life.” Kunal spoke looking in other direction. Nandita sobbed and nodded. Both were again sitting silently and the sound of slow tides soothed their ears as if the sea was trying to console them.

For about an hour, they sat there and slowly Nandita started coming back to normal. She took out a handkerchief from her handbag and wiped her nose and tears.

“It’s late. We should head back.” She said and put her handkerchief back in its place.

Kunal also came back to normal and got down from the sea wall and said “Nandita” and she looked at him.

“Marry me, will you?” he said in a very serious and firm voice.

“I am sorry, I didn’t get you.” Already in a perturbed state of mind, Nandita could not believe what her ears had heard just now.

Kunal inhaled a deep breath and asked again looking straight into her eyes “Will you marry me Nandita?” his voice was firm and serious like before.

“I…. ..” Nandita felt a fright on what just happened and didn’t find words. It took her few seconds to sync in with what she had just heard.

“I think I’ll take a taxi. I have to rush home.” She said with a trembled voice without looking at Kunal and started walking briskly.

Her reaction made Kunal realize his mistake of putting his words so quickly and he said “You are misconstruing me Nandita” and started walking with her.

“Cum’on! Sit inside the car. I’ll drop you home.”  He unlocked his car but Nandita moved further to find a taxi.

“Nandita, you have to hear out my whole thing. I am extremely sorry for saying it so suddenly. Just listen to me once. We need to talk this out.” Kunal requested her very politely.

“Mr. Kunal, with the start of this day you drove me crazy about the pen drive that you had left in my house. So I think you should go and concentrate on your work.” Nandita angrily said.

“And about the other thingy, I don’t understand how can you behave so foolish? I assumed you to be a sensible man but I was wrong it seems. Please try to never come across me.” She walked away teary-eyed and got a taxi very soon. Kunal chased her taxi.

Nandita, daunted, got down at CST station and Kunal, upset, drove away to his home from there.


 

to be continued…

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