Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mysterious Existences

The wavering lights of a very busy city made abstract patterns on the inky black velvet of the night sky. She stood at her window, her thoughts as muddled as the streaking gold of the headlights in motion. Why was she making the Lav- Chris-Shaina-Akshay confusion her concern?

Why is that one is curious about something that has nothing to do with them? Maybe it was all a part about being human. Like unwanted rains on a sunny day, curiosity was flooding her otherwise sunny existence with its unwelcome presence. She just could not rest without getting to the bottom of this mystery.

She needed to speak to Chris. Why was he lying to her? They had been good friends for over two years. They might not have revealed their most intimate secrets to one another, but they definitely had not resorted to the feeble support of pretenses yet. So why or what was he covering up by lying so poorly?

She was tempted to call Shaina again, but one lunch with her had distressed Shaina enough. Besides, she didn’t seem to be any better a situation than Shikha, though she did have much more to lose by unearthing the mystery. Maybe that is why she wasn’t trying too hard to unravel it all.

The next quest was to unearth Akshay, if he wasn’t a figment of Chris and Lav’s over-active imaginations. She didn’t have a last name, so she could not possibly google him up. Asking either Chris or Lav was so definitely out of question, primarily because they now answered her calls with equal amounts of dread and exasperation. She could hear their minds weaving crazy stories even as she posed her questions to them. How then could she look up Akshay?

She hurried back to her bed, pulled her laptop towards her and typed ‘Lav Kulshrestha, Akshay’ in the google search window. There were pages and pages on Lav and some twenty odd pages on Lav Kulshrestha. Mostly the pages dealt with his keen sense of business and his flair for building enterprises which became sure shot successes. He even had a fan club which listed his achievements with great fanfare. But surprisingly as she clicked on link after link, she discovered that he had no visible personal footprints in the web-world. So far there seemed to be no mention whatsoever of any kind of Akshay. Considering that Akshay and Lav were best friends, would there not be a remote mention of his existence at least in the smiling interview articles published online of Lav Kulshreshtha?

She was about to give up on the maddening search, when she caught Chris’ name mentioned in the description below one of the links. The page opened to reveal a blog written some years ago, by someone called ‘Shades of passion.’ The blog narrated incidents from graduation days of a group of five boys, which Lav and Chris were a part of. She read through hilarious escapades and the many girl chases which went wrong. Much to her consternation she discovered that she enjoyed reading the blog and was smiling despite her will.

The mysterious writer had stopped writing a little over a year ago. Sometime before Lav and Shaina got married, the writer seemed to have packed his bags and disappeared. Could this mysterious writer have been Lav? But no seen Lav was mentioned in the blog posts, it had to be someone other than him. Could this writer then have been Akshay?

She went to the alumni page of the college mentioned in the blog. There were three Akshay’s mentioned in the same batch as Lav and Chris. Which one of them could have been ‘Shades of Passion’? She couldn’t possible randomly call all three and ask “Hey were you the one who was best friends with Lav?”?

Having come this close to the elusive Akshay, she didn’t want to give up. The tiny digital clock on the screen of her laptop told her it was two in the morning. She knew it was an unearthly hour and she ought not to call anybody. But not doing anything was killing her. She sat there drumming the table with her fingernails pondering what to do next.

She hadn’t been much of a blogger. She wouldn’t know anything about other bloggers. But she knew someone who would. Raina. Raina had been blogging for the past eight years. She said it was her personal online diary which she shared with the world. If it was personal why was she sharing it with the world? But Raina, was the one person she needed to talk to right now.

Raina’s sleepy, “Hello?” gave her an ounce of satisfaction. It was pay-back for all those post midnight calls which had kept her awake all this while.

“Hey! I need help!” she said.

“Are you ok?” Raina said, concern startling her from her sleep.

“Yes, I am fine! I need to find the identity of a blogger. How do I do it?” She asked.

“You called me at two in the morning for this?” Raina almost screamed. “Let me guess. You are still obsessing over Lav Kulshreshtha’s life and love! Why?”

Shikha didn’t know how to answer that, so she just kept quite.

“Ok fine.” Raina said accepting her silence. “I wouldn’t know how to find the real identity of a blogger. But who is it anyway?”

“Someone called the ‘Shades of passion’” Shikha said thankful that Raina wasn’t pressing her curiosity further.

“Shades of passion? That would have to be Akshay!” Raina stated in a matter-of-fact way.

Shikha couldn’t believe her ears. All along Raina had known Akshay? Why oh why had she not confided in Raina?

“Akshay who?” She asked.

“Akshay Singh!”

A google search of Akshay Singh passed out in 2001, sketched him to be the HR head of a lead telecommunications company called Carbon in Edinburgh. He was married for four years and a father of a one year old girl called Preeti. There were no pictures of his wife, but she was mentioned as Mrs. Shaina Singh.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Heart Break

When the heart breaks, it does so with a noiseless crash and the invisible splinters scatter in the tears and flow away, leaving behind a hollow emptiness in their wake. Everything after a heart-break then seems relatively painless or unimportant, because the vacuum which sits in the place of the heart is incapable of emotion.

But that is all about a heart-break. She was not suffering from a heart break; she was suffering from the acid burns of betrayal. She had first been woven a story by Lav and then Chris had fabricated a whole new twist to the oh-so-enigmatic presence of the horribly handsome Lav Kulshreshtha. And the truth had been bared open by the skimpily clad Shaina, who might not even know that she had been married to Akshay; twice by two different people.

She had spent an entire night running millions of possibilities through her mind. She had painted vivid pictures of re-acquainting herself with Lav. All the while, she kept convincing herself that she was harbouring no romantic notions whatsoever. So what if she pictured walking down the gaudy lobby of her office and casually bumping into him and striking a very captivating conversation right then and there. They would talk for fifteen minutes, till some corny colleague, would pass some equally corny line and Lav would blush gorgeously. She would excuse herself with grace, turn around and smile and say oh-so-casually, “Oh by and by sorry about the other time. Mistakes happen you know.” And he would watch her till she disappeared from view. Not romantic at all. She was just thinking of ways to apologize to a perfectly romantic guy, that’s all.

And after last night, she had spent time till the wee hours of dawn, fuming over her naiveté at accepting Chris’ tale on face value. Why had Chris lied to her? There was no way Shaina was married to Akshay. There was nothing platonic about the way Lav had been caressing her shoulder. She had almost smacked his hand off her shoulder, out of pure irritation.

So why had Chris lied to her? What was is it about the entire Lav-Shaina-Akshay triangle that needed to be hidden under so many layers of deceit? And why did she need and seek answers to these questions?

The answer to the last question was quite simple – because she was a woman!

There was no real reason as to why she had picked up the phone and dialed Shaina’s number. There was no explanation as to why Shaina had accepted her invitation to lunch. And no rational basis whatsoever as to why she had spent an hour dressing up for a lunch with Shaina.

But as she walked in through the glass door of Benny’s she was glad she had taken that bit of extra time. Seated at one of the expensive window tables, Shaina looked elegant in her simple black dress. She was browsing the massive menu and didn’t seem to notice that Shikha had arrived. She risked a look at her reflection in the ceiling to floor mirrors on the right hand side wall. Her muddy pink dress with a white high waist belt, didn’t look as demure as Shaina’s black dress, but it didn’t look shabby either.

Sensing Shikha’s presence, Shaina looked up and smiled a genuine and warm smile. After settling down with their drinks, Shaina turned her expectant eyes to Shikha.

“I know this is so strange,” Shikha plunged into her conversation, “But I sort of remember attending ‘your’ wedding...to Lav.” She was sounding successfully confused and perplexed. Shaina kept smiling as if Shikha had said not one word out place.

Now genuinely perplexed, Shikha continued, “But I met Chris the other day and he told me you were not married to Lav!”

Shaina’s elegant brows creased into a frown, but her lips still smiled. Not sure how far she had gone, Shikha now kept mum. She had dealt her cards and now it was up to Shaina to clear her confusion.

“Chris told you I was not married to Lav?” She asked gently, sounding a little hurt.

Shikha nodded, feeling suddenly very very uneasy. Shaina leaned back in her chair and fidgeted with the silver spoon. She did not seem very offended by this remark, but she did not seem very calm either.

“Its funny,” she finally said. She looked at her then. There were tears forming in her eyes, but she was too brave to let them flow. “ But Lav keeps telling me that I am not married to him either!”

Shikha didn’t know what to say. Shaina leaned forward, laid the spoon back where it belonged and began talking very animatedly, “ But I know I am married to him! I remember marrying him! And,” she blushed sensationally here, “ I remember a whole lot of ‘other’ things!”

Shikha nodded and hoped her nod was encouraging enough for Shaina to go on. But at this point Shaina needed no encouragement. “And then suddenly for the past three months, Lav has been trying to convince me we are not married! Its absurd. I have never met many of his friends, except for the wedding. And the only friend we ever go out with is Chris. And when we are with Chris, he does behave like the perfect husband! And now there is you! After you left yesterday, both Chris and Lav were very disturbed. We hurried back home. Which is why I so wanted to meet you!”

A few tears had managed to sneak out and were rolling down her pale cheeks. Shikha was confused and didn’t know how to react. She was hoping Shaina would be able to clear her confusion. But Shaina was hoping Shikha would provide some answers. What were Lav and Chris up to?

She was in no mood to converse with Lav. But after lunch she did get Chris on the phone.

“You liar!” she hissed.
“You moron!” he yelled

“You lied to me!” she shouted

“Yeah! So? Sue me!” he challenged

“Why?” she asked baffled, “Why did you lie to me?”

“ Because the truth has got nothing to do with you!” he exclaimed

“I met Shaina for lunch” she confessed.

“WHAT?” Chris screamed. “What did you say to her?” he asked more calmly

“That I wanted to know what was happening,” she said that uneasy feeling creep over her again.

“Did you mention Akshay?” he wanted to know

“No.”

“Good.” He relaxed. “Now listen, don’t mention Akshay to Shaina! Ever! In fact I don’t think you should meet Shaina yourself”

“But I thought she was married to Akshay!” Shikha was getting angry

“Was, shikha, was..” he suddenly sounded very tired, “ look do me a favour and please stay out of this?”