HAND IN HAND
The Reunion Of A Story
“They’ve had some seriously epic event managers. I mean, it’s not very common to see people pulling off something as elaborate as this, don’t you think?” Surbhi popped her eyes as she enjoyed the ambience of the place. The lighting, the music, the tables and the buffet spread, each of them added value to the grandeur. She made sure she followed Karan as he waded his way out through the crowd. There was a good chance she’d lose him from her sight, and that could throw her plans of a ride back into peril. But that was only half the truth. She wanted to talk to him, know more about him. Karan was a business giant. As a professional, she was in awe of his spirit. But the other shade of him that she had seen, it had stirred clouds of curiosity.
“Yes, the place is appealing,” he spoke softly, keeping his eyes fixed on a client he was to meet the following day. “Let’s find something to eat, Mr. Singhania. I’m famished,” Surbhi pleaded. Karan sighed looking at her. He turned to her, “Ms. Kapoor, I’m hoping you’d find sufficient company here. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do.” “Sure, please carry on. Sorry for troubling you,” she replied with hints of sarcasm. She was glad he did not take note of that. Karan waited for his client, Mr. Rodriguez to spot him. He then took a glass of lemonade as he strode past the beverage section. Quite a few times, at business parties, he would have to rudely turn down an offer of alcohol in front of his clients. Carrying a glass of lemonade beforehand seemed the best way to avoid the situation.
While Karan was engrossed in his big plans for Pegasus with Mr. Rodriguez, Surbhi made a dive for the spread. After exploring for a while, and having decided to skip the salad spread and most of the other courses, she hunted down the noodles. “Ah! Finally, they’ve taken care to put something healthy in here,” took some onto a plate. She helped herself with a different variety of noodles, some gravy, and decided to take another look at the food around her. Just as she turned, she had a near miss, colliding into a fork. She backed off to avoid any damage.
“Are you always this suicidal?” Karan asked, with a faint smile. “As long as you’re the trouble maker, maybe I am,” she replied curtly. “Or maybe, you’re just a trouble magnet,” he taunted her, his smile fading away. She decided to drop the topic. “Are you ill? I mean, there’s so much of good food around here. And you’re sticking to salads. You’re in pretty good shape, too. Why don’t you try something different?” “I eat healthy. Please look for a table and a way to keep quiet,” Karan was tired of her incessant intrusion in his lifestyle. She smirked at him and they found themselves a table. Rest of the evening went almost quietly.
“So, I suppose you need a ride back to your place?” Karan realized her plans when she didn’t trot away to find more talkative people. “No, not at all. I just wanted to be with you,” she fumbled absent-mindedly. Karan raised his brow. As the meaning of her words dawned upon her, she turned beet red, “Oh, I didn’t mean it that way. I am so sorry. I meant, “she stuttered, trying to find words. “I meant I wanted to talk to you more. I told you I admire your work greatly. I wanted to talk about that. And now that you’ve offered a ride back, it would be a great help if you’d drop me back to my apartment.”
“What? I did not offer…”he stopped himself midway. He checked his watch. “We must leave. It’s getting late.” She obliged and walked back to the gates with him. As the valet brought the car, Karan tipped him and gestured Surbhi to get inside. The seat belt was on before he could say anything. She dropped her bag into the glove compartment.
Within minutes, they were in front of her apartment, while she was constantly making him uncomfortable, by looking at him throughout. “We’re here. Now, if you may…” Karan mumbled. “Huh? Yeah. Thank you for the ride. I guess, we’re at better terms now, Mr. Singhania, so, I would be glad to meet you for a coffee some day, you know, you could order in that black coffee of yours while we can talk over security systems and firewalls. What say?” she offered. “Please, Ms. Kapoor. Could you hurry up? I’m getting late,” he covered his face with his hands. “Sure, Thanks again,” Surbhi didn’t bother to coerce him. He had temper issues. She didn’t take her chances. She picked her hand-bag from the glove compartment and in doing so, pulled out an envelope; it fell down. “I’m sorry. I’ll pick it up,” she apologized. Karan switched the lamps on as she struggled in the seat. After a couple of minutes the envelope found its place back. She hurriedly muttered a bye and left from the back of the car.
He had gone about a furlong when she heard a shriek. The voice was familiar. He jammed the brakes, pulled the vehicle on a side, and raced along the pavement back to the spot where Surbhi got off. She had cupped her mouth with her hands. And opposite to her, a middle aged man, a thug rather, standing with a knife pointed at her. “Oh today’s my lucky day,” he grinned. “Put all your valuables on the ground, young man.” Karan didn’t flinch. As he brought his hands out of the coat pocket, the earth shook under the thief’s feet. He found a semi automatic pistol in Karan’s hand pointing at him. “Knife on the ground, mister,” he said it with such flair, one could be fooled into thinking he was a cop. Without another word the thief fled with his knife.
Surbhi was still in a state of shock. Karan bent forward to pick her bag up and handed it to her. She was overwhelmed that he came back. She hugged him tight and beads of tears rolled down her eyes. He felt her perfume linger around him, her tears making his shirt wet, her hands around him throwing him into a frenzy of emotions. She felt his warm breath tingle her senses. A moment seemed like a hundred years. She slowly sensed his discomfort and stepped back. She sniffled, “I’m sorry, I was too scared. If it wasn’t for you, I’d probably be dead.” She left without saying anything. Karan covered his face with his hands and left for his car, exhausted by the recent turn of events.
One Week Later…
“This seems to be fantastic. How thoughtful of them to gift this to me. Even I was planning to buy a new one.” Karan told his mother, video-chatting with him from Bangalore. “Wow Karan, it looks really good. It is indeed a thoughtful gift. Alright beta, I need to cook dinner. I’ll talk to you before you leave for Bangalore. Singapore-transit, right? Take care” she waved. “Yes, ma, Singapore it is. Two hour transit, so will be back relatively soon. Alright. Please take care of yourself and Neha,” said Karan waving at his mother.
The guitar was amazing. Dressed in black polos and denims, he made himself comfortable on the couch, and began to work on the guitar. He tuned it, set up the equalizer fitted to it. He felt the gorgeous wood and the strings as though he was holding an infant. Music had been his lifeline. The harsh childhood that he had been through had forced him to introversion. Then he found expression in music. That way, he could lose himself from the world. One note at time, he started out on one of his favorites…
Tenu itna main pyar karaan
Ik pal vich sau baar karaan
Tu jaave je mainu chhad ke
Maut da intezaar karaan
Ke tere liye duniya chod di hai
Tujhpe hi saans aake rukhe
Main tujhko kitna chaahta hoon
Ye tu kabhi soch na sake
Kuch bhi nahi hai ye jahan
Tu hai toh hai isme zindagi
Ab mujhko jaana hai kahaan
Ke tu hi safar hai aakhri
(Song: Soch Na Sake Movie: Airlift (2015) Lyrics: Kumaar)
Barely had he let the feeling of the song and the guitar sink into him, when the door burst open. Ms. Kapoor rushed in to the center of the hall and continued,
Ke tere bina jeena mumkin nahi
Na dena kabhi mujhko tu faasle
Main tujhko kitna chaahti hoon
Ye tu kabhi soch na sake
Karan stopped playing the guitar. For the short while that she sang, the world slipped away from around him. Dressed in an olive-green formal shirt, sleeves folded up to her elbows, clubbed with a pair of charcoal-grey denims, her eyes shut, she sang as though everything else was inexistent. Her voice seemed to be a spell putting him into a trance. “Wow, Mr. Singhania, you have such a wonderful voice. I didn’t know that. You should do it more often,” she appreciated him, after she was done. He fought his way back to reality. It was only now did he realize that she had stormed into his place without even knocking. Infuriated, he stood up, put the guitar back into the cover and walked over to the windows and drew the curtains out. Sipping his coffee, he replied, “I sing only to myself.” “I can see that,” retorted Surbhi, trying to seem polite. “What I’m saying is, every bit of a good musician that you are, you deserve an equally good audience.”
“I know I am a good musician, but I am not sure if you are a deserving audience. Which brings us to the point, how could you storm into my place without permission? And, how did you find this place? Why did you come here?” he was still looking outside the window, avoiding any eye contact. “You have to have some problem with me, don’t you? I was about to knock the door, but did not want to disturb you singing , so I waited. But I couldn’t hold myself when you almost left the lines unfinished. And the address, I saw it on the envelope the other night, and that’s how I found this place. About why I came, I wanted to thank you for saving me that day. I couldn’t bring myself to thank you back then.” “Not an issue,” he lifted his hand in acknowledgement.
By then, she walked up to the window and stood a few feet away from him. They looked at a couple walking their kid on the streets as he monkeyed around. They both were reminded of their own childhood. A faint smile lit up Surbhi’s face, as Karan tightened his fist in anger. “Would you mind telling from whom you’ve inherited music? Most of the times, music runs in the genes,” Surbhi asked him softly, expecting him to actually give an answer. Karan usually wouldn’t entertain any questions about his personal life from strangers, but she probably wasn’t a stranger anymore. His jaw line stiffened as he uttered, “Sharath Singhania.” He clenched his fists harder.
“Your father? But why would you address your own father by his…”
“He is not my father! Not anymore!” bellowed Karan, throwing his coffee cup at the wall, shattering it completely. Surbhi was scared to see him react like that. She had to pacify him, and one wrong step could prove fatal. “But…”
Before she could complete, he pulled her close, looked at her sternly in the eye, “Look, I’ve answered your questions. But this is my personal life, and I haven’t given you the right to know about it. You don’t deserve to know about it. The pain I go through, you wouldn’t understand any of it. You have everything in life, and you think everyone else is just as happy as you are. Others hardships are just a joke to you, isn’t it?”
A visibly hurt Surbhi pushed him away. She was seething with anger now. “Listen Mr. Singhania, if you do not want tell me about yourself, I can understand. Maybe I am a nobody to you. But what gives YOU the right to think I have everything in my life?” Her eyes welled up. “Just because someone is happy doesn’t mean they don’t have voids in their life. It only means they have the courage to accept life and move forward. You’ve let your hatred stop you from accepting the truth. That will not give you peace. You hate your father so much that you don’t consider him as your father. But Mr. Singhania, you atleast know who your father is, who your mother is. Not everyone is that lucky. I am not that lucky. You have no right to assume how someone’s life is, without knowing them. And let me tell you, Mr. Singhania, with this kind of judgemental attitude, that coffee cup is not going to be the only thing you will break.”
She usually wouldn’t tell anyone about her life, as it would attract unnecessary sympathy, but today, Karan wasn’t a stranger anymore. The man had a damaged perspective, and she felt she had to correct him.
At that moment, guilt pinned Karan down for what he said. He hung his head in shame. Closing his eyes, he pounded his fist on the wall. The wall shuddered. Surbhi did not. She wiped her tears and turned to leave. As she turned around, he held her hand. “This conversation is over Mr. Singhania. I have nothing left to tell you.”
“But I do. I am sorry,” he apologized, and she could see it in his eyes. She freed herself from him and left the room without a word. She was still upset, he could make out from the way the door shut behind her. As he bent down to pick up the pieces of the shattered cup, her words echoed in his ears, “the coffee cup is not going to be the only thing you will break.”
After cleaning up, he went on to play another song to take his mind off the heat. Just before settling down, he got an idea, “This might come in handy.” He set his camera to record video and continued with his plan.
That Evening – At The Airport, San Francisco
“Have a pleasant flight, Mr.Singhania,” smiled the attendant as she issued him his boarding pass. “We’ll make sure the guitar reaches you safely, sir.” “Thanks a lot, ma’am,” he let out a faint smile. As he walked to the terminal, he thought to himself, “So, that’s it. No more Ms. Kapoor, this seems to be the end. I may not be able to give her anything but pain, and I do not want that for her. I’ll have to learn to forget her.”
“Of course, didi. I’ve packed everything. I’m not a five year old anymore. I can take care of myself… We can talk when you can pick me up at the airport. Alright, bye. Love you,” she hung up. She was still upset over the morning. She thought she didn’t care about him anymore, but he invaded her thoughts every moment. She reminded herself, “People meet, people part. Getting worked up about everyone you part with won’t be good for me. I’ll have to learn to forget him.”
To be continued…