"Please Mr. Kapoor, let's go somewhere private. Besides, I need to go home�" Inhaling her scent he fed his starving desire before he aided her in her struggle to break free by releasing her from his grip but securing her palm in his as tightly as comfortably possible. He stood as a barrier between the hungry reporters and his love pushing his way through the crowd until they reached safely in the car. With his hands still fused to hers refusing to ever let go, he spoke, "Driver, take us to the Sharma house."
They heard footsteps approaching the entrance of the mansion igniting sparks of excitement that proliferated through their bodies and lit up their faces with million dollar smiles. Anticipation reached its threshold seeping through each corner of the finely decorated room and multiplying in the thousands with every click of the turning doorknob. The darn door stood witness to the happiness on one side of it and the disappointment on the other. But still it shamelessly propelled open, clashing with the reality of life, the love child of happiness and disappointment.
Anticipation erupted on cue as everyone shouted in unison, "Welcome back Priya". Ram stared helplessly at his family members not knowing how to tell them the truth that he himself was not ready to accept.
Dadi: (clutching an aarti thali in her old fragile hands) oye golu puttar, Priya kidhar hain? News main toh apke saath thi woh� Aur Priya ne tujhe maaf bhi kardiya. woh bhi saab ke saamney� Toh phir woh kidhar hain?
Sid: Hain bhai� I am so anxious to meet bhabhi, I left everything and came running when I heard the news that you too had patched up. Where is she? Did you know that I refused to see her on the news; I wanted to see her in person�(Ram silently stares at him) Waise bhai, you are more romantic than I could have ever imagined. (he winked at Ram)
Vikram: (sensing something was wrong. Ram's silence was like the calm before the storm, which was a sure shot indication of the destruction that would follow.) Chup Kar Sid� (he said jokingly as he walked up to Ram) Dekh Ram ab aur suspense nahi chalenga. (he chuckled nervously)When I called you after the news conference you couldn't stop talking and now you are so silent. Didn't you say that you and Priya were on your way to the Kapoor Mansion after you meet Priya's family and apologize to them? (he stared down the stretch of the empty hallway entrance behind Ram. The void of her presence held an answer but he still wanted reassurance from Ram. He looked at him.) Saab theek toh hain na? Where is Priya?
Krishna: (walks up to Ram and tilts his chin up so that she could read the grief that he was hiding behind the invisible wall of tears that painfully glistened his eyes) Beta�Kya hua? Why are you so sad?
Ram remained silent, conveying his sorrow through his eyes, communicating in a language that only his mom could interpret. His shoulders, which were the pillars of strength withstanding the heaviest of burdens, finally crumbled and collapsed under the weight of his failure. He shut his eyes tightly forcing tears to squeeze through the corners of his eyes and trickle curiously down an unfamiliar path. Krishna wrapped him into her motherly embrace, stroking his head soothingly, which rested on her shoulder.
Ram: (he gathered whatever strength that he had left in him and spoke) Ma, she is not coming. I am sorry Ma; I have let everyone down including myself. Why doesn't she believe that I love her? This is entirely my fault. (He pauses and tries to hold back tears) Mein bahoot bura hoon na Ma? Everyone's happiness is stuck on Priya and it is because of me that she does not want to come back.
Krishna: (she composed herself, holding back tears, before she loosened her grip on Ram. Wiping his tears she spoke) shhh� Beta don't say such things. We all love you. Everyone is here for you, no matter what happened. We are proud of you!
Neha: Haan Fatty. Cheer up yaar! We will all help you in getting Priya back
Vikram: Dekh Ram, Priya is very intelligent� And if this buddhu (points at Neha) can tell that your love is real in just one day than Priya will realize this much sooner na?
Neha: (jokingly to cheer Ram up) What? Aap ne mujhe...(she pauses in disbelief and pouts) You know what maybe I am stupid, stupid that I married the most unromantic person in the world. Kuch seekho Ram se�
Sid: Waise, if you want Vikram I can also teach you some pointers, I think you will need all the help you can get Neha is pretty pissed off. After all growing up with bhai I know all the tricks of the trade.
The joy that was being displayed from mediocre jokes was highly exaggerated in attempts to erase Ram's distress as well as equally instilling hope in a shattered soul. Everyone glanced periodically at him to gage his reaction but he remained sulking.
Dadi: (sadly) Golu� Smile puttar� Accha chal theek hain. I know what will make my golu happy� gaarma gaaram aloo paratha�Hain na? I know you didn't eat anything since morning. Come let's go eat.
Ram: (smiles meekly) Nahi Dadi�Mujhe bhook nahi hain� I am going to my room.
Sid: (protests) but bhai Dadi made aloo paratha specially fo�(ram places his palm up stopping him mid-sentence)
Ram: Please�(scans everyone in the room) I need some time alone.
Ram walked into his room closing the door behind him. There wasn't enough desire in him to lock it; he just really needed to sit. Taking a few steps forward, he slumped down on the velvet sofa chair, gripping his forehead in between the thumb and index finger of his left hand. His heart was continually being strangled with one unsettling thought, "What just happened?"
"God this woman is so beautiful; you really outdid yourself when you made her from the inside out she is the embodiment of beauty as we humans define it" I thought as I watched her staring out the window aimlessly. The sunrays kissed every inch of the soft and smooth skin on her face making me a tad bit jealous. With one hand securely gripping hers, I took my free hand and gently squeezed her shoulder. She turned and looked at me with teary eyes.
Ram: What's wrong? (I let go of her hand and cupped her face wiping the tears off her cheeks with the pads of my shivering thumb.) Please don't cry. All the pain is over and now I will make sure that no one, including myself, hurts you again. (Striving for perfection, I leaned forward to kiss her precisely in between her finely shaped eyebrows, right above her sniffling nose. But my action was doomed for failure right from the moment that it was conceived in my mind. She wedged her palm in between us, placing it up against my heart, which made me instantly look down at it. Then she slowly parted her lips, created a million thoughts in my mind as to what she might do with that luscious pair. But instead of fulfilling the numerous fantasies that teased my mind, she spoke for the first time since we got in the car.
Priya: can you tell your driver to stop the car and step out? We really need to sort things out alone.
Ram: Can't it wait? The most important subjects were addressed already in the press conference. Let's go to your apartment, you can pack your things while I apologize to your family members. We will be there in 2 minutes.
Priya: Exactly my point. I need to say this before we get there.
Ram: (I was a bit nervous at this point� but she is my queen and her wish is my command) Okay! (to the driver) Driver, stop the car. (The car screeched to a halt) Can you get out off the car and don't come back until I say so� (He nodded and stepped out)
The emotional massacre began immediately after the driver slammed the door shut. In attempts to relieve the tension that quickly built up between us, I put my hand forward to hold on to hers for support and security. But she pulled back�
Priya: Mr. Kapoor� Stop this nonsense. Don't touch me it hurts�
Priya: You are going to the KM, your home with your family. And I am going to my Papa's apartment, my home with my family.
Ram: but Priya�you said that you forgi�
Priya: (interrupts him) Please just stop it� Whatever you had to say you said back there in front of the world. And now it's my turn, so let me speak. (Ram swallowed deeply) Its true I forgive you because I want to move forward with my life. But the life ahead of me does not include you. I want to live the rest of my life as Priya Sharma not Priya Ram Kapoor.
Ram: (her words stung me deep like a bullet. But my nervousness transformed to anger and before i knew it I was speaking loudly in reponse.) Than what was all that back there. If you have no feelings for me than why the hell did you say that you loved me in front of everyone. Do you know how much it hurt me to know that you didnt mean a single thing that you said??
Priya: (matching the level of his voice, she replied) Yes Mr. Kapoor I do.. I do know how that feels thanks to you. (I realized now what I had just asked but by now the damage was already done) Does it hurt Mr.Kapoor? Bahut daard ho raha hain na? I cleared my intentions within 5 minutes and it hurt you so much but you pretended to love for 6 months and than didnt have the decency to tell me, i had to find out for myself.
Ram: i am sorry Priya but i need you to know that that night I was planning on telling you everything.
Priya: Cut the crap Mr. Kapoor. I heard everything... (she paused perhaps thinking that there was no point in reiterating the past. She shut her eyes and tightened her lips in frustration) Mr. Kapoor you want to know why i lied? (She opened her eyes and saw me attentively watching her for an answer) The reason that I said all that back there was not to hurt you. I wanted to protect you for the sake of the love that I had for you. Instead of defaming you in front of the world i wanted to uphold your image because that is the only thing that i have left to offer to you. There was a time when i loved you with all my heart but now it's over. I have learned to live with the reality that you never loved me. And i am over that.
Ram:(I spoke harshly) Damnit why won't you listen to me? (My voice softened) i do love you. I love you a lot Priya. (Once again she pulled her hand out of my reach as I went to grab it)
Priya: (she wiped her tears with the palm of her hand) I promised myself that i wouldnt cry anymore. But what can I do you have this effect on me�
She chuckled through tears sarcastically before she left me paralyzed, sitting and staring at her fading figure through the lightly tinted window of my car.He rubbed his eyes, which were desperately releasing tears to protect themselves from drowning in it. Ram thought, "We always hurt those who we love the most, but it's that realization of how badly you've hurt them that hurts the most. When you feel the pain that they felt at your expense than you can truly be justified in your claim that you understand your mistake. At this point, I don't know whether I deserve you or not Priya but I knew for a very long time that you deserve all the happiness that the world has to offer. And I will turn the world upside down in search of this joy so that I can offer it to you, whether you are with me or not is irrelevant."
He heard a knock at his door and quickly wiped his eyes with the sleeves of his expensive suit.
Ram: "come in"
Sid: "Bhai are you okay?"
Ram: Yeah I am fine.. I just�
Sid: I know you just want to be alone and I will fulfill this wish of yours but�
Ram: But what?
Sid: Woh�ummm� it's 6pm so�
Ram: (thinking: woah time flew by so fast and I didnt even realize it, completely lost in your thoughts Priya) Yea it is quite late. I will sleep soon�
Sid: sleep? but bhai�than should I cancel the dinner arrangement we had with�
Ram: (jumped up out of his seat) Oh shit!! I-I am so sorry, I completely forgot. (he has no drive to go out but at the same time he has the utmost desire to satisfy his brother and encourage him in his attempt at love.)
Sid: It's okay bhai� We can reschedule, you have a lot on your mind�
Ram: No don't reschedule� give me a couple of minutes I will get ready and than we will leave for the hotel.
Sid: Okay bhai� I will go and get ready as well�
Priya: Ayesha�(she bangs on the washroom door) Jhaldi kijiye! It's 6:15 baachi�
Ayesha: (from inside the washroom) Haan Di I am coming�just 5 more minutes.
Sudhir walked into Priya's room while Priya was fixing a shawl properly over her shoulders. He stood there and watched her put on a sham of contentment. Priya caught a glimpse of him in the mirror.
Priya: (with a smile on her face) Papa! Come in� why are you standing out there.
Sudhir: (he walked in to the room) Beta you guys ready?
Priya: Haan Papa. I am ready but Ayesha is taking so long. (she hollered at Ayesha) Baachi aaj shaadi nahi hain. You dont have to dress up like a bride. And if you don't hurry up than shayad shaadi ho hi nahi paayenga. Your friend and his brother will leave if they have to wait forever.
Ayesha: (her voice came from a distance) coming, coming di!
Sudhir watched her with a look of worrisome clearly painted across his face. From the moment that Priya had walked into the apartment this morning, she acted as if nothing had happened. The world was talking about Ram and Priya but she refused to talk about what had transpired between them. After much insistence the only thing that she had said about this matter was, "I told Mr. Kapoor that I don't want to carry on any relationship with him. Baas, thats it.. I don't want to talk about any of this anymore. Mr. Kapoor will never bug me again and we can all move on!" Immediately after that one statement she engaged herself in chores, cooking lunch, washing dishes and even cooking dinner before she got ready to go out.
Sudhir: (thinking: Priya beta this is not like you. You were never the one to keep mum about your feelings. In fact, whenever you had any problems you would always confide in me and together we would find the most optimal solution. But baachi this time you are so quiet. Why are you putting on a faade of happiness? Being your parent I can see, as clear as day, the pain that you have suppressed beneath that smile. I am fearful that one day when you get lost in the maze of emotions that you are sheltering within you, it will be too hard for me, or anybody, to guide you out.)
Priya: Papa (she shook his arm gently) what's wrong? You are crying, please Papa tell me what's bothering you. I am here for you Papa!
Sudhir: (painfully projects a smile as he takes off his glasses and wipes his tears. He secures his glasses back on and caresses Priya's cheek) I know�I know beta you are always here for me. But I am worried about who will be there for you�
Priya: (she put her hand on her cheek, encasing his hand and tilting her head to savor his supportive touch) I have my family and that's all I need� (her eyes fell on the clock hanging in her room. she quickly backed away and proclaimed in shock) 6:30. Papa, Ayesha is going to make us late for sure.
She was about to knock on the door but Ayesha came out before she could�
Ayesha: Ready Di!
Priya: Wow meri baachi. When did my baby sister grow up? (she walked towards her and gave her a hug) you are looking so gorgeous�
Ayesha: thanks di�
Priya: Let's go now� I am getting more and more eager with every passing second to see the boy whom my sister has dressed up so beautifully for� (Ayesha blushes and whines, "Di�")
Despite the elephant in the room, the Sharma's left no stone unturned in making jokes at Ayesha's expense. Shipra snapped several pictures of her two beautiful daughters before they rushed out of the apartment in fear of being late and setting a bad impression on the guy that could quite possibly end up being Ayesha's groom.
Ram and Sid left their mansion at exactly the same time. It was a rollercoaster of a day for each member of the family. But as the day neared to a close, ending it on a nice note would mark it as successful in the eyes of beholder. There was a unanimous hope floating in the atmosphere that no matter what had happened today tomorrow would still be a new day. But what no one could have foreseen, in that moment, was that this day had so much more life left in it.