It was 6.30 a.m. and the alarm rang, as always I snoozed, until it was seven and then I heard my mom’s voice in the middle of my dream, “get up Chandni its 7, you are late.” I sprang up, shit I was late, shit, I went to the washroom and was out in flat fifteen minutes; well actually, I take one hour in the washroom, and so to be out in fifteen minutes is like a big thing for me. “Bye mom, bye dad” I said and left. I rushed out for college as if I was running for a marathon, but could not run much, cause of my heavy body. I curse it every time but can’t cut down on my calories; well I am not fat, I am just on a plumper side. That is what my mom tells me, and that makes it easy for me to consume more calories. I was late, I had missed my 7.45 train, and the next one came at 8.00 “Why cannot I get up early? Why cannot I reach college on time for once at least?” I cursed myself. The train arrived. While climbing the train, ‘bump’! A lady standing ahead collided with me stamping my foot, “ ouch” I despaired, “watch it man” I said, maybe I was a bit loud, as everyone stared at me as if I had committed a murder, “sorry” I apologized not to the lady, but to everyone who were staring at me. It was not my fault; still I had to apologize for no reason. “These young people what do they think of themselves, they say rubbish things in public, they have no respect for elders, huh.” that woman addressed to everyone around. “why the hell are you telling me it was your fault, you stamped my foot and didn’t even apologize for the same; and it hurts ok.” I thought, but did not say it as I didn’t want to get into a fight early morning. I was thinking about the things I had to do today in college, and in the middle of my thoughts, suddenly, a cool breeze touched my face and I forgot everything and everyone. It was soothing and made me feel good. For Sion I have to change two trains, initially it was annoying, but now I am habituated. I reached college after passing through the DEATH ROAD- the railway tracks, that is what I call it; and then crossing the LONDON BRIDGE-the bridge through the gutter, that is what we, the students of K.J.S.I.E.I.T call it.“ 9.00, freak, I am late, shit, shit.” I started walking fast, could not run cause of my body. I reached college, “finally” I said to myself. “ID, ID?” The gatekeeper stopped me; why the hell they do not allow you to go inside the college without showing them the ID, even though they know you well, is what I never understood. I was searching my ID in my messy bag; it took some time until I finally found it. “Here, now can I go?” I asked him in anger. He nodded. I rushed towards the elevator, and as expected there was a huge queue out there. “Shit…should I climb up.” I thought. “No…” I said to myself. However late I was, I would never take stairs. I.T. Department is on fifth floor, so who would climb so much; and even if I did, I would faint before reaching to class; my body was to blame for that. After fighting the battle of the lift, I finally reached my classroom. “Excuse-me madam, can I come in?” “Miss Chandni Shah you are 10 minutes late.” Sheetalmakhija she was one of my teachers. I had come late to her class for the second time. She hated late comers. “Sorry miss, actually I got stuck in the traffic…” she interrupted me, “Miss Chandni Shah, no excuses, please go, I cannot take you in,” she said; and so, yet again I was late for my first lecture. “ God when that day would come when I will reach college on time?”
I went to the canteen as library was out of my reach, last time I attended maybe when I was in first year; and now I am in third. I have even the forgotten the way to it. “Anna one vada-pav and one tea please” Anna is the person in charge of our canteen. I was having my tea when I saw a ‘CHHAVI’ well that’s the word we use it when we see a BABE. She was an F.E, anyone could make that out; the signs are, overly decked up look, loads of attitude and eyes scanning everyone in the canteen especially BOYS. How I know the signs? Of course even I did those things. She was thin and had a pretty face, “So guys have another arm candy to flirt with now,” I thought. “How would I look, had I been thin?” I imagined. “Wow” I said, a bit loud. “What the fuck.” a psycho next to me exclaimed in anger. Apparently, I had broken his sleep. “Sorry” I apologized. Well he did not wait form my sorry, he was back in his dreams in no time. I guess even he was late for his first lecture like me. The first lecture was over and I went up to my class. “Chandni, today sheetal miss was really pissed off with you.” Vidhur said and everyone agreed. “Better come on time next time otherwise she will never let you come to her class,” Siddhi said. “Siddhi which chapter is going on by the way?”Kunal asked. Siddhi is the first bencher, and our teacher. “Third chapter is going on; she will complete it by Wednesday.” She said. Vidhur, Siddhi, Kunal and me, we are a group we party together and go out together we are buddies. We share every damn thing on earth. The rest of the day went smoothly. Lunch times were my favorite; I am a big foodie, so are the guys of my group, only Siddhi is the diet conscious one and she has tried her level best to make me one, but to her vain. The day ended and we left for home, “Chandni, Aditi’s birthday is nearing and you got to help me out, you know her well; and I am not good with gifts and surprises and all, so..” “Anytime sir!” I exclaimed. “Come to my place tomorrow, its Saturday, from there on we will go to Colaba, as she loves funky stuffs.” I said. “Ok done.” Aditi was Vidhur’s girlfriend; he was the only person in my group who was currently into a relationship. Kunal had one before we met; Siddhi was a saint, I am afraid whether she would even let her husband get close to her, and me I was, and am still single. I have tried so hard, but nothing has ever materialized.
At Colaba we searched for things that she liked. It was tough to choose a gift for Aditi; her choice was too classy at the same time funky. Therefore, Colaba was the best place to shop for her. We, Vidhur and I had many differences. Whatever he liked, I did not and vice-versa and Kunal had also accompanied us, well he was just physically with us and Siddhi did not come as she had some work at home. Kunal showed least interest, and whenever we asked him his opinion on whatever we preferred, he remained apathetic so he was of no help. Finally, we settled for a scarf that had animal print imprinted on it, then a gothic type of a tee and matching accessories, after two hours of strenuous hunt. “Please let’s go to some place where we can sit I am very tired dude.” I told Vidhur. “Yeah man, me too.” Vidhur agreed with me. “Let’s go to Mac Donald’s,” Kunal suggested. We were more than happy by Kunal’s recommendation.
Kunal placed the order, as Vidhur and I were too tired after so much of labor, and Kunal did not help us at all so this was his punishment. ‘TUM TOH THERE PARDESI…SAATH KYA NIBHAOGE’ a cheap song sung by maybe a beggar or God knows who, started ringing. Who keeps such songs as their ringtones? People around me also wondered the same thing. “Chandniummm… I think your cell is ringing.” Vidhur said. “What? No I don’t have such a cheap ring tone.” I said. “Well… umm… actually Chandni today in class…” “You guys changed my ringtone? What the….” I yelped and removed my cell from my bag; and he was right it was my phone, which had been ringing; I was embarrassed to death. “You guys are so dead.” I said before picking the call, it was from Siddhi. “Yeah Siddhi say…. No I am fine.” I said still fuming.
“At Mac Donald’s, why? Umm…. are you sure? Ok.” I kept the phone down and by that time, Kunal had arrived with our orders. “We are sorry Chandni, actually it was his idea.” Vidhur pointed out to Kunal. I stared at Kunal giving him the disgusted look, but instead of apologizing, “Ha-ha” he started laughing. “You feel like laughing? You think this is funny?” I asked. “Yes I do, and so do you…I know.” He smirked and I could not control, I too busted out laughing and Vidhur joined us. “You guys are sick seriously, why am I always the scrape goat?” “Because we love you.”Kunal winked. “Man you missed the expression on her face when she realized it was her cell, it was priceless.” Vidhur said to Kunal, and I punched him in his arms.
While having my burger Vidhur asked, “Why had Siddhi called?” “Well that mini project of ours has some errors and she had no idea how to solve them so she needed my help so she said she is coming here in like half an hour.” I said. “Your help? Are you sure you heard it right? Maybe you heard it wrong she must have said “KUNAL” and “VIDHUR” not Chandni.” Vidhur said and Kunal smirked. “You guys…argh… GO DIE…I am not a TECHNICAL BLONDE ok.” I said. “Are you sure?” Kunal intervened. “Certainly I am.” I gave him back. Out of the four of us, Kunal was a technical geek; and Siddhi and Vidhur followed him. On the other hand, me, how much ever I denied, I was the one who was not at all technically sound. I hardly understood what I studied. I still didn’t know what I was doing in engineering. “Chandni…. Chandni? Come back on earth…” Vidhur interrupted my thoughts; I looked at both of them and said, “Guys I don’t know…”I said. “I don’t know why I took engineering, I don’t know anything, and I don’t know even programming, what I will do in future guys…” Vidur mimicked. “Shut up Vidhur I am serious.” I said. “It’s all your fault, had you not studied only from exam point of view, this would not be your situation. Seriously, why did you even think of taking engineering? Were you out of your mind? Just look at yourself, you are rotting yourself away.” Kunal said with such a blunt, looking directly into my eyes. I felt like someone was throttling me, “You…” “Hey guys chill… Chandni whatever happens, happens for the best and don’t lose heart ok, you will find your way soon…Oh… and here comes Siddhi.” Vidhur said. Siddhi came and they got busy with the project, and I went outside to get some fresh air.” I never knew what was wrong with kunal. Well I knew. His parents divorced recently. Obviously, he was hurt and discontented and the worst thing was that he never shared his agony with us; we tried a lot, but were futile. However, that did not gave him the license to insult me, I was very angry with him. One moment he says ‘love you’ and the next he affronts, “there is something really wrong with him.” I thought. In addition, his words had a deep impact on me, I don’t know why. Once outside I sat on the stairs, I took out my diary and started jotting my feelings. My attention was distracted by the noise of few kids. There were two kids arguing over some stuff, they saw me staring and got conscious. “Hey dudes, wazzup?” I said. “Hey beautiful!” one of the two said. I could not help but smirk at his remark, “How old are you guys?” “We are twelve, a year away from teen.” The same boy replied; the other one looked reticent. “So you guys are alone… I mean here.” “Of course not beautiful, we are old enough to mind ourselves, actually my girlfriend wanted to shop, so to make sure I do not get bored I took him also.” The same boy answered, and stunned me. The kids of these days have progressed drastically. Here I am 20 and still single, and this guy has a girlfriend at 12, seriously God you are so damn partial. “Hey what were you writing?” the reticent boy asked. “Umm… nothing just random stuffs.” I said. “Hey please tell me… even I want to be a writer one day.” He said. “Well I am not a writer, but… ok… this is my personal diary and I write my feelings whenever I am low or high; and even sometimes fiction stories.” I said. “Romantic?” the chatty one asked winking. “Uhh… yeah sometimes” I answered sheepishly. “Oh wow! Please narrate one of your romantic one… please…,” he said. “Well…” “Please…” he forced so I had no way but to tell them, but I made sure what I narrated and edited many stuffs considering their age. “ So that is how it all ended.” I concluded. “Voila, what a story man.” I heard a voice from behind I turned and when I realized, who the person was, it left me flabbergasted and I was more shocked with the other person that accompanied the first one. I could not move; I felt a sudden stab in my stomach. “Hey beautiful, we got to go, by the way, your story was awesome, seriously.” The chatty boy said. “You are a great writer; I wish I could be one like you.” The reticent one said, and they both left. “Who is the writer here?” Vidhur came. The guest who had just arrived pointed towards me. “Chandni… you? You write?” he questioned but I was in no state to answer and Vidhur understood my stiffness and escorted me out of that situation. On the way to home I spoke to neither of my friends, once at home I cried, cried like anything for hours until finally the sleep came of the fatigue.
I reached college early the next day, and was first time in class, before the teacher. “My god Chandni, today you came before Sidhi also. Oh my God am I dreaming?” Vidhur joked. “Stop it Vidhur, don’t exaggerate it and I am in no mood for jokes please….by the way which lecture do we have first today?” I enquired. “It is Mrs. Sneha’slecture.” he said. “Seriously? Perfect, wow what a day to start with.” I sighed. Mrs. Sneha is the only teacher in I.T department who lets in students in the class even if they are 15 to 20 minutes late. “Wow Chandni, early?” Sidhi and Kunal yelled in unison. “Stop it guys.” I howled. “Miracle, this is breaking news.” Kunal fooled. “Cut the crap Kunal.” I said. “How are you doing?” he asked. “Yeah good, just could not sleep the whole night that is it.” The lecture started and I could not concentrate even for a minute, the encounter was unforgettable, it replayed in my mind the moment I tried to forget it. The lecture finally got over and I too got up. “Hey where are you going?” Sidhi asked. “I can’t sit for the lectures anymore, I need some time off.” I said and left. I went down to the canteen it was full and suddenly someone from back patted me on my shoulder and it scared me for a moment. “Umm… no place here, let’s go to our hideout.” “Vidhur?” I saw him and realized even Sidhi and Kunal had followed. “You thought we would leave you alone?” Sidhi said and kept an arm around me, and it felt good. On the the eight floor of our college, at the left hand side of the staircase there was a secret retreat which was known only to few, boys normally catch a puff there. My two buddies do smoke, but never in front of us. The hideout, we usually use when we want to watch some English movie or sitcom on laptop. “So what exactly happened Chandni?”Kunal asked. I said nothing; I could not. The words just did not seem to leave my mouth. “See… she was sitting on the Mac Donald’s staircase narrating some story of hers to two kids… and that is when they come unannounced and he appreciated her…” Vidhur started but was interrupted soon by Kunal, “what did you say? Story… what story?” Kunal asked looking at me, his tone suddenly changed. “Well Kunal she likes writing and has her diary of her own, she even writes short stories and incidents that influence her. Only I knew of it.” Sidhi said. “Wow Chandni you never mentioned that talent of yours.” Vidhur added. “There’s no talent in it, Vidhur that is something I have practiced since I was ten, It’s just like a hobby nothing more or great; and it does not matter right now, why are we even discussing that people? Please I am in no mood to do that.” I said annoyed. “Why didn’t you ever tell me that you write stories?” Kunal asked. “Why should I? It is something personal and personal means by keeping it to oneself, am I right? Anyways Kunal please can we fight over this sometime later.” “What kind of stories you write? Do you like writing fiction? Have you ever published? What is your favorite genre? What…” “Kunal stop it!” I screeched. “Do you even care how badly hurt I am? If you don’t then why did you even bother to come behind me? Yeah I know I am a dumb, idiot fat girl… you wanted me to say that? See… now I have said it… so are you satisfied now? I know I am no match to what you are, you are great in whatever you chose to do…I am not, I am not perfect like you, but at least I am not selfish like you who has no heart at all, for others pains.” I yelped and got up to leave, but Kunal caught me, by hand, “You think I am perfect? I excel in everything I chose to do because I have to. I have no choice .I do it to get rid of the pain… and please don’t ever talk to me about pain; I have had a bitter taste of it and I am still having it…and your pain is not even a fraction of what I have endeavored. Moreover, you are mistaken I am not God to be good at everything I pursue, in fact I am not good at what I want to. Do you even remotely realize what kind of talent you got? Forget it…” he said and left. I was shocked by his speech; I had never seen him or heard him like that. “Vidhur?” I asked. “Well Chandni you know he was worried a lot about you since yesterday, he kept asking me what happened, but I could not tell him as I was out with family and my battery had died out. Secondly, you know right, that he had a sister?” “Yeah… yeah an elder one who died two years back of cancer… yeah I know.” The moment I said it, I realized what pain he meant, and regretted every word that I said to him. “Well Chandni the reason for his parents’ divorce was his sister. They apparently blamed each other for her death, and eventually parted ways…you know her sister Aastha was a columnist for a famous magazine…and she writing her first novel, and was half way when she was diagnosed with cancer and then her writing to a back stage and she could not complete her novel. When she was on her deathbed, she asked Kunal to complete that dream of hers and he promised he would. So since then he has been trying hard to write her sister’s incomplete novel but has not written even a word after where her sister left… so that is why…” he could not complete. I had a big lump in my throat, I cursed myself, and I was such a bad friend. I could not take my words and deeds back, but I had to apologize to him. I searched him everywhere in college and finally found him in the canteen. “Someone said Coffee stimulates brain and releases some happy hormone.” I said sheepishly and sat across Kunal. He looked at me and smiled, “Yes it does.” He said. We looked at each other for some time and then I finally said it, “I am sorry Kunal…I shouldn’t have said those things… I didn’t mean any of them… I am such a bad friend…actually I was the selfish one, always thought my problems were bigger than anyone else was. I don’t know…” “Are you hungry?” he asked. “Huh…?” “The lunch time has passed since an hour, and you haven’t had anything since… let me see tomorrow night, am I right?” he winked. “Yes you are absolutely right, I am so damn hungry.” I said. “Anna two fried rice please” he said. “Make it four please” Vidhur said and started singing ‘CHANDNI O MERI CHANDNI…’ and I punched him and we all were back to normal. “Chandni my friend we will try our level best to fix up your THAT problem.” Vidhur said, and Kunal and Sidhi agreed. “And remember one thing Chandni we are always there for you ok” Sidhi added and then Kunal did, “And we love you.”
I was again late by fifteen minutes, for the first lecture. I didn’t even attempt to go to the lecture, straight went to the side staircase and sat. I was listening to music and was reading a novel when, “hey… hi Chandni…” I turned up from my book to see who greeted me and was disappointed. “Hey Swati” I greeted her back. Swati was my school time competitor; and I hated her a lot, as I hated being compared with her. “Chandni you know about that day… I mean at Mac Donald’s…I mean Anuj and me…I…I hope you haven’t said to anyone.” “Nope I haven’t” “Oh! I see… well thank you.” I do not know why, but heard distress in her voice. She was searching for some topic to continue the conversation but I was in no mood to talk to her. Thus, I buried myself totally into the novel and after sometime, she left; maybe my behavior was rude but, I was way to mad at her, to feel pity and I don’t think she even deserved it after what she had done. The other day at Mac Donald’s, the thing that disturbed me was to find Swati with Anuj. Anuj was in I.T and a year ahead of me, that is, he was in his last year of engineering. He was the most popular guy in the college. However, I knew him before I came to college, well in fact I came to this college because of him, as he was also my family friend and I had a crush on him since four years now. I was mad behind him; I loved his brown eyes, his tom cruise hairdo, his sexy voice, his dressing style. Well in short, I had a big time crush on him; but he had gone out with Swati, the girl I hated the most in the world. “Why of all the girls, you had to date her only…why Anuj…why…” I thought. My heart had stopped beating when I had seen them together. Had Vidhur not escorted me out of that situation, I would have fainted there only. For four years, I had only Anuj on my mind; and now all of a sudden, everything was over. “Chandni what are you doing here, the second lecture is going to start.” Sidhi broke my thought. “Umm… nothing lets go.” I said. Vidhur and Kunal were waiting outside the class I went to them and greeted them morning and was talking to them, “Hey Chandni” someone called from behind and I knew who it was, I turned, “hi Anuj” I said. He was about to say something but before he could, “I got to go, talk to you later.” I said and left, avoiding him totally.
The class was overcrowded, “Why the class is jammed today?” I asked Kunal. “The first defaulter list was out yesterday, which is why it is crowded. Don’t worry it will get to normal in two or three days.” “What? Shit what is my score?” “73%…. it is good actually, just come early for the first lectures and you will cross the 75% mark in no time.” he said. “I will try my level best and gone make it through this time.” I said. My class was obsessed with the attendance percentage; some people even had about 99%, how can anyone sit so much for the lectures were what I never understood. “Come sit here. There is no place behind.” Sidhi said. Kunal and Sidhi always sat together, and Vidhur and I always sat behind, away from the eyes of the teachers, but today I had to sit with the two nerds. I tried listening for the first half an hour; but then my mind drifted away and I realized, not until when Sidhi broke my thought process, “I can’t read what is written on the board, I’ll go ahead.” She said and went on the first bench; and I called Vidhur to sit with us. “You crazy what would people think? A girl sitting with two guys” Kunal commented. “Don’t worry dude the people of our class knows about Vidhur and Aditi, and you…. Everyone thinks you and Sidhi are a couple. So I am safe.” I winked. Kunal gave me a disgusted look and Vidhur gave me a hi-fi. “Chandni what was with that attitude you showed Anuj, huh?” “Well that is new me; I am tired of chasing him. If he likes me then it is his time to toil some sweat now.” I said. “Whoa! Where had this Chandni been? Way to go girl, now you see how he comes behind you.” Vidhur winked. “Would you shut the fuck up, I am trying to concentrate.” Kunal showed frustration. “Vidhur someone is so jealous of me…. Huh… forget it… let’s play BINGO.” I said. “Jealous?” Kunal asked and I ignored him. For the next half an hour Vidhur and I were busy with our game.” “Bingo!” Vidhur and I said in unison, but I think we were a bit too loud, “Miss Chandni” “shit Sheetal madam, I am so dead today.” I thought. “So Chandni…” before she could continue there was knock on the class door it was our HOD. “ Please take her…please…” I said, and for the first time in life, God listened to me. “Pheww… what the hell man. Why do I only, always get caught?” “Ha-ha it is Karma baby.” Vidhur joked and I punched him. It was lunchtime and in no time, our tiffin’s were out. “I am so hungry.” I said. “When are you not?” Sidhi said, and I avoided her taunt. “Just look at you Chandni you need to lose weight. If you really want Anuj then for heaven sake lose few inches at least.” Sidhi said. “Stop it Sidhi, Chandni you don’t need to lose any weight you look good like this and… we love you the way you are… never change yourself for anyone.” Kunal said and Vidhur agreed. Sidhi lost the battle and I fooled about it, “Ok whatever.” She said and left. “Chandni when are you getting strawberry ‘shreekhand’?” Kunal asked. “Soon…” I said winking. Kunal loved my mom made food, and even mom always packed extra for him, and also called him frequently at home for lunch or dinner.
The next week on Monday I got two tiffin’s full of strawberry ‘shreekhand’, during the lecture, “Where is Kunal?” I asked Vidhur. “He is directly coming for the practical’s, after lunch.” “Why? I got strawberry ‘shreekhand’ today,especially for him.” “ Umm… wait I will message him.” “Ok.” At lunchtime, Sidhi and Vidhur pounced on my tiffin, but it was fun having my favorite sweet with them. However, we missed Kunal a lot. Even if one member of the group does not come, it feels incomplete. Sidhi and I were going to restroom when, “hey Sidhi… what’s up?” “Hi Anuj…. I am good, how about you?” “Yeah I am fine. Are you coming for the outing on Saturday?” “Umm… I am not sure.” I said. “Chandni I am so damn hungry, do you have anything to eat?” “I had brought strawberry ‘shreekhand, but it got over…I am sorry.” “Oh! I missed it.” “Chandni you had one more tiffin of it right?” Sidhi asked. “Yeah…well actually I’ve kept it for Kunal… actually Anuj it is Kunal’s favorite sweet and I had actually got it from him only, so…” “Never mind Chandni… anyways try coming on Saturday, it will be fun.” He said. “Yeah sure, I will let you know.” I said and we parted our ways. “Wow Chandni I am impressed.” Sidhi said. “Huh… what do you mean?” “You have acquired the ability of introducing jealousy in a boy’s mind, I am so proud of you… you saw his face when you said about Kunal… Wow… way to go girl.” “Oh! That yeah… I was trying that only…umm…. Yeah.” I said. “Shit…why didn’t I think of that?” I thought. I had actually kept the tiffin for Kunal only and I did not intend to give it to anyone, even if it was Anuj; Kunal was more important to me, he was my best friend after all. “Chandni what was he talking about Saturday?” “My dad and his friends have decided to go on a small picnic with families to Lonavala, so since our dads are good friends, even he is supposed to come… but I don’t know… I don’t feel like going.” “You crazy Chandni, you should go… you would never get such a chance again.” “But Sidhi…Swati… they are dating.” “Chandni they are not, trust me… I just got to know that, on that day at Mac Donald’s they were not alone…I mean they were out with a bunch of other friends too… just we happened to see them alone.” She said. “What, really? Wow Sidhi, what news you have given me… you made my day.” I said and hugged her. “Girls stop showing your lesbian sides, this is college.” Kunal said. “Shut up Kunal…and here your strawberry ‘shreekhand’.” “Oh! Yummy… you are a sweetheart Chandni…love you.” He said and started savoring it, and I enjoyed watching him have it.
In the practical’s, Sidhi and Kunal were busy performing the experiment and Vidhur and I were busy with completing the backlogs and taking printouts of all of us. Anuj was in the lab, opposite to us. I looked at him and he gave me a smile. “Man, I love his eyes, I love his smile… I love him.” “I know Chandni.” Vidhur said looking bored. “Oh! C’mon, stop giving me that. Don’t you remember how much I helped you with Aditi?” “Yeah I remember well…I am sorry madam, I will do whatever it takes to help you with Anuj.” He said. “Yeah you better do.” “By the way, Aditi really liked the gifts we chose for her and she has told me to tell you a big THANK YOU.” “Aww… tell her a big WELCOME.” I said. “Sidhi have you finished with your today’s work?” Teacher caught me chit chatting. “No mam…” “Then? I want you to explain me the code of this program ok.” My teacher said. “What the…. Why am I only always caught? Bloody even you were not performing today’s work still she did not say a word to you.” I said to Vidhur. “Ha-ha” he laughed. “Stop laughing you ass… and now you complete the work by yourself, I have to execute and explain the code.” I said and left. “Chandni don’t leave me alone out here, otherwise these girls over here will rape me.” He commented and I made a face at him. In our batch, there are only three boys, Kunal, Vidhur and another boy from our class named Siddarth. So since girls are in majority catfights for printers and print out pages are frequent sights in our batch; but at the end of the day we, all the girls, still tend to stay together and laugh over it. “Kunal come on… start with your teaching.” “You want to perform the experiment? Why? You got caught?” he asked; I didn’t answer. “Ha-ha…awww….poor you. Come here, let us start with this.” He said and explained me the program twice. I understood the logic and explained it to the teacher; she did ask me few questions here and there, but I was able to answer most of them. Kunal was a good tutor. I never had problem in understanding the logic of the program, but I could never write it on my own.
I was in a cave, it was dark there was no way out. I kept walking ahead not knowing where I was heading, and suddenly in the silence, there was some sound. I tried hearing it properly; it was of footsteps. I searched in all direction I did not find anyone and the noise went dead. After a few seconds, I restored walking, “Chandni” someone called and touched my shoulder. I turned, I still could not see the face, I rubbed my eyes and tried again, “Chandni” “Jeez Anuj, you scared me.” “Do you know that one should not sleep beside the person who is driving the car?” “Yes I know, but what to do, the driver was too boring, he could not entertain me enough to keep me awake.” “What are you serious? I played your favorite movie, your favorite music… what else did you want?” “Ummm…. Well we were out for Lonavala…on a long drive… so if you wanted you could have used the time well.” I said winking and got out of the car. “Ahh… I will surely make up to you from here on.” He said. We had started for Lonavala at six in the morning, so due to lack of enough sleep; I slept the whole time. However, one reason was also that, he was a very boring company; had Kunal been here than whole, time, we would have fought over petty things and he and Vidhurwouldn’t have let me sleep even for a second. No guy can match up to them, they are the best people on earth and I love them. Anyways, I ought to give Anuj one more chance, “so what if he is boring, he looks cute Chandni, he is so handsome Chandni… stop thinking so much.” I said to myself. “Mamma, I am hungry,” I said. “Get one vada-pav for Chandni too.” My mom screamed behind my dad. “No dad, get two.” I called. “Chandni… I think you were on a diet right?” “Mom I am out on a picnic, how can you expect me to be on a diet then?” I said. “Ok… so…?” “So what mamma…. I am so sleepy…” I said. “I mean did you and Anuj…. Talked?” “Mom for God sake please… he does not like me ok… so please stop it, we are just friends so please don’t spoil that ok.” I shouted and my mother made a face and looked away. My mom was the coolest mom on earth, but sometimes she forgets that she was my mom and not my friend. She wanted to patch me up with Anuj from the day I told her, we were friends; and it was because of her that he became my crush. However, I never told her, because if I did she would have talked to my dad and even to his parents, and Anuj would have stopped talking to me. Nevertheless, keeping this as secrecy from my mom was a biggest task on earth, difficult than even a math’s paper, so I had to be extra careful at times. After taking a short break, we all started again, mom and dad drove with the other biggies. “So madam what do you want to do?” Anuj asked. “Anything…umm… how about a nice chat?” “Sure, I would love that.” He said and we started talking. He tried hard but… well he was really boring and I breathed a sigh relief when we had finally reached our destination.
We stayed in one of my dad’s, friend’s bungalow. I had fun, but missed my buddies. “I so wished if they were here.” I said. “Oh! So you don’t like my company.” Anuj quoted. “Uh… no, no it is not that…it is just…that…they are my life… and Kunal…” I was about to say something and my phone beeped, “Excuse me.” I said and checked; it was a text from Sidhi, ‘having fun with my future JIJU?’ I typed, ‘kinda… but he is too boring, he will have to learn the talent of amusing me, from Kunal.’ “Yeah so where were we?” I asked. “Umm… Chandni what do you think about love?” he asked and I was taken aback by his choice of topic, to talk. “Chandni he is talking to you about love… control your emotions and stop blushing.” I said to myself. “Huh?” he asked. “Umm… nothing… well love…umm… it is a big word and a complicated emotion. I believe love is something… um… well love is something when you can’t think about anything, but that one person you love.” I said, satisfied with my answer. “True… but you know what the most important thing about love is you never realize when that emotion strikes you, and sometimes it is there, but you fail to recognize it. Love is, when you dread losing that person; love is, when you can’t see your love even in slightest pain. Love is, when you want to spend your happiness and importantly your sadness with that person. Love is, when you think his/her problem as your own. Love is the emotion that is so strong that it can even make God turn his decisions, sometimes. But sometimes love can also be fatal, so never fall in love, rise in it….and also remember that, there are people who also love you, so think about them too before taking any drastic step.” He completed. “Woah… where did that come from, you should be a writer Anuj.” “Umm…. No, that is your forte, not mine…. So have you ever afflicted with this emotion love?” “Umm… nope, I had many Crushes and all, but considering your definition, I don’t think I have come across that emotion.” I said. “Chandni” mom called so I left, “I am sure you must have… look around and recognize it fast, before it is gone.” He called back and I smiled. “What… When… but I just talked… where? I got to leave right now mom.” I said.
I reached the hospital, “Where is he? Is he all right? What happened?” “Chandni he is ok, you seriously didn’t need to come.” “Shut up Vidhur, take me to him… please… will you?” I begged. “This way…” he showed me his room. “ What… are you kidding me? How the hell did you come to know? Vidhur….” Kunal asked looking at Vidhur. “Don’t blame me dude, it was Sidhi…” Vidhur said. “Shut up Vidhur. First tell me how… when…” “Chandni, Kunal was going home on his bike and at that time, another bike from no entry came, and they both collided…. Don’t worry… nothing serious, he just fractured his hand, and has some scratches here and there.” He said. “You think this is small Vidhur? What is wrong with you Kunal? Wait… were you drunk…. I am sure you were.” I said. “No Chandni I was not, the other guy was… I am not lying; you think I will ever lie to you.” Kunal said. “Don’t even ever think of.” I said. “So you came for me, leaving your soon to be boyfriend? I am so honored.” Kunal winked. “Yes I did … Kunal are you seriously ok?” I asked going near to his bed. “I am absolutely fine; I am not dying before seeing you get hooked ok.” He said. “Shut up, anyways Anuj is waiting outside; I will tell him to leave.” “What, really? You came with him, wow you are progressing dear. Anyways, you should leave, I am ok; and then Vidhur is there here so you go ok.” “Umm… does your parents…” “No they don’t…” Kunal said and looked away, and I knew he won’t say anything further. He didn’t stay with his parents, but with his grandmother. His parents provided him the monetary support, but they failed to provide him mental support when he needed the most, so he hated them, and he never liked talking on that subject. I have tried hundreds of time, but have failed. “Chandni your Anuj would be getting mad without you.” Vidhur said breaking the silence. “Ha-ha… by the way you know what, he is damn boring.” I said. “Ha-ha… what else did you expect?” Kunal joked and I breathed a sigh of relief. I smiled and left. “Hey…” Anuj said. “Hey… Why didn’t you come in?” I asked. “Well I am a little phobic of hospitals.” He said earnestly. “Ok…” I said. “So how is he now?” “He is better now, I wished I could stay. I just don’t want to leave him alone in this condition.” I said. “It is ok, he needs some rest. I am sure he will be ok by tomorrow.” Yeah I hope that too.” I said. “By the way how are you?” He asked. “Me? What is wrong with me?” “Chandni you cried the whole drive from Lonavala to Mumbai and didn’t spoke a word, so that is why I was worried.” He said. “Oh! I am fine… seriously… Anuj I am so sorry… I mean you had to spoil your weekend cause of me.” “No, not at all. In fact I should thank you; it was really boring out there.” He smiled and so did I. He dropped me home, “Thanks Anuj once again.” I said and was about to leave when, “Chandni, remember what I had said about love… I mean… about not able to see your love in slightest pain…I witnessed that love today.” “What… what do you mean?” “Your love for Kunal, it is so pure, I saw it and felt it, in that two and half hour drive from Lonavala to Mumbai.” He said. “What rubbish… we are just friends…” I clarified. “Remember I said that sometimes you fail to recognize it… Good bye Chandni.” He said and left leaving me dumbfounded. I could not move at all, and I think even my heart missed a beat. “What… how could it be… he has surely misunderstood things ….” I thought and unlocked the door of my house.
“Yes mom I am fine, yeah so is he. Anyways mamma, I am little tired I will talk to you tomorrow. Bye…” I said to mom and hung up. I tried sleeping, but could not. Anuj’s words haunted me the whole night. I tried evaluating things, tried reasoning; and those reasons led me to a conclusion that we were just friends and nothing more. However, my heart was giving me different signals. I was angry with myself; I had cut off from the world for two whole days. I did not take any calls from friends. Finally, at the end of the third, my mind gave in and heart won. I was in love, was in love with Kunal, in love with my buddy and it was too late now, to back out. Anuj was right with his definition of love and about his conclusions, “Hey Anuj… you were right… I love… I love Kunal… damn I am so ashamed… how could I?” “Ha-ha Chandni why are you blaming yourself? Love is the best feeling on earth and I am happy you finally recognized it… Chandni I am seriously very happy for you, now don’t take time to convey this to him ok.” “I hate love… but can’t outrun it… yeah will have to tell Kunal about it, or my heart would not stop throbbing like a thunder; Now I realize why some people get heart attacks at early in life, love is the root cause of it.…. Anyways bye… meet you tomorrow in college.” I said and hung up.
“Oh my God… you… how did this happen? When did this happen? Am I dreaming?” “Stop overreacting Sidhi, it is not a big deal ok.” I said. “Of course it is… we don’t get to see you in a sari every day; perhaps it is the first time that we saw you in one, don’t you think Vidhur?” “Yeah man… wow Chandni… you look so gorgeous.” Vidhur said and I smiled. It was a Sari day in college and I had worn a sari first time ever, only for Kunal, as he always said that a girl looks her best in a sari. “Damn so much I have to do for this love.” “Did you say something?” Sidhi asked. “No, no nothing.” I said. “Hey beautiful girls…” Kunal called from behind, and I turned to look at him and my heart started throbbing, this time at a rate faster than even a TGV. “What the… Chandni is that you?” he asked. “Yes it is me.” I blushed. “Woah… you looking so beautiful… mesmerizing…stunning.”Kunal said and I got red. “So much for Anuj, he is one damn lucky guy.” He said. “I…” I started to say, but Kunal’s cell rang and he excused himself. “You idiot, fool all this is for you.” I thought. “Chandni I need a snap with you.” Sidhi said and Vidhur agreed. We took so many pictures, even with my classmates; but Kunal was nowhere in picture. “Hey Chandni” Anuj called. “Someone is looking sexy.” He said and I smiled. Even we clicked few pictures together. “So you told Kunal?” “Umm… nope… I am so nervous Anuj.” “Stop being one, and take charge. You are a confident girl aren’t you?” “Yes I am… ok…Thanks…” I said. “No problem.” He said. I left in search of Kunal. He was still on phone and Vidhur and Sidhi were laughing. “Did I miss something?” I said. “Chandni, Kunal has finally found his soul mate.” Vidhur said. “What… soul mate?” I asked and my heart missed a beat. “Chandni do you remember that girl Kunal always talked about… his school classmate, whom he had a childhood crush… that girl… asked him out.” Sidhi said and I froze in my place. Kunal finished his call and, “What happened Chandni?” Kunal asked. “Umm… nothing… I am so happy… I am so happy for you Kunal…” I said trying to keep the tears off from my face, but my heart wept and I could not stop it. “Chandni…I…” Kunal started. “I…I got to go…to… to…washroom.” I said and left, I could not stay there for even a moment. I left, left for home. I cried the whole day, “Why… why did this have to happen to me.” I said. Sidhi, Kunal and Vidhur called me continuously but I didn’t pick up, I texted them that I wasn’t well. Next day I felt better and accepted what had happened, that Kunalcouldn’t be mine and that I wasn’t going to tell him and complicate his life.
“Chandni you are coming for rock show ok… I don’ want to listen anything… please babes…if you don’t come then my mom will not sent me also, please Chandni… I have never seen Kunal perform live, so please…” Sidhi pleaded on phone. “Ok… fine.” I said. “Thank you so much… you know even Aditi is coming and you know what Kunal is gone perform this time especially for his girl… and….” “Ok Sidhi enough, I said I will come ok… meet you at Sion station at five… bye.” I said and hung up. Kunal was the lead vocalist of our college band, I did not want to spoil Sidhi’s mood for me, so I gathered up the courage and left for college. “Thank you so much for coming.” Sidhi said and I smiled. “By the way, how are you? That day you just left.” “Yeah…yeah… ummm…I am fine now…. So… let’s go.” I said by changing the topic. “Vidhur and Aditi are our escorts. Vidhur is drving us in his car to college.” “Ok…” I said. I had no intention of going, but I had to do this for Sidhi, for Kunal, to make him feel that everything was fine with me. Kunal had one bad trait, he always caught the truth in my eyes. Vidhur came and we sat in the backseats. “Hey Chandni and Sidhi…” “Hi Aditi… how are you?” I asked. “I am good and I really, really liked your gifts.” She said and hugged me. “God… please stop showing your lesbian side Aditi.” Vidhur said. “Get lost…” Aditi said and we laughed.
We finally reached college. “Hey people.” Kunal greeted. I just smiled. “How are you Chandni?” he asked and I felt like throwing myself in his arms. “I am good…” I said looking away and ignoring his gaze. “Kunal…” someone called, it was a girl; and it didn’t take me long to realize who it was. “ Sidhi, I have to meet Anuj” I said and left. I couldn’t see another girl flirting with Kunal. “Chandni… How are you keeping up?” Anuj greeted me with a hug. “I am better.” I said earnestly. Anuj knew everything and he was helping me a lot in keeping up a good face. Kunal was on stage now and started with his medley of songs. “He is so, so good man.” Sidhi said, I did not say anything. I had tears in my eyes, but due to less light, nobody could make out. Then Kunal started with, “Every night in my dreams…” and I was shocked, as Kunal never sang romantic songs. I asked Vidhur but he said he had no clue; “One last song guys… I have never sung a Hindi song, but today I am going to, for a person who is close to my heart… so this one is for you my love….” Kunal said puffing and started, ‘Rang bharebadal se terenainenokekaajal se, maineissdilpelikhdiyateranaam… CHANDNI O MERI CHANDNI’…” I froze with tears, my heartbeats got slow; fathoming what had just happened, and wishing it were not a dream, he completed and everyone gave a huge applause. He came down from the stage and started searching me; he caught my gaze shied out, I went away from the crowd and he followed me. “Nice song by the way…” I said. “Yeah thanks… you know what one of my, stupid friend wrote this for me and never gave it to me.” He said and took out the letter. It was my letter, which I had addressed to him about my confession of love. “Well she told me that she did not give as she thought…” “Shh…no more talking…” he said and touched my face. “I love you Chandni, I always have… even before you started loving me. Why do you think I always said ‘LOVE YOU’, to you, it was not a gesture of my friendship, but of my love. I love you Miss Chandni Shah.” He said and I had tears in my eyes, I was speechless. “By the way the last line of the letter, I forgot…. What was it?” “It was… ‘I LOVE YOU KUNAL’… in quotes.” I said wiping my tears and hugged him. He pulled me back and smiled at me, “Hey Kunal I never knew you had a dimple.” “Hmm… you don’t know many more things about me, but I promise, soon you will.” He said and was about to kiss, when, “Woah guys… easy, it is college.” Vidhur commented. “Shut-up Vidhur… wow what a confession, I am so touched Kunal by that one; and Chandni I am so happy for you.” Aditi said. Sidhi hugged me and I asked, “How did that letter…” “Well Chandni you had left your clutch that day with me so….” “Oh! How could I forget that?” “Good you forgot, otherwise how would I know.” Kunal said kissing my hands and I gave him a peck on his cheeks. “Ok sorry Kunal, I am going to snatch Chandni away from you… got to go, mom…” Sidhi said. “You guys had something?” Kunal asked. “I had enough for today, I can’t digest anything else.” I said and left.
Kunal texted me and called me at every hour. “Kunal I am sleepy now.” “I am not, please wait.” “No Kunal talk to you tomorrow ok.” I said. “Ok… ok listen, tomorrow we are going out on a date ok.” “Why? I mean we already have confessed to each other… and then, we are as it is meeting on Monday at college.” “Yeah, but we need to go on a date once, at least… and then I did not get a chance to kiss you; so, I don’t want to listen anything.” “Kunal… I am bored… it is a Sunday, and I really don’t feel like going… Monday we will go, surely.” “Nope, tomorrow it is, ok…bye.” he said and hung up. The next day I got up late, as Kunal had decided that we would meet around at 1.00 a.m. at Candies, Bandra. I got ready and wore a white summer dress, perfect for the first date. I reached at the destination on time and waited for him. He messaged that; he would be there in ten minutes. I was listening to music, ten minutes passed and he did not come so I decided to take a seat. The manager asked my name; I was startled, as they never do so. I gave him my name, and he said to follow him, I followed and then he stopped. The gaze that I saw in front of my eyes mesmerized me; the corner where he had stopped, was decorated with orchids. Kunal knew I loved orchids, “love you Kunal” I said. “Excuse me…” “Nothing…. Thank you.” I said to the manager. “No problem lady” he said and left. I waited for an hour but he never showed up, I called him but there was no answer. “What are you cooking lover boy.” I thought. I knew he was up to something as he was a punctual boy. After half an hour more, I took out my phone and messaged him and when I looked up from my cell, “Hey Vidhur and Sidhi, how come you guys here? Oh! Wait a minute, this is his plan right? Enough of surprises man… where is he?” I asked. “You got to come with us.” Vidhur said. “Ok, so now the surprise is at some other place… fine let’s go.” I said. In the car, both of them were quiet and I knew something was dubious. “Ok Sidhi just tell me the plan, I promise I won’t tell him about it.” I said and the car stopped. I looked at the place and asked, “Where are we going guys? Vidhur and Sidhi did not utter any word. I followed them, but realizing where they were going I said, “It is not funny guys, why the hell, are we here? Kunal is waiting for me, I got to go,” I said. Sidhi held my hand, led me. I tried freeing myself, but her hold was too tight. Finally, Sidhi stopped and turned to me, “Chandni…Chandni…” Sidhi started. “What is it guys?” I looked at both their faces. Vidhur looked away. “Chandni… there was a bomb blast in one of the cab near Bandra…and, and…Kunal” my heart stopped beating hearing his name. “No… no… that can’t be… you are lying aren’t you? Enough people, stop playing with me, where is Kunal take me to him.” I kept murmuring. “Chandni…Chandni listen to me… Kunal was near the cab when the cab blasted…. Chandni…Chandni he is breathing his last breaths.” She said shaking me. “No… no… I know you are lying.” “Chandni he is gone die” Vidhur shouted. “No..no..he can’t…no please don’t say that, it is our first date today, he can’t ditch me.. no…no he can’t.” I screeched and trembled down, Vidhur caught me. I cried, cried like baby. My world came crashing down, I went numb, and I lost all senses. “I want to kiss you.” I heard his voice in my heart. “I have to see him.” I said. “You can’t Chandni… you won’t be able to, trust me” he said earnestly with tears in his eyes. “I want to, please…one last time, please…” I cried. Vidhur led me to his room. “Doctor, she wants to see him once.” Vidhur said. “No she can’t, it is not advisable…” I did not wait for his approval and went inside. Kunal’s whole body was burned; the nurse said he suffered 95% burns. The sight was dreadful, but all I could see was his face, which was not seared. I went up to him and touched his forehead. “You should not touch him.” Nurse said. “You can’t go Kunal… can’t go without kissing me” I said and bended forward, and kissed him on his lips, and cried holding his face. Nurse pulled me away, then I saw him, and I saw a smile on his face. The doctor said he did not, but my heart knew that he did smile, and that it was his last wish. Then after an hour doctor unfolded, the dreadful news. I was emotionless, I went home, saw mom and broke down, “Mom..Mom… he is dead… Why? Why?” I cried, cried for days together. I cursed God, cursed myself for not cancelling the plan. My first love was dead, was murdered, even before it could grow.
It has been a year now. I have stopped crying, I smile when I remember him. He is like a best memory ever to cherish. I miss him; miss him a lot, but more as a friend because I did not get to see him as a lover for long. I have grown thinner, as whatever food I had liked, was his favorite too and we had always enjoyed it together; but now he was not there, so I did not like those stuffs anymore. Sidhi was placed in a good company so was Vidhur and they were happy in their lives; as of me, I have learned programming well now, since he wanted me to; and most importantly I was completing his sister’s unfinished dream, her novel; as, it was his dream too. Kunal’s death had been a big setback for us. However, we have held each other well. Anuj had stood by me all this while. I knew he liked me, but I had told him that I would take time; and he said he was ready to wait. Kunal was my first love and I can never forget him. I wasn’t refraining myself to fall in love again, but there can never be another Kunal, can never be another first love, it had gone. For now, I am contented with his commemorations, commemorations of my first love.