he sat there looking lost on the old park bench.
when i saw the jaw line, i knew there was only one thing i could do.
i sat down.
“what’s up?” i asked when i found my voice. he looked so disoriented. he turned and there were his eyes. i remembered chocolate, my habit of quietly eating a little chocolate every night, chocolate all by myself. my throat went dry again.
“huh!” oh, so he had a voice. how do you perfectly pitch a “huh.” i exhaled slowly, i must keep calm.
“where am i? i think i am lost.” lost? who could have been so utterly, hopelessly, stupidly careless, i thought. lose you? who would, could, ever could want to lose you? are they nuts? don’t they see what they…
“i remember i used to live in m&b land,” that voice again and my thoughts passed out, “i used to husk, rasp, stand arms akimbo. i was a clever, sarcastic, impeccably dressed tycoon with an implacable expression.”
my ears thrilled to every word he uttered. not the voice this time, it was the words themselves. each had been learned at that great school of english language: the mills & boon romance. page 57 he kissed her. page 158, he brusquely said in a hoarse voice: can’t you see what you do to me, i love you, woman. and pulled her into his arms to plant a rough kiss on her tremulous lips. she succumbed and in the midst of a torrent of passionate obfuscation (not an m&b word) managed to say: i love you too. oh all those new words. so he came from that land?
“and she hated me as much as i hated her.” hate is akin to love, m&b had said and m&b knew. ah, i thought, so you loved her.
“she was almost 10 years younger, not rich, lovely… with no idea of how beautiful she was, and she looked down on my way of life as i hers.” perfect. i knew this was going to work.
“so what happened?” i asked, hooked.
“happened? i am arnav singh raizada, i write my own destiny. everything went brilliantly, we fought, we hurled insults at each other, we married, we kept on hating each other and somewhere along the way i found myself in shakespeare country.”
“huh?” not so perfectly pitched came my response.
“yeah, i was a bit what the!! but it kind of grew on me. like she did. and we started to, you know… and before you could say tumhari aukat kya hai (who do you think you are), people were talking about me being like howard roark, othello, quoting deep literature: steinbeck, neruda, tagore. also, plenty modern writing and stuff, seems our love story was gaining in depth and breadth, it felt real, and we’d run way beyond page 158.”
i started. how did he know i’d thought that?
“this is a dream,” he said with his wicked, lopsided smile, “i can read your mind.”
my heartbeats grew deafening. i muttered to myself, “lambi saansey lo, lambi saansey (take deep breaths).”
he continued talking, i couldn’t hear a thing.
when my breath settled, he was saying:
“…no idea what happened, i was so busy feeling things i’d never felt before, maybe i got lax, my mind was on other things, did i tell you i adored her craziness, her sanak as it was called, and her dopey clothes? i told her she needn’t change a thing about herself, but they went and made her older, yeah we all live in dreamland, you know. and they didn’t stop at that… they gave her tents to wear and strange slippers, you should have seen her mojris. and that off-centre plait… delightful. how i remember our engagement with a bandage ring, she looked gorgeous just as she was…” his eyes darkened at the memory, he continued, “now it was long open hair all the time, i liked her like that but not all the damn time. actually, that was a sign, i should have seen it coming! dammit!!”
“seen what coming?”
“this… this move… now i am in tv channel land.” his forehead furrowed, his jaw hardened, he looked straight ahead at nothing.
“soon i will be wearing kurtas all the time and these strange kurtas not the cool khadi ones i look dd gorgeous in, certainly not my favourite waistcoats and shirts. i will be going to temples. my trademark frown will be replaced by a sweet smile. i will be fooled by a pathetic clown who thinks he is the joker. i got a hint this morning that i will be switching to shudh hindi (chaste hindi). and worst of all, the girl i hated the girl i love will become something called an achhi bahu (a good wife).”
he stopped, lost lost look in his eyes.
i couldn’t bear it. i said, “would you like to come with me to my planet? you see i came here to check out the scene, ready to head back home. want to come along? we have no tv channel land where i come from.”
“can we take the suv?” he asked, eyes glinting.
as we jumped in, he on the driver’s side of course, his kurta turned into a white linen shirt, with the perfect smoky grey waist coat over it. his strong, beautiful hands moved on the gear stick and in seconds we were speeding.
“seat belt!” he barked. oh yes, come back asr, come back, i thought.
we saw her at the same moment.
“what the!!!” he rasped under his breath.
she stood right in the middle of the path. white saree, no jewellery except for her mangalsutra, hair open, bag in hand, thumb stuck out for a lift.
we screeched to a halt inches from her.
“just as useless as that attempt on the way to nainital, khushi,” he said sarcastically yet lovingly, the way only he can; his eyes not leaving her face, searching for something.
she looked at him with a funny smile and said, “thought you could leave without me, laad governor?” she always called him that, her version of lord governor.
she stuck out her left foot at him. there was a nutty mojri on it.
he folded her in his arms and and began to kiss her mercilessly.
i walked away, knees turned to jelly, breath short, but determined. no interruptions this time.
hi dear reader, have you ever had a thing for a hero? you know the impossible, implausible romantic sort? someone you’ve seen on tv or on the movie screen, or perhaps you found him in a book? i know i know… all this is supposed to be silly. nonsense. all that. but still, have you? mine made me go crazy. and more. i began to write. and dream. let me know if something like this has ever happened to you. and keep him (and her) safe, very safe.