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Secret Alliance – A short story

She was sitting at her table by the window. Her books spread out in front. A pen in her hand for making notes. She’s working hard, trying to concentrate, but her mind just wouldn’t let her. She was back in her room after ten days. Ten days that she hadn’t realised would be life-changing, only she wanted to be in denial.

~~~

A month back, everything was going as per her plan. Vidya was preparing for her management entrance examination, which was two months away. She wanted to get the best score that she could, so that she could get admitted into one of the top management institutes. Studies were her priority and she didn’t want any interruptions until she gave her exam. So, when her parents planned for a 10-day trip to Nainital, Vidya decided to back out. Sightseeing and attending her parents’ old college mate’s son’s wedding, was nowhere in her list of priorities.


Her married sister lived at the other end of the city and Vidya decided to spend the 10-day period with her. She would often visit her sister. Her sister’s in-laws were friendly in nature and always welcomed her with an open heart. It would be a good place to keep up with her study schedule. Furthermore, this time her 6-month old niece would provide the occasional reprieve from her pressure studies, with her cute antics and giggles. It was a win-win arrangement.

Vidya settled down in her sister’s house happily. Although, she loved dressing up and attending weddings, she was glad she gave it a miss this time. She resumed her studies with a renewed enthusiasm. On the first day of her stay at her sister’s, she had an unexpected meeting with an acquaintance. Deepak was her brother-in-law’s colleague and had recently shifted to an apartment in the same building that her sister’s family resided in. She had first seen him at her sister’s marriage. He was a regular face at various functions and gatherings that took place at her sister’s place. So, although they knew each other, there was never any conversation that took place between them.

That evening, Deepak came to hand over an office file that Vidya’s brother-in-law had apparently forgotten to bring. When he rang the doorbell, it was Vidya who opened the door. Both were surprised to see each other. An awkward exchange of ‘hello’s ensued when Deepak asked for his colleague. Soon, everyone was chatting in the living room and the topic of Vidya’s stay came up in no time. When Deepak got to know that Vidya was preparing for her management entrance exam, he offered assistance, if required. Deepak was himself a management graduate and knew the extensive drill that is required whilst preparing for these examinations.


“Thanks, but I am good. I am just working on my speed of answering. I am making good progress with daily practise. Only Reasoning is taking a bit longer time, but I will soon get over that too”, Vidya replied.


“Oh that’s good. I have been good at Reasoning though, I can provide a few tips if you want”, Deepak suggested.


“Yes Vidya, it would be good for you. No harm in taking some extra help, isn’t it?”, Vidya’s sister insisted.


“Ok, sure”, said Vidya meekly. She was finding those complex Reasoning questions a tad difficult to solve. She was happy to get help.


“Glad to help. In fact, I am happy you didn’t ask help for in the Quantitative Aptitude paper. Maths is where I am weak in. Don’t ask me how much I got in my exam. I barely managed to make it”, confided Deepak. Everyone burst out laughing.


From that day, Deepak began to help Vidya in the preparation of her exam. The awkward ice had broken between them and they started chatting freely with each other. With Deepak’s help, Vidya was able to solve the practice papers within the allotted time. She was now working on her accuracy when she realised that 10 days had just gone by.
She didn’t realise how these 10 days had passed within a breeze. As she was packing to return home, Deepak visited her to bid goodbye and handed over a good luck card to her. He said, “I know that giving printed cards has become outdated, but it does have a charm that can’t be denied.” Vidya smiled and thanked him. She kept the card in the bag without looking inside.

~~~

The cool breeze from the window near her table brought her back to the present time. Under the books on her table, was the card that Deepak had given to her. She pulled it out from under the books, opened the card and read it again. It read, “Vidya, these ten days have been very special to me. I never knew I would meet someone as special as you. Even though we knew each other since a few years, we were still strangers to each other. I am glad that isn’t the case anymore. As days went by, I became more and more eager to meet you and spend time with you. I know your time is very precious for you now. But once your exams are over, I would like to meet you more often. I am really looking forward to see you again. Until then, I wish you all the best for your exams.” At the edge of the card, he had written, ‘Call me, if you feel the same’, and he had given his phone number there. 


Vidya lost count of the number of times she kept reading the card and putting it back under the books. Her exam was just a month away and she did not want any sort of distractions. And definitely not the ones that concerned the heart. It was two hours since she had first read the card. And she couldn’t study a bit since then.


Her parents had returned in the morning and Vidya had come home from her sister’s place in the afternoon. She spent all afternoon with her parents listening to their stories of the trip and the marriage that they attended. She did get a feeling of emptiness, but she couldn’t pinpoint on why. Now after reading the card, she perhaps got the answer to the reason for her puzzled feeling, but she wanted to deny it out rightly. This wasn’t the time to march into unknown territory. She got up to get a glass of water to cool herself down.
As she was passing by her parents’ bedroom to go into the kitchen, she could overhear them talking. The door was closed but that didn’t prevent the voices to reach outside. As she was filling her glass, she heard her mother say something that came as a rude shock to her. The glass of water almost fell out of her hands, but she managed to hold on. She was not the sort of person to storm into her parents’ room and ask for explanations. So, she took her phone, went onto the terrace of her house and called her sister.


“Didi, how could you all do this to me? You all know, I am not at all thinking of marriage for another four to five years. How can you set me up with some guy as per your whim and fancy? And what made you think, I would say yes? I never thought you, of all people, would join hands with Ma and Pa, in this devious plot.”


“Calm down, Choti’, said Vidya’s sister as she lovingly called her. “This was no devious plot, you silly girl. The alliance had come from Deepak’s parents. Even Deepak doesn’t know about it. We had told them that you weren’t interested in getting married for some time. So, they suggested that if you two could meet and talk somehow and have an opinion about each other, then maybe they could slowly proceed with the alliance. So, when you came here to stay, your brother-in-law saw to it that you two could meet informally, without any pressure whatsoever. No one will force you to get married, my dear. You will, only when and if you want to. I can assure you of that.”


After listening to her sister, Vidya calmed down. She hadn’t told her of the card and she wasn’t going to. Soon, she heard her mother calling for dinner. She decided not to talk about it to her parents. She didn’t know what to say even if the topic arose. She was in a puzzled state of mind. She cooled down and went home to have dinner.


Post dinner, when she came into the room, she received a message on her phone. It was from Deepak. He wanted to meet her to talk about something important and he wouldn’t take much of her time.


The next day, Vidya left for the library to borrow some books. She had asked Deepak to meet her there. By the time she reached the library, Deepak was already there. They sat down at the garden restaurant nearby. Before Vidya could say anything, Deepak began to talk.


“Vidya, I am here to apologise to you. I shouldn’t have written all that I did on that card. I didn’t know that the minute we started talking to each other, people began to make plans for our alliance. I know this is a shocking piece of information for you. It was for me, when my parents told me last night. Forcing people to talk to each other is not how an alliance is made. I know you must be very miffed with me after reading the card. You have every reason to be. That’s why I wanted to clear things out before any misunderstandings take place. I am sorry if you were hurt because of me”, Deepak concluded.


Vidya looked at Deepak and for some reason burst out laughing. Deepak was flabbergasted at her reaction. When Vidya could calm down a little, she exclaimed, “Oh Deepak, thank you so much. I am actually feeling better now. And yes, I was shocked too. Last night, I also came to know that there was talk of an alliance between us. And I’ve been very puzzled since then. I couldn’t study at all yesterday. Thanks to you, I am a little relieved. Now I’ll be able to concentrate.” Vidya smiled as well and Deepak heaved a sigh of relief. 


“I am now relieved too. I’ve spent such a sleepless night,” Deepak smiled. “Anyway, you may want to get back to your studies. I don’t want to take too much of your time. All the best for your exams. Do well. I will leave now” saying so Deepak was about to get up, when Vidya stopped him.

She took out a card from her bag and handed it over to Deepak. “This is just a Thank You card, Deepak. Whatever may have been the situation, you did help me a lot in tackling the difficult questions. Your tips helped me a lot too. This is the least I can do to thank you for it. And yes, I agree. There is a certain charm in giving printed cards.” Deepak took the card and they bid each other goodbye. As Vidya climbed the stairs of the library, Deepak opened the card and read it.


“Thank you very much, Deepak. Thank you for the help in my studies. And also thank you for what you wrote on the card. The last ten days, I too enjoyed the time spent with you. Yes, I would like to meet you more often. But as you know, my exams are my priority now. Looking forward to meet you as soon as they are over.” 


Deepak couldn’t believe what he had just read. He looked up at the stairs of the library. Vidya was standing at the top of the stairs and smiling. He smiled back. She waved at him and bid him goodbye.

Deepak repeated the act. As they turned back, walking on their individual paths, they couldn’t wipe the smile off their faces.


Needless to say, the official alliance talk came to a standstill. Vidya passed her exams with flying colours and got enrolled into a management institute of her choice. Unknown to their respective families, Vidya and Deepak were in constant touch with each other. Their folks had secretly tried to fix an alliance for them. Now, they both are in a secret alliance of their own, unknown to their respective families. The matter did not come out in the open until Vidya finished her course and got a job. The secret alliance couple were now ready to be hitched. 

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