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Authors: Madhur Nevatia

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TWELVE

 

 

Sameera
dashed out to get some fresh air and more importantly, a fresh perspective.
What had she just fled from?

Tanya was
already on her exercise mat when Sameera entered the pilates studio.

“Hi Sam, you’re
late again. Where are you coming from?”

“Had a
session with Gautam.”

“Was he
nasty again?”

“Why should
he be nasty? Anyway, I don’t want to discuss my patients.”

“That’s a
tectonic change of heart. What’s up sweetie?”

The class
started just then and there was no opportunity to talk.

As soon as
the instructor left, Tanya turned to Sameera.

“On a
serious note, how is Gautam doing?”

“Much
better, thank God. The poor guy was in terrible pain but he’s a tough cookie.”

“Till last
week he was a complete pain in the ass.” Tanya winked. “Why this humongous
change? Is it his killer looks?”

“Tanya, you
are absolutely fixated on Gautam’s looks. Wonder what Sanjay would say if he heard.”

“That
reminds me, Sanjay’s coming next week. How could I forget to tell you? He’s
asked you to keep an evening free; we’ll have fun together.”

“Why should
I be the
kabab mein haddi
?”

“I don’t
mind being left alone with him,” grinned Tanya, “but he wants to meet you as
well as Gautam. We girls can keep each other company while the guys catch up.
Come. It’ll be fun.”

Sameera was
quiet. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to meet Gautam socially.

 

***

 

Their
sessions continued. Gautam became chattier and more relaxed. He was impressed when
he found out that she played the piano. She discovered how passionately
involved he was in his work. They discovered a common passion for books and
music.

She was glad
that Sanjay would be coming soon, a secret that she had managed to keep from
him. It would help distract him from his work and would help with his mood
swings.


 

THIRTEEN

 

 

“Surprise!”

Gautam
looked up, startled by a loud shout. His face split into a grin when he saw
Sanjay, Tanya and Sameera standing in his room. He struggled to his feet,
remembered Sameera’s instructions and gingerly wrapped his arms around his
friend. “Sanjay,
tu yahan
? This is one hell of a surprise.”

The friends
hugged for a long time. Then Sanjay pushed Gautam away in mock anger. “Such a
big accident and you don’t even call me.”

Gautam
smiled. “I was hoping you would get to hear about it and come over to meet me.
Was dead bored,
yaar
. Can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see you.”

“Why didn’t
you call me? Too much of a dude to tell me that you were hurt, hmm?
Pagal
hai
.”

“Excuse me
boys,” Tanya interrupted, “if you long-lost friends permit, can we at least come
inside and sit down?”

Gautam
brushed Sanjay aside and held out his hand to Tanya. “Sorry, Tanya. Please do
come in. You look gorgeous.”

Sameera was
pleasantly surprised to see Gautam’s charming side. Tanya hugged Gautam warmly.

”Mind the
arm,” warned Sameera. Her concern made Gautam smile and he hobbled gallantly
towards her.

“Thanks for
bringing my friend over, Sameera,” Gautam said politely, “and thanks for coming
along,” he added, avoiding her gaze.

Tanya sighed.
“Aww, Gautam you are so charming. Sam always complains that you are too severe
and cold. You are too critical of these poor guys, Sam.”

“It’s nice
to know that you talk about me to your friends even if the context’s not
flattering. Better than being ignored.” This time Gautam looked straight into
her eyes. Sameera blushed. “I didn’t mean to corner you. I was rude and
bad-tempered earlier but hope to make up for all that.”

“See, I told
you. He’s a gem, but you need to be a
johari
to value him,” Sanjay
joked.

The four
settled down in Gautam’s small but neat living room. It was an uncluttered,
masculine room where utility, not aesthetics, was paramount. Tanya insisted
that Gautam sit comfortably on the couch; the girls fussed around him, putting
cushions under his leg, reprimanding him for moving around too much. Sameera
sat on the other end of the couch while Tanya snuggled in with Sanjay on the
beanbag.

Gopal
entered the room carrying a tray laden with hot mugs of tea and a platter full
of mouth-watering snacks.

“Gopal, no
tea today. Sanjay and I will have a double Jack Daniels with Coke. Ladies, I
have Bacardi and wine at home and can call the wine shop for anything else you
want.”

“White wine
is perfect but if you don’t mind, I would love to have Gopal’s tea first. Tanya
try some, it is awesome,” said Sameera, smiling at Gopal.

Gautam and
Sanjay regaled the girls with their teenage stories.

“The first
time Sanjay and I had Jack Daniels was at his elder sister’s wedding when we
were fifteen years old. We lounged around the bar acting all grown up and at
every opportunity kept swigging peg after peg. Before we knew what was
happening, we were both sky high. Tanya, your darling fiancé morphed into Shah
Rukh Khan and started singing
‘tujhe dekha to ye jaana sanam’
at the top
of his tuneless voice. I, being the less vocal of the two, decided to get some
sleep; so I swept off the all bottles from the bar counter and made myself
comfortable.”

The room
erupted with laughter. “Dad was quite okay with his teenage son and his friend
getting drunk. Which Punjabi wedding is complete without some drunken drama
anyway? But it was the broken bottles that landed us in trouble.”

“I had
thought you were born a cynical adult; I cannot, for the life of me, visualize
you as a crazy teenager,” said Sameera, shaking her head.

As the room
fell silent Gautam declared, “I promise there is a lot more to me than that.”
He stretched out his hand instinctively towards her but she jumped up abruptly
before their hands could meet.

“Need to
stretch my legs,” Sameera said.

Gautam
looked puzzled but Tanya gave him a reassuring smile.

Sanjay and
Tanya wanted all of them to head to the newest pub in town.

“Gautam,
will you be able to manage?” Sameera asked.

“If you
stand by him, he can manage any task in this world, Sameera,” Sanjay said
grinning broadly.

Gautam did not
want to disappoint his friend. “My leg is much better and Sameera is with us if
anything goes wrong. So let’s go.”

Once again,
he offered Sameera his hand but withdrew it quickly as he remembered her recent
reaction. Why was she so averse to his touch?

 

***

 

After ages,
Gautam felt completely relaxed as if a load had been lifted off him. The fact
that Sameera was sitting next to him made him happy. He wanted to live in the
present, determined not to let his insecurity convert him into the rude monster
he was habitually becoming.

Sameera
glanced at Gautam. With his edginess gone, he looked very different but, could
she reciprocate? She felt warm in the face as she recalled how he had tried to
hold her hand, looking straight into her eyes. She liked him, and it made her
nervous.

She was lost
in her thoughts as thousands of images from her past flashed by.

 


 

FOURTEEN

 

 

People were
always surprised that an attractive girl like her was single and did not even
have a boyfriend. It was not for lack of suitors; ever since she could
remember, she had been showered with male attention. There was no denying that even
as a child she was stunningly beautiful. As a teenager, she would get
innumerable Valentine Days cards. While she always laughed off the attention, her
mother became increasingly more protective. Sameera had her own fair share of
crushes and finally, in grade nine, she fell in love for the first time, with
Pavan, the new boy in class who treated her as a friend. With him, she could
wear anything without worrying about hemlines or necklines. By then, her
friends had also experienced their magical first kiss; she too longed to kiss
Pavan.

Just when
things were beginning to look sunny with Pavan, disaster struck.

One evening,
as she left her tuition class, she was cornered by a bunch of guys staring at
her menacingly. Her head felt light, her throat was parched, and no matter how
hard she tried, she couldn’t scream. The boy who finally stepped up to her was
from her class. His hand was heavily bandaged; he shoved a letter into her
hands. Consumed by teenage jealousy, it was his love letter to her, written in
blood. She was terrified.

Absolutely
petrified, her mother packed her off to a prestigious, girls’ only boarding
school in Dehradun. Sameera resented the move very much. Why was she penalized
for someone else’s actions? She missed her mother, her best friend Tanya and
Pavan. She longed for freedom and set her eyes on studying in one of the top US
universities as the ticket to that freedom. Sameera’s mother was unwilling to
send her to the USA and all her persuasions were in vain. It was only when she
got into Cornell that her mother finally relented.

Sameera was
ecstatic at the opportunities opening up before her.

Just when
her bags were packed and she was ready to go, life brought in another twist in
the tale. Her mother met with a horrifying accident with a fifty-fifty chance
of survival. She had already lost her father and the thought of losing her
mother was too much for Sameera. She stayed by her side day and night, refusing
to leave even for a night’s sleep at home. Her mother showed equal resilience
and determination, and together they fought the crisis to return home after
more than a month in the hospital. Despite protests from everyone close to her,
she put her admission on hold and helped her mother inch back to normalcy.

She would
work closely with the physiotherapist and was fascinated by the various
processes and their effect on her mother’s health. The doctor was impressed
with her understanding of the therapy and her ability to conduct the sessions
on her own when needed. Slowly her mother became mobile again, but complete
recovery would take a long time.

To young
Sameera, who’d seen her mother take care of her father and help him fight
against cancer, it was time to stand tall and own up to her responsibilities.
She decided to forego her admission in Cornell and train as a physiotherapist
in Mumbai.

The
government college which she joined to pursue her course was a far cry from her
posh school and she took time to fit in. Her clothes seemed too fashionable,
her chauffeur-driven car too big, her manners too delicate and her diction too
polished for the new milieu. The girls were judgmental about her and the boys
obsessed. She lacked real company and as the first year dragged by, Tanya
remained her only good friend.

As time went
by, she slowly won over her classmates with her behavior and balanced attitude.
In her fourth and final year, she became good friends with Ayush.

Their
friendship was blossoming when her mother dropped a bombshell. She had long
cherished the dream of seeing her daughter married and settled; with her
father’s demise, the dream had acquired greater urgency. There was a proposal
from the Sinhas for their LSE returned son Kabir. They were rich, famous and
well respected in the business community. They were also family friends and
went back a long way. A match between Sameera and Kabir was an offer Mrs.
Mathur could not refuse, but Sameera considered herself too young to get married.
Her four and a half years of studies were still not over and then there was the
six-month compulsory internship. Sameera and Ayush were busy applying to the
most prestigious hospitals in Mumbai and hoped to do their internship together.
The talk of marriage threw everything off track.

The only
thing Mrs. Mathur asked of her daughter was that she meet Kabir with an open
mind. Sameera opposed, defied, and finally begged her mother to let go; when
everything failed, she decided to meet Kabir if only to return with negative
feedback.

The Sinhas
arrived at Sameera’s home one evening; the atmosphere was relaxed and the
elders chatted as old friends do, putting Sameera at ease. Kabir was a normal,
well brought up boy; after a while, he asked the elders if he could take
Sameera out for a drive and before she knew it, she was sitting beside him in
his car.

They sat at
a coffee shop and chatted for hours. Sameera expressed her reservations about
marrying young since she wanted to focus on her education. He agreed whole-heartedly;
he was just twenty-four years old and needed time to make something of himself,
but he also confessed that he would love to meet her socially again. He did not
have too many friends and would give a tooth and an eye to spend time with someone
as beautiful and interesting as her, but there was no pressure. They agreed to
meet again.

Kabir was a
charming boy, attentive and indulgent towards her. They went for long walks,
watched movies, shared funny anecdotes, and became comfortable with each
other’s friends. Slowly, she fell in love with him. Kabir could be quite moody
and dominating at times. Sameera was raised in high society and had no issues
with social drinking, but she also observed how Kabir could not keep his drink
down at times. This was a bone of contention between the two but she loved him
and wanted to make things work.

One evening,
they went out partying to a new pub. Sameera looked gorgeous in a black chiffon
top and pencil skirt. Kabir was in high spirits, taking big swigs of his drink,
nudging Sameera to do the same, eyeing the other girls lecherously. She
casually joked that she was not looking too bad and he should spare a look for
her too. He got livid at her comment and started abusing her.

The words
came back to haunt her for years. “You are a freaking frigid woman. I doubt if
you can satisfy any normal, hot-blooded male. Did you think I was in love with
you? Hah. Not in a hundred years. Your pretty face, smooth skin, tight ass,
young tits bobbing at my face make me hungry for your body; lust, just lust,
that’s all I feel for you. For six months you have not given me more than a
kiss, you bitch. Now I’ll show you.”

Her anger
had given way to fear and Sameera instinctively ran out of the pub towards the
car park. To her great relief, Kabir did not chase her. With her heart
exploding in her ears, she ran as fast as her tight skirt and high heels would
allow, stopping only when she spotted her car. As she fumbled in her bag for
the keys she heard someone politely ask, “May I help you madam?” She turned
around to find Kabir standing behind her.

His
bloodshot eyes made her skin crawl. She didn’t know how he’d managed to get
there so suddenly. Though she tried to scream she couldn’t. With a powerful
push, he flung her against the car. With one hand he covered her mouth and with
the other he felt her body. She struggled to free herself but his body pressed
against her, giving her no room to move. Every time she tried to move he would
hit her hard. He tore her sleeve and scratched her arms.

“This is
your punishment for denying me my right. I will kill you if you make any
noise.” Blood trickled through her arms. He pulled her hair and tore away the
front of her shirt. She kicked him in the groin and bit his arm viciously. His
scream brought the guards running towards them and he fled the scene. The sight
of two guards running towards her was the last thing she remembered before
passing out.

The next
morning was the toughest day of her life. She was filled with shame and guilt.
The man she had loved had turned out to be a monster. Her looks had turned
against her. Her mother stood by her, but with her approval, she decided not to
press police charges against Kabir. Sameera just did not have the strength to
fight a long, filthy battle in court. She had to save herself and her mother
from this agony.

Kabir’s
parents were aghast at his monstrosity and the families decided to call off the
engagement. Kabir was sent off to Singapore to look after the family business
there. Sameera could not understand how a demon like Kabir had been born to
such gentle parents.

For a long
time she hated herself, as if her beauty was to blame for what had happened.
She lost confidence in herself and her judgment and took a break from studies.
Only her mother and Tanya knew about her nightmarish experience.

Ayush would
call and try to help her with her studies but men and their attention drove her
into frenzy. It took a lot of support, courage and psychiatric counseling for
Sameera to face the world again but by then the ebullient girl had turned into
a recluse.

To tide over
the painful period, she plunged into work. Ayush and Sameera developed a deep
friendship but she was determined to keep it at that. Any hope of a romantic
liaison was out of the question. Over time, she slowly came to terms with her
experience, putting it behind her and resuming a normal life. Her natural
cheerful personality resurfaced and her confidence returned; her capacity to
love did not.


BOOK: Yours Accidentally
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