“Mom, I am leaving.” My voice rang out, clashing with the halls of our house and echoing throughout the walls. This was the very reason I hated the schematics of our house, every time someone called out, it echoed through the walls and always disrupted my sleep.
I shuffled into my prim and proper purple flat bellies when my mother came swishing into the hallway. She never seemed to walk like a normal person rather seemed to flow towards people – my dad always claimed that it was this very reason that drew him out to her.
She glanced up and down and looked at my attire, a frown of disapproval marked upon her face. With a heavy somber tone she said, “Kritika, you know that I am not fond of the attires you people wear these days. Look at you, the tight skinny denim jeans, the striped black and white top and- and what is that hairstyle? A messy bun? This is outrageous, but who am I to say?” She went on fussing over my attire and I kept smiling throughout it. After all, the incident, which had occurred last year, had shattered the whole family; I still have no inkling on how our family survived that. Anamika, that was her name- but it was still a taboo to speak her name in the household.
I stamped my foot and said with a sullen tone, “Mum, whatever happened with her isn’t likely to occur with me too. I like this attire and this is the trend which is popular these days.”
“Popular or not, I don’t like it. Yet, you are right. Go, before I change my mind.” She said with a sullen tone and I knew that I had injured her feelings- but my parents couldn’t let go of me so easily after what had happened with Anamika.
I left the house, beginning to recollect memories.
Anamika, my elder sister. The daughter who had abandoned the household- that was how my relatives called her. She had been my role model, but, she had ended up disappointing everyone. She had eloped with her boyfriend and had the audacity to mock our family in the face by sending them an invitation to their marriage by a timid and tiny call- that was the story according to my dad.
I remembered receiving some calls from her after she had left. I never knew people could change so easily as soon as they stepped into a new life.
I stepped out my reverie when I heard my name being called out on the street I was rambling across.
“Kritika, long time no see. How are you? I have been meaning to call you but you tend to loose the track of time during the summer vacations right? You get what I mean?” The cheery voice of Nikita called out.
Argh, Nikita, the girl who aspired to be the most popular one in the class. I faked a smile and my voice rang with hollowness as I said, “Nikita, my cheery girl! How are you? Gosh, you look pretty today- how do you manage that flawless look?”
She beamed out at my statement and her face lit up like a flower blooming at the first light of the day. She took my hand in hers- ugh, I had forgotten about her attitude about touching and cuddling randomly to show that she cared about us- and pulled me into a corner and whispered as a solemn look crept onto her face and her eyes turned cold, “You know what they call you out there? Faceless Bitch. Now, I usually don’t believe in stories like these but is it true that you changed overnight when your sister left and that you are going through the boys in our standard, as they are some piece of dirty handkerchiefs? Now, I usually don’t believe stuff like this, because I know you. But, I would love to know something with which I could defend you.” She regained her smile in the end and looked at me hopefully.
There it was again, the rumors and the indirect way of spilling out my secrets to a girl who loved to be the center of attention. I cringed inwardly while with a slight smile I countered, “Isn’t that what we all want Nikita? Getting popular with guys and falling in love? Sigh, I hope I had an interesting life like that. Next time, tell them to keep their noses in their own business.”
With a slight huff and collecting the remaining pride I had, I stepped out from the corner and left with my feet stomping on the ground.
Anger raged inside me, fire lapped up the corners of my mind; red vision stepped into every thought that I envisioned.
The lyrics of a song kept hammering inside my head, shattering my soul. Words bombarded in my head, hitting at the very corners of the chink of my mental armor. My bones felt as if it were on fire. The only thing I wanted to do was shout out loud, bawling so loudly that I would end up waking the dead. Trying my best to match my emotional state with a physical exertion to match the pain I felt inside. Rage ravaged across my brain and fire lapped across my very bones. With a tormented heart I took the first step towards the destination I had in mind when I had stepped out of my house.
I started walking towards the house of my sister and now turned best friend, Anamika.
“Is everything all right Mr. Malhotra?”
The voice of our teacher cut through and woke me up from my sonder. His voice was as sharp as ice. It was the perfect voice a teacher was meant to have. A voice, which could be soft and pleasing as a blooming flower and sharp and cold as a shard of ice.
Sighing, I glanced up warily at him and stood up, waiting for the judgment to arrive. It was the last day of our school and vacations were beginning from morrow. I hoped with all my heart that he would let me off easy and in that bleak chance of hope, I put on my most innocent face and looked at him adoringly.
That look surely didn’t melt him as his glare turned harsher and called out, “Stay after class. We need to talk.”
Fuck. This was it, something dreadful was arriving and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. Argh, why did this have to happen today?
With a heavy heart and dismal expression, I nodded my assent and sat down. CCF aka our teacher aka Candy Crush Fanatic, was a close friend of my father. Being from a middle class family background, I knew I was going to receive a lot of flak for this.
With a long internal moan, I tried to bring my mind on track with what CCF was teaching. Acting like a devout slave of his was one of the best ways to win his affection.
Why the hell was I daydreaming on the last day of our school? The thought rang out in my head. Alas, they said it true: “Wisdom always arrives when you start regretting your actions.”
I somehow managed to pay attention till the end of the lesson and ignored the sympathetic stares of my classmates while they all shouted around in joy, hugging each other, thumping backs and making promises to each other to stay in touch.
I glanced at them with gloom in my eyes, as I knew that I would be out there, chatting with them all and sharing happy memories, yet, here I sat despondent.
They all said their goodbyes and left, vowing to call me over when I was done with CCF.
I stared out of the window, waiting for him to arrive and getting lost in the vast depth of the majestic blue sky. Suddenly, I heard a clatter and he entered, waddling like a person with a heavy load on his shoulders.
He came and sat down on the seat beside me and spoke in his soft and caring voice, which rang like sweet music to my ears, “Arjun. Arjun. Arjun. My sweet lad, you know that we have been together for a long time as you are the son of my childhood friend. It startles me and stuns me to see the exact same image of your father in you. Yes, he has most of your mannerisms and it went against his rules if he listened to his mentor. He was usually lost in his vivid daydreams and never liked to be bound inside the classroom. Ah, he was a free bird- it sometimes saddens me to see how much he changed after his elder son ended his beautiful life.”
He picked up my hand and caressed against it. He lifted up my face with a slight pressure on my chin and looked into my eyes, “You have your mother’s eyes Arjun. Go, today you have to be a free bird. Next time pay attention in my class and come to visit me when free, all right?”
With a stunned silence, I got up, bowed and bid my goodbyes as I exited the classroom. CCF, no, Chandra Sir had said some things that I never knew about my father. I had no memories of him before his change.
With a inquisitive heart, I walked across the grounds of our school and exited via the main gate. I turned around and took one long look at the building that I wasn’t going to see for the next one month nor would ever vacations come back again in my life.
When I finished recollecting and reliving every fun and sad memory, I started backwards, keeping the building in my sight while my mind still wondered on the words Chandra Sir had said.
As soon as the school escaped my field of vision, I stepped onto the main road and started waiting for a city-bus to arrive as the school automobiles had already left the compound.
I stared up at the sky, while the words about my father kept ringing inside my head. I kept imagining how he would have been in his real life. I kept imagining him- without the burdens etched on his face. Him with cheerfulness in his eyes rather than the deep melancholy engraved which prevailed these days. Him with the prim and proper dress with a smile on his face. Him with my mother. She had left him and gone back to her parents when my brother had ended his life.
A sharp two short yet loud honks broke my chain of thoughts. The bus was here and the conductor was glaring me and mouthing some curse words beneath his breaths. Disregarding him, I climbed onto the bus and looked over for some seats.
Only three were empty, one beside an old man who had hairs sprouting from his ears. Other was beside a young lady in a striped top with some tear tracks etched beside her eyes and one beside a person who was carrying a big sack of something.
Like the obvious teen, I went towards the damsel in distress, hoping to be the knight in shining armor. A mummer’s dream, yet it always reminded me of the knights of old. She was sitting on the window seat so I plopped down on the other seat and stared at the seat in front of me while I could feel the eyes of the lady on me and her shuffling away from me.
Keeping the anticipation of striking up a good conversation out of my voice, I began, “Had a bad day?”
She looked up in surprise, expecting that I would leave her alone and with a look of wariness she replied, “Yeah, and that is none of your business.”
“Oh, I am sorry. I should have kept silent. I hope your day gets better though.”
She replied back in haste, “Gosh, Sorry. Someone just stepped on my nerves today and I am livid. I took some of it out on you. I just.. Argh, I wish I reached my destination soon.”
I understood how she felt, because a different yet similar kind of turmoil was going on inside me. I looked up and said, “Um, want me to lend an ear? I could listen to your problems and in turn I could share mine. I am told that sharing helps to calm the mind and ease of your troubles. I swear I ain’t no flirt and I swear upon the honor of being a student of Rockwell High’s senior that I will never cause you trouble.”
Without a bit of pause, she asked a question, “And do they ever keep their honor over that promise?”
Okay, she was a smart one and I noticed how she had unreacted to my earlier message, “You seem a student yourself, would you tarnish the reputation of your school if you are a part of the senior-most standard?”
I flashed her a smile that showed no guile at all and continued, “If that doesn’t satisfy you, I cross my heart and make a pinky swear. May god strike me down if I tell you lies.”
That made her smile and I could see how beautiful was in that one single moment, “Okay, Rockwell High lad, I also swear upon the honor of Lady Margaret High and as the senior of that school, I would love to share something with a stranger.”
I replied back sagely, “Strength and warmth does come from the strangest of all places, I believe that we would know each other well by the end?” I posed it as a question, waiting for her reply.
She replied back in the way I had, “Que Sera Sera.”
I gave her a questioning look and at the look of my befuddlement, she continued, “What will be, will be”
And when I heard that, I grinned, “And with a smart and witty lady I share this seat today, would she be so kind to share her name?”
With a timid smile and shyness in her eyes, “Kritika. Kritika Bansal.”
“That is one of the most beautiful names I have come across, Kritika. I am Arjun. Arjun Malhotra- they guy who won’t spill secrets. So, as a polite stranger, let us begin? I shall go first or you?”
She blushed and then straightened her posture and replied, “Me. Better to get this load away. I might curse myself for this silliness later and would hate myself. So, I begin.”
With a huge breath, she began speaking in her deep melodious voice, “Okay, so…”
And that was when I knew, I was taken.”
-End of part one of Citylights. Stay tuned for more. 🙂
Update: The part two- Continue reading →