Gyanendra Singh was pacing up and down in the one room studio apartment. A couple of apartments away he could hear a girl practising bhajans. She did have a good voice, but Gyan was not interested. Everything was going wrong. The man said he would come but he did not. Plus he was afraid that he would be recognised. Plus that girl was truly annoying. What if she'd found out? A fake name like Vijay Singh doesn't go very far. Well it's a good thing that she isn't from some royal family, or else she would have surely suspected him, he said to himself.
I wonder if mother suspects. I don't really care, said Gyan. What really annoys me is the way they're keeping us apart. I can't really tell them that this is not what I want. If only Aditya wanted to take all this up. I would willingly give all my undeserving laurels up.
The sun had risen as far as it could but there was no sign of the agent. His phone rang.
Hi. I am Asavari.
Oh no! It's her! She knows I am staying at a guest house. I have to check out.
Can you call me back in an hour? I am expecting a very important call and don't want to keep the line busy.
Oh okay. Don't worry. I am waiting downstairs. I thought we could catch up for coffee.
Downstairs! Okay, that was too quick.
I will be down in a bit.
Truth be told, Asavari had fallen quite in love with this strange looking man she'd met in the bus more than two weeks ago. But she had no idea who he was and had to find out before matters became worse. So she'd followed him to his motel, found out that he'd booked a car for the festival and which room he lived in. She had to know if he was an honest man. And then, she could perhaps make friends.
Hi. You look really tired. Haven't you slept much? she asked as soon as she saw him. Hanging loose from his gawky shoulders was a deep red kurta. He looked very handsome in it. But in a unkempt way. She wanted to reach out and push a slight lock off his forehead but resisted her temptations.
Why are you here? he asked.
I thought we could go get some coffee? pat came the reply.
I can't go anywhere now. I am expecting a call. I thought I already told you that.
Fine. I'll wait.
Gyan turned around and went back to his room. That stupid girl would be the death of me, he thought. Little did he know that a few weeks later, his foresight would stand by him.
The phone didn't ring for two hours. He was beginning to get hungry. As he walked down to the lobby to go to the restaurant, he saw Asavari waiting patiently on a sofa.
All right, come along, he beckoned her.
She sprung up and followed him. Today, I will make him talk.
What's your name? came the first question.
Vijay Singh, said Gyan. I am 32 years old. Unmarried. I live in Pune. Am here to meet someone for work. That guy never turned up or called back and right now I am so angry that I could kill someone. Will that be enough?
Good lord! You're on a roll, said Asavari and burst out into a laugh.
And in that terse moment, everything changed. Gyan actually looked up at her. She was beautiful. In a very non-conformist way. Her dark eyes would flash occasionally and her mouth had a perpetual upturn that he liked instantly. Her laugh was like the slow tinkling of a thousand bells. And her unruly hair fell on her shoulders without care.
He liked her. Instantly.
My aunt lives in Pune. I often go see her, she said, breaking his reverie. Maybe when I go next I will come and meet you. Would you write your address down for me please?
Not in a million years had Gyan thought that a fake address (belonging to an old school friend) would set off a chain of events that even he and at least 10 others would not be able to control or repair. Nor had he imagined that as he wrote down the address on a piece of tissue paper from the restaurant that someone would be watching them closely from a distance and that Asavari, a girl with the laughter of bells, would actually come looking for him.
For the next few hours, Gyan wove a tale that was nothing short of ordinary. A tale that Asavari was quite content with. He was a small time businessman who was looking to open a shop in Jaipur and the man who promised to show him some properties never turned up. She liked the middle-class Vijay Singh with three sisters who were yet to be married, an ailing father and a dead mother and that he had to be financially stable for the sake of the family. She admired the 32-year old thin, handsome fellow who was willing to put the happiness of others before his own. After all, isn't this what real life was all about?
Yes, this could work.