Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Walk at Park Street

It was a saturday afternoon when Ashish was just about to leave office taking a half day leave. Ashish worked in a financial advisory service firm and was posted as an analyst after his MBA.
Today he was to meet an old friend from his college days who was posted with some FMCG giant selling personal care products.

Life after engineering changed as everyone moved out into big cities for jobs. Ashish moved to Delhi for a job in an IT company. He lived in a flat with his friends from office in NOIDA. Life was a different ball game during the job, unlike life in college where fun was a major part of hostel life. Now it was all work and no fun, a 10 hour shift then chores at the flat. Somehow he managed a year at the job as he decided that he would do an MBA and look for a change in career path. He managed a decent busness school despite his gruelling job and went for an MBA.

Meanwhile others carried on with jobs, some went for higher studies abroad and some went for their own ventures. It had been 4 years now since the day of convocation when Ashish saw anyone from college. Four years since he saw Aakriti, the love of his life who was nevertold about his love. She went for her job in Bangalore and got engaged with some NRI after two years of college. So it was the end of an incomplete love story for Ashish. Since then he kept himself off from love and women concentrating on his job and studies. Now his parents were forcing him to marry soon as his father was about to retire. He didnt want an arrange marriage but was neither able to fall in love with anyone.

His old classmate Sid whom he was supposed to meet at a pub on park street gave him a call as he was about to step in. He asked him to wait at the ATM which was close to Sid's office and told him that he will meet him there. So Ashish walked back past the glossy showrooms of Park Street full of people on a Saturday late afternoon eating, chatting and shopping. He reached the edge of the corner where the ATM was located. As he took a turn, he barged into a woman. Her purse and a copy of a local newspaper fell down. He hurriedly picked up the newspaper but as he turned to the woman, he realized that it was none other than Aakriti herself, clad in a saree picking up her purse.

"I am sorry mam, but did I beleive we know each other", said Ashish. The woman also suddenly realized that it was her long forgotten classmate from engineering. "Oh Ashish, is it you, how are you? How long has it been since we last met?", she bombarded questions as she smiled. "Four years or a little more", Ashish replied as he smiled back. "What are you doing in Calcutta, I mean do you work here?", she asked. "Yes I work at witner partners at esplanade, what are you doing now?", Ashish asked her. "Oh, I live in Calcutta now, Salt lake, work at a startup here.", She said.

"Hey, you know Sid from our batch is also coming to meet me in a while, why dont we all sit down and relish the college days, just like old times?", Ashish asked her. "I am sorry Ashish, but my son must be waiting for me at his creche and I feel that I am already late. I would love to catchup with you sometime, but not today. Give me a call sometime when you are free and we will plan it out.",she said and gave me a card hurriedly as she took leave.

She was now a project manager at some new firm and she had a son. "Looks like she was all settled", Ashish thought as he moved towards the ATM. Sid met him at the ATM some 15 minutes later and they moved towards the pub to catch up on some memories and get some beer. "You know what, I met Aakriti just before you came at the ATM.", Ashish told Sid. "You mean Aakriti Sinha, miss all smiles", he said, "No, Aakriti Banerjee, she is married now." Ashish said as he placed the business card on the coster. "She lives in Salt Lake and asked me to catch up some time, by the way she has a son now too." Ashish said as he gulped down some beer.

"So, you planing to meet Mrs. and Mr. Banerjee sometime", Sid asked sarcastically. "You know these Bengalis are pretty posseive about their women, so be careful, dont showcase yourself as an admirer of someone else's wife.", he added. "Ya, I know. By the way you know that Amrit is getting married this January?", Ashish asked. "hmm, his invitation has given my mom another chance for justifying her search for a Punjabi match for me", Sid said. "So when do you plan to tie a knot?", he raised an eyebrow. "I seriously havent given this matter any thought but mummy is after me. She blackmails me often saying that I am debarring her from the pleasure of being a grandparent.", laughs out Ashish.

After some more catching up with Sid, Ashish took his leave and came outside the pub. It was 9 PM and he had one too many beers to first take the metro to Bhawanipore. He called a taxi as he stood by the Panwallah for a light. As he sat down in the taxi, he felt strange, "Can a person whom you loved at some point of time, rikindle the flame when she comes in front of you after so many years", Ashish thought. "But I should better keep away as she is married now", he emphasized to himself.

Next day started up late like any usual Sunday and by the time Ashish was out of the bed and started cooking himself breakfast it was already 11. As he chomped down his omlette he thought "why not give Aakriti a call?". SO he took out her card from his wallet and began dialling the number but then suddenly he changed his mind and disconnected. He was in a dilemma that he wasnt able to resolve so he kept the card in his drawers and moved to the other room to catch up with some weekend TV. The Sunday passed by and so did the next two weeks. It was a Friday and due to some strike in the city Saturday was an off for Ashish. "I thank the politicians for these strikes, what a welcome relief from a tiring week, six days a week has started to take a toll on my life.", he thought.

So he thought why not go to Deegha beach with a few of his office friends. He made some calls and planned out a trip with his friends. He remembered that he had a decent travel agaent's number with him somewhere and started to look around. As he searched, he came accross another familiar card, it was Aakriti's card that she gave it to him a few weeks ago. This time his hands were not stopped by him and by the time he realized what he was doing, he heard a mellow voice from the other side. "Hello, who is this?", said the person. "Hello Aakriti, Ashish this side, remember we met the other day.", Ashish blurted out."Hi Ashish, how are you, I am so sorry that we werent abke to talk that day but you know being a mother is so demanding", she giggled. "You still havent changed much from college.", Ashish told Aakriti as she poured some tea for him the next Sunday. "So how come you came here, I never thought I would you see you again, that too in Calcutta.", said Aakriti. "You wished!", Ashish replied. "But you know after my marriage, my husband was offered a post here so he went ahead to live in his own home here.", she said.

"So where is Mr. Banerjee?", Ashish asked. All of a sudden the smiling Aakriti became sad and a tear was visible from her eye. "He is no more, he had a car crash last summer just after Mohit was born.", she said. Ashish was shocked, as he couldnt even think that such a thing would happen. As they moved for lunch at Aakriti's place their talk became more serious."So, how are you managing then, being a single mother is quite tough.", Ashish asked. "Yes, I know. I have been somehow managing but with each passing day it is becoming more difficult for me. My parents are asking me to come back to Delhi and live with them. They have even asked me to marry again. I understand their feelings but I am not ready yet and dont know if the person I marry will be able to accept my child. Life is becoming tougher day by day.", she said quitely.
"You cook really well, I hadnt had such good food in a while now", Ashish said to cheer Aakriti up. "Thank you" she said with a faint smile. Suddenly there was a small cry from the room inside. "Mohit is awake, wait let me attend to him.", she said. A little while later she came out with a small baby in her arms who was looking at the things around him with curious eyes.

"Beautiful child, but you know a creche is not the most suitable place to keep such a small baby.", Ashish said."I know, but I have no other option, otherwise I need to shift back to Delhi and leave my job here." she replied. Meanwhile they chatted about her job and how difficult managing a baby was. "I was wrong."Ashish said. "You have changed so much Aakriti, you have become so mature and yet I feel there is the same old Aakriti hidden inside of you, all chirpy and bubbly.", Ashish Added. She smiled back. Ashish wondered how brave she was, managing her life alone despite so many difficulties and yet smiling away her sorrows.

Ashish took her leave at 5, catching a bus to his place. The next week passed by with workloads and deadlines to meet. The next saturday he called up Aakriti and asked her if they could have meet again. "You know, your food has made me ask you for more."Ashish smiled as he he talked. Aakriti smiled back and said "you are welcome." That night Ashish as he thought as he laid down on his bed, "are my feelings for Aakriti resurfacing? But will she even consider it with her life already in a soup?" He tossed in his bed all night with such questions moving in his mind. Meanwhile time flew and it was already three months since he first went to Aakriti's place for lunch and subsequent lunches. Somehow Aakriti also liked his presence, perhaps she was too lonely in a big city away from everyone. She was smiling now more often.

"Come to Puja at my place, there is a big puja pandal being installed here and hey bring Mohit along.", Ashish told Aakriti over phone. "Okay, we will come on Saturday evening.", she replied
Ashish bought a new car during the Puja and was pretty excited about the holiday season.
After the Puja pandal trip they moved around the city just to enjoy the night lights in the festive season. Ashish turned over on Park Street and said "care for a walk madam?". Aakriti smiled and came out with Mohit in her arms. As they turned towards a sidewalk Ashish got some icecream and said "Strwaberry, I hope you havent changed your flavor by now". She smiled.

"I must confess something today"she said. "I had a crush on you in college but was never able to tell you."she said as she smiled. Ashish was a little shocked but she carried on. "And when initially you met me I was a bit apprehensive about talking to you due to my situations but today I am happy that we met again. Atleast now I dont feel the same lonliness that I felt earlier". As they carried on talking that night eating icecream and cherishing the old days at college Ashish suddenly stopped and said, "I must tell you something". "What?", she asked.
" college do you remember that how wheneever you came to the library you used to find me there?" Ashish said. "Ya, I thought you were a book worm", she repleied. "No, it was beacause Amita told me whenever you were about to come there", he replied. "No why did you do that?", she was curious. "Because ......errr ....someone had fallen for you too", Ashish confessed.

She smiled as she looked at him and they walked ahead on the Park Street sidewalk in the glittering lights of Durga Puja celebrations that fall.


Quark said...

just went through the story..its really sweet!! keep it up dude!!

Ethan said...

thx a lot debasis.... iw ill surely do ....

Mohit said...

nice one bakshi...!

Swati said...

Good one.. :)

Ethan said...

@semu & swats: thx a lot ...lot more to come...

Sudesh Mam said...

Well done Abhishek !!
it was touching ..
I am proud of you & glad to see my abhishek as a writer .
All the best .

Ethan said...

Thx you mam, trying to improve with each passing story.

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The posts are chaotic in nature and reflect the moods of the author who is an eccentric person.