Love makes life easier.
None of us is interested in going on a twelve-hour drive again. We’ve had enough of fighting with the gear box and the brakes of Naksh’s car. It doesn’t look like it can take any more.
We check on the Internet and the drive from Gandhinagar to Mumbai is not a pleasant one. So it’s finally time to dump the car — something that I have wanted to do ever since the trip began.
Naksh and I decide that we’ll leave the car in Gandhinagar and take the night train to Mumbai. It’s an overnight train so it will not be too uncomfortable either.
“Which is cheaper ?!!” Keerti asks while we discuss the pros and cons of the train over car.
“The car.” Naksh answers.
“So let’s take the car, no ?!!” Keerti says.
Keerti is slowly running out of money and the train tickets booked in Tatkal will be an even bigger expense for her. Renting that exotic bike in Haridwar seems to have cost them a lot. Meanwhile, I have hardly spent anything out of the ten thousand bucks I started with — just CNG, food at local dhabas and two-hundred-rupees-a-night hotels.
Moreover, our budget for the trip was a lot higher than hers. She is just a kid. And we had never planned to go as far as Mumbai. Anyway, Naksh handles her and tells her that eventually the whole deal with the train will be cheaper because we’ll end up taking more time to reach Mumbai if we take the car and might have to stay at a hotel midway.
It’s amazing how she doesn’t let Naksh pay for even the smallest of her expenses. We go out for an early dinner, overeat and come back to the hotel with fat, bursting tummies. There are still four hours to go for the train and everyone is tired and drowsy, except Keerti of course.
Naira promptly goes to bed and falls asleep. For some reason, I don’t feel that tired. I am blank. Too many things have been happening in the last few days. So for a few moments, my mind decides to shut out everything. I leave the room and walk the corridors of the hotel.
I stand at a window and stare outside. Suddenly, I hear footsteps coming towards me, and a familiar song. I turn around. It’s Keerti, in her trademark hot pants and loose T-shirt. It’s Naksh’s T-shirt.
“Not sleeping ?!!” she smiles and asks.
“Nope.” I say. She takes out the earphones from her ears and shuts the music down.
“Isn’t it bedtime for you ?!!” she mocks.
“If you are implying we’re very old, it’s not funny.” I say.
“Awww !! Don’t mind. I was just playing around. I really don’t get the grown-up stuff that you guys do.” She clarifies.
Suddenly, she is like a young kid caught in a boring web of old relatives in a family engagement function.
“You’re not supposed to, Keerti. We’ve had our stupid days too.” I say.
“Oh, please. Just because I don’t get what you do and why you do it doesn’t mean that I’m stupid.” she says with disdain.
“Well, whatever.” I say and we don’t exchange words for a while.
“Best of luck with this whole dead guy thing.” she says.
“I hope that some day I get why you’re doing this.” She smiles and I smile back.
I walk back to my room and close my eyes for a power nap.
The alarm rings a little later. We call a taxi and hope we reach the railway station in time to catch the Garib Rath, which runs from Delhi to Mumbai, Gandhinagar being an intermediate stop. We huddle inside the taxi and start discussing the diary again, much to the irritation of Keerti.
“I don’t know what the big deal is.” Keerti says.
“What ?!!” we echo.
“What will happen even if she comes to know that the diary guy was a stalker and loved her. It’s bullshit.” she says and goes back to filing her nails.
All three of us look at her with a what-the-f**k expression on our faces and she responds with a f**k-you expression. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to her, but it does to us.
Naksh takes the diary out and starts reading a note to make her understand. It’s amazing how Keerti is not moved by anything around her. While Naira and I listen to him with abnormally high concentration, Keerti puts her shades on (even when it’s dark), plugs in her iPod and leans back into her seat. Her apathy towards the whole situation is astonishing.
“Do you guys even know whom to meet in Mumbai ?!! It’s not a small village, you know.” says Keerti.
We look at each other, a little embarrassed. We know it’s a long shot, but we still have to go to Mumbai.
“We do.” Naksh says and smirks.
“We do ?!!” Naira and I look at him, surprised.
“Ah. You guys didn’t notice it, did you ?!! Well, I did.” he says with a very condescending expression on his face. I just knew he was hiding something.
“Tell us, please ?!!” Naira begs.
He laughs wickedly and says, “Didn’t you check the contact person sheet back at the asylum ?!”
“What contact person sheet ?!!” I ask.
“The one with the details about the person concerned. It had the details of Virat — his phone number, his parent’s address and the emergency contact number.” Naksh says.
“Emergency contact number ?!!” says Naira. I kick myself for not noticing it.
“He had listed the emergency contact person as Sakshi. I didn’t know who she was, but now I do.” He says and waves the diary at us.
“You noted the number down ?!!” I ask, sweating in anticipation.
“Yes, Keerti did.” He answers.
Keerti looks at him and takes out her cell phone. As Naira, Naksh and I get into a discussion about who will call Sakshi, Keerti dials the number.
“Hey !!” she says.
“Is that Sakshi ?!! Hi, I’m Keerti.” She further asks.
We look at Keerti in horror. How can she call her ?!! Just like that ?!!
“Yeah, we got your number from where your friend’s sister, Alia, lives. Umm, yes, yes, Virat, right. So we wanted to talk to you about Virat. We are coming to Mumbai in a day or so, and wondering if we could meet. We have something that he might have wanted to give you. Yeah, yeah. We will tell you when we meet. Right. Bye. Will call you. Thank you so much.” she disconnects the call and looks at us.
“See !! So easy !!” Keerti says.
She plugs the earphones of her iPod back into her ears, leans back and starts to hum the lyrics of the song playing. We are stunned. Naksh smiles at us and we smile back. This girl is shockingly crazy.
Soon, the taxi drives into the parking lot of the railway station. We are just in time.
“Forty-one, forty-two, forty-three, forty-four.” Naira reads out from the railway ticket once we get into our coach.
Luckily, we got all four seats in a single compartment. The remaining two are unoccupied. It means no creepy men, crying babies or loud aunties around us. It’s already late and we are sleepy.
Naira and I bump into each other quite a few times while unfolding the white bed sheets and the blankets provided. There is something incredibly romantic about train journeys, especially the nights. Soon, the lights of the compartment are put out.
Naira and I have chosen the lower-berth seats and we look at each other. Suddenly, I am not sleepy. She stretches her hand and meets mine midway. Even though the train wheels make an overwhelming clanging sound, I can still hear my heart beat louder than that.
“I love you.” she whispers.
“Come here.” I say.
Minutes later, she is on my berth, lying right next to me, sharing my blanket. The railway seats are really not that wide, so we cling to each other to accommodate ourselves. Not that we wouldn’t have done it anyway.
We start to say every sweet thing we have said to each other over the last so many years, all over again. We stay up a while longer, just talking to each other, listening to our favourite songs on our iPods and looking deep into each other’s eyes.
I don’t know when I fell asleep, but when I wake up early morning, I find Naira still safely tucked in my embrace. I hug her a little tighter and look at the watch. It’s just five. There are still a couple of hours I can spend hugging her.
I kiss her on her neck and close my eyes. Life’s good.
Precap : Virat’s address. Sakshi !!
Yupiee, its Friday. Finally the weekend is here. I had been waiting for it since Monday. Well since I don’t have any Karthik in my life, who loves me so when I get holidays on Saturday and Sunday consecutively, that’s when life’s good for me.
Will surely try to post many more updates in the next two days. But, only if you peeps comment.
Do comment. Keep smiling. Keep watching Yrkkh !!