(contd.) ‘Hey, Abhishek,’ Neha called out from behind his back, still sniffing into his handkerchief. ‘Listen‘. He turned back, and his heart warmed up. From behind the tears on Neha’s face, was emerging an appreciative and apologetic smile.
“I’m sorry Abhishek… I’m just, so, so sorry”, and Abhishek could see her eyes pleading him. “I didn’t mean to be rude, just that… I’m in a terrible mood and all…”
“It’s okay Neha,” and for him, it really was okay. “I understand you must be going through something really, really bad.” He was looking at her, and at this moment, she raised her eyes. “And hey, that’s what friends are for, aren’t they?”
Neha smiled warmly at this line. And her smile told Abhishek that it wasn’t taken as just another line. “So you alone at the moment, or are you with someone? And hey, what have you been up to all these years?”
Abhishek narrated his story in short, with all the objective details, how he’d been at IIIT, which was one of the premier institutes of the country, and how he’d landed up with this great job at one of the best companies in the world, and how that had made his family back home proud, and how that pride had kept on growing with every neighbor that dropped in every evening for a cup of chai on their lawn showering his parents with praises for their prodigious son. He’d purposefully kept aside any personal details for later. He’d sensed that later would be coming. At least that’s what he hoped for.
“…so that’s pretty much about me.” He concluded, as Neha finished the last bit of her chocolate ice cream. “Tell me ’bout yourself now, Neha”, and gesturing at her now empty bowl, “and what’s making you add on so much to that wonderful figure?”
Abhishek was a sweet, innocent guy, and when he said something, he meant it. He really wanted to compliment Neha on her figure at this point of time, as he’d had the pleasure of gazing at it from so close. But he was again horrified to see Neha’s eyes well up again at the inquiry. Neha looked at him with her large, red swollen eyes which had just begun to shimmer with fresh tears, and then she looked away. Abhishek had the sudden urge to panic, but he’d spent some time with her and knew what to do.
“Hey, Neha, I know. I understand,“ he took her hand in his, offering her his handkerchief for the second time, and this time with confidence. “I think you need a walk, some fresh air and a listening ear. Come let’s go check out the lights on Necklace Road”.
Getting down from the chair, he again took Neha’s hand, and she was willing to be led this time. Sniffing into the kerchief and dabbing her eyes, she walked beside him, past the curious eyes of the security guards at the metal detector and at the gate. Silently they walked, both feeling each others’ presence as they silently crossed the road and started walking among the trees which shadowed the walkway from the blinding lights off the streets. Finding a lonely bench, they sat down looking at the shimmering lights from the Necklace road on the opposite side of the lake, with the crash of an occasional wave against the embankment breaking the silence once in a while. Neha was still sobbing. When she became quiet, Abhishek started, “So, Neha, what’s bothering you so much? Just tell me, maybe I can help.”
Neha looked staight, past the lake, past the lights, past the star lit sky. “It’s Rajat, Abhishek. We’re, we’re…” her voice was getting fuller with every word, and this point she broke, before managing to spit out “through!”.
Neha was in hysterics now, and Abhishek put his arm around her, patting her shoulder. “Hey, okay, it’s okay. We won’t talk about it if you don’t want to.”
But the floodgates had opened for Neha. “Why, Abhishek, why can’t things work out the way they should? I know life isn’t perfect and all, but why did this happen to me? Six years, dammit! He’s the only guy I ever loved!”
And in between the sobs, the hysterics, the sniffings and the occasional look-aways, Neha filled him in on the details. She and Rajat had been courting each other since their Twelfth, and had sustained a long distance relationship through their college. After college, Rajat had become this really high flying jet-setter., and Neha had watched with pride, and been a part of every one of his achievements; or that’s what she thought. When the time came to give a name to their relationship, his parents flatly refused to even consider her as a prospective bride for him on account of her average looks, the average position of her family in society and the average dowry they could offer. And even Rajat had changed. He’d told her in so many words that he couldn’t go against his family and wished her good luck.
“You cannot understand, Abhishek,” She looked at him with empty eyes as he thought she’d neared the end of her story. “He used me. He wore me as a trophy on his arm when he wanted a showpiece, ravaged me as a whore when he needed his kicks. I feel, I feel so violated.”
Abhishek’s heart itself was in tatters. He thought he’d cry, too. Pressing her hand gently, he uttered softly. “I think I can understand how you must be feeling, Neha. I can understand.”
Neha jerked herself free from him, and stood up, facing him. The light from the street washed her and got reflected from her tears, and in the backdrop of the ink-black Hussain Sagar, she looked ignited. “What can you understand, huh, Abhishek? What can you understand?” She was shouting at the top her voice now. “Can you understand the feeling of being used for six years? No, you cannot! You’re not a girl. How can you understand this feeling, this feeling, of being raped?!!”
Neha burst into a fresh bout of tears, and started walking towards the edge of the sixteen feet high embankment. Abhishek sat on the bench, paralyzed. Neha’s last sentence was still hanging in the air around him, and he felt himself getting crushed under its weight.
PS: The third part will be the concluding one. And it’ll be out very, very soon. Honest.