Spark & Spice: Chapter 17: Nothing Called Love

The moment Nandini stepped out of the party hall, she realized that she was at a wrong place, at the wrong timing…

She was in Paris!! It was Valentine’s day! And love was in the air…all over!!!

The ambience, the weather, the surroundings made her feel odd… totally out of place… more depressed… more awful!

February was freezing cold in Paris. She called the driver, pulled out her long jacket fit to fight the cold, wore it over her outfit and ran away!! She had no idea where she was headed to… She had no clue what she was going to do… Only one thing was on her mind – To go away from this fake world of lies and hypocrisy!

The party hall was at Avenue Franco-Russe, a few lanes away from the Eiffel Tower. Taking the tall structure as a reference point, so that she could maintain safety still remaining obscure, she squeezed her arms to hug herself and walked in the direction of Eiffel Tower.

She was cold, she was low, she was crying!!  She tried hard not to let her tears fall. But she had been holding since long. She had been keeping patience since eternity and now her eyes refused to obey her. They gave way to a stream of saline down her soft cheeks as she walked ahead, determined to fight her emotions, her lowdowns, her fate…

Few lanes crossed and there she was… In front of the gigantic, magnificent human creation, glittering in it’s full glory challenging the night sky. The color that it adorned today was Red! Colour of Love!!

What an irony!!!

Nandini sat down at one of the benches in the expansive garden in front of the huge metal structure and cried her heart out. What was she even thinking? She had a vague idea about how Harshad had been neglecting her and not giving her any due importance as was given by boyfriends and fiances of her friends in college. She had heard from other girls how well they were treated. She and Harshad rarely talked. But being a lonely, adopted kid with no family of her own, she had seen and lived with indifference and neglect all her life, so much so, that it had stopped affecting her. It had almost felt like ‘normal’ to her!

Quite foolishly, she had chosen to trust Harshad, whatever he said and the reasons he gave for talking less. She had chosen to believe dadi and Maya aunty who said that Harshad was usually busy. She had chosen to believe her Meera mom that everything will eventually get better. It does get better after marriage… she was told. That she will find love in her arranged marriage and that she should learn to trust! She had done that!! She had chosen to trust Harshad’s lies and excuses over her own instincts. She had no choice, though…

And when she came to Paris, dreaming of a beautiful life and rosy experiences, she was met with a harsh reality of his absence. It had started bothering her! She began having doubts!

And when she shared her doubts with Manik, someone she had liked immensely, to the point that she even believed, that she was attracted to him… he mercilessly broke her trust!! Once again she had done the mistake of trusting the wrong person.

She cried inconsolably for some time burying her face in her palms, resting the folded elbows on her knees. She had been a lonely and abandoned kid since childhood. But she had learnt to accept it and live with it. Today, suddenly she had started feeling lonely, all over again.

She had no one in this entire world who was bothered about her tears or her smiles!!

Just then, a small sound made by clearing of throat startled her. She knew no one in Paris. Why was someone trying to talk to her??

She raised her face from her palms and looked at him. Her face was wet and red due to crying, eyes were swollen and nose reddened due to cold…in worst of her looks, she appeared pretty and vulnerable! His heart tore at that.

“You??!!” She straightened her posture and didn’t accept the kerchief he had offered her. Instead, she wiped her tears with her hands and turned to look away.

“Yeah…it’s me!!” Manik sat down beside her on the cold bench.

“How did you find me?”

He took out his iphone and showed it to her, pointing towards her iphone, “All apple products a person owns can be synced together and connected through GPS. It also has an app called ‘Find my iphone’… this app gives exact location of all the phones, tablets that I have!”

She frowned, “I did a big mistake. I should have left the phone in the car when I picked up the jacket!!”

“Hmm! So, next time, I’ll have to fit a GPS device in your jacket!”

“You are so not funny, Manik Malhotra!!” She was angry. “Go away!!”

“Not without you! I’ve come to take you back!”

“I’m not going anywhere with you!”

“See… I know you are angry but…”

She stood up with a jerk and started walking away, not before saying, “I’m not talking to you!”

He followed her and didn’t have to take too many steps to reach her. “Listen Nandini… we can sit and talk … like two educated, mature people??… or maybe, we can create a scene here… you take a call!”

“None of them!!” She lifted her chin and challenged him, looking right into his eyes, “Nandini Murthy has done enough talking to strangers!!”

He sighed!! Quite evidently! She was beautiful… and she was so cute… Even her anger and her vulnerability was attractive…How he wanted to hold her in his arms and hide from the world…

 Looking right in her eyes, he spoke in a sincere voice, “I’m sorry!! I didn’t mean to hurt you!”

“But you did! Now what ??”

He was taken aback at that. Normally, he didn’t apologise that easily to people. He didn’t need to…most of the times. And when he did, he was easily excused. Now, this was the first time that he had apologised to someone and assumed that it would be enough! But voila!! His apology was not accepted!!

Dang!! And she was walking away…

She made a beeline along the length of the long garden spread in front of the Eiffel Tower. He was once again following her!

“I apologised to you…”

“So??”

“So?? So, means what??”

“So what do you want from me?? Tell me!! Order me to follow your command, Mr. Mighty Malhotra.”

“Accept my apology!”

“Apology. Not. Accepted!!” She was serious and she was massively miffed that he was following her. She turned around and was embarrassed to see lovers all around them. It was almost midnight and people were gathering to spend their time with their loved ones!!

She took fast steps to leave the place…

“Can’t you stop at one place and talk? This is so embarrassing… You are walking away and I am following you!”

“I can’t stop… I want to leave this place… asap…”

“What?? Why??”

“Can’t you see ??” She huffed, shrugged, spread her hands in air and nodded in disgust… He looked around to notice for the first time that the entire garden area was beaming with a warm radiance called LOVE !!

There was everything – Red colour heart shaped balloons, few flying high up in sky due to the gas in them… Red roses, lots of bouquets of long stemmed roses, in varying sizes… Heart shaped frames hanging from trees for couples to click themselves against the backdrop of Eiffel Tower glowing in red light… A live band was performing a beautiful symphony at one end … and an artist on violin was playing a soulful, heart-rendering song at another distance…

 On top of everything, there were several couples, taking a romantic walk, hand in hand, hugging and even kissing each other…

He shrugged, casually, as if it was nothing awkward about it.

“It’s weird…”

“Come on, Nandini… You are in Paris. You will normally find people displaying affection in public, kissing at cafes and pubs and even roads is considered normal… so it’s totally acceptable ‘here’…”

She was irked, “What’s so special about ‘here’…?”

He raised his hand to point out towards the Eiffel tower and said, “This!! And the fact, that Paris is the city of love. Lots of tourists come here to celebrate Valentine’s Day every year. They even have designated and decorated ‘kissing spots’ if someone wants to get clicked…”

“Goddd!!! It’s sickening…” She threw her hands in air and declared, totally in disgust, “I hate this day! I hate Valentine’s day… I hate ‘love’…”

“I never believed in love…”

She looked at him as if he was speaking Greek. “Excuse me!! Who asked you what you believe in ?? Get lost, right away… and don’t you dare talk to me…”

She tried to walk away but this time he had had enough. “Wait a minute!!” He stretched his hand and held her elbow to jerk her back, towards him. She crashed into him in the process.

“Manik Malhotra!!” She glared into his face, pushing him away and hissed each word angrily, “Behave yourself!!”

“I didn’t mean to pull you. But I had to… similarly, I didn’t mean to hurt you… I just happened to do it and I apologised already… so many times!! Now, if you can just sit and talk… I can explain…”

Just then an old photographer came towards them and asked them, in broken Anglicized French, if they wanted to get a romantic picture clicked there!

Nandini was extremely angry, “Please leave! Do we look like a couple to you??”

The elderly French photographer smiled and nodded, “You do!!”

“My holiness…save me!!” Nandini was super flustered and she turned her back to him.

“Don’t be angry my child, ” He said, “If you had a fight, it doesn’t mean that feelings end there… You both are looking so good, in best of your attires, you are visiting this place… now forget the differences and mend the broken hearts, to be together, forever!!”

“Ask him, if he’s done!” Impatient Nandini placed her hands on her hips and glared at Manik angrily. Manik was embarrassed too, by now…

He turned to the man and took him aside, gave him some money and sent him away! She started walking again and he followed to be beside her, “Where are you going, by the way??”

She stopped and sighed in a helpless tone. Her anger was now turning to frustration and sadness. In a low voice she said, “I don’t know!!”

He stood facing her, “Listen, let’s go back. Dadu and dadi were worried for you. We can sit and talk…”

“There is nothing to talk, Manik!” Her face was so distraught that he was afraid that she would cry any moment. But she didn’t!!

“You won’t speak? Why?? Yell at me… Shout your heart out at what I did to you…complain…be angry… say something…”

With tears in her eyes and a disappointed look she said, “No, Manik! I won’t do anything like that. It wasn’t your fault. You were supporting your family’s decision of choosing me as Harshad’s bride and you were protecting your brother, despite knowing his truth, you were also protecting the event that was so major for your Group of Industries…  So you were not at fault… You were a perfect son, a perfect brother, perfect CEO of the company… It was MY fault!! I was the one who trusted you!! You didn’t ask me to do it!! I was the one who shared my fears with you, hoping and expecting that you would care… I should be the one who needs to apologise! So… Here I go… I’m sorry, Mr. Malhotra… for wasting your precious time… for unnecessarily bothering you with my expectations, hopes, trust and all the nonsensical talks!! I had no right to do so!!!!”

Her tears stayed in her eyes when she said that, making them shine against the light from the Neon lamp nearby. Her throat choked and his heart lurched at that. How he wished to tell her that she was the only person in the entire world who had reserved the sole right to do so!!! But he couldn’t!! She will never believe it… she won’t even listen to him…

 “Now, please… if you’d excuse me… I would like to be alone…”

“In the middle of the night, I’m not leaving you alone!”

“Manik… please…”

“You’ve spoken enough. Now, I get my turn to explain..”

Having no choice, she raised her hand to give him a go-ahead.

He cleared his throat, “Nandini, I didn’t know you when I came to receive you at the airport. Initially I thought that you and Harshad were close to each other and were on regular touch. But when I realised that he has been fooling you, I tried to tell you about him… twice! But everytime, someone interrupted and then the topic was dissolved! I had promised Maya chachi and dadi that nothing will go wrong and I had promised the same to you…I was hoping for Harshad to have a change of heart after he met you… you are so sweet and innocent… I hoped that he would want to spend his life with you and maybe he would change for good! I told you to meet him and take a decision… It would have been fair to both of you, if at all, he had cared to come for you…  If you hadn’t liked him, I’d have supported you!”

She listened to him patiently and asked, “Did you really hope Harshad will change his attitude after meeting me??”

“Yes!!” He knew that it was the truth… the way he had made some changes in his life, within a day of meeting her!!

“That doesn’t change the fact that you knew that he was not a good person for me!!”

“How does it matter? Whether I knew or not… Whether I told you or not… You were going to meet him, anyway!!! This is what arranged marriage is!! A blind game!! You don’t know much about a person and you are simply hoping for him to be a good person. He may or may not turn out to be a good man. You knew that. You took the risk and came here!! I took the risk and called Harshad to the party…I didn’t want dadi or chachi to be let down… I didn’t want ‘you’ to be let down… better to meet him and reject him after knowing him… than to get rejected by him, even before you met!!”

“Manik… I hope I could understand your theory… You lied to me ! That is the truth!!”

“I didn’t tell you the truth… but I never lied to you! You Hoped!! I just let them be …. I didn’t quash those hopes… I was waiting for this party to get over…Harshad to come and meet you…”

Party reminded her of his engagement. “By the way, what are you doing here? It was your engagement too, right?”

He swayed his jaw, “Yeah, everything got canceled… Dadu was really upset and we postponed the engagement ceremony!”

“Oh! I’m so sorry!!” She was genuinely sorry for him.

“For now, stop being sorry for me! Focus on your life!”

“Let me do that, then! I’ve been offered hostel with the training that I join tomorrow!! I talked to them before I left Delhi. They will accomodate me somewhere…”

“You won’t come home with me??”

“That’s not my home, Manik!! And if you want to do something for me… like really want to do something… please drop me at that address!!”

“Nandini, I’ve promised dadi that I’ll bring you with me!”

“You and your promises!!” She turned away, folding her hands across her chest.

Another vendor came to ask them for flowers, “Red roses for you?? Sire, Madaame…??”

Nandini tapped her feet impatiently and glared at Manik.

“Why are you looking at me like that? I didn’t call him…”

“Is everyone mad in your city??…What is the whole noise about…”

“It’s about Love, Ma’m?” The boy said.

“There is nothing called love!”

“I agree with her…”

…………………………..

{ The response to Spark & Spice is overwhelming! It has alawys been this loved and revered and I feel luck about it. Thanks to all of you, for reading, loving it, recommending it to people and making it popular!

Though I always say that comments are not important and it is because I understand that you all are busy and hardly get time to read and forget your hectic routine… Having said that… in case you do comment, you must know that each and every comment on any post of mine… whether it is one of the stories or  a personal post on ‘my corner’… they are all special to me and close to my heart. So I try to reply to everyone.

Thanks and lots of love to all of you!!

Take care }

………………..

One Comment Add yours

  1. maniknandini1 says:

    Such a cute little angry girl Nandu is..❤ 😆 thank got she didn’t kill anyone their.. 😜
    The way you described about all the beauty of Eiffel Tower I just loved it. 🥰

Comment:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.