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A faint sound outside her room felt like a cacophony to her ears. An ear-splitting headache had gripped Tara. She tried lifting her head but felt too weak to do so… She looked around. It was a dilapidated room, with just a bed, an almirah and ramshackle walls!
Tara tried to focus her thoughts. The flight through the nooks of her brain was tiring. At random corner of her memory she chanced upon a faint memory.
Jennifer stood outside Costa Coffee in Lokhandwala waiting for Tara. She looked around and couldn’t help wondering how come all good looking people live in Mumbai? Kochi was a very dull place for a single girl. And as she continued to wait, a man fidgeting with his laptop caught her attention- beautiful hands, beautiful face, crisp white shirt; he looked at her and they exchanged smiles. All of a sudden Jenny felt a tap on her shoulder.
Why did she meet Jenny that evening? Tara could not stress her brain any further. She reached out for the bottle of water lying on the floor beside the bed. Instead of drinking it, she splashed the water on her face. Her senses were back. Some what.
Tara escorted Jennifer to the patio where Shekhar and Mr Ahuja were having their drinks. Aryan Ahuja was everything Jennifer had wanted in a man – tall, chiselled features and gentlemanly qualities. Tara noticed Jennifer was nervous and that was so unlike her. Tara and Shekhar excused themselves on the pretext of attending to Roohi.
It all hit Tara now. She had fixed a date for Jennifer with her neighbour Aryan Ahuja. The more she tried thinking, the strained her nerves became. Finally she gave up and walked up to the door. She banged on it as hard she could. There was no reply. But the banging had a reciprocal effect on her. A faint hint of the lost memories dawned in front of her eyes.
* * *
Tara was unconscious for five days. The realisation hit her hard. She felt weak and panicked. She remembered now.
She was in a ferry and trying to escape. She could faintly remember why. Then she took an auto-rickshaw and was on her way to Borivali but was stuck in an eternal jam a few blocks away. And then suddenly the driver took a U-turn and kept riding. She crazily shouted at him. What the hell was going on?
Tara panicked. She had read in the papers how a teenage girl was defiled on a running bus in Delhi last December… She was screaming now. The driver kept riding until the car was near a deserted mill. She could see a few men coming towards the car. She was trapped.
Tara gathered all her courage and was ready to strike as soon as they try to grab her. But even before she realised it, the driver injected a liquid on her arm… The following moments passed by were a blur…
A chilly shiver ran down her spine; Tara now understood she was kidnapped. And she probably knew why. What she did not know was the way out from this maze…
* * *
Jennifer thought she heard a noise coming from Cyrus’s room. After Tara’s disappearance, she did not want to take any chances. She peeped in to check. No one was there. She heard his messenger app on the computer buzz. Curiosity may have killed the cat; Jennifer refused to be daunted by that. She proceeded to check.
All across the floor, books of law were strewn. She smiled. Cyrus was a maverick and she had a sense of pride about him. But something caught her eye. Most books she saw around centred around one topic. Jenny shuddered. It was not unnatural for a budding lawyer to research on different topics… But the message that popped out of the computer screen, and the page that was open on the screen, unnerved her. She sat down on the chair with a thud.
The page on the screen showed a page from Cyrus’s blog and it was about Aryan Ahuja. She could not believe what she read. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead as she rushed out of the room.
* * *
Once back in her room, Jennifer opened her cabinet and searched for an old file. It had not escaped her eyes that apart from the blog page, another folder prominently decorated the computer screen of Cyrus. A folder named Tara…
Jennifer found the documents she was searching for. It was a prescription for psychiatric counselling. Cyrus had obsessive compulsive disorders, symptoms of which surfaced in his puberty when he developed a crush on Tara…
Jennifer was worried. Cyrus was ‘cured’ of his disease now; that is what she thought. Did he come to Mumbai for Tara? Did he have a role in Tara’s disappearance? And Aryan… She was going crazy, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
As if out of habit, Jennifer pulled out her phone from her pocket and messaged Tara.
“Where are you L? We have a situation”
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Soul of a Star
Read the previous part of the story here.
Chapter 5 – Resonance
Was he dreaming or did Tara really confess her love for him? Shekhar woke up with a jolt. He was sweating profusely. Dragging himself to the washroom he sprinkled water on his face and slumped on the bean bag near his study-table. He rummaged through his diary, searching for the two lost pages.
He had reacted furiously when Tara knelt before him, in full public view, wanting to become his life partner. He was torn between his heart and his mind and finally the brain won! Dragged into the quicksand of the past, Shekhar misbehaved with Tara and left without even giving her a chance to explain.
Shekhar stared at the page from the diary that lay open in front of him:
Shards of glass
Broken pieces of mirror
A face stares back at me!
The water spilled over the glass
Our lips met
Consumed in the fire
All i was left with was
An eternal wait.
The sun shines bright
Your fragrance in my soul
Life was waiting to take off
Finally i am in air!
Life is a dream
The cycle of love is same
Your smile on my face
Makes me live again….
Tara will never know of his true feelings for her. He chose it that way. She reminded him of his mother and unhappy memories flooded his mind…
The mobile screen blinked. It was an SMS. From Tara.
“Please do not misunderstand me. I am sorry if I have hurt you in any way. Give me one chance to explain. Let’s meet at Costa Coffee again tomorrow… Please.”
Shekhar continued to stare at the mobile screen even as the skies cleared and birds started chirping.
And a new dawn greeted Mumbai.
“Do you love me?”
“I don’t know.”
“You are evading the question.”
“I have work pending at office. I must leave.”
“No, Shekhar… please wait…”
“Why are you avoiding me?”
“I am busy. Talk to you later.”
Tara pressed the bell again. No one answered. She pushed the door anxiously. Thankfully it was unlocked. She entered Shekhar’s house, albeit feeling a little unsure whether she should proceed. Tara was impressed by Shekhar’s art collection that adorned the walls – he was a true connoisseur.
As she entered his bedroom, she was taken aback after seeing her own portrait adorn his study table. The signature on the painting said Shekhar himself painted it. Tears welled up in her eyes as confusion reigned in her mind. Why did Shekhar evade her if he liked her? Then she saw it… his diary…
As she turned the pages, the floodgate of emotions was broken. Tears rolled down her cheek as she read about the love between a mother and her son. She was now a part of Shekhar’s past.
12 May, 1992
Ma and Baba had a fight again today. He cannot bear the fact that she earns more than him. Every time she has an important client meeting, Baba ridicules her. It does not help that Ma often comes home late….
17 August, 1992
I should not have come home early from cricket practice today. What I saw, will haunt me for the rest of my life… How can Baba do this? With his own Secretary? I have lost faith in relationships… trust is a utopian concept. Faith is non-existent…
21 December, 1992
Ma… do you really love me or was it all a show? Why did you leave me all alone in this world, just because Baba broke your trust? Ma…
Tara was inconsolable. She now understood Shekhar’s pain. She felt guilty, overweighed by the burden of truth that she held in her hands… Shekhar avoided her because he did not want a fragment of his past to catch up with him again. He did not want his worst nightmares to haunt him again. Shekhar was afraid of a commitment because his mother killed herself because of Baba…
As Tara wiped her tears, she felt a movement near her feet. Shekhar was kneeling beside the chair, weeping. Instinctively she hugged him. “Oh Shekhar, had I known… I will never let this happen again in your life… Let us move beyond the past and create our own future… Oh Shekhar, I love you…”
As if on cue, Shekhar planted a gentle kiss on her lips. Although she was taken aback, she reciprocated. The firewall of Shekhar’s system had been breached. Years of solitude had suppressed the lover inside him… his emotions needed expression.
Neither of them knoew how long they kissed or how they ended up on the bed… all they cared for was the company of each other…
As Tara picked up the newspaper from the doormat, she found an envelope lying next to it. As she scrambled with the envelope (making sure not to tear the note inside) a page from Shekhar’s diary emerged. It had the fragrance of Tory Burch Eau De Parfum, her favourite brand. Even as she read through the poem written on that page, she dialled Shekhar on the cordless…
A little bird chirruped
I thought it was you
The tides in the river roared
I looked at you
Clouds gathered over our heads
A drop fell on my hand
I looked at the sky
Words were flying around us
I could not catch
You stared at me
And I stared back
Silence stepped in
Conveyed the perfect words
And we just smiled!
Six months were past since their torrid love-making at Shekhar’s apartment. Not one day had gone by when they had not seen each other. The owner of Costa Coffee had by now resigned himself to the fact that Shekhar and Tara would sit on the corner table near the window, holding hands for hours and communicate with only their eyes.
And then something special happened. It was Tara’s 18th birthday. Shekhar invited Tara over to his place. Blindfolded, Tara walked into his candlelit home with the sound of soft jazz in the background. The joy in her face was palpable when she saw the arrangements Shekhar had made.
Slowly, she was ushered into the candlelit master bath. Shekhar gently undressed her and there were rose petals everywhere. As Tara soaked in a hot tub, sipping wine, Shekhar undressed himself. After the exhilarating shower, he wrapped Tara in a new silk robe and led her to a table set, specially placed in the bedroom for a meal of all Tara’s favourite foods.
The next morning, the happy couple left for a long drive through the Western Ghats. They walked hand in hand on the mountains as the setting sun bathed them in an ethereal glow…
That is when Shekhar knelt… Tara did not allow him a chance to speak… The scheme of events that were set into motion by her months ago met their logical end… She nodded as tears welled up in her eyes.
The sound of rain
The smell of the earth
The clouds playing the sky
Towards a new beginning
The door stands ajar
The sea beyond the threshold
I step into the water
And fly way
A second door
I look inside
And find love
And suddenly a storm brews
Lightning strikes the shade
I look around
I am all alone.
The road keeps moving
Ahead is my destiny
For love whispered in my ears
“You find salvation in me.”