When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.
- Ernest Hemingway
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She sat in the cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. No one was aware that inside her handbag was a blood stained knife, covered with her pink silk scarf. Yes this was her beloved scarf, her “highly prized possession”, which was gifted to her by Viraj, her first and last love. She was waiting for him and with sips of coffee she went down in the memory lane when she met him.
How can she forget her first meeting with him? Looks like it was just yesterday when she first met her life, in the same place where she was sitting right now- the Starbucks cafe. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee was all over in the ambience which she likes very much. That day also, after spending a very frantic day in college while she was crossing the road she found this place welcoming her like a mother’s lap to get rid of her all worries. After entering in the cafe the first thing she noticed was a good-looking boy who was sitting alone with cappuccino in his hand and doodling on the tissue paper. She also ordered the same coffee and sat in a corner table observing people silently. It was her relaxation therapy to sip her favorite cappuccino and watch people of diverse kinds.
A boy with her girlfriend on first date in next table, a group of youngsters celebrating 18th birthday of their buddy and a mother helping her kid to finish him chocolate muffin. She was just looking at the eyes of people that were full of love. Love between couples, mother and son and above all, bonding of friendship. She was unfortunate to come across such feelings. Life was pretty hard for an orphan girl………Arundhati.
She remembered her troubled childhood when she was molested, physically and mentally by the caretaker of the orphanage. She used to cry and complain the almighty for leaving her alone in this harsh world. Once she was daddy’s princess. In the school she was among top students. She was amongst the few who are blessed to be complemented as ‘beauty with brain’. Her complexion was unblemished and bright enough to make jealous to the other girls of her age. Her lean perfect body, pretty dark deep eyes, flawlessly shaped lips and sweet voice complimented her personality. Everything was running like a fairy tale in her life where she had loving and caring parents, wonderful friends and excellent school.
Then she had to see the day when her world of dream got totally shattered. Her father went bankrupt as his partner cheated him in the business and with heavy heart he informed to Aru that they have to go back to their village to start a new life. She was bit sad but being an optimist, she believed that things will be fine once again. They packed whatever was left and started for their village. Her father was on the driving seat. She was sitting behind with her mother humming her favourite song and staring on the stars. All of sudden she saw the flashlight of a big truck. The driver was drunk, lost his control and collided with their car. When she gained her conscious, she heard doctors saying that they were not able to save her parents. In a minute she realized that she is all alone in this brutal world. She didn’t remember for how many day she cried after that.
The hospital decided to send her to an orphanage run by a NGO named Asha. Little she was aware about how life could be tough in an orphanage until she met Khalil, the caretaker of the orphanage. She used to cry and pray to god when she spent three years there and reached to her teenage. Things were going beyond toleration due to atmosphere of orphanage but one day God became merciful for her by sending a middle class couple who adopted and helped her to reach there, where she is now-Symbiosis international, one of the best prestigious college of the nation.
After her parents death she tried to hide her sorrow by doing friendship with books, the friends who never complain anything to her but try to give her answers of her all queries. The result of this ultimate bonding was that she topped her senior board school exams with top scoring. On the basis of her good academics only she got selected for Symbiosis. She had to live in a hostel now as the college was in Pune. Her foster parents were really proud on her and she respected them a lot but the emptiness life created in her life was not being filled. She remember her horrible days spent in orphanage as well. At this age when girls think about their dream life and life partner, she liked to just sit alone and read some book. For that Starbuck café was the best place she found recently.
She was engrossed in her book and her past memories but suddenly came out of her world of thoughts due to loud shouting of the same good looing boy over the phone “No Papa! You always do that to me, not this time! I had informed you in much advance and you are still busy with your business, why don’t you understand my art is my first love and that exhibition is very important for me.” He left the cafe in full of fury and left the paper on which he was doodling. The wind flew that paper on the table of Arundhati and on the back of flyer of a painting exhibition, she was amazed to see the image of a kid who was looking lonely and in search of love. She was also a good painter but after her parents death she was not able to hold brush again. She checked the time for the exhibition, Sunday 3 o’clock and the venue was also close to her hostel. She decided to go to this art exhibition as there was something in that boy’s eyes, an emptiness which Arundhati found very similar to her.
It was Sunday, the most relaxed day of the week for Arundhati. She got up late as there was no hassle of running to college. After completing her daily chores and doing weekly laundry, she took bath and got ready for the exhibition. She put her sky blue dress which has little pink flowers on it with black heals and applied very light make up. Her face was perfect without makeup too but little make up made it radiant. She took a cab and reached to the exhibition venue. She liked almost all the paintings but there was a painting in center of wall in which the boy was holding silver spoon but his eyes were full of tears. Now Arundhati understood that why the boy in the cafe was shouting. She was immersed in the painting when she found the boy standing just behind her. As soon as she realized that she turned and saw- a tall, handsome boy with fair complexion. When he smiled dimples were prominent on his cheeks.
‘I think I have seen you somewhere but I am not sure where and when?’
Arundhati replied back ‘Yesterday in Starbucks, I was there when you were on phone with someone’
Viraj: Hmm! Ok, how did you find these paintings?
When he was expecting the reply, he got the chance to stare on that pretty face. Her eyes were speaking without uttering a single word, he never saw such dark deep eyes. When she opened her lips he felt god can only make such beautiful creation, and definitely he must have used roses to color her lips. Her long hairs were straight and she let it free. He was trying to refraining himself by continuous staring to not embarrass her but the fact was he found himself helpless to take off his eyes from her beautiful face.
Arundhati: ‘The artist who made these paintings is really proficient but one thing is bothering me, I am unable to find the reason behind the emptiness in the eyes of the faces of all paintings, like they are waiting for someone’.
Viraj: Oh! I forgot to introduce myself, I am Viraj Narsinghani, who tried to sketch these paintings on the canvas.
Arundhati: “Viraj Narsinghani! The Viraj Narsinghani, the son of business tycoon Vijay Narsinghani”?
Viraj: “Could you please stop saying so many the….Yes you are right and this answers your first question as well about the emptiness in the eyes. I am the son of a great business tycoon, who was born with silver spoon but no one was there to give him time or love he deserved.”
Arundhati fell in love with those eyes and innocence of his face when he was replying her.
“By the way, what are you doing tomorrow evening?” Viraj asked.
“Nothing great, I just want to be with you” Arundhati wanted to say but she replied “I have to check”.
Viraj: Ok, can I give you a call tomorrow?
Arundhati: “Sure, but you need my number for that” and they both started giggling on this reply.
They exchanged the numbers and that’s how they met in Starbucks for the first time, as friends not anonymous people. After that day it became routine for them to meet after college hours and then chat on mobiles till the battery dies. After meeting with “Aru”, Viraj found the love that he was looking from the age when he was as a small kid whose mother was no more in this world and father kept himself busy around his business world. Likewise Arundhati felt that there is no emptiness in her life as “Raj” became his world now and she forgot all the dark memories of childhood, she spent in the orphanage. Everything was going like fairytale again but somewhere in her heart she was afraid that this dream too will be shattered one day.
She was going to be twenty tomorrow but she was not much happy about it since it reminded her the accident that took everything from her life. Although her adoptive parents tried to make her feel good on this special day but the clouds of sadness captured her mind on this day. She was thinking about her birthday celebrations before her parents demise and was trying hard to sleep when she heard knock on her window. “What is this? Who can knock on my window at this time?” she thought and moved towards window when her heart almost skipped watching Raj at the window, he came there by climbing on the pipes and was smiling. She was unable to decide whether she should shout on him first or open the window.
Viraj: “Your hostel’s pipes are not strong enough to hold me for long time. Do you want your birthday to be the last day of my life?”
Arundhati opened the window and he jumped in. “Are you out of your mind? You could have fallen, the warden might have seen you, and the security might have caught you. Why did you do this…………I just don’t understand.”
Viraj: “I don’t care whatever happens to me but not meeting you on your birthday was end of my life.” He came closer to her and hold her tightly. Her heart was pounding and she was able to hear each beat of it. Nervously she asked “why is it so? Why am I so important for you?”
Viraj smiled cutely and replied “because you are my life and for everyone their life is utmost important thing”. She felt shy and started blushing and was looking for the words, then only the clock stuck twelve and he took her in his arms and kissed on her lips. “Happy birthday, Aru; my love, my life”. Arundhati felt so special after a long time and thought now she need not to worry about her ruthless past, life is going to be like dream again. He took out a small packet from his pocket that has a silk pink scarf and when she pulled the scarf, she found a shining diamond ring in that.
“Will you marry me?” Viraj asked like a gentleman sitting on his knees and holding that ring in his hand.
“I have not completed my studies and I have to ask my parent” Arundhati replied.
Viraj: ‘I am not in hurry either. I can wait for you my whole life, then what is your answer Miss Arundhati?’
Arundhati: “I don’t deserve you Raj. I have a gloomy past”.
Viraj: “I don’t want to hear or think about your past. Let’s plan for our bright future together”.
Arundhati smiled and replied “Yes, Mr. Viraj Narsinghani, my future husband”.
Arundhati’s this birthday gave her the best gift of her life- “the gift of love” and she thought she should stop doubting on her luck now. Next morning brought sunshine in her life. Thinking about the pleasant memories of the last night, she got ready for the college annual day. She was taking part in the annual singing competition and beautifully sang her favourite song “Dil hai chhota sa, chhoti si asha”. After her song the whole auditorium heard the round of applause and she was declared the winner.
Her name was called upon the stage to accept her award of “Best Singer of the Year” but what did she see on the stage? She felt her head is spinning and she will fall down when she had a look on the chief guest Khalil, who had become now a renowned social activist. She took award with heavy heart and saw Khalil smiling with his cunning smile, the smile with which she was very familiar and hated it most. After the ceremony he met her in the main gate of the university and said he has something important to discuss with her and she should come to the guest house else she will regret not coming. Arundhati wanted to tell everything to Viraj but then she had to tell him about her dark past and her childhood she spent in orphanage. Will he accept her knowing that she had been exploited? She thought for a while and decided to face him alone.
In the guest house Khalil was sitting alone, cutting apples with a knife.
Khalil-“I had predicted that you will turn into a pretty lady after crossing your teenage but I was not knowing that you will turn into the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my life.”
He laughed vociferously and Arundhati was just thinking what will be his next move? Why did he call her here after so many years? Khalil showed her a few pictures on his mobile which he took when she was being molested by him. It was obscene enough to disgrace her and destroy her future. He wanted her to do the same favours, she did unwillingly in her childhood. He threatened her that if she denies it he will upload it on social sites and the pictures will be public.
She shouted “not now! Please leave me in the peace, I have seen enough in my childhood.”
‘Choice is yours’ Khalil replied.
Arundhati lost her cool and took the knife from the fruit plate just to threaten him ‘give me the phone, else I will not give a second thought about slitting your throat’
She rushed to grab the mobile from him, holding knife in one hand. They started struggling to get hold of it. Accidently knife got stabbed in his chest and there was a pool of blood. For a moment she was shocked and took out knife from his chest but he was dead already. Her bad luck was ended with his death. She was relieved by facing disgrace but now was worried that crime scene will prove her as murderer even though it was an accident. She wrapped knife in her pink silk scarf she was pairing with her white dress and started moving towards the cafe which was witness of both good and bad phases of her life. After sitting in her usual seat and making sure that no one is able to listen their conversation she called Viraj and told him that she is in big trouble.
Viraj: ‘Don’t worry, everything will be fine. I will be there for you. I am coming to the cafe.’
As soon as Arundhati saw him coming out of the car, she ran towards him and hugged him tightly. She was sobbing badly and narrated the entire incident along with her past. Viraj consoled and convinced her that he will take all the charges and will not let her suffer any disgrace or difficulty but Arundhati was reluctant as it was her battle and she wanted to fight it courageously. Viraj argued that if she goes to jail without her, he will end his life as he can’t imagine life without her but Aru was determined. She called the Police and surrendered. The court case ran against her for 3 months. During investigations Police found several photos and videos of young girls. Also many girls from Asha came out to support Aru and gave statement about the abusive nature of Khalil. After taking care of all the facts into considerations court was convinced that the death was an accident and not a planned murder. Finally court set Arundhati free.
As soon as she came out of the courtroom she started looking for her love Viraj. She found him near his Car holding a bright red saree and a beautiful ring. ‘Now where?’ Arundhati asked. “The place that witnessed our love, happiness, sorrow and everything, “Starbucks cafe” Viraj replied with a big smile on his face.
Holding hand together they were moving toward the new beginning of their life.