The flowers dry up in happiness
The night fades into the day in joy
The stars fall from the sky with a smile.
But I am the happiest in this world.
So friend, come to me
I shall share my song with you.
It is the happy song of a happy heart
Listen, and I promise you pleasure.
If you have to cry everyday
Then just this once, I will make you laugh.
Just this once, let us forget the grief
And sing together –
Friend, what is worry?
Friend, what is pain?
All you ever talk about is love –
Oh friend, tell me, what is love?
Is it just about pain?
Is it just about tears?
Is it only about sighs of disappointment?
Then why do people seek to sacrifice their happiness
Hoping to welcome this grief into their lives?
(Translation of “Shokhi Bhalobasha Kaare Koy” by Rabindranath Tagore)
“It isn’t as hard as you’re making it out to be, you know.” Armaan made himself comfortable on the bench in the locker room and faced her.
“Huh?” she stared at him in confusion, taken aback.
“Well, I won’t say it’s obvious, but from what I know of you, I can tell there is something bothering you”, he shrugged.
“I’ll sort it out, Armaan, you don’t have to worry about it.”
“Look…” he placed a leg on the other side of the bench so that he could face her completely. “You’re my best friend, and if something is bothering you, I want to know, I want to help.”
“I’m just not in the mood to talk now. Please…” she willed him to understand.
“Nikki, look, you can tell me…I’m your best friend, right? Don’t you trust me anymore?” he looked at her dolefully.
“No, it’s not that. Of course I trust you! But…”
“She needs to and she can solve it by herself. Right, Nikki?” Riddhima interrupted and walked over to them, all the while her eyes fixed sternly on Armaan.
“I’ve been hearing your voice from the corridor, Armaan. I’d be glad if you kept it low.” She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Hey Basket”, he greeted her warily, but she continued to glare at him.
“I was hoping that maybe, just maybe you could be a bit mature with it…but no.”
“What? Me? What did I do? I was just trying to help!” he exclaimed in indignation.
“How? By nagging her till she reluctantly caves?” she placed her hands on her hips. “Honestly, can’t you see she wants to deal with it alone?”
He gaped at her like a goldfish.
“So you know what’s going on?” he spluttered after a while.
“Yes, and I also know that this is one problem you can only aggravate, not solve. Let her be, Armaan”, she spoke wearily.
His indignant eyes turned to annoyance.
“Oh, so you know everything that’s going on, and I’m being told not to worry about whatever is worrying my best friend, because I can only add fuel to fire!”
Riddhima opened her mouth to retort, but stopped when Nikki spoke.
“Stop fighting over me”, her stern eyes moved between her two friends’.
They blinked at her as she stared at them. “Riddhima’s right”, she informed him quietly.
He stared back at her, partly hurt, partly shocked, but waited for more explanation.
She just stared at him quietly, her gaze piercing but it revealed nothing – neither mystery, nor emotion.
He hated it when she was so silent. It was scary. She would just glance at people, sweep her eyes over them or keep them fixed on the one she wanted to break. It felt as if she would defeat him with her eyes.
He hung his head slightly.
“Who is this about?”
He looked up, but she was still looking at him like that. Something in her eyes made him bite back almost every spiteful word about Abhimanyu Modi. Almost every word.
“I hate him”, he said plainly.
“He hates you too”, she said with a smile which had the same effect as her eyes.
“What about him?” he dared to prod. “Did he do something again?”
Her eyes hardened at his words, but she didn’t answer.
He shifted uncomfortably under her gaze, and glanced at Riddhima.
A look of understanding passed between the girls, and Riddhima seated herself on the opposite bench.
“Listen Armaan, Nikki and Dr. Modi…like each other…” she raised her hand to stop him from interrupting and continued. “Whatever it is between them, your interference will only make it worse for them.”
He stared at her for a while. Nikki sat silently, her shoulders slightly slumped, tired, but her eyes fixed on Armaan.
“But you can’t like him!” he blurted out at Nikki.
“I assure you Armaan, I really do like him. And a lot more than that”, she answered calmly.
He hated her tone.
“You’re so confident about your feelings?” he challenged, his expression flabbergasted.
“Yes”, she told him simply.
“But…but he’s hurting you!” he pointed out, and she smiled in reply. Anyone who has that smile doesn’t need to bring the words to their lips, and he stared transfixed at her as she turned sideways, her eyes lost somewhere.
“Everyone hurts us in life, Armaan”, Riddhima told him softly. “He’s not as bad as you think…”
There was an eerie silence in the room.
He blinked at her a few times before getting up abruptly and walking away.
“I’m sorry.” Nikki’s small voice penetrated the pregnant pause that followed.
“Don ‘t be. He’ll come around”, Riddhima smiled at her friend before following him out.
Nikki pulled out her pager from her pocket and looked at it. There was nothing to see. She hated such conversations. Thankfully Riddhima had been there.
“Stop worrying so much”, Riddhima walked up behind him in the fire escape.
His shoulders slumped.
“He’s just not right for her, Basket”, he sighed.
“That’s for her to decide. You just need to be a friend and stick by her, not make things worse for her.”
“She’s too innocent.”
“…And you’re too protective.”
Her instant reply brought a wry smile on his face.
“I hate him.”
“So you said a few minutes ago.” She looked at him sideways and he finally turned his eyes to her.
“They love each other, Armaan. Whether they’ve realised it or not, whether they admit it or not, they really do.”
“Well, what guarantee do I have that he won’t hurt her? Even if I do accept that they’re…they’re together?”
“Be practical, Armaan. We only hurt the ones we love the most, as they say…look at us. You and I hurt each other too, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love each other”, she said softly.
His expression changed as he withdrew his eyes from hers.
“Give me one good reason why you’re so against their being together”, she challenged.
“I…I don’t like him.”
“That’s your problem…it’s not a reason for her to hold back.”
“I don’t know, they’re just…they just look wrong together!”
“But they feel right together, and that’s what matters.” She squeezed his arm. “Give them a chance, Armaan…”
He stared at her for a while before letting out a deep breath.
“I won’t promise that Modi and I will be best friends, though.”
“As long as you’re not enemies, I’m sure it won’t bother Nikki too much”, she smiled.