Chapter 30: The Resurfacing of the Past
Ranveer and Ishaani sat in the living room as the bellboys loaded their suitcases on the trolley and steered them away. The room had a very quiet air about it and Ishaani felt empty.
"I'm going to miss this place."
"Yeah, me too." Ishaani walked over to where Ranveer was sitting and sat by his side, keeping her hand over his knee.
"So it's back to reality now, isn't it?" Ranveer nodded his head slowly as Ishaani put her head on his shoulder. After a couple of minutes, Ranveer gently made to get up and Ishaani did the same. They shut the room door behind them and headed for the reception lobby.
Handing over the keycard to Mr. Kovalski, they took their places in the hotel car, which was packed with the combined reason of their luggage and the hotel's gifts as a token of appreciation.
Thirteen hours later, Ranveer and Ishaani were walking outside the London Duty Free. They had a stopover in London for an hour before they could reach Athens. Ranveer and Ishaani discussing about the few changes that the library was supposed to have when the former collided into someone.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, I-"
Ishaani stopped dead in her tracks as she saw the person who Ranveer collided with. Ranveer’s apologetic look turned into one of cold indifference at the sight of the person, his lips barely moving as he replied back.
Ishaani could have sworn that the atmosphere had turned cold around them in that moment as both Ranveer and Sharman stared at each other for a couple of minutes. Ishaani walked forward hesitantly and came to stand right beside Ranveer. Sharman returned his attention towards Ishaani and gave her half a smile. He hugged her awkwardly, his gaze never meeting her own, while Ishaani stood stunned for a couple of moments before she reciprocated.
"Ishaani, it's good to see you."
"It's- It’s good to see you too," stuttered Ishaani, while Sharman now turned to look at Ranveer. After a few minutes, he spoke grudgingly.
"And it's good to see you too, Ranveer."
"I'm sure the pleasure is all mine," replied Ranveer courteously.
Ishaani could hear polite and cordial wishes being shared between the two of them, yet she felt that beside her were two hounds who could tear down each other at any instant. Ishaani quickly interlocked her fingers within Ranveer’s own ones and Sharman was quick to notice.
"So, are the two of you are back together again?"
"Oh yes, we sorted out our issues," spoke Ranveer placidly while giving Sharman a blank look. The latter gave him a quick smile.
"That's good." Turning his attention towards Ishaani, Sharman spoke once again. "So how are you, Ishaani? It’s been three years since I last saw you." A sudden resentment rose up into Ishaani's heart at the fact. Out of nowhere, Ranveer's words floated in her mind.
Rule no. 6. Once the wound gets a bit old, stop wearing the bandage. Keep the half-healed wound open now. But make sure never to re-open the same wound. It leaves a scar forever. Never do that.
Ishaani took a deep breath as she pushed away the resentful thoughts, and spoke in a choked voice.
"I’ve been great." Sharman averted his gaze away from her guiltily at her acid response as Ranveer turned to look at Ishaani. He could see that she was uncomfortable and was unease. And as though the answer was right before his eyes, Ranveer smacked his head and looked at Ishaani.
"Oh damn!" Ishaani snapped out of her reverie and looked at Ranveer, confused.
"I forgot to buy Martha's Quality Street chocolates! I get them for her every time!" Ishaani looked a little puzzled, while a frown crossed her features.
"But now what are you going to do?" Ranveer looked around for a few minutes before inspiration struck him.
"I think I might get it from the Duty Free."
"But aren't the prices sky high in duty free zones?"
"I know, but I have to get her those chocolates at any cost. Those are her favourites."
"Alright, you go get it and I'll wait here."
"Sunny, you mind going and buying it? I need to make an important call as well." Ishaani gave him an unsure look but Ranveer's returned a firm gaze.
"Fine, I'll go get it." Turning her attention towards Sharman, she spoke slowly. "Bye, bhaiyya, it was good to see you." Sharman took the cue of their departure and spoke slowly.
"Bye, Ishaani. Even I'll be leaving now. The security check of my flight has begun." Bidding quick goodbyes, Sharman made his way to the security check while Ishaani went to the Duty Free. Ranveer simply stood there and heaved a big sigh of relief.
Ranveer and Ishaani were seated in the flight once again. Ishaani yawned softly while Ranveer idly flipped through a magazine. Both of them were thinking about their meeting with Sharman, but neither of them wanted to discuss it. After a couple of minutes however, Ishaani spoke softly.
"It felt so strange seeing him today." Ranveer needed no more hint to know who Ishaani was talking about.
"I've been seeing him after three years. And our last conversation back wasn't the best of ones we had." Ishaani turned her head in Ranveer's direction and saw that his face was a blotchy red.
"I don't think my last conversation with your family was any more pleasant. The only person that I'm frankly on talking terms is with Falguni Ma. That's it."
"Wait, so you've been in touch with them?"
"Yeah. Both, your family as well as mine. I've never been to India in these three years, but I keep regular tabs by phone."
"I had no idea."
"Yeah. Though now ofcourse, I have only two people who I phone regularly. One is Maa and Baba and the other is Falguni Ma, although I haven’t been in contact with her from since a year now." Something seemed to click in Ishaani's mind as she asked him slowly.
"Ranveer, that day in Vegas-"
"Oh yeah. I was talking to Maa that day." Ishaani had a disturbed expression on her face and asked him gently, confusion evident in her voice.
"But why were the two of you fighting?"
"She found out about the two of us." Ishaani looked even more perturbed.
"I don't understand," repliedRanveer sighed.
"You see, when I met you back in June, I'd not told anyone about you back home, except for Baba. You know that he has always been my confidante. I told him about the whole scenario, right from the start to the finish, without even sparing a single detail. He didn't seem too convinced at first, but now he's come to terms with it. And he's happy that we finally re-united. Baba wanted to tell Maa about this, but I told him not to. I needed time to set things right between us before we got our families involved all over again. I think somehow, Baba thought that telling Maa about you and me on the eve of my birthday would reduce the impact. He was sorely mistaken." Ranveer gave a dry laugh and continued. "I don't need to tell you what happened next. I think you can assume enough."
Ishaani gave him an uncomfortable look and asked him slowly.
"Does anyone know in my family about us?"
"No, nobody does. No one, except Sharman ofcourse, given that he saw us together today. The wildfire should spread soon enough."
"Oh." Ishaani gave him a guilty look and Ranveer gave her a decisive look.
"Ishaani, don't expect me to wait for acceptance this time. This was the same thing that tore us apart last time, and I'm in no frame of mind to bear more drama. I think our families should be mature enough to understand that our happiness lies with each other. If they do accept it, fine and good. If they don't, I cannot do anything more. Baba has given us his blessings and love. Now whether Maa does the same, I cannot say. Regarding your family, I won't even bother for an acceptance except from Baa and Falguni Ma."
Ishaani gave him a curious look and Ranveer understood what she wanted to know. He spoke irritably, his frustration evident this time.
"Sharman works for a multinational company. He has a lot of travelling in his job, so he barely resides in India now. He goes there only for a month. Devarsh has a freelancing business, which he's raking in right now." There was a strange spite in Ranveer's voice as he continued. "He married Parul." Ishaani get out a gasp of shock as her eyes bulged.
"What? How?" Ranveer let a sardonic smile curl his lips at the sight of her shocked face and he continued.
"Trust me, a lot of blackmailing went into this. Those two were far better in convincing our families than the two of us. Plus, they kept a lot of conditions as well. All in all, those two were ruling and our families were puppets in front of them."
"What kind of conditions did they put forth?"
"They, uh, separated themselves completely from their families. Asked them not to interfere in their lives, given that they'd seen how family interferences that ruined our relationship. Just meeting for festivals and occasions. Nobody had the power to overrule them."
"I can't believe it! Parul and Devarsh... as much as I'm glad that they're married and happy, I never had the impression that they were this efficient in putting across their facts."
"You know Ishaani, the difference between us and them is that we're sentimental. They're practical." Ishaani nodded her head in agreement and looked slightly excited now.
"Tell me more."
"Okay. Given that Devarsh gave them such a rude shock, Chaitali kaki and Mitesh kaka decided to move abroad. Sharman sponsored them on his visa in Hong Kong. So they live there now. From what I've heard, they're extremely happy."
"What about Prateik?"
"Prateik is a chef now." Ishaani chuckled and Ranveer smiled again, his tone getting soft again. "The perfect job for the perfect guy now, isn't it? He has a small restaurant and lives in the studio apartment above it. He's engaged right now." Ishaani gave him a teary smile and Ranveer sighed.
"What about Baa and Maa?"
"They're living together. They have a small business of papads and pickles, but it's wasn't enough. Not nearly enough. Besides, Falguni Maa used to remain quite ill during those days because of the continuous stress. And given that they had severe rent crisis, they found an alternative." Ishaani looked confused and Ranveer halted. He stared at Ishaani uncertainly, before Ishaani gestured him to continue.
"They're living with Nitin ji now." Ranveer spoke the sentence in a quick rush and observed Ishaani's expression keenly for a minutes. Ishaani stared at him simply for a few moments and Ranveer was relieved that a smile appeared over her features.
"Nitin Uncle is always like that. A messiah in our lives." Ranveer looked surprised at Ishaani's statement and she gave him an apologetic look. "In the month after I was released from jail, apart from Shikhar, Nitin Uncle has been my biggest support. He was the only one who believed in me and who supported me. He was the one who suggested me to make a new start, and gave me a new hope to live in those several days where life seemed to hit a dead end."
Ranveer gave her a soft look, while he mentally heaved a sigh of relief.
"You know, during that one month, Nitin Uncle had told me all about his life, how he had left his wife and unborn child for another woman and his career. He told me every single day how much he regretted that decision of his every single day and how he tried to repent every moment, but he knew his deed was beyond forgiveness. We found ways in which we consoled each other." Ranveer gave Ishaani an intent look before he phrased his question mentally, so that there was no scope of an error.
"Ishaani, can I ask you something?"
"If your father ever returned back in your life, would you ever forgive him?" Ishaani pondered over the question thoroughly before she replied.
"Maybe. Maybe not. Why do you ask?"
"I don't know. I've been having this question in my mind for long. So I just asked." Ishaani gave him a puzzled look for something before she nodded her head. Ranveer stared at her intently as he put forth his next question.
"Do you trust me?" Ishaani gave him a mildly surprised look.
"No?" Ishaani stuck out her tongue at him and Ranveer shook his head embarrassed. "What kind of a question is that, stupid?"
"Sorry, I know that was a stupid question." Ishaani looked at him deeply, before she spoke again.
"Don't worry. I know that you'll tell me the whole truth when you think the time is right." Ranveer gave her a confused look before he realized that she was talking about his Mota Babuji. Ranveer simply shrugged his shoulder.
"Thank you for having that faith in me." Smiling at him, Ishaani cupped his cheek loving as she linked her arm within his own.
"Always." Ishaani looked at him and kissed his cheek. "Let’s take a small nap. We should be home in another couple of hours."