THE CLEAN-LIVING DEAD

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CAMPING

"Hello Neha are you there?? Hello!!???"
The phone kept barking while Neha stood in front of the Mall.
"What's your problem??? Lift the phone!!?" said Aesha as she grumpily stood behind her.
"You? You came na, I won't lift the phone!" said Neha. Aesha inspected her friend carefully and smiled.
"Did you meet him again?" asked Aesha.
"Who?" asked Neha innocently.
"No one! Come! Neelam sir is waiting for your arrival with a plate with haarath and sindhoor to welcome you!" she said as she dragged Neha in.
"Generally, Neelam sir only does that when I have done something wrong. Did I?" asked Neha as she smiled playfully.
"Enough! You are a PDIACD officer and don't act!" said Aesha as she smiled.

"Sir, good morning!" said Neha.
"No! Bad morning! You came late first thing and you treated your customer with rudeness second thing. Coming to third, I really don't want to say it but you may recall if I show you this receipt" he said as he threw the receipt on her face.
"Ohh shit! I forgot to home deliver this ghagra choli!! That day that girl said it was for her wedding and wow! How could I forget??? Maybe her wedding got doomed due to me, well that is bad and definitely not normal...."
"Rewinded the tape?" asked Neelam as he smiled satirically at her.
"Yes and----" she was interrupted by him.
"Look Neha, I don't think you understand. You are not taking this job seriously and I am not your friend to agree and change your shifts as per your wish. My business is important to me and if it is for you, you would not do this. I'm done. Take this paper to the staff and get it stamped. You're no longer eligible to work here. Out you go" he said as he left. Tears filled Neha's eyes. She hated it when someone called her ineligible. She got the stamp and left the mall. Aesha didn't stop her. She knew she had to spend an alone time.
When she was sad, she would go to the railway station nearby and sit on the platform hugging her knees. She did the same.
"Hey Neha?!? You!??" said someone from behind. Neha turned her head slightly and her blurry vision saw Umed!
"What?" she said casually.
"I have come to the station to drop my parents as they're going to a wedding and they will stay for a few days. You? Any reason?" he asked.
"Everything doesn't need to have a reason" she said, still kneeling down. Umed sat beside her and keeping his hands on his cheeks, he too, like her, glanced at the moving trains.
"What do you want?" asked Neha.
"Nothing. I didn't ask" he said.
"Go drop your parents" she said.
"I did" he said.
"Go then" she said.
"Why" he asked.
"I'm just not eligible, according to him" she mumbled.
"Come on. What happened?" he asked.
"Nothing" she replied.
"Spill" he said.
"I was thrown out of my job and now I don't have any job to say for. Happy?" she said as she fiddled with her hair.
"Well, you are lucky as I have a vacant seat in my office" he said. Neha suddenly looked up.
"You do??" she asked with utter excitement.
"Yes" he said as he smiled at the train.
"Well, I don't think begging for a job is not right. I'm not a beggar" she said.
"Nobody's a beggar" he said as he looked continuously at the train.
"Well what---" she was interrupted.
"Remember, when we went to Delhi for the field trip in eighth, you used to say 'We will go to a faraway place in this train if our parents don't agree to our marriage'. I still remember" he said as he dared not to look towards her. Neha stared at him. Wasn't he shameful for bringing that topic? She felt shameful for saying that back then.
"Did I?" she asked as she looked away.
"You did" he answered as he looked away. There was an awkward silence for a second or two.
"Would you like to join us for camping in the woods? Like a small vacation" he asked.
"When?" she asked.
"Tomorrow morning" he said.
"Can I bring friends?" she asked.
"As long as they don't litter here and there" he said. Neha giggled.
"What's there to giggle?" he asked as he smiled sternly.
"Nothing. Well, I must go home. I'll call them and let them know. I'll whatsapp you later. Bye" she said as she got up and ran off.


"Hey Amoli! You wanna go camping tomorrow morning?" asked Neha as she tucked into her bedsheets.
"Yeah but why so sudden?" asked Amoli.
"Just like that" she replied.
"Well, did Aesha plan this as a cheer up trip for you?" asked Amoli.
"No. Umed asked if you guys would join us" she answered.
"Umed huh!" said Amoli as she giggled.
"Inform Aesha and Aneeldeep too!" said Neha.
"Look, I heard what happened this morning. I'm sorry I c---" she was interrupted.
"Look, I got this on my own and I'll get another one too on my own. I know me. I will. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. Good night" said Neha as she cut the call.





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