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Rimsha came out of the kitchen on hearing Snigdha’s voice from the hall. She was really pleased to see Snigdha sitting on the sofa with Mrinal. Snigdha was saying in a hurt voice, “Dad, you and mom have to come for my show at Kala Mandir. It’s been my dream to perform there and now that it’s finally happening, you can’t back out.”

Mrinal said placatingly, “I’m sorry, dear. But we have to go for this business trip, otherwise our company may have to face a heavy loss. Besides, Sameer will come for your show. He will be there to represent both of us, and you know our blessings are always there with you. Please, don’t be sad about this. We would have definitely gone if we could.”

Snigdha pouted. “Okay, I don’t want you to face losses for me. Go for this trip then. But where is Sameer? Give him this card.” She handed a card to Rimsha. “He won’t be allowed in without this guest card.”

Rimsha said, “He is still sleeping. He has become such a late riser of late. His work pressure has increased manifold. He didn’t even have his breakfast yet. Go and wake him, Mini.”

Snigdha nodded. “Don’t worry, I’m bringing him down.” She got up and climbed the stairs to the first floor where Sameer’s room was.

The door to his room opened at her slightest push. Sameer was fast asleep with his mouth hanging slightly open. His curly hair was in complete disarray. He was looking very cute in his sleep. Snigdha felt warm on seeing him look so vulnerable. She came to a standstill at the doorway, not wanting to disturb his peaceful sleep. But it was already 9 a.m., he would get late for his office, if he didn’t get up fast.

She slowly walked in and sat beside him on the bed. She felt his soft breath fall on her hands. She got enchanted as she stared at his innocent face. Now she knew how vulnerable this man was despite his strong, confident exterior. This person had so much love and so much goodness in him. The world was a good place because people like Sameer still existed here. She felt very lucky to know him. She softly brushed her fingers along his jaw. Sameer stirred and turned on his side, trapping her palm under his cheek. She was horrified. She didn’t want to be caught in such a vulnerable position when he woke up. She tried to pull her hand out, but couldn’t. She gave a sharp pull and Sameer jerked awake. He looked up at her groggily. Meanwhile, she sat there feeling sorry for waking him up abruptly.

As his senses returned, he said fondly, “Mini? Wow! This is a great way to a start a day.” He sat up and yawned widely.

Snigdha said, feeling guilty, “I didn’t mean to wake you up like that.”

Sameer took a look at the clock and got alarmed. “Holy cow! I’ll be late for office. It’s good that you woke me up.” He got up from the bed and gathered his towel to go to the bathroom. Snigdha had to admit it to herself that Sameer was looking incredibly hot in his sleeveless t-shirt and shorts. She hurriedly got up to arrange his bed, confounded by the directions her thoughts had suddenly taken.

Sameer had noticed her gaze though. “What brought you here so early in the morning, Mini?”

Snigdha said in mock anger, “Why? I can’t come here in the morning?”

Sameer said with a lopsided grin, “Hey! I want you here with me 24X7. But you don’t come here without any reasons, so I was curious.”

Snigdha said, “I came here to give you the guest card for tomorrow’s show at Kala Mandir. Your parents can’t come, though. That’s too bad.”

Sameer came to a halt in front of her. “Umm, Mini, there’s a slight problem with tomorrow’s plan.”

Snigdha looked at Sameer, alarmed. She said, sounding worried, “Are you telling me you can’t come tomorrow? I won’t perform if you don’t come.”

Sameer looked stumped for a moment. He made her sit beside him on the bed and took her hands in his. “I had no idea I meant so much to you, honestly. This changes things.”

Snigdha kept her face down and replied without looking up, “How does it change anything? You have no interest in seeing me perform. You made other plans for tomorrow. Don’t come if you don’t want to. It doesn’t matter.”

Sameer lifted her chin with his fingers and forced her to look at him. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, Mini. My colleague, Mohan, has lost his father a few days back. Tomorrow is the prayer ceremony. He is an only son and there’s no one in his family to help him. He needed my help, so I thought I should go. I know how important this show is for you, but Mohan needs me tomorrow.”

Snigdha said sadly, “Oh! You stay with your colleague tomorrow. I won’t mind.” She got up to leave.

Sameer grabbed her hand and said apologetically, “Mini, I’m really sorry. I had no idea you would get upset if I couldn’t go.”

Snigdha tried to smile weakly. “You are doing a good thing. I’m fine. You go and get ready.”

She left hurriedly without looking back at him. She had not imagined she would feel so bad if Sameer didn’t attend the show. She knew Sameer didn’t mean to hurt her, but she couldn’t stop herself from feeling utterly depressed. She got this chance to perform at Kala Mandir only because of Sameer and she wanted to do this performance for him. Now he was not going. Suddenly all her enthusiasm for the show vanished. There would be hundreds of people in the audience to applaud her, but the person who actually wanted to see her on a stage wouldn’t be there.

She didn’t wait for Sameer to come down. She hurriedly took her leave of Sameer’s parents, saying she was getting late for work.

Snigdha called up Daniel on her way to work and asked whether she could back out of tomorrow’s performance. Daniel got furious with her, calling her “irresponsible”. The whole act would have to be cancelled if she didn’t turn up. She had no way of getting out of the performance.

The next day Snigdha was sitting in the green room, waiting for her act to start. Rachit and everybody else who would be performing with her were loitering around, with their makeup and costumes on. Snigdha looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her beautifully made-up face was shining with glitter. The green and black wrap dress was sitting snuggly on her petite frame. She was supposed to go on stage in half-an-hours’ time, but she couldn’t find the right kind of excitement within her. There weren’t even any butterflies in her stomach. What was there to be nervous about? The only person whose opinion would have mattered that night was not coming.

Suddenly she heard Rachit calling her from outside the green room. She went outside feeling curious. She found Rachit in the corridor, adjusting the wide strip of green cloth around his bare torso. Rachit informed her when she went up to him, “Snigdha, a guy wants to meet you. Go near the stairs. He is waiting for you there.”

Snigdha’s heart thudded hopefully. Praying for it to be Sameer, she ran towards the staircase and found Sameer waiting there, grinning widely. She felt excitement flood through her at his sight. Suddenly she realised Sameer would never have missed something that was important for her. She rushed forward and gave him a quick hug. She asked him breathlessly, “How did you manage to come?”

Sameer replied happily, “I convinced my cousin to help Mohan. I explained the situation to Mohan and he is not offended or anything. And, here I am.” He spread his arms wide for a brief moment. “Let’s go celebrate after you finish. I brought my bike tonight. I thought you enjoyed the bike ride last day.”

Snigdha said with an earsplitting smile, “Perfect!”

Sameer said, “I should have known you would be hurt if I didn’t come.”

Rachit came at that moment to call Snigdha; Daniel wanted to give them some last-minute pep talk. Snigdha said excitedly, “Okay Sameer, wish me luck. I can’t mess up the performance.”

Sameer said confidently, “You won’t, Mini. You are the best dancer I’ve ever seen. You will be great as always.”

Rachit said impatiently, “Snigdha, come on, talk to your fiancé later.”

Snigdha gave Sameer a last parting wave and hurried inside with Rachit.

As she took the stage later and the lights on the stage slowly brightened, she felt like flying. She was doing what she had always wanted to do. She was living her dream. She could feel the bright lights illuminating her. The audience was hidden behind a dark veil, but her heart could sense hundreds of eyes appraising her. She closed her eyes briefly before the music swelled out around her, overtaking her senses. Slowly, she let her lithe body undulate like a flowing river, as if her soul was answering to silent summons from the beats. It seemed as if the stage was the gate to her heaven that night—her feet caressing and revering the wooden planks of the stage. That night she danced her heart out, outshining the other dancers beside her.

Once the show was over, everyone praised Snigdha exuberantly. But she had eyes only for Sameer. She couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say. Once the crowd around Snigdha dissipated, he came to her, grinning. “You know what’s the best thing that happened today?”

Mini shook her head, puzzled.

“Your father was telling everyone around him that the best dancer of the night is his daughter.” Sameer smiled at her and Snigdha’s heart melted some more.

Snigdha waved to her parents as she and Sameer sped off into the night on his bike. Sameer asked, “Mini, don’t you want to know where I’m taking you?

Snigdha hesitated, “No. Will you take me where I want to go tonight?”

Sameer was perplexed. “Yeah, sure. Where do you want to go?”

Snigdha said, “To Mohan’s place. We should visit him once.”

Sameer was pleasantly surprised. He wanted to take her for dinner, but of course this was the right thing to do. “You are right. Let’s go there.”

They were speeding along Sarat Bose Road when they noticed a crowd near the traffic signal at the crossing. Sameer slowed down as he neared the crowd. The people in the crowd were discussing something very excitedly. Sameer asked, “Do you think we should stop and see what’s going on here?”

Snigdha sounded apprehensive, “Yeah, okay. Everybody looks so agitated. But we shouldn’t wait if it’s something dangerous.”

Sameer parked his bike in a small lane off the main road, and together he and Snigdha walked towards the area of commotion. Sameer pressed against the people and was horrified on seeing the mangled legs and hands of a man lying on the road in a pool of blood. A severely destroyed bike was lying beside the man. Snigdha groaned loudly on managing to see the ghastly sight through a narrow gap in the crowd. Sameer asked someone, “Why hasn’t this man been taken to the hospital?”

A person in the front replied, “The police have been informed. But they haven’t turned up yet.”

Sameer said angrily, “But there are so many people here. Some of you should have hospitalised him.”

The man said, “Are you crazy? Who wants trouble?”

Sameer didn’t wait any longer. He said to Snigdha, “Mini, go and call a taxi.”

Snigdha nodded and crossed the road to hail a cab. Meanwhile, Sameer pushed his way inside and announced loudly, “I’ll take the legal trouble. But I need someone to help me.”

A young man came forward and extended his hand towards Sameer, introducing himself as Satish. Sameer thanked him gratefully. Soon Snigdha came in a cab.

Sameer picked up the person from the road with the help of some people and managed to put him in the back seat of the cab. Satish sat cradling the head of the injured man, while Snigdha sat beside the driver in the front. Sameer instructed the driver to take them to the nearest hospital. Then he ran to fetch his bike as the cab sped away.

On reaching the hospital, Snigdha rushed out to call the hospital people. A little later she came out with two ward boys pushing a stretcher. The injured man was taken inside. Sameer and Snigdha headed towards the reception to know about all the formalities. They were told to inform the police and pay all the fees for the treatment to begin. Sameer filled out all the necessary forms and made all the payments, while Snigdha informed the nearest police station about the situation. The injured man was taken to the ICU on the third floor in a while.

They were asked to wait outside while the doctors got to work. Snigdha suggested in a scared voice, “Sameer, we should inform his family.”

Sameer nodded weakly, “Yeah, I did that. Satish got his mobile and purse from his pocket. Satish has been a great help today.” He turned towards Satish and thumped his back appreciatively. “Thanks, buddy.”

Sameer was looking very strained. Snigdha felt fond of Sameer, seeing him care for strangers like this. It was not only she who got his unconditional love. There was compassion for everybody in his golden heart. He was such an unselfish person. Snigdha knew at that moment that her parents had chosen the right person for her. Sameer knew how to spread his goodness in the world and he was making her a part of that process. She felt good and humbled about having saved a life that night.

Soon the police arrived and Sameer gave them his statement. A little later an old couple came running in, looking completely terrified and bewildered. The three of them looked at each other, unsure of how to deal with the hysteric parents. Sameer approached the man and asked politely, “Uncle, are you Arjun Mitra’s relative?” The old man nodded vigorously, clutching Sameer’s hands tightly in utter desperation, “I’m his father. How is my son?” Sameer made him sit on a chair outside the ICU. The old lady was trying to peer inside the ICU through the glass door. Snigdha escorted her towards a chair, forcing her to sit beside her husband. Snigdha also sat beside the old woman, holding her cold and clammy hands. Sameer told them everything that had happened.

The old man was so shocked that he couldn’t stop his hands from shaking, while his wife kept crying silently. The old man said, “You saved our only son tonight. I really don’t know how to thank you enough.”

Sameer said humbly, “The doctors are inside right now. Your son will recover very soon.”

Arjun’s father, Kamal Mitra, nodded and hid his face in his palms. Snigdha’s phone rang suddenly, it was Jatin. She told her father what had happened. Jatin suggested her to stay with Sameer. She didn’t need that advice; she was not leaving Sameer alone in this.

Snigdha whispered to Sameer, “Should I go and get some coffee for uncle and aunty? They are looking really bad.”

Sameer nodded his assent and Snigdha got up to leave for the cafeteria.

When she came back with the coffee, the doctor was standing with Sameer, Satish, and the Mitras. She hurried forward and heard the doctor saying, “He is still unconscious. But we are expecting a quick recovery.”

They all heaved a sigh of relief. Kamal clasped the doctor’s hands tightly and thanked him profusely. When the doctor left, he turned towards Sameer. “Son, you are an angel. We would have lost our child if you hadn’t been there.”

Snigdha couldn’t agree more. Sameer was an angel. She learnt that a long time ago. But now she knew that Sameer was an angel for everyone, not just her.

Later that night when Sameer dropped her off in front of her house, Snigdha said, “You did a really good thing today. I’m so proud of you.”

Sameer grinned tiredly. “You helped, too.”

Snigdha said vehemently, “I couldn’t have done it, if you hadn’t taken the initiative.” On a sudden impulse she gave quick pecks on both his cheeks and hurried back inside.

Snigdha turned back at the gate to look at him and found him standing on the road, looking stunned. She waved at him with a smile and went inside the house.

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