Snigdha was walking down Champs-Elysees, lost in thoughts. The beautiful horse-chestnut trees, the brightly lit and grand retail stores, the inviting and warm cafes couldn’t attract her attention. She was too busy soaking in the joy and satisfaction she had felt since arriving in France with Mik5.
It all started with her decision to participate alone in the dance festival. Everyone at the institute was thoroughly stunned and annoyed with her. But they all stood by her—even Abir, who took the initiative to choreograph her solo act. At the festival, she did lyrical hip hop on the Marjawan sound track. Abir didn’t attend the festival, but the rest of her and Sameer’s family were present to cheer for her. Her performance was appreciated by everyone. She was so good that at the end of the two-day festival, the leader of the famous American dance troupe, Mik5, Ralph Thomas, invited her to join them for their upcoming France tour. The offer was too good to decline.
Her wedding had to be put on hold due to her decision. Sameer accepted gracefully but not her parents. But for once in her life she didn’t listen to them. She did what her heart deemed right. At that point of time in her life, conquering the world seemed like a better thing to do than getting married to a person who couldn’t respect her the way she deserved and expected. Dreams and success were beckoning her and she responded to that siren call without thinking of her personal life. Even the principal of her college supported her and gladly gave her a three-month break.
A week after the festival got over, she joined Ralph and the other group members to take the flight to France. She rehearsed with them for two weeks before performing at various venues across France. The applause she got when Ralph introduced her to the audience was something that filled her with satisfaction. It made her believe that the decision she had taken was right.
But at the end of the shows when fans went backstage to congratulate her for a splendid performance, she couldn’t help feeling deeply grateful to Sameer. They were showcasing ballet, jazz, hip hop, and martial arts during their shows. She was immensely glad to be working with such spectacular acrobat-gymnasts.
She had to admit that Sameer had instilled her with the confidence to take control of her own life. He was the one who had set her on the path of success. After each day’s show, she wanted to run into his arms and see his eyes sparkle with pride. But she resisted her urge to talk to Sameer; in fact, they hadn’t spoken for the last one month. She had not contacted any of her family members since setting foot in France. She was in regular touch only with Romita and she knew Romita was keeping her family updated. But while talking to Romita she resolutely avoided Sameer’s topic. She was still piqued with him for not trusting her, for deciding to leave her.
Their Paris tour had ended and next day they were leaving for Bourdeaux. Ralph and his wife, Vivienne, had brought them to Champs-Elysees for a treat. She wanted to experience the sights and sounds of this famous street on her own for a while. Thus, she had set out alone to explore the place.
That night as she walked along the road, she couldn’t help loneliness creeping into her heart slowly and diminish the feeling of triumph that had sustained her for the last one month. Her eyes were drawn towards the people passing her, laughing with their partners carelessly, enjoying the evening, enjoying each other’s company. She wished she could have Sameer with her at that moment. She wanted to laugh that carelessly, she wanted to feel the spirit of this famous place. No success and adulation in the world could replace the feeling of contentment that Sameer brought into her life. She missed her parents, too. She had never been away from them for so long. Each night, after each hectic day, she wanted to curl up on her bed with her mother at her side.
The feeling of loneliness that suddenly gripped her in the middle of a bustling and lively street was so strong that she abandoned her walk and went back to their hotel. As she entered the lobby, the receptionist at the front desk informed her that someone was waiting for her. She thought it must be Vivienne or some of the other boys from the troupe. They must have got worried for her. She headed straight for the restaurant where her guest was waiting. Wondering who it might be, she started walking through the restaurant, looking for a familiar face.
She stopped in her tracks on seeing Sameer at a brightly lit table, sipping coffee, looking heartstoppingly handsome. Sameer hadn’t seen her. She couldn’t believe he had come all the way to Paris to meet her. She had been afraid that he had left for Australia. That was partly the reason why she never discussed Sameer while talking to Romita. She was dead-scared of hearing that Sameer had actually left the country. But now she knew for sure that he had indeed left the country—not to go away from her, but to come and meet her. She felt her heart swell with joy as she walked towards Sameer. Suddenly, she realised that she was no longer upset with him. She had gotten over the resentment.
She reached Sameer and took the chair across from him. He looked at her warily. “Mini, how are you?”
Snigdha gave a noncommittal shrug. “Good. What brought you here? You were supposed to move to Australia. That’s why I came here, instead of marrying you.”
Sameer said, looking ashamed, “Mini, please forget that. I was being a pig. That day when I saw you hugging Abir, I completely flipped. I couldn’t think straight. I got scared thinking that you would leave me. I didn’t know what to do at that moment. But I promise I’ll never do anything rash again. I was missing you so badly, so I just came here to meet you.”
Snigdha felt her heart melt as Sameer spoke. He was looking so adorable; she couldn’t help getting mesmerised by him all over again. She feasted her eyes on the handsome sight of him. She realised how much she had actually missed Sameer, how much she needed him. His voice was music to her ears. But she was enjoying teasing him. “What’s the point? You are going to run away when you get upset. A bit of insecurity and you get ready to dump me.”
Sameer took her hands resting on the table and said earnestly, “I’m sorry. I really am. I know whatever I said was wrong. But please don’t stop talking to me. I can’t take this distance from you. The last month has been absolutely traumatic.”
She could see the pain and fear in his eyes. She wanted to get back in his arms, but refrained from doing so. She was having too much fun—being vindictive could be fun at times.
Sameer continued as she sat impassively, “Romita told us you have been giving incredible performances all across France. I saw some of your shows on YouTube. But I wanted to see you live.”
“Who told you I would be here today?”
“David. I contacted him.”
“I see. They knew you would be coming then?”
Sameer nodded. “Yes. I requested them not to tell you anything. Are you upset that I came here?”
Snigdha was still being nonchalant. “We are going to Bordeaux tomorrow.”
Sameer sat silently for a while. “Oh, but I brought something for you.”
Snigdha was curious, though she managed to rein in her enthusiasm. “What is it?”
Sameer gave her two passes and she couldn’t believe her eyes. They were tickets for a Shakira concert at the La Villette hall for the day after next.
Sameer saw her eyes getting round in excitement. He asked tentatively, controlling his own grin, “So, what should I do with these?” He knew how to exploit her weaknesses.
Snigdha asked, her voice quivering with excitement, “How did you get hold of these tickets from India?”
An irresistible smile played at the corner of his lips. “Actually, you have to thank Ralph for it. He got these for both of us—as our advance wedding gift.”
Her answering smile was dazzling. She couldn’t hold back any longer. She got up and said authoritatively, “Come out with me. I want to enjoy the evening like everybody else.” The way Sameer was smiling up at her was making her giddy with happiness, she had goosebumps all over her body.
He got up, gripped her hand, and together they went out on the street. This time Snigdha found herself laughing and enjoying like the others. The grandness, the perpetual brightness of Champs-Elysees got to her. She found herself truly appreciating the beauty of this famous place. Love in their hearts was making everything around them wonderful and special.
They had dinner at the Paris Café before getting out on the street again. Suddenly Sameer said, “You will be amused to hear something.”
Snigdha asked curiously, “What?”
Sameer smiled. “Abir is dating Shefali.”
Snigdha was swinging her purse wildly as she walked with a spring in her steps. This completely unexpected news brought her to an abrupt halt. She shrieked with joy, clutching her face. “When did this happen? This is such amazing news!”
Sameer grinned happily. “A few weeks after you left. Shefali asked him out. He agreed and they have been seeing each other since then. She is a force of nature. She will need some expert handling. I hope Abir is up for the job. He seems very happy nowadays, though he misses you.”
Snigdha blurted out, “I missed you, you know. Every time I went up on stage, I used to wish you were there in the audience, watching me. My performances don’t feel complete as long as you see them.” She continued, her eyes shining brightly with sincerity, “Sameer, I promise I’ll never hide anything from you again. I won’t let miscommunication come between us.”
They stood staring at each other in front of the Gap store surrounded by hundreds of people. But Sameer didn’t seem to care as he pulled Snigdha in his arms and kissed her deeply, with some passersby wolf-whistling at them. They devoured each other, completely lost in their own world. The man in her arms meant so much more than all the success in the world. They had become each other’s success.
Sameer said breathlessly, coming up for air, “Let’s go back after this tour and get married. Everyone back home is waiting for it.”
Snigdha said joyfully, “Yes, let’s do it.”
When they reached the hotel later that night and bid each other goodnight, Sameer asked, “What are you going to do about the concert?”
Snigdha said excitedly, “Of course, we will go. I can’t miss a Shakira show.”
Sameer was confused. “But you have to leave with the guys tomorrow.”
Snigdha explained, “We don’t have any shows the next week. It’s just technical rehearsals. I’ll join them later.” She asked, getting tensed, “But you are not leaving after the concert, are you?”
Sameer said with a smile, “No, sweetheart. We’ll go back to India together after your tour gets over. Our parents are joining us in Bordeaux next week. We decided to make this a family holiday. I know you miss your mom and dad. They too have been dying to see you. My parents are coming, too. They didn’t want to miss the rest of your shows. They all love you.”
At Sameer’s words, Snigdha realised with absolute certainty that her parents would always remain overprotective about her and nothing could change that. She would just have to learn to strike a balance between her parents’ and her own wishes. She would also work on her friendship with Abir anew. She would start her life with a new perspective. She had no doubts that she would always have Sameer beside her in all this.
She smiled warmly at Sameer.