My first ever story for the blog. After writing it, I don’t seem to like it much. I feel it is bit of a drag. Anways, spent so much of time writing it, so will be posting it nonetheless.
Disclaimer: Not related to anything or anyone. It is purely a work of fiction. If there are any similarities with anything, then my apologies. It is purely unintentional.
Ziva found herself flipping through the pages of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’. She had made it a part of her everyday routine- the first five minutes of her visit to Flip-A-Page, a bookstore cum reading centre, was spent flipping through the pages of this evergreen classic.
Uncle Anwar, as he was fondly called by the readers who visited his store, had been noticing Ziva everyday and her ‘five minute routine’ seemed to amaze him. Here was a girl who was in her early 20s’ and the first thing she would do after visiting the store was to pick up ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and sit at the corner table and flip through the pages. He wondered what this was all about. How could someone read the same book everyday, that to only for five minutes? Strange.
After about a month of noticing Ziva everyday, he decided to shun his curiosity and ask her the reason for this strange routine.
Ziva was sitting at her place with her favourite book in hand when Uncle Anwar approached her.
“Hello young lady”, said Uncle Anwar in a tone that was reminiscent of the teacher in him.
“Oh! Hello Uncle Anwar”, said Ziva, slightly taken aback by his sudden presence.
“Can I sit here if you don’t mind?”
“Sure Uncle Anwar”, saying which she moved the chair towards him.
Uncle Anwar aka Mr.Raza Anwar was in his early 60’s, a happy-go-lucky kind of a man. He retired as the principal of a well-known school in the city of Bangalore. Being a teacher all his life, his love for books was only natural. So, after his retirement, this T-shirt-jeans clad man opened Flip-A-Page to fulfill his dream of being surrounded by the two most important things in his life-books and youngsters.
He wanted Flip-A-Page to be a class apart and so he made it a bookstore cum reading centre where people could buy books as well as read them in the store for as much time as they liked. The store was a huge one, spread across an area of 7000sq.ft. Painted in red and white, it bore a look of a vintage building with stories waiting to be told. It was well equipped with all kinds of books and was a reader’s paradise. Uncle Anwar had put in a lot of money and time to make it what it was today- a one-stop destination for books.
“What is your name?” asked Uncle Anwar.
“Ziva” came back the reply.
“Whoa!! That is a nice name and quite an unusual one. So, how do you like my store?”
“Thanks uncle. And your store is just awesome. The books, the atmosphere, the vibrancy, it is all so cool.”
“So what do you do Ziva? Are you in college or are you working somewhere?”
“I am in my final year. I am pursuing my Masters in English literature.”
“Did you say English literature? Now that is interesting. In times when people only take up either science or commerce, it is nice to see someone pursue their post-graduation in Arts. Very good. Ah, now I think I know the reason behind your ‘five minute routine’ and I kept wondering what might be the reason behind it.”
Ziva seemed surprised. “Sorry Uncle Anwar. I didn’t quite get your point. Five minute routine? What is that you are talking about?”
Uncle Anwar gave a hearty laugh. “Yes my child, your ‘five minute routine’. This is what I have named your everyday routine of flipping through the pages of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I have seen you do that everyday and it amused me. Now that you have told me that you are an English literature student, I seem to understand the reason behind it. So, how is your project coming along?”
Ziva gave Uncle Anwar a tongue in cheek smile. “Project? What project uncle? I am not working on any project.”
Uncle Anwar’s face bore a confused look. “You mean you are not working on any project?”
“No uncle, not any I know of.”
“The more I talk to you, the more you seem to amuse me. You are not doing any project and yet everyday you spend time flipping through the same book? May I know why? I am just curious. You can choose not to tell me. But I am amazed.”
It was now Ziva’s turn to laugh. She knew how it was to be on the other side of the table.
“Ofcourse uncle, I will tell you the reason behind it. It is not something that is worth hiding.” Thus began the revelation.
“I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for the first time when I was a 16yr old. And from that day till today, my love for the book just keeps growing. I started believing in the characters and for me, Elizabeth and Darcy existed somewhere for real. Love stories became a way of life.”
Uncle Anwar interrupted her. “But what about the ‘five minute routine’? It can’t be just your love for the book.”
“Yes uncle. You are right. The reason behind what you call the ‘five minute routine’ is that I find solutions to my everyday unanswered questions in the book. Questions about my life, my relationships, my search for that perfect Darcy kind of a guy. I know it sounds crazy but I believe destiny plays a great role in finding one’s love and I am trying to find answers as to what my destiny has in store for me. Everyone who believes in Hinduism believes that they can find the answers to their life’s problems in a book called Ramcharitramanas. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is my personal Ramcharitramanas. And you won’t believe me but the fact is that this book has helped me unlock so many of my life’s mysteries. I know you must be feeling how someone can be so impractical in life, trying to find answers in a fictional book. This book is a peek into what my destiny has in offer for me and till now it has held me in a good stead.”
Uncle Anwar could not stop smiling. “Hmmm!! I don’t believe what I just heard. I don’t believe is that it is happening all over again.”
“What is happening again Uncle Anwar? I know it is hard for you to believe whatever I have just said but it is just how it is with me.”
Uncle Anwar said in a serious tone. “You are right. I wouldn’t believe a word of whatever you have said if it was a year ago. But now, I believe every word of it. I have no option but to believe in it after being a witness to Aarav and Tvisha’s story.”
Ziva’s ears twitched like a dog’s and she sat upright in her chair. “Aarav and Tvisha?”
“Yes. Aarav and Tvisha’s love story. The crazy two and their crazy yet unique love story.”
“Oh!! Uncle do tell me the story. Please please please.”
“It is a long story. It is already 7 in the evening. Aren’t you supposed to go home?”
“It is Saturday today. I have nothing to do going back home before 9 and I stay in the building that is at the end of this road. So it is not a problem for me. If it is ok with you uncle, please tell me their story. If not today, maybe some other day, but please do.” pleaded Ziva.
Uncle Anwar thought for a while. “Ok my dear curious cat, I will tell you the story. I know you will not sleep peacefully tonight if I don’t tell you the story now. So here you go. This happened a year ago.”
Uncle Anwar’s tone had now changed to that of a story teller’s.
“Aarav was a 26yr old, smart and pretty good looking boy. He personified the quoted quote ‘Talking to some people is like tight-rope walking, you either fall for them or fall out with them.’ He had completed his MBA and worked as a HR head in a leading software company. On the other hand, Tvisha was a 24yr old simple girl. She was not one would call beautiful but nonetheless she was cute to look at and had a very vibrant personality, always smiling. She had completed her Masters in advertising and was working as a creative associate for an advertising firm. The two of them were a world apart and the only common string between the two was that they both were abibliophobes. They were such voracious readers that even with their busy schedules; I always found them here at 8PM.”
“So that is how they fell in love? Here at the bookstore? Was it love at first sight? Who proposed first?”
“Uh oh!! Wait Ziva. Take a breath.”
“Oh am so sorry uncle. I just get carried away sometimes. You please continue.”
Uncle Anwar smiled. “They had been visiting this place from the time they were in college and I had never seen them speak to each other anytime in those many years. An occasional smile, maybe yes, but nothing more. Therefore, that cold and breezy night in mid-December, when I saw them deep in conversation, I was surprised. Not much of a surprise though because from past few weeks before that particular day, I had seen them come together to the store and engage in a long conversation over books. I thought it was just two people who had found a common topic to discuss-books. Only later did I come to know the real reason.”
Both of them were of marriageable age and their parents were looking for alliances. It so happened that their families got to know each other and they decided to consider the other’s proposals. The horoscopes were matched and it proved to be a good match. Tvisha’s photo was shown to Aarav and he instantly recognized her though he kept the fact away from his parents. He gave a go-ahead and decided to meet Tvisha and her family.
Tvisha was unaware of the fact that Aarav was the guy who was coming to see her. She hadn’t seen his photo since it was not asked for and so none was provided. The day came and she was all decked up and she felt the same way a goat feels before it comes under the butcher’s knife. She thought it was strange that she was feeling this way instead of feeling excited since she was waiting for this moment from a long time.
Aarav and his family came at the ‘allotted’ time and the conversations began between the elders. The girl was called for and the moment Tvisha saw Aarav, only one thing came into her mind-No, not him. No ways!! The usual things that happen when a guy comes to see a girl happened and after an hour when Aarav and his family had left, Tvisha’s parents asked her about her opinion. Her parents were very happy with the guy and his family. Tvisha hesitated and then said, “I don’t think I can marry him. He is everything I always wanted in a life partner but he is not the one. He seems to be a completely different person than I am. I have been seeing him from many years at Flip-A-Page and I don’t think we are compatible.”
“Compatible?” screamed Tvisha’s mother. “How do you decide if you are compatible or not by just seeing a person everyday for an hour? He is everything you ever wanted and to know if you guys are compatible, you need to converse with him at a personal level. You can’t have pre-conceived notions about every person and judge a person that way. You must to learn to give every person a fair chance before saying no. And I hope you will do just that because he will prove to be a good husband and you better come to a decision only after you have met him a couple of times and not now without giving it much of a thought.”
Silence is golden and Tvisha was now getting to know why. But, Tvisha knew what her mother had said made perfect sense.
On the other hand, Aarav had liked Tvisha but wanted to come to a decision only after meeting her a couple of times.
So, they met in the bookstore everyday after that day and Tvisha seemed to like him but she still couldn’t get rid of the voice in her head that kept telling her that she still needed a confirmation, a go-ahead sign. Whereas for Aarav, he was sure he had fallen in love with her. But, he didn’t want to confess till she had said a ‘yes’ to the marriage proposal because he knew a ‘no‘from her would hurt him badly.
On that cold, breezy night in December, Aarav decided to pop up the question. They were sitting at their usual table with a book in their hands when Aarav suddenly broke his silence. “So Tvisha, what is the plan?”
Tvisha knew what he was hinting at and yet she tried being ignorant about it. “Plan? Nothing great. I will go home, have dinner, watch television and then go to bed.”
“That is not what I am asking. It has been two months now that we first came to see you. So, what is your decision? I would like to spend my entire life with you. But, that is not important. I want to know your decision. Both our families want to know our decisions by this weekend so that they can fix up a date for our engagement if it is a yes from both our sides. I have told you my opinion. Now it is your turn.”
Tvisha was confused. Her parents had been asking her for a decision and she was putting it off giving lame excuses. She knew it wouldn’t work with Aarav. He could read through her. She decided to tell him the truth. “Aarav, am confused. I like you very much as a person. But, I am not able to decide if you are the one for me. Sometimes I feel you are the one and at other times, I feel I need a go-ahead signal from God. I need the destiny to decide for us. I know it is sounds so impractical and foolish to leave it all to destiny but I always wanted it that way. I always felt something will help me decide but nothing of that sort has happened till now and I want to wait.”
Aarav knew she was just being herself and that is what he loved the most about her. But, he had to come to a decision soon. “Ok Tvisha. You believe that if we are destined to be together, we’ll be together no matter what happens, right?”
“Ok, so be it. Let the destiny decide. But, let the destiny decide at this very moment as to where we are headed.”
Tvisha sounded nervous. “Am sorry. I didn’t quite get you.”
“I am just saying let us push destiny to decide our fates today,right here,right now.”
“How do you do that?” questioned Tvisha.
“Simple. Both of us adore books. So these will help you come to a decision. Pick up your favourite ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Close your eyes and I will close mine. We will place the book on the table and turn it upside down several times, and the moment I say stop, you stop and open the cover sheet. If it is the start of the book, you know it is a positive sign that we should go ahead and get married. If it is the end of the book, then it is the end of our story. But let me clarify, I don’t believe in all this and my decision to marry you will remain no matter what the book says. Fair enough?”
“Fair???” screamed Tvisha. “You think this is ‘Dil to pagal hain’ or ‘Kismat Konnection’ or something??Dude, this is real life.
“Tvisha!!Don’t contradict your own statements. You are the one who is confused. Now that am giving you an idea of how destiny can divide for you, you seem to back-off. I don’t like being in a confused state. So come to a decision!! If you feel destiny can lead you onto a right path, then why hesitate?”
“Alright. I’ll do it. Makes sense.”
Tvisha’s hands were sweating whereas Aarav seemed to be unusually calm. Tvisha wondered why.
The book was brought down onto the table. Both of them closed their eyes and turned the book upside down several times and then Aarav said “Stop”. Tvisha stopped and opened the book. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the page she had opened. It was the end page of the book. She saw Aarav and he seemed to have no expressions on his face. He just left the place without saying a word.
Tvisha just sank into her chair. A thousand thoughts crossed her mind. She knew something wasn’t right. She ran out of the bookstore and found Aarav standing on the deserted road, almost deserted with only an old couple strolling down the pavement.
She ran to Aarav and hugged him tight. “I don’t care what the destiny has decided Aarav. I don’t mind going against it for you. I love you. I love you very much.”
Aarav held her tight and said “I love you too Tvisha. I have loved you from the time I first came to see you and I will always love you. Am sorry I had to do this. I had to make you realize somehow that you too loved me from a very long time. I had no option but to pull the last straw. But, there is something I have to tell you- destiny did decide right. You opened the last page and it meant the end but it also meant, most importantly, a start of a new story- the story of our lives together.”
Tvisha knew he was right and tears rolled down her cheeks.
“And the rest is history”, said Uncle Anwar sounding very happy. “They are now happily married and are settled in Delhi. They do make it a point to visit us everytime they are in town. Quite obvious since their love story saw the daylight here in the bookstore. A very nice couple indeed”, saying which he turned to Ziva but she was busy doing what she always did- flip through the pages of ‘Pride and Prejudice’.