Friday, October 12, 2007

wow what a story

Karan leaned back on his seat and closed his eyes. The sun rays were streaming through the window and were right on his face. He was tired, emotionally drained out. Too many things had happened in the past one year which left him gasping for breath. He was still reeling by its impact. And now as he tried to calm down, 50,000 feet above ground, scenes came flashing back like a kaleidoscope. And then he realized it would be a very long journey for him.
3 years seemed like an eternity. He was on his way to his friend’s wedding. From Bombay, Karan went with 3 other friends to Delhi. From Delhi they had planned to take a cab to Dehra Dun where his childhood friend was getting married. He decided to go on the last minute.
“Shit, we are late. Those guys must have come and must be waiting for ages now. Whose idea was it anyway? They should have gone on their own.” Karan was ever grumbling.
“Stop bitching and get into the train, will you?” Chander growled.
Deepak was just barely able to suppress his chuckle. Karan could not wait to meet the other guys in New Delhi station. They were his childhood friends from Kolkata. He had moved to Bombay 4 years back for job. It was his first friend’s wedding. He was excited. They were in Nizamuddin and had taken the local train to New Delhi where they would meet the other guys who had arrived from Kolkata and then all together they would go to Derha Dun.
Once in New Delhi , there was total pandemonium. The group could not be located. Karan’s cell phone had run out of balance. “But I still have reception,” he said indignantly.
“What purpose would it solve? You can’t make or receive calls. You can only receive sms. Very helpful!” Chander snapped.
Chander messaged Soumya who gave a rough idea where they were. The October sun was beating down in full force. They dragged their luggage out of the platform and suddenly Deepak caught a hand waving frantically. Then from the sea of crowd Soumya’s face emerged. Sweat dripping off his forehead, his shirt clung to his body; he was a sight to behold. He looked as if he was holding on to the last shred of patience. And when his eyes finally fell on the group, a smile spread over his lips.
“Where are the other guys?” Chander asked, once the initial greetings were over.
“In front of the ticket counter, over there. Come on. We had been waiting for ever. Our train came at 10:05 and see what time it is now? Bloody 12:30. We are starving.” Soumya said good humourly.
They all dragged their luggage out of the platform and Karan caught sight of Tushar and Raunak leaning against the pillar looking so tired and bored. Karan actually felt a bit sorry for them.
“You jerks. What were you thinking while making this plan? We almost melted here and we are starving.” Tushar barked, but his good humour was not well camouflaged.
They all started laughing and hugged each other and everyone wanted to talk at the same time. After the initial greetings, Deepak went off to change his ticket as he would not be going back to Bombay with the rest. He planned to stay in Delhi with his sister and go back after 10 days. There was a mammoth line up. The rest of the gang waited.
It was almost an hour they were standing and chatting while waiting for Deepak to come back when Karan suggested,” Why can’t we go and order lunch and by the time we start Deepak would come. There is no point in wasting time.”
Everyone agreed and trudged out of the station and walked into a road side dhaba, glad to be out of the sun and under a fan. They ordered lunch and while they were half way through, Deepak came in. By the time lunch was over, it was 3:30. Now they had to find where they could get a bus or cab to Derha Dun. Asking quite a few people around, they piled into two Autos and headed towards the bus terminal. All had come to Delhi for the first time.
Karan never wanted to come to Delhi . This place never appealed to him, ever. As he looked out of the Auto at the huge dusty roads zipping past under the wheels, he got lost in his own thoughts. He saw everything, but not much registered in his head. The Red Fort, it’s never ending wall, but he was not fascinated. Suddenly he realized the Auto going inside a very crowded place and coming to a screeching halt; and wondered where. He soon realized that it was the bus terminal as Chander nudged him to get out of the Auto. They got the tickets and located the bus. The bus was a disaster, was an under statement. Karan looked at the condition of the bus in dismay and dreaded the long 8 hours journey that waited in that tin box. The bus was empty except for the 5 friends. There was still time for the bus to leave, so Karan got down again, but not before securing the very first seat behind the driver (ofcourse the window seat) with a newspaper, to have a cigarette. Then when Karan again boarded the bus, Karan saw a guy sitting on the same seat as his but had taken the isle seat and left his seat as it was. Karan shot a disgusted glance at him and turned round to face Deepak.
“Yah I had a fight with him just now.” said Deepak. Lucky that in Delhi they do not understand their mother tongue.
“What happened?” Karan’s disgust was mounting by the minute.
“The moron came and put his luggage on top of ours. And when I asked him to remove it, he was acting funny. I gave him a piece of my mind.” Deepak’s eyes were glowing.
As it is, seeing a stranger sitting beside him had irritated Karan no end and now hearing this, he was all the more disgusted with this guy. With a loud thud Karan sat on his seat, giving out the signal loud and clear that he was not at all pleased with this guy sitting beside me.
The bus left the terminal just at 4 and the guys all settled down. They were all joking around and shouting and laughing as if they owned the bus. After the first 10, 15 minutes Karan stole a glance at this guy sitting next to him. That was the first time he ever took a close look at him. To his surprise, Karan found him quite decent and there was something in his face that tugged at his heart. A subtle sadness, strength, sweetness andmaturity all put together which intrigued him. Something urged him to speak to this guy even if it is just a simple thing. He wanted to hear his voice. Trying frantically to think of something plausible to talk about but he was stumped.
“Do you have signal in your cell?” Karan blurted out and felt like kicking himself for being so stupid.
The guy said,” Yes I do.”
Then once the ice was broken, Karan and the guy started small talks where Karan told him, they were going to their friend’s marriage and how they had met at New Delhi station and got delayed and had planned to go by car but was very late and last moment decision was to go by bus. By this time Karan was sprawled on his seat with his legs stretched out on the metal railing that separated the driver’s seat from theirs. The guy turned out to be very soft spoken and reserved. The more Karan spoke to him, the more he felt himself getting attracted to him. He wanted to know him, feel him, smell him and wanted to hug him and put his head on his shoulder. Something was happening to him he could not fathom. By this time it was dark inside the bus. Karan pretended to doze off and so very slowly he leaned his head on this guys shoulder. First it was barely touching him. It took him almost 20 mins to properly put his head on his shoulder. And he waited with bated breath for his reaction. He was sure the guy would remove his shoulder away or ask him to move away. But to his surprise the guy put his head on Karan’s and they both dozed off. Or that’s what each one of them tried to make the other believe. Karan was in heaven being in contact with him. He could not believe that he was actually resting his head on the guy’s shoulder and he on his. Even in his slumber Karan could smell him and feel his body heat and he was melting and dying to hug him. Then they both woke up. Karan could feel that the guy was awake. The guy also probably realized that Karan was no longer sleeping but they both stayed the way they were. The jerk of the bus made Karan’s toes touch this guy’s toes, as he also had his legs up on the rod. Karan half expected him to move his legs away but he did not. Karan, very subtly started rubbing their toes together. He was in shock. He couldn't believe that this was happening. But he went no further. He was happy and content with only that. He did try to take his hands towards his crotch, but somehow he could not do it. There was no resistance from the guy’s side, but Karan just could not go ahead and dragged his hand back across his thigh. He could not understand what was happening to him. Here was this guy, whom he liked and he apparently is quite o.k. with being sexual but he just wanted to lay there with his head on his shoulder and wanted nothing else.
After that there was a halt for 30 mins at a roadside restaurant. Karan deliberately avoided each other as he was with his group.
“What were you two doing, sitting in the front seat? You guys looked like a gay couple.” Tushar chuckled and the rest of the group nodded their heads.
Karan was embarrassed but didn’t know what to say, so just smiled.
Once back in the bus Karan asked him, “What’s your name?” realising that they still haven’t introduced themselves.
“Rudra”, he whispered. And Karan immediately fell in love with the name. It suited him so well.
He said that this was the first time he was going to Derha Dun by bus. He always goes by train. That day he missed the train by 2 mins. He was basically from Derha Dun but worked in Delhi. It looked as though they were destined to meet.
Surprisingly, Karan couldn’t understand why he did not want to hold back anything from him.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” Rudra asked.
“I don't have any, and I never plan to get married.” Karan said before he could stop himself.“Oh, o.k. I have a girl friend.” Rudra said in a matter of fact way.Rudra whispered, “I hope you are not taking me wrong?"
Karan didn’t know what to say,” No of course not.”
“Umm.. have you ever had sex with a girl?” Rudra was barely audible.
Karan once again could not lie, “No, never.”
Rudra looked at Karan for a long time and then whispered, “In life there are people with whom you spend 8 years and still cannot be close enough to ask such personal things and there are people you get close in 8 hours and do not even think twice asking these things and not feel awkward. It feels like I have known you for ever.”
Karan was zapped. He looked into Rudra’s eyes and felt himself sinking in the depth of his gaze. Rudra was not Karan’s ideal man. Rudra had all the things Karan would never have wanted in his boyfriend or a partner. But apparently it was not playing a role in this.
“If you ever come to Delhi, you can always stay at my house.” Rudra had an inviting smile.
“And if you ever happen to be in Bombay, do not worry about accommodation. My door would always be open for you. But I do not think I would ever come to Delhi again. My job does not bring me to Delhi and apparently your job does not take you to Bombay. But yes. If either of us happens to be in the other’s city, we will stay at each other’s house.” While Karan said this, he held on to their gaze for a long time.
Soon it was time for Karan to get off the bus. All the friends stumbled out of the bus and Karan turned back to catch a final glimpse of Rudra. To his surprise, he saw Rudra looking out of the window on the other side. Karan waited for him to turn his head but the bus pulled out slowly and Rudra never turned.
And Karan howled his luggage and slowly started following his friends knowing Rudra and he will never meet.

Few yards away… there was Rajesh, Karan’s friend’s younger brother. He had come to receive the gang. Karan was apprehensive of meeting Rajesh again. But then it has been 4 years they had broken off. One of the reasons, why Karan had left Kolkata and came to Bombay. A city where he knew no one; wasn’t sure what he wanted out of life at that point of time. Only thing he wanted was to go out of Rajesh’s life and put an end to the 6 years of relationship. Later, on many occasions Karan had pondered on their relation and gradually he came to the conclusion that his relationship with Rajesh was more of lust than of love. They got together when Karan was 16 and Rajesh was 14. What did they know about love and relationship at that age? Practically nothing. Only thing that held them together was the very fact that two young guys within the same friend circle, share the same interest and obviously they liked each other. This relationship was something new for them and like the forbidden fruit, they were intrigued by it and their days and nights were full of sex, sex and more sex. But gradually Karan started realizing that Rajesh doesn’t love him. He just loves the sex. And Rajesh being the typical sporty guy, could not digest the fact that he was gay and was in constant denial. Wanted a girl friend to show the rest of the world and in bed wanted Karan. This is something Karan could not handle any more. And he thought.. as long as he would be there in Rajesh’s life, he would not be able to control himself from having sex with him, and Rajesh needs time to figure out what he wants. If he can lead a normal straight life, then the last thing Karan wanted was to be a hindrance to that. Because he knew, if they keep seeing each other, then Rajesh would end up between his covers every night. Karan liked Rajesh too much to be selfish. So he chose to move out of his life for his sake. Karan definitely liked Rajesh more than Rajesh liked him. It was an infatuation, but still a form of love none the less.
“You o.k.?”, Karan jumped with a start, to see Chander looking at him quizzically. Karan just nodded and forced a smile. And then he saw Rajesh. Their eyes locked for a few seconds and then they both looked away. When they finally faced each other, he realized that everything was over between them. There were no knots in his stomach, no apprehensions, and no excitements. It was as if meeting a normal friend. That definitely made things easy. They started exchanging pleasantries as they walked down the hotel lobby.
They had two rooms booked in the hotel. One was a large room with three beds and the other room had a queen bed. The team was tired and hungry. Rajesh had made arrangements for food which he had bought and kept in the room already and had arranged for drinks. So once freshening up, everyone sat down to relax with a glass of vodka, whisky, rum; whatever one preferred. Everyone was excited and talking nineteen to the dozen but Karan was quiet. He stared around the room, saw all his friends laughing and talking and he could not figure out why he couldn’t be happy too. What was bothering him? He always wanted to attend his friend’s wedding, specifically the first guy among the group who would get married. Here he is now, but something was not right, somewhere. He felt so stupid. He could not take it any longer, so he quietly took his glass of whisky which he had not even touched and went out at the balcony and closed the door behind him.
It was a clear night, the breeze was a bit chilly but refreshing. All was so quiet. He stared in front of him and saw the hill studded with silver and golden lights as if someone had scattered gold and silver everywhere. They shone so bright. He stared at the beauty for a long time and as the truth dawned on him slowly, gradually, his gaze became hard and cold. He shifted his gaze up towards the sky. The stars twinkled everywhere. It seemed to Karan, as if they were chuckling and mocking at him. He felt his anger boiling within him. And at the same time, he felt so horribly helpless. His lips started quivering and then he could not control it any more.
“Why did you do this?” Karan spat out, still looking up at the sky. Tears were flowing freely down his cheeks by then and he was trembling. Not with the chill but with his anger. “I am screwed. Why did you make me fall in love with a guy I will never ever meet again in my life? What do you want from me? How could you do this?” He didn’t know what to do. So many questions and there were no answers. The more he tried to reason it out and suppress his tears, the more they welled up and caught at his throat. He had accused God before when he had made the decision to walk out of Rajesh’s life. After 4 years he was again accusing Him. The thing that tore at his heart was that he was so helpless. He was not interested in a relationship. He was quite happy the way he was. And now he has fallen in love with a guy he would never ever meet in this lifetime. He doesn’t even know whether Rudra was gay or straight.
“What are you doing here?”
Karan spun round and saw Soumya and Chander standing at the door.
“It’s a beautiful night. I like the quietness. I was about to come in.” Karan quickly turned away to face the hill, afraid they would see his tears. But it was too dark for that.
“Come on in then. We are all waiting.” And with that they went in.
Karan wiped his tears. Took a deep breath and gulped down the remaining of his whisky and walked into the room. Chander looked in Karan’s eyes and somehow realized that something was not right and he was damn sure Karan was crying. But he knew better and did not say anything.
“Its getting late and we need to get up early in the morning for Haldi. And I am too tired. Let’s go to bed.” Tushar finally said yawning.
Everyone agreed and went on to finish their individual drinks.
‘Aunty has told me to tell you a few things.’ Rajesh was looking straight at Karan.
‘Who? My mother?’ Karan was surprised. ‘What is it?’
‘Oh, a lot of things. Let’s go to the other room. Let them sleep here. We can talk there without disturbing them.’ Rajesh’s intention was not clear but Karan was too tired and did not want to argue although he knew that everything Rajesh said was a pack of lies. Maybe somewhere he even knew why Rajesh came up with this story.
The long journey and the emotional strain along with the drinks were having an effect on Karan. He stumbled across the room, opened the door and walked out. When he came in front of the other room, he realized the door was locked and so leaned against the wall and waited in the dark for Rajesh to come with the keys and open the door.
Once inside the room, he became aware of Rajesh’s intentions.
They were both sitting on the bed facing each other,’ What is it that you had to tell me?’
‘Nothing. I just wanted to be with you to night.’
Saying this Rajesh came closer and placed his lips on Karan’s. Karan did not react. There was no response what so ever from him. Rajesh might as well have been kissing a dummy. There was no spark and no passion. Karan slowly lay on the bed with Rajesh on top of him. Rajesh nuzzled around his neck and kissed him there. Karan could feel his lips trailing down his throat to his chest and stop on his nipples. First the left and then the right. Rajesh licked them, bit them and then slowly continued his journey down. Karan let him do whatever he wanted to do with his body. Karan flipped and lay on his stomach at the urge of Rajesh and after a few seconds he felt Rajesh enter him. He laid still and before Rajesh was through, Karan was fast asleep. He had never ever had such a horrible sex in his entire life. It seemed as if, this disastrous night with Rajesh, was a signal that everything was over between them. Not only emotional, there was nothing physical also left between them. This was one chapter which was over and done with.
Karan woke up groggy eyed at the sound of the pounding on the door. It was Deepak. Karan put on his shorts and opened the door and then realized the blunder he made, but it was too late and Deepak had already walked past him and was standing in the middle of the room.
‘Wake him up. He is wanted at his house.’ Deepak sat on the couch and waited for Karan to act.
Karan was paralyzed at the door. He did not know what to do. He knew, he could not wake up Rajesh for he was damn sure, Rajesh was naked. And Rajesh would not be able to wear his shorts as long as Deepak is in the room and so cannot get out of bed. Then another thought struck him. He frantically looked around the room to see where his shorts were. Finally he spotted them peeking from under the blanket. He heaved a sigh of relief. At least Deepak would not be able to see that. Just then Karan heard Chander shouting for them. Karan took the opportunity and asked Deepak to go and tell Chander that they would be ready in a minute. Deepak gave a very questioning look and walked out of the room. The moment he was out, Karan jumped up and locked the door and went to wake Rajesh up. To his surprise he saw Rajesh was already awake and smiling at him.
‘That was neat. You were scared to death, weren’t you?’
Karan did not know what to say and shot a very disgusted look at Rajesh but finally could not control and burst out laughing.
It was the perfect day. The autumn sky looked like spring-cleaned. Not a spec of cloud and the sky was in its sparkling best. The soft rustle of the breeze through the autumn leaves was a tad bit melancholic; or was it only Karan? As he walked out of the hotel, dressed in his sherwani, he was detached from the group. None of the others saw the beauty of the October morning, no one noticed the brush of sadness in the air and Karan hardly noticed the group. He was quiet and stared straight ahead as he walked along with the group oblivious to what they were doing. He had genuinely thought that once he got up in the morning, the feeling of the night before would be gone; it was just a passing phase and he would feel whole again. But to his dismay, nothing had changed. He felt as strongly towards Rudra as he did the night before, if not stronger.

“My God! I thought you guys were never coming.” Raj was standing at the door with mock anger on his face, his eyes twinkling.

They were late. Haldi was over. Raj looked like a horrible case of jaundice. The group had taken for ever to get dressed and in the bargain, they all missed the ceremony. There were loud cheers and laughter and everyone wanted to talk at the same time. As Karan stood quietly looking at his friends engaged in an animated discussion, smile formed on his lips. Everyone was so excited. So was he, atleast he thought he was.

“You are so not doing this.” Karan took a step back as Raj came to hug him. He looked straight into Raj’s eyes, who had stopped short in the way. And not being able to keep a straight face for long, Karan lunged forward and wrapped Raj tightly in his arms.
“It still seems unbelievable. You actually getting married? Remember what you had told me years back? You would stay single and we would buy a house. I would live in the top story and you in the ground floor. What happened? Karan accused him, his eyes laughing. I am so happy for you. May God bless you.” Karan whispered in his ears as he embraced him.

The day went on and Karan got busy with his friends and the rituals of the marriage. He did not get too much time to dwell on Rudra. Or did he? Rudra was constantly there in his mind and Karan fought all day to keep him from popping up in his mind’s eye, and concentrate with what was happening around him. But it was a battle he was losing by the minute. When he got some free time, he started debating whether he should call Rudra. He still had his cell number. But he could not decide. Half of him told him to call and the other half stopped him from calling and making a fool of himself. Karan knew, if he called and while talking to Rudra, if he gets a hint that Rudra is not interested in him or a bit irritated that he called, he would not be able to digest it. He is happy just to think that Rudra also liked him, even if not as much as he did.

“We are going to Mousouri this afternoon. Its 20 mins from here, by car. We will be there for around 30 mins and then come down. We have come this far, we might as well go there. What say?” Chander was asking Karan. Karan did not want to go. Was not in the mood but he did not want to spoil the fun for others. He just shrugged his shoulders. Raj was paying for the entire trip. He wanted all of them to go as there was nothing much to do in the afternoon. As everyone got busy getting a hired car to go up there, Karan quietly slipped out of the house and went to the nearby phone booth. His heart got the better of him. He was about to call Rudra. He dialled the number and as the phone rang on the otherside, he waited with bated breath, his hands shaking, and he felt so weak in his knees.

“Hello”, a baritone voice echoed through the phone. Karan’s heart almost skipped a beat. He did not know what to say.
“Hello”, Karan replied in a quivering voice. His mind was in turmoil. He wanted to kick himself for ever calling Rudra. “This is Karan.” Finally he managed to say.
“Hey, what a pleasant surprise! How are you doing? How is your friends wedding going on?” Rudra asked Karan. There was a genuine interest in his voice.
“Yah, it’s going fine. How is your fever? Did you go to the doctor? I was a bit worried about you, so I called.” Karan stumbled all over his words. It was too much to handle for him. He sounded as if he was trying to make an excuse which Rudra will buy, for calling him.
“I am fine Karan. Thanks for calling. So what are your plans?”
“We are all going to Mussouri this afternoon. 6 O’ clock is the Baraat and tomorrow at 6 in the morning we go back.”
“Oh! So we cannot meet.”
“No. I do not think so. I will e-mail you once I am back in Bombay. I know you are on roaming. Should hang up now. Just wanted to check how you were”
“Yah sure. Enjoy your trip. And thanks for calling Karan. Take Care”
“You take care too. Bye”. Karan almost choked as he said the last words. He stood there long after Rudra had hung up, too dazed to move. Slowly he regained his composer and went out.
His friends were getting ready to leave. He got into the car and leaned back against the seat. His head was in turmoil. He could not think straight. He tried to participate in the singing and laughing with his friends. He almost succeeded. And soon they reached Musourrie. When he got out of the car, the first thing that hit him hard was the fact that everything seemed so familiar. He felt as if he had been there before. He was almost shocked out of his skin at this. But gradually he realized why it looked like as if he had been there before. He had been to Darjeeling quite a number of times. This place was exactly like it, but smaller. It looked like Darjeeling had been shrunk to make it look like Mussourrie. The same tibetian people, the horses in the mall, the small handicraft shops, the smell of horses and fresh clean air which one generally gets at higher altitude, chilly, and tourists. He fell in love with the place instantly and didn’t want to go back. He wanted to spend the rest of his life there. He never felt so strongly even towards Darjeeling. What was his connection? Why was he getting drawn to this place so much? The marriage, his job, his family, friends, everything looked so unimportant to him at that moment. The only thing he wanted was to stay there for ever. Soon it was time for them to go back. He begged them to stay a bit more. But he knew they could not. They will have to get back, get ready, for the Baraat would leave sharp at 6.
Baraat did leave at 6. They danced their way to the marriage hall. This was a very new experience for Karan. He being from Kolkata, had never danced like this with the Baraat. He had seen this in films. The evening went well. There were too many things happening and he did not get time to think about Rudra, the entire night. The wedding was late in the night and by the time it ended; it was 5 in the morning. They dared not go to sleep as they had to leave by 6. They came back to the house and packed their bags and were ready to leave. When they reached the bus stand, the bus had left. So they stood waiting for the next bus. But there were none. They were getting panicky as they had their train tickets from Delhi at 4. They had to be there before that. Karan was looking around and suddenly within the crowd, he saw Rudra on a bike. He tried to see more clearly but he lost him in the crowd. He ran towards where he thought he had seen him. He elbowed through the bustling crowd and craned his neck and tried as hard as he could to see where Rudra went. But he was nowhere to be seen. Did he imagine it? He did clearly see him on a bike. How could he have mistaken it? But it was obvious even to him that Rudra was not there. And as he looked around, he realized he had come quite far away from where the group was standing. Frustrated and dejected, he slowly retraced back his steps.
The group was getting hyper by the minute as they could not get a cab to go down to Delhi. Karan couldn’t careless. He looked around disinterested. He himself had to join back his office the day after. But he didn’t care. Only thing he wanted was to stay back. There, in Derha Dun, forever. Finally they found a cab, which was ready to take them to Delhi. They stumbled into the cab and sat back relieved.
It became hot and stuffy in an hour’s time. The sun started beating mercilessly on the car. The scenery whisked past them and Karan looked out of the window, the dust, the dusty trees, the cows grazing lazily in the October sun. The air was humid and so thick; one could almost cut it with a knife. Finally he dozed off and so did the others. When he woke up, it was 2 in the afternoon. He was soaking wet and tired and cramped and his whole body ached. He swore under his breath as he tried to change his position in the overly cramped car and tried to stretch out his legs.
In another hour, they were in New Delhi station. They paid off the driver, took their luggage and trudged up the gangway and to the platform. Once they boarded the train, Karan realized and not for the first time…he was saying Goodbye to Delhi forever and with that he was leaving his love back there. A love which would never be his, a love which was cut short before it even bloomed. He had no idea; his life would take such a different course, when he had left Bombay 3 days back. Delhi had never appealed to him before. And from now on he would only remember Delhi as the place where he found and lost his love forever. As he stood at the door and watched the train slowly pull out of the platform, everything in front of his eyes became blurry and a lump caught at his throat.

It was a never ending journey back home. The train rattled incessantly and Karan lay back on his bunk and stared up at the concave ceiling of the train. He tried to reason what happened in the last two days. He still could not believe what had happened and did not know what he would do once he reached Bombay. He was almost scared. He had a knot in his stomach, like he generally gets when he dreads something. Nothing made sense to him. The more the train took the group away from Delhi, the more Karan felt himself close to the place. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep. But the only thing he saw was Rudra’s face. He opened his eyes again just to see his face again. Nothing was working. All he could see was his face, smell his smell…when they were snuggling in the bus, feel his body heat, here his baritone voice ringing in his ears… and all he wanted was to run back and take him in arms and hold him forever.

He could hear his friends talking and laughing below. But they seemed so distant as if from a different planet. He still found it hard to believe that 5 guys came to attend a friend’s wedding… 4 of them were going back as they had come and one guy’s life changed forever. It was absurd but true. Karan was quiet the entire journey and the next morning he woke up with groggy eyes. He did not get proper sleep the entire night. He kept thinking about what had happened and did not sleep till the wee hours of the morning.

He walked into an empty house and felt dreadful. But he knew he had to put his acts together. Rudra cannot be his…and he needed to reconcile with that fact. Sooner, the better for him. Days passed by.. he did not call Rudra nor did he e-mail him. He knew that there was no point. But he even knew this that he would always love him and no other guy would ever be able to take his place. That was not a very comforting thought for him. But he tried to make peace with it.

He was nominated as the best employee of the year, in his office. He was happy but with each passing day, he could concentrate less and less in his work. He knew that his work was getting affected but he had no idea what he could do to make it happen otherwise. His days and nights were still occupied by Rudra and he was all that Karan could think of. October rolled into November. Things did not change.

“Are you serious?” Karan had stopped dead in his living room, with the cell phone in his hand. He had a call from his Dad, and there was sheer disbelief etched on his face. He could not believe what his Dad had just told him.

His family had never gone out on a vacation together since he was 10. His Dad had bought a package from Mahindra’s time share and here he was now telling Karan that they were all planning to go for a vacation together in December; his parents, his eldest sister and her husband and children, and her second sister. “Do you think you can take 15 days off from your office? We are planning our trip on mid December. Dehra Dun and Mussourie would be nice at that time. And if we are lucky enough, we would be able to see the snow,” his Dad was telling him.

They all loved the snow but they have never seen it. This would be a good chance. But that was not what Karan was thinking. He found it hard to believe that if they really went on this vacation, Delhi would have to be their base and he would be able to meet Rudra again. There was no hope of meeting him ever, 5 mins back. But now here he was making plans to go to Derha Dun Mussourie in December.

“Hello? You still there?” his dad was asking.

Karan jolted back to reality. “Yes, I think so. I will talk to my boss and let you know tonight.” he mumbled, still unable to believe what he had just heard.

That night when he called his parents, he told him that he had already applied for leave from 5th December to the 18th. But there was some change in plans. His parents could not find any reservation in Mussourie and they even felt that Karan might not want to go there as he had just been there a month back. So now they were considering Manali. Karan did not care. Because even for Manali, they still would have to go to Delhi and from there they would go further north. He was ecstatic. He planned to go to Kolkata on the 6th as his friend Soumya was getting married and on the 8th they would all leave.

“We would take the train back to Kolkata on the 16th and you to Bombay.” His Dad told him.

“Wait till I tell you to buy the tickets. I have a friend in Delhi. And I do not have to join back till 18th. I might stay with him the 16th night and take the train on the 17th. I will e-mail him and see what he has to say and confirm to you tomorrow.” Karan told him.

The next day Karan wrote a mail to Rudra.

Hi RudraI wanted to ask you something and I want the answer very urgently. If you have any problem, then please don’t hesitate to tell me.My family and me, all of us are going to MANALI in December. We will reach MANALI on the 12th. My Family will go back to Calcutta on the 16th.I will come back to Bombay. I was planning to spend 16th inDelhi and take the evening RAJDHANI from Delhi on the 17th so that I reach Bombay on the 18th morning. I can only do it if you tell me whether I can spend 16th at your place. If it is not possible then I will take a train on 16th and come back to Bombay. Please tell me as soon as possible so that I can make the arrangements accordingly.Even if I cannot stay with you, I will try to meet you when I am in Delhi. Ofcourse, only if you want to.Will be waiting for your mail.Bye and take careLoveKaran

He checked his inbox one hundred times to see if Rudra had answered back or not, although he knew, the earliest he could get an answer would be the next day. The day dragged on. Karan checked one last time before he left his office that night. But still there were no mails from Rudra. He had a very fretful night. He dreamed of mountains and snow blizzard and saw himself standing in a platform and waiting for someone who never arrived and he almost missed his train. When the alarm went off, he was still groggy and felt sick. He shaved and dressed and went to office. The first thing he did was open his inbox and there it was. His heart almost stopped. He slowly clicked on Rudra’s mail and held his breath as the mail unfolded.

Hi Karan,
It’s so nice of u that u think me so close to you. I respect ur
feelings. But I am amazed on this another very strange circumstance. You will be surprised to know that I am in Imphal, Manipur these days for my shoot. Another strange thing is that I might be in Lokhandwala and Andheri, Mumbai from 14th to 19th. What I was planning was to meet u and give u a surprise in Mumbai but on the contrary u gave me the surprise. Anyway, we will see how the things (emotions) can be handled. Call me today or whenever u read this mail by 9PM if possible. I will talk u on my mobile.... though the network here is very very poor , but still hope to contact you.

lots of love and take care !


Karan sat stupefied in front of his computer. Then slowly read the mail over. He didn’t know whether he should be happy or sad. But Rudra had asked him to call him at 9. He was ecstatic, then. He would get to hear his voice again. He looked at his watch. It was 10 in the morning. He knew it would be a horribly long wait. The day dragged on. It seemed to Karan, the day was going painfully slow. He could not wait to get out of his office. As it is, since he had come back from Derha Dun a month back, he had been very absentminded and had been pulled up for his lack of interest and goof ups he did at work. His boss was not pleased. But he knew something was wrong somewhere. He had seen Karan work before and he knew that he was a good worker. But he never asked him and hoped whatever was bothering him, would be sorted out and he would get back to his original self. He was ready to give Karan a chance. Karan left office at 7 and went home. He was getting increasingly impatient. Once home he took a shower and started to pace the floor. It seemed to him that the wait was unending and he was at his wits end. Finally, which seemed like an eternity, it was 8:45 and Karan went out to call Rudra.

Karan had the same odd feeling, the nervousness and felt the same tension in his stomach as he dialled Rudra’s number with trembling hands. He waited nervously for the call to complete. He heard a click and a woman’s monotone came in saying the number he was dialling cannot be reached as the person was outside coverage area. He looked down at the phone in utter dismay as if he expected the girl to be right there. He dialled again and again but every time it gave him the same result. He had started to lose all hope and decided that he could not take this any longer and made up his mind to call one more time and then go back home. He dialled the number and this time there was a total silence on the other side. The stupid monotone also did not come through. By this time he was holding on to the last strands of patience. Rudra had told him that the reception up there was pretty bad and he would try to speak to him if Karan could get through. Obviously that was not going to happen. Suddenly there was a crackling sound and before Karan could understand what was happening, he heard Rudra’s voice.

“Hello”, rang the baritone.
“Hey Rudra, Karan. How are you?” Karan almost shouted in the phone. “I thought I would never get through to you. I had been trying for ages but in vain.”
“Hey Karan. Good to hear your voice buddy. Oh yah. The reception here is crap. Anyway…how are things with you?”
“Pretty good. Got your mail and so called as you asked me to. So how long would you be there?” Karan was out of his initial shock by then and felt quite at ease.
“Dunno. Would be for a few more days I believe. So when would you be in Delhi? I was supposed to be in Bombay after I am done with my job here. But I do not think it would be possible now. I am stuck here indefinitely.”
“Oh.” Karan felt his heart sinking again. What if he was still in Manipur on the 17th? He would not be able to meet him, never mind staying with him. This was his last chance of seeing him again.
“Do not change your plans because of me. When you are in Delhi give me a call and if I am there, which I think I would be, then I will definitely meet you. The rest is on our luck”, Rudra was saying.
Karan knew what Rudra was saying was right. No one can do anything if he gets stuck in Manipur and cannot come back by then. His Bombay visit was also cancelled. Such rotten luck. There was nothing else to say. The line was extremely disturbing. Continuing their conversation was proving a real task. Anyway, Karan couldn’t think of anything more to say. So finally they hung up.
Karan went back home. He had mixed feelings. He was happy to have spoken to Rudra that night but the outcome of the phone call made him depressed. Everything seemed unreal to him. Somewhere at the back of his mind he had a feeling that he would not be able to meet Rudra. Rudra never spoke about Karan spending the night in Delhi. All Rudra spoke about was, meeting Karan in Delhi and how it cannot happen. Nothing was making sense to him and again when he thought how Rudra had answered his e-mails he was sure that Rudra wanted to meet him. The more he tried to think and rationalise, the more depressed he got. So finally he stopped pondering and went to bed. He tossed and turned and finally drifted off to asleep.

Days dragged on as usual. Nothing changed. And finally it was December.... time for Karan to prepare to go to Kolkata. He was excited to meet his parents after almost seven months. Soumya's wedding was on the 10th. He was looking forward to that too. And above all he was really looking forward to the trip to Manali. If they were lucky, they would see the snow. Karan was always attracted to mountains and its grandeur and never really liked sea. But irony of life,. he settled down in Bombay whereas he had tried his best to get a job in the north. He even had applied in Nepal but nothing worked out. Destiny..... . for sure.
His train came to a screeching halt. It was pitched dark and chilly. He pulled his shawl closer round him as he stepped out on the dimly lit platform. He still had a smile on his lips remembering what the lady had asked him when he came back from the wash room. He was wearing a black kurta and a black embroidered shawl and he knew he was a little bit over dressed. The moment he had come back to his seat, the elderly lady; his co-passenger, had asked him..." Kya aapke sasural wale aapko lene arahey hai?" Karan could not help but chuckle and told her that it was not the case. " To kya aapki girlfriend aarahi hai aapko lene?" Karan was laughing by then, truly amused. He shook his head and said," Nahi...papa aarahey hai mujhey recieve kerney." The lady was visibly disappointed. He was still thinking about her and smiling when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned round and saw his father. Its always good to be back home. He handed his luggage over to the driver and started walking by his father, filling him with all the news of Bombay, his work, and other things. By the time he reached home, it was 5:30 and the sky was turning pink in the east. It was different to look up at his house in the diffused light of the early morning. It had been so many months and the memories of days when he was a kid and used to go for early morning walks with his grandfather, came flooding in. He stood looking up at his house for a long time. Then slowly went in and up the familiar stairs to the 2nd floor where he knew his mom would be waiting for him. And sure enough, as soon as he reached his floor, his Mom came out with open arms. Karan sank down in his chair and looked around the familiar dining room. Tea was so good in Kolkata. The Bombay people do not know how to make tea. What they drink is anything but that. He was tired but he knew that he had a long day ahead. He would go to Soumya's as soon he can. He had promised him that he would be there for the morning rituals. Then he would barely have time to come back, get dressed and go with the Baraat. But that was what friend's marriages are supposed to be. So he was not complaining. After breakfast, he freshened up, and went out. The day was as crazy as he had assumed. It was a whirl wind. He was thankful when finally the day came to an end. He was tired. He had not slept the entire night in the train and then he was up all day and was really busy with the wedding. He was happy but dog tired. When he sank in his bed finally at around 1 in the morning, he was asleep before his head even hit the pillow. The cab was waiting for them outside. There was a pandemonium in the house. So many luggage and chaos, it was hard to get your words through to someone. Karan's sister was already dragging the luggage down the stairs. Going to the mountains and that too in winter, was a real task. The overcoats and sweaters take so much of space in the luggage that you invariably end up with ten times of baggage than you would have normally. They would be going by train to Pathankoth.. .which was almost 42 hours. Just 2 days back Karan had come from Bombay...travelling for 32 hours. It started to look to Karan that his entire life revolved round trains. Thankfully the train left on time and after a never ending 46 hours, they were in Pathankoth. Invariably the train was late by 4 hours. Now, it was time to haul their luggage again. They hired a taxi and stuffed all the luggage in and exhausted, they settled down and Karan lit a cigarette. Their journey from Pathankoth to Manali was another 8 hours. Karan was damn sure and so were all the rest that by the end of the journey they would be all dead. But when they started their drive up , the scenery that greeted them, was unbelievable. What they saw on their way, could not be explain in words. They saw the most beautiful creation of God. Darjeeling was not even 10% of this. Huge mountains covered with snow, close enough for you to walk over. That’s the Himachal for you. They are so beautiful, majestic and gorgeous. They stood there, silent for all to see. Karan had a funny feeling, realising that they were surrounded by the mountains which were millions of years making. Except for their car, there was not a soul in sight. Its so incredible to realise that there were millions and billions and trillions of men in this world and only maybe 1% of them get to see this. But these mountains, they don't care about who comes and watches them or who doesn't. Its as if they were all decked up for God and Karan's family just happened to be there. They made him feel so small, useless, worthless but all the humility and intimidation. .. Karan loved every bit of it. They almost made one feel guilty for being there and intruding in there solitude. The thing that made it all so intriguing was that they were totally unaware of their grandeur and beauty. But they were there for everyone to behold, whoever cares. This is where one actually feels the presence of God. Karan saw almost every possible colour around him. From dry blond grass stretching up to an emerald green river which went up to the middle which was snow white as it was frozen and then the lush green grass and plants which went right up to the base of the mountains. One side was brown and the other was white with tinge of blue. Everyone stared out of the windows, spellbound. When they reached their resort, it was already dark. Karan had a quick shower and went down to have dinner with his family. They had asked everyone possible, whether there was any chance for snow the next day. They did not have much time. They were in Manali for 2 days and then they were going to Dharamshala. No one could give any positive answer. But everyone was hopeful. After dinner Karan went to bed but could not sleep although he was tired to the core. He came out and stood on the balcony. He looked up at the sky and there were clusters of clouds all over the sky. The moonlight gleamed on the mountain in front of him and turned it to silver as the light reflected on the snow. Karan desperately wanted it to rain, for the locals had told him that if it starts raining then there are more chance of snow. He wanted to take a thread and needle and sew all the small clusters of clouds together to make it one and maybe then it would rain. He stood there for a long time, then silently went back to his room and to sleep. He woke up with the sound of water dripping from somewhere. He squinted in the light that filtered through the heavy curtains. He grimaced to think that someone must have left a tap open somewhere or the overhead tank must have overflowed. He looked at his watch, it was 6:15. He got out of bed and went to the window and pushed the curtains away from it and looked out. He could not believe what he saw. It was cloudy and it was raining all night. And the mountain in front of it, looked whiter than before and he realised that it was snowing there. He turned round and woke his sister up and he went outside. It was cold but Karan did not care. He just stood on the balcony drinking in the beauty. And then he saw his dream coming true. First he did not realise what it was and thought it was rain falling on him, blown in by the wind. But a closer look told him that it was not rain but snowflakes. It was snowing!!!! He could not believe it. It was the most amazing thing he had ever seen in his entire life. Within minutes everything was covered in a film of white powder. It looked as if the entire town has been whitewashed. But this change was happening in utter silence. Snow makes no sound as the rain does when it falls. So slowly and silently the town covered itself in a white blanket. All the pines trees looked like Christmas trees. Only here the snow was actual snow and not cotton. He did not realise when his parents and his sister had come and were standing next to him. They were too afraid to speak and break the rhythm of silence. So their trip was successful. They saw what they had come for. It was more beautiful thing they had thought it would be. Dharamshala was equally beautiful. The place was so small and quaint. Karan fell in love with the place instantly... for its beauty and not to mention the hot and sexy guys there. The guys of Himachal were really hot. And then it was time for them to go back. Karan was hopeful. The day he reached Delhi, the first thing he did was to call Rudra. Rudra answered in the second ring. "Hi Rudra. How are you?" This time Karan did not introduce himself. Why he did not, he himself did not know. ”Hi Karan. I am not fine." Rudra recognised Karan anyway. How many times have they spoken over the telephone? Twice? Why did he say that he was not good. No one says that he is not fine. What was wrong? "What happened?" "My Mom has been detected with Cancer. She is in the last stage. I am in the hospital now to get her reports." Karan was stunned. Did not know what to say. Whatever it was, he was not expecting this. "Where are you?" Karan heard Rudra asking him. “I am in the Railway Guesthouse. So I suppose you would not be able to come over?" " I do not know when I would be done with at the hospital and maybe I can come over later." "Listen, do not try too hard. I would understand. I am sorry to know about your mom. If you cannot make it, I will call you once I go back to Bombay." "Call me in 2 hours time and I will be able to tell you whether I can come or not." "Sure" And Karan hung up. He was not disappointed. Why was he not disappointed? He knew his luck. This had to happen. He was sure more than ever now that he would not be able to meet Rudra. When he called Rudra after a couple of hours, he said that he would come over by 3 'O clock. Karan's train was at 4:20. Karan could not wait. He was restless. He went and took a shower and told his parents that his friend was coming to meet him. And he went down to wait for him. He was pacing in front of the lodge. It was 3:15 and still there was no sign of him. Karan was not even sure whether he would be even able to recognise Rudra. His face was just a shimmer in his mind. After all he had seen him only once. He looked up and saw a guy, in a blue high neck sweater and black and yellow jacket coming towards him, jumping and avoiding the puddles of water on the road. There was one huge puddle in between Karan and the guy then. He stopped at the other side of the puddle and looked up at him. Karan could not still be sure whether he was Rudra or not. Although he could not recognise the face, his heart told him all that he had to know. It was Rudra. They stood there, at the either side of the puddle, their gaze holding on to each other...frozen in time.
"So what does your Mom's report say?"
Karan was sitting across the battered sofa in the dimly lit lobby of the guest house. Rudra was at the far end of the sofa and there was an air of formality and courteousness in the conversation. The thought did cross Karan's mind when he met Rudra; and that same thought was bothering him once again. Although he was chatting to him, the more he looked at Rudra's face the more baffled he got. There was nothing exceptional in Rudra. He was not the most goodlooking guy he had ever met in his life. Almost a sense of relief, washed over him as he sat watching Rudra. Maybe he was not in love with him after all. Maybe he needed to see him after 2 months to realise that. It was just an infatuation that he had when he had first met Rudra.
"The doctor was not hopeful. But I have heard that Ayurvedic medicine works in such cases and so I want to start that treatment soon. Do you think it would be of any help?" Rudra's voice was filled with hope but it had a sense of despair too. Karan did not want to give Rudra any false hope.

So he started to say, “Well....Cancer is a disease which has no remedy. You can ofcourse try Ayurvedic and see what happens." He wanted to say more but he saw the look of dismay on Rudra's face. "What a jerk I am, Karan thought.”Where I am supposed to give hope to him, I am telling him in no uncertain terms that no matter what he does, his mother is finally going to die." Karan felt like kicking himself. He wanted to repair the damage his words had made when suddenly the lift door opened and his sister came out hauling the luggage. His mom and dad came out from the other lift.
"DO you realise what the time is? Or do you plan to miss the train? You expect me to get your luggage?" Karan's sister reprimanded him.
Karan looked at his watch and stared at it in dismay. It was 4:00. His train leaves at 4:20. He forgot about it totally. Both of them quickly got up. Karan introduced Rudra to his parents and sister and they dragged the luggage out and hailed a rickshaw. They loaded the rickshaw with the luggage and themselves, walked along side of it. Rudra wanted to stay till Karan's train left, so Karan stood in the line to get him a platform ticket. While they waited in the line, Karan took out a small brown paper packet from his pocket. Rudra looked at it enquiringly. Karan took out a wristlet and a chain. They were a set which he had bought at Dharamshala for Rudra. He took hold of Rudra's hand and tied the wristlet and looked up at him.
"One part would be with you and the other part would be with me. When we meet next time I will see whether you still have it or not." saying this Karan wore the chain round his neck.
"I will see too, whether you wear the chain or not the next time we meet."
"I will always. But will you?"
"Time will tell."
"Yes, time will tell."
Once acquiring the ticket, Karan picked up one bag, Rudra picked up the other and turned to head towards his platform. As he was turning away, he heard his mother saying," You are so much in a hurry to leave, you did not even think it necessary to say bye to us?"
Karan slowly turned round with a sheepish grin. His want to be with Rudra alone and talk to him was so great that he totally forgot to take his parents blessing before leaving. This also struck him odd. Does Rudra come even before his family? Did he not come to the conclusion at the guest house that he was not in love with Rudra? It was just an infatuation which was now over? Nothing made sense to him. He touched his parents feet , took their blessings and slowly walked away. Once in the platform, it did not take long for them to locate the compartment. They found the seat, pushed the luggage under and came out to stand on the platform. Time was running out. Karan had so much to tell Rudra. But he knew he would not be able to. He didn't want to start something which he would not be able to finish.
"So we always seem to meet just to part ways."
Karan nodded with a shy smile on his lips. "I want you to know one thing...wherever I am, I will always consider you to be a very good and special friend of mine."
Karan could not take it any more. Tears started pouring down his cheeks as if there was no tomorrow. He struggled hard not to make a fool of himself. Rudra just considers him to be a good friend. What was he doing? He suddenly leaned forward and hugged him tight. Rudra was a bit taken a back and Karan could feel the stiffness with which Rudra hugged him. Karan let go but the damn tears would not stop.
"If you do not stop crying, I will leave right now."
Karan wiped his tears and forced a meek smile and said' "I am sorry."
"I will ask you a question, just before the train leaves and you can think about the answer all the way back home."
"It's only 2 mins before the train leaves. Ask me now."
Rudra looked deep in Karan's eyes and very softly asked, "Why do you love me so much?"
Karan stood looking at him, stupefied. He was not expecting this from Rudra. How does Rudra know that Karan loves him? He had never told him. Not in his mails nor over the phone and absolutely never personally. But he knew. How?
"What type of a question is that?" Karan wanted to avoid saying anything about this.
"Remember one thing, till you exist in this world and till I exit from this world, I will always be your friend. We may not meet much or maybe ever, but I will always be there. And you will always have a special place in my heart and my life."
Karan again felt his eyes moist over and he shifted his gaze from Rudra's face and looked away over his shoulder. He could no longer see the compartment, everything was a blur. Without thinking Karan hugged him and this time Rudra hugged him back. He did not want this moment to pass. He wanted to hold him in his arm to eternity. The horn of the train brought him crashing back to reality. It was time for them to say goodbye. This time for ever. Karan had thought that once he had met Rudra, he would realise that he was not really in love with him and so would go back home, whole. But what he realised now as he pulled himself away from him and slowly climbed the steps of the train was that, he had lost a part of his heart when he had met Rudra two months back and this time he lost it full. He would go back home but an incomplete man.
As the train slowly started to pull out of the platform, Karan's tears new no bound. They kept on coming in waves, shuddering deep down inside him and climbing up his body and erupting through his eyes like a and scorching. He didn't care who saw him and what people might be thinking...if at all. He wanted to run down the steps and keep running till he found the firm grip of Rudra's arms which had held him not too long back. He stood at the door till he could no longer see him anymore and long after that. He couldn't imagine what his life would be after that day. How would he live? Well... not all love stories have happy endings. Not everyone lives happily ever after.
It was a cold and dreary winter day. The grey sky burst into a carnival of white confetti which quickly blanketed the city of Toronto. The dull grey light and the incessant snowfall were all like a reflection of a depressed mind. Through the silence, which seemed to stretch to eternity the only sounds that could be heard were the crackling of wood in the fireplace and the typing of a computer keyboard. Imran looked up at the computer screen, thought for a moment and then again started to type away. He himself did not really know what he expected to achieve from this e-mail. But when he had read the mail on one of the yahoo gay groups, he was touched. The guy seemed different from the most of the other sex seekers who splashed their 'asl' all over the sites in search of a quick hook-up. Imran wanted to let this guy know how he liked his e-mail and if possible might get to know him better. Typing and deleting for almost half an hour, finally he hit the 'send' button and leaned back in his chair. He sat staring up at the ceiling. It had always been the same. It was in days like this that he took a trip down memory lane. Varun still occupied a special place in his heart. Maybe he always will. The first time he had seen Varun in his office, his heart had skipped a beat. He was not the breathtakingly handsome guy but he was tall, with decent features, had an air of confidence and a subtle attractiveness that was too hard to resist. He was an employee, whereas Imran was just an intern. Over the first couple of weeks, Imran realised, Varun was a very reserved, soft spoken guy. He was an introvert to an extent of being a snob or rude. He had an impenetrable wall around him and the more he seemed out of reach, the more Imran got attracted to him but didn't have the slightest clue as to how he could break the ice. Everytime Imran tried to make a conversation, Varun's responses would be a curt 'yes' or 'no' or the minimum of words he could use. Imran was getting frustrated and was ready to give up when one incidence changed everything between them. It was a Thursday and it had started to rain towards the evening when everyone in the office was getting ready to leave for the day. Imran gathered up his books and walked out of the office. He stood at the patio and looked up at the sky. It did not look like the rain would stop anytime soon and he did not have an umbrella or a raincoat. As he stood contemplating what he should do, he heard someone behind him. "I do not think the rain would stop soon." Imran turned round and was face to face with Varun. He did not know what to say so he just nodded. "You can come with me if you want. I have a fairly big umbrella. We can catch a cab and I will drop you off at your house." Imran was thrilled at the prospect of going with Varun, in the rain, under one umbrella. But he did not want to raise his hopes and surely did not want to make a fool of himself. So he shook his head and said," Thanks. But I am fine. I will wait till the rain stops. I am not in a hurry." "Don't be ridiculous. Come with me." With that Varun opened the umbrella and motioned Imran to join him. Imran hesitated, just for a moment then stepped out in the rain. The wind was strong and the umbrella did very little to save them from getting drenched. The lanes of Hyderabad were thronged with rickshaws and cabs and bikes. It was proving a task to walk side by side in the madness of vehicles. They walked quietly because the entire situation was awkward for both of them and secondly, one would have to shout on top of his lungs to make himself heard above the cacophony of horns and beeps of cars and bikes. Getting a cab seemed next to impossible but finally they managed to get a rickshaw and piled at the back dripping from head to foot. Traffic was slow and as they meandered along the road Imran started to make small talks to ease the tension. As they neared Imran's house, he casually asked whether Varun would like to drop in. To his utmost surprise and joy Varun was ready to come in. Imran lived in a hostel. He shared his room with five other guys. It was a rectangular room with five cots placed next to each other at the center of the room. There were three battered cupboards and at the far end of the room was a second door leading to a common bathroom. There were clothes strewn everywhere. A few small tables worked as computer desks and there were a couple on the floor. There were walkmans and cassettes and cds; shoes were everywhere. And there were books; on the beds, on the cupboards, under the beds, on computer tops, on the floor. To Varun, it looked like nothing less than a refugee camp. He could not believe Imran lived there. Imran was doing his chartered accountancy. He had to study along with his article ship. How in the wide world could anyone ever study in a place like this. Varun sat at the edge of his bed and looked around in awe. Imran introduced him to his roommates. Someone got everyone tea and there were a few stale biscuits everyone munched on them. They did all the talking while Varun sat quietly and listened. Soon the rain stopped and it was time for Varun to leave. Imran came out with him to see him off and as Varun said goodbye, his eyes lingered on Imrans lips for a moment and then he turned and left. Imran could swear that Varun wanted to kiss him. But the moment was so sudden and so short, Imran could not be sure. On his way back Varun kept on thinking about how Imran lived in that madhouse. Over the next few days Imran and Varun went on to become good friends. They would go on lunch breaks to-gather and at the end of the day, they would leave the office together. They would walk half the way and then take a cab. Varun would drop him off at his house and go home. It became a routine. They talked about everything under the sun, from politics to sports, films to songs, their families, childhood, their aims and goals in life. They were both very comfortable with each other. By the end of a couple of weeks it felt as if they had known each other forever. "I was thinking about how you manage to live in the hostel in that utter chaos and still able to study. I would have never be able to do that." They were sitting on a bench by Tank Bandh...the most common hangout joint in Hyderabad. Imran just smiled and kept staring at the black water of the lake. Sounds of cheer and laughter wafted through the air from a group of young guys and girls clustered together a short distance away. It was a late Saturday evening and the air was warm and humid. The light breeze made the heat bearable. " Why don't you move-in in my house? I have a spare room. You can get your privacy and can study in peace." This time Imran slowly turned to stare at Varun, his eyes searching Varun's face for signs of a joke. But all he saw was genuine concern and eagerness in his eyes. He realised Varun was serious. "Its no charity..if thats what you are thinking. If you do not want to stay just like that, then you can pay me what you pay for your hostel accommodation. " "Thanks for the offer. But I am not really sure." "O.K. take your time, think about it and let me know." At the beginning of next month Imran moved into Varun's house. Imran could not believe his good fortune. It was a decent apartment. Sparsely furnished but had all necessary items. His room was fairly big with a queen sized bed, a dresser, attached bath, two bedside tables and a walk in cabinet. Imran stood at the window which overlooked the busy roads of Begumpeth. He could see the faint glow of the neon sign of "Shopper's Stop" to his left. Traffic was heavy and moved with a snail's pace. It was almost over a month he had moved in. He thought about the first time he had seen Varun and what all happened in the past few months and how today he was living with him...though only as friends. But still he could never have thought this was possible even a couple of months back. He was so deep in his thought that he did not hear the footsteps coming towards his room. He felt a hand on his shoulder and almost jumped out of his skin. He whirled round and was face to face with Varun. He heaved a sigh of relief and as his nerves started to calm down, he saw the twinkling in Varun's eyes which said...'mission accomplished' . He kept staring in his eyes without saying a word. The silence was electrifying. The twinkling in Varun's eyes changed to something more serious. There was a raw desire in his eyes he had never seen before. Varun lowered his head, mouth close to his, as if wanting to whisper something in his ears. Unconsciously Imran closed his eyes. He felt the soft moistness of Varun's lips on him. At first, just a brush, unsure, halting but when he got no resistance from him, the kiss became more firm, sure and demanding. Imran slowly opened his lips to the intruding tongue and returned his kisses. Varun's tongue explored every nook and corner of Imran's mouth and demanded more of him. Imran's body was arched against him, feeling every inch of Varun body, the heat penetrating through the soft linen of his shirt and searing his skin. Finally when they came up for air, gasping at the sudden force that had engulfed them, Imran saw a wild hunger in Varun's eyes. The need was so acute he almost smiled at the image in front of him. He had waited for so long for this moment. Imran put his arms round his neck and nuzzled his face in Varuns neck. Varun moaned and held him tight against him and Imran could feel his hardness against his thighs. They slowly moved to the bed and lay side by side. Varun opened his mouth to say something but Imran quickly stopped him by pressing his lips on him. Varun rolled over on top of Imran and started to undress him. He struggled with the first button but his lips never left Imrans mouth. As he started opening each button of his shirt, Varun's tongue and lips trailed down to cover the exposed skin. His tongue and lips burned against Imran's quivering skin. Soon Imran was out of his clothes and lay naked in all his glory. His cock was rock hard and lay parallel to his stomach throbbing. A satisfied grin passed over Varun's face and quickly he got out of his clothes and lay next to him taking Imran in his arms. Their bodies melted into one. The contact was so electrifying that a moan escaped Imran's mouth. Imran could feel Varun's tongue licking and flicking in and out of his ear and then slowly went down his neck and throat as his tongue circled his pecs and chest then zeroing down to his aching nipples which needed attention. Varun tugged and sucked at them till they were hard and were sticking out. Imran's fingers kept circling through Varun's hairs urging him to do more. His breathing was heavy and he shivered as Varun's tongue continued his downward journey. His mouth trailed down to his under thighs and he kept nibbling and licking inching up ever so slowly towards his groins. Suddenly Imran felt something warm and wet engulf his raging cock and he moaned out loud in sheer ecstasy. He clutched the bed sheets in either side and thrashed his head against his pillow while Varun drove him mad as he sucked his cock, licked his balls and then slowly trailed his tongue down to the ridge between his balls and his hole. Varun pushed his legs up against his chest and dove in between his ass cheeks, flicking and licking his tight hole. The first touch of his tongue on his hole sent a current through his whole body and Imran's eyes flew open," Oh! God!" he gasped. Varun kept on his motions till the ass muscles started to relax and his tongue entered past the tightness of the muscles and into the softness of his inside. Imran could not take it any longer and urged varun to come up and he rolled him over on his back and went down on his engorged cock. He took the cock inch by inch till his nose was buried in his pubic hair. He flexed his throat muscle and Varun moaned. Imran came up, flicked the precum off with his tongue and went down again. He developed a rhythm. He would take the whole cock in his mouth, massage it with his throat and then come up leaving only the head in his mouth, licking the piss slit and then going down again. "Imran", Varun's voice was hoarse and urgent. Imran looked up, rolled over on his back and lifted his legs and rested them on his shoulder. He guided his already moist cock to his hole and closed his eyes as he felt the pressure against it. As the head popped in, he almost cried out in pain. Varun stopped still...letting him get adjusted to his size and girth. He did not move till he saw Imran open his eyes and give a faint nod. Ever so slowly, Varun entered him, inch by inch till he was fully inside him and stopped. Sweat was pouring down from his face and body. Imran looked up, brought his lips closer to his face and licked the sweat off his forehead. The smell of Varun's body was overwhelming. He wanted to lick every inch of his body and submerge his nose in Varun's armpits and breathe his man scent. His cock was as hard as steel again and he put his hands on Varun’s ass and pulled him in. Getting the signal, Varun started moving in and out, slowly at first then gradually building up a tempo, plunging inside him again and again, claiming him and making him his forever. Imran was in heaven. His head was thrown back, eyes squeezed shut and he pushed back to meet Varun's every thrust. He could feel Varun was close, so was he. Varun stopped for a fraction of a second and plunged in deep and hard. Imran could not hold back any more. As Varun lowered his body to push his whole cock inside him, Imran clutched his shoulder, pulled him even closer and buried his face in his neck as wave after wave swept over his body. Varun shuddered and groaned as both of them reached a crescendo and stayed suspended floating in space which seemed like a lifetime and then slowly came down gasping and panting and laid spent in each other’s arms. was propped up on his elbow, looking down at Imran's eyes. The sincerity tore at Imran's heart.
"I love you too. I did, the first day I walked into the office and saw you. But I never thought I would here the same thing from your mouth. To-night, in your house, lying on your bed, my belief in miracles is re-enforced.
Varun leaned forward and kissed him gently on the lips, as if putting a seal on an agreement. An agreement of a lifetime. They belonged to each other from then on. When Varun lifted his head again and looked into Imran's eyes, his eyes were moist. Imran took him in his arms and held him to his heart and they stayed like that, wrapped in each other’s arms till they drifted off in a peaceful sleep.
The next morning, Imran moved into Varun's room. Life had never been more beautiful. They went on with their lives as a married couple. They went to office together, lunch would be at a small restaurant next to the office. At the end of the day, they would go home together. If one finishes early, he would wait till the other was done. Few days there would be home made lunch. Varun was a decent enough cook.
Varun was in a way a perfectionist. Living with him brought remarkable changes in Imran. Imran was a lazy and happy go lucky guy. Doing daily chores, house jobs, laundry were not his forte. He would shove his soiled undergarments under the bed every night once back from office. Finally when one day he would realise there were no more fresh, clean ones, he would go out and buy a new set of underwear but would never wash the soiled ones. This was Imran before he met Varun. Over the months, Varun's cleanliness, sophistication and good values permeated into Imran. There was a distinct change in him. And in sex, Imran moulded himself as per Varun's likes and needs. Varun almost made a new Imran, who was essentially his. His stamp was everywhere. They were a perfect couple. Their lives couldn't have been better, till one day a cruel twist of fate changed everything forever.

Imran paced up and down the hall, frequently looking up at the clock. It was past eleven at night and Varun was still not home. He had never been this late. It was a Saturday, Imran didn't have to go to work. They were planning to go out to a movie and then dinner. But a phone call from office put and ends to that. He was asked to be in office for some emergency meeting. Imran was disheartened.
"Babes, I need to go. But I will be back as soon as possible."
Imran was not impressed. After a long-time, they had planned an evening out. Of late, work at office had been maddening. They hardly saw each other during office hours. At times they would not even have time for lunch. Year endings were always bad. When they come home, they would be too exhausted and would be in bed in no time. The weekends were also not spared. After a long time they had got the weekend off and now Varun had to go for some stupid meeting.
"What about the meeting?" Imran asked indignantly.
"Lets do the movie tomorrow. We can go out for dinner tonight. I promise I will be back soon. The meeting would not take more than a couple of hours." Varun looked warmly at him and pulled him into a tight hug. But it was hard to pacify Imran and Varun knew that very well.
"Whatever," Imran walked out of the room with a shrug of his shoulder once Varun released him from his embrace.
Varun smiled as he saw his retreating back. "He is still so immatured",he thought with so much of affection. And he loved him all the more for that. He was so unadulterated, pure, soft caring and a genuinely nice guy. Varun felt very lucky to have Imran in his life.
This was at 3 in the afternoon. Till 9 there was no sign of him. Imran was getting impatient. He finally had called the office to check how long the meeting would go on. The phone kept on ringing and finally went into the fax machine. Obviously there was no one at the office. He had no way of knowing when the meeting ended. "Maybe they had just left office. I should give him some more time. Its only 9:30," Imran reasoned with himself. But when 9:30 changed to 11 and still there was no sign of Varun, Imran had started to panic. He stopped in front of the window and looked out at the deserted street, half expecting to see Varun walking up the patio. But all his gaze was met with was the stillness of the night. The street lights made the trees look black and ominous. There was no wind and the trees stood still, as if waiting.... waiting for something, too scared even to breathe.
Imran jumped out of his skin at the sound of the phone ringing. Finally Varun got time to call him, Imran was furious. Even before picking up the call, Imran knew what Varun would be saying. But he was determined not to give in. He would not soften but he would show him how mad he was, but he knew that that would be difficult. Varun knew the exact way to melt him like a pound of butter no matter how angry he was. He picked up the phone but said nothing. He knew he didn't have to. Varun would start rattling a long string of apologies and would try to explain what actually happened and how he tried so very much to come home early but could not, at the instant Imran picks up the call. Imran was prepared for it.
Imran frowned, as there was not a word from the other side although he could hear voices at the other end. So obviously the caller was still there. Suddenly all his previous fears came rushing back.
"Hello", the word almost did not come out.
"Hello. Could I speak to Mr. Imran Khan?"
Imran could not recognise the voice. This must be some kind of joke Varun was playing to pacify him, he taught. "If that’s what Varun wants, I will play along but he will have to face me once he comes home. He will not get away so easily."
"Speaking. Who is this?" " This is Rao from the Lifeline Nursing Home. Mr. Varun had been brought in here earlier this evening as he had met with an accident. " Imran stood frozen to the ground and it seemed as if time stopped right then and there. He just stood there staring at the wall in front, without any expression. It looked like someone had pressed the Pause button in his life and he stood there frozen in time. "Mr. Khan? Are you there? Hello?" He slowly removed the receiver from his ears and looked at it in disbelief. Gradually, the whole thing started to sink in. After the initial shock, his mind slowly started to function again. "Yah, I am here. Sorry. How is he?" His voice was almost a whisper. He braced himself and closed his eyes as he waited for the answer. "He has suffered a broken hand and a leg and a injury in the head and is in ICU. We found your number in his wallet." He was shivering from head to foot by then. "I will be there. Thanks for calling." words tumbled out of his mouth. He put down the phone, ran into his bedroom, threw some clothes on and was out on the road in 10 mins. He hailed a cab and was in front of the nursing home gates in 15 mins flat. All the time, he kept telling himself, this cannot be happening. Everything seemed so if he was in a bad dream. Soon someone will wake him up and it will be all over. At the front desk, he was asked to wait for the doctor. As he looked around the waiting room, the stench of the antiseptic in the air and the hustle and bustle around almost made his stomach churn. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to face the doctor. " Mr. Khan?""Yes, doctor. How is Varun?"He held his breath as the doctor started to explain his condition. “His hand and leg injuries are not severe. They would heal in time. I am more concerned about his head injury. He is unconscious. If he doesn't regain consciousness in 12 hours, his condition could be serious. He has lost a lot of blood. We can only determine the extent of his injury internally once he regains consciousness. I am sorry." Imran closed his eyes as he drank all this in. He was shivering from head to foot and felt he would pass out. "Are you alright?" The doctor gave a concerning look. "I am fine, thanks. Can I see him?""Yah sure." Imran walked into the room and froze at the sight that met him. Varun was lying on the bed, eyes closed, face a deathly pale, a cast covering one of his hand and leg. His leg was put on some type of a sling or pulley. His head was bandaged and there were smudges of red at a couple of places. There were IV's put in his arm and leg. The room was filled with monitors and they hummed and beeped as if giving out signals of death. As Imran stood there, taking in all of this, his vision started to blur. He was blinded with his own tears. Seeing Varun in such a state it felt as if his entire life had come to a standstill. He slowly made his way to the bed and gingerly touched his hand."Hi baby. How are you doing," he whispered. Tears were streaming down his face. There was no response. "Look at me babes. Please. Open your eyes. Talk to me; I am no more angry. Its o.k. We will have dinner tomorrow and go to the movie. I love you sweetheart. Do not do this to me." He cupped his face with his hands, so very gently and leaned down to kiss him on the forehead. He held his hand and kept on talking to him. He was sure Varun could hear him even if he was unconscious. He kept talking, urging him to hang in there, forcing him to come back. But there was no response. But Imran was relentless. He talked about everything.. .. the plans they had made for the summer and the places they were supposed to visit in the vacation they had planned to take. The arrangements that were still needed to be done and how he could not do all of that alone. "You cannot lay here in the hospital while I work my butt off. Do you hear me? You will have to come and help me. And if you do not get well fast, they will not give us more leave. Our tour would be cancelled. Do you understand? The house without you is eating me alive. I get scared in the middle of the night. You know that. You need to be there to comfort me. Come on sweetheart.. .. I cannot go back alone in that house." Imran was telling him whatever came in his mind. Whether he made sense or not didn't matter to him. The nurse at the corner of the room stared in surprise. Minutes passed into hours. Imran was still sitting and talking to Varun. Finally Imran stopped, exhausted. His tears did not stop but he just kept looking at Varun. But he knew he had to bring Varun back or else he might slip into coma because of the head injury. "Do you remember the day when we spoke first? Before that you used to be a snooty much attitude you had. You still do. That’s why you are lying here and not talking to me. You love to see me miserable... don't you? Wait till you get better, I will cook and then you will have to eat all of that. That would be my revenge for putting me through all this. Remember the first time I cooked for you? Your face was priceless after you took the first bite." Imran was smiling through his tears as he talked. Suddenly he saw Varun brows twitch. He stopped and stared closely but nothing more happened. He dismissed it as reflex. He kept talking and after a few mins he again saw his eye brows twitch. "Babes, can you hear me? Can you press my hands for me baby? Please try...I want to see." The nurse walked up to the bed and stared at the two. "Yes sweetheart.. try a bit more. I know it hurts but please for my sake do it." Slowly Varun's fingers curled and he held Imrans hand. Imran almost choked on his sobs but kept talking to him. "Fantastic.. .try once again babes. Just one more time." There was no response for a long time. Then slowly again Varun closed his fingers on his. "Excellent! Now can you open your eyes? Try babes. Don't you wanna see me? I am right here. I want you to look at me while I talk to you." There was again silence for a long time and then there was a flutter in Varun's eyes and ever so slowly he opened his eyes a little bit and then closed it again. As if it was a great effort to open them. Imran was smiling through his tears. His joy knew no bounds. The nursed looked at him, she had never seen anything like this before. Tears were streaming down her face as she saw them fight death together. Imran brought him back to life, snatched him away from the clutches of death. She smiled at Imran through her tears and ran out to call the doctor. When the doctor came, Varun was groaning as he was in pain. The doctor checked him, his eyes, his heart and satisfied gave him injection which would ease his pain. The effort seemed to have worn him out and Varun went back to a peaceful sleep.
Varun was already awake when Imran walked into his room. He didn't look as ghostly as he did the night before and he broke into a smile the moment he saw Imran. Imran almost ran to the side of the bed, flung himself on Varun, buried his face in the nape of his neck and his entire body wrecked with sobs. He clutched at Varun's shirt with all his might as if he was scared he would lose him any moment. With the free hand Varun held him with all the strength he could master. The nurse standing at the corner of the room quietly got up and walked out with a smile on her lips. They stayed that way in each other’s arms for a long time. Slowly Imran lifted his head and looked into Varun's eyes. They said nothing but their eyes spoke volumes as silent tears trickled down Imran's face.
"The doctor said that I couldn't shower for a week. But you just gave me a nice bath with your tears. That felt good," Varun said with a mischievous grin.
"You jerk!" and with that Imran started laughing. "How did this happen?"
"It was late when I was finally done with the meeting so instead of waiting for a bus I took a rickshaw. Traffic was light but all of a sudden out of nowhere a bus came right in front and rammed into us. The impact was so great, I flew out and the last thing I remember was seeing the ground rising up to meet me real fast and then utter darkness."
"I almost died when I heard the news."
"So did I when I hit the ground."
"Oh shut up."
Something changed in Varuns eyes and Imran caught the change immediately. He knew that there was something Varun wanted to tell him. They were so close to each other, every change of mood, attitude, the other sensed immediately. Imran waited for Varun to speak out what was in his mind.
"My parents called and they want me to go back to Chennai as there is no one to take care of me. I would not have much use of my hand and leg for a long time and that means I would need constant attending. So I was planning to leave for Chennai the day the hospital releases me. I would be back once I am fully fit."
Imran sat there looking straight in Varun's eyes all the time he was talking to him. He started feeling uncomfortable under his gaze. He smiled wryly, to make light of the situation.

"Do not leave me. I'll take care of you." Imran almost choked on his words.
"You can't. Be practical. I would need constant attention. I can't eat myself, go to the bathroom, take a shower or dress. You cannot do that."
A guy who was too lazy to even do his laundry for himself, can never do all this. And this was not a matter of one day. it would take him weeks to fully regularise his life. Till then, he would be totally depended on other people.
"Give me a chance. I promise, I will do everything that you would need," Imran was almost begging him.
"But I have already told my parents that I would go back to them."
"Stay here for a week. After that if you still feel that I can't take care of you as required, then go back to your parents. I will not stop you. Please Varun...let me try at least?"
After a long silence, thinking things over, Varun relented. Imran's face lit up like a 1000 watt bulb. He bent down a kissed him lightly on the lips. There was a sound of a distinct cough which made Imran to spin round just to see the nurse standing at the door with a grim expression but her eyes twinkling. All the staff in the hospital by then had heard of what had happened the night before and how Imran had brought Varun out of unconsciousness. They were stunned and had developed a respect for both of them. Somewhere, the fact that they were both guys and it’s such a taboo in the society for two guys to be openly in a relationship, just dimmed in front of the power of their love.
By the end of the week, Varun was ready to leave the hospital. Once Varun settled in his bedroom and the nurses left, Imran went around the room straitening things up. Varun's eyes followed him all around and he was visibly amused. He felt Varun's gaze on him and turned to face him.
"What are you staring at me like that for?"
Varun had noticed on his way to the room.....the rooms were spotless clean, beds made, fresh bed spreads and covers, washed clean curtains. He was pleasantly surprised and impressed.
"Someone was hard at work, I see." he said with a mischievous grin.
Imran blushed so much that his face was red and hot. He avoided his gaze and went out of the room. Moments later he came back with lunch. Soup and boiled vegetables. He placed the tray next to the bed and propped Varun up with pillows but never opened his mouth. Then slowly he started feeding him the soup. None of them spoke for a long time.
"You made this soup? Its good. When did you learn to cook?"

"I had the recipe for a long time but never tried it."
"This is the only recipe you have? This is all that I would get till I get better?" he made his eyes big in mock astonishment and horror.
"Yes, this is all that you will get for the next couple of weeks. You do not have much choice. So just shut up and eat."
Varun did not reply but his expression showed that he has resigned to his fate and was very crestfallen. Imran just ignored him. After lunch, Imran cleared the dishes and then came back to the room with a bowl of soup for himself. Varun motioned him to come and sit beside him.
"You sure, you wanna do this? I can still arrange to go back home. You don't really have to do this, you know."
Imran stared at him for a long time and then slowly said, “I see that you don't have too much of confidence in me. If you are so worried, I think there is no reason why you should be here. I'll talk to the hospital guys tomorrow and arrange to send you home. I do not want you to stay here just because I want you to and worry every waking hour."
Varun realised that he had goofed up. "I am sorry. I did not mean that. I have confidence in you. Just didn't want you to take this burden."
"So if it had been me instead of you, then I would have been a burden to you. Right?"
"I lose. I am sorry. one can win in arguments with you."
"You should have known that by now."
The matter was never brought up after that.
And then started Imran's most trying days. It was way too much for Imran to handle. But he did not give up. Imran's days started at 6 in the morning. From dawn to midnight his entire time was occupied by Varun and his needs. The days had never been this long and nights this short. The mornings were all about taking care of all the needs of Varun and cooking breakfast and lunch. In the afternoon he would sit with Varun and give him company while going through his office works that he had promised to do although he had taken 2 weeks leave. Then back into the kitchen for supper. He had to fish out from his limited knowledge of cooking, some palatable items. He was never a good cook. Hardly knew much. But he tried his best and what came out was not bad at all. After that, he himself would have dinner and clear everything up. Finish his paper work and by the time he went to bed, it would be past 12. Then again he would be up by 6.
By the end of the first week, the strain started to show on his face. There were dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep. But his spirit was indomitable. He was doing it all for his love. A few hours less sleep is a very negligible price to pay for being able to have your love of your life with you. Varun had done lots for him, from letting him live in his house so that he could study in peace, to making him into the man he became and giving him the priceless gift of love. What Imran was doing was what a partner is supposed to do for another. And that love was his strength that pushed him forward through this phase.
Varun had no words for what Imran was doing for him. He had never imagined Imran could take such a huge responsibility and follow it through. With every passing day, his dependency towards Imran increased. There was a time when Imran was totally dependent on him. But then the roles changed. This new reversed role was something both were enjoying in their own way.
Soon it was time for his visit to the hospital for his check up. When the doctor saw them, he was surprised.
"I thought you had gone back to Chennai. Weren't you planning to?"
"Yes, I was but then I planned to stay back."
"You look quite healthy. So did your parents come over? Someone had been taking very good care of you. Your mom is up here?"
"No. Imran took care of me. He has done everything these last 2 weeks."
"Oh my God. You serious? You are so lucky to have a friend like him. He has done a fantastic job of taking care of you and proving the fact that one still needs such friends in their lives."
"Yah he sure did. I practically owe him my life. He brought me back from coma and nursed me back to life."
"Well, your initial reports say that the limbs are healing fine. Next week I expect to cut the plaster of your leg. But I think the hand would still stay for another one week."
"That’s fine doctor. Thank you so much."
"You are welcome. I would need to speak to Imran if I can?"
"Yah sure. He is waiting outside."
"You wait while I go and have a chat with him."
Once outside...the doctor looked around the lobby to see whether he could spot Imran. Finally his eyes fell on a guy at the far corner of the lobby sitting sprawled on the couch, apparently asleep. His face vaguely seemed familiar to him. So he walked up to the guy and recognised him to be Imran. He gently put his hands on his shoulder and shook him. Imran slowly opened his eyes and for a second he couldn't figure out where he was. As his mind cleared, he jumped up and looked at the doctor straight in his eyes with a concerned look.

"Is everything alright doctor? Is Varun o.k.?"
"Hi Imran. Yah he is perfectly fine. I just came to let you know what a wonderful job you have done. No one could have taken better care of him." The doctor’s eyes were gentle on his face. He was astounded at what he saw. He could hardly recognise this Imran from the one who had come at the time of the accident. This guy standing in front of him looked like, he had shrunk in half from his original size. Sunken eyes, dark circles all around them, the shirt looked like was hanging from a hanger. He could not believe it. But he did not say anything.
"You will have to bring him next week and we will cut his cast on his leg. But I think we will have to have the hand cast on for one more week. His wrist is still delicate."
"Yah sure. I will bring him next week."
"Great. The lady at the reception will make an appointment for you guys for next week. Just speak to her before you leave."
"O.K.. I have a question. Do not tell Varun that I had asked you this. After his leg plaster is removed, would he be able to travel?"
" totally depends on how he feels. But I think he would be able to. 3 weeks of bed rest is enough. What plans do you guys have?"
"Nothing as such. I was just wondering whether I can send him to his parents after he is well."
"I think you can do that. But I will confirm when you bring him next week."
"Perfect. Thank you doctor."
"No problem."
The next week went more or less the same way. This accident if at all did anything good, that was, it brought them together and bound them in a bond which was beyond anything. They just merged into one. As if they were the two sides of a scale which balanced their lives perfectly.
"I have something to tell you," Imran told Varun once they were back from the hospital. His cast was removed and Imran had spoken to the doctor and he affirmed that Varun can travel and there would be no problem.
Imran handed him an envelope. Varun looked into it and took out the flight ticket.
"What’s this for?"

"For you to go to Chennai. I thought you would want to go and visit your parents now that you are at least not totally bed ridden."
"You are crazy. Here you were, did not want me to go. Now you yourself are giving me the tickets?"
"Well...I know that now if you go, it will not be for a month. You will go and come back in a week, max. And I think it’s just fair that your parents see you with their own eyes that you are recovering well. They must have gone through hell, constantly worrying about you. And moreover, the change would do you good. I have already taken permission from the doctor and he has given me the reference of a doctor there who can continue your physiotherapy. "
"You have thought of everything. Haven't you?", and he pulled Imran to him and kissed him long and hard, their passion increasing with every passing minutes.
Imran finally pulled away gasping for breath. "Wow..that was intense. You are supposed to be sick. So behave yourself."
Varun widened his eyes as if he did not know what Imran was talking about. But the hunger and passion in his eyes was unmistakable. But they both knew that they cannot go further than the kiss. Imran went to pack Varun's bag. His flight was the next day in the afternoon. He called his family beforehand to let them know he was coming so that someone would be there to receive him. That night they both did not sleep. They talked and talked about anything and everything. They just wanted to spend the night together before Varun left. Then finally Imran snuggled up to him and they dozed off just when the eastern sky started to lighten up.
Imran went to see Varun off at the airport. Varun promised to call him the moment he reaches Chennai. They hugged each other and as his flight was announced, the airport personnel wheeled his chair away towards the gang way. Imran waited there long after Varun was gone. Then after the departure time, he hailed a cab and went home.
He lay on the bed and started thinking about his life and what all happened in the last one year. Everything seemed like a dream. The sudden sound of the phone ringing made him jump out of his skin. He had fallen asleep, exhausted and it was dark inside the room when he woke up. He fumbled in the dark and picked up the receiver. It was Varun calling to let him know that he had reached safely. The flight was on time and his Dad was at the airport to receive him. Varun had to hang up fast as there were guests in his house who had all come to see him. Imran looked at the watch; it was 9 in the evening. He switched the light off and went back to sleep. So many days of fatigue was catching up on him. His entire body ached and he felt so very weak.
He woke up the next morning feeling better. He made himself some breakfast. He had to get ready to go to office. But he just was not in the mood. He kept thinking of Varun and how he must be enjoying with his family. He suddenly started to miss him terribly. He realised, the more he stays in the house, more he would be missing him. So he showered and shaved and left for office. In the evening when he came back, he didn't feel like making anything, but forced himself to make something and eat as he knew, in a week’s time Varun would be back and he would have to take care of him again, although it would not be that much strenuous as before. He could not afford to fall sick. Varun called just as he was finishing his dinner. He spoke for some time and then Varun had to go as his family was waiting for him at the dinner table.
"When did you get your ticket done?", Imran asked him when he called him one night. It was almost 10 days Varun had gone.
"I had to postpone it as I have some work I have to finish before I go back. I’ts taking sometime. I will let you know as soon as I get my ticket."
It was getting too much for Imran. He had not stayed away from him for such a long time since they got together. But he did not press him to come back fast.
Imran saw the answering machine sign blinking as he walked into the living room. He pressed the button. The message was from Varun telling him that he would call back later. It was almost a month Varun had gone. His treatments were done there in Chennai, his plaster from his hands has been taken off, Varun had told him the last time he had called. But he was still going around in a crutch. Imran had just sat down to a late dinner when the phone rang.
"Hi babes. How are you doing?"
"Hi Imran. How are you? I had called you earlier, you were not at home."
"Yah I saw the message. I just came back from office. So did you get your tickets? When are you coming?"
There was a long pause. Imran could sense that Varun was struggling to say something. He held his breath as he knew whatever Varun had to say would not be pleasant.
"I have to tell you something." Varun's voice was almost a whisper.
"I am listening" Imran braced himself for bad news. Maybe his Dad or Mom was not well. Maybe he would have to extend his stay.
This time when Varun spoke, his voice was choked. "Last week I got married."
Time stood still. Imran almost forgot to breathe. It took him couple of mins for the whole thing to sink in.
"I had no way out but to do it. They forced me to get married as they thought that now I would need someone to care of me and be with me as a companion here. And moreover for them I am getting older and it was time. I just could not stop them. I am sorry." Tears rolled down his cheek as he talked. It was splitting him in two to realise what he was doing to Imran. He could visualise Imran all alone in the house and his heart broke into a thousand pieces. "I am sorry. I am so sorry. I love you and will always love you."

Imran just stood there and listened. His face was expressionless.
"I am coming back on the 28th. That’s in 2 weeks. You will have to find an accommodation by that time as my wife would be coming along with me."
"I will be gone when you come here. Do not worry,” with that he put the receiver down.
After almost 2 years and a few thousands of miles in between them, it still manages to moist Imrans eyes. The crackling of the log in the fire-place brought him back from his reverie and he looked at the computer screen. He had sent the mail but was still really not sure whether he was making a fool of himself or not. But his heart just kept telling him that he had to write to this guy. He switched off the computer then, as it was very late at night. Thoughts of Varun still depressed him. He climbed into his bed and closed his eyes.
And at the other side of the world, thousands of miles away, in India, Karan walked into his office and first thing he did was open his mailbox and there was sitting among all the other mails, a mail from a guy called Imran Khan.

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