This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 42; the forty-second edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "COLOR"
I was standing by the large bay window on the second floor of our house overlooking our lawn. All my family members had gathered on the lawn and they had a fist full of colors or large water guns filled with colored water in their hands. Aunt Nimmi’s white salwar had turned into canvas of multitude of hues. Her husband, uncle Brijesh, was chasing her with more colors in his hand. My little cousins were screaming with joy as they burst the balloons filled with red, green, yellow and blue colored water on each other.
Tall glasses arranged neatly on a table were filled with Bhang. Some of my cousins were trying to smuggle the glasses filled to the brim with the white colored alcoholic drink and guzzle it behind the tables. In another corner of the lawn there was music being played and a few of my aunts and uncles were dancing even though most of them had two left feet.
Every year my family celebrated Holi with pomp and grandeur. My entire clan came together for this festival of colors. As a child, I used to wait excitedly for Holi, when all my cousins visited our house and we had fun and frolic all through the 2 days of the festival.
I had a smile on my lips as I looked over happily at the scene below. Then I saw my cousin Arti, talking to a guy behind a tree. They were holding hands and staring deep into each other’s eye. They seemed to be oblivious of the world around them and looked lost in the moment.
A dull ache throbbed in my heart as I remembered a similar Holi scene almost 5 years back.
“Nikita, have you got the sweets ready?”
“Nikki, are you sure you invited the Mehtas from next door.”
I sighed exasperatedly thinking that everything works in my home because of my mere presence. As I ran around the house, occupied with the preparations of the festival, I had a quick glance at my image in the mirror adorning our wall.
The pristine white of my salwar shone brightly against my ‘wheatish’ complexion. I looked traditional with the hundreds of bangles clinking in my hands and the small ‘bindi’ on my forehead twinkled like a lone star on a dark night. I peeped into the lawn where guests had already started trickling in and searched for Avinash. He had not arrived yet.
A month back my mother had elatedly announced that the Mehtas were moving back to their house, adjacent to ours. Mehta uncle who had been transferred to Mumbai many years back was finally returning back to his own house to enjoy a peaceful post-retirement life in Dehradun.
“You know Avinash, Mamtha’s son? He is a pilot in Indian Air force. They will be arriving during Holi, so we can invite them to our house for the celebrations. Won’t it be nice”, my mother exclaimed, excited about the prospect of meeting her old friend, Mamtha aunty.
I remembered Avinash who was a few years elder to me. We used to play together often, fighting for the silliest of reasons and then making up. I used to hate it when he pulled at my ponytail and called me a fat blob. Ok, I was fat as a child but I had lost all that chubbiness during my teenage.
I wondered how Avinash looked now. I quickly logged into my Facebook account and searched for Avinash Mehta.
I saw a profile picture of a tall, well-built man in a uniform. His face showed off two dimples as he smiled revealing his perfect teeth. The navy blue peak cap perched atop his head sat smartly. Damn, he’s good looking I thought to myself as my heart raced a bit inadvertently.
I pondered for a while if I should send him a friendship request, after all we had been good friends, but my ego opined that it would look like a desperate attempt. It didn’t look like he was active on FB for there were not many updates on his timeline.
I hurried back to the kitchen where my mom was busy ladling the fruit punch into glasses arranged on a tray.
“Nikki, can you keep these on tables, beta?”
“Ok. Is Avinash here already?” I asked nonchalantly.
“Oh no, Mamtha said that he was busy in meeting his old friends. So he may not come today”, replied my mother still busy in filling the glasses.
I felt a twinge of irritation that I couldn’t explain. Oh, the snob, the brat and here I was thinking that I was being egoistical, I thought.
I decided that I would not dampen my festive mood and went out to play with my cousins.
Rang barse bhige chunar wali rang barse
I and my cousins started swaying to the foot-tapping number. As I spun around I felt someone tugging at my plait. I turned to see Avinash dancing along with me and pulling at my hair. My heart missed a beat, he looked so handsome with a white t-shirt pulled over a tattered jeans.
“Hi moti”, he smiled as he pulled me closer.
“I thought you had other friends to visit.” I replied pretending that I was not offended by my childhood nickname.
“Yeah, that’s why I came over here. To meet my friend”.
I bushed slightly as I looked into his deep set eyes. He held my gaze and slowly the world around us seemed to melt away. People around me blurred from my vision, the music faded away from my ears and I was transported into another world. There I was, crying as a little girl with my palms bruised and bloody after a bad fall from my bicycle. Beside me sat Avinash trying to soothe away my pain.
“Don’t cry Nikki. I can’t see you in pain. I won’t tease you again”, he begged me to stop crying.
“After few days you’ll move to a new place, meet new friends. You’ll forget me, so no need of this nautanki and all”, I slightly admonished him.
“Nikki, wherever I go, wherever I be, I’ll always think of you and pray that you are happy”, he said earnestly and kissed my palms.
Itna maza, kyun aa raha hai
Tune hawa mein bhaang milaya
Tune hawa mein bhaang milaya
The loud music jolted me back to the present. My cousins were pulling me so that we could dance to the music together. I looked at Avinash as I was dancing. He was looking at me and smiling. The entire evening, Avinash and I kept gazing at each other as if we couldn’t see enough of each other.
That night I tossed and turned but I couldn’t sleep, my thoughts returned to Avi. I wanted to speak to him, to see him again, to hold him. I didn’t know what had come over me.
The next morning when I came down for breakfast I heard loud laughter and lots of noise. Avinash was sitting at the table along with my family and having hot parathas.
“Good morning Nikki, come and have these delicious parathas. Aunty I tell you, no one makes yummy parathas as you. God, I missed home cooked food so much.”
My mother beamed as she heaped more parathas on his plate. I got the distinct feeling that I was being ignored by my own family members. When finally everyone dispersed from the table, Avinash drew his chair close to mine and said, “Hey do you want to go for a drive?”
I gave him a scalding look and he made a puppy face at me. “Ok”, I agreed.
As I drove him around the town and showed him all the beautiful scenic places of Dehradun I asked him “Why did you join Air Force? I thought you would have been more of a business man, you know?”
“I was fascinated with planes and I love the feeling of being in air, flying free. I knew the training would be rigorous but my love for flying airplanes determined me to endure it. But yes, it’s a totally different feeling flying for your country. I can’t explain in words. As I fly in one of the state of art MIG-21 machine, I can actually feel my chest swell with pride.”
“But don’t you feel scared when you are flying and there are missiles whizzing around you? Never knowing if you’ll be able to even touch ground safely.”
“When I’m getting ready for my flight, I feel a little apprehensive, a little anxious, but when I sit in my pilot’s seat and start flying, I forget all my nervousness. I have only one aim, to destroy the enemies’ aircrafts. Nothing else matters”.
We were silent as we drove.
“So I’m sure many girls fall all over you. You know dashing young man in a smart uniform and all. How many girlfriends do you have?” I asked lightly, trying not to sound probing.
“Ha. I have had only one girlfriend but we split as we wanted different things from life. And as you said, she was with me because of what I did and not for who I am. What about you? You are a very pretty young girl who can groove really well. I’m sure many boys would be vying for your attention. “
“Haha, no. I have not found anyone special.”. I thought Avinash said Good under his breath but when I asked him to repeat, he didn’t say anything.
We were together most of the days exploring the city or having long walks or having dinner at cozy restaurants. I knew I had fallen in love with Avinash but I was not sure if he loved me too. I caught Avi looking at me several times when he thought I was not seeing. The undercurrent of attraction between us made me mad, but we both refused to acknowledge it.
Avi was on a three-month holiday and he was still a month away from reporting back to duty, when one morning he came to our house in a sour mood. By now he was a regular at our breakfast table.
“What's up Avi”?
“Well my holidays have been cut short. War has broken out in India Pakistan border and there’s an emergency situation. So I have to report back early”, he was looking at my crestfallen face while speaking.”
“Oh that’s bad beta. When do you have to go?”, asked my mother while serving hot idlis on his plate.
“I’ll have to leave today evening aunty”
My mother went to the kitchen to prepare sweets so that she could pack it for him.
“Do you want to go for a last trip with me before you leave?”, I asked him.
We went to Tikauli hills which was deserted most of the days. It was my favorite place to sit and see the world go by below me. That day Avi held my hand and we sat in silence.
Finally when it was time to go, he held me close to his heart. “I love you Nikki. You’ll wait for me right?”
So there it was out in the open. But it didn’t feel necessary now. I felt that our heart belonged to each other.
“I will” and then I kissed him. It was sweet tender kiss that I didn’t want to end. We kept kissing each other until we reached my house.
“When I come back, I’m going to talk to your parents and ask for your hand. I don’t want to lose you Nikki. I promise I’ll be there beside you always to wipe your tears, to make you laugh.”
“That’s a promise officer. Don’t you dare break it”.
Avi had gone for a month but he called me whenever he could. He would explain the despair and loneliness that war brought about. Every night their platoon would hide in trenches in dark, scared that their enemy camps would bomb their base. He said that the only thing that kept him going was his hope of meeting me when he came back.
I was lounging around at house thinking of Avinash and how splendid life would be with him, when my mother came running into the hall. She switched on the television and turned to the news channel.
“A young officer, Avinash Mehta, today was killed in an enemy firing. He was flying a MIG-21 aircraft when the enemy missile hit his plane. But the brave man continued flying, destroying the opponent’s plane. But unfortunately his plane crashed and the mangled remains of the officer were discovered in the burnt machine”.
Everything else faded, I could only see Avi’s smiling face on television, looking as handsome as ever.
“Nikki di, are you coming down to play Holi”?
One of my cousins had come to my room. “No sweety, you go play and have fun, ok?”, As she left I looked back at the lawn where the Holi celebrations continued. I missed Avi so much that sometimes it felt like a physical ache. I knew with time, the scars would heal, the pain would fade but until then I had to survive in my colorless life.
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