Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ignorance is Bliss!

My Little Writing Project

To refresh your memory about previous chapters, or to know about My Little Writing Project, click here.

 Chapter Nineteen

‘They say ignorance is bliss and knowledge is power, but is it always true? What if the knowledge that you acquire doesn’t give you any power but does take away your happiness? Is it better to know the truth and be hurt than to live in a lie and be happy?’

9th September

“Nits, I’m almost done with the first draft. I am just finishing the climax. Actually I am kind of stuck.”
 Mukti was saying into her handset while pouring juice, “Uh, huh . . . hmm . . . I am there when the protagonist wants the guy to get punished but her friend is too scared. So, now I don’t know where to . . .”
She stopped talking, picked up her glass and sat in front of the laptop.
“I know Nits, you are not supposed to help me as an editor just yet, but you can help me as a friend.”
She took a sip.
“Fine, don’t help me. I will think of something myself,” she said stubbornly, “Yeah, yeah . . . I know the clock is ticking. Bye.”
She put down the phone and stared at the laptop window.

Think! Think! Think Mukti! Why won’t you file an FIR. I know you wanted to punish him and you did. Should I change it somewhat or just write it like it happened?

As soon as she started typing, her phone rang.
“This phone will never let me work!” she screamed with irritation.
“Hello!” She yelled into the phone.
“Mukti?” it was Priya.

“Oh, hi Priya. How are you? You ok? You want me to come over?” she asked with concern. It had been a couple of days but still she and Sonali tread cautiously around Priya. She was still not back to her usual self.
“Can I come over? I need to talk to you and get out of this house.”
“Yeah, sure. You don’t even have to ask. Come on over. I’ll order some pizza.”

Mukti ordered the food and made some tea. She saved her draft and switched off the laptop.
I should not take any chances, just yet.
She picked up the laptop, put it in a cupboard and locked it.
All in good time, all in good time.

The bell rang and it was Priya standing with the pizza.
“You look awfully familiar, pizza delivery woman?” Mukti asked smiling.
“Ha Ha very funny. He was walking up, so I paid him. Here.” Priya said handing Mukti the pizza box.
“You hungry? You want to eat it right now? I just made some tea.”

“It’s ok. We’ll microwave them later. Let’s have some tea. I have a terrible headache.”
“Hangover?” Mukti said winking at Priya.
“No, no hangover. Shantanu stayed over last night.” Priya said as quickly as possible. Maybe she was removing the band-aid as fast as she could so that it might hurt less.

Mukti stopped dead in her tracks and turned around slowly, “And . . .? Don’t tell me that you . . .?” she didn’t complete her sentence but Priya nodded.
“Again?! Are you freaking kidding me?! How is that even possible? He was not willing to even talk to you? How can he? What!?” Mukti didn’t know what to say, how to react. She was completely flabbergasted.

“Mukti. Just sit down. I’ll explain everything.” Priya said calmly.
“How can you be so calm about it?! He is engaged Priya. You are having an . . . an extra-engagement affair!”
To Mukti’s surprise, Priya burst out laughing, “An extra-engagement affair?! Is that even a word?” she said amidst chuckles.

“Priya. This is serious. Stop laughing.” Mukti said.
Priya sobered down completely.
“I know it is not funny and you have no idea how serious this is.”
“Tell me what happened? I thought Shivani was in town? Don’t tell me it was a threesome!”

“Maybe in your uninhibited fantasy, but in reality, it was not.”
“Well . . .?”
“He came over last night, it was his birthday. He wanted to spend it with me as well. So, he lied to Shivani that he has some urgent office work. He came for an hour. We were just going to talk. I had baked a cake for him.” she smiled hesitatingly, “He told me that Shivani is going back day after, that is tomorrow now, and most probably by the end of this month their wedding date is bound to be finalized. We had a little too much to drink. He got emotional. He didn’t know what to do.”

“Well, he certainly knew how to do something!”
Priya continued as if there had been no interruption, “He was almost in tears. He said he loved me and cared for Shivani too. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, but didn’t know how to handle the situation. Whoever he chooses the one who will get hurt the most is him. Listening to this, I also started crying. I realized how much pain he is in. As we both sat comforting each other, we somehow didn’t realize and it happened.” She completed lamely.
“It happened?! How can it just happen?! Where was his hurt and pain for Shivani now? You know Priya, I really thought that he was a nice guy and really cares for you, but he is not and he doesn’t!”

“You don’t know anything about him.”
“And I don’t want to know anything about him! I know enough! First, he shouldn’t have initiated anything knowing full well that he can’t leave his fiancé. Even if he felt something for you, he should have controlled himself and not dragged you into all of this. And second, sleeping with you?! I mean what the hell was he thinking? Like this would solve anything? What did he think that having sex with him will make it easier for you to move on? And what is wrong with you? Why can’t you control yourself?” Mukti asked Priya.

“I couldn’t control myself because I love him, damn it! Why is it so difficult for you to comprehend? I love him and he loves me!”
“But you don’t have a future together! Do you? Has anything changed in these last 12 hours regarding that? Has he said now, after having sex with you again, that he will talk to Shivani?”
Priya didn’t say anything.
“Has he? Huh? Tell me Priya, has he?!”
“No, he hasn’t! And he will not. Because he is the only thing that’s keeping her alive! If he breaks up with her, she will be shattered!”
“Oh . . . good to see you have so much compassion for her? But tell me, where did all this care for her go, when you were in bed with his fiancé who had lied to her to come and meet you?” Mukti said sarcastically.

Priya just looked at her, hurt.
“I thought you will understand my situation. But obviously, that was a mistake,” She picked up her bag and opened the door, “you won’t listen to anything about me and Shantanu anymore because we have decided to end it. That’s why I wanted to meet you. Bye.”
Mukti sat down on the floor, quite frustrated.
This did not go well!

She went into the kitchen and saw the pizza box lying there. The tea had reduced to almost nothing. She switched off the gas. And bit into the cold pizza.
Why did she have to sleep with him? I know her. This will make it all the more difficult for her to break away from him.
She took another slice from the box and started nibbling on the side.
But, didn’t she say that they have broken up?
She got really confused and called up Veer. After explaining everything to him she was waiting for his response.
“Well . . .?” she asked after two minutes of no response.
“I think that what they did was wrong but if they needed that to get over each other and move on, then you should support her.”
“I don’t know, I just got so angry! I mean how could she do it? She has no self control or what?!”
“Sometimes you just can’t help it?”
“Please don’t tell me that you have experience in that as well.”
“I know two people who have lost control,” he paused for a moment, “Do you want me to refresh your memory about a certain moonlit night some weeks ago?”

Mukti blushed as the images of her first night with Veer came rushing in front of her eyes. Thank God, he can’t see me.
“But, I didn’t know that you were engaged.”
“Exactly, you didn’t know me at all! Isn’t that more dangerous? I could have been anyone! What is that saying, a known enemy is better than an unknown one?” he asked.

“Known enemy is better than a false friend.” She corrected him.
“Yeah, whatever. At least she has decided to break up with him. Chapter closed. Now, she just needs your shoulder to cry on and later your support as she moves on.”
Mukti said, “Yeah” vaguely.
 “Anyway, uh . . . can you do me a favour. I can’t seem to access my internet from office. Can you log in to my account and text me the contents of a mail that one of my friends sent. It has some information I need.”

Ooh! Checking someone’s mail . . . Maybe this will cheer me up!
Unaware of Mukti’s snooping prowess, Veer gave her his login details. Mukti opened his email id and texted him the information he wanted. He messaged her saying thanks. Mukti was just about to log out when . . .
One peek won’t hurt. He has given it to me willingly, it’s not like I have hacked his account.

After convincing herself, she started browsing. She checked the inbox, the sent items, the trash box, going through everything with a fine toothcomb.
Nothing interesting. Should I be sad or happy about that?

She was just about to log out when she her eyes rested on the little tab marked chat history. Should I steal a look?
She clicked on the tab and his entire chat history was before her. At first there was nothing, some boring exchanges with his male friends, some job related bitching but then she saw a name that kept recurring . . . Natasha Aggrawal.

Natasha? Where have I heard that name before?
Then she remembered, “Veer called me Natasha when we first met.”
She looked at the chat date. These chats were recent. She clicked to open one.
Ok. This is just friendly banter. How are you types.
Then, another click.
Hmm . . . coffee date.
Another click.
Ok. Now this is definite flirting!

She checked the date. It was of a couple of weeks before she had met him. The chats had become significantly fewer after she came into the picture. She opened some older ones and was shocked to see Veer flirting freely with this Natasha Aggarwal person. From reading their chats she understood that they worked together at some point.

Is she the same girl Veer was talking about? But he said she got married two years back. This is some months old. It can’t be her. I can’t believe I forgot to ask him her name! But who is this Natasha?

She got hooked and kept reading and reading. As she went to later dates, the number of women increased but Natasha was there all through. The chats with others were sometime flirtatious and sometime friendly. She felt faint, angry, hurt, disappointed . . . all at the same time. She opened Facebook and searched for Natasha Aggarwal through her email id. The profile that came was locked. She couldn’t see anything, not even a profile picture. She got frustrated and shut off her laptop.

“How do I find out the truth now? Shit! I can’t even ask him. What will I even say? Look Veer you trusted me and I’ve found a reason to not trust you in return, thereby giving you a reason not to trust me, so the power of my query goes out the window because he can cross question me for not . . . Oh My God . . .this is nuts!”

She looked up. “Who is this Natasha and why are you so shamelessly flirting with her?!” she yelled. The ceiling stared mutely back her.
How do I ask him? Why did I have to snoop. I was so happy before.  Ignorance is indeed bliss!

She picked up her phone to talk to Priya, but then realized that she in turn might not want to speak with her. Oh! Fuck!!
She dialled Sonali’s number.
“Hey Mukti. How are you?”
“I am ok. How are you?”
“I am great, have taken up more flights to keep my mind from Kshitij and going to his office and killing him or writing ‘Stop pretending and come out’ on his Facebook wall.”
“Good for you. Have you spoken to Priya?” she added distractedly.
“Uh . . . yes. She is not very happy with you.”

“How was I supposed to react? She told me that she . . .” Mukti stopped herself. She didn’t know how much Sonali knew.
“ --slept with Shantanu. I know. She told me too.”
“Don’t you feel that’s wrong?”
“Well, yes I do but who am I to talk. It’s not like I haven’t done it or you haven’t done it?”
“But you didn’t know that Kshitij will turn out to be gay? And mine was just an impulsive reaction? But she knows there is no future with Shantanu.”

“Exactly Mukti. I didn’t know that Kshitij will turn out to be gay but he did. And you slept with Veer the first day you met him, you didn’t know then what kind of a guy he is. So, there are no certainties in life. Maybe Priya thinks that by some luck something might change in the future. Maybe sleeping with her will create an emotional connect and give Shantanu the will to talk to his fiancé. I don’t know and you don’t know. But what we do know is that Priya needs us right now. She is our friend and she is lonely.”

“When did you become so emotionally intelligent?” Mukti joked.
“Funny Mukti! Just because I believe in the power of love doesn’t automatically mean I am foolish!”
“I guess you are right.”
“Anyway, how is everything with Veer going.”
“Not too good.”
“Why? Did he turn gay too? Or a secret fiancé cropped up?”

Mukti told her the whole snoop tale. “I don’t know how to ask him now. What should I do? If I don’t find out soon, I will go mad!”
“Hmm . . . why did you snoop in the first place?”
“Don’t you know me?! That’s what I do! It’s my addiction!”
“Remind me to never give you my login information.”
“Can we concentrate on the problem now?! Should I ask him?”

“Yeah, if you want him to never trust you again.”
“Sonali . . . help me please!”
“Did you look for her on Facebook?”
“Is that a rhetorical question? Obviously I did! It was locked. That bitch has also made her picture private!”
“Whoa, jealousy brings out the poet in you.”
“What do I do?” Mukti asked again maddened with jealousy.
“Hmm . . . why don’t you talk to him and ask him casually?”
Hmm . . . that might work.

“Good idea. Let me call him. I’ll talk to you later. Bye.”
She hung up and started pacing.
How can I ask him? What should I say?
She was still thinking when someone pinged her on her laptop. She looked and was amazed to see Anurag / Prateek.
“Why is he pinging me?”
Hi Mukti

She didn’t respond. There were other important things on her mind.
I know you are angry with me but I just wanted to apologize. I hope we can still be friends.
No, we can’t. You are a liar and a hacker and a cheat. You led me on, you moron! I can’t be your friend!
And then other thought came into her mind.

What if Rajveer Singhania did the same thing. Leading me on? What if I am just one in a million girls? I have to find out . . . soon.

Without thinking what she will say, she picked up the phone and dialled Veer’s number. It was three in the afternoon so Veer was a little free.
“Hey sweetheart. I was just thinking about you.” Veer said pleasantly.
I am sure you say that to every girl you speak to.

“Hmm . . . that’s nice. Uh, Veer, you know who pinged me right now? Anurag?”
“Who is Anurag now?”
“The internet guy? Because of whom we met?” She got irritated, “How can you not remember him?”
“Oh, yeah. Tell him thanks from my side. What was he saying?”

“Nothing, just apologizing. That made me think, do you have any secrets from me?”
“Whoa! Where did that come from?”
“Nowhere. Anurag just pinged me and I realized that he lied to me and he had a very huge secret that he didn’t tell me, so I was wondering if you had one too?”
“Do you have any secrets from me?” Veer asked instead.
“No. nothing important.” She crossed her fingers.
“Well, I do. It’s not a secret but it’s just I never got time to tell you. Now, since you asked I think it is about time you should know. But I think we should have this conversation face-to-face. Can we meet?”

Mukti forgot to breathe. He is finally going to tell me about Natasha.
“Why don’t you come over?”
“Don’t mind if I do. Today, I am a little free. I can be there by . . .” he paused to look at his watch, “seven in the evening. We’ll talk then, okay?”
“Okay.” Mukti nodded.

She kept staring at the watch on her laptop after every few minutes. It was becoming increasingly difficult to pass the time. She created various scenarios to fit in Natasha in Veer’s life.
Maybe she is a cousin? Maybe a friend who flirt with each other but nothing serious is going on? She kept thinking and glancing at the watch forgetting to work on her novel. Finally at quarter to seven the bell rang. She rushed to open the door. Veer was standing there smiling, dressed in a pair of denims and a shirt. There was a paw mark on one of his sleeves. Mukti was used to seeing them. He had sprayed a generous amount of perfume to hide the smell of his various canine and feline guests . . . a practice that Mukti had enforced after a whole lot of nagging. His hair was falling over his eyes and he was holding a single long stemmed rose. Mukti, for a second forgot all about Natasha, and hugged him tightly.

“Hi,” he breathed in her ear.
“Hello.” She said, her face still nuzzled in his chest.
“Can I come inside?” he asked.
“Yeah, come.” Mukti finally let go of him and held his hand. They sat together on the mattress and Veer tried to snuggle up to her. She was about to fall into his arms when she saw the laptop and the chat history ran through her mind. She put a hand on his chest and pushed him gently away.

 “Your secret please?”
“Oh you still remember, huh?”
“Okay, here goes nothing. There was another girl in my life before Meera.” He began.

Meera?! Who the hell is Meera now?!
“Meera?” she raised an eyebrow.
“The girl I wanted to marry. I told you about her?”
“You didn’t tell me her name.” She made a face, “so, who was before Meera?”
“Well, she was and still is in my life.”

I know and her name is Natasha.
“Her name is Amrita.”
Amrita?! How many girls are there?!

“She was with me in college. I used to really like her and she liked me too. You can say that she was my first love.”
“What happened?” Mukti braced herself for the worst.

“I was really a lost soul then.” He paused as if to think and added, “Let me start from the beginning. As you have seen, my dad has a lot of money. So, while growing up, I was the typical bad boy. The guy mothers warn their daughters about.” He chuckled. “More interested in partying and girls, I barely scraped through college. And then one day, I met Amrita. She was the conventional good girl. Class topper, student body president, focused, ambitious. She was quite pretty too, so naturally I wanted to, you know . . .”

Is he making it all up? Is this a movie script? Do these things happen in real life?
“I know what must have happened. You tried to be good to impress her. She was indeed impressed. You start dating and eventually she finds out that you were only acting and that you are really a bad boy. You break her heart, she breaks up with you, and you realize your mistake and turn over a new leaf. Right? I am not stupid Veer. This is right from numerous B-grade movies. Don’t challenge my intelligence by reciting some bad Hindi movie and passing it off as truth.”

“Wrong, what do you mean wrong?” she was confused.
“Well, I liked her but I didn’t want to waste my time one her. She seemed too much effort and why would I run after someone when I had ten other girls dying to be with me.” he winked.

“I am liking you less and less now.” Mukti muttered.
He laughed, “I was in college Mukti. I was a teenager.” When Mukti’s expression didn’t change, Veer continued with the story, “Anyway, it was she who came up to me. Why? I don’t know. Maybe she wanted to be considered cool?”

Mukti raised her eyebrows.
“We used to hang out and I really did fall for her.” Mukti felt as she had been stabbed in her heart. “But then college ended. As expected, I couldn’t clear any placement interviews. She, on the other hand, got placed in some hotel in Mumbai. But, before leaving, she came up to me and she said and I quote, ‘I can never be with a man who is a failure. I don’t want to ruin my life. You will never amount to anything worthwhile.”

“Oh shit! That’s bad.”
“Just short of a slap on my face. At home, my father was also taking my case. I really needed her support but she just walked out on me.” he sighed a deep and heavy sigh, “I was completely broken. Her rejection was indeed a turning point in my life. I wanted to prove her and my father wrong. I applied everywhere . . . frantically. Finally one hotel gave me a chance. It was in Pune. Meagre salary. I had to start at the bottom and I still decided to join.”

Mukti noticed that Veer had that faraway look in his eyes, as if imagining those days of his struggle, “Those days at Pune were the best and the worst of my life. I literally worked my ass off!” he started laughing at the memory.
“What about your family? Your mother? Your father? He was well to do, he must have contacts? Didn’t he help you?”
“I didn’t want his help, I wanted to make it on my own. You know what my first salary was?” after a pause he added, “Rs. 2000!” he laughed, “I had to pay the rent, manage my food and everything else in it. It was difficult at times.”

“Your parents didn’t mind you living like that? Especially your mother?” she grabbed at the opportunity to find out more about his family.
“My mom helped me, she used to send me money saying that it’s for my birthday, for her birthday, for her and dad’s anniversary.” He laughed. “She managed to find one occasion every month.”

Mukti smiled, “Moms are like that. But, look at you now. They must be so proud of you.”
“Yeah, maybe” He said and went quiet.
I have to find out about them a little differently.
Mukti decided to change the topic and come back to the matter of his parents in a while.

“You said Amrita is in your present also? you called and talked to her?”

“No. What happened was that after Pune, I got selected in a hotel in Bangalore. I was there for a long time. And got a lot of promotions. That was where I had met Meera also. After Meera and I broke up, I got an opportunity to work in Udaipur in a resort. I wanted to get away from the city, there were just too many memories, so I took it up. There I was the HOD. I had to hire staff, so I was interviewing people. That’s where I met her, again.”
“Whoa! She had applied?”
“Seeing you take her interview must have been such a slap on her face!” Mukti felt a surge of pride for Veer.

“I don’t know about that but she was indeed shocked. Her husband had lost his job during recession and wasn’t able to find anything else. So that’s why she had been forced to work, again.”
“That’s sad.”

“Yeah, I felt bad for her too. She didn’t qualify for my hotel but I pulled some strings and got her a job. She is very happy now and we are still in touch.”
“Mr. Singhania, you are a good man.” She said giving him a peck on his cheek.
Veer laughed, “I don’t know about that.”
“So that is all?”

“Yeah. That is all.”
Mukti took a chance and asked him about his family, “What about your parents?”
“What about them?” Veer got up and walked over to the window. It was dark outside and a light drizzle was falling.

“You never talk about them, so I thought--”
He turned and Mukti saw a flash of irritation pass through his features, “See, Mukti my family is not like yours, okay? We are not as close-knit as you guys are.” He turned back towards the window. Mukti couldn’t see his face but she could see that his posture had turned rigid. His hands were in the pockets of his jeans. She could make out from the veins popping in his forearms that he had clenched his palms into a fist. Mukti walked slowly towards him and touched his arms softly. She noticed that he was breathing heavily. When he didn’t relax, she rested her head by his shoulder and put her hands in one of his pockets. She covered his balled-up fist with her hands and just stood clinging to him for a while. She whispered softly, “you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to.”

Veer’s shoulders slumped and he looked sadly at Mukti. She smiled tenderly. He held her hand, still inside his pocket and kissed her forehead.  They stood there hand-in-hand, staring at the falling rain for a long time. It was only when the light showers turned into a heavy downpour that they moved back from the window.  Veer closed the window and Mukti got some towels to dry the fine mist they were covered in.

“I’ll make some coffee.” She went inside her kitchenette.
Veer followed her inside and stood by the dresser watching her get busy in preparing coffee. Without warning, he began, “My grandfather was a very rich man.” Mukti stiffened at the sound of his voice but didn’t turn around. She continued with her work. She realized this is not easy for Veer. Maybe he can’t say all this on my face.

“My father, because of his birth, was rich too. He was a workaholic. I guess I take after him.” He went quiet again as if debating whether to tell her the whole truth or a sobered down version, “He worked very hard to ensure that me and my mom had a comfortable lifestyle. He was always working. We even had a small office at home where he would be cooped up for hours. He never realized that instead of expensive things, we just needed his time.”

Mukti finally turned around and saw that Veer was sitting on the floor. She sat down next to him and handed him his mug of coffee.
“My parents were the perfect example of an unhappy marriage,” he smiled sarcastically, “Unlike other normal children, I don’t have any memory of family outings or even family dinners. All I remember was me sitting scared in my room with a nanny keeping me company as I heard my parents fighting outside. They didn’t even care to lower their voices so as to not scare their only son.” He said resentfully.

“If your dad worked all day, what about your mom? What did she do? She must have spent some time with you?”
He smiled a sad smile, “My mother was an alcoholic. She was barely sober to spend any time with me.”
“I never knew things were so bad.” She rested her head on his shoulder.
“They were horrible. There were days when my mom didn’t even get up from her bed. She would just lie there like a corpse with a glass of scotch in one hand staring vacantly at the walls. I was only eight then and seeing your mother like that . . . I am no expert but I think it can’t be good for a child.” He sipped his coffee.

“Who took care of you then?”
“I was literally raised by an army of servants. My father, with all his money, made sure that there was someone always around me. As I grew older and started asking questions, I was sent to a very expensive boarding school. To give credit where credit is due, they really behaved like nothing was wrong whenever I was back for vacations. But I could always see thorough the act. I knew that they were having affairs on the side.” He added bitterly, “There have been times when I saw my dad sneaking his dishevelled secretary out of his home-office.”

He stopped talking and took a long breath. Mukti didn’t know what to say.
“Have I made you uncomfortable?”
Mukti just shook her head.
“I don’t know why they didn’t just get a divorce and be done with it! Everyone would have been a lot happier.”
“You can’t just break up a marriage. It’s a sacred institution.” Mukti muttered under her breath.
“You have got to be joking! You think what they had was a sacred institution?! They were miserable together.”
“I am sure they must have their reasons to stay together.”
“Whatever!” he turned his attention to his coffee.

“Did it ever get better?”
“My dad as usual worked round the clock, I used to see him once in a week during my holidays too. My mom did quit drinking. She joined a rehab. Instead of alcohol, now, she kept herself busy by spending my dad’s money . . . first in shopping and later by doing charity work. And as they say charity begins at home, she used to lavish me with presents and all the luxuries a teenager could want. Naturally it all got to my head. You know about that.”

“So, now what terms are you on with your parents?”
“Dad is pretty upset because according to him I run an animal shelter. He thinks that I have deprived him of an heir. I think he hopes that I will get married soon and give him a grandchild who might take care of his empire! Well, he can dream on.”
“What about your mom?”
“Mom is mom. She is busy with her latest project, taking care of under-privileged kids. Ironical huh?” he said with a bitterness in his voice.

“But, do you talk to her?”
“Once in a while.”
They sat silently for a while sipping their respective coffees. Veer broke the silence, “So, now you know all of my secrets. Anything else Madame?”

Not all. I still don’t know about Natasha!
Mukti shook her head. She still hadn’t figured out how to raise that issue without admitting to her snooping habit.
I am not ready to share all my secrets with you yet.
She took his empty mug and got up to wash it. Veer held her hand. She looked back at him. He was smiling lightly, “Mukti, thanks. It was nice getting it all out. You are the first person I have shared all of this with.”

Mukti could feel her face breaking into a broad smile, “Really? Not even with Meera?”
He shook his head, “No, not even with Meera.”
 “You can tell me anything you want to. I am always there to listen . . . anything you want to share, I am here.”
“That rhymes.” Veer said lighting the mood.
“Yes it does.” Mukti smiled.

As they stared adoringly into each other’s eyes, Mukti heard Veer’s phone buzzing which broke their eye contact. Veer sighed and glanced at his phone. It was a message from Geeta. He read it and Mukti could see him frown.
“It’s Duchess. She has fallen sick. I should go.”
“Do you have to? It’s raining.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll call you once I reach home.” He got up and kissed Mukti, “Bye.”

Well, this conversation was not a complete waste. I feel I know him so much better but I still don’t know anything about Natasha. Is he really cheating on me? but didn’t he say that day that he is in love? But then why was he flirting with her? Oh, this is frustrating!

She looked at the clock. It was ten in the night. She ate the leftover pizza and logged into Facebook. Then she realised something. I have Veer’s Gmail id and password. Let me give it a shot. She logged out from her account and typed in Veer’s Gmail id details. She waited with bated breath to see if it works. After what seemed like an hour, the page opened.

She was logged in through Veer’s account. There were so many messages and pending friend requests. She ignored all of them and went to his friend list and searched for Natasha Aggarwal. There she was. She clicked on her profile. After few moments, her page loaded. The picture was of a girl who was standing in front of sea. She was not gorgeous but was pleasant to look at. She was smiling and it seemed like the photo had been cropped from one side where she was holding someone’s hand. Mukti's heart skipped a beat.

What if this is Veer's hand?!
She hurriedly checked her other pictures. There was none with Veer. Some were with friends, some of a wedding she attended and some of her workplace. When she didn’t find anything worthwhile in her profile, she checked Veer’s. She scanned his profile scrupulously methodically going over every status update, every comment. She read all his posts  . . . every last one of them! She realized that Natasha worked with Veer before he opened PetCare. But, what astonished her was his liberal use of various terms of endearments that he had directed at almost every woman in friend list.  

She shut off her laptop and started chewing her nails. She wanted to call Veer and confront him. But she knew she couldn’t just pick up the phone and demand answers. Why did I have to snoop around? The more she thought about what she had read, the more questions cropped up in her mind. She became skeptical of her relationship with Veer. She started doubting him as a person.
What if whatever he had told me till now was nothing but lies? but, what if he was just hiding this because he knew I would get hurt? Well, who is he to decide what will or what will not hurt me?! She started pacing the house. It was raining violently outside. She could hear the breeze making scary howling noises. The storm outside mirrored the tempest raging inside her brain.

One after another, thoughts were racing through her mind. Maybe, I  made an error in judging his character. Maybe he is not what I thought he was. Maybe I have made a big mistake in sleeping with him? How could I be so stupid?

“But at that time, you couldn’t control yourself Mukti. You were drawn to him unnaturally. As if some unseen force was dragging you towards him.” And then suddenly, her thought went to Priya. Maybe Priya also couldn’t control herself even after knowing everything.

She shook her head, “No, if I was in Priya’s place I would have controlled myself.” She said stubbornly.
But you are not in my place. You can’t know how I am feeling right now. Priya’s voice filled her ears. She turned around half-hoping to see Priya standing in her doorway drenched to the bone. But she was all alone. She decided to call Priya.

“how are you?”
“I am ok.”
“I am not,” Mukti said. Then taking a deep breath she added, “I am sorry for yelling at you in the morning. I shouldn’t have. I am not in your place and I can’t understand what you are going through.”
“Don’t you think, you apologize to me too much?”
“I am sorry Priya. I really am. How is Shantanu?”

After a pause, Priya replied, “I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him. And you will be very happy to know that he asked for a transfer to another department. I might have a new boss soon.”
 “How are you holding up?”
“Like I said, I am ok. I’ll be fine in sometime.”
“I have to tell you something.” When Priya didn’t say anything, Mukti thought of that as meaning ‘go on’ and said, “ it’s about Veer.”

“Mukti, I am really happy for you but I am not in the mood to listen to how happy he makes you. I know I am being selfish, but now I am sorry.”
“I think he is not telling me the absolute truth.”
“what do you mean?”
Mukti told her all about the mails and Facebook . . . What she had seen, what she had read and what he had told her, everything.
“So, what do you think?”
“I think you are crazy!”
“I am crazy?! He is the one who is hiding stuff from me and I am crazy?”

“Yes, you are. First, because you have landed yourself into such a mess? Who told you to go sneaking around his mail and on top of that you logged into his Facebook account?! Have you heard of a little something called privacy?!”
“He gave me his password.” Mukti said sheepishly, “I didn’t hack his account.”

“Exactly. He gave you his password. This shows that he trusted you and he didn’t think that you might go snooping around. And also, if he had something to hide, he won’t have given it to you in the first place? If those chats or even that girl meant something, he would have deleted them. Don’t you think so?”

“Yeah, that had completely slipped my mind,” but then immediately another thought came into her head, “What if he didn’t know that his chat history gets saved?”
“You are impossible to please.”
“I am just being analytical.”
“Ok, let’s assume that he was seeing this girl but isn’t that before you met? How does it even matter?”

“It matters . . . To me. I have to find out the truth. I will go mad otherwise. I have to make sure that he is the right guy. Priya, I am in love with him. I can’t have him turn out to be lying cheating jerk.”
“Then talk to him.”
“haven’t you been listening? he doesn’t know I snooped around. He thinks I am a nice space-giving not-at-all possessive, not-crazy girl!”
“Well, then you have to tell him that you are a snooping, possessive crazy woman. You said you want to be with him, you can’t pretend your whole life, can you? You have to tell him the truth someday.” Then after a pause, she added, “ Isn’t it ironical? You want him to tell you his secrets but you don’t want to tell him yours?”

“ are you in addition to calling me a snoop, possessive and crazy, also labelling me a hypocrite?” Mukti asked with amusement.
“yes. I am,” Priya went on, “Mukti, you know you have to admit it, you are just postponing the inevitable. Or if you don’t want to tell him, just forget that you ever read anything. Simple.”
Mukti knew Priya was right. She had to tell the truth to find out the truth. Without losing steam, she called up Veer.
“today must be my lucky day… two calls in one day.”
“Are you busy?”
“Never for you sweetheart. Tell me?”
“I have a confession. When you gave me your login details for your Gmail earlier today, I used them to snoop around your account.”

Veer tried to interrupt her but she cut him off, “I am not finished yet. Let me complete. I saw your chats and FB messages with Natasha.”
“so, you hacked my account?” he sounded amused rather than angry.
“Technically, I didn’t hack your account, I just used the information that you gave me without your permission.”
“so, you are calling me to apologize . . .?”

“Yes and to find out the truth. Who is Natasha? Why were you flirting with her? Why didn’t you tell me about her?”
“I didn’t tell you about her because she means nothing to me. We used to work together and sometimes indulge in a little harmless flirting.”
Mukti was not convinced.

 “I don’t believe you.” she said angrily.
“Mukti,” He said sternly, “If you want us to have a future together, you have to trust me, okay. I admit I have had affairs, I have dated a lot of women,” Then added softly, “but you are special. I hope you understand that.”
“I want to, but I am scared. I don’t want to lose what we have.”
“Then learn to trust me. Stop with this snooping business. We are not teenagers anymore.” With that he hung up. Mukti kept staring at the phone for a while. She knew she had acted immaturely.

She typed a message – I am sorry. I trust you. I promise, this will never happen again. Please don’t be mad. And send.
Veer messaged back – I am not mad but I hope you will have faith in me and our relation. I will never hurt you Mukti.
I know. I am sorry for doubting you.
It’s okay. Stop apologizing and get some sleep. I’ll be here for a while. Duchess is seriously sick. I might have to take her to a vet.
You need any help?
No, you get your beauty sleep. Good night. :*
Good night.

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