While in taxi, Khanak checks her bag and sighs in relief. After all it’s not everyday that a forgetful person, like Khanak, remembers to put her emergency wallet in her bag. And taking a cab from college to her friends’ college, then to Rishav’s hostel, then to her house, only to changer route at the very last moment to Ankan’s house has taken a toll on her daily expenses wallet.
Paying the driver, she looks up at Ankan’s apartment building and could only marvel at its perfection. Awestruck. That’s the only expression. It’s not that Khanak hasn’t seen enormous and tall buildings. These days, in Delhi, tall buildings and construction sites are all you have got to see. And Ankan’s apartment building isn’t even tall. It’s just perfect. Some sort of town in its own. They have grocery stores, clothing shops, few small yet elegant restaurants, 3 parking spaces per apartment (1 over the ground and 2 underground), and various zyms. And after all this if you think that the building might lack nature’s touch then you are totally wrong. They have sports court for various sports like basketball, football, badminton, etc, 3 swimming pools. Then they have 2 parks, fountains (Khanak has still not finished the counting) and all that rich people’s luxury.
As awestruck as Khanak is at seeing the building for the nth time, Khanak reminds herself that she is here for a reason. She has another emotionally difficult task to do today – in fact this might be more difficult than the last one. With Rishav, he was the one who had to apologize but with Ankan, she has to be th eine asking for forgiveness.
Ordering herself to not back down, Khanak walks toward the guard to write her name, phone number, address and the apartment number I have to go to. Thankfully, this guard knows her. If it was some new one, he would have called the apartment to approve the visitor. And the last thing, Khanak wants is to make Ankan’s parents and grandfather aware of her visit. There is only 10% chance that any of them would have called her up. Anyway, she gets frown and cold welcome from them on normal days. Only God knows what reaction she would have gotten today, seeing that it’s close to 8 and they all must have seen Ankan’s bad mood.
Actually, Khanak should take that back. She doesn’t think Ankan ever lets go of his calm and composed demeanour, especially in front of his family.
Gathering up all her courage, while riding the lift, Khanak rings the doorbell. All the time praying like hell that Ankan or his brother be the one to open then door – not someone else.
Ankan’s sister-in-law, Kavya, opens the door. Not someone she would have preferred but it’s still better than others. “HI… “ Khanak touches strap of her shoulder bag in a nervous gesture. Why does career woman look so elegant, pretty and smart in saree.
“Where is everyone?” Khanak asks with hope that Kavya will understand that this is just her trying to make small talk before she can go to Ankan’s room so that she won’t appear rude and that Khanak doesn’t give a damn about everyone’s whereabouts just as long as they don’t see her.
Khanak doesn’t know her friend’s sister in law very well but from what she has heard, Kavya is good with Ankan and is smart (a lawyer just like her husband) so let’s see… Whether she gets what Khanak means.
“Ankan is in his room. I will send someone with snacks” She IS Smart, is the only thing Khanak could think, listening to Kavya’s amused tone. Having already wasted enough of her time, Khanak rushes toward Ankan’s room and knocks at his door, biting her nails with anxiety – what should she say? Just as she was about to think farther than ‘Ankan, I am really sorry’ (because that’s obviously the first thing), Ankan opens the door. In his Pajamas.
And the only thing Khanak could say was, “You are wearing pajamas?! I have never seen you in them!”. It’s really baffling that in all these years Khanak has known him and she has never imagined him wearing pajamas.
“Yeah, it’s winter and night and also you… Why are you here?” Ankan asks after looking at his wrist watch. Ankan’s sudden change from soft to almost cold pulls Khanak out of her head.
“Oh, right. I am sorry…” Khanak let’s out a self-deprecating laugh and swats the side of her head with her fingers, as if to say that she is an idiot. She almost forgot why she is here.
“I am not sorry that I came here” Khanak hastily explains. “I am… I’m here to say ‘I’m sorry’ and I am sorry that I began talking about other things before saying I am… before apologizing”. Khanak stops her nervous rambling (full of I am sorrys) and looks around, afraid that someone from his family will come here. Ankan has yet to move aside from the door to let her in. He is truly upset.
When Ankan doesn’t say anything, Khanak tries again, “So?”.
“You still haven’t apologized” Ankan says again in his cold tone. He is going to make it hard, isn’t he? Well okay then…
“I am sorry, Ankan. I really am”. Khanak apologizes, looking directly into his eyes. His eyes loses their icy indifference at her sincere tone but only to get replaced with something akin to frustration. He takes a step closer, his eyes holding her eyes and full body still.
“See that’s the problem! I don’t need your apology. I need to know…” He starts only to get interrupted by someone’s footsteps getting closer to them. Ankan quickly pulls her inside and shuts the door behind her. Tired of everything that has happened today and is yet to happen, Khanak leans against the door and looks at her friend. The interruption has only managed to rise his frustration. “What I need… All I need is the reason behind why you are here? Why we are here? Like this? Why did you lie?”
Without realizing Ankan has taken a step closer to her with every question mark, he has thrown at her. And due to the door behind her being closed, she can’t take a step back. Making it so that Ankan is really close to her. Closer than they have ever been except for when they give each other front hugs. That too have become a rare occurrence, ever since they hit puberty. They mostly do side hugs nowadays.
Due to the closeness, Khanak can literally feel the frustration emitting off of him. Not that his whole posture look anything but calm. How should she answer?! She hasn’t thought beyond I’m sorry. And without thinking the only thing coming to her mind was the truth. But she can’t say the truth out loud. “I don’t know why I lied… I really don’t” Khanak emphasizes on being unaware when the flicker of disbelief crosses his expression.
“Not good enough!” Khanak knows that she is bad at lying but Ankan’s quick dismissal of her explanation is still surprising.
“What do you mean, not good enough? I said I don’t know why I lied. It was just a spontaneous reaction to your question” Atleast that much is truth.
“Yes it was. I know it was spontaneous. But you KNOW the reason behind it” Ankan’s cold insistence is quite intimidating. His closeness only reinforcing it.
She has never quite realized before today that how Ankan could intimidate someone. But the same calm and composed demeanour that seems charming and easygoing in everyday life makes him intimidating. (Only his eyes show any sign of what he is really feeling).
Without Realizing Khanak speaks up the truth. “Maybe because I was embarrassed. Just last day I was acting as if Rishav was the last person I’d ever speak to let alone get a lift to college from” Khanak looks at the floor– half with the embarrassment she is still feeling and half with the guilt. She has only spoken half truth.
Ankan lets out a humorless laugh. “That’s not good enough…” Khanak raises her eyes to look at him. Frustration in hers matching his own.
“That all you are getting. Please” Khanak’s frustration dissipate by the end of sentence. Her tone close to pleading. Requesting him to let it go. Future of her one friendship is already uncertain. She can’t risk this one too. She doesn’t want to.
“Not. Good. Enough” Khanak could only look at him in shock.
“So, I should go?” it wasn’t an announcement. It was a question. A chance for him to forgive her and end this drama.
A chance he didn’t take when he answers with an indifferent shrug, “If you wish to…”.
Khanak turns around immediately, a difficult fit to manage with him standing so close, that too without touching him.
Just as she turned around, Ankan stops her be touching her forearm. Not a hold. Just a gentle touch with his fingertips, in contrast to his demanding tone and cold posture. It was almost pleading and Khanak couldn’t ignore that.
Without turning around she says, “I didn’t want to make you feel bad”.