Part – 1
“Why do I have to go anyplace? Cannot I just be home, and maybe sleep away the evening?” whined Gauri before her mom. The reply was a ‘No’ which upset Gauri to all limits. So Gauri had to comply with the idea of going out with her cousin and brother-in-law to wherever they decided to hang out. A well deserved change and some fun after college just finished and she decided to head to Mumbai.
The next thing Gauri knew was that her cousin and their big friends circle decided to meet in a pub and enjoy the evening. The thought brought dismay to her face, and she kept wondering how she would kill time; especially when she didn’t particularly appreciate any of her cousins’ friends.
The fun and the twitter that filled the pub every place just added on to the restlessness. Gauri’s thoughts kept meandering towards Shefali who was supposed to be in Mumbai, and they were supposed to spend the weekend together. When she couldn’t help out the boredom setting it, she decided to chit chat around with the pub guys on the counter. And gradually she spoke to those guys and enquired about their lives, profession and how did they land up in such places. At odd times a few guys tried checking her out, but she gave cold stares, which made them leave immediately.
Jatin was busy staring at this girl sitting at the counter, who looked splendid in the pinkish dress she wore with cargo pants and the curls that fell over her shoulder. What appeared more intriguing was that nobody accompanied her, and she was sipping water from Bisleri bottles. People who accompanied Jatin noticed the overt glances he kept giving that end. Jatin managed to coax his friend Sameer, to accompany him till there and help him strike a conversation.
As per the plan, Jatin would somehow begin with something, and signal Sameer to join them, who would be introduced as Rohan. People had suppressed giggles, wondering howcome Sameer succumbed to such misadventures proposed by Jatin.
Jatin approached Gauri and stood next to her asking for a cocktail, and with lots of efforts managed to strike the conversation. Gauri seemed disinterested, but tried being nice as she started getting worked up with the idea of fun getting all tipsy. When Jatin couldn’t go beyond knowing the name, and she’d just finished her Bachelors; he made the signal.
Sameer pretended to ask for another cocktail, while Jatin introduced him to her, as Rohan. Gauri kept staring at the guy, for a while that maybe lasted a minute and extended her hand and said, “Hi, you are Sameer Kothari! I just read that article about you published in last weeks Sunday Magazine”. Jatin didn’t know which direction to look at and he simply walked away, with Sameer following him smiling all the way.
The later part of the day at the pub, some annoying guy came around Gauri trying to get really social. She couldn’t put up with it any longer, and twisted his arm and jerked on his knee; to get him pinned on the floor and shouted to back off. Many were audience to the warning, and Sameer quipped before Jatin, “Among all girls hanging out here, you had to like just this one?”
Part – 2
Being home alone and Shefali not being back to Mumbai as promised, weekend up the sleeve meant hanging around with cousin and her bandwagon of friends. She had to concede to the idea, as it meant an outing anyways. She regretted the decision when she realized the most happening place for her cousin meant a pub. Once again she had no idea how to deal with boredom, when somebody just called her name from some place. She turned around to see Ravi heading towards her way. They were batchmates at the Engineering College at Bangalore she did her Bachelors from. And he proceeded for an MBA at Mumbai. She was pleased to find a familiar face among a sea of strangers. He introduced her to his friends from the institute and they all sat together.
Tara, Ravi’s friend was busy texting a number which read, “You have no idea what goodness I’m gonna do for you. And you need to thank me always for the same!”
The next thing that Gauri knew was that the guy who came and sat across, was the one who tried talking to her, introduced his friend wrong and left immediately without a word! A couple of his friends followed as well, including Sameer. And well Jatin would need to be thankful to Tara always!
It was an evening that turned out to be good. Meeting Ravi, and talking to his friends, and the weird guy trying to make a conversation. And being caught staring at Gauri. Around 8 p.m. she left the pub, glad to head home and do what she loved the most. Her aunt’s place was to be her home as long as she worked there, and her first love had to be there. And she was pleased to return to the one hour session with the Chancellor Standard 5 piece drum-set that made her the drummer of the college band ‘Dhwani’ at Bangalore.
It was an amazing feeling to get to the house that has been her destination for 22 years, when summer holidays came knocking in school/college. That was like an added advantage of why she readily accepted her relocation to Mumbai in campus placements. An aunt’s place close by to her office and grand parents house to chill out on weekends. And today almost 2 weeks after landing in Mumbai, and the cousins gone away; Gauri felt good being at her grandparents place. She decided to go for a long evening stroll and reminiscence those years playing around with colony friends, catching cats and loving the fragrance of the place. Just when she was thinking about those fun games she played with Khushi, a girl who lived in the opposite building; who eventually became an athlete; she realized somebody come running behind her. She turned her back to face the person in defense. “Hey Gauri right?” said Sameer Kothari. He added in quick succession, that he was hanging around with some friends, when he saw her pass the colony closeby and decided to drop a greeting. Gauri smiled and exchanged greetings, when Sameer asked, whether he could walk with her if she were ok. She agreed, and they started walking not knowing what to talk. Sameer broke the silence asking her about her opinion about his music. She said it was good, and the band numbers were wonderful. A large part of their talk drifted towards Sameer’s band called ‘Phoenix’, and the way he has been rocking around the Engineering colleges and creating a niche for himself. It was great for Gauri to associate with his ambitions about his music, although she kept it to herself about her being a drummer and musically connected too!
Gauri’s 30 minutes thought of stroll, turned out to be 2 hours. And it was nearing 7 in the evening, when she dropped Sameer to the by-lane that lead to his cousins’ house where he was on a stay for 2 days. She waved a good night, and started walking towards the road that lead back home. She was hardly some 50 meters, when some girls went by running around and pushing her hard. As she managed to keep balance, and turned around to see where the rush headed; it took around 2 minutes to realize the sticky situation. There were about 8 girls surrounding a guy, and he tried getting back and avoiding any confrontation. Gauri edged closer and realized Sameer was trying hard to be nice to the female fans that got excited seeing him. That look on his face and the eyes that showed shuddering helplessness. The next thing Gauri knew was she somehow managed to wiggle through the girls, and stood right in between Sameer and the fans. She kept persuading the girls to move away, some eventually did, when she raised her voice to a threatening pitch. Some still persisted, and out of sheer anger she just turned around facing Sameer and pushed him hard enough backwards to break the circle and drag him to a distance. The pure force was strong to deter the fans from persisting, and with the crowd growing on to watch the commotion, when Gauri felt Sameer would be safe; she walked away in a velocity of a pace.
Sameer had to run to catch up with her, and when he was walking with her; all the while Gauri looked away from him. They must have walked for 20 minutes with absolute silence. She reached outside her grand-parents home, and decided to call it a day. So she almost instantaneously said a good night, and walked away, retreating behind those trees that covered the view of the building.
Part – 3
The evening next, she was accompanied by her aunt and mum, to the society shopping place closeby. All the time that her aunt and mum were buying the groceries, she kept checking out the posters stuck at the walls around, and the people that crossed her. A while later she saw her mum talking to a middle aged man, who looked approximately mum’s age. They were laughing around, when her mum signaled her to join them. The man was introduced as Mr. Karmakar, who worked with mum, before she got married. And then Mr. Karmakar called out to 2 guys, one of which seemed familiar. When they grew close, Gauri kept staring at them; wondering about the strangeness. One was Mr. Karmakar’s son, and the other guy was his sister’s son. Before any introductions could be made, the other guy smiled and looked at Gauri, and said “Hi Gauri, how have you been doing today?” He proceeded to address others and said that they’ve met before and infact just had a chat while walking yesterday. The rest of the conversation followed in Marathi, of which Gauri couldn’t understand even one bit. She was always weak at learning new languages, so she simply backed away and started looking around. Sameer came up to her and asked her about her plans for Saturday. She was reluctant to answer that, and looked unsure of what to answer. Without any hint, Sameer turned to her mum, and added that he was a singer of a band, and they are organizing a show for some fund raising. It would be a great if Gauri came as well, and saw the band playing. Gauri tried butting in and refusing the offer; but her mum just nodded stating Gauri would indeed love to. Her protests fell on deaf ears. So it was planned that Sameer would pick her up on Saturday afternoon.
Sameer messaged Jatin in the night, saying he wouldn’t believe about what has been happening from past 2 days. And Jatin could as well get happier and look forward for Saturday. Sameer was getting a set-up fixed, for the two to meet.
Gauri kept protesting all the way, coming up with the idea that how could her mum be sure of the singer, and just allow her to go with him. Her mum replied that she knew Mr. Karmakar all too well, and his sister too. Plus she felt no signs of trouble with her going and attending a band’s performance. Her mum knew she could always protect herself very well, and her love for music was almost a life she couldn’t live without! In the night she called Shefali and updated her with the happenings, and all the while Shefali kept smiling. Shefali promised she’d be back before next weekend, but meanwhile Shefali had a work for Gauri, since the pub that she would go with Sameer was close to Shefali’s place. Gauri had to give an amount of 4000 to one of Shefali’s friend named Rajiv, who would pay the amount as her bills to her landlord.
Saturday afternoon started with a bang, the energetic ‘Phoenix’ rocking the Hard Rock Café, with livewire music. For people who were fond of metal, the place seemed like a heaven. Gauri chewed her cheek almost when the drummer of ‘Phoenix’ began his solo act, followed by Sameer on the electric guitar and the vocals. She almost wanted to get out there on the platform and do the beats. Meeting Sameer’s friends and finding Jatin too was somewhat annoying, yet she was so engrossed at the band’s performance that she largely ignored stray comments here and there. How the 2 hour jamming got over, nobody realized till the last song from ‘Phoenix’s’ album ‘Restructuring’ played! It was time to head to the place; Shefali said Rajiv would come to collect the amount. Sameer offered to take her to the place and she agreed since she wasn’t acquainted with the area.
They were 5 people stuffed in Sameer’s car, including Gauri. They went about chatting all along the way, till Sameer stopped the car some 50 metres from where Rajiv would come. There was a guy standing out there, but to what Shefali had described, the guy didn’t match. Gauri immediately called Shefali, enquiring whether somebody else knew she was coming to handover the money to Rajiv. Shefali refused, though adding towards the end, that Rajiv was in the office when she informed him! Shefali got tensed and asked her what was the matter, and advised not to go over until Rajiv came. Gauri sat there in the car biting her lips for 2 mins, before she asked Sameer to let her wear his Addidas sports shoes. He was taken aback, but since had no clue gave it to her. More surprises were in stock when she removed all the jewellery she was wearing – earrings, rings, and watch and placed it on the cars’ deck. Before she got out of the car, she looked at the surprised faces of Sameer, Jatin, and their two female friends. She coolly added that since this was their area, it would be great if none of them stepped out of the car, no matter what happened. And they wouldn’t receive any calls that were made to her mobile, which she placed next to her jewellery. By the time she turned and started walking towards where the guy stood, the second guy arrived, who looked more like the description.
Ten minutes into the talking, and Gauri kept getting calls from Shefali. Sameer had the instinct to pick it up, nevertheless his female friends reminded him of Gauri’s remark. Ten more minutes, and everybody were wondering what was taking her so long to just handover the 4000, maybe some formalities needed to be done. And that other guy short, little on the heavy side, wheatish and looking like a junkie kept approaching Rajiv and Gauri; who kept ignoring him. He went from the left and from the right and left again; only to be ignored. Meanwhile Gauri’s phone rang for the 20th time when Sameer decided to receive it, and put it on loud speaker. Shefali in a hurried and anxious tone enquired “Gauri why weren’t you picking?” when she was interrupted by Sameer stating that Gauri left the phone behind. To which Shefali questioned in half belief “What do you mean? Who are you? Sameer? Where did she go? Is that other guy also there? How long has it been?” With so many questions his way, he reciprocated saying “Yes I am Sameer, and the other guy is also there and she’s been out there for almost 20 minutes now”. Sameer and his friends weren’t sure, but they thought they heard a panic in Shefali’s voice and somewhat shaky and tearful when she spoke next in rapid explanation describing the other guy. Before Sameer could confirm her description of the other guy, one of the female friends shrieked and said “Oh Shit!!!” Immediately everybody turned towards the source of the reaction and Sameer cut the call.
Part – 4
Gauri pushed the other guy with so much force that he was thrown out of the pavement they were standing on. She then rushed to pull his shirt and dragged him to a considerable distance. When he tried resisting she kicked him with all the energy she had. He tried covering his face when she dragged him further down the road and started screaming at him, and kicking hard at him. People started gathering, but none tried stopping her; coz she started using all her self-defence lessons.
Shocked and stunned back in the car nobody knew how to react. It all just happened in seconds. There that other guy came in from the back and said something, which wasn’t ignored this time. Gauri took a sharp turnaround and lunged at him. And then followed the fights. Rajiv also didn’t see it coming, so he was equally shocked, but did nothing to stop her. Jatin raced out of the car, to try to intervene; but all he could do after reaching there was stand at the corner and try talking to her. The rest of them back in the car, kept wondering why wasn’t Jatin getting in between and doing diplomatic talks. Sameer had no option, but get out and do something. He asked Shreya one of his female friends to give her floaters to him, as he was shoeless at the moment. He rushed to the spot, stared at Jatin and held Gauri from behind. The next thing he knew was get an elbow in the stomach. She refused to let go off the other guy, and kept bludgeoning him with blows and kicks. With whatever she kept yelling at the other guy, it was pretty sure that the guy in some point of life at office had misbehaved with Shefali, which left her nervous for a couple of days. The reason behind the breakdown reached Gauri’s ears, and she swore that very day that whenever she would get the opportunity; she would kill him! Things were getting out of control when Sameer came all the way around her pushed her a little behind and stood between the other guy and her. For a moment Gauri was dazzled and kept looking back and forth between him and the car. Sameer chanced upon her confusion and pushed her farther away from the beaten up guy. She was fuming and looked like a mad bull and jerked her hand of his grasp, took one look around and started walking the road opposite to the beaten guy, eyes lowered down and head turned towards the right side; away from the glances of onlookers. She headed for the car picked up her stuff and her sandals and moved on ahead. Her pace was fast, and Sameer had to run once again to reach her and they walked in silence to wherever Gauri decided to take a turn and head straight. Sameer kept feeling awkward and uneasy like he did the day they walked together after she bailed him out. His thoughts were halted when he realized Gauri stopped walking and was standing near a park, and he had gone some distance ahead.
She broke her silence and looked into Sameers’ face, saying “I know that was a set-up back at the pub – Jatin and I. Hey look, am being nice to you just coz your mum is known to mine and I understand your music. But it would be great if you didn’t try indulging into something like this in future.” Sameer tried avoiding eye contact but somehow gave in and kept staring at her. She didn’t flinch even once and continued “Jatin looks intelligent but we can’t hang around together. He didn’t have the courage to even come closer when I was bludgeoning that jerk out there. He tried playing safe, and if this is how he is; never in his life will be able to tame my outbursts. As in for the afternoon, thank you for inviting me. I loved it! However things turned ugly later, of which you have been a witness.”
Gauri looked away finally and started walking away, turned around once and said “I had asked you not to get out of the car! You should have listened! I like your music, good luck for them!” Before Sameer could respond she flagged an auto and left off for home.
Part – 5
A week later, Gauri was fiddling with some music one late evening, when the door bell rang; and her mom asked her to come out and meet with somebody whose name was lost in between her loud music. She went to the living room, to find Sameer sitting there. He asked for a walk together. She was reluctant yet agreed. They went out together, and she was back home within 30 minutes; as he was spotted by enthusiastic fans and they felt it unsafe to walk more. They hardly spoke, besides her getting a call from Shefali who by then got to know the whole of the details from Rajiv. Shefali was returning on Friday night, and they decided to meet on Saturday morning.
Thursday morning she went to buy things from the store close by, when a guy came from behind and greeted her enthusiastically. She turned towards him, and questioned whether he’s shifted his base to this locality; now that he’s seen so frequently! He smiled looking sideways and said “Maybe this place just attracts me” and stared into her eyes. He walked her back home, and decided to chat with her mom for a while. By then her mom gave her the message that Shefali was expecting her Saturday morning around 10. Sameer added that since he was getting back home, Saturday morning too, maybe he could drop her there. Gauri couldn’t believe why this guy was working so hard to talk to her. And why her mom just kept giving in. She got tired rolling her eyes, and said ok.
Saturday morning they were off to Shefali’s place. Gauri looked fidgety on some occasions and calm and peaceful at others. She looked at Sameer and added that he better stay in the car when they reach. Shefali was already standing out almost on the roads, when the car halted. She didn’t look pleased even for a moment, and the moment Gauri stepped out of the car; Shefali sent a volley of angry words towards her. Sameer couldn’t tell whether Shefali was really too pissed off, or was it affection covered by anger. He decided to go with the former reasoning, after all whatever Gauri did with the other guy wasn’t highly appreciative! It continued for almost 10 minutes, and he wasn’t sure whether he should drive away. He kept wondering why wasn’t Gauri objecting or justifying herself. When Shefali could talk no more and felt like out of words and expression and her eyes started getting teary, Gauri moved towards her, held her hand and looking into her eyes said “Anything For You”. That moment touched Shefali and Sameer turned and drove away, who didn’t know how to deal with the emotion.
Gauri started with her work and the initial days were fun with not much of work, so she used to retreat very frequently to her drums. One of such days she was in her room, beating the rhythms out; when she was so engrossed; she never knew 3 people entered the room and were watching her perform. She might have drummed almost endlessly if she hadn’t seen an image of a person on the window. She looked around and froze, to find her aunt and Sameer standing there with some third guy, presumably Sameer’s friend. She gulped hard and felt like she’s just been discovered doing something nobody needed to know! When her aunt left the room, Sameer went towards her and gave one glance at the drum, and incessantly said “You are the drummer of my band! We will be performing a gig-night together next week at the Hard Rock Café. Practice starts tomorrow evening at Kunal’s place.” She was staring hard at him, unable to comprehend what he just said and he immediately asked her to drum at the leads he generated mimicking the musical tones.
Part – 6
Their first gig was a big hit, overtaking the crowd with their powerful energy, and the crowd liked the new drummer. He asked Gauri if she didn’t mind continuing with the band. She showed her willingness to be a part of ‘Phoenix’ by turning at his doors one weekend, and shifting her gear to his workplace. He dreamt of ruling the country with his music, and now with a strong team he was sure they would be making waves by the end of next year when he would release his third album. Meanwhile he had lots of work to attend, the prime being passing on his forte to Gauri and training her as his strong hand. Between those sessions, they stole sly glances of each other and grew in love. Their music spoke more of the blossoming of love, and the livewire the emotion created. Nothing was hidden from the people who knew them all around. Those days and months began to intertwine them among themselves in a bond tied by red strings so strong, they were quite inseparable. She acquired every soul of his into hers and laced it with her fragrance and gave it back to him.
It was time the third album was ready to be released, and by then she grew to become his bastion.
It was their third performance on the grounds of Mumbai post the album release, where ‘Phoenix’ would play their 3rd album. It was to be a grand evening, where the rock bands of Mumbai would perform to raise funds.
The crowds seemed to throng every inch closer to towards the stage, as every band performed. The ramp that was made to reach in between the crowd seemed threatening for anybody to just step onto it and walk away from the stage. Though many lead singers decided to not take the risk; when ‘Phoenix’ entered, Sameer decided to take a walk and feel the vibes. As they rolled out their numbers, it was the 4th walk up-down the ramp; and the crowd grew excited and overwhelmed the onlookers backstage. When Sameer decided to walk for the last song of their performance; he stole glances with his band members who certainly looked forlorn with the idea. Nevertheless Sameer inched towards the crowd, and in the final few stages when Gauri on the drums was doing a solo act; suddenly the crowd grew louder in the sound produced. A few squeals here and there, and the rest of the members of ‘Phoenix’ and hosts realized that the ramp just broke and a stampede happened at the face end of the ramp. Sameer fell somewhere in between, or what exactly happened no one was sure off! And to add to the panic some body just out of sheer excitement lighted some cracker which flew around and landed someplace where flames started rising. The ten thousand crowd that was there to have fun, rushed to find exit points resulting to severe stampede. Pleas made by hosts and volunteers fell on deaf ears. The security folks were also helpless and couldn’t control the situation.
‘Phoenix’ stood shattered and stunned on the stage, wondering where their lead singer disappeared. Horrified faces of theirs kept thinking of worst that could have happened, and almost instantly shaking their heads in disbelief and hope that Sameer would be fine someplace. Gauri broke in tears and kept persistently calling Sameer, but there was no answer from that end.
It took almost 3 hours for the Police and volunteers to clear out the crowd. Fire extinguishers took an hour to bring down the blaze towards one exit point, the firecracker had started. Ambulances were called and the badly injured were taken to the hospitals. Some suffered from burns, and were treated immediately. The whole atmosphere changed from the one of fun filled night to a mourning night. There was no news of anybody locating Sameer as yet. Other bands supported and stood for ‘Phoenix’ as long as it would take. Family and friends came and kept pleading the Policemen to keep searching and frequent announcements were made. Nevertheless the search started getting tiresome, and there was no news of Sameer as yet. The grounds were clogged in pockets with the injured and aid providers.
Part – 7
Gauri couldn’t take it anymore and insisted to go along with one of the searching parties. Before anybody could call onto her, she ran ahead calling continuously for Sameer! She kept finding people injured, and more injured. Calls kept going through but no familiar ring tone sounded any place. It was nearing midnight and search parties had given up, but Gauri wasn’t ready to call it a day, and she said to herself that he’s somewhere close around, to keep going. She had to make several false start calls back to the hosts, informing them of an aid needy person. The exhaustion was showing on her face, and when she couldn’t move any further; she looked around and shouted to herself prodding to go on. The accompanying search volunteers could see the tiredness on her face, and suggested once or twice that she retreat and they’d continue. But she would look around and shout again to herself to keep moving on. Several occasions she had her eyes filled to the brim with unstoppable tears, seeing the state the people were in. Her heart refused to let go, and her pulse raced harder with each person she turned over on the ground. And then retreating to a distance so that the doctors could take them away. She didn’t want to leave empty handed without finding him. So while the search party was assisting an injured person, she broke out of the circle and ran in each direction she could, checking out as many people as she could. Along with the runs she kept calling his name, and ran almost like she was doing a relay race in circles. Some search workers came assisting her, but she kept changing direction so frequently they didn’t know where she’d turn next. And then she just collapsed, crashing on the ground! With emergency calls made to the hosts, some odd 10 people were running in top speed to the distance where Gauri collapsed. When the first search party member closed in to the place, he realized Gauri clung on to the body and kept calling onto him. Sameer was immobile and lied calmly not trying to move any body part.
He could remember the snapping of the ramp, and falling before a huge crowd who got so excited with his proximity that they all started pushing hard, and he got so sandwiched in between that nobody could bail him out. They kept pushing him away from the stage, and then fires erupted. And he felt being tossed around by the same crowd that loved him!
Gauri kept calling onto him and sobbing hard, yet the happiness of seeing him alive made her just cling on tight to him. They were silent for long periods, and she kept looking to the right side while holding onto him, crying hard for some while and then serenity prevailed. They were transfixed in that position for odd 10 minutes, when nobody spoke anything, and Gauri kept away from looking at him; and rather towards the right. She turned to face him, staring into his eyes and reached to hug him, whispering in his ear “Anything For You!”