Happy birthday to mrieshka (Meenu) and FiestySoul – May you days and years be filled with joy!
“I can’t do it.”
Arjun looked up to see AV-Sir throw his backpack on to the wooden bench and slide into the seat across from him. “What?”
AV-Sir stared at him mutely for a second and then turned around to wave to a canteen-helper who looked at him and nodded with a huge grin before heading back to the kitchen behind the counter, presumably to get AV-Sir his favorite chai.
“Oh, the date song?”
AV-Sir made a face and looked away, smiling at those who were calling out to him and yelling unintelligible phrases from all corners of the canteen. If AV-Sir was the King of IE-V, the canteen was his royal court. And Arjun never tired of seeing him in these surroundings. It always made him wonder what it would take to be this – this hero – someday. And with such dignity and poise. Of course, he knew that he was popular too – arrogantly so – and he enjoyed the admiration and the crowds around him. But what AV-Sir had – was different. There was reverence. Even amongst his peers – like Prashant Tiwari – the man hadn’t dared to repeat what he had a few days ago – with him or with Kavi – especially with Kavi. What would it take, Arjun wondered, to be respected as AV-Sir was?
He blinked and looked at AV-Sir who was staring at him intently, none of the lightness in his words, evident in his face.
“I was just thinking about the venue…” He began tentatively.
AV-Sir shook his head. “You aren’t listening. I am not going to do this stupid song thing. The more I think about it, the worse it is. You just have to go tell her how you feel. Or use audio cassettes, I don’t care.”
“Audio cassettes are impersonal. And I don’t need Sonu Nigam when I have you!”
“Sonu Nigam? Really? Did I not mention flattery will get you nowhere?”
“I wasn’t flattering you, Sir. I just said Sonu Nigam given he is Kavi’s favorite. I think she even has a crush on him.”
AV-Sir rolled his eyes. “I thought she only had serious crushes?”
Arjun grinned. “True.” Then he stopped fooling around and took a deep breath. “Sir, I know it sounds stupid to you. And honestly, I have been questioning this line of action too. But I don’t know any other way. I want her to take me seriously.”
“Having me sing in the background is the way to do that?”
“Why not? She likes your voice. She even likes you,” He raised his hands in defense when AV-Sir opened his mouth to interrupt him. “I mean in a you-are-a-rockstar-senior-way. And she knows I think highly of you – so she will see why I asked for your help. And you – you are doing a good deed.” He finished softly. “Unless….”He looked at AV-Sir’s face intently. “Unless, it makes you uncomfortable singing for her.” There it was again – the sliver of doubt that seemed to wax and wane with lunatic precision.
“I don’t know how else to tell you that I have no feelings for your Kavi, Arjun – If that’s what you are asking. One can be uncomfortable being a playback singer for the hero without feeling romantically for the heroine.”
Arjun burst out laughing at AV-Sir’s choice of words. In less than two minutes, AV-Sir was smiling ruefully too, the sharp sting in his voice disappearing as he averred Arjun’s incorribility and pitied the woman he was going to end-up with.
“Kavi, I hope,” Arjun interjected and smiled at his senior even as his mind conjured up images of his best friend. When had she come to matter so much to him? It was almost as if acknowledging his feelings for her to AV-Sir had cemented whatever little doubt there had been before. And now, all he wanted to do was… “If I could sing as well as you, I would pick all the Udit Narayan and Sonu Nigam songs she loves and sing them till she had no choice but to fall in love with me.”
“Goodness, Agarwal. Filmy I knew. A romantic filmy…the shayar type…I would not have guessed.”
Arjun grinned at his senior. “If romance isn’t filmy, what else can it be? I wouldn’t enjoy being any other type of romantic, would I? Would you?”
AV-Sir looked at him quietly for the longest time. He drained his chai and ordered another but didn’t peel his gaze off of Arjun’s face. Just when Arjun was about jokingly warn AV-Sir against falling in love with him, the older boy spoke, his voice indulgent and strangely yearning. “We can still do that.”
Arjun’s brows narrowed as his brain raced against ticking seconds to process what AV-Sir was suggesting.
“You are not….not suggesting….After-Aarohan?”
AV-Sir took a deep breath. “I guess I am. I mean if you really want me to sing…then let’s get it done with Aarohan. And you can tell her at the end of the evening. If anything, this will be…my thank you to her…for agreeing to sing with me.”
Arjun waited to see if AV-Sir was infact joking about the whole thing. When he didn’t roll his eyes or burst out laughing even several minutes later, Arjun grinned and held out his hand. “Deal!” he called out as AV-Sir shook his hand with a wistful smile.
Arjun didn’t bother to look up from his phone that he was trying to work desperately. Where the hell was AV-Sir? “NK-Sir, don’t swear like girls – it doesn’t suit you. And tell me where Arnav Bhaiyya is?”
“Forget Arnav Bhaiyya.”
Arjun’s brows narrowed as he heard NK-Sir’s distracted whisper. “Did you just say forget Bhaiyya? As the co-founder of the AV-club, I don’t think such words are acceptable when uttered by…” He saw his senior’s mouth open and close several times even as he followed NK-Sir’s gaze. And then he saw what had taken NK-Sir’s breath away.
She looked…different…Goodness – she looked…pretty – despite those large black frames that covered half her face and all of her eyes. She looked…Arjun swallowed…and then took a deep breath before turning to look at NK-Sir who was still staring at Kavi like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It usually amused Arjun to no-end to see NK-Sir this smitten with her. And NK-Sir’s reactions to her usually didn’t scare him like…”She is not trained in classical music, remember? Not your type. Don’t stare and don’t even think about it.”
Nishant Kumar Pathak turned to look at Arjun curiously. “You said she is just a friend.”
“And so she is. For now.” Arjun replied wryly. “Okay, if you see AV-Sir, tell him I have my phone on me in case he needs anything. I’ll see you later.” Saying so, he began walking away from NK-Sir to where Kaveri was standing – lost like she almost always seemed in large crowds. He smiled as his pulse picked up pace and jingled like her large jhumkas were against her cheeks as she looked around her – in an effort to spot him, most likely. It pleased him and lifted his spirits like it always did to know that he seemed to anchor her in this place.
“Kavi, here you are!” He said as he walked up to her and saw her jump slightly at his voice. Trust Kaveri Gupta to be startled amidst a noisy crowd. For all her vehement dismissal and wry, borderline cynical response to most things around her, she was quite the dramatic Bollywood heroine in her reactions. The best part, of course, was how oblivious she seemed to be of this facet of her own personality.
She looked at him and for a second, Arjun was sure she was checking him out – an altogether pleasant thought if there was one. “You look nice!” She said softly as he neared her, confirming his doubts. This was officially the first time she had ever said anything nice about how anyone looked – and she had said it to him! Perhaps there was no need to be nervous about today, after all. Perhaps, he didn’t really need to have asked AV-Sir to….No, he couldn’t go down that path. That decision was made. And it was harmless really. A bunch of songs – suited to her likes…Even if he wasn’t planning to ask her out, getting someone to sing her favorite songs, was hardly a crime.
So he breathed in and grinned at her. “So do you!” That was an understatement. It was not just that she looked nice. She did have a pleasing face anyway. It was that she seemed to have made an effort to dress up. It was a blessing she didn’t do that more often. All of IE-V Mech would go bonkers if she did. And in a way that would completely throw her off balance.
“This looks like everything is in order. All on time.” She said sarcastically, a minute later as she waved her hand around.
“What’s a college event without chaos?” He quipped. Yeah, this was better. The cynical lift of her brow. Now she was more the person he was falling in love with….Sheesh – love? He was losing his mind. “I love this!” He said and then cursed himself for using that word so loosely.
Kaveri shook her head and looked around her, her eyes alive in incredulous wonder. And then he saw her lashes flicker as her half-hidden irises moved left and right, as if searching for someone.
It hit him like a punch in the plexus. AV-Sir. She was looking for him. He was sure of it.
“Did you take a look at the program?” He interrupted, “You go after…” He peered into the small booklet she was now holding open. “Haan, you go after Rohan and Farha for Pyaar Hua…. I think that is right in the middle of the program. Then we have Iss Deewane…towards the end of the program. And then finally of course, there is AV-Sir’s session. But that would be only after nine.”
“How did I end up agreeing to singing so much?”
She whispered shortly after she took a deep breath and Arjun’s suspicions worsened. Shit! He had made a mistake! He needed to go tell AV-Sir – what…that he thought she did have feelings for him? That Arjun didn’t want him to sing the new list of songs he had come up with? And just why was he suddenly so jittery? It had to be because of how she looked. She looked so different – not like his Kavi. And she wasn’t even his Kavi. Yet.
“I have to run now.” He said and took a step away from her. He was just nervous. He needed a few moment to pull himself together. That was all there was to it.
“I thought you were the pre-program coordinator. Shouldn’t the logistics and operations volunteers take over now?”
His heart leaped hopefully. So he did his thing – shrugged and smirked like he always did around her. “What can I say? They can’t seem to do without me!”
He saw her roll her eyes even as he waved out to her and turned to walk away, his heart still hammering in his ribcage.
She sang like a dream – that was a given. But with the spotlight glinting off her dupatta and her telltale nervous gesture pushing her thick black frames up her nose, it was all he could do to take deep breaths and hold himself back from pulling her into a hug at the end of the performance.
“You smashed it, Kavi.” He said even as he absent-mindedly patted her back and then curled his fingers into his palm. Touching her was a bad idea. Especially because his fingers met the wide expanse of skin on her back, exposed like it had never been before. Thankfully, he wasn’t a creep and she trusted him enough to know that he wouldn’t abuse the freedom she seemed to have bestowed on him and him alone.
She smiled at him but her eyes remained blank. And that gaze – he knew that gaze. It was the same look she had the first time she had auditioned with this song. She had been looking for AV-Sir’s approval then too.
“Where is he?”
The words plunged through his skin, sharp and bitter. Enough to make him fake ignorance when he knew exactly who she was referring to. “Who?”
“AV Sir.” She replied almost too cautiously.
He had no clue. If anything, he was searching for the man himself. But something, some uncontrollable force in his head, the same that couldn’t stop staring at her, forced him to lie. “He was here just a few minutes ago. Why?”
He was abashed by his own pettiness as she suddenly turned around and scanned the crowds as if she expected to see him. What was this lie going to solve, he wondered? What was he hoping to achieve by pretending that AV-Sir was around, just invisible to her?
“I haven’t seen him at all this evening and I just wanted to check if there were any last minute changes.”
Annoyance sliced through him again. “Whatever you need to discuss with AV-Sir, Kavi, we can deal with later. We need to get this song done first. Dammit, how did you manage to sing even once? I am dying of nerves here.” He was overstating facts, of course. He was dying of nerves yes, but they had nothing to do with the song they were about to perform.
“You are dying of nerves?”
Arjun didn’t look up from the piece of paper he was holidng. He couldn’t risk her seeing the look in his eyes. She would see through him. Even though, the feeling that she didn’t really didn’t see him when she looked at him, was one he had contended with rather often since that first day they had met in class. “Haseeno se keh do kahin aur jaayein….” He muttered the lines under his breath. , ignoring the rush of self-deprecation that rang loud in his ears.
“I thought nervousness was for sissies” She pointed out
This time he looked up as her pointed barb tugged at his lips. “I didn’t say that?” He smiled sheepishly at her.
“You did.” She replied plainly and then shook her head. “This is insane. This song is going to be…so embarrassing. Why…why did I ever agree to sing this?”
“Embarassing? No way – this is going to be epic. If there is no whistling – call me Karan starting tomorrow, okay?”
He watched as her brows knit together in “Karan?” She shook her head. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You are losing your touch, KK Gupta. You know how they say mark my words or Nnaam badal dena…you know how it goes…and I am Arjun – Karan Arjun…” He shrugged and shook his head in childish annoyance. “This explanation giving is killing my master word play attempt, Kav”
“What? I don’t even know what to say anymore, Arjun. And just so you know…talking about whistling as a response to the song…is not helping.”
“Stop it, Kavi. I need to memorize these lines again. I don’t want to look like an idiot on stage.”
“You don’t…?” She began before throwing her hands up in the air. “I am the one who…never mind…let’s just get this over with. I am so done with all of this Aarohan business….I mean I am done. Done!” She muttered.
“Are you nervous or irritated, by the way?” Arjun quipped, his eyes fixed on her face. He needed to know. He already did. He needed confirmation. “Because I saw nervousness the last time. Now you just look cranky.”
She shrugged and looked away but not before he saw the pale rose of her cheeks heighten under the soft halogen lights above them. He wanted to hold her hand and ask for forgiveness even though he wasn’t sure what he would be apologizing for. “Kavi, okay I am sorry I am being annoying. But this is a fun song. We need to…Stop worrying if this is embarrassing. So there will be whistling…” He raised his hand to stop her when she began to interrupt him. “There will be – and that’s a great thing. This is supposed to be one of those evenings. And you really have to stop over thinking everything. You are going to be a hit today. The song you sung earlier was phenomenal, this one will be amazing and with AV Sir – if you are not crowned Queen of Aarohan at the end of this….” He paused dramatically, “Call me Karan starting tomorrow – okay?”
As he waited for a sharp slap on his shoulder or a flash of her inky eyes, Kaveri Khushi Gupta burst out laughing. And just like that his heart leaped up in hope again. He could make her laugh. Surely she wanted that in a partner? Even if he wasn’t a mysterious, guitar bearing senior who was so easy to fall in love with. “See that is so much better!” Arjun quipped as he gave her a thump on her back, making her cough as tears spilled out of her eyes and laughter ebbed.
“Let’s go sing,” She said with a dramatic sigh and Arjun Agarwal held out his hand – one she took with an open smile and no hesitation.
If everyone around them could see how wonderful they were together, there must be something. How could she not feel it when he held her hand? He couldn’t take his eyes off her even as she blushed under the catcalls and claps from the audience.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her even as she walked away from the stage to hide in the shadows like she always did. Why couldn’t she see how she glowed under the arclights?
He turned around to look at AV-Sir standing right behind him, his eyes smiling softly at him even as his shoulders remained stiff and unyielding.
“Goodness, AV-Sir. Where were you? I’m just so….this is not going to work at all. I really think we should cancel….”
“You guys were great. Really.”
Arjun shook his head. “No really, AV-Sir – I think we should just stick to your original list.”
“Arjun,” He interrupted again, his voice firm and no non-sense. Perhaps even a little sad. “You know how NK always says she holds back when she is singing. She didn’t today – not for this song.”
Arjun stared at his senior and allowed his words to playback in his head. What he was saying really was that it was worth a shot – what he had decided he would do. And afterall the songs were just one part of the whole thing. He was going to tell her how he felt. THAT was the real deal.
“You are right. Of course, you are right.”
AV-Sir smiled and nodded. “Go get her.”
“Kavi, it’s almost time for…”
“Arjun, where is AV-Sir?” She interrupted him even before he could finish his statement. But fresh from AV-Sir’s encouragement, Arjun refused to be worried.
“You still didn’t see him? I just…” He turned around and looked over to the opposite side of the stage which was now swathed in darkness. “He just congratulated me on our performance. He thought it was the best of the evening. Really…” AV-Sir was trying his best to give him the space he needed, he realized. And that he didn’t quite believe that Kaveri felt nothing for him. One way or the other, he knew he needed to do what he wanted to. “Anyway, I was coming over to tell you that AV-Sir wants you to wait before you join him on stage. There is a little change of plan. He wants to do a few songs…”
“If he doesn’t need me to sing, believe me I am more than happy to oblige. It is pretty late…” She quipped tersely even as she glanced at her watch.
“What?” Arjun asked, bending slightly to scan her face. Whatever it was he was expecting her to say, it wasn’t this. She looked out of sorts. “What has gotten into you today, Kaveri? I thought your bad mood was all gone after our song – you really seemed to be enjoying yourself earlier and now…” God! He was whining.
“I’m sorry, Arjun..I just…this session with AV-Sir..it is bothering me..We haven’t had proper practice sessions in the last week or so and I haven’t seen him all evening…And now you are saying that there is some change…”
Arjun shook his head and smiled. “Relax, baba. All he said was that there was a slight change.” He lied conveniently. “And he even asked me to apologize to you on his behalf. I am sure he will do that in person after the show as well. There’s just a lot going on in the background. The Final Year batch had negotiated a stall with Kingfisher…”
“Kingfisher? Why would they…” She began when it seemed to suddenly dawn on her. “Beer?” Kaveri asked, her eyes wide in her face.
Arjun nodded. “It was all done and then suddenly the University Student Affairs Dean’s office withdrew permission for alcohol on campus. Big ruckus outside. AV-Sir is apparently on the Student Management Council and was called there…It’s all sorted…They finally have permission – apparently just for a couple of hours after the program has ended…so…”
Kaveri rolled her eyes.
“Yeah I know you are not impressed but imagine what a dry Aarohan would have meant?”
“Safety?” She volunteered. “Appropriate for an educational institution? Sensible decision?”
“Not fun.” Arjun replied just as wryly.
“Whatever,” She shrugged. “So what do I…”
Her statement was interrupted by the sudden black out followed by a sharp dip in noise levels – just to make way for the timbre of AV-Sir’s guitar.
Main yahaan hoon, Arjun realized – a song that brought Kaveri’s absolute favorites together – actor and singer. They had picked it and argued endlessly about Arjun’s insistence on AV-Sir opening with it. “Some songs are best sung only if meant,” AV-Sir had argued but had eventually given in.
It was a good call, evidently, Arjun concluded with a smile as he watched Kaveri’s face come alive like he had imagined. And then AV-Sir turned, lights blazing over his head in a halo and looked straight at them. Arjun grinned and raised a thumbs up at him even as he smiled and looked away, plunging right back into the song. “There’s a way to make an entrance!” Arjun said loudly, clapping Kaveri’s back without thought yet again.
River Song, Music and Lyrics
Song Title: Main Hoon Na
Album: Main Hoon Na
Singers: Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal
Music: Anu Malik
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Kiska hai yeh tumko intezaar
Main hoon na?
Dekh lo idhar toh, ek baar
Main hoon na
Khamosh kyun ho? Jo bhi kehna hai kaho
Dil chaahe jitna, pyaar utna maang lo
Tumko milega, utna pyaar
Main hoon na!
- Next update may be delayed. Please bear with me. Will post a note on the Index page if so
- Thank you all for reading!