The great lyricist and singer, Mr. Sahil Agnihotri, went onto the stage to receive his award from none other than Mr. Pravin Kumar himself, for The Most Promising Singer Of The Year. Thousands of clapping hands exploded in unison.
As he took the award in his trembling hands, his heart throbbed with excitement. Here he was, a small town graduate from Bhivpur, just a clerk with a pay of Rs.3000 until last year… flickers of anxious cameras, floods of glorious lights; all waiting to embrace him in their waiting arms.
He felt as though he was an onlooker and all this was but a dream, a beautiful dream. He approached the microphone, held his award closely with his hands, gazed at it proudly and began:
"Oh My God! Oh my God! I can hardly believe all this." A drop of tear glistened at the corner of his eye. "I take this opportunity to thank Cine Star, my director and the entire team and above all Mr. Pravin Kumar for having given me this opportunity."
Fans surrounded him as he left the hall, to catch a fleeing glimpse, to try and feel even his jacket, to try and get an autograph. Signing an autograph was so much more exciting than the old dusty muster. He savored every single moment as he basked in glory.
Tonight was the realization of his dream, a dream that lay hidden in some corner of his heart as he sang in his small village school, as he composed the jingles for his college competitions. Then what seemed to be ridiculous was so true today. Oh! It was so true today.
As he stepped into his new black Octavia, his eyes met a pair of light brown sullen eyes. He blinked and tried to look for them in the thousands of pairs of eyes that shoved around just to see him. He shook his head and got into the car. The driver drove away. "Let me not think of anything else", thought Sahil, "except success, success and success".
"But the eyes…"
Now let's go back in time...
It was chilly outside. The leaves of the trees swayed in a light breeze. "Hahahaha." The laughter, the innocent laughter that had drawn him closer to her.
Was it the first time he saw her that he fell in love? He could not recollect. But the more he saw of her, the more he seemed to fall in love with her. Her life was so simple, her needs so minimal. "I want a small house of my own, where Baba, you and I would stay."
Her father was a retired and blind schoolteacher who, ever since the death of her mother, had raised Kavita. There was something definitely magical about the relationship they shared. There was a bond of deep love and an intimate friendship, which at times, Sahil envied. After all, having at least one caring parent is better than having none at all.
Sahil had agreed that Baba should stay with them after their wedding. He liked Baba. He was a quiet, self-sufficient old man, with a very strong sense of self-respect. He loved Sahil immensely.
"In an age where children boycott their own parents, which Son-In-Law would agree to look after his blind, old Father-In-Law?" He would choke.
"But Baba, I am your son, am I not?" Sahil would slowly put his arms around the old man.
"Sahil," he would look at his wrist, "this is all I have of my possessions in the world. A golden watch that my school gave me at retirement. This one is for you when I die."
Kavita is just like him. He would silently observe her smiling proudly at both of them. However, Sahil's needs were never so small.
"I want to be a big man, with lots of money, a bungalow, a car."
Kavita would laugh it off. "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride them. For the kinds of qualifications we possess, we should be content even if we got a job. This world is so competitive."
"But I can sing and compose music so well, Kavi. All I need is someone to listen to me. To be able to write, compose and sing, it is indeed a mighty talent."
"Do not get me wrong, Sahil," she would hold his hand. "Of course, you are so talented. But we do not know anybody who can take you higher. Moreover, a world of glory, more often than not, stinks. I have read about it in the magazines. The kinds of prices people pay to reach there is so disgusting. Are we not happy in our small world, just the three of us? Then we will have a couple of children. Our family."
"Anyways", she would add, "there is no end to wanting things."
Her smile would take away all the burdens from his heart. They would hold each other's hands and walk their way back home.
Their engagement had been a very low key affair, just the three of them in the local temple with the blessings of the priest and God. However, they had decided that the wedding would be a much grander affair.
Budgeting and planning had begun since there was just one month to go. July 17th was the D-Day. There were cards to be printed, people to be invited, hall to be arranged, the caterer to be called for, the decorator, the clothes; and only the two of them.
They would accompany each other everywhere, fight over the color of the chairs, the Hall, the menu and after a lot of arguments, they would arrive at some consensus. You win this time and I take the next. Oh it was undoubtedly exciting.
"Sahil, it is already 3rd July and we haven't got our bridals."
After work they went together to purchase two sets of clothes. The suit that caught Sahil's attention cost Rs.35,000, and that was all they had for their clothes, jewelry and the decorator put together. He had to finally content himself with a black suit. "Not too good," he sighed.
As they went over to the counter to pay, he saw that the customer, who had purchased just before they had come in, had left behind his wallet and credit cars.
"Sir! Sir," ran Sahil after him.
At the entrance the man turned to his call.
Mr. Pravin Kumar.
Sahil was dumb struck. He actually was standing face to face with the great music director, Mr. Pravin Kumar.
"Yes?" he looked questioningly at Sahil. Sahil held out the wallet to him.
"Oh my God!" exclaimed Mr. Pravin Kumar. "Thank you so much. This has so much money in it. Besides all my cards are in it too. Thank you so much. Maybe you could use this". He extended a Rs.500 note to Sahil.
"No thank you sir." It was Kavita. " Sir, we may not be as rich as you are, but we are so endowed that we could do without pay for our small helps."
"Oh! I am sorry to offend you ma'am. Well, here is my card. I would be pleased to do anything that you may need."
Sahil brooded over what had happened.
"Sahil," Kavita shoved him to walk faster, "these big people have so many cards printed, and they will give it to each and everybody. They will not even recognize you again. In any case, what would be the value of money that you returned to him? He must be making three times more on every single song that he directs."
Sahil looked at her, without any reply.
Evenings passed without any word from Sahil. She realized that he went to Mr. Praveen Kumar's office.
"It is just a fad that will phase out," reassured her father.
She went on nonchalantly with the rest of the preparations. "I wish Sahil were here, Baba," she would say.
On the 12th of July, Sahil came running into the house.
"Kavi! Kavi!" The joy in his voice was so evident.
She came rushing out of the kitchen.
"What is it Sahil?" asked Baba.
"Baba, I have been chosen to sing for Mr. Pravin Kumar's forthcoming movie," he announced to a dumbstruck audience.
"Baba, he says that I will make it big in life. Oh, Kavi, you will be the wife of a great man now. We will have a bungalow, a car, everything that you dreamt of but thought you would never have. Oh, Kavi."
She could feel the excitement in his heart as he hugged her. Is this real?
Her heart thronged to see the dream come true for the man she loved the most in this world.
"Tonight, Mr. Pravin Kumar has invited us over for dinner at The Regal Plaza. Oh Kavi, do look your best. Please leave your hair open."
As she walked into the kitchen, he held her hand and said, "You look so seductive that way." She blushed and ran in.
Kavita was dressed in a simple starched cotton black saree with red border. Her black silky hair fell over her shoulder. Sahil's eyes twinkled. They left the house and he called for a taxi.
Once in the taxi, Sahil spoke," Oh Kavi, I know you understand that this will be the achievement of my life. It will make my life… no, our lives into a living magnificence; I shall be popular, people will seek me out. I shall be great. Mr. Sahil Agnihotri, you shall be great. But Kavi, there will be a small compromise that you will have to make in life. After all, to achieve this, I am sure you will help me out. Promise me, Kavi, promise me."
Kavi looked puzzled. "How can I help you? If I were that good, I would have been a singer myself. What do you want me to do?"
"Just understand me Kavi, just understand me. I am doing this for us, for Baba, for our children. You must stand by me at all times. You must understand and love me just as always."
Kavita winced. Then she smiled as she saw his anxious face. "Of course I will stand by you, silly. Who else do I have?"
They stepped out of the taxi and entered the magnificent hotel. Kavita was bedazzled. She had never seen anything like this except in the movies. She clutched Sahil's arm fondly.
"Oh! She has the dignity of the rich," thought Sahil. "Her air, her walk."
He looked at her so fondly. She blushed.
They went up the elevator. Room no. 3234. The door opened to Pravin Kumar, who was seated on the couch with a bottle of liquor in front of him. She did not like him. Her eyes said that. However, for the sake of Sahil, she smiled at him.
"Your fiancé is a big man now. Here is his token money of Rs.250000."
She smiled and looked at Sahil. At Sahil's request, she took the check from him.
"Here is the contract," said Mr. Pravin Kumar. "Sahil is indeed lucky. He has a beautiful lady like you to love him."
His hands rested on her thighs. She slowly pulled her legs away and looked at Sahil. He did not seem to mind. Something hit her.
After another 10 minutes, Sahil rose. "I shall be back in a few minutes. I have to get the contract xeroxed. Kavi, just give Mr. Pravin Kumar some company and I shall just be back."
Kavita began to protest, but Sahil was gone. Her scared eyes looked around the room, but could hardly capture anything. He slowly moved close to her. She slowly moved, but he put his arms around her. She stood up.
"How dare you? My fiancé will murder you if he finds out."
"Hahahaha!" roared Pravin Kumar. "Do you think Sahil has to go out of the room to Xerox the contract, when we have such wonderful room service?"
She felt her eyes black out.
She woke up to see Sahil holding her.
"Listen Kavita, I will become a big singer and we will all stay happily together. These things are so common in the west. Besides, nobody will know."
As the car pulled up to Kavita's house, she slowly slid off her engagement ring, silently thrust it in his palms and walked into her house. He did not have the courage to enter.
Fast forward to the present time…
His new black Octavia halted with a jerk. Sahil looked around. It was his bungalow. The watchman came running up to him.
"Sahib, there is a lady out to meet you. She calls herself Kavita."
Kavita? His heart missed a beat.
He ran towards her. She was just the same; the same posture in a simple cotton salwar kameez. He ran to her.
"Oh Kavita, if I had asked God for anything else today, he would have probably granted me even that."
He reached out to embrace her. She stepped backward. She put her hands into her handbag and brought out something. In the dim streetlight, the object glistened. It was a wristwatch. It was Baba's watch. He reached out to take it.
"Baba?" He asked.
She nodded, turned and walked off.
"Kavi!!!" He called out.
His voice lay muffled in the sound of the wind.
SSSHHHHH, whispered the leaves.
Copyright © 2006 Sandhya Parameshwaran