Day 1, 10:30 am
Jacob was sitting on his bike parked near the besant nagar beach. He was tall, dark and lean. He was wearing a black T-shirt and a blue jean. One of his ears was pierced and a Sun-glass was hung on his shirt. It was evident that he had tried to give a macho look, but failed miserably. He was pondering about why Asheeta had called him so urgently. He remembered how frantic Asheeta sounded during the call.
It was the freshers day at college when both first met. Jacob was on his way to the restroom when he was caught by a group of senior girls. He being very sensitive by nature sent shivers through his body. Yet he tried to remain calm. The girls made him turn left, right, sit, walk, swim on the ground and so much more. He did everything dutifully. Then they started evaluating his worth. He heard different voices scream
Bring 10 rupees and take Jacob along
Buy anything and get Jacob free
They taunted him and made him feel like dirt. He felt humiliated and his whole body started to tremble. But he forced a smile on his lips. He acted as if he was also enjoying the joke played on him. But his heart was pleading for help, someone to rescue him from his agony. Just then a female voice startled him.
"Jacob is worth more than all of you put together"
It was Asheeta standing behind them with their department HOD.
After that incident, Jacob and Asheeta quickly bonded together as the best of friends. They had nothing in common. It was a mystery for the entire college how they could get along. When she was interested in rap and hip-hop, he liked soft melodies. When her favorite sports were tennis and cricket, he was more into chess and carrom board. When she liked watching National Geographic’s and Discovery channel, he would watch speech delivered by his favorite guru. But when the same guru was later convicted for fraud and crime, she made sure not to mention anything about it to him. That is exactly what he liked her for. They accepted that they were different and did not force themselves with each others views.
Jacob kept checking his cell phone for any calls or messages every now and then. The beach was deserted except for few guys playing cricket. Here and there, young couples were scattered not minding the hot Sun directly above them. He spent time watching them in action. After what seemed to be an eternity, he received a message on his mobile.
I am here. Wer r u?
He alighted from his bike and locked it. He spotted Asheeta standing far away next to an arch constructed in the middle of the beach. She seemed to be checking her mobile, possibly waiting for his call or message. He started walking towards her.
Sensing that he was behind her, Asheeta spun around.
"Hey Jacob" she said in a cold voice.
"Hey yourself. What..."
"What the hell do you think you are doing? Have you gone nuts?" she growled without giving him a chance to complete
"Slow down Ash. Tell me what happened?" he said in a pacifying tone.
"Can you speak proper English?" he asked still patiently
The calmness in his voice made her succumb to his request. She explained about the meeting she had with Sagar and showed the mail printout to him. He read it carefully and looked up at her.
"You think it was me, huh?" he asked mildly irritated.
Just then they both felt someone walk behind them. Asheeta's immediate instinct was to hide the paper, but a strong hand quickly held her and grabbed the paper from her. She looked up to check who it was and froze. It was Sagar.
"So...is this your little secret?" he asked with acute sarcasm.
"What...What are you doing here?" she asked trying to keep her voice calm.
"May I ask you the same question?"
"From when did chatting with friends in a beach became a crime?" Jacob interjected.
Sagar studied him for a moment and continued.
"Are you her boy friend?"
"That is none of your business" replied Asheeta who had regained her composure by now.
"Well, then let us talk about our business. I want to know what exactly happened"
Asheeta remained silent for a while. Then,
"Well, I was not completely honest with you this morning. But whatever I am going to say now, is the truth to the best of my knowledge"
"I am all ears"
"Normally, whenever I finish writing an episode, it is my routine to send a copy to Jacob. He acts like an editor for me. He reviews my blog and presents with feedback. Day before yesterday, I had sent him yesterday's episode. Later when I was asking him for his review, he said he had this idea to increase the popularity of my story by playing a prank. He said he would send a mail similar to the one in my story, and if police got involved, my blog would become an instant success. So, I thought..." she left the sentence incomplete and looked at Jacob.
"This is insane. It was a joke" Jacob said alarmed.
Sagar did not look convinced. Jacob's eyes moved back and forth between Asheeta and Sagar for a while and finally rested on Asheeta.
"Ash, you knew it was a joke, didn’t you? We both had a hearty laugh about it later"
Asheeta did not utter a word.
"Oh bloody hell Ash, don't you believe me?" he almost screamed
Asheeta turned away unable to bear his gaze.
"I believe you" said Sagar
"You what?" Jacob asked disbelievingly.
"I know when I am being lied to"
"Oh...thank you...thanks a lot Sir. I can't believe this is happening. Someone who met me just 5 minutes back believes me, but someone who is supposedly my best friend does not" he smiled wryly.
"It is not like that Jacob, you...you don’t understand" Asheeta said trying to defend herself.
But Sagar came to her rescue.
"It was not her fault. She thought she was saving you by hiding this from me. Don't blame her"
Asheeta looked up at him with gratitude.
"I am so sorry Sir for hiding it. As you said, I thought it was Jacob, and I thought I should not turn him down"
"Yeah, I understand"
"By the way, what did you say your name was Sir?"
"I never told you my name"
"Aaah, yeah right"
"Sagar, but feel free to call me Sagy" he said and smiled.
Asheeta was lost for a while.
Oh God! The smile...And his eyes...He looks dangerously handsome
The second that thought crossed her mind, she felt her cheeks turn red. Oh No! Not now. But the more she tried to control it, the redder her cheeks became. She turned away to avoid his stare.
But Sagar did not miss it. He saw her blushing and his heart skipped a beat. Till then he saw her as just a kid. But now he realized that she was a young pretty girl. He could only see her profile as she had turned away from him. Her arched eyebrows, dark grey eyes, pointed nose, scarlet cheek, tiny ears, full lips, everything made him go crazy. He had been with women more beautiful, but there was something else in her, something he had not seen in any other woman.
Out of the corner of her eye, Asheeta noticed that he was staring at her. It was all she could do to stop blushing. A smile lit her face. She felt on top of the world.
Jacob who was silently watching all this instantly realized what was happening. He was happy for his best friend. He excused himself saying he had some urgent work and left them to their privacy.
Asheeta waved him goodbye and turned towards Sagar. She wanted to know something.
"So...how did you find out?"
"Find out what?"
"That I was meeting Jacob here"
"Umm....You will get mad at me if I told you"
"Really?" she said raising one of her eyebrows.
"Well, I bugged your house"
"When I asked you to get water, I placed a mike under the sofa. My instinct told me you were hiding something. I had to find it"
"How could you do such a thing? You had invaded my privacy" she yelled.
"But, my hunch was true right?"
"Hell with your hunch. What if I had had an intimate conversation with my boy friend" she snorted without realizing what she just said.
Sagar felt a sudden stab in his heart. This was not something he had expected.
"Then thank God you had not called your boy friend" he retorted
"I...I don't have a boy friend" she admitted guiltily
"Whatever!" he said. "But you should know, in today’s world, the word privacy has no meaning. All your calls, mails, messages even if deleted at your end are stored in some remote server. Any one with authorization could access it. This applies everywhere, facebook, orkut, skype, you name it"
Asheeta was still glaring at him angrily. Sagar thought he chould somehow convince her.
"You know, the first time I saw you, I was really angry at your parents for naming you such an insane one like Kannama. Only when you told your real name was I relieved. Your name is very beautiful..." he said and added "...just like you"
If he had expected her to blush, he was wrong. She stared at him with much more hatred than before. He did not understand what had gone wrong.
"Kannama is my mother's name" she clarified with gritted teeth
For a second Sagar wished he could vanish into thin air. He grinned sheepishly.
"So...anything else?" she asked curtly.
"We haven't yet found who sent the mail Ash"
"Can we just drop it?"
Sagar looked at her meaningfully. She understood what he intended to say.
"Don't start your instinct crap please. It was just some jobless guy, trying to play some prank on you. Don't you have some real job to do rather than following a faceless coward?" she said in a mocking tone.
"Hmm...you are right..." he said and after a pause added "At least hold yourself from posting any further episodes until we are sure it was just a joke"
"Not possible Sagy, the next episode would have already been posted"
"What do you mean by would have been?"
"Mine is a daily serial, posted at morning 07:00. I generally save the episodes the previous night as draft and schedule it to be posted on the next day 07:00 am. It saves me the trouble of waking up early, you know"
"Oh...any idea how many would have already read today's episode"
"Wait, let me check"
She took her mobile and browsed her blog.
"In the past 4 hours, there have been 74 views and 6 replies"
"hmm...What happened in today's episode Ash? Did he commit suicide or was he saved by the police?"
"I dont think it matters Sagy. Trust me"
"Ummmm....Fine...I just hope you are right" he said though he was not convinced.
They got up on their feet. There was nothing more to help them prolong their conversation.
Sagar extended his right hand and said "So...I guess this is a goodbye then"
Asheeta hesitated for a second and then shook hands with him. She felt a sudden chill spreading and involuntarily her cheeks turned bright red once again. Sagar admired it for a while and let go of her hands.
"Bye. See you later" she managed to say.
"Never mind, Bye"
Sagar stood there for a long time watching her go. He lost track of time. He did not remember how long he was standing there when he was suddenly interrupted by a call. It was his senior officer asking him to come immediately for some urgent work. He disconnected the call and said to himself My dear Ash, I can't just let you go. Very soon I will come to you my dearest.
Asheeta was driving to her office. She was taking the usual left and right turns at the appropriate signals without her realization. Her mind was in a whirlpool of emotions. She had never believed in love at first sight. But this was second sight she heard herself justify. She shrugged her shoulders and tried to distract her mind by listening to some songs. She turned on the radio and tuned to mirchi FM. It played her all time favorite track 'Vizhi moodi yosithaal' from Ayan. She was so much engrossed in the sensual voice of Karthik that she almost shook when her mobile rang. It was some unknown land line number. She attended the call unsure if she should have answered the call. She heard only someone breathe heavily. She repeatedly shouted Hello, but there was no other sound at the other end. Frustrated she disconnected the call. The next instant she remembered the morning episode she had posted. She froze for a while not knowing what to do. Could it be a coincidence? May be I should call Sagar and tell him about the call. She took the visiting card he had given earlier and noted the number in her mobile. She kept sliding her mobile up and down debating if she should call him. What if he thinks it was a ploy to talk to him. May be my mind is thinking of excuses to get in touch with him. I wont give him that satisfaction. If he wants, let him come to me. But she could not help thinking Hope he does come real soon.
Both had no idea how soon it was going to be.
Day 1, 06:05 pm
"Hey Saby, can you do me a small favor"
Sabitha heard a voice call out. She did not even bother to check who was calling her.
"Oh no dear. I am leaving" she said and started off without waiting for any acknowledgment.
She was in no mood of any extra work. She had got permission to start early cajoling her project manager. She was not going to allow anyone spoil it. She had been fully thinking about the evening plan she had made with her friend. She was sure about meeting her until 10 minutes back. But then her husband had called and wanted her to come home early. He said he had some surprise for her and wanted to see her eyes bulge in happiness when he told her. She smiled thinking how much her husband had changed in the last few years; more understanding, more supportive and more expressive. She checked the time. She decided she could not meet her friend. She had to tell some lie like she had extra work, some guests came, or whatever that came to her mind.
She went out of the magnificent 10 storey building. She walked on the platform and kept checking for any empty autos. After around 5 minutes, an auto came. The driver asked her where she wanted to go.
"Thiruvanmyur beach" she replied.
I will be with her for just 15 minutes. I may be delayed a little, but what difference is it going to make she thought
She had no idea how much difference it was going to make.