Love is Not a Competition

It was pouring heavily and the visibility was blurred and hazy. The view from the hill top by the highway was dreamlike. The wind was strong. Doe, the doe-eyed deer stood there and gazed into oblivion. She was a plump, honey coloured deer with beautiful, expressive eyes and silky hair.

Cheff once told her, her ex mate, that he was deeply embarrassed to go out with her because she was a little hairy. Never had anyone been so brutally honest and forthright about their disliking before. It was true that she was a little hairy but she thought every deer is… Cheff loved her but with a ‘conditions apply’ tag. Doe loved him dearly and hence his disapproval of her physical shortcoming made her conscious and she observed his female friends closely to try and imbibe something like-able from them considering the maximum time Cheff hung around with. Cheff and his friends belonged to the same profession – the fashion industry.

Doe with Cheff in happy times.

Doe with Cheff in happy times.

Doe wondered how immaculate the other she deers were in their appearance, the perfectly fitted dressing styles, the perfect make-up and well waxed limbs… She had started to forget herself and became oblivious of her own beauty. She used to be the ugly duckling in her growing up days but then she turned into a very pleasant, moonlight beauty now with gorgeous flowing long hair. It was a pity that Cheff had no idea how his casual and caustic remarks affected Doe. His nasty comments on her personality and looks filled her eyes each time when Doe tried to deck herself up for going out with him, so that he doesn’t feel embarrassed.

There was one particular deer who hovered around Cheff all the time. Be it club or parties, Snobby ensured she hogged all the attention and was intimately close enough to him for anyone to mistake her as his mate. This disturbed Doe a lot & she voiced her concern to Cheff one day. But alas! Cheff snubbed at her calling her a filthy jealous female & defied her unabashedly.

Doe didn’t know what to do, she felt hugely insulted and low the way Snobby took full advantage of Cheff’s disregard to her. Doe wept in solitude and tried ignoring Snobby’s overpowering presence in her life. But Snobby had her fan following and a barrage of admirers in the fashion club; who were always too eager to start up any discussion possible to grab her attention and hit on her. Snobby loved it and savoured it all. She threw deliberate tantrums to make them addicted to her. And all her activities screamed of narcissism, so all in all this addiction for constant appreciation was mutual. Doe couldn’t care less for her but yet she had to bear all this because Cheff was very much a party to it. Her heart sank and it had started to show on her.

Doe walks into the forest alone for starting her treatment as told by the forest doctor.

Things between Doe and Cheff started becoming muddled because of his abusive behaviour and uncanny habit of bringing in Snobby in every little fight they had. Doe fell sick and had to go in isolation for recuperation. It was an age old method the forest doctor prescribed for patients suffering from Doe’s condition. The thought of leaving Cheff in such a volatile phase of their new relationship shook her and she tried to delay moving out but things just got worse. She had to leave.

Few months passed by and it was that day of the year where Snobby displayed scores of pictures of her and openly showcased her popularity, her birthday. Doe remembered and she always believed birthdays are meant to be celebrated by others & everyone deserved to be wished. It was months living in isolation and no one checked on her, not even Cheff. She missed him badly and thought of going to the club to wish Snobby first, and then go home to Cheff.

Doe collected very pretty flowers from the wild on her way back for Snobby. She was happy thinking of Cheff. After a long journey she reached their frequented club and before going inside Doe realised she was too simply dressed for the occasion and remembering the party crowd she dropped in to the close by parlour and waxed and did her hair. Now she was all ready to turn heads. She looked her prettiest best and glowing with happiness thinking of Cheff.

A heartbroken Doe walking out alone.

Doe reached the club and dashed inside in hurry to quickly wish Snobby and leave for home. She managed to escape everyone’s eyes and reached the table where there was the huge and beautifully decorated cake. And there was Snobby in a gorgeous gown looking like a princess and the most beautiful deer in the hall… But Doe’s eyes were brimming with tears when she saw a familiar handsome deer hugging her with the most lovely smile she had ever seen in a long time. It was her Cheff… Doe quietly left the club with tears rolling down her honey coloured cheeks.

It was still raining & Doe’s phone received an SMS catching a fluctuating network signal on the hill top. Her gaze was broken and she checked her phone. It read, “I have always loved you for what you are… Moonlight beauty in the darkest hour… It was an occasion to celebrate yesterday; sorry to wish you a belated happy birthday…”

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The Sinister Shadow

Finally, we were in Mumbai to appear the Army entrance exam. I got down checking if we had left anything on the seat and Rudy was as elated seeing the new place trusting her luggage with the friendly driver. I kept wondering why was he all smiles! The place seemed to have many lodges and they were quite colourful which made me feel a little brighter knowing Mumbai is generally horrible during the rains; humid and clogged roads.

The way to the god forsaken ‘affordable’ hotel was so far from the airport, I slept off in the taxi. My athlete friend Rudy gave me a nudge when we got there. I was holding my bag to my chest and slowly opened my eyes regretting that I didn’t see the approach road. Knowing her well, I knew she would have just looked out for places to hang out in the evening.

It was dusk already and getting dark soon. I wanted to check the rooms before the sun went down but we were a tad bit late for that. I went to freshen up and to my surprise, surely not so pleasant one Rudy chose a room already and it was a duplex.

long stairs in the dark

The ominous staircase with the sweeping shadow above.

The sun was down. Electricity off. Rain was pouring cats and dogs. The hotel looked scary with the dark staircase inside the duplex. No lights. The dim night lamp probably lit up on uninterrupted power supply (UPS) showed it was a big duplex. It was creaky and had poor latches. Nothing made it look welcoming except for Rudy’s excitement for the suddenly found freedom to wear anything, do anything, watch anything. She liked TV.

My train of thoughts came to a halt when I heard her shout, “Torquee! Come, let’s watch TV while the guy gets dinner for us!” I wondered what’s the point in supplying power to the TV instead of a bulb in the room! I turned around to ask the guy and hello! There was no one behind me. May be I was too preoccupied and cynical to notice him leave. Only thing I noticed now was the six guards outside in uniform peering into the glass door which was trembling in the wind. They all looked away simultaneously to avoid my eye. Why so many guards right in front of our room! The guards were in khaki coloured uniform and they scurried away like squirrels. I don’t know why I was feeling something was fishy about this whole thing of the smiling driver, this cheap hotel, the number of security guards, no lights, heavy rains and that idiot box with the glaring volume!

Feeling so uncanny and with this fear of the unknown place & no lights, I started climbing up the staircase. Rudy was already up & raised the volume of TV. It was some serial with a psycho killer enjoying in a wild party. The noise of TV was making me uncomfortable and feel irresponsible too as far as security was concerned. We were two young girls, checked in in an unknown lodge & in a new city. No checking of the room for hidden cameras, any lurking killer / kidnapper / or just anything under the sky! We should not have let the housekeeper guy leave without ascertaining the room was okay… Well, I couldn’t bother Rudy with these, the free bird she is, at least let her enjoy while I go around & check if all the windows were closed. The place didn’t look quite secure to me against heavy rains. Alright, as if this wasn’t enough the grandfather clock just started the ‘dongs’ behind my back & I almost shrieked into stunned silence. It was nine pm.

Suddenly, laughing out loud Rudy showed up above the staircase in her shorts & her favourite Coast Guard T shirt and said, “Don’t tell me you got scared!” and started walking down the stairs. I let that go unanswered and just looked towards the bathroom. God! Why can this girl not be a little conservative with her dressing in an unknown place! I just thought of checking the hygiene and heaved a sigh of relief that it didn’t turn out to be such a disappointment after all. Noticed a dim night lamp in there with a tap that trickled water in a narrow but constant stream. I just smiled, not sure if she could see it.

After helplessly trying to look around in the pitch dark I thought of taking bath. Seeing Rudy so relaxed I thought to myself may be I am worrying too much. Tomorrow was a big day and we both had to be fresh. I had started feeling tired already and thought of giving my mind some rest.

I took out my towel and went to that dimly lit bathroom. Without delaying I sat under the tap and let that trickling water flow down my neck but as I turned on the tap, I realised I left the bathroom door open! Well, on second thought I saw I left it like that coz it had no latch. Just as this realisation of the absence of the door latch struck me a sudden chill went down my spine. The front door had a loose latch too! I had never felt something so ominous in my life. I was sitting kneeling down under the tap and I lost balance. My body touched a chilly wall. And, the shower started on its own and the light went off.

TV playing in the dark room

The psycho killer serial being aired with the shrilly climax music.

Beside me, in the bathroom there was this partition of cemented wall measuring up to my ribs (if I were standing) that supported me. I had this weird feeling of presence of a dead body lying with open arms across the cemented partition & started imagining these visions of bloody water over flowing from that tank. I couldn’t sum up courage to feel inside that dark tank and somehow threw that towel across the front of my body and ran out calling for Rudy. I couldn’t find her anywhere. The god damned TV was still on at it’s glaring volume and the shrilly climax music was being played. The psycho was at another victim’s throat. Damn! Where was Rudy! I was scared.

I ran out on the slippery floor as my feet were wet. I saw the front door open. I came to an halt just as I stepped outside the door realising I was barely covering myself in the towel. I shouted out loud, “Rudy! Are you outside? Please come here at once.” I heard nothing except the swooshing wind blowing through the leaves of trees in front of me. I turned my head to look for her only to notice yet another long staircase on the right. How did I not notice this while entering the house! This thought was abruptly brushed aside when I saw a figure at the top of it. It was a human figure, and I presumed it’s Rudy. I was astonished at her sense of fun with a white dupatta (a light rectangular fabric used by women in India as a part of their traditional dress) flowing in the wind & it was looking down at me. I called out, “What in the world are you doing there?! And what’s with that dupatta!? Come here at once! There’s something wrong with this house.”

There was no answer; the figure that kept staring at me in the dark tilted her head as if she didn’t like what I uttered. The sounds from the TV inside stopped all of a sudden & the door shut behind me. Rudy answered making fun of me from BELOW! I froze. I heard a swooshing sound and the figure headed speedily right at my face gliding down towards me without any feet…

'ikat' work on dupatta

‘dupatta’ is a long scarf like fabric that Indian women over their shoulder on a dress