Blank Space

She called me on a rainy Sunday morning. The raindrops falling on my window sounded like gentle drum beats. In my lonely apartment, I was lying thoughtlessly on the bed. I had missed a couple of her calls. The familiar voice I have loved listening to over the years said, ‘Sid, I want to meet you today. It has been a long time since we met. Shall we go for a movie?’

I missed her. Nikita. Without much thought, I said ‘Yes. You book the tickets. I am open to come for any movie.’

‘Sure. Will text you the ticket. Try to be on time.’

I looked at my shelf of books. A sea of memories rushed towards me. Every year, she made it a point to gift me a book for my birthday. Though not an avid reader herself, she took the pains to understand what kind of books I loved and gifted just the right ones. Sometimes, I felt, she understood me better than anyone, including me. For my last birthday, however, she gifted me a self-published book containing my writings. The book also contained a handmade bookmark which had a cartoon of me on the front and on the back were the lines, ‘Oye Writer! Your book will be one of the few I shall read. Sit down and write. Happy birthday, Siddharth. Lots of love, Nikita’.

I had known her since childhood. She was a year younger to me. Our families were good neighbours. Our parents adored each other’s company. It was natural for us to become close friends. She loved collecting feathers and I loved collecting seashells. We laughed at the same jokes. We loved the same movies. We listened to the same songs. I used to play keyboard back in school and she used to sing. We were the best of friends and we thought, we were meant for each other. Well, that is what I presumed.

After my college, I got placed in a bank and had to move to Chennai. Nikita came to send me off to the railway station. She held my hand and gently kissed me on my cheek. Looking intently at me, she said, ‘I will miss you Sid.’ The moment seemed eternal.

The sound of the WhatsApp message broke my thought. She pinged me. ‘Siddharth, 2 PM show at Satyam. I will have lunch and ping you before leaving home :)’

Memories of my past pulled me in. It was not until I started living in Chennai did I realise that I longed for her presence in my life. I wanted to tell her that I love her. But she wanted to inform me of her love first. ‘Sid, ping me on WhatsApp after you reach home. I want to tell you something very important. I guess I am in love. Hehe :’) xoxo’.

I called her on reaching home. ‘Sid… Wait, let me go to the terrace. Don’t want my parents eavesdropping on me. Now, tell me how are you? Okay, but before you say anything, I am so excited. Can you imagine me telling that I am in love? But yes, I am in love with the sweetest guy ever. Anand. I love him a lot…’ I was not interested in the rest of it. A part of me died that day. I guess I have never been the same guy ever again. This was my fear. That my love story would not turn out be like a Bollywood movie that people loved talking about.

My interactions with her got subdued over the years. But later, I did express my love for her. She felt bad. It did neither of us any good.

I looked at my watch. It was time for the movie. She pinged me again on WhatsApp. ‘Siddharth, I am just leaving home. See, parents are out and they will be back only by 9. So, think of where we can hang out after the movie.’

We had a good time at the theatre. Then, we headed to Fruitshop on GreamsRoad.

‘Siddharth. I am getting married. His name is Harsh and he works in the US. Engagement is in April. Do try to make it.’

‘Oh! That is the news you wanted to share.’

‘Yup! I had to break up with Anand. Our parents could not agree. Especially, his parents weren’t tolerant. They kept on pointing at caste. We are living in the 21st century and here we are still talking about caste. Bullshit!’

‘Why don’t you elope?’

‘Sid, are you crazy? It is not that easy. Plus, Anand is not as good as he seemed either. I was quite pissed off with the way he dealt with my parents. He showed disrespect towards my dad. I got angry. I called it off.’

‘Are you happy with Harsh?’

‘What choice do I have? But yeah, he is a good guy. He loves reading books. He reads quite a lot. I showed him a few of your works. He liked them and said that he had a few friends in the publishing industry. He would be glad to help you get contacts if you wanted to. He genuinely wishes to meet you.’

‘Wow! That is… That is nice of him really.’

‘I think this was how my marriage was supposed to be. We are given a life we did not ask for in the first place, with a certain set of people around. It is natural that I am to marry a man, not of my choice. I feel, we are like thoughtless pawns on a chess board. Who writes our stories, Sid?’

‘Well, yeah, I guess we are all like thoughtless Kites in the hands of mischievous kids, who just want to play around and have fun but at our cost.’

‘Writer. Nice. So, are you working on your first novel? ‘

‘Nikki, yes, work is still on. I hope to complete my first draft by the year end.’

‘Good. Yours will be the first book I will be reading after marriage I guess.’

We sipped our drinks and left. As I dropped her at her house, she asked, ‘so, am I in your book?’

‘Nikita, you will be there in every book of mine. Trust me on that. You are the blank space between chapters.’

‘I am the blank space? Elaborate.’

‘A writer loves silence as much as he loves the words. A blank space between chapters is important. Because the writer wants to give space for a reader to think on his own. It is a kind of an invisible compass that points you towards a direction. Your story in my life is like that.’

She smiled and hugged me. I held on to that moment.

‘We were meant to be like this, right? ‘, my question hung unanswered for a brief moment.

As she withdrew her arms around, I could see her moist eyes. ‘Julian Barnes was right. In The Sense of An Ending, he writes something like this, ‘This was another of our fears. That life wouldn’t turn out to be like literature.’ How true is that?’

‘I will be there for your engagement, Nikita. That is a definite Yes.’

‘Please do come, Siddharth. You are the one last straw that connects me to my childhood.’

The blank space between the chapters of my story ends here.

Author: Kavir Nair

A bespectacled lad from the filter coffee preferring south Indian coastal city of Chennai. The Japanese coined a word just for me - Tsundoku, which means the act of buying a book and leaving it unread, often piled together with other unread books. Although I must add, having an unread library is the way I could truly honour the late Umberto Eco. When not watching movies in theaters or beach walking on Marina, you can find me at home reading a book or writing a journal or Netflixing. While I do all this as Ravi Kiran, my alter ego - Kavir Nair needs an exclusive space to write. Hence, he has chosen this abode.

3 thoughts on “Blank Space”

  1. I like how this flows very well. But the parts about the quotes from the books in the end, seemed a little forced. If she wasn’t a reader, how did she think about Barnes instantly? Just a thought! 🙂

    Like

  2. Ravi – this is your best piece – a bit of myself in Siddharth – damn there is a bit of Siddharth in every one of us!

    Excellent stuff – and I really hope you publish your book soon.

    Cheers,
    Mahesh

    Like

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