Avantika glanced at the clock. It was about time for the car to come to her pick her up. The journey to this God forsaken place was over and she was very tired but happy. There was a knock at the door. “Ma’am your car has arrived”. She picked her bag and headed for the lounge.
The journey to the office was uneventful. The driver played some vague music and it caused more of a headache to her. Avantika knew this journey was not going to be easy but it was worse than she had imagined it. Her back was aching because of the long journey and bumpy roads.
“Good morning Mr. Murthy, I am Avantika from Newstime. I have an appointment with Mr. R. Kannan” she said with a bright smile.
“Oh, Kannan is not in today. He has taken ill, very hot these days!” he said as if it was the most natural thing around. She felt offended. What kind of a person is this R. Kannan? He could have easily called her and cancelled the appointment. It would have saved her the trip to his office. “You call tomorrow and see if he comes in” said Murthy as if happy to get her off his back for today. “But I have a flight to catch tomorrow evening. I have to definitely meet him tomorrow” she heard her own voice rising a bit. He just shrugged his shoulders.
She typed an SMS to Kannan and then deleted it. He was the customer and customer is always right. She had a whole evening to do nothing. She had a nice shower and decided to retire early for the day. Her thoughts kept on going back to Kannan. How could he be so indifferent? After all she had travelled no less than 600 kms just on his request. She did not realize when she dozed off with the Television on. She woke with a loud sound, something like thunder. There was a thunderstorm outside. She knew that this part of the country often had unpredictable weather and sudden heavy showers. She went to the window and looked out. The rain was lashing down. It was pitch dark outside, except for a street lamp in the distance. Just before going back to bed, she checked her mobile phone. The message light was blinking. ‘Sorry madam, I could not keep the appointment today but will definitely try to come to office tomorrow. Kannan’, it read.
She smiled. Her opinion of him changed at least temporarily. After all he was not as insensitive as she had made him out to be.
The morning was fresh after the shower of the previous night. Everything around almost magically looked greener than before. She took more care today to get dressed in her favorite blue chiffon saree and match it up with blue Safire earrings and necklace. She reached the office ahead of time. “I don’t know if Sir is coming in today,” his secretary looked at Avantika and nodded. Oh God, I hope he comes, she prayed in her mind. She had to leave in the evening and all she needed was an hour with this person.
“Good morning Sir!” Avantika’s thoughts were interrupted when Kannan’s secretary wished him. He nodded and rushed into his office. He did not even glance towards Avantika. Over an hour passed and there was no sign of Avantika being called in by Kannan. “Does he know I am waiting for him?” She enquired with his secretary. “Yes ma’am but he has other pressing matters to attend to” she said very rudely. Avantika felt bad but knew she did not have much choice but to wait.
“You can go in,” Kannan’s secretary pointed towards his door. Kannan gave her a blank look absolutely expressionless and then went back to his papers and then as if to avoid her completely, he picked up his phone and told someone, “I will see you in a few minutes.” Avantika felt the blood rise to her head. Why was he ignoring her and behaving so ridiculously? He just did not look at her in the eye. She took out her business card and stretched her hand towards him. He took it and absentmindedly looked around for his business card. “I am sorry, I think I don’t have my cards at the moment”, he said. That was the first time she looked him in the eye. His eyes were black and he had a handsome look, which he was probably aware of. But no expressions at all!
“Sir, I have few questions to ask you with respect to the story we are carrying about your organization,” she looked towards him, but he still did not look at her in the eye. What kind of a person is this, she thought to herself.
He answered in monosyllables and just did not offer much information. Avantika felt he was forced and he was very uncomfortable doing the interview. Midway he got up and told her that he had a meeting to attend and walked out. “But Sir, I have some more questions….” She was almost pleading with him. “Send an email,” he said cutting her off.
“I will wait for his meeting to end,” she politely told his secretary. “He may not be in for more than three hours,” his secretary tried her best to get rid of Avantika. It was more than three hours now. She had a flight to catch in the evening. She had almost given up, when she saw Kannan walk down the corridor. She briskly walked up to him. “Thank you very much Sir, we will send you the draft and you can give your suggestions,” she held her hand out but he ignored it and just gave a half smile. Avantika felt very odd. This man has some issues with females she thought to herself.
“That was a tough assignment, but you did very well,” Avantika’s manager Thomas was telling her. “Have you heard from Kannan on the draft?” Avantika thought that Kannan had decided not to do the story because it was over three weeks and there was no reply from him. He had seen her email as she had put a read-receipt to her message. “Then why don’t you call him?” her manager said. Avantika knew that even face to face he did not respond much, what were the chances he would take her call? “Never venture, never win!” her manager smiled and went away. “Please get me 098500231” Avantika was asking her operator. The phone rang out. Did he ever pickup his phone? Avantika thought to herself.
The weather had begun to turn cold. The monsoon had just set in. She had almost forgotten the Kannan story, as work had just poured in and days were long and stressful. It was one of such days, she was getting ready to go home and noticed an unread email from R. Kannan. She opened it with her heart beating fast. After her meeting with him, Avantika had been thinking a lot about him. There was something in him that attracted her towards him. She wasn’t sure if it was love or hate.
‘Dear madam, though you did a good job of the story, I think I have not been just with it and wanted to ask you if it will it be too much for you to come back here to re-do the story? Please let me know. Regards, Kannan’ Avantika was shivering nervously, why did this mail make her happy and nervous at the same time. Will her manager agree to another trip? It would mean more costs and what was the guarantee this time it would come out well?
“Of course you must go. It’s fine, sometimes we do have to take such costs.” Her manager immediately agreed for her to go back. Somehow this time Avantika did not feel as tired and was in fact in high spirits to meet Kannan. That’s so odd. He did not even shake hands with her, and how come she was so excited to see him again.
‘Welcome to Salem, hope your journey was pleasant. Kannan’ Avantika had read this SMS almost a dozen times already. At the hotel the receptionist handed her an envelope with her name typed on it. Avantika went to the room and opened the envelope. ‘I think office is not a very conducive place to have an interview. If you are agreeable, I could pick you up and we could go for a small outing and have the interview as well. If you like the idea, please send me an SMS, yours Kannan’…the note read.
What a turnaround this had been! Avantika had expected better response from Kannan this time, but this was extremely personal and she did not know how to respond.
She decided to think over the matter for a while. She made a cup of coffee for herself and stood at the balcony of the room. The weather was very pleasant and the fresh green leaves around made it feel like spring. She was having random thoughts. She could not understand what to do. She decided to call her manager. “Oh you are lucky, don’t miss such an opportunity. Please go ahead,” her manager told her. She found that a bit odd. Just then her phone rang. The number blinked ‘Kannan’. She picked the call a bit nervous. “Hi, I was waiting for your answer. Believe me I am a gentleman and mean every word I wrote in my note” and she could hear a laugh at the other end. Without waiting for her response he said, “I will pick you up from your hotel at eight in the morning. We will have breakfast together. See you. Bye.”
The morning was very pleasant. There was a slight breeze blowing. Avantika was ready almost half an hour before time. Since it was supposed to be an informal meeting, she wore a lavender coloured salwar kameez. Her intercom rang and someone said, “Ma’am one Mr. Kannan is waiting for you at the reception.”
“Hi, good morning” Kannan actually stretched his hand and Avantika for a moment felt like not responding but then before she knew the handshake was over. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He opened the door for her. A convertible sports car, this was the first time Avantika had seen a sports car, except in movies.
Avantika had made a decision that today she will not talk much and just put questions. “Do you mind local food, there is nice café close by,” Avantika just nodded. During breakfast they just had some casual talk. How was your journey, what kind of work are you busy with these days, etc.
Soon they were on the road to their destination, a place Avantika did not know. Let’s enjoy the journey, she thought. Kannan spoke in spurts showing her things around. It looked as if they were going out of the city. Finally she mustered the courage to ask him, “Where are we headed to?”. “Oh that’s a surprise but I am sure you will like the place” is all he said.
The meandering roads and cool breeze made the ride very pleasant, romantic in fact was what Avantika thought. Except that she was on official work.
This is my grandmother’s house. She is no more. I come here often when I want to be alone or get away from the humdrum. He showed her around. “It’s a beautiful place,” she said. “Now can we do the interview, the reason we are here?” she smiled. “Of course” he said. Avantika took notes carefully. She had to get it right this time.
“Thanks Mr. Kannan,” she said summing up. “I have a question,” he said raising his finger. “What do you think about me? Be frank, do you like me?” She did not know how to respond. “I mean, I thought something different about you before I came here today….” is all she could muster courage to say. “Do you like me now?” he looked in to her eyes with firmness. She felt she would melt in his glance. She just nodded in affirmation. “Will you marry me?” she was shocked at that question. “I mean…..” she could not say anything. Just then her phone rang. It was her manager. “Hope you have said yes!” he said. “Mr. Thomas how do you know what is happening here?” she asked. “Oh that’s a long story. I am sure Kannan will tell you himself but I think he is a great person and you should say yes! Bye for now.” And the line got disconnected. Avantika felt her head spinning. She did not know how to respond. “Please can you tell me what is happening?” she finally asked him.
Avantika was shocked at what she heard. Kannan had a girlfriend who looked very much like her. She had broken up with him a year ago and Kannan had gone into depression. “The first time I saw you was the last day of my therapy” he said, and when I saw you I just couldn’t bring myself to speak to you. I had some more of the attacks of depression. Then my doctor told me that he thought I was in love with you and unless I get over it either way, I would not be at peace with myself. That is when I contacted Mr. Thomas and got all details about you. The trip here was just a reason to get to know if you also love me,” he said with finality in his voice. “and yes, even if you decide not to marry me, we still are friends, that’s a promise!” he said lightly tapping her nose.
Avantika sat at the edge of the window sill. Not knowing how to respond to Kannan. “This all happened so suddenly, I am not able to answer you,” she said with a quiver in her voice.
He held her hand and brought her close, as long as you say you will think over it, I am fine he said gently kissing her forehead. Avantika had tears in her eyes. Tears of joy….
‘I miss you very much, come soon…love Kannan’ her phone message window blinked. ‘Me too…I will….’ she typed and smiled to herself.