The eyelashes tightly held onto each other, refusing to let go, while the eyes struggled to wrench them apart. It was a directive to the eye, from the brain which had sensed a mild pounding. It had gone quite for while and had started again. This time the eye succeeded in breaking up the romantic embrace of the eyelashes.The light of the breaking dawn, which was partly veiled by the haphazardly drawn curtains, managed to scrape through the gap between the two pieces of curtain cloth and hit the eyes.
Amar, squinted instinctively and drew the blanket over his head, cursing under his breath. His already broken sleep was rudely disturbed, this time by the sudden flash of brightness, the appearance of which made no sense to him. As he tossed and turned, he could clearly hear the pounding, which had grew from mild to intense. He realized it was his mobile ringing and groped for it.
“HELLO!” he bellowed irritation evident in his voice
“Hey buddy”, the voice at the other end responded
“Who is this?” Amar shot back, making no effort to identify the voice at other end
“Wake up dumbo, it’s me”, the caller shot back.
Running out of patience Amar, sat up from his bed, just about to hurl abuses, when he decided to a look at caller’s identity. The display was flashing the name Ameen, his best friend.
“Ameen!!! You have given me a headache man”
“Get out of bed, you lazy bones. It’s getting late”
“Late for what?”
“You have 15 mins to get ready Amar, unless your face wants to feel the impact of my fists”
With that the call got disconnected. Amar unsure what this was about, dragged himself lazily to the bath, pretty sure he didn’t want his face to meet Ameen’s fists. The memory of their first encounter was still fresh in his mind, and he was very aware how destructive that blow could be.He hurriedly brushed his teeth, and stood under showers. As the jet of icy cold water hit face, his mind drifted back to that day, years ago, when their friendship was forged, amidst chaos, with a fist blow.
February 14, 1998:
It was Valentine’s Day and the unlike the other 364 days of the year, love very much seemed to be in the air. Love-stricken young ones would look forward to this day, more than any other festival on the calendar. Adolescents smitten over someone would eagerly devise plans to open up their hearts. The city of Coimbatore, though not as urbanized as the likes of Chennai or Bangalore, was no exception because Feb 14 was akin to Diwali, Christmas, Eid and every other festival rolled into one and celebrated by the universal followers of the faith called Love.
Amar, in his teens, had no special plans for that day. Fact of the matter is, he was equally attracted to every second girl he came across and it was tough for him to specifically choose the special one. He was merrily walking back home from the neighborhood grocery store, after having picked up a couple of household items for his mom. He glanced around and saw greeting card/gift stores, adorned with varying hues of pink, with hearts of all shapes and sizes hanging everywhere. That brought a smile to his face and he kept marching towards home.
Suddenly, he heard an explosion at a distance. Though he tried to convince himself that it must have been a firecracker going off, Amar noticed his arms were trembling. He wasn’t too sure that fireworks were part of the Valentine’s Day celebration. Nervously he decided to turn back towards to the direction from where the explosion came and saw smoke billowing up into the sky.
“No firecracker this”, he realized as he stood transfixed, not able to take a step forward.The voice inside him urged to turn back and run towards his home, which was barely a few blocks away, but his body failed to react.
THUD THUD, he heard a loud bang. It was Ameen banging on his door, breaking Amar out his retrospective journey bringing him back to the present, where he was still standing under the shower.
“MAN! YOU STILL NOT READY YET?” Ameen was shouting from outside his room.
“Give me a minute. Will be out in a flash” Amar replied
“MAKE IT FAST”
“Yeah, in a minute”
Amar turned off the shower, dried himself in a haste, wore his dark blue jean, washed probably a month ago, grabbed a clean White T-shirt from the wardrobe put it on, sprayed liberal doses of perfume, unlatched the door and stepped out.
“Come in Ameen”
“What took you so long? Forgot what day it is?”
“I know. It’s Saturday”
“That’s very funny! Stop kidding will you?”
“Man, I seriously don’t remember”
“So it slipped your mind she is coming for holidays today and we have to go and pick her up”
Then it stuck Amar. Awww! How could he forget, she was coming back today…Ashika.
If a group of angels had decided come down to earth, there was no doubt in Amar’s mind that there would be fierce competition among them to be incarnated as Ashika.
On Feb 14, 1998, Amar made this vow that he will be friends with Ameen, the same vow he made with Ashika, when she came into his life a few years later – “Till death do us part”
—— End of Chapter 1 —–