The Girl In The Auto Rickshaw - Chapter 11/11

It’s Too Late Now

Time flies so fast that sometimes it leaves us breathless. Fourteen months of Karan’s life have passed and he is so much drowned in his work, he doesn’t notice what’s happening around him.
One day he receives Indu’s phone.
Karan says “Hello aunty, how are you and how is my little sister Palak?”
Indu says smiling “I am fine but your “little” sister is not little anymore. She is getting married.”
Karan is delighted to hear this; he says “That’s great news. When is the wedding?”
Indu says “On the 15th of the next month, she is here, talk to her.”
Palak says “Brother, you will have to come to bless me; otherwise I will never talk to you”
Karan says “Don’t be silly Palak. Is it possible that I will not attend the marriage of my only sister? Of course I will come, however busy I may be. I’ll come on the 14th and will leave on the same night by flight.”
On the 14th of November, Karan reaches Indu’s residence late in night as his train is late. The whole building is illuminated with various colours of led bulbs. The house is beautifully decorated. Indu and Palak are delighted to welcome Karan. Ajay also greets him
Karan looks at the decoration and says “Aunty, the decoration is excellent. It seems like all the stars of the heaven have come down to earth to make my sister’s life bright”
Palak says “Brother, the brightest star is only one and that’s you”
All of them laugh. After chatting for a while, Karan says “Aunty, I am very tired, I want to rest.”
Indu says “Ok, Ajay will take you to the community hall, where I’ve made all the necessary arrangements for the guests.”
Ajay says “Come, Karan, let’s go”
They come to the community hall which is near Indu’s place. The ground floor of the community hall is reserved for gents and the first floor is reserved for ladies. Karan keeps his luggage at the ground floor and goes to sleep.
Next morning Ajay comes and takes Karan to Indu’s place with him, where celebrations of Palak’s wedding are in full swing. The DJ sound system is blaring latest film songs. Indu is dancing with other guests. The whole atmosphere is alive with fun and merriment.
Karan asks Indu “Aunty, where is Ramola?”
Indu replies “She is with Palak, come I’ll take you to her.”
Indu and Karan comes to Palak’s room, where she is sitting surrounded by her friends, among them, a pretty girl, Ramola, is also present. After exchanging greetings with Palak, Karan asks Ramola, “Hi Ramola, did you sleep well? I hope my sister has taken good care of you”
Ramola says smiling, “Of course. She is such a sweet girl. We have become fast friends overnight.”
Palak says “Don’t worry brother; Ramola is a special guest for me, that’s why I have paid special attention to her.”
Karan chats with them for a while then leaves.
At 4 Pm all of them leave for the wedding avenue. The marriage ceremony is scheduled to be held in the hall and the reception and dinner at the ground adjacent to it.
At 5.pm, the melodious sound of a band is heard outside, announcing the arrival of the Groom along with the “Baraat”.
Indu and her relatives welcome the Groom and his friends and relatives. Karan is happy to notice that the Groom is a smart, handsome young man. He also sees Aqeel among the friends of the Groom. He approaches Aqeel and says “Hi, remember me?”
Aqeel says “Of course I remember you Karan; you are a man who cannot be forgotten easily. Have you come to the city in search of a bride?”
Karan says “No, I am fed up of searching. I’ve come to attend my sister’s wedding. Besides I am also here to take the pizza treat from you. You lost the bet remember?”
Aqeel says laughing, “Of course I remember I owe you a pizza treat.” 
Then Karan asks Aqeel “Are you related to the Groom?”
Aqeel replies “No, but he is the younger brother of my best friend”
As they are talking, Ajay comes and joins them and asks Aqeel where his wife is. Aqeel says she will be joining for dinner soon.
As luck would have it, Roma is also present at the wedding, not as a guest but as one of the waiters and waitress, serving snacks and cold drinks to the guests. She is delighted to see Karan initially but soon her happiness turns into dismay as Karan is surrounded by other guests and she feels inferior in her waitress’s uniform and just cannot approach Karan directly.
By now Roma has made up her mind to marry Karan and wants to talk to him desperately about it. She sees Aqeel standing near the stage, helping his friend in ceremonial functions being performed on the stage.
Roma walks to Aqeel and says “Aqeel, I want to talk to Karan”
Aqeel says “Then go and talk to him, he is sitting there, what’s the problem?”
Roma says “The problem is that he is surrounded by guests and I feel ashamed to talk to him in front of so many people, being in the uniform of a waitress. Will you be kind enough to ask him to come aside and talk to me?”
Aqeel says dryly, “Sorry Roma, I don’t have the courage to ask Karan to talk to you. You have been very unfair to him, rejecting him for ridiculous reasons. He is really upset with you, he is sure to refuse talking to you. He may even insult me if I ask him to talk to you. You will have to do it yourself.”
Roma is very dejected to hear this, she thinks hard as to find a solution to this problem. The supervisor of the catering services looks at Roma and comes to her, saying angrily “Roma, what the hell are you doing, standing here idly, go and serve the guests”
Roma says “Sorry sir” she goes back to her job but her eyes are on Karan. She is thinking desperately how to talk to him. She has even tried to call him from her mobile but every time she got the message “The number you have dialled is out of reach”     
Roma thinks Karan must’ve changed his mobile number.
While serving a glass of cold drink to a guest, Roma’s whole attention is on Karan and the glass slips out of her hand. The drink spills on the guest, ruining his expensive clothes. The guest screams “What are you doing, you idiot?”
Roma is in tears, she says “I am sorry sir”
The guest shouts “What sorry, you have spoiled my dress.”
The supervisor hears this, comes running and apologises to the guest. Roma hurriedly cleans his dress with her handkerchief. The supervisor grinds his teeth and says “Roma, I warn you for the last time, pay attention to your work, otherwise I will throw you out”
Wiping her tears, Roma says “Sorry sir, I will be careful next time.”
Unaware of all this, Karan is chatting cheerfully with Ramola, Ajay and other friends. Roma looks at Ramola with sheer envy and thinks “Who is this woman? Never seen her before, how shamelessly she is clinging to Karan?”
Then Roma notices that the supervisor is glaring at her, she hurriedly starts serving the guests.
After sometime, Karan excuses himself to his friends and goes to the washroom. Roma says to herself, “This is my chance” she looks here and there. Supervisor is not to be seen anywhere. Roma walks quickly after Karan but near the door of the washroom, Karan meets another friend and they go inside, talking to each other. Roma is so frustrated she feels like banging her head against the wall. In sheer desperation, she opens the door of the washroom and bumps right into the supervisor who is coming out. Roma is horrified as the supervisor sees her with disbelieving eyes.
The supervisor shouts “Roma! Are you out of your mind? What the hell are you doing, entering the gent’s washroom?”
Roma stammers “S---ssss---sir—I----I---th---th---- the thing is sir--------
The supervisor cuts her short “The thing is that you have gone mad, enough of this nonsense now, I’ll report this matter to the owner of the catering service.”
Roma says with a crying face. “Please don’t do that sir, I beg of you. The thing is that I forgot to read the signboard saying “Gent’s Washroom” I thought it is ladies washroom”
Supervisor says “Get out of my sight” and leaves.
Wiping her tears, Roma comes back and she is disturbed further, seeing Karan holding Ramola’s hand and talking intimately to her.
As Roma is thinking desperately what to do, she sees an old couple entering the ground. As soon as Karan and Ramola see the old couple, they get up and walk up to them and receive them warmly. Roma cannot hear what they are saying but it is obvious from their attitude that Karan and Ramola are very close to this old couple.
Roma is puzzled. She thinks “Who are these old lady and the old man? In what way Karan is related to them? And above all how Karan is related to this beautiful lady?”
By now, all the rituals of the wedding are over. Everyone is giving gifts to the young couple. Karan, along with the old man and old woman and the lady go to the stage. They all talk to Indu, who thanks all of them to come to the reception. Karan says “Aunty I’ll leave immediately after dinner, as I have a late night flight to catch, I have already packed my luggage.”
Indu says “Please inform me when you leave”
“Of course” says Karan and moves to the buffet area along with Ramola and the old couple.
Roma is watching him all the time. She is looking for a chance to talk to Karan but he is surrounded by so many people that it is not possible to talk to him even for a minute She thinks, “Only 18 months back Karan did not know anyone in this city, but in this short span of time, he has made so many friends and these old man and woman along with that lovely lady are sticking to him like glue, what to do?  Even how to find half a minute to talk to him?” Roma keeps asking herself but finds no answer.
On the other side, Aqeel says to Karan “Karan, are you leaving right after dinner?”
Karan says “Yes, I have a flight to catch”
Aqeel says “Why don’t you stay for one day more. I want to give you the pizza treat.”
Karan says “I’ll take that on my next trip. I must leave now.”
Aqeel hesitates a little, then says “Karan-------“
Karan turns and asks “Yes Aqeel, you want to say something?”
Actually Aqeel wants to say that Roma wants to talk to him but he just can’t gather the courage to say so. He just says “Good bye Karan”
“Good bye, Aqeel” Karan says, goes to Ajay and says “Ajay, put my luggage in the auto, by the time I’ll just inform Indu aunty that I am going.”
Aqeel comes to Roma fast and says “Roma, this is your last chance, Karan is leaving. Go and talk to him.”
Roma runs to the gate, not knowing that Karan has gone to say goodbye to Indu. She sees Ramola and the old couple waiting near two autos.
On the other side, Karan says goodbye to Indu, who tells him that she will see off him till the gate. When Karan comes to the gate with Indu he sees Roma. At the same time Aqeel is also about to leave with his wife on his bike. When he sees Roma and Karan face to face, he stops the bike to see what’s happening.
Roma holds Karan’s hand and says “Karan I need to talk to you”
Karan releases his hand from Roma’s grip and holding Ramola’s hand, utters only four words. “It’s too late now”
Karan, Ramola and the old couple get into two autos which turn to the left, Aqeel’s bike turns to the right. In between Roma is standing alone looking extremely aggrieved. She starts weeping bitterly and goes down on her knees. Indu watches her sympathetically. She walks up to Roma and puts her hand on her shoulder. Roma looks up crying and asks Indu “Why was Karan so rude to me? What did he mean when he said it’s too late? Who was that lady?”
Indu says “She was Ramola, my cousin, whom Karan has married recently and the old couple were Karan’s Father-in-law and Mother-in-law.”
Roma is stunned to hear this. She thinks bitterly “I have only myself to blame for my present pathetic condition. From Aqeel to Karan, I’ve been unjust and cruel to both of them and have lost not one, but two golden opportunities. I weaved myself into a web of petty excuses, vegetarian and non-vegetarian, tall and short, fat and slim. I wasted precious moments in my life saying I need time to think, who will look after my parents, who will look after my daughter? What a fool I have been? Now both Aqeel and Karan are happily married and here I am, all alone with no one but bitter memories to keep me company”
Indu says “Roma, it’s late in the night, you must go home.” Indu stops a passing auto and helps Roma to get into it. The auto goes and Indu turns to go in the marriage hall, shaking her head sadly.
Love begins with a smile, grows with a faith, Ends with a tear.
When you were born, you were crying and
Everyone around you was smiling.
Live your life with Love, Truth, and Faith
So that when you die,
You're the one smiling and everyone around you is crying.

THE END

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