There was a point in the morning, as they drove past the Achabal, when she heaved at the sight of the magnificent gardens before her. It was the kind of sight that you take a picture of and post it on your Instagram with the caption, ‘Spring is right outside the (car) window!’. She wanted to turn and nudge Pranav and say, ‘See, see, this is what I wanted to come to Kashmir for, to sit and let nature surprise me’ but passed.
They were driving uphill on a steep road, a road that arched every turn, and arches that blindside as you turned into them. This was the kind of drive that gives Pranav the goosebumps and accelerates his heart beat. From the corner of her eyes, Namrata could see his subdued gasps and his fist tightening against the handle on the door every time they took a blind turn. She had an instinct to reach out to him so that he could tighten his hold on her palm and talk to him to ward off his attention from the road. But she passed on that instinct.
As much as Namrata enjoyed the drive, she was confused as to where they were headed. This could not be Gulmarg because Gulmarg meant green meadows, snow and a chill in the weather and all she could see ahead of her were green meadows but no snow and no chill. This could not be Pahalgam because Pahalgam should mean people and all she could see ahead for company was a dense tree cover. She wanted to ask him, where were they going to but she passed on that instinct.
She is sitting edged against a tree, her legs laid straight, her feet washing off in the spring, her eyes set on the sunset, her camera lying idle on her side. It is the kind of sunset that you photograph and caption on Instagram, ‘Sunsets show us that endings can be beautiful too’. But her mind is too befuddled to focus the lens on the sunset with clarity. She thinks that if Pranav and she are approaching their end, then this trip marks the beautiful climax to their story. So, after all endings can be beautiful too. But if they are ending she does not want to end with spite, which is ironic because it is the spite that has consumed them. She laughs a mental wry laugh on the trail of her thoughts. They are in Daksum, she has walked far from the bungalow they are putting up in, she has an instinct to make him sit next to her and talk to him so that she can restore clarity in her brain. She wants to cry first and then she wants to talk and before anything else she wants to apologize to him for yesterday and for other days when she is just being a bitch to him.She will pass on this instinct as well and simply sit here and cry.
Before she could do that she hears Pranav say, “Show me how have the pictures come.” He sits down next to her and reaches out for the camera.
She tells him, “I haven’t taken any today.”
He asks her, “Why is that?”
She replies, “Because there are other things I want to do first.”
He asks her, “What would those things be?”
She says, “I am sorry for over reacting last night. I am sorry for having misled your parents. I am sorry for worsening our situation. I am sorry for being the judgmental bitch on most days.”
Taken by a surprise, he replies, “I am sorry for putting you in the difficult spot with them”
“It’s not your fault, I had voluntarily sought a relationship with them and made them believe that it was all love between the two of us. I feel so relieved to finally talk to you about this.”, she answers him.
“If I only I could have walked up to you earlier, you would have been relieved just in time to capture the sunset. You know what, I miss being your knight in the shining armor.”, he remarks.
“Haha, were you, ever?”, she asks him with a raised eyebrow.
“But you still are. You know what else have I been relieved about, you coming for the trip with me. I would have been clueless how to go about this vacation without you.”, she then confesses solemnly.
“I miss planning things for you.”, he utters longingly.
“Do you, really?”, she inquires.
“Yeah, more than you can imagine. I miss doing things with you. I miss coming home to take you on a surprise long drive. I miss doing the lamps with you on Diwali. I miss listening to you talk about the book you are reading or the TV show you are watching. I miss coming back home in the morning and bringing coffee for you in the bed to make it up to you. I miss going for a movie every Sunday morning.Why did we stop going for the movies together?”, he questions her.
“Because you missed out on three consecutive Sundays and on the fourth one when you told me that Before Midnight sounds cliche to you, I took the liberty of going alone. Somewhere, in between the movie I resolved I will never ask you to come along and you never told me that you wanted to.”, she responds.
“I miss being able to sit next to you and talk. I miss how we could bare our souls to each other without having to worry about our words being lost in transit.”, he expresses in a dispirited voice.
“I miss drinking with you. I miss how you monitored the number of glasses I take and how you would scold me the next morning on my indiscretions with it.”, she reminisces.
“God, you drink like a sixteen year old.”, he teases her.
“God, I can see the reproachful maternal instincts resurface in you.”, she retorts.
“I don’t know about the rest of the things, but this, we can do again.”, he told her producing a bottle of Old Monk from his bag., he announces to her.
“Rum”, she moaned in a glum tone, “Who brings rum for this exotic a vacation.”
“You better be quiet, you don’t have the stomach for whiskey and functional taste buds to appreciate wine. Besides this rhymes with your name, Rum for Nam.”, he playfully remarks.
“Haha, I miss when you had wits functional enough to make a laughable joke.”, she says taking a jeer at him.
“Fine, if you don’t enjoy my sense of humor, then I will not impose my company on you. I will find another spot for myself.”, he mumbles moodily.
“Now who is throwing a tantrum like a sixteen year old. Take the glasses out you idiot, it is only this much of your whim and wit that I can take without alcohol. Also don’t act like you haven’t brought glasses with the rum. Your planning would have made space even for two packets of chips, roasted peanuts and bars of Toblerone.”, she tells him authoritatively.
“Ms Know it All.”, he calls out to her.
With an expression that resembles a pouting five year old Namrata sticks out her tongue to him and so does he. They laugh and she pours Rum in two glasses.
Holding on to his glass, he tells her, “I miss being a kid with you Nam.”
She meets his eyes, smiles an effusive smile that she had long put behind her and says, “I miss you calling me Nam, with love.”