"Lets go for a walk", said Rahul. "Yippee. Lets go", said Swetha, almost jumping out of her seat.
It was yet another boring day in the Mysore training institute. Dusk was breaking in. Swetha had already taken two breaks since lunch. Nevertheless, she had been anticipating Rahul's invitation for another break.
Rahul and Swetha had known each other for the last couple of months. They had been together since the training days. People knew them as the best of friends. Rahul, the regular T-D-H type, who spoke with a heavy Bengali accent, was a popular flirt in the DC. On the other hand, Swetha was a chubby sweet little girl, who was always on the lookout for sorrow souls. They enjoyed being in each other's company. Swetha would disclose all his crushes to Rahul, and Rahul would always be seen taking classes from Swetha, on how to impress a girl in 24 hours. Rahul had helped Swetha to forget her 7-year-old single lane relationship and Swetha would see to it that Rahul would never be lonely. Most of the time, they were together. People admired, some even sneered with jealousy, the relation that these two shared. The walk today was unusually long.
"This is gonna be one of our last walks", muttered Rahul in a low tone. "I know", replied Swetha in a soft, almost inaudible voice.
Mysore DC had completed the long cycle training and the postings had been announced the previous day. Swetha was posted at Mysore base location, while Rahul would have to shift to Bangalore. Even though they both always knew that they had to separate one day... they did not expect it to happen so soon. Swetha, who belonged to the sentimental group, looked at Rahul and managed to pass a disguised smile. "I tried my best for a swap. The HRC is stubborn. She is still holding on to 'EURP P.U. doesn't encourage swaps.' I cannot stay here alone Rahul." "I swear, I am gonna miss you badly too dear" replied Rahul, again faking a smile.
"Hey don't worry sweetie, Mysore is just three hours from Bangalore. Just call me and I will be here." said Rahul, trying to cheer her up, though his words did not light up Swetha's face.
She just replied with a frown. "You will be busy with your new girl friends and our work. You will soon forget me"
"Hey come on!" said an offended Rahul. "You are my best friend. Can I ever forget you dear?"
"You just wait and see", came an almost sobbing reply.
"Don't start crying dear." Said Rahul with a gloomy face... "Oh... by the way... it's getting late... let's go back" he said, taking a U-turn.
As destiny wanted......... the next week saw Rahul packing his bags for Bangalore, while Swetha moved out of her PG, to a rented apartment closer to her office. They parted with a few wet handkerchiefs. The bus started moving. Rahul looking through the Volvo glass was trying to say something to Swetha. His actions deciphered, as "I will call u when I reach there. Gonna miss you. Take care... Bye-Bye"
Swetha was comforted by her own tears. She felt very lonely, as if she had lost something. Something, very precious. Consoling herself, she went back to her room, shut the door, and started sobbing again. She had found a very good friend in Rahul, and he was her major support. She had no clue in the beginning that she would get so much attached and more important... too much dependent on him. She sobbed herself to sleep.
A couple of hours later, she heard her mobile ringing. One look at the tiny screen, which happened to display, "Rahul calling..." and she was overjoyed. She answered the call with a
"Hey... You reached so soon? How was the trip?"
"Yo dear! Just reached. Bangalore seems to be bliss. The climate is almost like Mysore. It is wonderful... though Mysore was better.... Coz I miss you badly here..."
"I miss you too dear," said Swetha... trying to stop her tears. They talked on for almost an hour. Swetha was all the time advising him, on what to do and what not to do. And Rahul was responding with a "Yes dear" "Ofcourse I will" "Sure, I wont" A couple of days had gone by. They used to call each other every day. They did not miss the good morning / good evening / how are you / I am fine ... SMS almost every hour. Thanks to the Airtel to Airtel free SMS scheme. Slowly the days went by. Two weeks had past since they parted.
That Saturday, Rahul called up Swetha in the morning and said...
"Hey Swetha... you know what... I am gonna have a terrific weekend. We are going to check out Nandi hills today."
"We? What do you mean by we?" asked a puzzled Swetha.
"Oh Oh. I completely forgot to tell you about my new friend. She is so cute. We are in the same project. We both are going to the hill station. Just about to leave... So thought of calling you up and say a hi."
Somehow the "hi" was not so enticing for Swetha. Back there, she was finding it hard to talk to anyone after Rahul left, while on the other hand, someone had already taken her place in Rahul's life.
“She managed to mumble out "That's great Rahul. Have a nice time... and enjoy yourself." She was kinda upset, but didn’t show it.
Days went by and Swetha was feeling that the distance between her and Rahul was slowly increasing. Then one day... the phone at her desk rang.
"Swetha... you have to go to Bangalore for one week to gather the details of our APPLE project". It was the voice of her PM. Swetha could hardly believe her ears.
"Wow! What luck! I can meet Rahul for a week," she said to herself.
She was very much happy and excited over this new twist. As luck would have it... it was Rahul's birthday next week. She thought of giving him a big surprise. Therefore, she hid the news from him. Next week, Swetha was in Bangalore. Thanks to the huge crowd of people, she managed to go unnoticed by anyone, especially Rahul, for the first day. It was evening. She had left office early. She went to the market and brought some beautiful flowers. She had been waiting for this day. Flowers have this magical way of pleasing people... and so she was choosy in selecting them. Rahul was her best friend, and she cared a lot about him. Taking the flowers home, she had her dinner and was waiting for time to pass. She knew Rahul's address... she left the hotel at 11:30 and hired a taxi to reach Rahul's place. It was a short distance away, so she reached pretty soon. She groped around and found out his flat. The lights were still on. She frowned. She wanted this to be a magnificent surprise and hence had expected him to be sleeping. Nevertheless, she timidly went to the door and rang the bell. The door opened in a few seconds... There was Rahul. "Happy birthday..." said Swetha. Rahul was stunned. He could not believe his eyes. Taking the flowers, he said.
"Oh gosh! Thank you so much Swetha. I never expected you... come on... come inside..."
Swetha removed her shoes and went in. Little did she knew that there was a bigger surprise waiting for her inside. She saw that the room was decorated and there was a birthday cake, which had candles on it. There was a pretty girl standing there in blue denims and a red top.
"Err... Swetha let me introduce you to Neha. And Neha, this is my friend Swetha"
The girls exchanged smiles and said Hi to each other. Swetha felt uncomfortable. She wanted to be the first one to wish him on his birthday. But look here! It seemed that someone else had already done it. Still, controlling her feelings, she did not react. They sang the birthday song together, cut the cake, and had fun. The Party was over.
Swetha said, "Rahul, it's getting late, I will leave now. Can you tell me where can I find a taxi?"
"Hey, are u nuts or what? It is very late. You don't need to go anywhere. Sleep
here tonight. Even Neha has decided to stay back."
Swetha would never have accepted this, but the last line "Even Neha has decided to stay back" drove her to say, "Well, if you insist, I will stay back."
The next day morning, once again Shweta wished Rahul and left for her hotel. Work was hectic. She met Rahul for his dinner party in the evening. Neha was with him. She found this annoying, but as usual, did not utter a word. The next day morning, she called Rahul and said...
"You mean fellow, you haven't shown me around Bangalore. I am free today evening. Take me to the good places"
"Sure we will do that baby." Was his reply.
The day was boring for Swetha with not much work to do. She waited until five and then buzzed him on his cell.
"Where are you Rahul? Come on... let's go!"
"Oh... I am so sorry Swetha; I have this telecon thing... I am gonna be late... just wait for some time... please dear"
"Sure I will wait dear, you finish your work. Tell me where are u, I will come there and cheer you up", said Swetha.
"Hey that's fine dear. No need to take any trouble... Besides, Neha is also here."
Swetha was surprised. She had not expected him to say this. This time, not knowing how to react... she was searching for words to reply... she struggled and said...
"Well.. err ... Rahul.. I am.. err very tired.. I think I will go back... err.. Let us go tomorrow..."
Rahul replied "Wow, that's fine... no problem. We will surely go tomorrow okay, thanks a ton Swetha for understanding."
Unfortunately tomorrow never came. Rahul was busy with one thing or the other. She was feeling all the more lonely and desolate. The feeling that Neha had replaced her position sank her. A frustrated and irritated Swetha was waiting for her last day in Bangalore. That day, she did not expect Rahul to call her. So to inform him that she is leaving, she called him in the evening and told him that he is leaving in an hour. She was shocked by Rahul's reply.
"Oh I am so sorry dear; I won't be able to come to see you off. Today I have a very important meeting, I am really sorry yaar."
"Its okay Rahul", said Swetha, thinking at the back of her mind... what meeting could Rahul possible have after office hours. Heartbroken by the crushing changes she found in her best friend, she left for the Majestic bus station and boarded her bus. She kept on looking outside as if she was expecting a miraculous surprise. But no one turned up. Resting her head on the slide seat, she closed her eyes. Memories of those wonderful times spent with Rahul were flashing in front of her eyes. She did not have any grudges that Rahul had replaced her, but what pricked her was how easily she was forgotten and forsaken. The journey was perhaps the dullest and saddest for Swetha.
Back in Mysore, and back to work, Shweta was trying to cope up with life. After a week, Rahul called her up. She did not want to create an issue, but just could not stand it. She blurted out everything. She asked him to give an explanation. His reply was
"Look Swetha, you are a very good friend of mine. But now, there is someone more important in my life. Someone with more priority. Swetha... I am in love with Neha."
The words were so cold that Swetha could feel its bite. Gathering all the bits of her remaining calm, she sobbed and said.
"I don't have any problem with that Rahul. But falling in love doesn't essentially mean that you have to forsake your old friends"
"You have never fallen in love. What will you know about love, Swetha?"
Rahul's words shattered her heart. She had never expected to hear this from the person she cared and loved the most. She quietly cut the phone. She shut her eyes tight and cried.
That night it rained.