Valentine’s Day – A Short Story

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Feb 14th 2006
Mumbai- 3 pm


The Airbus 300 thundered down the runway on a descent before slowing down to an almost pedestrian pace. As the giant bird taxied towards the terminals, the cabin was abuzz with activity.


The flight attendant hummed a well?rehearsed message "Welcome to Chatrapathi Shivaji International Airport. Passengers please remain seated and do not open the overhead baggage lockers till the Aircraft comes to a complete halt. Please do not use your mobile phones while aboard the aircraft. The outside temperature is 34 degrees Celsius. It was a pleasure having you on board. Thank you for flying Lufthansa". She repeated the same in Hindi, an inimitable Anglicized accent. "Must be that voluptuous red head, she sounds hotter than she looks", Andy thought.


Like tone-deaf drones conscientiously working on honey combs, passengers opened the overhead baggage cabins. Cell phones beeped various SMS delivery tones, a few stray loony-heads even called their relatives and friends. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry to alight.  Passengers were the same the world over.


The journey from Frankfurt had been an exasperating one. A mad rush at Frankfurt in-transit, petulant and inefficient immigration officers ? impotent appendages of a bygone Nazi era, a 9 hour flight, good seats maimed by crippling leg space and average in-flight catering.


For some raison d’?tre, Andy loved drinking on board.  So he drank copious amount of ale and coffee. He slept like a baby, only to be woken up intermittently by the lil rumble on his right and the obnoxious smell that followed.
 
The flatulent flaccid piece of flesh seated to Andy’s right, was snoring from both ends. Andy had almost asphyxiated on his neighbor’s fully loaded emissions. Talk of greenhouse gases!


The flight had landed, perhaps signaling the end of a malodorous ordeal.


Andy remained seated, to avoid grating belly-bumps and elbow nudges, needless to mention the late-comer passengers that squeezed in mid-way down the aisles, trying to salvage their cabin baggage in the opposite direction.


The hydraulic doors ajar, the crowd eased out into the long, silver exit vestibule. From the pigeon ?windows, he watched the cargo-handlers scamper to off-load a huge payload from the aircraft.


Mr. Mustard gas fired another parting shot and left the seat. This one was really awful and stung his nose.


"You crude bean-bag" Andy yelled out after him. The other passengers stared at Andy, Mr. Bean bag walked on without a care.


 A few minutes later, Andy stretched out and yawned – loud and long. The middle-aged Parsi lady by the window looked whimsically through her bifocals at his appalling civic manners.


"Cool it madam", Andy thought to himself.  Who cared for dumb, inane etiquette on a long haul flight?


He smiled at her – she frowned back in response, preening her curly grey strands with her long manicured fingers. He smiled again, this time thinking of his reaction to his flatulent co-passenger’s antics. "May be he didn’t care for protocol too".


There was another attention-grabbing passenger across the aisle, working religiously on his ears with ear buds. His eyes closed in orgasmic overtones, his mouth opening wider illuminating his pan-masala-stained- teeth, with every twist of the bud in his ears.  He certainly enjoyed the experience, de-waxing for once seemed like erotica.


"Look at him Madam", Andy nudged the Parsi Aunty by his side pointing towards the wax-worker.


"Oh! How dishgushting! Ishko kuch tameej hai ki nahin" Aunty exclaimed.


"But I alwaysh wondered", she added. "Why men open their mouthsh when they clean their earsh?"


Andy guffawed.  He had no answers to her query. He imagined himself at the ear-digging act; he must have been opening his mouth too.


"Good obshervation Madam", Andy told her in appreciation, his accent a rather forced one.


She frowned again "Mera accshent ka majaak udaata hai tum, I know". She was irate now.


"Shee you Madam, a pleasure meeting you" Andy wished her goodbye.


"Bye beta" she said with a maternal flourish. They shook hands; he squeezed hers in cognitive admiration. Andy felt the warmth.


"Beta, I forgot to ashk your name. I am Mrs. Ruby Irani", Aunty said.


"I am Anand, you can call me Andy". Andy said handing over his business card. ‘Andy Bajaj, Creative Head’ his card read.  Aunty Irani looked at him approvingly, the mother in full view now.


At the school called Life, every journey was an interesting lecture, Andy thought.


His legs were numb; Andy realized he hadn’t got out of that seat, not even a visit to the loo. Oh, how he detested the toilets in flight. Blocked and overflowing wash basins, wet floors, used toilet papers littered and speckled toilet seats; not to mention the obvious stench of human refuse and overuse. His bladder hurt and the urge was overpowering.


Dragging his feet, he walked towards the door. A faint aroma of feminine perfume wafted languidly across the cabin. He recognized that smell. Andy thought while his own armpits under the Tweed jacket reeked of a heady mixture of Hugo & crystallized body odor. 


He recognized the perfume. The smell grew stronger as he reached the door.


"Have a nice day Sir".


Two pairs of eyes met, two lower jaws dropped and froze.


"Andy?"


 "Sim?"


They hugged briefly yet with some deep rooted passion. She still sported her signature perfume. It was bewitching. Quickly off her, he smiled and said "I will wait for you outside".


"I will meet you at our business class lounge Andy" she said. "By the exit", she added, this time the smile revealed those gleaming pearly whites.


(Sim) Simon Sharma was the most attractive woman he had ever met and they had been in love.  Andy was feeling fresh as ever, there was a spring in his step now.


9 hours aboard that flight and he hadn’t seen her? She must have been attending to the ‘Club Premiere’ Passengers, Andy thought. He cursed his luck for not getting a business class seat. His travels plans had always been book and board kind, no time for elaborate planning. Andy never cared about the class of travel, not this time though.


Simone & Andy had grown up together in Cochin- Their fathers’ fellow comrades in the local base of the Indian Naval Academy, Cochin. Theirs was a teenage crush that had blossomed into unconditional adulthood love in the ramparts of Kappalandimukku fort and the Jewish Synagogue. The backwaters of Cochin had been witness to many of their rendezvous.





""…I’ve dreamed of this a thousand times before
In my dreams I couldn’t love you more
I will give you my heart…..
""


Simone was one pretty adolescent- straight, sharp and confident features armed with a breath-taking smile; she was beautiful alright, but with passing years, she evolved into one of the most stunning beauties he had seen and known. For him and rest of his neighborhood, she personified feminine beauty and he loved her to bits.


Simone was spectacular in every sense of the word. And after 12 long years, she still looked as gorgeous and her smile as enchanting.


Andy was very much the hero of the neighborhood. Impeccable looks, a clean greenish hue on the sideburns and those dimples, the product was mind-blowing. Andy loved his work-outs too, so there wasn’t a bit of flab in him. Toned to a six pack! Most girls of the neighborhood swore by him. Simone was head over heels in love with him.


They were in the second year of college, when Simone’s dad passed away in a freak accident. He was a white-water rafting aficionado, destined to a watery-grave. They never found his body. Simone & her mother had moved to Dalhousie, where her father’s family reportedly owned some property. Simone always wanted to be a model, but fate had other plans.


Andy, now crestfallen with the unfortunate turn of events had got into his own self styled cocoon. His love of the written word had helped him with the metamorphosis. And when the butterfly did emerge a few years later, it was still handsome and now was a leading copywriter in the Indian advertising world.


He had now moved his base to Bombay- the official headquarters of the Indian Ad world. The Glamour and glitz of the ad world helped Andy shake his personal despondency out as well. He had tried to connect with Simone a few times, in vain. He hadn’t heard from her either. 


Andy missed Simone, a void very hard to fill.


Simone meanwhile, had a trying time helping her sick mother through the bereavement. Her mother passed away a few months later from a deadly neuro-toxic snake bite. They said it was the King Cobra. Simone graduated from St. Stephen’s a few years later, losing a couple of years to the unfortunate personal events. A family friend had contacts in the Airline Industry and Simone breezed through the selection at Lufthansa as a flight attendant.


Simone missed Andy’s presence in her life, the pangs of separation and the personal trauma had been telling on her. She could never fall in love with anybody else she had decided.


In the seclusion of the lounge, as they discussed the last 12 years, they realized they were still single and very much available.  And so very much in love with one another! Emotions were running high, Simone was inconsolably weeping over her past and partly in joy over her present as well. Andy experienced a mixed bag of emotions too.


 "Sim, Can we meet for dinner tonight?" he asked Simone, his hands clasping hers.


"Sure Andy, I am all yours. Pick me up from my Hotel. We stay at the JW Marriott".


"Marriott. OK. Will be there at 7 pm. We can have dinner right there at the Enigma, it’s a lively place. I will have a table reserved for us". Andy said as he kissed her passionately on her cheeks.


"Make it 7.30" she said.


"Done deal" Andy said, picking up his baggage.


Simone looked stunning in a red Versace gown. The celebrity designer had ensured that he accentuated the contours of a beautiful woman enough to get eyes rolling. She looked hot and ready for her dream date. She had waited for this for 12 long years.


Andy meanwhile was on his way to the date, in his Levi’s & a blue corduroy jacket. He smelt fresh- Givenchy. The hair showered and gelled, his strands were seemingly aroused too; May be in anticipation of an evening, to celebrate love and life ahead. 


He dialed her number "Sim, will be there in 10 minutes", he crooned.


"I am waiting for you in the lobby", she said responding to the expectation in his voice.


She couldn’t believe she and Andy were having a valentine’s dinner date. "Pinch myself", she did and winced. This was for real.


Back on the road, Andy was visibly angry with the evening traffic.


Turning to the driver, he said "Anwar Mia, zara tez chalaana, nahin to zindagi nikal jaayegi". 


"Aisa nakko bolo, Andy Sir, tez jaayinge" Anwar replied in his unmistakable Charminaari. He was never the one to disobey his master’s orders.


As Anwar shifted gears and revved up the torque engine, the josh machine responded instantly. They would make it in about 7 minutes now. Cruising on the Juhu Tara Road, Andy could see the Marriott towering above the rest by the beachside. 


"I am coming Sim, I am almost there" Andy thought aloud warming up to the thought of a romantic Valentine’s dinner.


The mood was electric. Even his favorite FM station was playing a Martina McBride’s My Valentine:


I’ve dreamed of this a thousand times before
In my dreams I couldn’t love you more
I will give you my heart
Until the end of time
You’re all I need
My love, my valentine ?.la dada?


Andy sang along?..


Screeeeeeeech!


One of the Ikon’s front tires had blasted on the blacktop. The speeding vehicle’s momentum had sent it in a tail spin. Anwar lost control of the wheel. As the vehicle careened off, it hit an oncoming lorry head-on, the monster dragging the little one for over 50 meters. 


One hour later Sim’s mobile phone rang, it was Andy’s phone!
 
"Hello Andy, what took you so long? Is everything all right?" Sim asked in one long breath.


"Madam, Inspector Bahutule bol raha hoon Juhu Police Station se; Kya aap Anand Bajaj ko jaanthi hain?" the officer asked.


"Ji haan. Kya hua Anand ko?" Sim was really worried now.


 "Anand Bajaj ke gaadi ka accident hua hai, kya aap fauran yahan aa sakti hain?" the Inspector summoned.


Sim hailed a cab and rushed to the Juhu Police station. She was quaking with fear!


15th February 2006
Juhu Beach- 8.30 A.M


The morning waves were lazily lapping the shoreline, as if after a good night’s slumber. A murder of crows was in cantankerous frenzy cawing and flying hurriedly in short confused moves. A dismembered body of a small kitten lay with its viscera tugged out on the sand. One raven flew down, hopped close and gouged out the dead feline’s eye with his sharp black beak before flying away with his prize.


Not far away, a few morning walkers gathered inquisitively around their morning’s find. Not an uncommon occurrence by any means. The lifeless body of a young lady in red had been washed ashore.


At a tea-stall by the beach, a middle aged man sat sipping his chai, reading his favorite daily. A headline with a photograph of wreckage screamed "Ad Man and driver killed in tragic car accident".

Author: Amarnath Bantwal- Kuwait