“Everything alright, Sir?”
Vivaan looked around the beautiful room bathed in the slanting rays of the evening sun.
“It is perfect. Thank you,” he said to the concierge, giving him a generous tip, and closing the door behind his grinning back.
“It is perfect.” Pia said from where she stood at the corner of the room, near a large window that led out into a spacious balcony.
Vivaan crossed the room in a few long strides and went to stand behind her. He held on to her waist, his shoulders bent, his head resting on her shoulder.
A soft breeze caressed Pia’s curls, as they relaxed against each other, taking in the view of the vast sea before them. The tall palm trees rustled in the fading light, warm, calming; the lithe waves, mesmerising.
“Beautiful view, isn’t it?”
Pia rested her head sideways on Vivaan’s. “Yes.” She breathed, hugging his hands tight around her waist.
“I am really glad I am finally here…” Vivaan began in a whisper.
“I think I better order us some hot cocoa!” Pia piped suddenly. “Maybe we can have it on those chairs on the balcony.” She gently untangled herself from his embrace and walked towards the hotel phone.
Vivaan sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He continued to stand there, his hands on the window sill, not turning back.
He heard Pia order room service. And when he heard her put the phone down, he said quietly,
“Nothing is going to change, you know. Because you refuse to acknowledge it.”
The next instant, he felt Pia hug him from behind. Her cheek to his broad back. Her hands holding him tight at his chest. The very spot where it hurt the most. Vivaan rubbed her hands with his own, and pulled her around to face him.
“I love you Vivaan,” Pia said, huge, tearful eyes on him.
“I love you too sweetheart,” Vivaan replied, hugging her to him. Feeling her melt in his embrace.
“Which makes this all the more special,” he continued. “I am really glad to be here. With you by my side. I couldn’t have asked for anything different. Thank you, my darling, for being here with me.
Now, and all these past months. Going with me everywhere, no questions asked. You have no idea what it means to me. Especially today.
‘Because today, I end what I started six months back. Tomorrow I walk on that beach. A free man. My hands stretched to the waves, my face open to the sky above. Tomorrow, I declare, that I have reached the end of my bucket list. That I have come to the last place on earth I wanted to come to, with the one person I cherish the most. Tomorrow I will be ready…”
The muffled sobs made Vivaan stop. He hugged Pia tighter. Rubbed a hand on her back, breathing in the scent of the soft curls adorning her head – the curls he so loved! And he felt a lump in his throat.
Vivaan broke the embrace, holding Pia at arm’s length. He then cupped her face and kissed her like there was no tomorrow. Pia didn’t think. She kissed him right back, unreserved; giving him everything she had. Wishing, hoping, that time stopped right now. That there would be no tomorrow. That this kiss never ended.
The knock at the door brought them back to their senses. Neither wanted to part, and yet, the insistent knock on the door had to be answered. Pia held on desperately. But Vivaan broke their embrace. And gesturing at her to stay put right where she was, he walked away to answer the door in the hall.
“Hot cocoa, Madam!” he announced, walking into the room a moment later; laying down the tray on the corner table with a flourish.
When Pia didn’t move from where she stood facing the sea now, he went to stand behind her at the window, once again.
“The cocoa will go cold, you know.” He murmured in her hair.
Pia swallowed audibly, and turned to him, smiling. A brave smile that didn't really reach her eyes. “Then we better get our cups.” She said simply.
“Excellent idea!” Vivaan chirped. “You go on ahead to the balcony, I will get the cups.”
“No, you go on ahead, I will get the cups.” Pia countered, turning towards the corner table. “Take the chair on the left!” she threw over her shoulder.
“Why this chair?” Vivaan asked as Pia settled the tray on the small table between them; and then pushed it aside a little.
“Because it has the best view,” she said smiling. “And also because it gives me more space.”
“For what?” Vivaan frowned.
“For this,” Pia smiled again, getting down on one knee in front of the chair where Vivaan sat. She took his hand.
“What are you…”
“Vivaan Pratap Singh,” Pia looked in his dark eyes. “You have stolen my heart. You have wound me around your finger; and have turned my life completely topsy-turvy since the day you walked into it. I have loved you for a long time now; as I know you have loved me. And I have waited a long time for you to do what I am about to do now.” Here she put out her hand in a placating gesture and continued, “But I am big girl, and I believe that men and women are equal, and that it doesn’t matter who goes down on one knee so long as the deed is done.
‘So, Vivaan Singh, before I lose all the feeling in my leg – and I am very close to it – would you, even if it would mean spending the rest of your days kissing me the way you did back there; take me as your wife?”
Vivaan was stunned. The silence that engulfed them was absolute, then. Even the birds seemed to have stopped chirping. The sea went suddenly silent, the waves drenching the shores mutely.
“You need to say something, you know. I really did mean it about my leg going numb…” Pia smiled sweetly.
The expression on Vivaan’s face, though, was a study in contrasts. Shock, surprise, disbelief – and now fury.
“Are you out of your mind?!” Vivaan stood up angrily and walked into the room.
Pia followed. “What did I say wrong? It was about time…”
Vivaan turned to look at her with such anguish etched on his face that she stopped short.
“You are out of your mind.” He said, incredulous.
“Do you know the difference in our ages?” he asked.
Pia looked at his salt and pepper hair. He was much older than her, true. Over a decade older.
“I have known it for a long time now.” Pia replied calmly. “As have our families.”
Vivaan stared at her, red in face. He was getting angrier by the minute.
“What is your point, Vivaan?” Pia asked, unperturbed.
“Have you forgotten that I am dying?” he asked then, cruelly; his voice barely a whisper. But Pia had heard him alright. And she flinched, as if she had received a physical blow.
“No. I haven’t forgotten that, Vivaan.” She said recovering. “What is your point?”
“My point, sweetheart, is that you are being crazy! You are being crazy wanting to marry a man who comes with an expiry date! Crazy! Wanting to marry a man who is dying. A man who is here, to tick off the last item on his bucket list. To walk on that beach tomorrow so he can go back to the hospital and lay in wait for the death that is waiting to claim him!”
Every word was a blow. Deliberately calculated to inflict the maximum hurt.
Pia swallowed. But kept her eyes steady on Vivaan’s.
“Wanting to marry a man I love, is not crazy.” She said. “And we all come with an expiry date Vivaan, you just know yours.
‘And that makes this conversation all the more important. This proposal all the more vital. I am yours Vivaan, whether you want me or not. And I am not taking a no for an answer.”
Pia then walked up to him, and held out her hand. There were two rings there. Wedding bands, Vivaan realised.
“We can go back and complete the formalities.” Pia said, following Vivaan’s gaze to the rings. “But tomorrow, when you walk on that beach, you will not only be a free man who has ticked off the last item on his bucket list – no, you will also be a committed man.”
Vivaan stared at the rings, and then looked at Pia. She couldn’t bear to see how tender his face had gone.
“I would rather have a short, blessed life, filled with your love; than a long one, without it,” she said, holding out her arms for him.
You can read my other entries for this festival here -
Of Life Lessons and Listening to One's Heart