Aaran was in full spirits as he woke up in the morning. He started to get ready in such a hurry that he almost forgot his phone lying in the charger. He rushed back to his room, picked the phone and hurried to his mom. His dad was sleeping and his mom had just woken up. He tiptoed to her slowly and bid her good bye.
She was shocked to see him up so early. But one look at him said he was too happy today. It infected her too. She went all smiles. She looked at him and said, “I am glad to see you happy. Have a good day at office and eat well on time.”
He kissed his mom and started to office. As he entered the car, he absent mindedly threw the phone on the dashboard. Two New messages. The Screen flashed. He opened the app. It was from Ilakiya. His heart skipped a beat. His mind started to make many stories. What if she had thought otherwise and cancelled the date? What if she had asked him to leave her alone? This and that.
As he started to read, a broad grin spread on his lips and he again wondered, “Why did I not realize my love for her this long?”
The message simply said, “Your toll pass expires today. Make sure you recharge it today.” Second one read, “Please have exact change. Last time he made you wait so long for the change”
He started driving. It was 6 AM and the climate was too cold because of the rain. He played his favourite song and hummed on happily. He reached the toll gate and gave his pass. He shuddered a little as the icy cold wind breathed hard on his ear lobes. “Your toll pass expires today. Do you want to recharge?” The man at the toll booth asked.
“Yes please. Recharge for a month” He said and gave exact change. He reached office and started going through his mails. Not much of work today. “Fine.” He thought happily. “I can leave earlier than I anticipated and I can be with her for a long time.” He was so happy in his thoughts that he did not see his team mate Harish walk in to the cubicle.
He was a good friend and they were of the same age. So often together for smoke and booze, they had become good friends. “Hey why so early today?” Harish tapped on the shoulder. Suddenly Aaran came to his senses. He gave a broad smile and wondered whether to tell him the truth or not. He decided to tell everyone when Ilakiya was with him.
He started, “Ilakiya fell down yesterday Harish. Her leg is bit swollen. I thought of taking her to the doctor today. That’s why thought of finishing work early. “
“Oh What happened. How is she now?” He asked with a concern.
“She is recovering. Hopefully she will be fit in a couple of days. But I thought of getting an opinion from the ortho as well.” Aaran spun a tale.
“That’s better. Convey my regards too. Hope she gets well soon and comes back soon. You get very irritated and distracted without her near you.” He concluded with a smile and went to his desk. Aaran went speechless. “Everybody around me has realized this but I had taken this long to understand it. “
“Hey hey look who has come so early to office? “ He turned to look at the face of the mocking voice and gave a broad grin. It was Jeeva. Aaran suddenly recollected the memories of Jeeva’s first day at the office. It was a bright sunny day and the whole team was awaiting the entry of the new joiner, Jeeva. Since it was a common name, they did not know if it was a male or a female.
As per the custom of the team, they had arranged a grand welcome to make the new team member feel at home. And when the person finally arrived, most of them did not know how to react. Jeeva was a transgender. Jeeva was both excited and embarrassed. Obviously it was a first job and badly wanted to blend in. People were wondering what to do when Ilakiya suddenly broke the ice.
He still remembered how excited and Happy Ilakiya got. She was usually very shy and did not talk much. But this day was different. She went up to Jeeva, shook hands and announced to everyone, “Hi team, this is Jeeva. The first transgender to ever complete post graduation. And the very first one to join IT in India. I have written a blog on her struggles and achievement. Jeeva is a real struggler. I am really proud to have met Jeeva in person today. And even more proud to have this person in our team. Welcome Jeeva”. And she clapped. Everyone followed. It was a real grand opener for Jeeva.
Ilakiya had made Jeeva comfortable with the ways of the team, had food together and had given her best to be friends. And Jeeva has reciprocated it beautifully. Jeeva had blend in and contributed a lot to the team. Jeeva was a real asset and a very good friend.
Aaran was so lost in these memories that Jeeva had to shake him twice to get a reply. He smiled and said, “ Jeeva, Ilakiya is not well and I had to take her to the hospital. That’s why I came in so early. “ Jeeva smiled back. “I know. She pinged me last night. She told me to make sure to remind you to have your food on time. You forget that everytime without her.”
Aaran was taken aback. “Ilakiya I badly want to see you immediately. How can you just think of me all the time?” He thought.
Finally after what seemed a very long time, his time to start finally arrived. He called Ilakiya. She picked up after the second ring. “Hello” She said. He noticed a little tremble.
“Hi, Its me. How is your leg now?”
“Ya I am much better now. How was the day at office? “ She enquired.
“Everything was good but bored and sad without you at office.” He replied.
She laughed. He suddenly realized how much he missed her now.
“I will be there in another half an hour. Be ready.” He said and disconnected.
All along the way he was wondering what to talk to her first. He just stopped the car near the apartment and suddenly realized he should have got her something. He thought he will go back to the nearby florist when suddenly he heard the most charming magical voice.
“Hi, shall we start?”
Ilakiya was standing near her door ready to lock it and start with him. She was dressed in a simple blue kurti and a jean. Her brown handbag was her favourite possession. Her wavy hair was her best feature that he had forgotten to admire this long. He was staring at her hard when she came near. She opened the door and sat in. He saw that she had tied her leg with a crepe bandage.
“So where are we going? “ She asked with a smile.
“I have a great surprise for you.” He managed to reply.