The clock strikes 4 and just then Alifa reaches the studio. Neil was busy sorting the CDs and was playing one of them, analyzing the music. When he realized that Alifa has entered, he waved her.
“Hey! Come fast here. My head is just spinning like hell”, said Neil.
“What happened?” She puts down her bag and sits with him on the floor.
“I have listened to so many songs, but I’m not able to decide.”
“The more options we have, the more difficult it is to choose. Just a minute.”
She tears out a paper and hands it along with a pen to Neil.
“Here, take this. Let’s list out all the songs we know that match our theme, one which could be used in a Paso Doblè act”, said Alifa.
“Hmm….. You have a great mind, huh???” Lifts an eyebrow. “Cool, we’ll do like this.”
Neil stands up , goes towards the big mirror wall- one in which you could not only see your complete self, but the whole group dance together, the one which every dancer dreams to practice in front of. Their classroom was very big. The entrance door is at one corner of the rectangular room.
As you enter the room, you face the wall which is widest, covered full by the mirrors. Towards the right and left there are big windows, the ones of the Victorian era, with a rectangular frame and a rounded window top- like an arch, and their hung nice light blue floral curtains. The left and the back walls also have ‘ballet barres’. These are rods attached to the walls at a height from the ground, holding which you can do various exercises which require balancing skills or can even be used to help in stretching up- most commonly used by ballet students.
Neil sat down on the floor with his back rested on the mirror wall.
“Alifa, come here with me, I wanna relax”, said Neil.
Alifa also joins him. Alifa presses her palms on the floor and slides herself down so that she can rest leisurely on the mirror wall.
“The first song that I can think of is- umm – Man Basiyo Saanwariyo”, said Alifa.
“But that song would be – umm – a girl trying to grab the attention of a boy. But in our act, it would be I trying to control you coz you are the ‘BULLLLLL’ and I am the matador.” He gives a smirk towards the left side of his face.
“I am the bull???….. Am I???”
“Haha….. Hey! I mean, you’ll be…. in our dance…. Right???”
“Okay” (smiles) “Yeah, so we can’t take this. Cut it.”
“Come on dumbo! That’s for TAP and also it’s a fun song, can’t be used in a passionate and intense form.”
Lifts a brow. “Dumbo??? Revenge, huh?”
She circled the inside of our cheek with her tongue playfully and turned her face to the other side smiling. “Tu hi tu satrangi re?”
“Hmm… Not bad… It’s nice. Hey! I have something better. That song you remember?… What was it?…Umm…haan…Rama tu kya kiya… Something like that.”
“Hehehe… You can’t even remember a song… That song was –“
Alifa starts singing-
“Haye Rama yeh kya hua
Kyun aise hume satane lage…”
Neil also sings-
“Tum kitna achha gaati ho
Yeh aaj hume pata chale…”
Alifa realizes that she was swayed away by her inner hobby of singing. She was actually singing! So, quite embarrassed, she looked towards Neil and blushed. And quickly turned her face down looking at the floor.
Neil says, “I never knew you were such a nice singer…(smiles) Okay, this is it. We are going for this song.”
“Yeah, it’s a powerful song to dance upon. Its beats make my feet tap involuntarily. A passionate routine can be choreographed on that…”
They both gave a high-five to each other and started laughing.
Neil and Alifa were startled by the sound. Alifa’s heart started beating fast but just for a few seconds. 5-6 juniors from the Intermediate Batch slammed the door open and entered the room fighting with each other at the top of their voices.
“Hey, you were doing wrong…..”
“Neil bhaiya, Alifa di, can you please help us?”, requested a medium-heighted girl. “Samsons are out for an important work. We have some co-ordination issues, so we need somebody to check on us”, intervened the other guy who had been shouting the most a few seconds before. “Can you please just see where we aren’t in sync and correct our mistakes??”, said a girl with a puppy face.
Neil and Alifa looked at each other and smiled at the innocent seriousness of their Juniors and said together, “Yeah, why not? Let’s go…”
While coming out from the Intermediate Batch Studio…
Neil- Oh God! Our juniors are so annoying.
Alifa- Took the hell out of me. Hear my voice… my vocal cords have got ruptured; I needed to shout so much to calm them down… (She sees her watch) Oh My God! It’s 6:30. I need to get back home.
Neil- But we didn’t even start our practice yet.
Alifa- Yeah, I know… But I can’t stay back. My mom is a bit ill today and no one else is at home. So, I need to be with her.
Neil- Even if you stay, it’s no good, coz we have no idea what we are going to do.
Alifa- Yeah, exactly. Tomorrow, when Samsons will be back, we’ll discuss with them about our routine.
Neil- Yes we would surely do. But before that we need to do our homework first.
Alifa- ??? (She gave him a puzzled look.)
Neil- We need to see some videos first, to get ideas. Umm… You told you have some DVDs… Why don’t we have a look at them at your home?
Alifa- Yeah, we can but…
Neil- No ‘but’s. See, you’ll be with your mom and we’ll get our work also done.
Alifa- Okay, then. Let me call my mum first…
Neil- No, don’t tell her. If she knows that a friend of yours is coming there for the first time, she’ll start preparing something for me… Afterall… Indian moms you know. She needs to rest. Don’t tell.
Alifa- Okay.(She blushes hidingly and says to herself, “Aww! He’s so considerate.)
They reach Alifa’s home at about 6:45 pm. Her mom opened the door.
Alifa- Mom, he is Neil. I am performing with him in the Qualifiers.
Neil- (Joins his hands) Namastey Aunty! How are you feeling now? Alifa told me you aren’t doing well today.
Mom- Oh Thanks, beta! I am fine now. I was sleeping the whole day as I had the house all to myself with no one disturbing me. Haha.
Neil- Yeah, you look fine. Great!
Mom- Come in, beta.
All enter the house.
Mom- What would you like to have, Neil? Something hot or cold?
Neil- Nothing Aunty, don’t worry. If I want something, your daughter is there no? You just rest. By the way, I am here for a work. You get well soon, then I will surely come for a ‘daawat’- prepared by you. Now, fine?
Mom- Yeah, okay. Haha!
Alifa’s mom heads towards her room. Alifa too follows her.
Alifa- Mom, he has come here to watch those Annual Function DVDs. Don’t worry, he’ll leave early. And he is just a classmate and my dance-partner, nothing more than that.
Mom- (slapped her lightly) Dumb girl! Did I ask you for explanation? Neil is such a nice boy and girl you don’t need to give so much explanation, unless I ask you to, of course! Go, get something to eat and drink.
Alifa- (Smiles and hugs her mom) You are the best, mummy!
Yes, Alifa was quite considerate towards everyone. Even though she had parents with quite modern thinking, she always tried to see situations from their point of view and took each step according to that. She didn’t want to hurt anyone, even unintentionally. She always thought many times – both about the ‘pro’s and ‘con’s- before doing anything.
However, her parents were just opposite. They trusted her and always let her do whatever she wanted to.
Alifa brings two cups of hot coffee. Neil is sitting on the sofa in front of TV, sorting out the DVDs that Alifa gave him. Alifa hands him the coffee and sits down on the sofa too. Both sip coffee and see the dance routines and discuss. Alifa was really tired so she dozed off to sleep on Neil’s shoulders.
Neil turned to face her, to get her upright and rest on the sofa. But he couldn’t. Something struck his soul and heart and his heart went fast. What it was, even he didn’t know- it could have been Alifa’s face – average looking like any other girl but with beautiful eyes or it might have been her cute face with a peaceful smile while sleeping or it could have been her entire personality.
What struck Neil for a moment, made him think not to disturb her peaceful nap. He didn’t want t disturb her. So, he let her rest on his shoulders while he watched different dance videos.
It became quite late watching those videos, as the clock struck at 9:30. Neil realized that it was too late. He thought that Alifa’s mom was sick, so it wouldn’t be good if she has to prepare the dinner. He didn’t want Alifa’s sleep to break off either. And he didn’t know how to cook. His heart said to him, what is it, that has made him so much caring, especially for Alifa whom he barely knows. But he shooed away these thoughts and decided to continue with his former thoughts. He decided to order the dinner from a restaurant.
He waited for 20 minutes when the door bell rang. He turned to put Alifa away from him. He was about to grab her shoulders, just then Alifa herself woke up due to the continuous ringing of the bell. She realized, she was resting on his shoulders. She looked at him to analyse his reaction. She caught his gaze. Both looked into each other’s eyes. Alifa’s rose-petal eyes met Neil’s almond-shaped, slightly round, pearl-like eyes, so white and shining, with a black dark pupil. It was only after a few seconds that they realized that and Alifa turned away from him, quite embarrassed. Neil also didn’t know how to react.
He rose up from the sofa, went to the door, opened it, took the bag with dinner in it and handed it to Alifa, told her why he did so, and left.
Alifa was quite amazed seeing all that was going on in front of her eyes. Alifa’s hidden inner analyst wouldn’t let her sleep tonight.
Alifa was tired that night, but since she had taken a short nap, she thought she is fine now. So she decided to study for at least an hour. She took out her Political Science book. Yes, she was an Arts student and so was Neil. But it was not even 10 minutes since she had opened her book that she started feeling restless.
It was weird and surprising, how caringly he acted today. I was resting my head on his shoulders and he didn’t even wake me up. I woke up when the doorbell rang. It was shocking for me to realise that we were so close to each other. I was confused what was happening to me. I looked into his eyes. I could see the same confusion in his eyes. First time in my life I saw him like this. I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that we would be so close. My heart started pounding fast. But my eyes were stuck on his and his on mine. I could feel some connection between us. But what was it?
No, nothing is there between us more than friendship and dance partnership. I like him quite a bit and that’s why I am thinking all this. I always over-analyse things.
But why did he care for me so much? Oh God! Ahh, don’t I know that he is a very friendly person and can do anything for his friends. It was just a small friendly act – that dinner and all – of course it’s a bit uncomfortable to me since I am not used to such caring behavior even from my male friends. When they do it, even then sometimes I feel uncomfortable, coz I’m an introvert. It is nothing more than that. Ahh! My head is aching. I should go to sleep else my head will burst.
(While lying on his bed)
What happened to me today? I have done these kind of things to so many friends before, including girls, but why does it feel different so different today? Ah, No! It is nothing. It is just because she’s still a not a close friend of me. She’s just my dance partner and my classmate and still I did this for her, that’s why I feel awkward.
When I saw her resting on my shoulders, it seemed she was very peacefully sleeping and it felt like she belonged there and she owned that place. When we caught gaze of each other, I felt her eyes so captivating that I couldn’t take my eyes off her. But I was confused. I didn’t know what was happening to me.
It’s all normal, nothing special. It happens sometimes. I am tired now.
(And he slept.)