OMEN

The clouds had started gathering in the sky as Sneha looked out of the office window. It had started to drizzle a little bit too. She peeked out to see how much the ground was wet. Quite a bit. Shit! ´Boss, I·m leaving before this rain turns into a torrent,µ she said stubbing out her cigarette. ´Oh! Can·t you wait? I mean there·s only one more file?µ said her boss, crinkling his eyes a little, as her looked at her from across the room. ´No can·t do. I hate the rains. I·ll see it tomorrow morning. I·ll come early if you want me to,µ she said as she strode across to the sofa to pick up her coat. ´Unless you think Shravan can finish it for you?µshe asked lifting her head with eyebrows raised. ´No, no. I want you to view this personally and anyways Shravan left,µ he said as he tossed the file back into the shelf. ´Do you mind taking it home with you?µ he asked turning to her. ´You know that I don·t take work to home,µ she said as she started walking towards the door ´and anyways it would get wet in the rain.µ ´Oh yeah! Okay then see you tomorrow. Drive safely.µ ´Sure boss,µ she said as she opened the door and with one swift walk strode out of the room. What charm that woman has got thought the boss. Our company would have been in a loss had it been not for this woman. Have to give her a raise once our situation improves.

Sneha walked to her cabin to get her things before it started pouring. She absolutely detested the rain, the mud the filth, the dark sky. She liked sunshine and dry ground; not wet cement so that she would probably fall.

´Janet, I·m leavingµ she said to the receptionist as she came out of her cabin with her briefcase and coat. ´I·ll lock your cabin after this callµ whispered Janet covering the mouth piece of the phone ´yes sir we are looking into it«µ she went back to the customer as she waved Sneha bye. She got into the elevator and kept her briefcase down as she slipped her hands into the coat. As she was slipping the other hand suddenly the lights vanish and the elevator stops. Damn it, thought Sneha. She brought out her cell phone from her pocket to spread light on the elevator floor. Why me she thought. She dialed the security guard·s number from the dim light. Thank god the company thought of keeping an intercom in the elevator with reserve power. She fiercely stabbed the number to the guard·s room. The phone rang one, twice, thrice, four times and then someone picked it up. ´Hello guard yaha (guard here)µ ´Hello mai Sneha. jaldi light ka bandobast karo mai lift me atak gayi hu.µ(please make arrangements for the light soon. I am stuck in the lift.) ´Ha ji memsaab (yes madam)µ he said and yelled something to another person and Sneha heard the click of the phone on the other side. How rude she thought as she kept spreading the light on the floor of the elevator. There·s no danger here, it·s just a power shortage she thought to herself as she sat down on her briefcase and took out her handkerchief to wipe her sweat off. She had been scared of darkness since her childhood. Something is wrong; she thought to herself, God is sending me signals that something bad is going to happen. Sneha believed in omens. Although she was a very rational person and did not believe in luck or destiny or chance she still had a thing for omens. Whenever she thought that something was wrong, something bad happened and she felt that nature gives us signs warning us about it.

That·s when she remembered that she had her cell phone in her hand and she could call Aakash. She searched his number, clicked on the call button and held the phone to her ear. She heard the phone ring. Two rings, four rings, 30 seconds passed and it was still ringing. She started to panic. Why isn·t he picking up my call? And finally the phone was disconnected. She stared at the phone for a second and then tried again digging her nails in her thighs. It rang again and he still did not pick it up. Okay I·ll send him a message she thought and she typed

Hey dear why arentt you picking up the phone? Are you busy? Let me know. Itm stuck in the lift in the office. Power shortage. Love you sweety. <3
And hit send. Her cell phone buzzed. She read the message ´message sending failedµ. Oh shit! What·s wrong, she thought. More panic. Then suddenly she was thrown off balance as the elevator came to life as started moving down. Thank god, she thought, now I can leave this God damn place as soon as I can. As soon as the doors opened she rushed out of the corridor, took a right and stopped short. It was pouring. Damn it! Five minutes in the elevator and the clouds decide to charge on Mumbai? I·m in for something bad I just know it. She took a deep breath, held her brief case above her head and walked out in the rain. She could not run as she was wearing heels, stilettos in fact. Darn these heels and this stupid rain. If only I was taller I would not need them! I just wish that the parking lot was nearer to the building. Who told them to keep it so far away? Oh yes I remember ´the building needs to look appealing so we had to add the lawn in front of itµ.

It seemed like ages that she seemed to be walking in the rain and by the time she reached the lot she was wet waist down. She made her way to her car, a red Chevrolet, took of her coat and put it in the back seat. She slid herself smoothly in the driver·s seat and closed the door, lit a cigarette and turned on the engine and veered her car out of the parking lot. She took the same route as she took every day to her home. It usually took her half an hour to reach but 45 minutes to one hour during traffic and today seemed to be one of those miserably lousy days. Her car had barely moved 100 meters in the last 15 minutes, as she looked out of the rain spattered window to see other disgruntled faces like hers in other vehicles. Above all that she could hear so many horns blazing that it was starting to give her a headache. Since she was stuck in traffic she thought she might as well do some thinking rather than waste her time. She peeked a look at her cell phone and checked to see if any message or call had come. Nothing. Then she remembered that the message had not been delivered. She jabbed her fingers on the keypad and dialed Aakash·s number and held the phone to her ear. He didn·t pick up. With a sigh she settled back on the seat, laid her head on the head rest and closed her eyes. Thoughts of the day started going through her mind. Morning when her boss had for the first time said that Shravan was better than her at handling the dealings issues, the hole on her jacket as she had accidentally burnt it by her cigarette, her hand instinctively touching the spot which was burnt. Evening when she got stuck in the elevator and the downpour by the time she got out and now this traffic that she was stuck in. Above all this Aakash was not picking up her phone. She somehow felt very uneasy considering the train of events that had taken place. It seemed to her as if it was a sign that something more disastrous was going to happen. She had never told this to anyone but Aakash and that too after 3 years of their relationship. He did not exactly agree with her ¶omen· theory but he did not prick her on that point and that was exactly why she never felt it wrong that she had told him. Her thoughts drifted to a few days ago when she had got an omen that

something bad was going to happen and the next day when she switched on the TV she saw that the stock market had crashed with the highest losses to the company that she has invested it. Since then she always believed that nature worked in silence to warn you of certain things and that human eye was too blind to see them although she got it most of the times. She was suddenly jerked out of her thoughts as she heard a horn blaring behind her. She looked ahead and saw that the traffic had cleared a bit and that the driver behind her wanted her to get along. ´Yeah yeah I·m movingµ she said mostly to herself as she accelerated the car to fill the few yards. She saw a traffic policeman nearby trying to calm down the people stuck in the traffic. She rolled her window down ignoring the water that was coming inside and waved to the policeman. He did not see her. She waved again. This time he did see her and came to her car. She removed the cigarette from her mouth and held it in her hand. ´How much more time will it take for the traffic to clear?µ she asked directly. ´I can·t sayµ he said with a sigh ´there·s been an accident and we·re trying to remove the parts as fast as we can. But it will be a minimum of 15-20 minutes more.µ ´More?µ she asked aghast. ´A minimum of. It·s taking more time because of the rains too.µ He said as he wiped the water away from his face. ´Fine. Thank youµ she said as she started to close the window. ´One moment madamµ said the policeman as she stopped in the act and turned her eyes to him ´you should not be smoking. It could distract you while driving and it·s not good for your health tooµ

Clearly she was not expecting this as she stared at the policeman who was telling him what was right and not. She had been told many times by others too but she did not care since it was her life and no one other than she could decide what she should do and what not she should do. ´Thank you for your concern but I think that·s my problem?µ her voice filled with sarcasm as she said this to the policeman. Be careful Sneha, remember the last time you were rude with a policeman? a voice in her head spoke. ´I·m so sorryµ she said to the policeman ´it·s just that I·ve been stuck in this traffic for so long and I want to get homeµ. ´We all doµ said the policeman with a smile and that·s when Sneha noticed that he looked charming and his eyes crinkled at the ends when he smiled. How oblivious she had been. ´I just said that because I don·t want to fine you when you are already stuck here but someone else won·t let you off so easilyµ ´I·ll keep that in mindµ said Sneha as she stubbed the cigarette out and smiled at him. ´Thank youµ He smiled back and walked back to control the traffic that was getting on Sneha·s nerves. She dialed Aakash·s number again and this time she got voice mail. ´Hey I·m not free right now. Leave me a messageµ beep. She snapped the phone shut. How could he put her to voice mail? Something is damn wrong and she was going to figure out what and why. She spent her time thinking and occasionally as the traffic lifted would inch her car forward. The rain did not stop, another bad that was making her more frustrated. How she detested rains and she was stuck in it! Finally after 20 minutes she came out of the street and then she took her usual cut to her home and round the corner around the bend and went to her building. As the watchman opened the gate for her and gave her a quick salaam she nodded her head once.

She wheeled her car into the parking lot, took her briefcase and jacket and walked out, locking her car behind. Thank god the parking is inside the building she thought to herself as she looked out the window to see the cars that couldn·t get it inside and had to park them outside. She tried to dry her hair as she waited for the elevator to come. The lightening took her by surprise as she looked outside at the black sky and jumped a little when she heard the thunder. The elevator stopped and she got inside. Pressing the button she turned to look at the mirror. She felt like a complete mess. Her makeup was spoilt and her hair was drenched and flat on her head. She turned away from the mirror. ´Rainsµ she muttered to herself. The elevator stopped on her floor and she stepped out automatically searching her jacket for her keys. She dug her hands in the pocket where she had kept them in the morning and made a face. She groped around a bit more and still could not find anything other than cigarettes and a few papers. She searched in the other pockets and came out empty hand. Fear started gripping her as she started to feel dizzy. Another sign she said aloud. Where could I have left it? I know for sure that I put it in here. I·ll call up Janet and ask her if she saw it when she locked my room. She rang her neighbor·s doorbell and waited till she opened the door. She could feel the dripping of water from her hair on her neck. The door opened and an elderly lady peeked out. ´Hello aunty can I have the key. I seem to have misplaced mineµ she said with a smile. ´Oh it·s you! Yes sure. Just a second, I·ll get it for youµ said the lady as she ambled across the hall to retrieve the key from the shelf where she had hung it. ´Here it isµ she said handing it over to Sneha. ´You seem to have had a bad dayµ she said eying her from top to bottom. ´You can·t even imagine auntyµ said Sneha exasperatedly.

´Ha-ha I·ll let you fresh upµ ´Thanks aunty! I·ll just open the door and give you the keyµ she said as she unlocked the door and kept her briefcase and jacket inside. She returned the key and spoke a few words about her health and then went in her house. She switched on the light, tossed her jacket on the chair and sank on the divan. Just then her phone rang. It was a message. ¶Come o he errace. I have o alk o you. I can

pick up your

calls
A chill went down her spine as if a packet of ice had been dropped on her back. Her phone slacked in her hand and her mind started formulating crazy thoughts. She had no idea what this was about but something in the back of her mind told her that her omen theory was not wrong. Something bad was going to happen and she had to be ready for it. She texted back ¶can

you come down? I s raining·

Within a minute she got her reply ¶no. Come upt She typed ¶okay. Itll take a quick shower and be there.· And hit send. She started breathing hard. What could it be? Did I do something wrong? Does he want to break up with me? Has something happened to someone? So many possibilities she thought of and all eerie. It was as if happy thoughts were lost in the sea of despair. She slowly picked herself off the divan and trudged along the hallway to the bedroom and switched on the light. Everything was exactly as she had left it in the morning. The bed was properly made, the clothes were folded as she had

forgotten to keep them in the rack and the room smelled of a sweet smell- air freshener. She undressed herself and went to the shower dropping her clothes in the hamper on the way. Within 5 minutes she was done as she wrapped a towel and came out of the bathroom. She quickly dried her hair, pulled on a short pant and a tank top and checked to see if there was any trace of mascara below her eyes. Thankfully there wasn·t, so she combed through her hair, pulled on her sneakers, took the spare key off the counter and walked out of the room still thinking hard about what it could be. She grabbed her phone to see if there were any messages from Aakash. None. She sipped a Gatorade and switching off the lights made her way to witness something devastating that was going to happen.

As she waited for the elevator to arrive she thought of a reason why could he want to meet her on the terrace? The only reason that she could come up with was that he wanted to break up. Although she did not want to believe this since they did not have any recent fights still her might kept thinking about the same possibility. The only thing she could not fathom was the reason, because they had been together for 4 years now. The elevator opened and she stepped in to face her friend from an upper floor. ´Hey Sneha what·s up? Why do you look so tensed?µ ´Hey Prachi it·s nothing. Just some work stuffµ ´I hope you aren·t burdening yourself with work again as much as I know that you are a workaholic!µ ´Nah! Just some dealings issues. Don·t worry about me. I·m fine. How was work?µ

´Oh it was good! Our paper has been getting good reviews and the boss liked my story today! He says that if I keep up the work then he·ll think of giving me a promotion!µ ´Hey that·s great!µ said Sneha with fake enthusiasm which was not completely lost on her friend. ´Anyways you take careµ said her friend as she went out when her floor came. Sneha tilted herself against the elevator as it continued to the top floor. ¶Stay calm, it·s nothing· she said to herself again and again. The elevator halted at the top floor and she got out. She made her way up the flight of stairs that would take her to the terrace. As she came to the door she halted and with a deep breath pushed the door. ´Surprise!µ screamed a mob of voice shaking her to the core as she feasted her eyes on the throng of people there as the lights came on just in time with the scream. Some people started blowing a whistle, others started clapping and some started singing. She just stood in shock at the door. ´Hey darling happy anniversaryµ said a voice near her ear making her jump a little. She turned to look at Aakash with a bunch of roses in his hand and a huge smile on his face. He kissed her on the forehead as she took the roses from him still in shock unable to move. ´Come one lets enjoy the partyµ he said as he tugged at her arm. She did not move. ´What·s wrong?µ he asked eying her speculatively. Suddenly Sneha could not control herself as she looked at Aakash·s face and threw herself into his arms clutching at him as if he were a life line to live, tears pouring down her cheeks. And instinctively his arms wrapped around her as he tried to understand her.

´Sneha what·s wrong?µ he asked her again patting her head ´don·t cry, tell me what happenedµ ´I didn·t...I mean...I thought...It was a bad day«you were so...your message...was raining...work...µ she said sobbing in his shirt utterly illegible to him. ´Hey hey calm down its okay. I·m here with you and I·m not going anywhere. Let·s sit downµ he said leading her to a bunch of chairs. By this time the whole terrace was silent and in order to give them their privacy come of them started talking n low voices so that they would not be disturbed. He made her sit on a chair and held her around her waist. ´Stop crying dear and tell me what happenedµ he said in a soothing voice. She looked at him and tried to control her sobbing. ´I had a «bad day at work...and then you weren·t picking up my call...and your message didn·t tell me what to expect and I thought you«you«you wanted to break up with me that·s why you were calling me to the terraceµ she said as she looked at him with innocent eyes. ´Oh darling why would I want to break up with you? I love you.µ He said as he held her face between his palms and gave her a light kiss on the lips. ´And I will always love you.µ ´I know«it·s just«µ ´An omen?µ he asked her with concerned eyes. ´Yesµ she whispered. ´Its· okay there·s nothing to worry. I·m hereµ he said as he pulled her into an embrace. ´Now let·s enjoy the partyµ He got up from the chair and said in a loud voice ´ladies and gentlemen could you all please gather around us for a momentµ holding her hand the time.

As he said this everyone came around them some in shock, some with a smile and some with happiness on their faces. Sneha recognized all of them as their closest friends probably 15 of them. ´As you all knowµ Aakash continued ´Sneha and I have been together for 4 years now and I am much honored that I have a girlfriend like her, because honestly I do not know who would remind me of my upcoming meetings if it was not for herµ he said with a chuckle. Everyone gave a smile and a few giggles when they heard this. ´Well maybe I could use a reminder or a date plannerµ another chuckle went in the crowd and Aakash saw a smile on Sneha·s face ´but I don·t want to embarrass myself more so I will get straight to the partµ saying this he turned towards Sneha and dropped her hand. As the whole crowd watched in astonishment, Aakash put his hand in his pocket and brought out something which he hid in his palm; simultaneously he bent on one knee and looked with an adoring face at Sneha. As Sneha watched in amazement at what was unraveling in front of her Aakash opened the box within his palm and extending it towards Sneha said ´my beloved Sneha will you be mine forever?µ The crowd went silent at the ongoing proceeding. Clearly they had not expected this. The look of shock and bewilderment on their faces was quite evident. ´If only you had warned me before, I could have dressed betterµ said Sneha a slight smile playing across her lips. At this statement the crowd burst into laughter, dissolving the previous atmosphere and replacing it with a serene one. ´Sneha I am asking you to marry me and you·re talking about wardrobe malfunction?µ he asked incredulous. Another ripple of giggles. ´At least a hint?µ she said and paused while Aakash was still on his knees ´yes I will be yours forever Aakashµ she said extending her hand to him.

He slipped the diamond encrusted ring on her finger, got up, pulled her from the chair and gave her a tight hug and all their friends started cheering and toasting in their names. Suddenly Sneha started to cry again and Aakash pulled her out of the hug to see her wiping away the tears. ´Everyone please enjoy the snacks till we come back. Oh! And don·t forget the champagne!µ said Aakash and holding Sneha by the waist took her to the door and made her sit on one of the chairs. The rain kept pouring on the sheet that had been supported on the terrace so that there would be space for them to party. He sat on the chair next to her and asked ´What·s wrong? Did something go wrong?µ ´That·s the thing! I expected that things would go wrong and here I am engaged to be married to you!µ she said wiping her cheeks. ´So«that·s a bad thing?µ said Aakash with a trace of sadness in his voice which Sneha did not miss. ´No no! It·s not like that. I mean, I had a horrible day at work and then I got stuck in traffic and you weren·t taking my calls and then you suddenly call me up here. I thought that you«µ her words drifted as she looked down ashamed to tell Aakash what she had thought. He lifted her chin up and looked into her eyes ´I love you. And nothing can change that. Not even an omenµ he said with slight laugh. ´You seeµ he said ´it·s not always right. It could be sometimes but Sneha you have to believe in life. Well I don·t want to lecture you on this auspicious occasion so«µ he got up ´may I have your hand for a dance?µ Sneha looked to her right and saw the rains outside that had made this whole situation for her. From the time it started to the time she got stuck in traffic, it was the rain that made her panicky. Maybe, she thought, just maybe it could be possible that I might have been mistaken?

Who knows maybe it·s waiting to get back at me tomorrow? She looked at Aakash and saw the smile on his face. Oh what the heck, she thought, I might just as well enjoy tonight as she placed her hand in his.

-Vishaka Chakrapani. 11/07/2010.

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