To read Part II of this story, please click here – I’ll Be Watching You (Part II)
(Reading Time: 10 minutes)
Apeksha Sahni didn’t get it. Everything was working out for her. She had just been promoted to the head of her department, a dream that she’d had for so long now that fantasizing about it had almost become a part of her existence. She was in a stable relationship with a wonderful man; her life in general couldn’t have been more perfect at the moment.
Good things just seemed to happen to her lately. Nothing seemed to go wrong anymore. All the problems that would make her periodically question her existence earlier, like the fights with her boyfriend, the failed presentations, and the innumerable seemingly innocuous but pertinent frustrations that hovered around her life, had suddenly disappeared.
So, she wondered why she wasn’t nearly as content and happy as she should be. She wondered why everything being right seemed anything but. Apeksha couldn’t really understand what more there was, that she could have asked for and in truth she knew that there wasn’t. It was just that everything around her felt abnormally perfect.
She told herself that perhaps everything was falling into place too quickly. Everything was happening too fast and she would just need some time to get used to the pace. It’s strange how you can suddenly get everything you want and still feel anything but satisfied. Somehow, it just seems to lose its sheen.
There were other factors, as well. To start with, Apeksha hadn’t gotten promoted to the post of Creative Director of Trikaya Grey, a renowned advertising agency, in the most natural of circumstances.
Ravi, the director before her, had died in a freak accident the week before. He had driven early to work and as always had parked in the underground parking of the building. There had been a malfunction inside his Toyota Corolla which had started a fire. The car had an electronic central locking system which ceased to work once the fire started to spread.
So, he had been trapped inside a burning car and had succumbed to the injuries, on the spot.
Following the incident, there had been a somber atmosphere at work for a week. Nobody could seem to believe what had really happened.
Apeksha had always been the obvious replacement and had been informed that she would be the new director. The orchestrators at the top waited for some time before announcing their decision and making it official.
“You would have gotten the job, sooner than later, you know?” said Arjun, the very man she had been dating for the past six months.
Apeksha didn’t reply, she plainly stared into her empty plate. They were eating dinner at an expensive restaurant in Green Park. It was supposed to have been a celebratory dinner but the circumstances of her promotion still loomed over it like an uncomfortable shadow, which she desperately wanted to crawl away from.
They were supposed to be having fun, Apeksha was meant to be overjoyed that the moment she had been waiting for, for so long had finally come and that she had reached another milestone in her professional career. And yet, the mood was anything but jovial.
Around twenty minutes later, as they made their way through their main course, Arjun finally spoke up.
“You know, I don’t see how you can even continue to sit there and keep thinking about how it happened, because you know the fact is that you deserved it. Now life doesn’t normally just throw us opportunities like this. Never mind the circumstances. We can’t really afford to sit in retrospection and keep analyzing how we get things! You get it, you use it, you move on. PERIOD. Now I want you to cheer up and accept that destiny always finds its way somehow.”
“You’ve waited to take over this role for years and there’s nobody who deserves it more than you out there, alright! So I want you to forget what happened and just come to terms with the reality. Okay? Cheers?”
Apeksha finally smiled and raised her glass.
On her first day at work as the Creative Director, Apeksha made her opening speech, everyone in the room already knew her really well, but as a colleague mostly and not as a clear superior. So she felt she had to lay down a fine balance between making sure they recognized and acknowledged her new authority and that she made sure she was still approachable.
She was taking the lift to her 3rd floor apartment in DLF Phase – 1 in Gurgaon as she ran into Nimisha. Nimisha was one of her neighbors on the 3rd floor. They didn’t share the most congenial of relationships and were always getting into arguments for some reason or the other. Lately, they had made a conscious decision to not talk to each other.
So, as they both got in the elevator, Apeksha was already immersed in her own thoughts and prepared to dismiss Nimisha’s presence as always, when she found herself at the end of the most welcoming smiles that she had ever witnessed.
“Hi, how’ve you been?”
What surprised her more was the way Nimisha spoke. Her tone wasn’t fake or arrogant. It really seemed genuine.
“I’m good.” Apeksha replied after she had recovered from her thoughts.
Apeksha was too momentarily stunned to even ask her how she was. She just stared at Nimisha for the longest time, even as they both got off on the 3rd floor and went their separate ways.
She entered her house and went straight to the kitchen. She noticed that the tap in the kitchen sink was still leaking and almost sighed loudly. She could recall almost five times, having told the society plumber to fix that tap. She wasn’t overly conscious about the wasted water, but it had begun to annoy her now.
She went to take her evening shower and afterwards came out and entered the kitchen to eat dinner. She immediately froze and a felt an awkward sensation run down the length of her spine. The tap had stopped leaking. She stood there for a while, completely astonished. After regaining her composure, she walked over to the tap and examined it carefully. Not a single drop poured out. She opened the tap to make sure the water from the line hadn’t stopped; and it gushed out, right on cue.
She looked around the house frantically, almost expecting to find her society plumber hiding somewhere with a big smile on his face.
The leak must have subsided for some reason. She didn’t think about it again as she ate her dinner and went to sleep. It had been a pretty long day to say the least.
The next few days pretty much characterized how Apeksha’s life had changed. It wasn’t so much about being turned upside down by monumental events. Not that her sudden promotion hadn’t played its part but this was more about the small things, the minor supposedly irrelevant problems that swarm all across our regular lives. All the things that would irritate and frustrate her throughout the course of her day suddenly seemed to not only fade but disappear altogether. Whether it was the daily argument she used to have with a person in her building over the parking space or her irritating, pesky next door neighbor Nimisha who now seemed to be the most thoughtful and loving neighbor that anyone could ever have.
Everything in her life suddenly seemed to run like a well oiled indefatigable perfect machine.
Initially, albeit skeptically Apeksha was thrilled. This seemed to be a great phase that she was going through, her life moving forward in perfect symphony. She felt elated, and looked forward to every day with renewed enthusiasm.
A couple of months passed and suddenly she started to get annoyed. Her life had taken a sharp turn for the better on a road adorned with achievements and accolades, smooth and straight. Only, she didn’t seem ready for it. There comes a certain eeriness when the events in your life seem to synchronize and fit the preciseness of your desires. The oddness is only magnified when this happens within a short space of time. It’s quite remarkable how that would bother her the most. Maybe it’s the balance of the imbalance in our lives that is so necessary to drive us constantly.
One morning, Apeksha was walking out of the front door when she stopped abruptly and fell into deep thought. There was a pretty big bookshelf in the drawing room, just adjacent to the front door. She went to her bedroom and picked up a few documents. As she walked towards the front door again, she tripped over the small teak coffee table in the drawing room. As she struggled to get her balance her hands tried to grasp the top section of the bookshelf. She ended up falling anyway, and took the whole top shelf of the neatly arranged books with her. Apeksha got up without much fuss and looked at the books scattered all over the floor. After taking another look at her watch, she decided it could wait and walked out.
Much later, in the evening Apeksha walked towards her house immensely anxious. She said a short prayer, and opened the front door. To her astonishment, she saw that the bookshelf was in its place and all the books were arranged in symmetry. Except the John Grishams were to the left and the classics were to the right. She always arranged them the opposite way.
Apeksha was distraught and extremely worried. For a moment though, she suspended her emotions and called up Arjun. She needed to talk to him right away.
“Hi!” Arjun answered.
“Hi” she said, many decibels lower.
“Listen, I want to see you right now. There’s something really strange happening around me.”
“Uh. Sure, I’ll be at your place in fifteen minutes?”
Apeksha paused before saying.
“No, let’s meet at the cafe right next to my house. In fifteen, yes.”
“Yeah, sure. See you. Bye.”
Approximately fifteen minutes later, they were both at the cafe. Arjun seemed intrigued and a little concerned. Apeksha seemed devoid of any emotion. Almost as soon as they found a table and sat down, she started talking.
What she said was completely strained with emotion.
“Why are you doing this Arjun?” Apeksha looked down, seemingly staring at the table, her eyes half closed though.
“Doing what? What are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about, I know what you’re doing and I don’t even know how you’re doing it. But I know it is you. It can’t possibly be anyone else. And if it is you, I don’t even know who you are anymore, and I don’t understand why you’re doing this! It’s been you all along hasn’t it?” Her voice was hoarse now.
“See, calm down. It’s not that simple. Don’t be so loud. “
“Loud? Is that what you’re concerned about? You’re sick, you know that?
“You’ve been following me around too, haven’t you? I saw you that day at the office. What were you doing there so late? That was your day off. Weren’t you supposed to be at your aunt’s place?”
“You don’t understand. Lower your voice.” Arjun was still calm, although his tone had more authority now.
Apeksha did lower her voice, much to the displeasure of everyone who was watching. “I don’t even know how you’re doing it, how are you doing it Arjun?”
She was staring right into his eyes.
“Let’s go somewhere a little more private.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you until you answer my question.”
“There’s a park nearby, let’s just walk there okay? We’re creating a scene.”
Somehow Apeksha agreed. They walked to a fairly abandoned park right next to her house. She could see a few security guards walking around and a young couple, so she felt safe.
A horrible thought suddenly came to Apeksha’s head.
“Did you have anything to do with Ravi?”
Her eyes were fixed intently on Arjun’s. She felt a little silly at having asked the question, but he lingered. She had been hoping that he would scream at her for having even mentioned such a preposterous thought, but he didn’t. He seemed confused.
“OH MY GOD! ANSWER THE QUESTION ARJUN??!!”
To read Part II of this story, please click here – I’ll Be Watching You (Part II)