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Drama Fantasy Funny

I had spent an entire afternoon weeping over Kavan Rathore’s death, for the eleventh time in a week. It was disorienting to see him outside the grocery store, that very evening, smiling his heart-wrenching, lopsided smile.

It had all started with the flu. The one I caught by getting wet in the rain and jumping into puddles like a lunatic. Why did I do all of the above mentioned things? There is no dignified answer to that, I am afraid, so I’ll come out clean. It was a desperate performance of the manic-pixie dream girl, for a boyfriend who was to click a bunch of incredible photos and share them with #mygirlsosweet (he did not, eventually).

Three days later, I was sneezing out most of my body fluids and crying out the rest of them, covered in snot and slime. When I rang up my knight in shining armour, to complain, it was mostly crickets chirping on the other side.

“Babe, I feel like my head is splitting into two. Also, my throat feels like someone scrubbed it with sandpaper. Catching a cold is the worst thing, and that too right near the end of the second quarter. I am already trembling from the pending workload of missed deadlines and harrowing data presentations.”

“Hmm, that sounds bad.”

Obviously, it was meant to. Why else would I be complaining about a headache, to a relative stranger at two in the night?

“What do you suggest? The medicines I’ve got are not proving to be that effective. Do you know about any other doctor I can go to?”

“Yeah, sure.” The phone pinged, I received a forwarded number and he hung up.That was when I decided to call someone useful, someone who felt like a real human being at the other end of the phone, not some brainless, gutless answering machine at a hospital help desk.

It was my elder sister, Anisha. She listened to me patiently, agreed that everything should feel like crap when you have the flu and fixed up an appointment at a reasonably priced hospital, quite close to my flat. And just because we share the same DNA, she also joined me in trashing my boyfriend, and suggested a really good web series that would lift my mood till the time I felt better.

If it hadn't been for her, I wouldn't even have started watching what I now realize is the worst romantic comedy/horror/supernatural thriller ever. Since I recovered, I have tried to go back to the show, trying to find something that might have made it watchable, but every time it just makes my head swim. I was able to make it through 5 reruns only because I slept through half of them and had my eyes tearing up,clouding my visibility for the rest half. 

The female lead was a barbie doll, the male lead was a misogynistic, baby faced idiot and the plot was so convoluted and gnarled that if you tried to understand one end of it, you would probably find yourself in some other universe by the other end. Then I remembered what had made my cold-blocked sinuses open-up and glue themselves to the screen. 

It was the antihero, Kavan Rathore. Best friend to hero, plenty of hidden motives, wrapped in intriguing shades of grey and romantically aloof (by the second rerun, I definitely wanted to be his romantic interest). If the male lead was being pampered by his servants and had women fawning over him, Kavan was putting his life on line for a mysterious, dangerous mission. He was silent, broody and his deep dark eyes swirled with danger and charisma.

I almost hadn’t noticed him at first, amidst all the grand gestures of love and supernatural snakes turning into humans. Just as the show became so droll that even my virus infected brain couldn't take it in, the makers zoomed in on his role. Suddenly, Kavan was the one making decisions, carrying out underhand deals, mixing with the bad guys. But my heart knew from the very beginning that this was only a charade, he was probably just misunderstood.

Because look at that face! The perfect angled jaw that is chiselled but still is soft near the chin, the curved-bow like mouth and those droopy, black eyes. I knew this character had to have a redemption arc, he was just too good to be bad. This was day no. 3 of the flu. With only a few episodes left, the show was almost inching close to my all time favourite list.Life was good, Kavan had been shown to be a secret protector of the male lead and he would probably walk into the sunset, alone, but looking for love. 

And then they killed him.

Maybe such a delightful heartthrob was fated to die anyway, but I hadn't expected the plot to  sacrifice him just for the sake of the male lead delivering an elaborate, useless monologue. My fever and choked throat were nowhere close to the pain of watching him bleed out, gasping and sobbing and pledging his life and friendship to the hero.

If someone had been in the same room that day, watching me watch the episode, they would have seen a 24 year old adult woman, sitting among a pile of used handkerchiefs and crumpled tissues, shake and tremble as if her life was coming to an end.

Luckily, no one did. But I woke up the next morning with a burning fever and only half aware of where I was. I vaguely remember calling out to my mother, iny empty flat, near noon and then falling asleep on an empty stomach. The doctor looked visibly grim when I turned up for a second check-up.

The next phase of the flu began as I walked home after the checkup, clutching a paper bag brimming with shiny silver foils of all sorts of colourful pills and taste-bud-burning cough syrups. Anisha had spoken to my neighbour, a middle-aged banker named Mrs. Sinha and she kindly consented to share her meals with me. The rest of the week is a blur--I remember waking up in the morning to greet Mrs. Sinha, waiting desperately for the dabba of food and trying to snivel back into my flat as soon as possible. The rest of the day I would drift in and out of very garbled childhood dreams. 

Sometimes I would see my grandmother scolding Anisha and me and in the middle of that I would see the supervisor in my office join in, and add to the steadily growing list of my faults. To ease my mind of this pain I traded in a different kind of torture. I went back to a rerun of the aforementioned web series. This time I skipped most of the introduction, breezed through the meet-cute between the lead pair and finally reached the part of Kavan Rathore’s entry when he saved the female lead and let her think the hero did it, by melting into the shadows. Having a weakness for underdogs in general, I went to sleep holding a bowl of rice and curry, dreaming of the million ways I would have definitely noticed him in the same situation.

When the bell rang the next morning, it shattered my nerves and I tipped out of the couch, bowl, rice and curry. This was day 5 and I had stopped bothering about appearances. If Mrs. Sinha was going to see me groggy-eyed, speaking like a zombie in an oil-stained T-shirt, there was nothing much I could do. When I opened the door, craning out my face and trying to hide the rest of the mess I was, she did not appear to be very disturbed.

“Good morning, Beta. How are you?”

My cheeks burned when I put in the effort to smile. “Much better, Aunty. I would have invited you in but the house is a bit of a mess.”

She reached into her bag and I already started extending my arm for my packed lunch. Instead of her usual steel tiffin boxes, she pulled out a crumpled roll of aluminium foil and placed it in my hands. It was disastrously light. My lost appetite made a comeback and rumbled sadly in my stomach.

“My maid is on a holiday today, so I packed your lunch in a hurry and didn’t bring the box. You already look much better than yesterday. I think by tomorrow, you will be back on your feet. Take care, bye.”

“Bye, Aunty.” My voice floated off weakly, and I didn’t even wait to reach the dinner-table. Closing the door behind me, I unpacked the foil, gulped down the dry aloo paratha she had made, then lumbered off to sleep again. Mrs Sinha's words turned out to be mysteriously prophetic as I woke up in the evening, feeling more aware of the world and slightly less numbed. I decided to walk to the nearest grocery store and stock up the fridge, in a burst of optimism. 

Near the bread and dairy aisle, my world stopped spinning as I spotted Kavan outside, surveying the store. Beautiful, brave, Kavan Rathore, who sacrificed himself, blood spilling out from his mouth and dove-eyes tearing up before going still. We locked eyes and he smiled--the sad, cynical, drop-dead gorgeous smile I had memorized by now. But something moved behind him and my eyes shifted focus. 

A huge cargo trolley, squeaked and groaned on its rusty wheels as it made its way towards the grocery store. The boxes on the top swayed dangerously and I bounded out of the store. I already knew that those boxes contained something heavy that would fall on my heartthrob just like they had fallen on the female lead in the show. I would not let him die, I would be the savior's savior.

Unfortunately, my depleted stores of energy could not keep up with the run that I had broken into. My legs trembled and collapsed before I could reach the grey checked shirt that I loved so much on Kavan’s broad, athletic figure.

The next thing I remember is waking up to Anisha’s powerful eyebrows knitted together in intense focus as she studied my face. 

“You are in big trouble.”

“Did I save Kavan? Is he alright?”

“Who?” Anisha’s eyebrows shot into her hairline and her nose curved up viciously.

“Kavan, Kavan Rathore. Arrey, the one in that web series, he was standing outside the grocery store.” I tried to move and saw that I was on drip, on a hospital bed.

“You mean the actor who plays him? And which grocery store? I brought you to the hospital straight from your flat and Mrs. Sinha told me you hadn’t left your flat in the last 3 days.” 

“What happened to me? Is the flu getting bad?”

Anisha smacked the hospital case file shut. “Yeah, it did get bad. That tends to happen when you starve a sick, weakened body and forget to take most of your medicines.”

Things had gone too far for me to be indignant at being scolded like a 5 year old. “It wasn’t me, just the delirium--it knocked me completely out of my senses.”

It has been a year since the Week of the Flu. I have broken up with my pre-flu boyfriend (no drama at all--he calmly told me to pay my half of the bill as we left the eatery where we broke up.) Nowadays I only watch non-fiction--documentaries, travel shows--you know, mature adult stuff. I have given up on all--just a second, my phone is ringing, it's Anisha.

“Have you watched the actor who played Kavan Rathore, in his recent interview?” She wasn’t going to let me forget this so easily, was she?

“No, because I’m not interested, thank you very much.”

“I’m sending the link. Watch it right now. He is talking about a paranormal experience he has had last year.”

I wasted 5 minutes, trying to convince myself I was not interested, before tuning into the interview. The host asked him whether he believed in ghosts, being a part of such a hugely popular supernatural show. 

He looked a bit different, almost like a twin. Same features, same voice but I felt nothing like watching my Kavan Rathore.

“Not in ghosts,” he replied, “but I did have a very strange experience last year. I had a minor head injury, and initially I used to have nonsensical dreams. I would see this 5-feet-4 woman smiling at me from a grocery store I have never been to. I kept having the same dream again and again. It almost felt like she was someone I had met.”

I stopped watching, locked down my phone and went back to work.

THE END

July 31, 2020 08:55

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1 comment

B H
14:41 Aug 06, 2020

Haha I liked this story. It was very interesting especially the last part. I enjoyed! Would you mind checking my story whenever you have time?

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