Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

End of a Long Journey

Sruthi fumed as she tapped on the keyboard. She wasn’t interested in what was on the screen but she had to do it. Someone has to do it, she told herself.

‘Yes, but why not someone else, for once.’ A small voice came from her heart. Sruthi shut that voice with a loud hmmphhh… and moved the screen of the laptop frivolously.

“It had been ten weeks since I submitted my report, proper and in order. But did the others finish off their work in time — NO! and now I am stuck with doing all of this just before the deadline.” Sruthi lamented loudly.

‘At least Barry is helping a little.’ Sruthi thought as she saw him coming online on the shared document.

On cue, her phone started to ring.

“Hey Sruthi! I saw the doc. It looks good. Great work. I will be going out now but let me know if you need something. Bye.” Barry said quickly and clicked.

“Hello! Hello Barry! Hello!!” Sruthi kept shouting but Barry was gone.

Sruthi looked at her phone shaking and threw it across the room at the wall. Surprisingly, the phone survived. Part of the reason was her strong phone cover that was present to deal with her emotions. Another was the large distance of the room that reduced the speed of the phone when it hit the wall. Unfortunately, even after this daring act, the phone was unable to improve Sruthi’s mood.

“Whoa!! I am guessing the project had a minor setback.” Raghav said looking at the phone that had just flown over his head to the wall in front of him. He went and picked it up and gave it back to Sruthi.

“Sorry. I am just so upset. No one would help me finish off this project.” Sruthi said, her voice again rising. Raghav looked at her and then at the report.

“I will help you out.” Raghav said and sat down in front of the laptop.

“Thanks but you won’t understand. It is complicated work stuff. Besides, you have that meeting.” Sruthi said.

“Nah. I will blow that off. Its not important. It is that complain girl again complaining about the quotes we have given. Every time I talk to her, I am enraged. I shudder to think what she would be in person. And Ms. Sruthi, don’t you think I might be able to help even a little for a project in a company I created 200 years ago.” Raghav said mockingly.

Sruthi looked at him incredulously and then started laughing.

“You do know that times have changed. This company doesn’t even deal in the same industry that you started it in.” Sruthi said.

“Uh-huh! So what. Lemme see those notes.” Raghav said and saw a lot of charts merging into one another.

“The complain girl looking attractive now.” Sruthi said with a twinkle in her eyes. Her husband was a great businessman and knew almost everything about everything but he had a terrible weakness — he hated grunt work. And all this was exactly that — grunt work.

“Go away you moron. Do your meeting. I will get this done by the time you are back.” Sruthi said pushing him away. Raghav pulled her closer and kissed her.

“Ok. I will be back as soon as possible.”

“Its been 300 years love. I know.” Sruthi said putting her hand on Raghav’s cheek. She couldn’t believe 300 years had passed since she met him the first time. Raghav left the house and Sruthi closed the door behind him and came back to the desk.

Sruthi sighed and went back to work. She had worked hard for this report and it would ensure her a promotion she had been coveting for years now. Of course, she would have to leave the company once she had gotten that promotion. She couldn’t attract too much attention to herself, lest someone finds it out that she is immortal.

Sruthi was about 320 years old, give or take five years. She wasn’t sure of her age because no one knew the year she was born. Her mother would only say that the year she was born had a lot of rain. Not sufficient enough information to go on. Now, it was immaterial as she was always passing as a 25 year old and would live in any area for not more than six or seven years.

Meeting Raghav changed her life forever. She was a 20 odd girl when she met him and he was more than 600 years old. She was extremely sick and everyone had given up hope on her. She had accepted that she would die when she met Raghav. He spent a few minutes every day with her for over a month before asking her hand from her father. Sruthi still remembers her father’s shock but he said yes. To everyone’s surprise, Sruthi started to get better after marriage. Most thought it was some astrological issue that corrected itself after marriage. She thought the same until Raghav told her the truth.

Raghav was immortal and couldn’t get sick. Eternal youth, eternal health and eternal life — Raghav had everything. And best of all, he could share it with someone whom he loved. Raghav didn’t understand how it worked but people whom he loved would not get sick or die. His parents still lived and were currently on their 75th world tour. His sister had written almost all the best writing pieces of the past 400 years under different pen names or ghostwriting including Hamlet and Harry Potter. Sruthi had no clue how she continued her enthusiasm for one activity for so long. Sruthi got bored of each activity every 50 years or so.

Sruthi realised that she hadn’t picked up her work and was simply day-dreaming about the past. Raghav had been a constant in her crazy life. He loved her through her anger, her craziness and her mood-swings. He would joke that these things kept his long life entertaining.

Sruthi shook her head and went back to work. She worked on it for straight two hours before she gave herself a break. Once done, she opened a slab of ice-cream and celebrated her work. The cold ice-cream was exactly what she needed. Unfortunately, as she was devouring on the chocolate brick, her phone rang and vibrated vigourously. It stopped after one specific tone, indicating a message from Raghav. Sruthi kept the ice cream down and went to pick the phone.

Before she could pick up the phone, her throat choked and she started to cough and sneeze. The feeling was so alien to her that she didn’t know what to do. She gulped down some water and the cough subsided. Her nose was close. Horrified, she realised that she had cold.

She picked up her phone and saw the message from Raghav.

‘Sorry Sruthi.’ It said.

‘Of course’, Sruthi realised the reason for her cold.

‘Complain girl?’ Sruthi typed back.

‘Yes. I am sorry. I don’t know how to control it. Nothing has happened between us. We just talked and something flipped. Please forgive me. I am sorry.’ Raghav’s message came.

Sruthi closed his eyes and took a deep breath. She knew that nothing had happened and yet, everything had happened. In one moment, she had lost everything she had — her health, her love, her life.

She sniffed and tears started to flow from her eyes. She pulled out her handkerchief to wipe her tears and for the first time in 300 years to wipe her nose.