I've been studying for as long as I can remember. I started working before I graduated, with the result that I've been working through college and after that as well. Then came MBA preparations that drove me a little bit crazier.

With all that crazy-mad rush to be the best and rush to complete assignments and projects, clients constantly breathing and drooling down your neck with every minor changes and details, I've been aching for a vacation, a really nice, relaxed vacation. So, when a friend Madhur Ramani suggested we go to Shillong for a short ten-day trip, it was awesome! Just the thing I was looking for.

So, for the next ten days or so, right up to the 22nd of this month, I shall be off blogging, off facebook and almost off every other social media except maybe my cell phone and email. I shall see you guys on the other side of his awesome cold cold winter as soon as I get back from my trip.

Be good, be happy, be awesome!

Adios y'all!

She looked at me, her almond eyes twinkling with mischief, took my hand. And the world around me disappeared. I could hear the music, the latin upbeat tunes of a funked up pink panther theme. I could feel the other dancers bumping into me now and then, twirling round, dancing with their partners. But I could see no one, for all I could see from the time she took my hand was her eyes looking into mine. We started off from the basic one-two one-two steps back and forth, unsure of how to proceed.

"Relax, take charge, you've done this before. Remember Anu's lessons and just go with the flow." I told myself.

But how could I relax when Neha was so close to me. She drew herself closer, and so did I. All we were doing was moving back and forth. I could tell that she wasn't sure I could actually dance. How could she? I'd never danced before, at least not in public. Behind the closed door of my bedroom was a different case, but that never really qualified as a real dance anyway. I started remembering the steps from Anu's house, trying to pick up the rhythm as the song progressed. Suddenly, Raj bumped into me from behind and everything, the DJ, my friends, the dance floor, everything came back to sight, and as if a switch had been flipped on within me, I drew Neha closer with a jerk, grabbing her by the waist, swinging mine at the same time to the rhythm of the beat. This sudden change in my behaviour didn't go unnoticed, not by those around me and certainly not by Neha. The look on her face was priceless! Her eyes went wide with surprise, a huge grin appeared on her face and her eyebrows wiggled a little as she tried to stop herself from laughing.

"Nice! I'm impressed. Now show me what you got!"
she said, and put her arms around me.

Off we went, legs twisting, arms weaving around each other. The beats got wilder, so did we. I winked at Anu as we passed her and mouthed "Thank you!" to which she simply winked back and gave me a thumbs up. Neha seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself, and completely surprised too. She'd never expected me to dance so well. And dancing with her, I realized she was quite a hot dancer as well! She swung her hips around me, pushing her almost to mine. I held her waist and twirled her around, her red dress billowing out, revealing her perfect thighs as I reached out and grabbed her hand to pull her in. Rolling in, she jumped into my arms as I swung her around and down onto the floor. A half twirl and she was up again. The night was young, and we danced as one, music thumping in our ears, our hearts thumping louder. As the song neared it's end and the DJ switched to a soft, romantic ballad, we held hands and swayed on the spot, covered with sweat and hot from dancing. She placed her head on my chest and we danced as if it was prom. I could smell her hair, the aroma of her perfume, feel her breath on my chest through my shirt. The lights were dim and we melted into each other on the dance floor.

It was perfect.


It was late and most of our friends had already left for home. The moon was bright that night, and it bathed us in the moonlight. Somewhere far off, an owl hooted and crickets chirped around us. The cool christmas night was perfect for a walk. So I'd offered to walk her home. As usual, we were chatting about all that had happened back at school, how one guy had smuggled in beer, got drunk and trashed the principal's office, about the flings and crushes within our group of friends..the general nonsense. And all this while, I had been thinking how to pop the question, when suddenly Neha turned to me.

"Hey I had a really great time tonight. You really surprised me back there! Where did you learn to dance like that?"

"Anu. She's an awesome dancer isn't she?" I said.

"She is. But I think you stole her thunder tonight. Did you see the look of surprise on everyone's face to see you dancing like that? It was amazing! I think they never expected that out of you!"

I almost blushed. Thankfully it was night and she wouldn't notice.
"Hehe...I guess so. It was all a secret mission after all, to shock everyone. Especially you. Forget others, you should have seen the look on your face! For a moment, I thought you were gonna faint!"

"Actually I didn't know whether to faint, or laugh or what!" she said, starting to laugh again. "I've never been so surprised, or scared in my life! No no no! Not scared in a bad way...just that I thought you were falling when you grabbed me like that! Don't ever pull that stunt on me again!" At that I started laughing too. "Hey, but you have to admit, it was funny. There was no way you would have danced with me like that if I didn't start it off right? I mean, you were just swaying there, no energy at all...Ouch! Hey! No punching!"

Yeah right! You deserve it! But seriously, I'd dance with you any time of the day. You're wonderful." she said, slipping her arm into mine as we walked the long way home, our usual route.

This was a good time, I thought. It's now or never.



"You know we've been friends for a long time right?"


"Well, I was thinking, we get along so well, and we enjoy each others' company too....so...erm...why not, y'know, we...."

And I stopped. Not because I didn't know what to say. I did. In fact I had practiced saying it to her in my mind a hundred times and the words were all ready to tumble out of my mouth. But she'd stopped.
"Neha? What happened?"

She looked at me, and as I looked back, I saw sadness in her eyes. No tears, but just a deep, deep sadness as if she'd lost something very dear to her.

"You know why I had said we should go to the ball as friends? It's not because I don't like you. I do. I do like you, so very much. I love you from the bottom of my heart. There's nothing in this world I wouldn't deny to you and I know you would do the same for me. You were one of my first friends when I moved to this city, and you've been the best friend I've had in a long time. I've shared with you what I have not shared with any other friend. I don't think I could ask for a better person to love. But I cannot. I will be moving away this summer. After school ends, my dad will be transferred to Delhi. This was my last year here and I didn't tell you because I wanted to spend it in the best mood possible. If I'd told you guys, I would have seen sad looks on your faces for the rest of the school year, which I didn't want. So I cannot say I do not love you my dear dear friend, because I do, but I can't let you take your emotions ahead in false hope that things will work out between us. I do not know where I shall be going from here on either. After Delhi, it might be somewhere else. I don't know whether we shall even meet again once school ends."

I couldn't believe myself. Was this really happening? I had expected her to say no of sorts, but not this. I simply stood there. I wanted so say something but words failed me. Reality came crashing down, rather I came crashing down from the clouds where I had started building my castle.

"Come on, say something, anything." said Neha. "I'm really sorry. I cannot accept your proposal because I do not want to hurt you. I cherish you too much to do that."

I somehow mustered up whatever emotion I had welling up in me.. "I do understand what you're saying and I don't think it will make sense right now. Give me a day or two and a few chocolates and I'll think straight again."
Feeble jokes were the only way I could hold back the wave building up inside me, pushing at my throat to escape.

We stood there for a long time, side by side, staring up at the moon and down at the sidewalk. Then she slowly moved closer and drew me into a hug. I hugged her back. At first our hug was light and tender, as if to soothe a wound, and it slowly grew tighter and tighter till we were squeezing each other, neither willing to let go as if letting go would lose the other. Finally, a long embrace and some silent thoughts passing between us, we held hands and started walking.


It's been six years. Neha moved away after school as she had said, and I missed her terribly. There wasn't a time when I walked by her neighbourhood that I didn't look up at her window as if she would wave at me from within. We've managed to keep in touch, first through letters, then sms, and through e-mails. It's funny we never managed to talk to each other much over the phone. I guess it was too difficult at first and then we sort of got used to writing to each other. She's pretty successful now, working with a media production house. I haven't been too laid back about my interests too - photography. My camera never leaves my side and I'm well on my way to do an MBA. I guess that's about the only promise that we've managed to keep back from high school - that we'd follow our passions no matter what.

She has recently been transfered back to town, and she sent me her number over an internet chat. I'm meeting her tomorrow at the coffee shop in the mall next to the shop where she bought her gown. And I think the white lilies I ordered are here.

Is this To Be Continued? Or just the beginning to Neha's story?

I don't know, but I'm off to find out!


Guys, before I go ahead with Neha's story, I'd like to invite you all to my photoblog - Snapshots

I've been clicking from the time I first got my hands on one of those old point and shoot cameras. Since then, I've craved for a really good camera so I can show the world what I see through my eyes. About six months back, I finally purchased the Canon EOS 450D (Also known as the Rebel XSi)
which was the perfect camera for me.
I fell in love with it from the very first shot. And I've been capturing images around me ever since. Today, it's an inseparable part of me. I take it with me wherever I go.

And so I humbly invite you to check out my work...no, passion...one image at a time at Snapshots.

Enjoy the photos, and cheers!!

Each time, in the past, that I'd have thought of the word, I'd imagine a princess out of a Disney storybook, golden hair tied up in a bun, a white frilly gown with puffy sleeves, a shining tiara on her head, resting just above her bangs, tilted just a little bit from her slightly wavy hair. Elbow length silky gloves covering her slender pale arms, leading my eye from one fingertip of one hand to the fingertip of the other. Satin laced high heels with straps going up her feet. And a light red lipstick lining those luscious lips.
But Neha, she was different, oh so different. Shopping with her was nothing like what I'd thought it would be. None of the boring talk about clothes, shoes and handbags. We chatted as if we were out buying a birthday gift for a friend. We window shopped most of the time, and more than once, she'd embarrass me by grabbing me and walking into a lingerie store. I'd run out of the store the moment I got the chance which left her laughing at the store entrance as I tried to look as cool as I could by pretending to answer a call on my mobile phone. Over the next few hours, she tried on so many different gowns, a few skirts and so on. She'd give me my own mini-fashion show in front of the trial rooms and she was FAST! I'd always thought women take a long time to change, but not her.
When I asked, she replied, "It's just pulling your clothes off and putting something on again. How difficult can it be?"
I quietly smiled to myself at the thought and walk along.
Finally, we stopped at the ground gloor of the mall for ice-cream when,

Neha: Okay, I've made my decision. I know what to wear for the ball, but I don't want you to know. I want it to be a surprise for you.

Me: Really? Then what was all these hours of window shopping for? I thought you wanted my opinion.
(disappointment times ten! Not fair!)

Neha: Oh don't stress so much or you'll lose hair. And I don't want a bald date for the dance. You helped a lot even though you don't know it.

I smiled a bit at that even though I was still cleary disappointed.

Neha: Come on! Cheer up man! Listen, I'll tell you one thing. Come tomorrow, you'll have the hottest date for the dance. I'll make sure of that. But make sure I have the hottest guy on the dance floor in turn!

Me(visibly going red, crimson, pink and all shades in between): As you say ma'am! We'll smoke the dance floor tomorrow. You'll see.

Neha: Now go home. I'll finish my shopping and head back too. See you tomorrow partner.

Me: Alright alright. I'll go now. But I still feel it's unfair not to let me take a peek at what you're buying.

Neha: Oh stop sulking you baby, and go!

With that she gave me a friendly push. We hugged and parted ways, she with her gown in mind, and me with her in mine.


Saturday evening.
The entire school hall was alive and pulsating with music and laughter. Students pouring in from all sides made for an ocean of black bowties and corsets, tuxedos and gowns, red and green shirts, santa hats and familiar smiling faces. Yet no Neha.
Is she late? Did she stand me up? Did something happen to her?
"Don't panic, relax.." I told myself. But how could I not? Tonight was probably the most important night of my life. Yet. And Neha wasn't there. Yet. I looked around. Everyone was so happy, everyone had a date, a partner they walked in with, a partner they'd dance with.
I started imagining the dance floor, with all my friends dancing with their dates, and me, sitting alone at a table, with a glass of lemonade, staring at them, wishing I could be there, wishing Neha were there with me...
"Hey Hi!! Sorry I'm late man!"
Wait. That voice was familiar. I shook myself out of my daydream to see her. You know how wish that when you wake up, the first thing you see be someone you love? Well, this was better. She looked absolutely stunning! My Disney princess was nothing like her.
She was real.
And right here!

If I thought white was THE colour for a gown, I was knew I was wrong the moment I laid eyes on her. She wore a red satin halter dress that flaunted her slim waist to the point of perfect elegance. Her hair was tied back and up in a bun. Her bangs were brushed to the sides and behind her ears, from where a few stray hair fell across her face, just the way I loved it. Around her neck was silver necklace that reflected a soft glow onto her face. Matching high heels and a silver bracelet completed her outfit and she looked gorgeous. As she stood there at the entrance, bathed in the soft light coming from the school hall, I couldn't help but wonder what she saw in me.

She walked right up to me and said, "What are we waiting for? Lets get dancing! I'm just dying to see if you really are as bad as you claim to be!"
Well, never keep a lady waiting, I say. And so off we went, hand in hand, blissful to a high.

Now, my crush hasn't exactly been a very subtle thing, and I guessed quite a few people had noticed over time. What I didn't guess was how many. As we stepped into the hall, I swear, all eyes turned to us. And everyone who knew us and had noticed us, cheered! I turned redder than Neha's gown! But she didn't seem to notice. She dragged me to the dance floor. Between fits of embarrassment and trying not to look at all our friends cheering at us, I went to the DJ and asked him to play some latino mix. Luckily, he had a few mixes which I'd recognized from my sessions with Anu. This was going better than I'd expected!! Time to get into the act! I huffed and puffed and pulled in my stomach and walked as gracefully as I could to her and held out my hand.

"Why are you walking that way?" she asked. "Does your tummy hurt?"
We stared at each other and burst into laughter. And that did it. It broke the tension I was building up between us, and got me over my embarrassment. We stood there for a long time, leaning on each other, laughing at the absurdity of whatever I'd just done. Then finally, as the music started picking up rhythm, I held out my hand again, and asked,


Next time:
The night ends.

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III