07:00 pm; 14th February
The book launch event had concluded. Akshay was officially a published author now. His dreams had come true. He looked at the crowd beyond the dais. Sunaina, his best friend, was seated at the edge of dais right in front of him.
All these days Sunaina had been a source of inspiration for him. Being a doctor she had a busy schedule, still, she used to do poetry. She was a great poet and a great human being.
He smiled at her. She smiled back.
The stage was all set for the event. The reviewers who have been given in advance the review copies of his novel were ready with their questionnaire. Apart from them, Sunaina and a few of her friends also had read his novel. They too were excited about this event.
“All set?”, asked Ayushmann, the moderator of the event.
Akshay looked at the audience. This was the first time he was facing such a learned audience.
“Yes”, he nodded.
Akshay took questions from the audience, answered them in length and waited for the next. He was enjoying this interaction.
“Anybody else?”, Ayushmann enquired the audience, “if there’s no further question then we can wind up the session”.
“Wait! I have a question”, a shrill voice, that of a girl, drew everyone’s attention.
“Hello Akshay!”, the girl sitting beside Sunaina raised her hand to gain his attention. The spotlight pointed her in the very next second.
Her golden dupatta glittered under the influence of intense spotlight. Her personality had a magical aura around her that had spell bounded everyone in the hall including Akshay.
“Hi”, the girl continued when she was offered the mic, “you said you believe in destiny. But believing in destiny is like waiting for the apple to fall? I think we are capable of writing our destiny.”
Akshay looked at her with a mild smile on his face. There was a time when he was a strong advocate for writing one’s destiny. But time and experience had changed his mind.
“May I know your name please, madam!”, Akshay asked and waited patiently for the reply.
“Poonam… Poonam Sarkar”, she replied softly.
“I would have agreed with you, Poonam, if you had asked this question a few years ago. But with time my perspective has changed and so did my outlook towards life. I too believed that it is only me who would write my destiny. Being an engineer and working with an MNC, I had a settled life. I was planning to get married to my girlfriend… but one fine day my plans crumbled like a house of cards. I lost my job, she married someone else, and instead of working with electronic circuits now, I am writing stories. Had I planned all these things? No. They were in my destiny.”
Akshay took a deep breath after delivering a lengthy reply.
“Still, I do not find this a valid justification. You could have tried for another job and married some another girl”, reasoned Poonam, “You just chose to let things happen instead of making things happen.”
“Come on Poonam, join me here on the stage. I am liking this conversation. Have a seat”, Akshay gestured towards the empty chair beside him.
Poonam was hesitant initially but Akshay insisted on joining. As she walked up to the chair the spotlight followed her until the illumination around her intersected with the one around Akshay.
She was greeted with a formal but firm handshake.
“Please take your seat”, Akshay pulled the chair a little and stayed there until she was comfortably seated.
Once Akshay also had taken his seat he continued, “Yes Poonam, you are right. I could have taken up some other job and I could have married some other girl. But do you think that I didn’t try either?”
“How would I know? Tell me..”, she quipped stealing a glance.
“I did join another company but somehow I wasn’t satisfied with the job. Something was missing in my life. What? I didn’t know exactly. I started penning down my emotions. That’s how I came up with the idea of writing this novel”, Akshay replied candidly.
“And what about getting married to another girl? It’s not like your ex was the last girl on earth”, Poonam came up with a rejoinder.
Certainly, there was something special about Poonam. Akshay liked her sense of enquiry. Her questions contained a genuine sense of concern beneath the surface. Although he didn’t like talking about his breakup he chose to reply.
“I couldn’t gather the mettle to be in another romantic relationship after my breakup”, Akshay replied frugally. His voice bore perceivable hopelessness.
“Then it’s not your destiny that is to be blamed rather it’s your attitude…”, Poonam came down heavily, “defeatist and pessimist attitude… that of a person who thinks that a girl’s rejection is the ultimate sentence”.
“No”, Akshay defended himself, “it’s not like that. I am quite hopeful that someday I will find a suitable match for me. It’s just that the right time and the right person haven’t arrived in my life, or maybe they have but I haven’t recognised them yet”.
“See… I have influenced a writer”, chirped Poonam like a bird, “A moment ago you weren’t ready to see another girl, and now you are saying that you are waiting for the right person.”
After a brief pause, she continued, “That’s what I wanted to say. Destiny can be created, only an emotionless person can let the destiny take its course but emotionlessness is not a human attribute it’s that of the God”.
Akshay was speechless. He couldn’t understand what had happened. Poonam’s words were digging deep into his soul. Although she was challenging him in every sentence Akshay liked every single word coming from her.
“I am speechless…”, Akshay replied softly.
The tension in the air had grown intense. The crowd was silent. Except for the sound of his heartbeat, all that Akshay heard was an awkward silence. Akshay knew an unscripted event can go in any direction. He was mentally prepared to tackle any untoward situation.
“Okay, I am already an author now, that can’t be changed because I love writing but I promise you I will seriously look for a suitable girl for myself”, grinned Akshay, his voice bore an artificial glee.
“Ahh… fickleness of man and stolidness of God”, muttered Poonam.
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