‘Emirates flight no 1526’, flying to Dubai, was about to take off. It was a pleasant morning of May and the excitement of the Malhotra family was quite palpable. Akshi sat by the window seat, gripping her smaller sister Aditi’s hand tightly, not because she was nervous about her first travel in the plane but because she was afraid Aditi would not sit still while the plane rose in air. She savored each moment since the magical tour began and knew how much her father had toiled to make it possible.
As the plane made its way through the cottony, white clouds, she got lost in thoughts as she often did. Akshi had completed her first year of engineering at a well-known college recently. Living away from home and among people different than her in all aspects made her deduce that she will never be able to understand anybody nor trust them. When many of her friends went about announcing happily that they had already found their soul person, Akshi was bound by her introvert nature, fear, insecurities and her own fervent belief that love isn’t as picturesque as is pledged in ‘Laal Ishk’ or ‘Ishk waala love’, it is found where your parents tell you to find. Having been brought up in a family where she had taught herself that she had to be an ideal to her smaller sibling, Akshi had become too matured for her age and thought incessantly as to how could she make others around her happy. In this clash of her beliefs and her mercurial feelings as a teenager, she often failed to express her thoughts freely and considered herself weird than most of the others.
Her thoughts were reluctantly cut off by the sudden, unbearable pain in her ears. Her father announced happily, “Girls get ready! We are at The Dubai!”
Akshi had never seen a more beautiful place. The tall towers, huge malls, strikingly clean roads, swanky cars and the scary looking Arabs; ‘The city of surprises’, they say and she now knew how it got the sobriquet. She squealed gleefully along with Aditi, feeling free and her age for once.
They reached their hotel, a handsome one with their rooms on the 9th floor. It had plush sofas, soft beds, a cooking range and a bathroom with facilities she had only heard of. But the best thing was that the gallery had a breathtaking view of the city and she could easily see the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world, from there. Akshi was tired from the plane journey and her unabated thoughts and decided to rest a little before they left for the day’s sightseeing. She opened the huge oak cupboard to dump her luggage in when she saw that there was a small iron locker in it with all these complicated buttons and codes. Aah, a secret locker! She was checking it with interest when its handle gave away and the locker opened to a sizeable hole. What made her curious was that the hole wasn’t empty. Akshi bent down and removed the object carefully.
It was a diary, clad in rich and shiny brown leather. Maybe just some book, she thought. She opened it and was amazed to read what was written.
“ADITYA SHARMA’S PERSONAL DIARY”
Dear diary, I know it is a cliché but you are my closest friend! Never leave me.
Oh my god, a personal diary? Who could have kept it here? The family who had lived here before them might have forgotten it, she declared. She knew that reading someone’s personal diary was utmost bad. But she was getting so attracted to this simple, brown book. Who would be this Aditya Sharma and how would his life be? It is unusual for a boy to keep a personal diary, isn’t it? It wasn’t so bad after all to read someone’s diary who is probably never going to get it back now and who she is never going to meet, was it? As she was battling between her thoughts, her mother came into the room. “Akshi, get ready. We are leaving for the desert safari in 5 min.” She quickly hid the diary back in the locker before anyone could see it and left the room. Somehow she had developed a feeling that this diary was only hers to read.
The desert safari was an adventurous and memorable one. The seven colored sand dunes in the vast desert, the camels, mehendi, the traditional dances and the dinner made up for a perfect and incredible evening. But Akshi was distracted. She only kept thinking about her newly-found mysterious diary. Should she read it or should she just pretend she hadn’t found anything at all and keep the diary back in the locker? Just then Aditi pulled her hand. “Didi, where are you lost? Come let’s have a picture please?” Akshi smiled at her sweet sister who she loved the most. “Yes Aditi, as you say!”
They returned back to the hotel late at night. Akshi was so eagerly waiting for Aditi and her parents to retreat to bed. She slipped from her bed quietly, opened the locker and took out the diary. The feeling of the supple leather beneath her fingers gave her chills. Or maybe it was out of guilt of her decision. She lit the bedside lamp and opened the diary to the first page. It started with January 1, 2014. That means this diary-guy had written down around 5 months of his life. Beautiful handwriting filled the pages in light blue ink.
Dear diary, I know it’s a cliché but life is too short to have any regrets! I want this new year of mine to be the best of all. I will work very hard for it, become happy even in small things and will live my life unfettered. Dear diary, lend me a hand in reaching nearer to my goal. And stay with me forever. Because whatever be the problem, Aditya and his diary will always fight them out, right? Happy New Year !
Akshi smiled as she read through his diary entries and she eventually started knowing this mysterious person more and more. Aditya Sharma was studying medicine in the same city where she was studying, what a coincidence! He was in his second year and lived in a hostel which, she could say from what he had written, was torturous. He had beautifully described his family, his friends, his college and his studies. He had always dreamt of becoming a writer but he knew his parents had always wished he grew up to be a doctor. Albeit that, writing hadn’t left him. And since then, the diary hadn’t too. He had so many problems every day. Food, ragging, peer pressures, burden from studies, domineering room-mates, expectations from family were just some of them. But the way he tackled his life with equanimity, positivity and happiness, Akshi just could not believe there could exist a person so perfect like him. She smiled as she read some of Aditya’s descriptions about how he had got cultural shocks when he was new to the college. He respected his parents for all they had done for him and could do anything to make them happy. She went on reading the diary and did not even realize that dawn came to her before sleep did.
The day was tiring, with the city tour in the burning sun and no sleep, but Akshi had never felt fresher. She constantly wondered what would Aditya describe if he were here, how he would enjoy each second and worry about nothing. And that she did. She had a day full of smiles and enjoyment. They were near the most expensive hotel, Burj Al Arab and she laughed in her mind how humorously Aditya would describe it. They were at the cruise, surrounded by tall, lightened towers and she was confident Aditya would literally hug his diary, delighted after such an amazing experience. Every thought of hers started with his diary and ended with it.
Every night after her family went to bed, Akshi would eagerly pull out the diary from the locker and would start reading it. In one entry, he had described how he cried from within when his dear street dog got hurt, she was so touched and got teary. She laughed with him and cried with him. Every entry started with ‘Dear diary, I know it’s a cliché….’ and would go on describing his day, his feelings and emotions and ended with ‘Dear Diary, never leave me’. The last page ended on the day previous to when they had arrived. She had started understanding Aditya like she had never understood anyone. He thought so similarly and was so caring. Akshi just couldn’t figure out why she had got so attached to this diary. It had caught in her heart like a fish-hook.
It was her last day at Dubai. And with the diary too. As she looked down at the amazing view from the 124th floor of The Burj Khalifa and STILL thought of Aditya’s diary, she made up her mind. The diary had to return to the person who owns it. Who am I to steal the most precious belonging of someone who is just so perfect, she thought. While coming back to India, she went back to how diffident she was before and now she had developed an entirely different perspective to life. This trip had changed her life!
Finding a stranger on Facebook always proves tough. And more if you want to find him so eagerly. She typed Aditya Sharma and found one with the recent pictures of Dubai posted. She couldn’t summon up the courage to check his pictures. Something very weird was happening to her and she could not define it. Akshi sent him a message.
‘Hey Aditya. This is Akshi Malhotra. I have to return to you a very precious belonging of yours.’
He replied after what felt like a millennium. “I don’t know you Akshi. How do you know me?”
She smiled and replied, “You don’t know me Aditya but I know you more than anyone does.”
So they decided to meet in the food-court of a mall the next day. Akshi had never been more nervous. She was going to meet the person who had changed her life. And when she saw him, she was sure of it. The unmistakable smile, the kind eyes, the handsome face, the happy gesture was his calling card.
“Hi you must be Akshi. I am Adit-“
“Aditya Sharma”, she breathed out.” I have this.” And she would never forget the surprise and joy he had on his face. She felt like she had achieved everything of her life. He was so thankful of having found him and returning him his diary. He hadn’t been eating anything since he found out about his missing diary. The next few hours went in a blur for both of them. Akshi explained how she had found out his diary but left out the part of having read it. They exchanged phone numbers and departed.
Aditya texted her even before she had reached home.
“I don’t know how I can thank you Akshi. I know it’s a cliché but you have returned my life to me. I owe you all what you want. Please stay in contact. ”
That night she closed her room, opened her drawer and pulled out a new but ignored diary from beneath the pile of books. She opened the front page and wrote.
“AKSHI MALHOTRA’S PERSONAL DIARY”
Dear Diary, I know it’s a cliché,
but I think I am in love!