The story up until now:
Chapter 6 – The Signals
Sid checks on Neha and doesn’t find her in the room.
Sid entering the living room area and announcing in a concerned tone, ‘I can’t locate Neha, have searched the entire place but she is nowhere to be found’
Avi looking through the living room window shouts – ‘Oh wait! She is outside and just coming back in.’
Sunaina immediately rushes out and reprimands her.
‘Where were you? We had all got worried.’
Neha replying casually – ‘Oh! I had just gone out to get some fresh air and explore the countryside.’
Sid curtly says ‘You should have informed us.’
Avi – ‘Chill. It’s ok Neha, these people are silly.’
Sid’s mother calls out, ‘Lunch is ready.’
Sid – ‘Let’s go! I am hungry.’
Sid removing the lid of the casserole and exclaiming – ‘Wow, Mom you have cooked my favourite. Love you.’
Avi peeps over Sid – ‘What is it? Mushroom curry. Oh great! I also like it very much. Thanks aunty.’
Everyone takes their seat on the dining table while Sid’s Mom is busy serving them. The usual formalities of when Mom serves your friends carry on for some time.
Sid’s Mom – ‘Neha, you didn’t take the mushroom curry.’
Neha – ‘No, thank you. I have an allergy with mushrooms.’
Sid’s Mom – ‘Oh! I am so sorry. I didn’t know.’
Neha – ‘No worries. There are other dishes as well. The food is very tasty.’
Avi – ‘Hey Sid, pass me the paneer curry.’
After 5 seconds again, Avi reiterates – ‘Sid, are you listening? Pass me the paneer curry.’
Sid’s Mom taps Sid’s shoulder slightly and asks him – ‘Are you ok?’
Sid gets startled and then realises he had got lost in his memories.
Avi – ‘Everything ok dude? If yes, please pass the paneer curry.’
Sid affirms that he is fine and passes the curry.
Sunaina – ‘Aunty, something is wrong with him. He gets upset for apparently no reason in an otherwise perfectly normal setting. He will get deeply lost somewhere and needs to be shaken up to be roused from his reverie.’
Avi – ‘Whenever we ask him what’s bothering, he will say nothing or shout to drive us away. Now you only enquire, what’s the matter?’
Sid’s father – ‘Nothing serious. A family member to whom he was very close died a year ago. That’s why he is so grumpy at times. As the famous saying goes, time heals all wounds and so will his.’
Sid’s mother and brother also support his father’s explanation.
Sunaina and Avi in unison – ‘Oh! We are so sorry Sid.’
Sid – ‘Never mind. Let’s finish food.’
Sunaina glances at Neha and whispers to her – ‘Eat your food and stop staring at my boyfriend.’
Neha is strolling in the balcony adjacent to the guest room and gazing at the moonlit night; the stars are brightly shining and twinkling. It looks as if she is pleading with them to come down and make her feel better.
Neha’s musing gets interrupted when she hears someone calling her name. She turns around and finds Sid entering the balcony.
Sid – ‘What’s wrong with you? Why are you so lost since you have arrived here? Does this have anything to do with your past?’
Neha taken aback by Sid’s straightforward question says – ‘No, nothing like that.’
Sid – ‘Oh, really! Then what’s the matter?’
Neha struggling to convince Sid – ‘Ahh, nothing! Its’ all fine. Not to worry.’
Sid – ‘Never mind. You don’t want to tell. It’s fine.’
Neha gets irritated and retorts – ‘Can you please leave me alone?’
Sid is shocked to see Neha‘s reaction.
Neha five seconds later apologizes – ‘I am sorry. Just need some private time right now.’
Sid – ‘I will go right now but tomorrow you are going to blurt out what’s going on.’
Neha sees him walking out of the balcony and returns to her silent chat with the stars.
Next morning is time for send-off.
Sid’s Mom feeling emotional complains to Sid – ‘You have become so thin. Eat properly. I have kept snacks in your bag and you should eat them all.’
Sid hugs his mother and says – ‘Mom, don’t worry. When you see me next time, I will have gained some kilos.’
Sid and his friends wave goodbye to his family and leave for their way back to college.