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Broken Barriers

By Ashish Chawla

Arjun looked at his reflection in the mirror and smiled. In that minute, he realized he had matured from being the boy next door to becoming a man of many dreams. He was complacent with himself.

And why wouldn't he be? After all, he had achieved so much in life, especially when everyone told him that he was going on the wrong track, especially when all criticized him.

He defied everyone's thoughts, went against all odds, and established this fact to himself and the world that he, too, can achieve what he genuinely desires. He had become a role model for others. He paved the way for those guys who didn't even dare to speak about their dreams and desires with their parents, let alone accomplish them.

While he was smiling, he reminisced all the troubles he had to face to reach where he was now, a successful proprietor of India’s most gigantic, ever-growing restaurant franchise.

Vidya was busy on her phone, looking at the pictures of the two of them together, happy and perfect. She couldn't help but smile and remember those happy moments when everything was going well.

It had been three years since a group of men threw acid on her, completely destroying her future, just because she denied their proposal as she was in love with someone else, who also left her upon knowing about this unfortunate incident.

It took her more than two years to recover from that mishap, thanks to her friend, Naina, who stood by her side through thick and thin.

Vidya's parents were equally devastated by the incident, and they tried everything they could to make her feel normal, to make her smile again. But Vidya had lost the will to look at life with the same excitement.

“Why did this happen to me, papa?” she tried to reason with her father, who was hiding his tears from her.

“Vidya, don't look at this negatively. Instead, be happy, and smile that life has given you one more chance to be with someone who truly loves you,” said Shankar.

“All I can see in my life, right now, is a painful past and a dark, black future, totally empty. Just like a blackboard.”

“Isn't that blackboard one more chance for you to write your own life? You got an empty blackboard. You can write whatever you want on it,” said her dad.

Vidya smiled.

“Come on, now. Get ready. Don't you have to go out for your date?”

“Yeah, I'll be ready in a few minutes.”

“Good girl. I'll prepare some coffee for you,” saying this, Shankar went down to the kitchen.

Vidya stood up, connected her phone to the charger, and went to the bathroom.

The journey Arjun went through wasn't an easy one. It needed a lot of courage. But he eventually crossed the river of hurdles. It was the journey that made him smile and not the outcome.

He adjusted his tie, checked if his light pink shirt was properly tucked in, and wore a jet-black blazer over it. Next, he applied some after-shave lotion over his trimmed beard and some cologne over his shirt. Then, all ready for the meet, he got out of his room.

“Bye, maa. I'll be late, so don't wait for me,” he shouted.

“Wait a minute!” her mother shouted back.

Running as fast as she could, she stopped in front of Arjun, with a bowl of sweet yogurt in her left hand and a spoon in her right. She took a spoonful and forwarded it toward him.

“This is some good luck charm for you so that everything goes well with you tonight,” she smiled.

Arjun smiled back and ate the spoonful of yogurt. Jyothi could smell the strong aura of the cologne he was wearing.

“So, someone exceptional, huh?” she teased him.

“Come on, maa. I told you, it's just a date. Nothing is decided yet,” said Arjun, titillated.

Arjun was quick in responding, with a bit of shyness on his face. Jyothi laughed at his innocence and kissed his forehead.

“Let us also have the opportunity of meeting your partner some time,” she mocked him again.

“I'll go now, or else I'll be late, and then you won't get an opportunity to meet anyone.”

“Ok, ok. All the best for your DATE,” said Jyothi, smiling.

“Vidya! The coffee is ready. Come down, fast,” shouted Neelam, Vidya's mother.

“In a minute, maa,” Vidya replied.

Vidya came and sat on the couch. Neelam handed her the cup.

“So, all set?” Shankar asked Vidya.

“Yes, dad,” Vidya smiled.

“Good. Don't be nervous. You are a brave girl. Everything is going to go well tonight. And yes, don't be too late,” said Neelam.

“Don't worry, maa. I'll be back before you even realize,” Vidya winked.

She knew she was telling the truth, as she wouldn't be going on this date if it wasn't for her parents, who had supported her from the beginning and had always respected her choices. They never questioned her, as they knew she was mature enough to make her own decisions and see the difference between right and wrong. She wouldn't want to upset her parents in any manner.

Vidya drank the coffee, kept the cup on the table, and wore her sandals.

“I'll see you guys later. Bye.”

“Take care of yourself,” said Shankar.

Arjun got out of his car and locked it. He crossed the road, entered Modern Cafe, and sat on a chair. On his left was the glass wall through which he could see everything happening outside the cafe.

He had arrived fifteen minutes early. He checked his phone and replied to a few messages.

To kill time, Arjun decided to read a magazine kept on his table. Within seconds, he was totally engrossed in it, so much that he lost track of time.

As she was already running behind, Vidya got out of the rickshaw in haste. She paid the driver, and just as she was entering the cafe, she slipped and was about to fall and hurt herself when a guy caught her hand. Luckily, he also happened to enter the restaurant at the same time.

Vidya looked embarrassed. She smiled and went inside, followed by the guy.

Arjun looked at the door. Their eyes met. Arjun smiled. Vidya waved in his direction. She was approaching his table but went past it and sat at another table, where Naina was already waiting for Vidya. The guy came and sat on Arjun's table, who was waiting for him.

The guys and the girls ordered their dishes. They talked for a long time. Then, sitting at their respective tables, eating the food, drinking coffee, they had a good discussion on various topics. They seemed to connect.

After some time, they bid goodbye to their partners and headed home.

Arjun was approaching his car, and Vidya was sitting in a rickshaw when their fathers called them.

“So, how was it?”

“It was… good. I finally found a meaningful relationship in my life. Thank you for supporting me when I told you my secrets. Thank you for being on my side when everyone else was against me,” they both said.

Their dads smiled. It was time they broke the age-old barriers and let their children come out of the closet without any fear of being judged. After all, everyone deserves to be happy; everyone deserves to smile.

By Ashish Chawla

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