On a chilly morning, he stood at his balcony and gazed outside. A dozen sparrows chirping away, he stared at the rickshawaalas who sat together by the small temple beside the park, pressing tobacco into their palms. He saw another man pedaling a bicycle, and stopped by the main gates of the park. He set shop for selling the flowers he carried all along. He pulled out the roses first, and then the rest, and began spraying them with water. Little did this man know what significance these roses held on this day. One of the two roses that he would sell would bring so much change to the story of Nikhil's Life. Today was Rose Day. Hearts will announce their love for another. For every pair of hearts that will unite, several other hearts will be broken. In this cruel world, Nikhil heard about college stories where innocent mistakes were made by some who's bones were broken by jealous boyfriends. A single red rose had everything to do with it. The ones who would walk out of this day with the rose in hand were the rightful victors. He felt like taking a lap in the park to help him feel better about the butterflies in his stomach. A film of sweat would develop across his forehead. It didn't matter how many times he’d try to wipe it off, it kept coming back. He considered backing out, maybe the timing wasn't right. But he knew he had to do this for himself and since yesterday, his friends.
Nikhil decided to stick around near the balcony. In a few minutes, he saw Nipun ride his Kinetic into his compound. He parked the bike, checked his rearview mirror to study himself and weaved his fingers to comb his John Abraham like hair. After a few uneasy minutes of watching Nipun style himself, he finally made towards the main stairway. Nikhil went to the door to greet his friend who supported him all the way. He wanted Nipun to know about those butterflies in his tummy, and he wanted to know how to overcome his fear. Nikhil found an empty stairway greeting him. Still no sign of Nipun. He ran down to check on him and he found his friend still on his bike styling his hair again. Nipun was not convinced about the arrangements he had previously made to his hair.
“So what’s your plan? How are you going to say it?”, his questions began as he still admired at himself from his bike's mirror. Nikhil was about to answer when his friend interrupted “Before you start, can we walk to Vadilal and get something to eat? I’m really hungry” On the way, Nikhil picked up a red full bloomed rose and an evidently small yellow rose from the man near the park entrance. “What is the yellow one for?” Nipun asked suspiciously. Nikhil tried to clean it away from the thorns “The yellow one is for friendship, to keep things the way they are, no hard feelings” Nipun was the most creative when it came to gifting ideas. In their group, he was the only bonafied boyfriend on paper.
“Why would you be so stupid to even give her the option of taking that filthy yellow rose?” Nipun flinched at disgust towards it. Nikhil tried giving an explanation “If there was even a drop of a chance that she would turn me down, I'm hoping that this yellow rose would still..” Nipun cut him off “Stupid idea. Filthy Yellow!” and marched to Vadilal’s counter to get a chocobar for himself. Nipun gave him the same burden-to-society frown and asked “Want any ice cream?". Nikhil shook his head. What he really wanted was to see a smile on Jyotsna's face as she took a breath of the red rose in her soft white hands. He wanted to know it was all going to be fine. He looked back at Nipun, his elder brother, who was now holding up two chocobars in hand. “This one’s on me” Nipun handed him the bar, and took a big chunk off his own and swallowed without any intent on relishing the taste “I wonder why they don’t advertise this ice cream anymore. It’s absolutely BRILLIANT” Nikhil slowly nibbled into the tip of his bar and kept looking at his watch. “Don’t worry dude, you are ready. It’s just a little more time till you, me, Jyotsna and Dipti go on a double date to dinner on Valentine’s Day"
An hour later, Nikhil saw himself standing amongst a hundred other guys, each waiting nervously with rose in hand, looking for their potential partners. Nipun and Swanand lingered close behind. This felt like Nikhil just entered a boxing ring, with his friend's voices encouraging him from behind. Every step he took forward, his legs felt heavier and heavier. “We need Pop corn here!” Nipun complained to Swanand. All those years of teasing Nikhil with his pretty-faced school crush finally paid off. They set the wheels in motion and waited intently to see what happened next. Swanand searched his wallet and asked back, “Do you have change for a cigarette?”
Nikhil tried to wipe off the sweat that kept reappearing over his forehead. He treaded slowly towards a group of girls clad in makeup and colorful sarees. The roses he held behind his back still had a few thorns that pricked at him. He spotted Jyotnsa within the crowd. She turned around to check on her purse, and her hair fell over her shoulders. Everyone else began fading into a blur as he got closer to her. He filled some air into his lungs and called out to her “Jyotsna…?”. Nobody seemed to hear. Not even her. He held his courage and gave a harder shout "JYOTSNAA!". The group of girls stopped applying makeup and turned towards Nikhil all at once. So silent was that moment that he could hear the beads of sweat roll over his eyes. There she was, standing right in front of him, with an innocent calmness on her face. Nikhil brought his hands out in front, clutching the roses hard.