Actor Harish Kant had started his life as an assistant director (AD) in a small production house. His journey had been a roller coaster ride from being an AD to a superstar to further being the owner of the biggest production houses of the country. He accredited his beautiful wife Hema Kant for all his success. Hema had stood by him through thick and thin. The biggest asset of Harish’s life was his son Rehan who had grown up handsomely strong and good looking as teenager. People had started speculating about another star in the making when Rehan had just reached seventeen. Riya was Rehan's class mate and surely one of the hottest girls in the school. She was the daughter of Harish and Hema’s close friend Sadhna who had delivered many hit movies with Harish. Rehan and riya were indeed the envy of the school.
Away from the taboo, Rehan’s high profile “Daddy Owned” Life, had a stream that connected to his best friend, Alia, who was the daughter of Country Head of one of the biggest business houses of India. She wasn’t a part of Rehan’s rich school group and studied in a different school but they knew each other from past two years and had met on the sets of the advertisement shoot for the business house. They had developed an understanding for each other from the very first meeting and what Rehan loved about Alia was her unbiased treatment. She never judged Rehan as a star’s son like others. She never tried to flatter or impress him. She was genuine and Rehan would meet her often to withdraw from blues, his rich life showed him. Alia was bold and wanted to be a photographer. She had already made plans to study photography from New Zealand and was working hard to score well in her twelfth boards unlike the rich wigs, who were planning a small trip to Punjab around farewell.
Rehan had visited Alia to tell her about the trip.
"You have been to Punjab right. So suggest me something Ali” Rehan said munching chips.
Alia knew Rehan won’t let her study unless she answers.
“How many days Ronnie?”
“Five days I guess. “ Rehan was still munching.
“Rock Garden, Bhakra Dam, Anandpur Sahib Ji Gurudwara, the beautiful farms, the rural life, and then when you are done with it all take out at least two days to stay in Amritsar. Go to the Golden Temple. Do have Langar there. It’s sumptuous. Jallian Walan Bagh and then the pride of the nation, The Wagah Border.
The patriotism that grips one at The Wagah Border is inexplicit.”
“Ali what is with this Wagah Border. Everybody talks of it.”
“Hmm. You know Ronnie you can see the LOC protected with pride by the real heroes. Our Soldiers! ”
“Alite Ms. Patriotic, See Ya Next Week. So what can I buy you as present Madame?”
Alia smiled. That dimple she always got on her left cheek was the feel good factor for Rehan.
“Nothing. Just be safe and enjoy.”
Rehan drove back home thinking about Alia. In fact, he hardly ever thought about Ria and often missed Alia whom he could be with, being him, Simply Him.
Rehan had never thought of what he wanted to do in future. His father had always seen Rehan as his own replacement in the film fraternity. The world around him had never given him the chance to sit and even wonder what he wanted to do in life. He had a legacy. His father wanted him to take it forward and he had never thought of anything else.
It was the last day in Amritsar and was meant to be spent at The Wagah Border. Rehan had clicked a lot of pictures and bought a beautiful Anklet for Alia. He knew she loved going ethnic for parties.
“O Wow!! What a pretty Anklet. Thank you!!” Ria snatched it from Rehan.
“Nope Babes! It’s not for you. It’s for Alia.” Rehan took it back.
“Rehan I really don’t believe myself. You are still friends with that Geek. Look at the specs she wears Yuk!!”
“Shut Up. At least she is not a BIMBO”.
Riya wasn’t interested in the lecture. She went on doing what she was interested in. Riya skillfully hugged him and they were lip locked in no time. Now that is what Rehan loved about Ria. There was still an hour for them to leave for the Border. Time, good enough for them to have some fun. They were done and ready fifteen minutes before time. Riya was set at the driver’s seat of the black SUV and rest of them accommodated. The Border was far from the usual mundane of the city. Except for the noise of the tourists everything else was composite. It was 5 in the evening. They walked over from the parking towards the amphitheater to watch the ceremony. Rehan wanted to record it for Alia.
The ceremony started. The patriotic songs and the passion people had for their nation left this group of rich brats shocked. They could feel blood rushing in their bodies. Every stamp of the soldier’s feet and every salute the proud son of the soil presented to the Flag left Rehan astonished. They belonged to no caste no creed and No class. No matter what, they were all Indians. Rehan was shocked that his chic Ria too was dancing on the tunes of “Mere Desh ki Dharti” been played from inside the post. The Jawans were handsome and it struck Rehan that the border was the only place where the people were as handsome as the actors in Bollywood.
But those actors earned tons of money to fake heroes while these, whom he saw stamping feet and saluting the honor of the national flag, were the real heroes. Heroes, who give up their lives and lives of their families and friends so that the nation can sleep in Peace. They were the real Iron Men. Rehan was so proud. It was now that he understood the emotion Alia had in her eyes while speaking about The Wagah Border.
This was the life changing moment for Rehan. That night he sat alone for the first time to think about what he wanted to do. He recalled the stories of bravery, the tales of Bhagat Singh that his Grand Pa, who was a sepoy in the army and had lost his life during the Kargil War just two years before his retirement, told him. He understood why his grand pa had preferred to stay with his job despite the millions his dad had earned with stardom.
The brats, arrived Mumbai early next morning. Rehan wasn’t talking much. At the breakfast table his dad spoke to him about the trip and then shared his interest to send Rehan abroad for higher studies.
“Rehan I want you to do your bachelor’s in acting and later even masters if you feel like. Or else if you think you want to study some management to put your hand in the business you are welcome to do your bachelor’s in management and later continue with a degree in acting from London. Here are some good colleges in the country and outside as well. Just think about it and let me know. There are deadlines for submission of forms.” Harish smiled and left for his schedule.
Rehan went through all the brochures but none interested him. His mind was in a jiffy. There was only one place in Mumbai where he could find his answers or at least put the right questions up without fearing prejudices. Alia was busy capturing nature while Rehan came and silently sat without willing to disturb her. He gazed at her like a child waiting for his turn at the candy store. Alia took a few minutes to realize she had kept him waiting.
“Hey Hi Ron! How are you?How was your trip? Had fun Romeo??” Alia clicked his pic.
“Hmm” Rehan was looking in another direction.
Alia could always read Rehan’s silence and she read the confusion too.
“What’s the confusion?” Alia tried enquiring.
Rehan always wondered how could Alia always read what no one else could? He couldn’t help but hug Alia. His grip was strong enough to flush emotions in their bodies. A little embarrassed they both failed to maintain eye contact until Alia broke the uneasy silence.
“Alia special coffee?” She was smiling and Rehan agreed with a smile too.
They discussed almost everything on coffee but Rehan still failed to reveal his state of mind. Alia’s company made him forget it all for a while but couldn’t conclude it.
Alia was reading his face and decided to help him get over with it.
“What is it Rehan?”
“I don’t know. Alia I do not like anything from the time I returned from the border. I miss Grand Pa. Now I understand the patriotism you spoke about. Feel what Grand Pa felt and what Dad could never understand. I…”
“I what Ron. Complete it. May be I can help you.”
“I don’t want to be an actor or a producer or anything to do with filmdom. I want to do something for my country for this nation. How do I do it? And If I decide to be a soldier do you think Dad will support me?”
Rehan laid on Alia’s laps. He hugged her. He felt like a baby. Alia brushed her hands through his hair. She felt sad for his state of mind. She knew if she told him to listen to his heart hell would break down. His dad would never help and support him and if he didn’t listen to his soul he would never be happy.
She was his best friend and he counted on her. It was her moral responsibility to lead him to happiness. Alia pulled herself.
“Ron there are times when the quest to explore leads us to the right path, the one we are actually meant to walk. Like for instance I took up Science Stream because dad wanted me to be an engineer but I never felt happy unless one day Dad himself saw the albums of the photographs I had clicked. He sat beside me took my hand and just asked me one question. “Does Photography give you happiness Alia?”
“You know what Rehan that consent made both me and dad realize that I was meant to be a photographer and not an engineer.”
Rehan loosened his grip and sat straight.
“Alia, I think I ..”
“What Ron? You want to be a soldier”
There was a pause.
“Al how do you do it all the time.
“Ron that’s not important right now. Come”
Alia took him by his hand to the window that faced the ocean. It was beautiful. No AC just the breeze and the setting sun.
“It’s beautiful Al.” Rehan was amazed. He had never noticed it before.
“Ron, life is simple and beautiful. Just like this nature.
Nature is beautiful because it functions with it’s own will. The sun never hides if we feel hot, it never sets an hour ago or rises late by two hours. It does what it wants to do and moreover what it is destined to do.
We human beings complicate our lives trying to do what others want us to do. When I decided to be a photographer the aunties and uncles and the relatives and the whole society had questions. You know those ‘CHAR LOG KYA KAHENGE VALE CHAR LOG’. But, I was determined to fight through it all and still do what I wanted to. Fighting for your heart is the kind of pleasure needed in life. If your heart says ARMY then let it be ARMY.”
Rehan was looking in to Alia’s wide eyes.
“Do you listen to your heart for everything Al ?”
“Yes everything except for Love. I know for the world it is the other way round. But muma in her last days used to tell me -Alia the only mistake the world does is it listens to it’s heart for love and brain for everything else and that is why there’s so much chaos all around. Listen to your heart for everything and for love use the brain filters.Ron boards are just round the corner and either you decide now or it becomes a never.”
Alia was right. Rehan decided to speak to his mom first. He knew she would understand though he wasn’t completely right. Hema was shocked beyond words. Joining the army sounded great but practically and socially a superstar’s son joining the army would mean unnecessary footage. She might allow but wasn’t sure how Harish was to react. A little scared she extended Rehan’s wish to Her husband.
Harish started laughing.
“Alright! So you are telling me that Rehan Harish Kant wants to leave the entire empire to become a soldier and wants to join NDA instead of studying management or acting. Fine! So how do we go about it?”
Hema was pleased. She never thought it would be that easy.
“Does that mean you re fine with the decision Harry?”
“No! That means your son has gone insane. Do you think I would ever let my hard earned prestige go waste just because my adolescent boy wants something? Really Hema?
I agreed because am sure he will not be able to survive there even for a day?”
His denial didn’t hurt Hema as much as his over confidence of his son’s disabilities. Hema was a woman of substance and had full confidence in her upbringing of Rehan. She decided to share everything with her son tried to explain to him his dad’s perspective just as carefully as she had explained Harish his son’s perspective.
Rehan was prepared both for the denial and for whatever he might have to do to accomplish his dream. For the first time he had dreamt of something other than what his father wanted him to do and he wanted it. He decided to hush the uneasy silence between him and Harish after he scored a decent result in his twelfth boards.
“Dad I think my score is pretty decent. Now I wana join the army.”
Harish as if had rehearsed his reaction to this day for long. He was furious and exceptionally loud.
“You cant! You just can’t Rehan Harish Kant. Do you realize I am the king of the industry. People who do not dare raise eyes would humiliate me. What will I be left with? A superstar’s son cannot join the army and live in forests protecting the country for Heaven’s Sake?”
“But why dad? Why can’t a superstar’s son be an army man? Aren’t we Indians? Isn’t this our country?
Can’t we take an oath to fight for it?”
“Of course My son! We are Indians and I make it a point to contribute by paying my taxes in time.” Harish’s words hit hard on Rehan.
Rehan left silently to his room. But he had all the traits of his dad and was equally adamant. He without letting anyone notice filled up for NDA and bagged an entry too. He decided to encounter his parents again who by now had assumed that Rehan had given up on the idea.
“I cracked NDA and I need to join them from 15th of this month.”
As he and Alia had contemplated. Hell Broke down!
Rehan had no support from anyone. His family feared facing the media more than his wishes. But Rehan did not have ‘no’ for an option. Against Harish’s wish and agreement Rehan left home writing a letter. He collected the fund he needed for his education and survival and just left.
Hema handed the letter to Harish. She was numb.
“Donot worry Hema. He will not be able to survive the hardships even for a day.”
“He is not just your son but your dad’s grandson too. And Papa was a true soilder.” Hema had both fear and pride in her eyes.
A woman both makes and breaks a man. Rehan before leaving wanted to meet the two girls, Riya and Alia. He met Riya first. He expected Riya to cry and do some emotional drama with lot of kisses. But nothing like that happened.
“What are you saying Rehan. You are joining the army. Yuk. That is just so middle class. You are a superstar’s son.”
“I am a soilder’s grand son too Riya.”
“What the fuck Rehan. I thought we are gonna study our acting together and get our first break together. Uncle had already planned our launch. Stop being such a nut.”
Rehan was taken aback. He knew Riya was dumb but now he knew that she was insensitive too.
“Rehan you waved my entire plan for our future. What a launch we would have had.”
“Good Bye Riya.” He thought may be this Good Bye will make her realize that they are parting but what happened next was funny.
“Bye”. Riya coldly stood there almost lost in what will happen next with her career and life and who next after Rehan.
Rehan was hurt and his next destination was Alia.
“Alia I have left my house without informing my parents. I left a letter.”
“I guess I should leave now.” Something was hurting inside.
As Rehan turned Alia pulled him and hugged him and they were kissing in no time. Rehan’s hug was intense. Rehan had never truly felt love before. Never in all those times he spent lying on the bed making out with Riya.
“I love you Rehan. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you. I will always wait for you. Where ever I go I promise my heart will beat for you.”
“You are so different from everyone Alia. You know Riya didn’t even say good bye to me because I no more was a star studded son and you accepted me for who I am. I so much needed this love this hug everything. Thank you.”
Alia kissed him on his forehead.
“Ron you are the best. I am sure you’ll excel as a soldier.”
NDA, Khadakwasla changed Rehan’s life upside down. He completed his training and pre-commission from the Indian Military Academy and got posting in the turbulent state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Like that Rehan became a super star's son in the history of film industry to join the army.
From the day Rehan had left his home to join NDA life hadn’t been easy for Harish and Hema. Media had bombarded them with questions Harish never had answers to. His worst nightmare had come true. Rehan had left him amid turmoil. The film industry too had lost interest in them as speculations and stakes on Rehan and Ria had all wasted. Ria had coupled with Abhishek the second best guy around. Son of a veteran actor, Abhishek had benefited the most from Rehan’s decision.
Hema on the other hand had missed Rehan having lost all hope in living.
It was Rehan’s twenty fifth birthday. He had never utilized his leaves for he had nowhere to go. But this time he wanted to see his parents. He entered his dad’s rich bungalow after eight long years. Everything had changed. His Mother who then looked so pretty and refreshing now looked old. She had developed wrinkles. His Dad looked shattered under the veil of his stubborn appearance. He hugged his mom though Harish turned his face and left for his room.
“Happy B'day Rehan. How are you. How have you been.
Don’t worry about your dad. He'll be fine in some time. You didn’t seem to have missed your mom all these years yeah.”
Hema touched her son’s huge and built torso. She felt how strong her boy had grown. Extremely handsome and steel made.
“You look handsome son.”
“Thanks mom.” Rehan couldn’t get enough of hugging his mom. It had been eight years and he had survived with just one family photograph he had taken with him.
Hema insisted him on going up to his dad.
“Happy B'day Son.”
Harish no more had complaints but he was still angry and disappointed.
“You must take rest.”
Rehan took some rest and then decided to revisit the place he had grown up in. He drove his favorite car after so many years. Mumbai had changed big time. He went to the studios he used to visit with his friends. Ria had become a successful actress though Abhishek hadn’t been able to generate the kind of fame he was expected to. Looks aren’t everything and talent equally matters whatever the industry be after all.
Finally like always he stopped in front of his final destination. Alia’s house!
She wasn’t expected to be there. They hadn’t stayed in touch and he wondered if she still felt the way she did that evening. That love had blossomed in his heart all these years. He went and sat at the same bench they used to sit chatting about nothing when a soft hand touched him.
“Happy Birthday Ron.”
Rehan was taken aback.
“Alia”She looked ravishing in a navy blue tube top and black slim fit jeans. Her hair were neatly tied and she wasn’t wearing specs. Her lips glittered pink and she smelled beautifully of lavender. Eight years had changed everything but they both had waited for each other wanting each other. They were mature and grownups now.
“ I thought you’d be in West Africa clicking some elephants.” Rehan hadn’t gotten over the shock. He was smitten by her.
“Yeah Ron but you still prayed I was here.”
Alia could still read his eyes.
“Can I hug you please Al please.”
“You can kiss me too.” Alia blushed red.
The emotions reprised. Memories revisited. The world was over for five minutes and there were just them kissing desperately fulfilling all they had missed those eight years. They were twenty five now. Alia took him by his hand into her room. He raised her in his arms and made her sit on the table in her room. They were desperate.
“It’s been years I haven’t felt a woman. I don’t know how good I would be Al.”
“Don’t worry. I am a fresher too” Alia whispered in his ears and chuckled.