The February cold wind blew with a strong drift as Tarun entered the cafe. Few patrons scattered in an otherwise ever-crowded joint made it feasible for Tarun to find a secluded two-seater table near the window. Soham had explicitly asked him to take a seat to enable the two to have a conversation without being eavesdropped.
Soham had invited his best buddy and colleague, Tarun over for dinner at his place. The invite would give an opportunity to introduce him to his wife, Shalini since Tarun had not attended their wedding last month due to indisposed health.
Tarun was intrigued about why Soham had asked to meet him at the cafe first instead of going to his house from the office for dinner.
“Why can’t I wait at our office canteen till you finish your laboratory work instead of driving to the cafe? Whatever has to be discussed can be done here itself. Tarun had protested.
“Shhh!” Soham had cautioned him to keep down his decibel levels. “The matter cannot be discussed in the office premises. The cafe is the right place. Sip on a coffee till I join you by 7 pm and we can leave in an hour.”
Tarun sipped the cappuccino that he had collected across the counter from a waitress whose eyes were void, as was the case with everyone and every creature in that world.
When love is lost the sparkle in the eye lingers no more.
Welcome to the world devoid of an emotion called love.
Life goes on here without as much of endearment or the tenderness of love.
Various postulates regarding the absent emotion and multiple theories to induce feelings of love into the human system were continuously being propagated, but nothing worthwhile had come up so far.
However, there were many like Tarun who found nothing amiss about the impassivity. A tall, handsome guy with a slick look and a charming personality, Tarun took life with much ease and generally never brooded over things that one was not destined to have.
Presently, bored by the monotonous music being played at the cafe, Tarun looked out of the window and heaved a sigh of relief as he spotted Soham hopping out of his car, earlier than expected.
Soham was a puny man all of hardly 5 ft 6 inches, with unkempt hair. He barely paid any attention to his looks or attire. A research analyst with Zenith pharmaceuticals, he was always engrossed in conducting novel experiments. Tarun was his subordinate and would never stress more than what the official work demanded.
Tarun had guessed that Soham was going to talk about some contemporary research work.
His guess was right. No sooner than Soham pulled the chair facing Tarun and sat, he carefully spread a rectangular white sheet on the table. There were four different coloured capsules drawn on the sheet.
“My efforts have paid off,” he said, running his hand smoothly over the sheet.
Tarun was disappointed. He was expecting something big, and here Soham showed four coloured capsules, similar to the one Tarun generally gulped when he had severe back pain or headache.
“Soham is this some joke? You could have shown me this paper from the office. Why make me sit in this cafe like a moron as if it is some secret plan that our colleagues should not be aware of?” Tarun sounded irritated.
“Yes, it is a secret mission indeed, and I have nearly succeeded.” Soham’s chest swelled by a few inches with pride.
“These are the medicines that I have developed to induce love in people’s blood, an endeavour that would make me renowned, worldwide.” He beamed.
“I have been conducting experiments in my laboratory for more than a year surreptitiously. Imagine I did not allow even you, my best buddy to have a whiff of it. I wanted to confirm its authenticity before sharing the news with you. I will apply for a license to market the medicine soon.”
The revelation somehow did not seem to have an overwhelming response from Tarun. “Why do you need to get into these intricacies? I am sure you are aware that you have to go through a long process for approval. Everything is going on smoothly here. Do you genuinely feel we need this medicine? My intuitive sense says you are stirring a hornet’s nest.”
Soham may be a keen researcher but Tarun, with his practical approach to life, sounded experienced. However, Soham was not in a mood to give in to the argument.
“Believe me, Tarun; it makes a lot of difference. I gave a dose to both my dogs. The next moment I sensed a different look in their eyes, and then I witnessed something that has never happened before. The two mated with passion. This speaks about the success story of my capsules.” Soham spoke in defense of his capsules.
“On seeing the compassion between the canines, Shalini was puzzled, and that is when I shared with her my experiment.”
Soham lowered his voice as he leaned forward. “I am consuming one and giving Shalini also a capsule tonight, and we will be having one of the most lustful love making sessions that we have ever experienced.”
Tarun was sure his friend had lost his sanity and was obsessed with the word ‘love.’
“I did not want her to know that I have shared this news with you also before applying for the license; that is why I had to meet you here.”
Ignoring Tarun’s baffled look, Soham continued. “I want you too to experience the ecstasy. I will give you the dosage when you come home with me now. It is your age to fall in love, my friend. Tell me, don’t you have a soft corner for that pretty female, Sandra, our office receptionist? I have seen you spending a lot of time with her in the premises.”
Tarun was not exactly sure how to respond. He felt that Soham was looking at everything from a different perspective now. There seemed to be no point arguing with him. Spending a few minutes with someone doesn’t mean he had a soft corner for her or in Soham’s words, ‘ love’ that was never a part of any living being in this world. Not wanting to play with the conversation, Tarun decided to let Soham talk.
“Soon, I will grab the limelight, and my capsules will sell like hotcakes.” Soham rubbed his palms.
“Not only will I be famous. I will also mint money.”
Tarun patiently listened as Soham explained to him about the making of the pills. Though Tarun was well versed with some of the terms Soham mentioned, it all sounded Greek and Latin to him.
Tarun got keener to know why there were four differently coloured capsules.
“All of them are meant to induce love into human blood, but each of them has a span of longevity.
This green one can have its effect for 90 days and is the costliest among the lot. The yellow is the second costliest one with a 60 days long impact; the red will keep love alive in the blood for a fortnight while the cheapest one, the white, will have its effect for a week. I have named them Potion 387 because it took me 387 days of hard work to come up with it. 387 will be followed by G, Y, R and W in brackets according to the capsule’s coloured.
Right now, the capsules I made stir a deep feeling of romantic love in the internal system of any person or animal to whomever it is given. I am working towards creating an atmosphere filled with love in every beating heart for not only romance but all lost affections to come into play.”
Tarun rolled his pupils as if he indicated that it was too complicated an idea for someone like him to understand.
“What about side effects? Did your dogs have any?” Tarun squinted an eye half doubting the authenticity of the capsules.
“I would also like to know how much time gap is there between the consumption of the tablet and the triggering of the emotion you term as ‘love’.”
Soham did not miss the sarcasm in Tarun’s intonation, but he knew his friend too well. He was aware that Tarun did not mean to hurt his sentiments.
“I can’t say zero side effects. The dogs ate little compared to other days which I attribute to nausea, not too severe though. The results, my friend, are almost spontaneous.” Soham beamed.
“It will be sold strictly by prescription. I doubt it will hit the market any time before the end of the year, but you can have your potion in this valentine’s month of February”, Soham asserted.
“Valentine’s month! That sounds great, but it would be helpful If you could throw some light on that aspect and enlighten me on how your pill is endorsing Valentine’s day.”
Tarun sat back with his arms behind his head and gave his friend a generous ear as he explained about Valentine’s day.
“Valentine’s Day is named after Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in Rome in the 3rd Century. There are many stories about Saint Valentine, and over time these stories grew into the legend we know today.
At the time of Valentine’s life, many Romans converted to Christianity, but Emperor Claudius II was a pagan and created strict laws about what Christians were allowed to do. Claudius believed that Roman soldiers should be wholly devoted to Rome and therefore passed a law preventing them from marrying. Saint Valentine began to marry these soldiers in secret Christian ceremonies, and this was the beginning of his reputation for believing in the importance of love.”
Tarun had heard about Valentine’s day and love for the first time in 29 years. “My pills too would be instrumental in propagating love.” Soham looked mighty pleased with himself.
‘It sounds interesting. Maybe we could soon change Valentine’s Day to Soham’s Day.” Tarun laughed
“I will give you two green capsules from home. Have one tomorrow morning before leaving for work. Make sure you win the heart of Sandra with the other.” Soham said.
Tarun did not wish to disappoint his friend and conceded with him for the time being. However, he wasn’t interested in consuming the capsule, not that he doubted Soham’s credentials, but the idea of inducing love did not fascinate him.
“I am working on making something that will be everlasting, but it might cost a bomb.” Soham further explained.
“Ultimately, it means you need money to make love. Am I correct?” Tarun’s question that had a depth of harsh reality hit Soham, but he had to price the capsules as per the cost involved in manufacturing them.
They debated over the affordability and long-lasting effect. Though Soham sounded confident, Tarun had his reservations.
“In a day when you fall for Sandra, and your life takes an exciting turn, you will speak volumes about the feasibility of my capsules”, he asserted.
Making his disinterest in the capsule rather palpable, Tarun gestured to his friend that they better get going.
The friends reached Soham’s apartment. Shalini welcomed them with an enchanting smile. A brief introduction later, she excused herself to fetch some hot soup.
“Here,” said Soham, handing over two capsules to Tarun. “By the day after tomorrow, you should be narrating your romantic experiences, buddy”, he playfully punched Tarun in his stomach.
“You relish the soup meanwhile Shalini is getting some harabara kababs* for starters. I will be back after a quick shower. I want to hit the bed after dinner. We both just took our capsules”, he winked at Tarun mischievously. Soham could barely contain his excitement.
Tarun sheepishly smiled. “I get the cue you want me to leave as soon as possible.” He teased Soham and Soham shrugged his shoulders as he walked towards the washroom.
The aroma of the harabara kababs wafted in the air as Tarun was examining the capsules. “Here, please help yourself to some starters before Soham joins.” Shalini’s voice suddenly jolted him, and one of the capsules fell into the bowl of soup.
“Oh, you haven’t finished the soup? Should I get a fresh hot bowl?” Shalini played the perfect host.
Not wanting to behave unrulily, Tarun took the soup bowl and had it quickly.
The media carried the following news in a day.
A fire broke in the basement of a posh bungalow at Andheri, Mumbai. The owner Soham Rao, a research analyst at Zenith pharmaceuticals, had a registered laboratory in his house’s basement from where he conducted his experiments. Police say that some chemicals might have blasted causing the fire, though investigations are on.
Soham heaved a sigh as he read the news. Who would know that it was he who set fire to the laboratory, thereby reducing all the potion 387 capsules to a black mass?
When an emotion is artificially injected into one’s system, it can, in every way, nullify other feelings. This was a lesson that Soham learnt the hard way. Like in his case, aspects like loyalty, sincerity, guilt all went for a toss.
Was it an oversight on Soham’s part?
It could be rectified or was it indispensable?
These were serious matters of contention which needed time to ratify. Unfortunately, with Soham, time was the constraint.
Even if one soul could get a whiff that his capsules had brought about personal disaster in Soham’s life, he would be the butt of jokes among his contemporaries. Losing his job and his hard-earned reputation would be inevitable. If the capsules were exposed, he could be tried under section 18 in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 for having used them for consumption without applying for proper license.
Now all that was left of his capsules were ashes which would never testify Soham’s futile efforts in making a love potion.
The world continued to function without an emotion called LOVE.
Though love had found a place in his blood after consuming the capsule, Soham realized that the bitterness of humiliation, betrayal and rejection completely overshadowed the induced love.
The fact that his experiment went down the drain did hurt him. However, Soham was now keen to know that as a couple what turns Tarun’s, and Shalini’s life would take once the capsule’s spell breaks in ninety days. Would they continue to be in love with each other?
Only he knew it was not possible. It gave an exciting twist to his aching heart.
What he did not know was a little effort is all that it would take for an intuitive genius like Tarun to reverse engineer the one extra pill that he had with him and also make it flawless.
Footnote: Inputs about Valentine’s Day have been taken from Google.
Harabara kabab – A vegetarian starter made with spinach potatoes and green peas.
Well done Sudha ma’am.. nice plot…
Good take on the prompt. An excellent plot too. Well done, maam
An interesting premise! Loved how the tables turned. The climax was a surprise. Loved your take on the prompt.
Very nice. Loved reading it.
A smooth flow, flawless narration and easy to follow names and details Sudhaji. I like the message – love cannot be induced by any drug. .
Thanks Anu. Yes that is precisely what I wished to convey.
I did have an inkling of Tarun and Shalini, but the rest threw up a surprise. Kudos.
Thanks Narayani for reading and liking my story. It was very difficult to pen a 2k plus words story while playing grandma to a 80 days old brat. I am glad you liked it.