8 HOURS IN SAN FRANCISCO
8 HOURS IN SAN FRANCISCO20 mins 291 20 mins 291
“Covidiot! You are an insane covidiot who cares about no one. The whole world is fighting the second wave and why on earth will someone travel to San Francisco just for 8 hours! Abi, you are getting madder day by day”, yelled Nithya over the video call. Abi gave the usual complacent smile as reply. “Hell with the money, did you atleast think about your son and husband before you try such non sense stuffs?”, Nithya continued.
Abi abruptly stopped Nithya, “Will you please stop this lecture. You very well know about me dear. Once decided, do you think I will change it for any reason? If you are not ready to talk to him, leave it. Let me try someother means.”
“I am telling this because I care for you Abi. Why don’t you understand? You can make a video call to him and get all your questions clarified. How much difference will it make in unnecessarily digging the events that happened 7 years back? It should not disturb your present and future. Do you get my point?”, Nithya pleaded.
“You know how much difference it made in my life. I have completely stopped trusting people. I am scared of crowds, teams, groups, parties and everything because they remind him. I have been constantly running away from him. Not just phone calls and emails, I have shunned social media completely. I realise, running away only intensifies the fear. Now, I am ready to face him directly. Somethings have to be discussed in person. Tell him I am coming to meet him!”, when Abi was adamant, Nithya her good friend right from college had no other option other than to oblige.
Amidst the tall trees and purple flowers garnishing the pathway on either sides and lush greenery after a heavy rain, stood soaring the majestic Coimbatore Christian College in Victorian Architecture into which the students were moving in like tiny ants. Whether it was the fragrance of the flowers or the scent of the rains or the greyish blue sky or the fresh first year students, one cannot judge but it was an awfully pleasant day.
When the cool breeze and the gentle drizzles were competing with each other to engulf the region, Abi saw him, striding through the rains without an umbrella. It was the first time, Abi saw only energy and not the physique. He was like a painting in nature, with bright eyes and ever smiling radiant face glowing poignantly. His lean body portrayed him taller than the normal person. Abi followed him from behind as she could not resist watching his kiddish jittery movements in the concrete-less pathway which was gluing like tooth paste. Unexpectedly, he turned towards Abi for the first time when his sudden jump splashed few drops of brown water into her white salwar kameez. If it was some other person on some other day, Abi would have lost temper by then. But as it was him, Abi thanked the mud filled pits on the paths. “I am really sorry. I didn’t notice you”, when he spoke, Abi felt like it was the most familiar voice known to her. “I am Krishna, first year computer science”, when he introduced, Abi felt like thousands of butterflies, flying all over. She replied “Abi..Abinaya, first year, computer science”.
Abi’s prediction of Krishna to be a calm and composed person was totally contrasting. Krishna was the most popular guy full of wits in college and was always surrounded by a crowd. When it comes to cultural activities, Krishna was a rockstar. His dance moves mesmerized every audience and he was a complete entertainer with not just dance but also acting, mimicry, oration and singing. Being the hero of the college, Krishna had a lot of fans especially girls. When Krishna performs, Abi could not focus on anyone else. He dominated the entire stage, and everyone.
Everytime Krishna talked to a girl, though Abi sensed hurt, she never expressed it explicitly. But, her possessiveness over him was known to Krishna, who avoided other girls when Abi was near. The most beautiful thing on earth is when someone understands our unexpressed feelings. There was a blind chemistry which was happening between them. Nithya, had many times told about it and both laughed. They were not together everytime, but they were close to each other. During college tour, when Abi’s sandal tore, Krishna took it and went all way and got it stitched. The whole class was amazed to find a man with 0% ego. Abi has always envied Krishna’s positivity and happy-go-lucky attitude, come whatever situation may. However, she hated his silence. In the final year, their initial bond had weakened and they almost departed during Raj’s incident.
Raj was the rich guy of the class with political connections. Nobody expected that Raj would love Abi so seriously and would propose to her. Abi rejected the proposal as everyone expected. But, Raj did not stop with it. One night, Abi gotta call and rushed to the hospital. The whole class was waiting in the hospital as Raj had taken poison. “I will die if you don’t marry me Abi”, Raj pleaded from the bed. Everyone waited for Abi to pacify him atleast temporarily by accepting Raj. Abi closed her eyes for a moment and it was Krishna’s image and when she opened Krishna was standing in front of her near Raj. She saw Krishna and her mind said, “Please, propose to me now Krishna. I will accept immediately!”. But Krishna was non-reactive and his silence enraged her. She turned to Raj and said, “Please die!” and left the place. Nobody expected this harshness from Abi at that point of time. Even Nithya was dumbstruck by the way she said it.
After college, everyone moved to different directions. Most of them including Abi and Krishna joined IT companies and few became lecturers. Rarely did anyone contact anyone else. Everyone was lost in the routine normalcy of life. The remembrances of college days began to fade in the clouds of the frantic real world.
After a hectic day, when Abi returned home late, she found 15 missed calls from Krishna. When she checked the group, it was full of congratulatory messages for Krishna going onsite to USA. She moved to the balcony of her 8th floor apartment to watch the moonlight. She got crushed by the nonchalant breeze that touched every seen and unseen being. While engrossed into the darkness of the devilish night, she called Krishna by 1.00 AM, expecting him not to pick up. But he picked up immediately as if awaiting her call. “Abi, tomorrow I will be moving to San Francisco. I always feel you are the most special person of my life. I don’t want to miss your friendship at any point of time. If I don’t speak up now, I can’t speak forever. It is just not friendship. I love you madly and you don’t have the slightest idea how much I mean. But, I will not force you like Raj. If you don’t like me as your life partner, it is ok. Please don’t disturb the friendship. Please don’t hate me! Don’t hate me Abi!”, Krishna exploded. She uttered furiously, “I hate you Krishna”. Krishna was unwilling to hear more and he cut the call abruptly.
Abi couldn’t understand if it was real or just a dream. She called back and shouted, “ I hate you to the core. Why did you take so many years to tell this? Don’t you know I am your Abi?”. Krishna couldn’t believe it and he cried after long time.
The days that followed were the fantastic days for both. Though the timings were different, nothing could hurdle the lovers. Abi’s diaries were filled with Krishna. They talked and talked endlessly and many times meaninglessly as everything is fair in love and war. Like behind every melody is hidden a melancholy, like behind every beginning is hidden an ending, the cruel moment for their love came in the form of an alliance for Abi. Abi had to reveal about Krishna and the usual Indian caste barriers and family sentiments unfolded. All communications were cut off and Abi was house arrested in some distant relative’s home in a remote location without phone or any other device.
With much difficulty, she sent a mail stealing a tab from a neighbour’s kid who came to play luckily. “Krishna. Marriage is planned on August 10th. Start immediately. There is no point to convince anyone. I will come with you when you arrive. Waiting for you to take me..” Abi waited every second for Krishna. She could not imagine a moment in life without Krishna. She was feeling Krishna in every nerve and move. She waited for him till the last moment on the date of marriage. The saddest part is Krishna didn’t come. Heroes stopping a forced marriage at the last moment could happen only in cinemas. In reality, the marriage happened and it was a kind of death for Abi. She couldn’t believe, Krishna betrayed her. The suffocation was too much, that she lost all feelings of life. She became like a butterfly pinned to the floor, an unfinished story with pages torn brutally. For years, the only feeling which was running through her was hatred. She hated humanity. She hated the whole world. She hated her Krishna…
With thousands of hopes and dreams, Krishna moved into Coimbatore Christian College. In all josh, he forgot to bring his umbrella. Yet, he was happy to get immersed in the drizzles. While he took a jump to cross a water filled pit, his legs slipped and water splashed all around. It was then he noticed the girl behind with a purple umbrella. He had laughed at movies which showed love at first sight. But, when he saw her, he was 100% sure it was love at first sight. He had never seen such beautiful eyes before and when she stared at the water strains, he was completely lost in her expressions. He became the happiest, when he knew she also belonged to his class.
Krishna’s prediction of Abi to be his dance partner was totally erroneous as she was the most studious person on class and she had not even the slightest idea of dancing. While everyone memorized C and Java codes, Abi wrote the most efficient code. Her focus was not on coding but to use the perfect data structure so that the code delivered output in the fastest manner using the least memory. None understood the technicalities when she started speaking. Most of her questions were not even understood by the professors. When Krishna lived on applauses and crowds, he was amazed to find Abi unaffected by ovations and awards. She was different from anyone Krishna had seen in life as her desire was not to achieve but to excel.
However, Abi was not a geek. She had a poet in her and there were unique fans for her writing. Krishna was one among them. When most of the girls wished to talk to him, he wished to talk to her. When all his fans took him to cloud nine, she brought him down to earth looking at him as an algorithm that survives. When anyone could make him laugh, she could only make him cry.
On his birthday, everyone in the class and all his fans except Abi wished him with lots of gifts. When he was expecting Abi’s wish, she didn’t mind him at all. He told her “Sorry”. When she asked the reason, he replied, “It is not required to have a reason to tell sorry and thanks”. She moved smilingly but without wishing him. In the evening, he lost his temper and said, “Abi, don’t you know it is my birthday and you didn’t even wish me!”. Abi replied, ”You have many special friends and fans who are important to you. How would my wish make a difference?” and moved away without waiting for his reply. But Krishna knew how much difference her wish meant to him. He couldn’t stop his tears. He ran to the usual spot, the last seat in the stadium where he cried most of the time. He couldn’t understand why he valued Abi so much. By 12.00 night, he got a call in his mobile. The usual electric shock passed through his veins, seeing the caller name Abi. “Happy birthday Krishna. It is not always about being first, at times last wishes are also special. I wanted my wish to be the last so that you will remember it throughout the year. I am sorry”. He didn’t ask why she felt sorry, because he knew it requires no reason to feel sorry. But he felt the happiest after her wish and the birthday became a memorable one in his annals of life.
He handled the bond woven between them carefully. Yet, inside he always had a fear that he might miss her. When Raj cried that he would die without Abi, Krishna was numbed. In the hospital Krishna expected Abi to tell everyone, “I love Krishna and not you Raj”. Abi’s silence at that point bothered Krishna a lot. When she said “Please die” to Raj, Krishna somehow felt that she meant those words to himself only.
Though Krishna passed through many girls, he got moved by none. It was all Abi inside him. Anyone who knew Krishna the least would have not believed that Krishna is reluctant to speak out his heart. Even Krishna himself had many times wondered, why he was behaving so weird. Krishna had never feared to talk to any girl. During high school, while playing Truth or Dare, he even proposed to a random girl at road. Now, it was not a random girl. It was Abi this time, the very different character whom he didn’t want to lose at any cost. The fear of rejection, stopped him from expressing his love for her. But he followed her without her knowledge everywhere. He watched her every move and he felt that was enough for him in this life. When he got an opportunity to move to USA, the first thought which came to him was how he would miss Abi. He brought in all strengths to express his love before leaving. The way she accepted him immediately, even he didn’t expect. He regretted about his pointless delay. He dreamt of marriage with Abi, their children, grandchildren and beyond. Everything remained a dream forever…
Shielding the oldest, tallest and largest living beings, stood the gigantic Yosemite mountains majestically and deadly. Its giant angular curves would make any elated human feel smaller. The sun had just risen and the impatient birds were humming different melodies generating a unique background music for the scene. Thanks to covid-19, human movements were drastically reduced and hence black bears, sheep and mule meandered happily.
Amidst the beautiful Yosemite foothills, were two restless souls with starbucks coffee infront. They were unmindful of everything around, from the mighty mountains to the moving mortals. Their eyes were beholding each other silently. Time did not alter their physical bodies much. Though both of them met after years, they felt like they had not parted at all. They unheeded time and did not know how long they were sitting like that. They could sit for hours or years silently just eyeing each other. Silence is the best expresser of emotions and words were invented just to hide the emotions inside.
All of Abi’s giant plans crushed, the moment she met Krishna. Years of hatred, anger, animosity and rage melted in front of Krishna. She even forgot why she had come so far. She couldn’t utter a word. Silence was soothing. It was Krishna who opened up firstly and that too forcefully.
Krishna: Abi, it is all like a dream. I still couldn’t believe; I am sitting with you. After all years of avoiding my calls and messages, I am glad that finally you came up today. I must say I am really proud of you.
Abi: proud of me?
Krishna: Read your interview in India Today. It was very inspiring. You have gone to great levels in life. Congratulations Abi. I know you will reach the sky. But didn’t even imagine that you will turn out to become a dancer. Also checked your dance videos in youtube. I was dumbstruck. Where the hell did you hide such an amazing talent during college days?
Abi: After your betrayal, I almost died. You killed everything in me Krishna. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t code, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t live. You shattered not just my hopes Krishna, but my life too. Reborn again, I had to do something which will submerge me completely into it. Again it was you, whose steps I followed. I chose dancing because of you Krishna. I started from scratch and if there is some boundary to hardwork, I was working beyond that. I was so unforgiving and didn’t rest for years. I would be ungrateful, if I don’t mention my husband who supported me all these years.
Though Abi kept on speaking, Krishna couldn’t listen to anything. The word “betrayal” was so cruel, that it pierced him very deep and stabbed him mercilessly. He lamented, “Do you think I betrayed you Abi? How could you even imagine that? You could have killed me instead of being so ruthless.” He couldn’t control his tears.
Abi shouted, “Will you stop crying Krishna. Your tears cannot justify what you did to me. Just answer me now. What on Earth was so important to you than me? Why didn’t you come to take me and stop my marriage? Did you see my mail or not?”.
With untold sadness, Krishna uttered, “I am really sorry Abi. You could have asked this question much before. You could have attended my calls. You have been hating me for so many years. How much pain did I give you? I am really sorry Abi”.
Abi busted, “Hell with your sorries Krishna. I need your answer and not sorries.”
With dejection, Krishna said, “I came Abi. I started from USA not after seeing your mail. I started the day, you stopped talking to me. I knew something was wrong and had to reach you out. I met everyone in your family and begged to give you to me. I even fell in their legs Abi.” Krishna exploded and tears came gushing out of him.
He went on dumbly, “Your uncle asked me how much money I wanted. He bargained you for money. I told I am ready to give away all my earnings in India and USA and just need my Abi. Only Abi, not with a single penny or piece of gold. It is not about the heavenly riches, even in a hut, we will be the happiest. After my reply, your uncle got irritated and left. When I received your mail, it was so reassuring in a way and I tried searching for you like a devil. But nobody gave the slimmest clue. Then, I reached out your husband and told him to stop the marriage. He didn’t believe me as I don’t know what your family had told to him. Then your family gave a police complaint against me. Even that couldn’t stop me. The final blow on me was too heavy. You know that I was a mummy boy and how strict my father used to be. I have never seen him showing an inch of kindness to me till then. He couldn’t see me into so much pains during that time and he pleaded me to leave you. He asked to choose between you and my family. Had he shouted as usual, I would have dealt it easily. But he cried like a child to me, which I couldn’t bear.”
“So you chose your family finally. Now I understand everything. Leave it Krishna. You didn’t betray me. The universe betrayed us. There is no one we can blame.”, Abi tried to pacify.
“I chose you, Abi.” when Krishna spoke, Abi got startled. He continued, “I chose you over my family Abi. I chose this stupid girl who mistrusted me all life. The most horrible thing occurred then. My father couldn’t stand my choice. He got cardiac arrest and left the world making me guilty for a lifetime. I think I am the one hated most by God. I lost both of you ruthlessly at the same time.”
Outrageously, Abi broke out with a loud cry which reverberated all across the mountains and absorbed into the overflowing Nevada Falls. All ages of agony unleashed out which looked unstoppable. It was every time Krishna who cried. When Abi cried for the first time, Krishna didn’t know what to do.
We meet countless people in our lifetime. Some are just passers, some leave with a hi - hello, some get friendly to party, some get deep into the soul whom the universe plucks out brutally. If people have to part away so painfully, why on Earth did they enter in the first instance? There are several questions which have no meaningful answer at all. Trying to seek for answers will just end up in more profound questions.
While silence wins over words, it would fail pathetically before a touch. Even the deepest emotions can be conveyed by a single touch. Krishna touched Abi’s hands. It was the first touch of Krishna over her. Abi felt like the whole world had stopped functioning. An electrifying lightening passed over her and she gasped to resist its power. The touch she sensed could definitely not be the first one. Ever since the Archean era, the touch existed. Age after age, she has been experiencing the same touch in different forms. What she experienced now, was the most dominant one from a soulmate.
“Why don’t we hike the mountains? It will be nice Abi”, when Krishna voiced, Abi was not even in her senses. “Come on. Lets go”, Krishna took her hands to walk. Abi followed like a puppy oblivious to everything happening around.
Amongst the greenery and the huge hills, they hiked indifferently. Krishna asked, “Tell me Abi. Why after so many years you got the thought to meet me to find out what really happened in my end?”. Abi smilingly said, “I really don’t know Krishna. It may be some person who resembled you provoked me with the past, or some subconscious event, or might be the order of the universe. I seriously don’t know!”. When Abi finished, her left leg hit a sharp stone and tore her shoe. “Does it happen occasionally or is it frequently occurring as you are so kanjoos, that you don’t buy proper footwears?”, when Krishna commented, they both laughed remembering a similar incident in college tour.
“Give your shoes to me. Let me take them in hands. There may not be shops to repair here. Wear my shoes. They will be loose on you but it is ok. You cannot walk barefoot as you are not used to the tough terrain. I can manage.”, Krishna started to remove his shoes. Abi stopped him and said, “You do not know about my conviction Krishna. You forgot I am a dancer and have danced in tough terrains. This is no matter for me”. Krishna was adamant this time, ”I cannot let you walk like that Abi. I will remove my shoes irrespective of whether you wear mine or not. I cannot walk in full comforts when you walk barefooted”. Abi smiled, “Please remove your shoes Krishna to experience mother Earth at least partially. You will sincerely thank me for this!”.
Two crazy souls were hiking barefoot, holding hands, rejoicing the inerasable moments of their lifetime. While Abi was in complete ecstasy, Krishna was in a state of bewilderment. He was confused on whether to relish the beauty of the mountains above, or to sense the toughness of the topsoil below, or to get lost in the mesmerising softness of the hand holding his right hand. As they were moved, so did the time. Abi got terrified by the thought of leaving Krishna again that too in very less time. It would definitely mean a second death for her. She did not want the thoughts of reality to affect her dream moment which was happening then. Sometimes, reality is so hard.
It was in fact like a paradise when they reached the “Mist Trail” hilltop. It was the most unreal view Abi saw with the most unreal person. Surrounded by huge brownie mountains, poured out the Nevada Falls like a milky white lava from a choco-lava cake. The multi-coloured rainbow flavored the miraculous scenery.
“I love you Abi. You cannot imagine how much. I don’t why I am so mad about you. Nobody has given me so much joy and so much pain as you. You are the most special person in my life. There is nothing on Earth which is more important to me than you. I don’t know why. I am sorry Abi.”, tears poured out when Krishna expressed himself in the summit. With all love Abi embraced her Krishna. Holding on tightly, they kissed each other passionately. Crowning the mortal mountains, they stood like immortals lost infinitely in time and space. Above the Redwoods, the Giant Sequoias and the Bristlecone Pines, there were just Abi and Krishna.