April12 mins 301 12 mins 301
It was April. Life seemed to spring afresh from every nook and corner. Mitali was sitting in a temple with her brother and bhabhi. Her little niece was in her lap. It was her Mundan, the little child was crying hard and the temple bells were also ringing loud.
Mitali didn’t notice when the phone rang. Suveer always gave such missed calls! They ended in a twinkle. He preferred not to ring the warning bells at her home.”
He had not called in days. She was upset with him although she knew he was busy with his family and work.
He was constantly on her mind. Every song she heard, every phrase she read, every dialogue she heard reminded her of him. At this age, she had again fallen head over heels in love with a man she had met after 18 years.
She knew that Suveer felt the same, but he just couldn't express himself the way she did. “You are the word wizard while I am the inarticulate one.” He always teased her.
She saw the call and instantly rang back hoping he must be on some tour. They could at least talk. That was how it worked, he informed her whenever he was away from home and could communicate freely; she then adjusted her routine at home for those precious few days.
It was as if, at that time he was on leave, available exclusively for her. It helped them to resolve the family versus love conflict. They were torn between their loyalties and this relationship.
He picked the call. He was good about that; keeping his promises. He would always pick the call or call back. “Always there for you” he had said once.
”How are you?” She asked. “Good.”He answered.
“Where are you?” She asked. “I am here.”He said simply. She was irritated, “Please, no word games today. I am not well.”
He instantly backed off, “Ok! Take it easy. I was only joking.
“Can you come and meet me?” he asked. She suddenly sensed that he was here.
HERE!! He was in her city. She caught a cab to where he was and saw him standing near a shop, her heart skipped a beat. It always did.
She was elated, happy, surprised but annoyed and very angry all at the same time. They started walking and she was in a teary haze. She hit out at him. “How long have you been here?” He shuffled his feet, averted his gaze and said,” I was very busy and then had to go to bhai’s place also. Remember I never got to go anywhere last time. By the way, you have gained weight.” His tone was forced casual.
Tears welled up in her eyes now. How could he do it? How could he come to the city and not inform her? Was he still grappling with the question that he had posed to Mitali three years back?
Then she remembered the promise that they had made to each other. They had vowed never to let go of each other. They were soul-mates, only friends in this life and waiting for the next.
Three years ago, he had asked her if it was possible to love more than one person. She was confused but he knew his mind. He was so persuasive that time and had asked her again, just so that he could tell her that he STILL loved her! She didn’t know that he did at all. She had hoped that he loved her but that was way back in high school.
They were classmates since class II, but poles apart. He was the studious, focused, soft-spoken, simpleton whose aim was to be successful and rich. She was intelligent, happy and carefree. Total opposites!
She was somewhat aware that he kept sneaking glances at her, looking sideways, staring when she was not looking but then dismissed it as imagination. He now told her, eighteen years later, that the sight of her distracted him and he was agonised by the distance between them which his shyness couldn’t bridge. He had been going bonkers and just couldn’t concentrate on his studies.
She longingly thought of those days. She really liked him. She had hoped that one day he will do or say something to show that he was attracted. There was a spark between them but they were both naïve not recognise it. She remembered how once while playing he had held her wrist and wouldn’t let go. She wanted that moment to last forever. Then someone pushed them and he released her. He told her now about the moment he had lost his heart to her! She came to school wearing a sari! He just couldn’t take her eyes off. To him she looked like a goddess; beautiful, vibrant, pure and virginal. But as usual, he turned away as soon as she looked up. Another moment lost, another chance gone.
He was hoping to become a microbiologist. That was what he was pinning all his hopes on. Becoming a scientist and then stealing the earth from beneath her feet. He didn’t realise at the time that it was a very long term plan. Fate or Destiny or whatever name you give it had other plans. His father was transferred out.
She wanted him to know. She bought a card about being friends forever and wrote a nice little quote. Superscripting it ‘To, One of My Oldest and Best Friends Ever’, borrowed a bicycle and went to say bye. He was surprised to see her and tongue-tied as usual. Next day he was gone.
It was April, the cool month, the Amaltas blossoms month, the season of spring.
Seventeen years later, on an April day, his message lay in her inbox!
It was spring again.
“Hi! Are you the same Mitali”? If you are then I assume you will remember the name. Please revert if you do. Best Regards”, Suveer.
Of course, she did. Her heart knew. she avoided communication because she was married now and didn’t want to invite censure from a doubting husband but he persisted; he wanted long answers to his e-mails, wanted to know how she was doing, wanted to know about her family and kids and more.
She fabricated a tale of convenient lies about her husband and family. She had to because the truth was that her husband was an alcoholic unable to fight depression. She was going through one of the worst phases of her life.
He asked for her number but she avoided. He kept in touch this time though e-mail.
Her life was changing rapidly. She had left his home a week earlier after consistent beatings and a failed suicide attempt. Her husband was sent for rehab. Her only solace was her small son and her work as a tutor. Ma encouraged her to find old friends on the internet. She found Veena her best friend. Mitali gave her number to Veena on a facebook comment. Veena never called back.
A week later her phone screen displayed an unknown number calling. It was Suveer! He had read the message on Veena’s page and gathered the courage to call her. This time she also didn’t want him to disappear so she invited him to for a text chat. He agreed for an hour later.
He was there at the appointed hour. They chatted about each other’s lives and careers. He wanted to know if she had old school photos. She did and promised to get them the next day. About her life she spun lies again, saying that her husband was abroad. He could sense that something was wrong but didn’t want to hurry her. They bid goodnight and promised to chat again at the same time the next day.
The next day she had loads of photographs. Then he sprang the first surprise, he had a picture of her! She felt ecstatic!! He told her that he had written to her after he left the city but never got a reply. That was strange because she had replied. The letter got lost! They were definitely star crossed because when she had not received a reply to her letter, she had nursed a grudge, thinking that he had found new friends in the new city and forgotten the old ones. Little did she know that her letter never reached him!
She had decided to move on and not lose life over something that had happened only in her imagination. A few years later he had written once again. This time she had not replied deliberately. She was going to be married in two months. It was too late.
She was jolted back from her reverie. Her chat box was flashing.
“I love you. I love my wife but I have always loved you since we were in class 5 and I still do.” Suveer wrote in the chatbox. “I have been looking for you for the last 17 years. I needed you to know this.” He told her that he came looking for her after he had secured a job but she was already married by then. “I never fell out of love with you.” He explained. “But you were out of reach now. I too moved on.”
“Last year when I was alone on an assignment, you appeared in my dream. I felt you were in some sort of trouble and needed me. I started searching for you, tried many old contacts but you had just disappeared. Fortunately, Dinesh had your email id.” He kept on writing.
“You again responded in a detached way, but this time I was determined to hold on to you!” In her heart, she thanked her God for small mercies remembering the moment she had sent her resume to Dinesh for applying for a job.
“Now will you please come clean and tell me what’s wrong with your life?” He urged. “Don’t lie anymore, alright?” He typed fervently. “I know something is drastically wrong.”
She was touched. ‘How did he know?’ She couldn’t keep up the lies anymore. She too needed someone to confide in, without being judged. She knew intuitively that he will listen. “Call me.” She said simply.
He called immediately and they started talking. As the night dawned into day she told him everything. How her husband, whom she had loved and for whom she had given up everything beat her up, his alcoholism and refusal to fulfill any of his responsibilities. She told him about the beatings, sexual abuse, and her suicide attempts.
At first, Suveer simply LISTENED. She poured out all her anguish. He just listened and gathered it all in his heart. Then he consoled her, sympathized with her but most importantly egged her on the journey of finding her lost self. He reminded her how popular, confident and spirited she was in school and how everyone loved her. He reminisced that many boys were vying for her attention back then.
They talked incessantly for many nights, exchanged long worded e-mails, sent each other love songs and recent photographs. Slowly and surely through Suveer’s eyes, she rediscovered herself.
They were in love, and this time they knew it. He pressed her to exercise, study further, pray, LIVE. She was happy again! She felt immensely loved and desired, she had forgotten the feeling completely.
But theirs was a unique dilemma. He was torn between his loving family and this childhood love. She also had to decide if she wanted to get back to her husband who was going to be back soon. They could not hurt their loved ones so they hid it from all. They went back to their families. Resigned themselves to their fate but now wowed never to lose touch.
They hadn’t even met again, yet deep in their hearts, they knew that they were SOULMATES.
Then a year later came he called to say that he was coming to her city. She was agog with anxiety. It was as if she was a 16-year-old again with butterflies in her stomach!
He came, they met and she was on the top of the world. She was awash with pleasure and exhilaration. She could see the admiration and unabashed love in his eyes. They had the best time of their lives. They visited their old haunts and their school. They met with friends, spent time together, shopped, and went on a drive to the hills. She cooked for him and he ate the spicy food without complaining although he despised chilies. They did all they were never able to do together and gathered for themselves their own private treasure. Every day he brought her gifts and took her on little dates. For once she was not worried about the world.
One of these days, she sent him a text message, “Would you give me something?”
He was surprised, “Anything you ask for.” He replied.
“I want two things and I am not taking a ‘no’ from you!” She texted again
“Don’t worry...you have a blanket yes from me.” He assured, wondering where it was leading to and calculating his finances. He had already bought her clothes and knick-knacks.
“First, I want something that will always remind me of you, something that I can keep close to my heart and preserve forever. Second I want one full-blown, warm and tight hug .” She wrote with trembling fingers.
‘I am game about the first,” he wrote, “but the second one is tough. I won’t know how to stop. I don’t want to jeopardize both of us.”
“I don’t know about all that, a hug is overdue. I deserve it. ” She pressed on adamantly.
That day he bought her a pendant to hang in her necklace. It was surely something she could keep close to her heart. “What about my second gift?” she was bent on it. He didn’t say a word and gathered her in her arms and hugged her so tight that she thought she would break.
“I am glad I found you and we met. I thank God for these wonderful eighteen days. I have relived my lost eighteen years in these days. The only thing I regret is that this will die with me. I found the girl I had always loved and she loves me back too, but I can’t share it with a single soul in my life.” He lamented shaking his head. “We know now and that’s enough!” She consoled him.
He pulled her to the looking glass. Standing behind her, his arms around her waist, his face peeping over her shoulder he said, “After today, I will always imagine you here in my arms. You must also remember me like this, always there right behind you.”
“Yes.” She whispered, “Always there for me.”
Today all her doubts melted when she looked in his eyes full of love. “He will be always there!” She thought happily.