Bench Apart16 mins 265 16 mins 265
“Out beyond the ideas of right-doing and wrongdoing, there is a field I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about."
Niya: "You look different."
Vihan: "Good different or bad different,it has been 4 years Niyu what did you expect I would be same old boy."
Niya:"You still call me Niyu, no one in this whole forbidden world calls me that any more. Just different than the boy I dated 2 years back."
Vihan: "You and your observational skills are still the same old."
Niya: "So how come you are in Delhi?"
Vihan: "I work in this hospital, when did you come back from Canada and what brings you here."
Niya: "I' am Visiting a friend, she is a gynaecologist here."
Vihan: "Nice, you became some hot shot big doctor there I heard, only replying to e-mails that too with hmm" .
Niya:"I did work really hard Vihan and there is nothing wrong with realising your dreams so stop taunting. we haven't spoken a word to each other in last one year and the first thing you have to say today is this."
Vihan: "I'am sorry I did not mean to be rude, it just rubbed you the wrong way."
Niya giggles and softly speaking.
Niya: "Look at you all so formal serious doctor uncle material, can't even catch a simple leg pulling routine."
With almost welled up eyes, parched throat, taking support of a half cooked smile, Vihan clears his throat and utter out completely worthless words.
Vihan: "haaye tu na dara deti hai bacchu...( oh god you scared me to death)"
Before he could complete his sentence he realised another blunder he made, his hand was on her head.
An abominable lull and shortage of words stuck both.
Niya's cell phone beeps.
Niya: "She is stuck with a breech delivery, it is going to take forever"
Vihan: "Thankgod you did not become a gynaecologist, remember that shoulder dystocia case where you panicked and called me, I mean such thin patience you have with everything"
Niya roll her eyes back in irritation.
Niya: "second taunt is last 10 minutes, what have you been watching these days, daily soaps and are you auditioning for khadus sasur( taunting father inlaw)."
Niya laughs again a little comfortably and freely this time, loud enough to be noticed by peope around.
Vihan quickly stumble on his own words almost petrified, white as a sheet.
Vihan: "I meant would you like to have some coffee meanwhile you wait for your friend."
Niya squeezing her eyes in doubt, lifting her right eyebrow, and unknowingly biting her lower lip replies in a quick loud thud.
Niya:" Only if you will make your signature coffee for me like you always did back in college"
Vihan elated with Niya's enthusiasm.
Vihan: "Done, 2 teaspoon coffee with hint of coco powder, molten dairy milk and just 4-5 crystals of sugar beaten to perfection with luke warm water coming your way princes....."
Almost stammering, still stuck on word princess, hit with the inability to complete his sentence.
Vihan: "I' am sorry, I did not mean to barge in your privacy, it was just a slip of tongue"
Niya: "It's ok Vihan we are still friends"
Vihan putting up the biggest fake smile on his face.
Vihan : "Are we"
Niya with shimmery big eyes.
Niya: "Are we not, I thought we would always be friends"
Now cracking under the pressure, with an almost faded smile.
Vihan: "You never called or picked any of my calls till last month and I kept on trying for an entire year, so I thought we were not friends anymore"
With a deep sigh Niya replies.
Niya:"You knew na how I felt about you waiting and honestly college flings do come to an end, I fell out of love and I did not want to mess up things for you"
Vihan: "Looks like you too have forgotten how to take harmless humour in good spirit"
Niya:"So how have you been"
Vihan now changing his tone back to formal.
Vihan:"I have been good, I am second year academic pathology resident here at hospital, will be moving back to Lucknow after the completion of my course"
Niya:"The most irritably quick on feet guy I have ever known, who wanted to open India's pioneer trauma mobile unit, is not studying emergency medicine but settled for a desk job paraclinical course."
Vihan takes a deep breath.
Vihan: "Well I had to take something."
Niya:"Good for you."
Vihan: "I read all your Thesis & Critical Appraisals on DM-type 1, they are impressive"
Niya elated with dialated pupils.
Niya:"You did read them, how did you spot them."
Vihan:"I'am so proud of you Niya and I' am sorry........ ".
Before vihan could complete his sentence, Niya's phone beeps again, this time the ring is louder, almost deafening, the volume keeps on getting louder untill Vihan shuts the alarm and wakes up to 20 missed calls from mom, hospital & one unread message.
Anshita:"I think you over slept, I have a breech emergency, leaving early, I love you, will meet you for lunch, kisses."
"There's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away."
Running on an almost empty beach trying to keep up with Vihan, Niya shrieks.
Niya: "Wait , wait , wait"
Vihan smiles back with an insignificant nod and replies.
Vihan: "Learn to walk fast Niya"
Almost panting Niya quips.
Niya:"You have long legs you learn to walk slow, learn to walk at my pace"
Vihan winks .
Vihan: "Yeah sure sexy legs"
Laughing with a undertone of shyness.
Niya:"You just have to be a sexist in everything, don't you"
Vihan slowing down a bit, now walking backwards looking at Niya, with both their feet drawing in loose sand, ocassionally teased by warm sea water, washing away their every footprint. comforting yet reminding of a dwindling past and a hazy future.
Vihan:"Those legs are sexy Niya, you made me fall for them, years back, short and sexy"
with glittery eyes and a renouncing tone Niya almost dry of words.
Niya: "Are you flirting with me Vihan."
Vihan with a whiff of pride.
Vihan: " Sure I' am, I have learnt everything, flirting to kissing from the very best there is."
Niya: "Very flattering, but your charm is dead, it won't move me off my feet one bloody inch."
Vihan looking at her with disoriented look.
Vihan:"I know you wouldn't, but hey I can atleast try, besides you never taught me how to fall out of love, so I can pretty much keep on making futile attempts"
NIya: "Lets just sit, sun will rise up from the ocean against this tantalising sky any moment now and I don't want to miss that"
With half sunk in the morning glory, still under the sheet of half twinkling stars about to be bathed in the light of a new day, both sat, facing the ocean, feeling the damp air against their tired faces, tasting salt, raptured by the rising sun.
Vihan: "Remember last time we were here, we had an entire bottle of green apple vodka."
Niya completed Vihan's sentence.
Niya:"With a pound worth of chocolate cake and guava juice."
Niya asked hesitantly
Niya:"Do you think people will ever know about our story."
Vihan:"Why should they, I mean ours is not special, it has no pixiedust to it, we did not even end up together, I think our story should be burried along with a million other incomplete stories like ours, with an epitaph of 'How love looked like', never to be unearthed ever again".
Looking at the zenith.
Niya:"Don't you think that is all the more reason for every one to know what happened."
Vihan:"What is up with the waves why does it make everything so philosophical."
Niya giggles still staring at a wild ocean.
Niya: "Because feelings are much like flowing water, we can't limit them but we can choose where to sink, where to stay afloat."
Niya and vihan look at each other with half cooked smiles and aching souls.
Niya:"Why do I always wear this yellow top in your every memory, when you know it how much I hate yellow and love blue, infact you too love blue"
Vihan laughs out.
Vihan:"I loved yellow, you hated it so I started loving blue.
Niya:"Will you come back to Goa again."
Vihan: "Nope, not any time soon"
Niya smiles in equanimity and moves her hand towards his, incompletely cupping it, both close their eyes, just feeling the ocean.
Niya:"Say goodbye then, it is time for a new journey and a new destination".
Vihan:"I miss talking to you a lot."
Niya blankly looking at the ocean.
Vihan hands his last love letter to the calm waters underneath roaring waves, handing over everything to the ocean, as he walks back, tracing his lone footsteps one last time on the familiar shores.
As I go back home this time, I am little more familiar with your every street than ever but a little less fond of you than my previous escapades, I felt lost in lane of memories, searching for a familiar face among crowds, a face which was once by my side, riding on the back seat, lost, nonchalant and insouciant in your streets . The deep dark waters of the ocean and deafening noise of music gave me no gratification , just brought disdain to my wretched heart, infact long ambles on your silent shores was the only respite you had to offer . Things that were once pleasantries offered by you now acted like arch nemesis to my inner peace . Meandering amidst crowds my hands fumbled to search for a hand that once refused to let go, also the hand that so blatantly left me . In the silence of early morning when revelers were all gone and birds were yet to rise I came to your shores for revelations, you only offered me realisations. This time I had the entire chocolate cake all to myself but just did not have the appetite for even a single slice, green apple vodka tasted raw and bitter, It indeed was a distasteful experience . I Think this was my last rendezvous with you for a really long time, take care, like a lot of things it is time for me to let go of you as well .
“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.”
Niya & Vihan had not met in past two years, Long distance relationship was their new normal, they talked several times a day but had not hugged in two years, could not hold hands, she could not graze her fingers against his while endlessly loitering, he could not kiss her forehead.
Looking at each other, peeking through distorted pixels they talked daily but they couldn't see the glint in each other's eyes, shimmer that once had sparkle of stars, also the shimmer that was slowly fading away, may be that is why they both could not see themselves drifting apart too.
When Niya said she was leaving forever all they wanted was to meet one last time, have that one dance they never had, he wanted to kiss her forehead & that tear that always rolled down her left cheek first, hold eachother one last time like they didn't have to let go.
As the clock ticked 2:40 In the morning, Vihan's anxiety just couldn't be contained in mere thoughts of equanimity, to counter the same there were constant calls graciously extended from Niya.
Niya checks in & calls up Vihan.
Niya:"Vihan you should have been here".
Vihan:"Yeah sure & do what exactly, act like how cool I'am being dumped while still in love after spending almost three-fourth of the last decade with you."
Niya:"Don't be like that, You knew we would see seperate paths some day & I love you, will always be there for you no matter what happens, we are breaking up so that we can move on with our lives ahead, but we will never break this friendship."
There is a long pause with no exchange of words just a few silent sighs from Vihan before Niya breaks into laughter.
Vihan:"What is so funny?".
Niya:"Do you even realise that we haven't met in like two years, so caught up with hospital and studies that we have been in long distance relationship with just phone calls, texts and absolutely no physical contact, I mean now we would meet only when you visit Canada or I come back to India."
Speaking after a long pause with a sarcastic yet sad voice masked by fake laughter.
Vihan:"After all these years I got dumped on a phone call, how cool is that"
In a rectifyimg tone.
Niya:"No one got dumped you teen drama queen, like mature adults we just mutually seperated away."
Perturbed, trying to diffuse a rather palpable sadness, Niya shrills.
Niya:"Vihan stop sobbing, You are the practical one among us two, be it career or relationship & rejoice now you can date all the dusky long legs you used to drool over."
In an almost dejected fashion.
Vihan:"I have come to like short stubby limb buds that you have, so no long legs for me."
Niya:"Awww, was that chef's special sweetened insult"
Vihan:"Please don't leave"
Niya:"Vihan you are just messing up things for me, you know how much I hate India & Medicine, I will lose my self here & You wouldn't leave this country no matter how degraded it may become."
Vihan:"I' am sorry, I just blurted out first thing that came to my mind".
Niya:"Vihan it is ok, I love you, but love is not the only thing that we need or should strive for, what about happiness, I feel suffocated here with everything that is happening & nothing is in our favour, I don't even want to raise my kids here with the ongoing diabolic state of politics."
Vihan after a deep breath.
Niya quickly changing the topic.
Niya:"Why didn't you come to see me off in person, smarty pants?"
Vihan giggling with a hint of taunt.
Vihan:"Even after seven years of dating, you never introduced me to your parents as your partner & now you want me to come and see you off, introducing mylself to your parents as the potential son in law, who did not quite make it."
Niya:"Stop cribbing atleast now it is easy when things are falling apart. Do you remember when we last met?"
Vihan:"Two years back, we hugged & kissed on the hospital ramp at five in the morning after completing our shifts, got lectured on our last day at hospital. Later we grabbed our last coffee with chocolate chip cookies together from the subway around the corner. You promised we would meet sooner than we can imagine."
Vihan:"Don't be, just be happy, very happy, buy that big chair, in which you can snug in with all your books & that perfect cup of coffee."
Vihan:"I know, me too."
As Niya is about to walk through the terminal she turns around to a faint voice calling her name, twenty feet away, behind a see through glass wall, Vihan was waving at her, bidding farewell to his little sloth bear.
"Maybe one day we'll meet again and explain to each other what really happened. Maybe one day we'll finally understand, Until then, I hope you live your best life. and I hope you really do all things you always said you wanted to do."
......r. m. drake
"Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful."
Vihan is visiting Goa for the first time in years to attend his best friend's wedding. Trying to escape the social pleasentries & giving in to his new found agoraphobia he retires for the night before actual festevities kick in. He decides to take a walk down his favourite beach of Arambol, away from the wonted hustle bustle of North Goa.
By the time he reaches Arambol it is almost four in the morning, he finds his favourite escapade exactly as he remembered, silent stretch of shore with just majestic waves hitting the sand, strong ocean currents singing songs, sweet yet so melancholious & warm water comforting his cold feet.
A familiar but forgotten voice calls upon his name, almost muffled by the peacefull thuds of waves, Vihan doesn't bother to look back.
"How can you stroll at the pace, a normal human being would jog."
Almost in disbelief, Vihan turns back, notices a human silhouette approaching him bathed in glorious moonbeam, he almost rejects it as a mere figment of his imagination, a hallucination courtsey to lack of sleep.
Voice calls out again.
"Vihan wait, you have such irritating long legs."
Vihan could recognise those angry words even amidst a clutter of ten thousand voices saying his name in synchrony.
Almost in distress, trying to catch her breath.
Niya:"What happened to your werewolf hearing abilities, can't you just stop for a moment?"
Almost hugging her, still trying to make sense of the events.
Niya:"I know my name dumbo, stop staring like you have seen a ghost."
Vihan:"Why & how on holy fucking planet are you here?"
Niya:"I'am here for Vrishti's wedding same as you, Is your brain getting dense already, why can't you just go to Curlies or Thalassa like normal people, get drunk & wasted, you just have to travel all that distance to be on this desolate stretch of sand, I have been following you since you left the bash."
without wasting a moment Vihan clamours.
Vihan:"Four years, you did not return a text, picked a call, replied to even a single mail & here you are just like that."
Niya:"You were too obsessed with us for your own good. You didn't want to understand, I was all alone in a new country, trying to figure out life, had so much work pressure, those critical appraisals, managing a household on my own, I met new people & I wanted you to do the same, you were too fixated over one relationship ignoring everything else."
Vihan:"But what about us, how could you just on ghost me? "
Niya:"I'am here to see my friend, is it so hard for you to be one."
After a long deafening pause Vihan stutter, now a little calmer.
Vihan:"It was a different life time."
Niya gazes at vihan.
Niya:"lets sit and talk, I follow Anshita on Instagram, she seems sensible, unlike you."
Vihan breaks into laughter.
Vihan:"That is the first thing you have to say, she hates you."
Niya:"So how come you stopped stalking me, I thought you would never stop."
Vihan:"You remember Two years back I requested you one last question on my birthday?"
Niya:"You asked, if I still loved you?"
Vihan"You said, you had fallen out of love."
Niya:"Then you texted thankyou for everything & never texted again."
Vihan:"That day I realised how you can never make someone love you, if they don't."
Niya:"I was so scared of you becoming something I would have hated, something you too would have hated."
Vihan:"When you left nothing made sense, I mean I still loved you, I knew deep down you too loved me, but then I forgot how you smelled, the tonality of your voice, I even forgot how you looked like at times. It was all so scary, I would go back to pictures of us just to make sure I remembered how you looked. Then one day I realised people eventually separate, some times by death after living a life time together, some times after living together for a while, living a life time worth of experiences, but all good love stories do come to an end."
Niya looks at Vihan, both unfazed by the rising sun, air between them slightly heavier & damper than usual, as if their tears were being consumed by the gust of wind carrying them like ether.
Niya looking straight at the vast ocean, disrupted yet so calm.
Niya:"How beautiful this ocean & sky looks together."
Vihan:"No matter how good they look together, they will never meet, they are just not meant to, not beyond the horizon, not even at the zenith, they are beautiful in their respective cosmos, staring at each other, almost a bench apart."
Both welled up a little.
Vihan:"Can I hold your hand.?"
Niya:"Will you be able to let go.?"
Vihan slowly nods a no with a tear rolling down his right cheek.
Niya:"Then let's not."
As sky is painted in all shades of finest-fiery orange and warm yellow reflected on calm blue of the ocean, both Niya and Vihan embrace silence.