"Tell me, don't you love me?"
"Well, I don't know why you are asking such a question. Where is your trust?"
"Shekhar, it's not a question of trust. You are not giving me any time!"
"Hey, I need to go. I don't have time for all these...!"
"Oh! So now you could say this! Wow! Okay, tell me, do you want to..."
Ranita and Shekhar were in the middle of an animated phone conversation when there was sudden lightning followed by a deafening roar of thunderstorms.
The phone conversation got interrupted by the sudden flurry of raindrops from the skies, followed by the usual routine of load shedding and the connection snapped instantly.
Ranita tried to redial while battling her oozing teardrops, but all she got was a constant beep beep sound signaling network unavailability.
Ranita kept looking outside the window of her one-bedroom studio apartment, as the flurry of raindrops continued in rhythm like a musical serenade. On other occasions she would keep the windows closed tightly to avoid getting drenched. But tonight was different. She opened the windows and let herself be drenched as the wind carried the raindrops inside along with a gust of fresh air. Her face was now completely wet, the raindrops mixing nicely with her salty tears. She closed her eyes and sat down by the window as the wonderful memories of yesteryear kept occurring to her one after the other.
She had known Shekhar for 15 years, since school days. They both studied in the same class and it was the 10th grade when the shy boy had the courage of writing his first love letter to her. While she was thrilled at receiving the first touch of love in her life, she had initially not shown any inclination, but then they had always been good friends and it never hampered their friendship.
Then on the last day of school, in a weak moment, Ranita confessed her love and for the first time they kissed each other. It was evening already and there was a drizzle just like today. She remembered how Shekhar had hugged her tightly and kissed endlessly nearly bruising her tender lips.
Then college happened. Shekhar got into Engineering while Ranita decided to study honors course in Mathematics, she had always loved Mathematics for some weird reason and did never wish to part with it. Throughout the four years of Shekhar's engineering, every day and night, they would talk over the phone. Social networking had not been that important in those days, phone conversations mattered a lot. They would talk for hours without worrying about the call charges. Whatever pocket money each of them received would be spent in calling. Whenever possible, they would meet during vacations and post semester examinations, rekindling every bit of romance they had. Weekends would be spent in the gardens of Victoria Memorial hall or Prinsep Ghats in Kolkata. But sadly good times always ended sooner and they had to part ways to get on with their own lives.
It went on like this till the day Shekhar landed a job via campus recruitment. He called up Ranita immediately and she could not stop her tears out of sheer happiness. It was as if the future was already crafted out of golden letters. She was not doing too badly either, she ranked 6 in the Calcutta University in graduation and enrolled in her Masters!
It was like a dream run for both of them until Shekhar got relocated to Gurgaon due to his job. He got busy, made new friends. While by now phone calls were dirt cheap but he hardly had time to call up Ranita. Each of them had social media accounts now and Ranita kept seeing photos of Shekhar with his friends, hanging out, at the party, or in the pool. There were girls too which made her little jealous, but then she completely trusted him. After all they had vowed to be inseparable till death did them apart. Whatever little time they spoke to each other, Shekhar would always end with, "Love you baby, kisses!"
But she did not know if he really meant it anymore.
She could not say aloud, but in her mind, she would think, "You had time to party, you had time to swim and hang out, but you didn't have time to Skype or chat or even a phone never lasted more than a couple of minutes!"
Then she would again say to herself, "But best friends could go years without talking to each other and yet have the same chemistry! They were lovers and best friends!"
With this her anxiety would subside a little and she would feel better.
But then, his social media posts kept making her inquisitive. At one point in time, she deactivated her account. Shekhar didn't fail to notice and asked her directly.
Ranita just said, "I feel like it's so fake, it's like Fakebook! I don't want to be famous, I just need some real friends who would stand by me the moment I call them up. I don't need likes or comments. Those don't thrill me anymore. I know you like being the center of attraction, enjoy. If you want, call me or skype me anytime, but no social media please."
And she had disconnected. Shekhar did not ask about this further and she knew he continued being the social one.
What was like a 2-minute call every day had now been replaced with a 1-minute call every fortnight, that too most of the time Ranita would call him up. But somehow she was not comfortable anymore. She felt the relationship had lost the spark it once had. She had given everything to him including her heart. She trusted him so much that she didn't think love needs to be bound by narrow shackles of societal acceptance. And now, she felt, she was losing it.
After much thought she had given him a call this evening, knowing full well, that he had the evening free to himself, but sigh, the conversation took an ugly turn. She did not recognize the once shy guy she fell madly in love with. This man was different, this man was not who she thought he was.
The cracks were showing up already in the relationship and she had no idea if there was a way to mend it.
Suddenly the doorbell rang.
Ranita quickly wiped her tears and adjusted her clothes. She had been completely drenched. She was used to staying alone. She looked at the wall clock. 9 pm. Who could it be!
She hesitatingly opened the door and was shocked.
Shekhar was standing there with a bouquet of flowers in his hands.
"Can I come in? I just wanted to surprise you sweetheart!"
Ranita hugged him and closed the door.
The drops had ceased to fall, both the rain outside and the tears inside.