Khadija: A Hint Of Love

Khadija: A Hint Of Love

18 mins 23.6K 18 mins 23.6K

 

(It is a fictional account inspired from true events.)

Park Street, Calcutta (1988):

Chowdhury Café was as usual, crowded with scholars. The bistro was becoming popular amongst the Xavierians as a space to think and read. It was noisy every day; however the bookworms seemed least disturbed by the ceaseless dissonance that came from the clattering of utensils, the traffic outside and the consumers and waiters shouting. The unforgiving sun dehydrated all the citizens, desiccated the lives out of their bodies. Amit had a very rocky day. He was already struck by a number of unpleasant surprises, one being the fact that he graduated with honours. While most of the pupils bounced in ecstasy and rejoiced their graduation, he felt quite gloomy about it. He knew then- he had to move on! He passed and had no other alternative. Moving on necessitated numerous sacrifices, for instance, leaving Calcutta, leaving his college friends, giving up European language lessons and most importantly, leaving Khadija, the most treasured crush of his life.

The first but the last person he wanted to meet was her. He certainly knew where she was. He located Khadija at the northwest corner of the eatery and approached her table. Her face was sunk in Lilian Peake’s Harlequin romance book ‘Promise at Midnight’. He winced at her and sat down on the chair beside hers. Startled by Amit’s abrupt movement with the chair she kept down the book, fuming. Amit expressed a beam at her, which she countered with a negative look. She looked tanned but intensively gorgeous. Amit had always acknowledged the truth that his only impuissance was her intense beauty, which escaped the eyes of none.

“Congratulations, Moshai!” Khadija exclaimed and Amit blushed quietly. “So you are a Bachelor now.”

“Thanks. Hey I was thinking-“

“Wait, wait! When you are planning to leave town, Amit?”

“I haven’t given it a thought yet; still pondering about my choice.”

“Ah! Okay. Wish you all the luck, then. Shall we order?”

After ordering two fish cutlets and Gold Spots they continued their chaffer about daily affairs that also included their batchmate Suparna’s dirty laundry.  Suparna always had a crush on Amit; he knew it, yet he never paid attention to her appeals because he was too busy thinking about Khadija. Eventually, Khadija remembered he was going to ask something.

“So what were you saying, Amit?”

Amit gave it a long thought and decided to shatter his silence to a little extent so as to give her a faint hint – the faintest hint.

“Khadija, I think we should go out sometime soon. I m-mean, you know, go out t-together.”

She raised her eyebrows, faced Amit directly and shook her head tardily. An exasperating silence enveloped them for a while, which seemed forever to Amit. He cut through the silence, “We all can go. We will invite Suparna and other batchmates too. What do you say?”

Khadija emanated all the breath out, which she swallowed when Amit indirectly asked her out, mistakenly. She seemed alleviated and calmed then. “Yes we can. I’ll think about it.” She smiled.

They finished the cutlets in silence. The only dreadful sounds that came from their table were of the forks beating the plates, loud slurps and Gold Spot drink being sucked in through the straws. Amit blamed himself for the fiasco he had brought upon himself; he felt embarrassed and violated. He thought that it was a risk worth taking, but his diffident personality let him give up. He scratched his forehead, his mind plunged into a sea of thoughts – each wave seemed like a sturdy but knotty obstacle. He had to swim through all the obstacles in order to convey to her the message explaining how much he cared for her. He wanted her to understand his abysmal feelings for her – the intense unfathomable feelings.

They came out of the Café and struggled through the crowd till they reached the crossing. Amit did not have anything to say. Khadija interrupted the vehement silence.

“I think I should get going. Papa is waiting.”

Amit nodded and summoned a cab. His heart raced at that moment. He felt as if he was going to lose her, forever. When he held the door open for her, he felt as if he was ready to flush his whole world (or at least what he thought his whole life stood for) down the forlorn toilet of solitariness. She got into the cab and the engine sprang into life. It started moving. She waved at him and smiled. He could not smile back even if he wanted to. He just stood there and looked at the cab which gradually faded from his sight. All the memories with his beloved one flashed one by one, a frame after another. His whole life was apparently a book of inhibitions that ate him alive. Each page had a very heart-breaking story. The only thing awaited him at that minute was sheer reclusiveness and nothing else.

He asked himself - Why me of all the people on earth?

***Amit was born in an emblematic upper middle class Bengali family of scholars. His father was a renowned professor of physics and mother, a retired high school teacher who ran a local political news magazine. Although he spent most of his boyhood in hilly areas of North India, he was well suited to the urban way of living. He was not urban-bred himself, yet he was quite in terms with a metropolis like Calcutta, which he considered an ‘urban village’. He had always despised the citizens of Calcutta. According to him, they displayed self-indulgence, pride, jealousy, dirty political behaviour, fake intellectualism, utter indiscipline, unyielding ego and snoopiness. Amit’s father once told him – “People of Bengal, particularly the citizens of Calcutta think that they are the Englishmen of India. Therefore, it is very easy to fool them!” He finished high school at Himachal, after which his family transmigrated back to their old house at Ballygunge Avenue, Calcutta. He always had a knack for physics and mathematics, which led him to choose Bachelor of Science with Honours in Physics as his course at St. Xavier’s College, where he eventually met his love interest Khadija, as a sophomore.

Khadija was an arts honours student of English. She belonged to a Gujarati-Parsi family of lawyers and businessmen. They emigrated from Ahmedabad in the early seventies when she was small. Her parents were lawyers and she wanted to follow their footsteps. However, her love for literature which developed during her early teenage life brought a change in course of life to her personal benefit.

Then she wanted to become an author. Obsessed with various forms of literature, she wrote numerous poems, plays and essays. Khadija exhibited vibrant language skills and fluency in different languages like Bengali, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, French and German apart from the usual Hindi and Gujarati. Jazz was her primary passion in which she excelled – she had been a peachy singer having a svelte, disenchanted voice.  With increasing age, her beauty came into prominence. She was noticed and loved by all. For the breath-taking thoughts she put in her writings, she became intellectually appealing to her readers.

***The pair met on a chilly December morning in the year, 1986. The Xavierians wildly anticipated the customary Christmas celebrations. The perks of exhilarating Christian festive season loomed end-to-end in the hundred and twenty six year old campus. Everyone was wrapped in sweaters, shawls and mufflers. Some pupils were busy planning the forthcoming Christmas holidays, while the others were submerged in books, making final notes. Amit sat in the Central Library going through age old quilted and fat books on applied mechanics. Exhausted after writing monumental notes round-the-clock, he stopped for breath and sat calmly. He looked around in order to spot anything unnatural or anything that lay differently. His eyes stopped at a young woman who sat at least ten metres away from him.

She was a pretty thing. A perfectly plump woman, she displayed the most consummate and idyllic features – her complexion a bit fairer than Amit’s, her cheekbones held high, straight nose, raven-black wavy hair, thick but flawless eyebrows, full soft pink lips and a paleness that made her glow. She rested her head over a magnanimous pile of books, slobbering. Amit fixed his gaze at her for seconds and minutes. There was something out of the ordinary that reflected from her. She was probably taking a catnap. He looked at his watch; it was already half past eleven. Her very existence beleaguered him. An intangible shroud of passionate attraction towards that pretty woman cloaked him. He tried removing that shroud only to fail again and again.

Amit moved up to her table and shook her. She woke up and immediately covered her eyes due to reflex triggered by the bright light.

“Huh?”

“Hi! I’m Amit. Physics (Hons.) second year.”

“Hi…” She looked at her watch and sighed. “I’m Khadija. English (Hons.) second year.”

They shook hands.

“You must know Suparna then?”

“Why, yes! We’re in the same course.” Amit felt withdrawn at the mention of Suparna.

“Okay, she is my neighbour.”

“Hey, listen, it’s very cold here. Would you like some coffee from the Café?

She nodded and then looked at her table which where everything was disorderly.

“We can mind the mess later.” Amit said and smiled.

“Okay, then. Let’s go!”

It took only five minutes to reach Chowdhury Café from the main gate. It was crowded with students and staff draped in warm clothes. Everyone was in their Christmas temper. On that special occasion, the Café served lip smacking chocolate plum cakes, hot chocolate coffee and other sweet delicacies. They chose a table for two in the northeast corner. Amit was nervous because someone told him that the first impression of a boy reflects on the order he places. So he waited for her to order first. She scanned the menu and ordered a club sandwich and a large mugful hot chocolate coffee.

“We’ll have two of those.” Amit told the waiter.

They conversed about the celebrated people in campus. As soon as the coffee came, they deviated from the subject and discussed their personal lives. Amit expressed more interest in her life than she expressed in his. It was apparent that he did not care about her exciting endeavours of the past, which she prided herself on. There was no doubt that she was talented. However, like any other boy, he wanted to know whether she was romantically or platonically committed to any other man or not. He told her about himself, about his bringing up and his life in North India, which seemed quite dull and irksome compared to hers. He finally asked the question, bypassing one of the first inhibitions, going against his own principles.

“So, Khadija, do you like someone?” His voice was shaken a little bit.

Khadija articulated a shy but decent laugh and shook her head. Amit understood what she meant. His mind elated to an immensurable level. She is single, he thought.

They became good friends after that rendezvous and hung out together since then. Khadija spent more than fifteen years of her life in Calcutta and she knew the place better than Amit. She always used to come up with ideas of exploring the city over the weekends.

Their first expedition together was marked by visits to old buildings. Calcutta had always maintained its colonial heritage. They went to Writer’s Building, General Post Office, Tank Square and St. Andrews Church. Their second adventure was in Jorasanko Thakur Bari (ancestral home of the Tagores). After getting inside, she told Amit that she found solace there. She was a huge fan of Tagore and his works. They sat in the mansion’s inner veranda enjoying the calm atmosphere that engulfed the building.

“Amit, have I ever told you the greatest wish of my life?”  She asked.

Amit shook his head.  She faced him and said, “I want to have a house like this one. I will go to the terrace on rainy days and dance to Rabindrasangeet.”

And I will fulfil it one day, Amit thought.

She whistled a tune and encouraged Amit to sing with her. He shied out, but he did enjoy listening to her. One day, Khadija wanted him to have a taste of the legendary street food in the city. They had samosas, jalebis, Kathi rolls, the signature kachauris and other treats. Amit’s opinion on Calcutta gradually changed, thanks to her. He enjoyed going for matinee shows at New Empire Cinema with her.

They explored the northern depths of the city that richly defined its classical outlook. Amit found it very resourceful. He bought a lot of books for his curriculum from College Street, while Khadija bought few second hand novels to aid her in writing. They went to the Indian Coffee House a couple of times. That place was like a sanctuary, a refuge – an escapade from their daily affairs. They went further north where the traditional Bengali population of the city dwelt. Khadija told him that North Calcutta had been an inspiration for her. One would get lost in the thin lanes hid amongst old buildings spaced hardly a meter apart from each other. Those lanes had twists and sharp turns.

On her birthday, Amit took her to Gariahat, the shopper’s paradise within the city. He bought her a fountain pen and a harmonica. He had it in his mind that she loved to write and sing. He saw the flourishing smile in her face. It was just a giggle, which meant everything to him at that point of time. She was happy and thankful. He wanted to hug her, taking advantage of the moment; however, that was not the appropriate opportunity. After that day, he convinced himself not to do anything stupid.

Someone told Amit that the southern aspects of the city were as good as the northern ones. It was a ludicrously false statement made by the person, but it had to be respected, otherwise they would have never explored the much amorous Lake Area in Southern Avenue. It was a pleasant tree shaded avenue which had a long artificial water body, a lovely green park, several clusters of rowing, swimming and other sports clubs, various schools, and an old fashioned much loved Menoka Cinema.

In that year, they celebrated their common friend Suparna’s birthday at the legendary Chung Wah restaurant. It was an old Chinese eatery which served spicy Szechwan dishes. That was one memorable party. Amit cracked jokes and shared his Himachal adventures. He frequently attempted to flirt with Khadija, but he failed. They played ‘Truth or Dare?’. The game got intense, forcing Amit to back out, since he was afraid that he would let his feelings for Khadija slip in front of all.

On another occasion, Amit was invited to her Jazz Night at the Blue Fox. He heard a lot about her talent in Jazz. That night he got to experience it. Khadija looked gorgeous in her shiny blue dress and pearl earrings. Everyone in the bar cheered for her! She shot back smiles at the crowd. Khadijah was more popular than he thought! She sang many classics by Ella Fitzgerald, George Benson, Roberta Flack, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole and any other artists of the yesteryears. She was certainly a soprano! He last song was ‘L-O-V-E’ by Nat King Cole.  A waiter called Amit and handed him a parcel. A small box was enclosed inside it. He opened it and found a velvet scarf having cat and tiger like stripes printed on it! There was a note inside the box. It read:

“I know how much you love Feline creatures.

Sorry, I couldn’t help it!

Be Happy.

Love.

Your friend, Khadija.”

Amit laughed in joy. He kept the letter inside his coat pocket and placed it in his locker afterwards. Her voice boomed:

Love is all that I can give to you
Love is more than just a game for two
Two in love can make it
Take my heart and please don’t break it
Love was made for me and you

They visited the Lake Area quite often during the rainy season. The pleasant smell of the wet soil in rain blended with the smell of jasmine and other fragrant flowers. The flowers would fall on the ground, implicating their vibrant colours on its surface, making it a more beautiful sight to look at. Young and old couples would come to the lake to enjoy the moments of intimation.  People would also come alone to enjoy the consolation the nature provided them after busy hours of their rocky days. Amit and Khadija would sit there for long hours without talking to each other. Amit would look at her pretty face most of the time, while she enjoyed the minutest details of the nature that aroused her. She would write poems in Urdu, dedicated to the Mother Earth. He enjoyed every single verse of her poems. He loved it when she sang those poems to him in elegant voice.

During their quests to various parts of Calcutta, Amit had made several advances towards her – indirect, but well-meant advances, of course! It seemed that his feelings for her were never communicated properly to her pure heart. He lacked the guts to ask her directly what he wanted to know. Maybe he was too shy or maybe he was too afraid to lose her. He cherished each second with her and kept a diary about her, where he penned down his weekly experiences with her every Saturday night.

His affection for her intensified progressively over time, until it reached its topmost peak level during their evening boat ride in the Ganges. It was monsoon and Khadija had a rough day at college. She was subjected to dirty student political issues and she felt violated. Amit thought of clearing the debris in her mind and make her feel happy. Amit’s father once told him about the majestic boat rides down the Ganges at night. Amit remembered what his father told him and he decided orchestrating it for his woman.

The sun had already set. Amit convinced her into the trip by saying that they would be able to see magnificent lightings on the historical Howrah Bridge. The boatman started rowing by hands. The seats had romantic arrangement. Khadija closed her eyes and took deep breaths. It was dark. The only lights that illuminated the river were the moonlight and the lights from Howrah Bridge. The only light that illuminated her face was the lamp that flickered inside the boat. They had a clear view of the busy population on the bridge when they reached right under it. The age old cantilever bridge looked terrific at night. It was the lifeline of Calcutta and everyone knew it! The intoxicating beauty of one of the most beautiful cities on the planet appeared right before their eyes. There was a low tide and they could hear the rapid ripples, which added to the already glorious moment.

Khadija hummed the song “Rhim jhim ke taraane leke aayi barsaat…” from the film Kala Bazar.

Jab milte ho tum to chhutein dil ke taar
Milne ko tum se main kyon tha beqaraar
Rah jaati hai,
Rah jaati hai kyon hothon tak aake dil ki baat
Rhim jhim ke taraane leke aayi barsaat
Yaad aaye kisi se vo pehli mulaqaat

Listening to her melodic tune, his heart leapt and his beats paced. He stood up and stretched. He faced the Howrah Bridge and let the drizzle and calm but intense wind blow against his mighty face. He felt as if he owned the world at that moment. He remembered the scene of that song from Kala Bazar: Two people who love each other but are separated by circumstances come face to face on a rainy day in Bombay. Forced to walk because they do not seem to be able to get a cab, they take shelter under a common umbrella and their own thoughts. As he chivalrously escorts her, memories threaten to overwhelm both of them, and the rain provides the counterpoint…

He looked down at Khadija and saw her beautiful moonlit face. That is the only thing that keeps me going now, he thought. He kept looking at her. She gazed at the bridge, her eyes sparkled with joy and tears of happiness came rolling down her cheeks.

“Amit, thanks for everything.” She said. “You have done a lot for me. I will cherish this moment forever. I will treasure this gem of a moment thereafter. Thank you!”

Amit’s heart jumped in gaiety. He rejoiced from inside. He realized that the wind was much cooler than he thought. He bowed and Khadija immediately put the overcoat around him. He understood what happened. Another world just opened its gates to him. Then it was up to him how he made his way through the top in that world in order to make her understand how he felt for her.

He held her hands and sang few lines from the poem which he once wrote for her in the diary:

Tumi shuncho ki?
Tumi jano ki?
Amar buke tomar naam lekha
R kotodin korbo tomar opekkha…
Ei maha shohor e hariye gele ami tomakei khunji
Karon tumi e amar ekmatro batighar, shuncho ki tumi?

(Are you listening?
Do you know?
Your name is etched in my heart
How long must I wait for you…
When I get lost in this huge city, I only look for you
Because you are my only beacon, are you listening?)

Khadija smiled and submitted herself into his arms. He hugged her tightly and kissed her forehead. He felt her warmth. Her soft and delicate body brushing against him. He felt secured. He felt her breath and her heartbeats, which were nullified by his rapidly beating heart. You are the closest thing to me, he spoke in his thoughts, I will never leave you alone from this moment onwards. He stroked her soft hair and they spent the rest of the evening silently. Who knew what lied ahead in their lives? Amit looked at the river and compared his life to it. His life was like an ever flowing river. A river flows along a natural course maintained by various parameters of the nature. Amit’s life followed a similar course. He just had to let himself go and surrender himself to the natural course of life in order to bypass or cut through the ‘obstacles’. He believed that nature always brought unexpected gifts.

 


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