When Love Blunders
When Love Blunders11 mins 398 11 mins 398
Of late her mother’s lavish brunches had stopped being the most exciting part of lazy Sunday mornings.
Of course they were still the best spreads ever that usually included everybody’s favourite dishes. And there was the usual chit chat and laughter from Mom, Dad, Dadi, her brother and her.
But always present was the exciting restlessness. And the monumental patience with which she waited for the brunch to finish which sometimes stretched for over two hours because everyone just lingered and lazed making the most of leisurely time spent together when no one was in a rush to go to work, college etc.
The highlight of her day however came after the meal was over when they all dispersed. When her father handed her the Sunday newspaper with a smile.
‘’Here, all yours. Let me see how fast you do it this time.’’ He would invariably say referring to the intricate crossword puzzle she had told him she looked forward to solving every week. He believed her. Of course, he did. That this was the reason behind her excitement every Sunday as she waited for the newspaper to be handed over to her. She always waited after he had read it so that she could take it straight up to her room. And hoard it.
But it was not for the crossword puzzle.
It was for the little message Abhay sent her every Sunday on the ‘message corner’ of the Sunday edition which was actually an entire page dedicated to messages instead of a mere message ‘corner.’ He had come up with this little pure romantic idea about a year ago when he had moved to Mumbai for work. So now every Sunday they looked forward to reading each other’s cryptic love notes. And they had never missed a single Sunday. She completely adored him. He was her sun, moon and everything in between.
She ran up to her room two steps at a time after brunch was over. She closed the door to her room and flopped on to the bed, opening the newspaper to the specific page and spreading it out before her. She didn’t have to scan all the messages to look for Abhay’s. It was right there where it always was; on the bottom left corner of the page. Her heart ran excitedly as she grinned. ‘To my Heartbeat.....I will love you till the stars burn away. A’
She stared at the poetic words, believing every word. She didn’t have the tiniest doubt. He would love her forever. If there was one thing she was sure about, it was Abhay’s love for her and hers for him.
She knew the words written here were not his own but probably lifted from some song or the other; he had confessed as much with a grin when he had been here last month. But that was not the point.
‘’You only need to know that they are true Babe.’’ He had said with a smile that had reached his eyes.
As one week passed into another and then the next, she waited impatiently for his message once more. They were especially precious because he was not a letter writer. He said he had no patience for those. These were much better he told her, much more dependable because she would always get them on time unlike letters which could get delayed. There were the daily phone calls of course but this, this was their sweet secret. She had a cutting of every message pasted in a notebook with the date. It was her biggest treasure.
As she opened the newspaper to look for the message that day her heart skipped a beat. ‘See you at Machan at four today. Hurry! A’
For a moment all she could do was stare at the words and then with an excited squeal she ran to the bathroom to get ready. Abhay and his surprises!
He met her with his lopsided grin and a crushing hug that lingered an extra moment like he didn’t want to let her go. Over sandwiches and cold coffee he asked her as usual about how college was going. Which brought them back to the same topic - she pressing him to take the next step of marriage as she was going to finish college in two months. He saying he needed to establish himself properly.
‘’I need to earn money Babe.’’
‘’You’ve earned more than enough money Abhay. We don’t need that much money!’’
‘’We do. It’s a different life after getting married. I never want to be in a position where we can’t afford a good life.’’
‘’This is a good life! Look around you.’’ She said referring to the five star restaurant they were in; he never took her to anything less.
‘’Marriage is a lot more than this Babe.’’
‘Dadi keeps telling me to tell Ma and Papa but you know I can’t. Not until I can assure them that we are getting married soon.’’
‘’Just this one promotion. It’s going to change my life. It will catapult me right up there. And then I promise we’ll get married.’’
‘’Really.’’ His smile stayed with her long after he had gone back to Mumbai that same evening.
Two months later he over the same table she couldn’t believe what he was saying.
‘’Please understand Babe. I have to do this. For us. He is making me a partner in the firm. You can’t imagine what this means – ‘’
‘’This means you are selling yourself!’’ she almost shouted as grief, shock, disgust, disbelief all filled her heart. She could feel the tears threatening to spill. This wasn’t happening. Abhi hadn’t just told her of this bizarre plan. He wasn’t really going to marry the boss’s daughter.
‘’It will just be a temporary arrangement. It won’t be a real marriage. I’ll get an annulment faster than you can imagine. I told you she and me had a talk. She is doing it under her father’s pressure. She doesn’t want this anymore than I do. This way we both get what we want. She will be able to tell her dad she tried for his sake but it didn’t work out. And I will get partnership.’’ With every word, he spoke Priya felt her world slipping away.
‘’What is wrong with you Abhay? When did you get this ambitious? This unscrupulous? How can you do this to me?’’ she cried rawly. He had killed her. And how.
After over two years Priya was back home and contrary to what she had feared, she was happy to be back. Her wounds were still raw but at least they had stopped bleeding. With practised effort she pushed away the disturbing thoughts and put her mind instead to enjoying her Mother’s Sunday brunch. She had missed it immensely during the two years she had been away to the US doing an advanced culinary course. What it had actually been intended for was an escape.
She enjoyed her meal at a leisurely pace because this time there was no palpitating excitement for the meal to finish. This time there was no urgency to grab the Sunday paper and rush up to her room.
But maybe this was exactly what she should do. She should have a look at the bottom left corner of the message page and see that there was nothing of them there. Maybe confronting her demons would help heal her wounds completely once and for all.
Except when she did open the page and look at the bottom left corner her heart missed a beat as she stared. She quickly checked the date of the newspaper. It was today’s. She closed her eyes and opened them again. It was still there.
‘Where are you Babe? I will wait for you till the stars burn. A’
She stared at the words till they blurred. What was this? What was going on? She ran down to the garage as a thought occurred to her. She sifted through the pile of old newspapers that were neatly arranged date wise. Every Sunday edition that she opened carried different variants of the same message. She gave up halfway through the pile – she knew they too carried the same messages. She sat back feeling dazed. What was he doing? Why was he doing this? She couldn’t breathe as confusion, longing, hatred, yearning warred inside her heart. She locked herself in her bathroom and cried heart brokenly at the sheer, tempting futility of it all.
But he wouldn’t leave her alone, wouldn’t let her have her peace. Because the next Sunday there was a message again. And the Sunday after that. And every Sunday that followed. Not a single lapse. They all read the same:
‘Where are you angel? I will wait for an eternity for you. A’
‘Please forgive me Babe. I love you. A’
‘Please come back to me. You are my life. A’
She read and ignored each one. Her heart ached but even she couldn’t forgive what he had done. There were times when she was tempted to message him back, she longed to but then it all came rushing back and she’d cry herself to sleep.
And then one Sunday she opened the newspaper to read: ‘I didn’t do it Babe. Love you forever. A’
Everything stilled around her. She read it a hundred times. The words didn’t change. She went back to the garage and went through the earliest ones she hadn’t read that day. One of them read, ‘I didn’t do it. Please believe me. A’
If his staff thought that he was a shell of a man, a brooding and unsmiling boss, he didn’t blame them. Because they didn’t know that the man they were so in awe of, the self made man they all looked up to for inspiration was someone who had destroyed his happiness with his own hands. They didn’t know that he woke up every morning with a heart heavy with regret, longing and self loathing.
The only spark in his life was the messages he put in their corner every Sunday. It was a ritual that was almost cathartic, a hopeless hope against hope even though all he saw was his own messages week after week.
And then one day he opened the newspaper and his heart almost stopped. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Right next to his message was one from her, ‘Hello. P’
Priya read and re-read her message in print that Sunday afternoon. She wished she hadn’t sent it. What had she been thinking? It was the dumbest thing she had ever done – right behind trusting Abhay with her heart and soul. She spent the entire day in confused restlessness and in the evening she finally came to a decision which she announced to her parents – that she wanted to go back to the US and pursue a career in the culinary field. She had job options she wanted to explore.
In the commotion that followed nobody heard the doorbell. A moment later there was a hush in the dining room and Priya turned her head to see Abhay standing in the doorway.
Her heart stopped.
He was looking right at her. Even across the room as her eyes locked with his, she could see the burning intensity in his eyes, the searing love, the hope, the utter joy, the uncertainty.
Finally, he dragged his eyes away from her and addressed her family with the confidence that was all Abhay.
‘’Good evening and I’m sorry to barge in unannounced.’’ He looked at her father, ‘’My name is Abhay Bedi and I love your daughter Sir. I have come to ask you for her hand in marriage.’’ as there was a collective gasp all around he continued. ‘’With your permission, I would like to tell you all about myself and my family. But before that I would like to give you my promise that I will love and cherish your daughter for every day that I live. You see she is my life.’’
She was aware of all eyes turning to her in stunned disbelief. All except Dadi’s who was looking at her with a huge smile. But all she could see through the sheen of tears was Abhay. He was here! He must have taken a flight immediately after seeing her message this very morning.
Before her father could utter a word in response he continued looking at her with all the love of the universe shining in his eyes.
‘’I didn’t do it Babe.’’ he said in a voice gruff with emotion even as everyone gasped at the endearment. ‘’I couldn’t. I chucked the offer. I chucked the job. I couldn’t live with myself. I moved to Bangalore and started from scratch. I’ve looked for you everywhere, every day. To say that I am sorry. I am so sorry my love. So very sorry. Please forgive me. Please give me a chance to make up for all the sorrow and heartbreak I have put you through. Please give me a chance to win your trust again, your love, your heart. Please Babe. I can’t live without you.’’ he begged in front of everyone.
Priya could only look at him as tears flooded her eyes. And for the life of her, she couldn’t get a word out.
‘’I....’’ she began.
‘’Please Babe.’’ she saw his eyes filled with anguish and desperate hope. She knew the feeling.
‘’I think I need to talk to you young man.’’ She heard her father speak finally.
‘’Shush!’’ she heard her dadi say. ‘’Let them sort it out Satish. This looks like a second chance at love. Not everybody gets it.’’
And then Abhay got down on one knee in front of her. Holding out a stunning ring embedded in a velvet cushioned box, he looked up into her eyes and spoke straight from the depths of his heart.
‘’I love you my sweet Babe. I haven’t been alive without you. Please say you forgive me. And that you will give me the chance to love you every day of my life. Please marry me.’’
‘’I haven’t said yes!’’ she heard her father object.
‘’Must you spoil it?’’ she heard her mother reprimand him softly.
But Priya was transfixed, she couldn’t look away from his eyes. She saw a suspicious sheen there and blinked back her own tears. All she could do was nod. ‘’I love you Abhay Bedi. I never stopped.’’
Amidst the loud cheers and claps that followed she was drawn into a crushing embrace against a strongly beating heart that she loved above all others.