‘Can I have your boarding pass please’, said the flight crew standing at the boarding gate. She scanned the barcode on the boarding pass. I was about to board 6E-304 Pune to Delhi. I was on an official trip in Pune. The term ‘Official’ was a misnomer in the context of my organization. While one may think of an official trip as a suited-booted employee sitting in an air-conditioned office discussing business strategies, my job was entirely different. I had to stand in a boiling workshop of the component manufacturer for the entire day, howling on its employees and watching the welding of steel tubes.
‘Thank You Mr. Singh’, she said as she returned me the boarding pass. The security personnel checked the security tag on my cabin bag and allowed me to pass through. I entered the aircraft and kept my bag in the overhead compartment. I sat on my preferred aisle seat and closed my eyes. My eyes were burning because of all the welding they were exposed to. I wanted to sleep quickly because I had to head towards the office straight away after reaching Delhi.
It would have been only a few minutes while I had closed my eyes when I heard a female voice, ‘Excuse me!’
‘Sorry about that’, I said as I stood up and moved out.
She smiled and slid through the gap between the two rows of seats to her seat. The window seat. I quickly got back to complete my sleep when I heard a male voice, ’Excuse me’. I didn’t say anything this time and just followed the entire procedure again. The guy reached his middle seat. I knew this initial disadvantage of an aisle seat, but I couldn’t afford to sit on a window seat for I am a flight-phobic. I wasn’t, but the series of plane crashes that had happened to our southeastern neighbors had just induced a fear of flight in me.
When I thought everything has settled down and I could get a sound sleep, the guy said,’ Hi! I am Rahul.’
‘Hi! I am Priya!’ said the girl shaking her hand with the guy.
‘So you live in Delhi?’ asked Rahul.
‘Yes and No. My parents live in Delhi. For the past 3 years, I have been living in Pune.’
‘Ok. So, you are going to meet your parents?’
‘Yes. What about you?’
‘I work here in Pune. And I have got some work in Delhi. By the way, where do you work?’ asked Rahul.
‘I work with Accenture. And you?’
‘Reliance Animation’ said Rahul.
They won’t let me sleep. I cursed.
‘So you are off to an official trip. Right?’ asked Priya as she leaned back to the seat as the plane started to take off.
I hated this term.
‘Hmm. Actually, No’, replied the guy, ‘My parents have seen a girl for my marriage. I am going to meet her’.
‘What a coincidence!’ exclaimed Priya turning to the guy, ‘Even I am going for the same purpose.’
‘Oh great! So who is the guy?’
‘Some MBA graduate working with a Management consultancy. And who is the girl?’
‘Some Fashion Designer.’
‘Cool, man! You both will make a creative couple’, chuckled Priya.
‘Hehe. Yeah, but I was not interested in meeting her. I had told my parents that if they like the girl, then it’s Ok from my side’ said Rahul.
‘Why so, dude?’ asked Priya in surprise.
I sometimes wonder how such short conversations make strangers feel that they know each other for a long time.
‘I am not good at judging girls. I have left this job to my parents. I have already created enough mess for myself’, said Rahul.
After few right and left rotations, the plane stabilized and the pilot turned the seatbelt sign off.
The flight crew came with refreshments. We pulled down the tray attached to the front seats in order to keep the refreshment on it.
Pssst! Priya opened the Coke can with a hissing sound and asked, ‘It seems you went through some relationship turmoil.’
‘Yeah! It took me almost three years to get over her.’ replied Rahul.
‘So, what had happened?’
‘It’s a long story.’
‘It’s a long journey.’ said Priya with a smiling face.
They are not going to stop soon. I thought.
‘Shalini. I saw her first when I was in 12th standard. I won’t call it love at first sight. But, it was rather an attraction at first sight, which happens to almost every guy every now and then. I had managed to talk to her quite a few times. But never gathered the courage to ask her for friendship.’ said Rahul.
‘Oh hoo… childhood love!’ Priya teased him.
Rahul blushed and continued, ’we left the school and moved to different colleges in different cities. I thought I would never be able to meet her again. It was when my friend told me about Orkut. Facebook was not known to us in those days. And I am not sure if it even existed at that time. I looked up for her on Orkut and sent her friend request. She accepted it. We started scrapping, then moved on to SMS. From Good morning to Goodnight, we kept on talking by SMS for the whole day. Then it escalated to the late night calls. Late night calling packs were a boon for the couples.’
‘Typical lovers!’ said Priya.
‘And then came the day which I regret the most. The day I had finally proposed her. And she accepted. Everything went fine for few months. But I was feeling guilty from inside. It was not possible for me to marry her. I knew it. My parents would never agree. And I didn’t want to keep her in dark. The way she was attached to me, it was going to be very difficult for her to deal with this situation. So I decided to tell her the truth’.
‘Then?’ asked Priya resting her chin on hand.
‘I explained her that it is not possible for us to take this relationship forward. My parents would never allow me to marry you. But you are my best friend. I have never had a friend like you. And I will never have. I couldn’t stop myself from telling you that I love you. That’s why I had proposed you. But I didn’t want to keep you in dark either. That’s why I am telling you the truth before it’s too late. I want us to be friends forever. I don’t want to spoil our friendship. And most importantly, I don’t want to lose YOU.’ said Rahul.
I didn’t look the expressions on his face, but his voice was clearly indicated that he hadn’t forgotten her yet.
‘Phew! What happened then?’ Priya raised her brows and asked.
‘She didn’t say anything. She didn’t say anything for the entire day. She messaged me next day. The message read: I always wanted to take our relationship forward. I won’t say I didn’t get hurt. But I know you are helpless. I won’t compel you to go forward for it would do no good to our relationship. But I don’t want to lose a friend like you either. We couldn’t make ourselves best couple. But we still are best friends and will remain forever.’ said Rahul.
‘Well, that’s a sort of Happy Ending! Where is the conflict, then?’ complained Priya.
Rahul gestured with his palm and said, ‘Wait. It’s not over yet. We continued as friends for three more years. She couldn’t detach herself from me. She still cared for me the same way she used to. This worried me more. After college, I got a job and moved to Pune. She joined a software company in Bangalore. New environment, new friends. Our late night calls stopped. The number of sms reduced. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. But what I was not expecting was the message she had sent me one day. It read: I want to end this Rahul. I want to end our friendship or whatever you may call it. I want to end this all. We, anyhow, have reduced talking. But, I want to cut it completely. I don’t want to keep any contact with you. I don’t want to talk to you ever.’
Rahul looked at Priya who was listening to him with her eyes widened. He continued, ‘I was astonished. I was shell shocked. What has happened to her suddenly? Why on earth she wants to end everything. I sent her several messages asking what happened. She didn’t reply. I called her several times. She didn’t pick. When I was about to call her again, I received her message: Please Rahul. I said I don’t want to talk to you. If you call one more time, I will have no other option but to change my number.’
Rahul paused for a moment and continued,’ I thought she might be disturbed. That’s why she was behaving in that way. I waited for a few days and sent her an SMS. She didn’t reply. I waited for a few more weeks and sent her a sorry-SMS. But she didn’t reply. If I would’ve tried to call her, she would have changed her number. Three months passed and we hadn’t talked to each other. I decided to call her one day. I dialed her number. The response I got was: The number you have dialed is out of service. I didn’t know when she had changed her number. She had stopped using Orkut. In fact, we all had stopped using Orkut by then. We were friends in facebook. I quickly logged in to FB to message her. But she had blocked me there too. She had told me before, that she didn’t want to keep any contact with me. And she did it.’
‘You didn’t have any mutual friend’, asked Priya.
‘We had. But they were not in touch with any of us. After a year, I found once such friend who was in Bangalore. I requested her if she meets Shalini, try to get her number. Coincidentally, she met her the very next week. She gave me her number but said I shouldn’t contact her. She is dating some guy.’
There was silence for a moment.
‘It felt like a nasty blow in the stomach’, Rahul continued, ‘But I had to call her. I had to ask her why she left me. I dialed her number:
‘Hi’, I said.
‘Hi’, she paused for a while and said. She recognized my voice.
‘How are you?’
‘I am good. And you?’
‘I have been better’, I said. She didn’t say anything.
‘So it seems you are having a good time after our breakup?’ I asked.
‘hmm.. You can say so.’ she said
‘So are you going to marry him?’ I asked.
‘Wow! Then you would have better passed the time with me. Or did you just get a better option?’
‘Rahul Please! Why don’t you forget everything? Whatever happened between us is nothing more than a joke to me now. Why are you cribbing over the same old thing? For God’s sake please move on.’ she raised her voice.
‘It was all a Joke to you! For the past one year, I was just thinking about you. I used to call you every day hoping that I would be able to connect you. I sent you numerous sorry messages hoping that they would get delivered someday. And it was all a joke to you!’ I lost my calm.
‘Yes. It was all a bad Joke. If it was not possible for us to marry, so why shouldn’t I just pass the time with someone better? And I don’t care at all how you lived for the past one year and how you are feeling now. Please don’t interfere in my life again. I don’t want to talk to you ever.’ She said and hung up the phone.
My sleep had disappeared. I was completely drawn to Rahul’s story.
‘It was bound to happen. It was going to end one or the other day.’ Priya spoke finally.
‘I know. But I never thought it would end this way. I would have fooled around with her for three years and then would’ve told her that I am not going to marry her. But I didn’t. I told her at the beginning itself. And remember we were best friends for three years. The truth is that the moment she found someone better, she forgot me. I was nothing more than a ‘Product’ to her.’
Priya patted his shoulder and said, ’If someone had called our relationship a Joke, I would have never talked to him. In fact, I would have bluntly said F*** off! I don’t know why you still care for her. Or even think about her.’
Rahul hung is head low and said, ’had she left me the day I told her that I couldn’t marry her, I wouldn’t be hurt this much. But what she did after three years was more painful. She used to say she couldn’t live without me for a second. And it took not more than a second for her to leave me. I had never expected that she would change this way.’
‘People do change Rahul. And it’s not their fault. It’s the mistake of people like us who trust them blindly. People do change. And who knows it better than Me.’ said Priya.
Rahul turned his head towards Priya and said, ‘What happened with you?’
‘Leave it. It’s a long story.’ said Priya.
‘Well, someone told me it’s a long journey!’ said Rahul with a smiling face.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen! We are going through some turbulence. The seatbelt sign has been turned on. You are requested to get back to your seats and fasten the seatbelt’ announced an air hostess.
Had it been any other day, I would have been stricken with panic. But, on that day, the intriguing stories of the two beings sitting beside me kept my aerophobia at bay.
The airplane was cruising at a speed of about 1000kph towards Delhi and it was still about an hour left to land. An hour back, I was cursing their chitter-chatter. But, the same conversation had pulled my mind towards it. I was waiting eagerly for Priya to begin her story.
‘I never liked the idea of dating a guy, sending sweet SMS, late night calls. In short, whatever typical lovers did. I had no particular best friend. We had a group of 3 girls and 2 guys. One of them was Nitin. We all were in the same class in B.tech. We had quite fun time together. I had never wanted to fall in to a relationship. In fact I hated to be in a relationship.’ said Priya.
‘So it was Nitin.’ Smiled Rahul.
‘I was equally attached to all the friends in my group. But Nitin was more involved with me than anybody else. Be it in the canteen or in a movie, he always chose to sit beside me. He started sending various friendship SMS which I used to found damn silly. He used to talk to me for the entire day in college. Slowly, we started the then famous SMS chatting. He used to come to my place and was friendly with my mother.’ said Priya.
‘Where is the conflict, then?’ Rahul imitated Priya.
‘Shut up!’ said Priya and continued, ‘In four years, we grew from friends to best friends. Through campus recruitment, I had got placed in Accenture and moved to Pune while he got placed in a Mumbai based firm. After two months, he resigned and came to Pune. Jobless. The reason he told me was that he wanted to live in the same city as I did. This decision infuriated me. The reason was as silly as his decision. We had a heated conversation on this I didn’t talk to him for a week. I picked up his call after a week:
‘Hi Priya. I am so sorry.’ he said.
‘What Sorry yaar! I have already told you why I am angry.’
‘I just can’t work there Priya. I was all alone there.’
‘What is the meaning of all alone? I was not your only friend in college. So how would it affect you if I was not there with you in Mumbai? You’re just ruining your career to spend time with me.’
‘I will find some job here soon. I have applied for a few openings.’ he said.
‘This will not justify what you have done!’ I said.
‘Please try to understand Priya. It's just…’ he paused, ‘It’s just that I can’t live without you!’
‘Oh Please! Don’t behave as if you are my boyfriend.’
‘We are as good as a couple, Priya. We have had a group in the initial years of college. But after that, it was just you and me.’
‘What nonsense!’ I shouted.
‘It isn’t. I know you hate being in a relationship and that’s what is stopping you to accept the truth. I don’t think I would ever get a girl who can understand me better than you. And same stands valid for you too.’ he said.
I didn’t reply.
He continued, ‘I always wanted to say that to you but didn’t have the courage. But I have to say it today. I love you.’
‘I disconnected the call. My mind was boiling with anger. I decided to never talk to him again. He sent me several sorry-SMS for the next few days. His voice was echoing inside my head, it was just you and me. He was correct. After the first year of B.tech, we started spending larger amount of time with each other. Other friends were also there, but we were just too busy with each other. And I realized he was true. Even I wouldn’t get a guy who could understand me better than him.’ said Priya.
Rahul nodded just to confirm he is getting everything.
‘I called him after one month and told that I realized whatever he said that day was true. But the reality is that it is very difficult to take the relationship ahead. My parents won’t be very happy with our relationship and I would find it extremely difficult to convince them. He replied that even he would find it difficult to convince his parents but we both have to try our best.’ said Priya.
‘So you told your parents about him?’ asked Rahul.
‘Yes. Though my Mom liked Nitin, but her reaction was the most extreme when I told her about us. My parents, like all the parents, were strictly against love marriage. To worsen the situation, Nitin was unemployed. I lied that he is preparing for GRE and will soon go abroad for further studies. It took me a year but for my happiness my parents agreed. I wanted to share this with Nitin as early as possible. So I called him:
‘Hi Priya. How are you?’ he said.
‘I have spoken to my parents about us.’ I said.
‘What?’ he exclaimed, ‘Why didn't you ask me before speaking to them?’
‘You said we both should try our best’, I said.
‘But you should have asked me before speaking with them!’
‘Leave it. The good thing is that they have agreed.’ I couldn't hide my happiness.
‘What have you done Priya! Why were you in such haste? You should have consulted me before doing anything.’
‘What happened Nitin? Aren't you happy that my parents agreed?’
‘I had tried to convince my parents too. But they are strictly against our marriage. And I was about to tell you that it is not possible for us to take our relationship forward. Please try to understand Priya. It’s not possible for me to marry you.’ he said.
I felt a sense of déjà vu. I had heard a similar situation an hour back.
‘Holy crap!’ said Rahul as he thumped his hand on the armrest.
Priya leaned back to her sit. She closed her eyes and said, ‘I immediately disconnected the call. I couldn’t control my tears. I cried. I abused him. Cursed him. I didn’t talk to him after that. Neither had he had the courage to call me again. He messaged me one day: I know I’ve hurt you Priya. But my feelings still haven’t changed for you. You were my best friend and you still are. Please forget whatever has happened. We still can be best friends. I left my job for you because I didn’t want to lose a friend like you. And even now, I don’t want to lose my best friend.’
Déjà vu again. I thought to myself.
‘What a jerk!’ shouted Rahul, ‘First he refused to marry you and then he is saying to be your friend as before? What does he think of you? An idiot?’
Now that’s interesting. Why Rahul is displeased? Hadn’t he also done a similar thing to Shalini? I thought to myself.
‘We were still friends though not as good as we were. We hadn’t talked about it again. I told my mom about it. She advised me to get married. According to her, marriage was the only thing which can help me to get out of my past. But I asked for one year. But I couldn’t avoid it for long. Marriage proposals started coming in and I had no reason to refuse. But I had to be done with Nitin.’ said Priya.
‘Exactly!’ said Rahul, ‘How can you go ahead in your life when Nitin is still inside your head?’
‘I told Nitin that I cannot continue being your friend. We were best friends. We thought to take it forward. I even had done my part. But the truth is we both have to move ahead. Separately. And it cannot happen if we cannot forget each other completely. At least I cannot move ahead. So, I have decided to end it today. I don’t want to speak to you again. I don’t want to even see you again.’ said Priya.
I was expecting a different opinion from Rahul. After all, more or less, a similar thing had happened to him.
‘Hmm… makes sense. You had given it a try. If he couldn't convince his parents, he had no right to be even your friend. What did he say then?’ said Rahul.
Now that amused me.
‘He was behaving as if he was shocked. As if I had betrayed him. He said how I could do this to him. How I could just leave him after so many years of friendship? It was he who had asked me to take our relationship one step ahead and it was he who backed out. In the end, it was me who was the culprit. Nevertheless, I never cared how he had felt. I never talked to him after.’ Said Priya.
‘He was a complete idiot!’ said Rahul, ‘Don’t upset yourself thinking about him. Just think he was a waste of time. A bad phase of your life and an experience to learn. Just forget him and move on.’
‘May be it was all my fault. Sometimes, I feel that I had overreacted. We could have been at least remained friends. He would have been the happiest person when he had learnt that I was going to marry.’ said Priya in regret.
‘It’s not your fault Priya. Remember you said ‘People do change’. He was you best friend. True. But did he respect your friendship? No. He asked you to take your friendship to marriage. Then he himself backed out. It was all his fault.’ said Rahul.
Priya was about to say something when Rahul spoke again, ‘Rather I sometimes feel, it was all my fault because of which she left me. I was a loser. I couldn’t give whatever Shalini was expecting from me. This is why she left me when she found someone better. Someone superior to me. I am a loser.’
‘No, you are not Rahul’, said Priya, ‘It was all her fault. You were still there for her when she needed. But she was not there for you when you needed her. She left you for someone else. She lost a guy like you. She is a loser. Not you.’
Both looked at each other and smiled. Their conversation had ended. But a series of questions started arising in my mind. Who was right and who was wrong. Rahul, Shalini, Priya or Nitin?
When Shalini left Rahul, as per Rahul and Priya both, Shalini was wrong. But when Priya left Nitin, Priya was right for both Priya and Rahul. Rahul’s and Priya’s story are more or less same. Then why do we have a difference of opinion?
It's then when a concept of physics struck in my mind. The Frame of Reference! For a person sitting inside a moving train, the train is stationary and the whole world outside is moving backward while for a person standing outside, the whole world is stationary and train is moving forward. The motion appears differently through different Frame of Reference!
Similar things happen to our life as well. Sometimes, we cry over little things. We feel hurt because of someone. It is due to the fact that we are watching from our Frame of Reference. It could be very much possible that what other has done is absolutely correct in his Frame of Reference.
In simple words, it’s all about Point of View. Priya watched Rahul’s story with his Point of View and found Shalini wrong. Similarly, Rahul watched Priya’s story with her Point of View and found Priya right.
While I was pondering over the concept of Right or wrong and Point of View, I heard a male voice, ‘Excuse me!’ It was Rahul’s. Rahul was standing beside me while Priya was still sitting in her window seat and staring at me. ‘We have already landed and I think we should move out’ said Rahul.
‘Oh, Sorry’, I apologized as I got up. I took out my bag out of the overhead compartment while Rahul and Priya were also moving out of their seats. I was about to head towards the aircraft exit when I stopped for a moment and turned back towards Rahul and Priya. They glanced at each other seeing me.
‘You know. In our lives, there is nothing Right or Wrong but…. Point of View’, I said. I turned towards exit again and left.
They both were wondering what did I just say and why did I say it.