I paced myself to and fro across the book shop in search for something that could help me kill time. It is one of the most common ways to feel that time is not getting wasted while one waits at the airport just to listen to the announcement "To the kind attention of the passengers, Air Asia Flight No- I5 1322 from Bangalore to Goa has been delayed by 2 hours." I was wondering if I had taken the right decision by choosing to travel by air. I could have easily driven down half way out of Bangalore while I had been waiting to board the flight from the past four hours.
Now that I was sure that I had two hours extra in hand, I could spend it fruitfully by reading a good book. Thanks to this delay, I could at least get to know about the bestsellers. I love reading Sci-fi books. There weren't any new ones in this category. So, I moved to politics. I picked up "The Accidental Prime Minister" by Sanjaya Baru. I had been longing to read this book since its release but never got time to do it. As I was flipping through the pages, I felt a push at my elbow which made me fumble with the hard bound book. Much to my luck, I managed to hold it just before it could fall. Before I could turn back to look, a soft silky voice buzzed past my ear, "Oh!! Sorry." Mesmerized by the voice, I couldn't control myself but look around. A tall, well dressed, woman in her late twenties, with short and neatly cropped hair was lingering over the Romantic fiction section. The perfume she had applied was so strong that it left a trail of fragrance in the path she followed after nudging me. I felt irritated but sobered down as soon as I looked at her. She was the first good looking woman I had seen at the airport since morning. I left my book in the rack and followed her fragrance that led to where she was browsing through the books.
Well... I was never the romantic type and I was scared going towards that section. This time the only reason was to stand a bit close to this woman. I was a bit nervous thinking that she might feel that I was following her. She was busy looking at the summary written at the back of a novel. In less than ten minutes I was already judging her character based on the kind of cheesy romantic books she was referring to. Just to make myself look natural I picked up a Sidney Sheldon book. I don't even know what kind of books he wrote. She looked up and saw me picking up the book and gave a faint smile. I couldn't help but smile back at her. I was not interested in even flipping the pages of the book. I just wanted a pretext to look at her and get hold of the book she was engrossed in. I was very inquisitive to know what kind of book in romance fiction could a woman looking as smart and confident as her could read. I was enjoying this exercise about judging her character and had probably started building castles in the air. "How I wish we could have a cup of coffee together," I mumbled within.
I guess she had heard the murmurs . Startled, she asked, "You want something.”
“No, nothing," I said sheepishly and walked to the next row of Sports magazines only to divert my attention off her.
I acted like I was too engrossed and kept looking at her from the corner of my eyes. Ten minutes passed and she still stood there reading that book. I looked down to read something finally. When I looked up again, she was gone. I looked around everywhere, but there was no sign of her. Putting the magazine back in the rack I made my way towards the exit but I couldn't spot her. For some reason I was attracted more to the perfume. I went to the place exactly where she stood. I was clueless as to which book she was reading. Suddenly, while scanning through the book rack I spotted a book with a name I was familiar with. I tilted my head to read the name again in the vertical direction - 'Tara Sharma.'
I was numb for a second. It took me some time to regain my composure. I took the book and kept it in my hand. It was a thin book and I could complete reading it before boarding my flight. The cover page had a picture of a couple sitting hand in hand on a beach looking at the sunset. The next moment I was at the counter purchasing the book.
A myriad of emotions swept through my heart. I was not the same person that I had been only fifteen minutes back. I was hearing her name after six months. Yes, you guessed it right! I know Tara, rather I knew Tara. We had had a good as well as a bitter past. We were great friends at one point of time. Things would have been great had we stayed just as friends. The moment we stepped into a relationship, things didn't turn up the way we had expected our future to be. I had imagined myself sitting beside her at a book launch and applauding for her. Never had I imagined that I would be buying her book at the airport and reading it, not even being aware of its release. Had I not followed that beautiful lady earlier this morning I wouldn't have even been aware of her book. Did the world know about it as much as I did or was I ignoring romantic fiction since long? Everything that had happened between us flashed across my mind. With a heavy heart, I flipped open to read the first page of the book. It was written in italics.
'To that person who taught me how to love.'
I was wondering why I kept re-reading the line. May be she had found someone who would have really made her feel loved. After all, six months is enough to start a new relationship. Anything could have happened. Brushing aside the pangs of envy for the person whom she had dedicated it to, I started reading the book. I managed to keep the title of the book hidden and made sure no one realized that a man could also read romantic fiction. Moving on through the pages, I found that she had acknowledged many people and there were many names I was familiar with. I would have also been one of them had I been with her. There was a paragraph long note where she expressed her gratitude to Aspiring Writers.com for giving her a platform and mentoring her to publish her debut romantic fiction. They had their own promotional package where they would give a chance to budding writers to showcase their talent. I had never heard of this website before, but I was happy that she could take their help and fulfil her dream of becoming an author. She was a die-hard romantic. I was reading at a scanning speed. As I was finishing reading the first chapter something struck me. Probably, the similarity of the situation. I went back to those pages and read again. There were descriptions of a place very similar to where we lived.
Tara and I were neighbours and took the same Metro route to office. We were on the same floor, but four houses apart. Initially, it was just meeting and greeting each other until one day when she knocked at my door asking me to lend my Internet connection. I was wondering what on earth have situations come round to. People are asking if they could borrow Internet connection! I couldn't say no when a beautiful neighbour very innocently asks for such insignificant things in life. That's what a techie's life has come to. An Internet connection is not valued by money. It is as important as drinking water. I agreed to share my WiFi password with her. She sat outside my door in a hurry and completed her work. She had left halfway towards her house when she came back to apologize for forgetting to thank me. I didn't bother asking why she needed the Internet connection, but I felt very weird seeing her expressions.
The protagonists of the story were very similar to us. I was excited as well as nervous while I read the further chapters. Somewhere deep within a voice told me that the book was about us, but the bitterness in our relationship made me believe it was someone else. I continued reading.
Tara and I met in the lift again and our conversation hit at once. She said that she was a journalist and was an aspiring writer. She thanked me for the Internet connection again and said that because of my timely help she could win a story writing contest.
The story was moving forward at a good pace and I must appreciate her writing skills. I was beginning to believe that the man in Tara's novel was just like me.
Slowly conversations increased between us. It started with borrowing an Internet connection and ended up with Tara borrowing space in my living room. One day the house owner of Tara's house came and suddenly asked her to vacate as he had sold off the apartment to someone else. Not knowing what to do she dumped all her luggage in my living room and went in search for a temporary PG accommodation until she found a house. She came home famished at around 10:00 PM. Very hesitatingly she asked me if she could stay for just one night in my apartment because the PG accommodation was to be occupied only from the next day. I welcomed her home. She was shy and hesitant yet she was extremely sweet. I couldn't get enough metaphors to describe her.
The book was just 100 pages away to be completed when I started feeling anxious. My heart was beating faster. She had described the best date of her life. It was indeed the best date we had ever had.
We were very comfortable with each other by then. Tara had got a very nice PG accommodation. I missed seeing her in the apartment, so post work we used to take a walk in the park near our house. After many such brisk walks and conversations our relationship came to the level of going out on a date. I took her to the most romantic roof top restaurant in the city. The breeze was cool, the music was soothing and so was the alcohol. We were so mesmerized by each other’s company that I didn't realize when she came and sat beside me. Probably we both were high on alcohol and also love. I felt my world turn upside down when she planted a soft peck on my cheek. I didn't even realize it was a kiss. I didn't even know how it was like to be kissed by a girl until she kissed me. That's when she said that it was the best date she had ever had and she would write about this in her novel if she ever got a chance to publish one.
Oh! I winced pinching my cheek. How could I have forgotten this? It was a clear indication for me that this book was all about us. I had no further doubts. I continued reading. There were bitter parts which I did not want to remember. She wanted to be romantic with me, but I chose to keep distance. She held my hand while walking, on the contrary, I was very awkward of showing public display of affection. I was affectionate and loving towards her but not romantic. She was always in a dream world where all her dreams involved me. I, on the other hand, was a jerk at times and never tried to understand her feelings. She forced me into a relationship and I couldn't say no either. She had become a part of my life so I never wanted to lose her. I had not imagined her beyond a loving friend. She expected more from me and I could never understand her expectations. We hit it off good as friends, but as we progressed towards love everything was not the same between us.
I had reached the last chapter. I started reading with a heavy heart. I was repenting for being so cold towards her as I read each word. It was as if someone was unleashing my past. The words formed a live picture in front of my eyes.
"Why don't you understand Anirudh? I do have feelings for you and I want to proceed towards a good and healthy relationship. I feel that we will do well. Let us give each other some time. You decide and tell me if you really feel the way I do," Tara said in a pleading tone.
"Things are not this easy with me Tara. It is hard for me understand love. I don't think what’s between us is love. I have thought about it from day one. The moment you asked us to be in a relationship, I had agreed, only for your sake but I don’t feel this is right for me. May be we are just meant to be good friends," I said innocently.
I felt I was innocent but my words were rude and sharp as poison laden arrows. She didn't debate further. She left that day and never spoke to me much. We met each day post work, we had coffee and dinner together too but she was not the same Tara. I was too coward to ask her if she was all right. Suddenly one day she refused to meet me after work. She cooked up reasons each day. Finally, I confronted her. That's when she told me that she was not interested in seeing me again. We broke up all ties of friendship that had existed between us. We drifted apart so far that we didn't even see each other's profile on Facebook. We unfriended each other from our lives also.
A tear fell from the corner of my eye as I closed the book. I looked up only to see a long queue. I was so engrossed in reading the book that I had forgotten to notice the call for boarding my flight. I was the last one to stand in the queue. Suddenly, I spotted the same girl from the book shop. She was running towards a small crowd. I stood on my heel and strained my neck to see the reason for the crowd. I could only see the hazel brown eyes. They were still innocent but had a confident look. It was Tara. The debut author, Tara Sharma. Fans had surrounded her for an autograph. I just prayed within that she should travel in the same flight as mine. Unfortunately, she was standing near Gate 10 and I was at Gate 8. Seeing that there were more people in my queue, I rushed towards the crowd. The crowd kept increasing and my queue kept reducing. I took out the book and waited behind everyone for my chance. I stretched my hand towards her but there were others before me. At that moment, I felt a tug at my book. It was the woman from the book shop again. This time she glared at me. She must have thought that I was following her. I was also holding the same book she had in her hand and standing among the throng of people to get an autograph.
Alas! My turn came. She took the book from my hand. She was about to sign the book when she raised one eyebrow and looked at me with a frown. I was searching for hope in her eyes but they were cold towards me. With a smirk she signed and handed me the book back. I waited there only to be acknowledged by her. She did recognize me but chose to throw a cold shoulder. Everyone dispersed and she stood in her queue. I could only say," Thanks Tara" before I left from there.
I turned around to see if my queue was still there. To my dismay Gate 8 was empty and the doors were closed. The flight was ready to take off and I was not allowed. The security told me that my name had been announced ten times and there was no response. I missed the only flight to Goa for the day. I stomped away feeling disgusted at my foolishness. Nevertheless, I was happy that I could get an autograph from her. This book would be the last memories I had of Tara. I was feeling hopeful when I read the book thinking that we were still in a relationship but seeing her reaction I felt that she was gone forever from my life. The book had a happy ending, probably something which she had wanted and I could never give that to her.