“You are….” I was awe struck! The impossibly unforgettable face of that person flashed before my eyes. For some seconds I had no idea if I was imagining or it was actually real.
“Yeah, I am…” she said as calmly as I had always remembered her.
I was on a blind date that day to which I was forcefully sent by my family. I thought it was weird for my family to ask me to go for something like that which I thought only happen in foreign countries, though I was not sure what currently happened in my own surroundings.
My mom had urged me over the phone to go for this date she set up and told me to treat the girl well. I thought the girl I was meeting would be some spoiled daughter of rich business tycoon who might want to try his shares in my family’s business.
Initially I had no intention of meeting any girl as I was always in my own dreamy romantic world with the mysterious girl I wasn’t sure if existed and that my dream lady unfortunately happened to be my love of life. Yet I agreed for this date with an unknown girl not wanting to hurt my mother anymore. I knew how hard it was for her knowing her only son was all mentally upset over a girl who was unreal.
But facing the girl in front of me now, I dint know whether to feel excited and happy or to call my psychiatrist to say I have gone completely insane & I’m seeing things that I only saw in mind.
In fact I wanted to hug her and hold her and never let her go even if it was all an illusion again. I was also thinking how I could go completely insane just all of sudden in a crowded place like this.
“Arun? I know what you must be thinking now. I am Aditi.” She said stretching her arms out. I shook it reflexively and felt the same touch that once made my heart flutter.
Aditi. She is my first love, and certainly my only love, the one I thought only resides in my fantasy mind. My unexpected meeting with her, uncontrolled feelings for her and unstoppable love for her was not anything unusual. They were all as normal as how any other simple love stories will be. But what really unusual were the days after she disappeared completely from my life without even a small hint of if she ever lived on the earth. Even I started to think I had some kind of psychological disorder and that I fell in love with a female ghost which fortunately left me alive. And I had continued with my life in the same feeling until again meeting her after 5 years.
About 5 years ago I met her for a short time in one of the summer vacations after my schooling, while I was preparing for the various entrance exams in my maternal grandmother’s house in the remote place of country side. It is a place untouched by the modern technologies except for a very few vehicles and irregular supply of electricity.
Though my granny had warned me not to go near the lake in the outskirt of the village as the villagers believed that a beautiful girl had suicided in the lake and that her ghost still roam there, I somehow excused myself every day to be near the lake with all my books and some snacks. It was a quiet place with no humans in the near vicinity. I was all alone with the nature and my studies.
One day I met a beautiful girl near the lake. I was curious to find if she was that beautiful ghost villagers talked about. She had smooth skin, honey colored skin with pinkish shade, a narrow chin, straight long hair. She looked half Chinese- half Indian. I could not decide which place she was from, so I guessed she would be from the north east part of our country. I was surprised when I heard her speaking my language.
Though she never talked about herself or her family, I sensed she had a deep knowledge of the world. A year or two younger to me she used to help me with my preparation for entrances. I was totally taken away with her knowledge in my syllabus that I was trying hard to go through. She talked very less as though carefully knitting each of her words.
For some reason I dint mention my secret friend-Aditi at the lake to anyone as I was convinced she was not that funny ghost people were afraid of.
She would sit on the grass near me with old English literature in her hands and so many untold desires in her eyes. She was comparatively short for her age though I was not sure what her age really was, she looked matured in the way she saw the world. Her perspectives about science and its misuses, her opinions on human behavior, her views on conservation on various species whose names I don’t even get were all that I could ever hear from her.
She would read , talk a little, help me out with my studies, go to the lake and watch the water, lay down in the grass staring at the sky hopefully is all she did. I wondered if she ever goes to school. But then how could she possibly know so much for her age? The curiosity slowly turned to attraction. Once I was attracted to her there was no way to hurt or irritate her by asking something which she did not wish to answer.
As the days passed, I found my actual intention of going to the lake was fading. It was not the studies anymore, it was just her.
Just an unintentional touch of her hand across mine was like setting me on fire, her smile were my happiness that seemed to reflect through her, the glow on her skin when she lay on the grass facing the sky was the light that challenged the sun. She didn’t pretend, I doubted if she does know what pretending is. If she dint want to answer, she would keep quite but never pretended. I liked her a lot for that and I kept forcing myself to concentrate on my original reason of coming there.
Time to leave for my place was coming soon. I knew I had to confess to her even if she says no. I did the same that day. She was calm as always she was. She said me we couldn’t do that.
That night I was wondering why love is so difficult. Then it struck me. She did not say she dint like or she dint not feel the same way as I do for her. She just said we cannot do that. I though it may be because of her mysterious family and I still had the hope for the next day.
The next day was dramatic. It was romantic but was painfully ruined by her seemingly similar faced brother. I had asked her to say if there was any problem with her family that I would sort it out with my family’s help. That I would really stand with her against all the odds.
In return all she said was nothing. She was not willing to say anything to me. She never spoke a word that day. She kept listening to me calmly and when I finished she hugged me. She patted my back as to console me. I was happy that I was in her shoulders at the same time I was crying knowing that she meant a ‘no’. She crossed her fingers in my hair, and left me from the hug. When I saw her she had tears in her eyes. Her face was all pink with trying hard to push back her emotions. She kissed my eyes and my forehead.
I was searching her eyes for any missed out feelings that would want me to know them without she saying them aloud. I wanted to take her all with me back home.
Right then some tall boy came out of nowhere and pulled her along with him. I stood in shock as he dragged my love away from me and my Aditi glanced me once with eyes full of love before moving deep into the greenery.
In all those 4 months I spent with her, she never once mentioned about herself or her family. When I had asked her if I could walk her home on one of the evening, she just made a sad face and that was the end of me asking anything about her again. So, in the end all I knew was, she was a girl. A beautiful intelligent girl- Aditi and I was desperately in love with her.
I tried searching for her day after day that left me with a forever failure of losing my first love. I was all a chaos. I had no clue where to look for her. I dint know her house, her family, what she was or anything. I discovered that there never was someone like that in the entire village and its surrounding. No one had ever seen her or the villain boy who took her with him except me.
Soon, everyone figured it was the ghost of the girl who roams the lake. I fell ill knowing it was impossible. My granny insisted on leaving the village soon and the words are sent to my home and my family came running to take me back to the city with them. I wanted to find her, see her and tell her I don’t believe she was a ghost. But I couldn’t.
The days that followed later was just painful. My parents dint believe in the ghost story the villagers told, so I was taken to the doctors. Doctors finally decided I developed the disorder of seeing the non-existing things. I dint protest. Even after all the efforts to find a small clue about her was a vain, I started to believe my mind was ill. It didn’t matter I was abnormal or normal without her. My family performed various poojas to thank the god for saving me after that fateful encounter with the female ghost.
I went through them all silently. I had no reasons to oppose them. I knew I was a mental but no one ever treated me like that in my joint family. I was looked as the most precious thing that time. I was taken care of each moment. I went through the entrances and was placed in a fine college. But my family urged me to do whatever I wanted in the same city so that I could be with them. I ended up my plan on studying in the finest college of the country and joined a local college.
Things went on normal. I saw and imagined no one other than Aditi in my mind. I wondered if my illness is only limited to imagine a single person always. I was getting on well with the things as before or I just pretended sometimes. I didn’t want the forever carefully watching eyes of my family on me. One of my cousin joined the same college as me just to watch over me. I was uncomfortable but I had to wait until they are reassured.
It took almost a year or two to act normally again. College life was beautiful as they say. I wanted to like someone badly to get over Aditi but I couldn’t get myself to do that. Though a complete stranger Aditi was as close as my own self to me. Sometimes I used to think if her name was really Aditi after all. But she couldn’t possibly lie about it. she never lied. She just kept unanswered.
After my college I was ready to chase my dream of getting into top colleges, I chose to do my masters in the college I wanted to go before. I wrote the entrance & got the seat for masters and came this far from my home to feel I was okay, completely okay that whatever happened so far was something fated to happen, and that my Aditi was a beautiful dream that I still cling to.
But here she was again, in front of me, as a blind date. it was so real, I wanted to believe it was really real but after going through so much, my mind did not expect me to start over again with my madness.
“Arun, look at me” her voice was a soothing music.
I looked at her, she has not changed much. She had grown a little tall, little tanned, her chin was no narrow like before and she looked more beautiful.
“You came back?” I was surprised to find I still yearned for her like I did always.
She put her hands on mine, and that second I knew the butterfly in my stomach never died. They were waiting all these time for their originator-my Aditi.
“Yes I am, and this time I will promise I stay till the end of us” she said.
“I don’t understand” I managed to stay still in a charm.
“I know you came to find me the next day, but you could not” she told.
“How do you?”
“Because….” She said with her eyes on mine, “Because I know you really loved me.”
My ears became hot and blood rushed to my cheeks, thanks to all the stars out there for my beard that covered my blushes.
She continued, “And my family was in hiding, we could not stay there long after my family found about us”
I raised my eyebrow.
“It’s a long story, we will save it for some other time.”
“Some other time?” I asked?
She smiled at that making the butterflies inside jump.
“You don’t want it?”
I dint want to lose my mind again, so I thought for a while and answered with a question.
“I get that, you want to know why I am here.”
I nodded. But that didn’t bother me. All that mattered me right then was, she was there with me. The longing I felt for her even when I wasn’t knowing if she was dead or alive, real or illusion was all gone. All I wanted for now was to hold her and never miss her again even if it takes me being labelled as the man who lost his mind. That was her impact on me.
“I searched for you too. It took five long years to finally set everything right and see you. My family contacted yours and explained them everything. Your mother was the most happiest hearing it so I am here forcefully pulling you into this blind date”
I let her speak. She seemed to knew more than I thought she would. Isn’t it always like that? She always knew more than I did.
“I know you are mad at me. That it’s hard for you to forgive me. That I made you suffer with my mysterious self. But I hope you will soon forgive and love me like you did again. I wait for it.”
She was sincere in her words. It was like she was pouring her feelings in words. I wonder if she never learnt to pretend, that she is still so innocent and pure in heart.
“Why did you search for me?” I asked before letting any emotions overpower me.
She bit her lips, her small eyes closed, she took a deep breath before answering,
“I never imagined I would tell you like this, like in this situation. But I go with it” she smiled. “I had always loved you, since the time I saw you, and I do love you always”
I was speechless. I thought she cared enough to console me when she turned me down back in past. Knowing that the person you love, loves you back was amazing. I had not given much thoughts about it before, but experiencing it was so being loved.
“Then why do you think I sneaked out of the house to be with you every day back then? I fought with my family to return back to India. I know it took long and I will take whatever the punishment you give” she made a cute face saying it.
I smiled. “Where is your family now?”
“They are in Korea”
“I should tell you something. My dad is a Korean”
“Then your name is not Aditi?”
“Yes,it is. my Indian name is Aditi, and my Korean name is“Oh -Jin-Hee. My mother is an Indian.”
“Oh -Jin-Hee….” I repeated after her. Though I had no idea what her Korean name meant, it somehow felt the most beautiful name.
“You know Oh Chang Min, because I heard you tell me the news about him back then”
“I do. Dr Oh Chang Min is a scientist who ran away from his country. There was so much fuss about him internationally.”
“Yes, I am his daughter”
I was not shocked to hear it. After so much of surprises that day I was calm. It was more like I had adapted her way of being calm and cool.
“So you had to be in hiding?”
“The government was behind some bio war project and wanted dad to assist them. He opposed it and we ran here. Now things have changed for all good. He is back to his research and I am …”
“You came for me?”
She held my hands, the evening sky reflected in the drop of tear on her cheeks. We were quite for sometimes.Then we got up from the stone bench and slowly walked towards the fountain in the center of the restaurant.
Now I knew why she was so mysterious, where her brain came from.
“So, your mother is a native of that village?” I asked her curiously.
“No, she is from West Bengal.”
“Then how did you learn my language?”
Her hands tightened across mine, she spoke looking at the dancing water in the fountain,
“Indian languages are so dear to learn and embrace. I know 9 Indian languages. We stayed in India for more than 4 years.”
It was nice to know my girl was a beautiful brainy. “And” I asked, wanting to know more.
“And Korean, Japanese, English. Little bit of Spanish and French” she finished her list. I couldn’t help but smile widely at her.
“There is so much to tell you, so much to laugh with you. But there is still lots of time for it. For now let’s enjoy the water show” she said looking at the water and placing her head on my shoulder.
I was happy, in the end my love story was a happy ending. Though it took time, it was worth waiting for.
Today is a big day. It’s mine and Aditi’s marriage. I’m still surprised it turned out so well. Since the day we reunited it’s been full of excitements and happiness with my Aditi.
I am already in the mantap. I could not help but force a smile at Aditis twin brother who ones was a villain to my love story. Her father is in dhoti and looks like he is struggling with it and trying to hold on for few more minutes. Her mother and mine are already good friends now and probably discussing about their grandchildren.( just the feeling of it makes me blush) My father is busy welcoming his friends and colleagues. I wonder where my second cousin is. He seemed to flirt with Aditis cousin. Bunch of my aunts are trying to make the conversation with Aditis relatives who have arrived this morning. I was impatient to see my girl. Since yesterday I have-not seen her or spoken to her.she was so busy with wedding preparation that she dint even send me a text.
I can see the bride coming to me. The butterflies started their job of fluttering. Everything else became a blur except my bride. She flashed her shy smile and I winked at her…