Hope you’re well. It’s just been a long time since I heard from you so I thought I’d drop by for a chat. The fact that letters are so one-sided is a little frustrating, but I’ll make do. So…coming to the quintessential question – What’s up? 🙂
Sarah’s eyes filled up with tears as she tried to keep her trembling fingers from dropping the letter. She suddenly felt light-headed and dropped down on to the bed. The colour drained from her face as years gone by came rushing into her head. She didn’t have to complete the letter to know who it was from.
Sarah’s thoughts went back to 6th July, 2010. She was lying in Rohan’s arm on a grassy knoll on the outskirts of Bangalore. They just lay there, looking up at the sky, watching the clouds float by. The breeze swept over them making her hair dance along to a rhythm that only she could hear. They just lay there, enjoying the sounds of silence. No words were spoken, but they still talked. She told him about the time she had fallen off from a friend’s bike and the time she had accidentally eaten a very revolting cockroach which had been served with chicken soup at her hostel. Rohan listened to her in a way no one ever had. A small smile turned up the corners of her lips. She could tell that Rohan was also smiling. She had never known such contentedness could ever exist.
Word on the street is Amrita is getting married next month. Just makes you think how the show goes on, doesn’t it? Just a few years back we were at Guzzler’s drinking like there’s no tomorrow, and suddenly everyone has their own lives to tend to, no one has time to stop and look back. I sometimes wonder where all this running and hurrying is leading to. I’d rather go back in time than forward. Wish I could just relive some of those days again.
Sanju’s leaving for California in a week’s time. I swear the guy has already started developing an American accent. He must not find out I told you this, however. He has threatened me with bodily harm. Well, some things never quite change.
Sarah, I understand you had to cut-off from me, but Sanju and Amrita really care. Can’t you just say ‘hi’ to them once in a while? They weren’t to blame for what happened. They still think about you, wonder where you are, what you’re doing, are you married yet…. are you alive.
The dam finally broke. The tears gushed down Sarah’s cheeks. She felt a lump in her throat and it was starting to hurt. She knew she should never have stopped talking to Sanju and Amrita, but she would never blame them. None of it was their fault. In fact, she didn’t blame Rohan either. It was her fault and hers alone. How could she make them understand that she didn’t blame them? How would she tell them that being close to them reminded her of Rohan? She knew she wasn’t being fair, but then nothing was ever fair. Falling in love wasn’t fair, and falling apart definitely wasn’t. She longed to go back in time too. Back to a time when she had friends. It was so nice to care for people and be cared for in return. But times change, situations change. Maybe they would understand some day. She prayed they would.
Bangalore in March, 2010 was a rather hot place to be in. That is how the four of them had ended up at Guzzler’s. Nothing like a pitcher of beer to quench thirst. What started as a pitcher, however, ended at tequila shots, with a glass or two of everything in between. Sarah managed to smile despite her tears at the memory. Never had life been so crazy, so carefree. They were just living for the moment, and she’d never had so much fun in her life as she did during those days spent in Bangalore. Everything was just perfect.
She still had some photographs of that day. She had looked at them quite often over the days. Though the happenings of the evening were still vague, the pictures showed some of their antics. Rohan sticking his tongue out at the camera, Sanju pulling his t-shirt collar over his head, Amrita kissing Sarah on the cheek, then Sanju standing on the pub table, Rohan and Sarah in a lip lock, the memories were endless.
Anyway, the story with me is that I got this great job at Ogilvy & Mathers. Yeah, yeah, my dream job and all, but it’s really nothing to boast about. The pay’s decent, and the work is fun. I get enough smoke-breaks, so I’ll get by just fine. The best thing about the job, however, is that it’s got me back to Mumbai. I just love being in this city. Just yesterday, being a Sunday, I happened to have a lot of time to kill. Somehow I ended up at Marine Drive, watching the waves crashing against the breakers. Have you ever noticed how the sound of waves is so calming on the nerves? I walked to our spot. The waves were there, the breeze was there, but you weren’t. Maybe it was this moment that compelled me to write to you. Maybe I had been subconsciously intending to do it for ages. I don’t know.
Sarah remembered alright. She remembered every moment as if it had happened not twenty minutes back. The four of them had come over to Mumbai in November 2009 for a week-long stay at Rohan’s cousin’s house. On the 9th of November, she had been sitting with Rohan at Marine Drive, their legs dangling in the air above the wave breakers. They were right in front of the Oberoi Trident, a place where the traffic thinned down to barely one car every half an hour. The sound of the waves was oddly captivating, and coupled with the cool evening breeze; the place had a divine feel to it.
She had started to shiver in the breeze, which prompted Rohan to give her his jacket. Stupid male chivalry. She could see him trying hard to hold back his shivers after that, but she knew he wouldn’t take back the jacket. So she didn’t bother asking. Somehow wearing his jacket made her feel as if he was holding her close. Rohan suddenly looked at her. She stared back into his deep brown eyes. The moment was magical. Just the two of them and the breeze and the waves and the occasional sprays that rose up into the air forming a thin film of mist. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but didn’t know how. Sarah could feel butterflies in her stomach. She knew what was coming. Finally Rohan said, “Sarah, would it be ok if we went out somewhere, like on a date?”
“This is not how you ask a girl out, idiot!” Sarah blurted out immediately, to her utter dismay. And his.
Sarah laughed upon seeing his reaction. Poor guy was so crestfallen. It was almost as if he had practised saying it a hundred times and still managed to get it wrong. She didn’t say a thing. She just smiled and slid closer to him, grabbed his arm and rested her head on his shoulder. She smiled to herself as she felt him stiffen and then relax and then rest his head on hers.
Nothing could ruin that moment for her. Nothing could take it away from her. It was a day she would cherish for the rest of her life, and at the same time regret. She didn’t have to say yes. She didn’t have to lead him on just to break his heart. He had forgiven her, but she never could. She never would. She would hold on to that memory just to remind herself that she was a bad person. She hurt those who cared for her. She had asked God to give Rohan the strength to deal with his heartbreak, but she did not ask to be forgiven for the pain she had caused. She knew she could never be forgiven. Nothing could take it away from her.
What’s going on with you anyway? I just hope this letter reaches you. No Facebook account, no E-mail ID, you have been extremely hard to find. I had to contact our college and convince one of the staff members to dig out your permanent address. If you’re reading this right now, well, my efforts have certainly been fruitful. If not, then didn’t hurt to try. I’ll keep my fingers crossed though.
You know Sarah, I miss you, I don’t even know how much. Sometimes I can deal with it, but sometimes it just hurts so much. I used to think that it’ll be better over time but nothing’s changed. Neither have my feelings for you gone away, nor have your memories left me. I would have asked you to come back into my life, but I know that’s out of the question. I just hope you meet a nice guy who fits your parents’ criteria and treats you like you deserve to be treated. Could you just promise me one thing though? Promise me that if somewhere, someday, we run into each other, you will look at me just the way you always did, and then sit me down and fill me in on every bit of your life that I have missed out on.
I don’t know if writing to you and bringing all this up is right or wrong, I just know that I never needed to put in any effort to be with you. I didn’t have to think of clever things to say, or try hard to make you laugh. I didn’t have to think twice about holding your hand, or messing up your hair. Everything was so effortless it was as if we were meant to be. Even when there was nothing to say, we could simply let the silence be. Maybe that’s why even though we haven’t spoken for years, I still open up to you this much. Maybe that’s why you’re still my best friend.
I’ll never forget you Sarah, and I hope you never do either.
Lots of love,
The tears continued to roll as Sarah read the last two paragraphs over again. And then once more. It wasn’t fair that her mistake had hurt him so. She should be the one to bear it. Rohan had been nothing but nice. He had always been supportive, he had always understanding, and he had always been there for her no matter what. He, of all people, didn’t deserve this.
Her heart broke once again as scenes from 26th October, 2010 flashed across her mind. She didn’t have the courage or the heart to tell him. It hurt way too much. She just looked into his eyes, so compassionate, so caring, and she fell into a vortex of pain. She just broke down right there near the rusty hostel gate and the tears rushed down in torrents. He held her hand, took her in his arms and comforted her. He had no idea what was coming and he still thought he could make her feel better about it.
“It’s my parents, Rohan.” She started. “I told them about you, but they just don’t understand. They don’t want to know how nice a person you are, they just don’t want to look at this from my point of view. They just don’t understand.” She hoped he would understand, and he did. She felt his grip tightening around her shoulders as if he knew what was coming, but would refuse to let go. Maybe he would just hold her till the end of time and no one would bother them. Wishful thinking.
“They want me back in Alleppey, Rohan. As soon as the course ends. I don’t know what they have in mind but they want me back there. They want me to marry a Malayali Christian. I don’t know what to do Rohan. Please don’t leave me.” He didn’t. He held her close. Closer and tighter than he had ever held her before.
She looked up to see his reaction; he looked at her and smiled. She could see the pain and anguish in his eyes but somehow he never let them touch his lips. He sat with her for two hours and comforted her. He stroked her hair, and tried to make her see reason. He was a boy with no career, no income. What chance did he have against Sarah’s parents. But he knew her pain was much greater than what he was feeling, and he did the only thing he could. He supported her and comforted her. He pointed out that her parents were right from their perspective and they just wanted what is good for their daughter. He suppressed his pain just to alleviate hers.
Things only went from bad to worse the next day as Amrita and Sanju stopped talking to Sarah. They couldn’t bear to see the hurt that Rohan was going through and they blamed her. Who wouldn’t? It was her mistake. She should have known things would turn out this way. After all, her parents had always made these things very clear to her. She should have known better. Rohan did not deserve this.
A broken relation cannot be fixed. It can only be patched up, but the fragility remains forever. Sarah moved to her parents’ house back in Alleppey, Rohan got a job in Hyderabad, Amrita and Sanju managed to get jobs in Bangalore itself. First Sarah’s phone stopped working, and then her Facebook account was deleted. She stopped checking her mails. She made sure that she could not be reached in an attempt to shut out her past. But the past has a nasty habit of catching up. Always.