“Meeting and parting is the way of life, but parting and meeting again is the hope of life”
A few years ago
It was a pleasant afternoon in July. Shrishti walked into the café. She looked around and spotted her friend Nimish at a table, looking at her. She smiled and walked towards him. “Hi” she greeted him. He stretched out his palm and they shook hands. That’s how they met for the first time in their lives. It was the beginning of a very special friendship. They had recently met on Orkut and had been chatting for a while then. After one and a half month’s chatting and phone calls they decided to meet each other.
Both of them sat on chairs facing each other. Shrishti was a bubbly 24-year-old with smiling brown eyes and beautiful long black hair. She had recently come to Bangalore to work in a mortgage firm as an associate. Nimish was a tall 26-year-old with an intelligent face and had the cutest dimples that flashed whenever he smiled. He was a software engineer.
Their days began and ended with each other’s phone calls. He would be on his way to work in a cab when he would ring her to talk. She would be just awake after sleeping for sometime after her night shift. His voice always brought a glow to her face. Friends often assumed they were in love. One day, Shrishti was with her friends Tanya, Anju and Rakesh at the office cafeteria having dinner when Shrishti’s phone rang. It was Nimish. She almost toppled her plate over in her eagerness to pick his call. “Hi Ni, was having dinner, have you eaten yet?” she said putting a piece of dosa in her mouth. “No, I’m still at work, will leave for home in around half an hour. Project release is by end of this month” he said. She nodded and said “Hmm”.
After she hung up, Tanya nudged her “Boyfriend, eh?”She teased. “No, we are just friends” said Shrishti, her cheeks burning. Shrishti still remembered the first time she had been touched by his words. He was leaving to his hometown one Friday night and he messaged her saying he’d be away for the weekend. They were still very new to each other that time. It was funny, she thought. They lived around 10 km or so apart in the city and didn’t meet often. Yet, when he left the city, she felt as if a part of her had gone.
One weekend, he took her to his office in Domlur. “You only wanted to see my workplace so badly, right?” He told her grinning. “Yeah, yeah” She nodded. At the reception, her photograph was captured by a camera as she was a guest there and was given a guest ID card. Both of them went to the floor where he worked. While he sat working at his desk, she sat in another chair in his workstation. She took out a magazine from her turquoise blue tote and started reading. A few others were there too working on the weekend. Nimish wound up his work around lunchtime. They planned to have lunch together at an Andhra restaurant nearby.
As they were in the lift, Nimish looked at her and remarked “What happened today? In ethnic avatar? “. She was wearing a white salwar kameez with hakoba work and a blue and yellow Bandhini dupatta with mirror work. She smiled and said “You’ve been complaining that I’m always in jeans, so…” He too smiled. Later, at the restaurant they had thali meals after which he dropped her at her paying guest accommodation. Afterwards, she lay in bed thinking of the events of the day and she felt so happy, so alive. They were talking again to each other on the phone in the evening. The last thing which Shrishti thought about before falling asleep was about Nimish. Both texted “Good night” to each other before sleeping.
Days, weeks and months passed by. Whenever Nimish left for his hometown, Shrishti felt so empty that she would simply lie on her bed and surf TV channels, hoping and waiting for his phone call and he would call her no matter where he was and both would tell each other how their day had gone. When her birthday came in late August, he called her up at midnight and wished her. Nobody had ever wished her like that. Everything was so new, so beautiful with him in her life. She wished to see him every day. She envied the colleagues who worked with him and saw him every day. She remembered how after one meeting as they crossed the road, he held her hand in his, their fingers intertwined with each other’s. She was in love…deep, crazy love…
Back home, Shrishti’s parents were hoping to see their daughter settled down soon. Her profile had been registered in various matrimonial websites. An arranged marriage was the last thing she wanted now. Her heart was bursting with feelings for Nimish. But somehow Nimish never made any romantic moves. One evening, Shrishti and Nimish met at Woody’s restaurant in JP Nagar. As they were leaving the restaurant, she told him about the marriage proposals. “I think it’s a good decision for you to get married” he said. She hated him for saying that. How could they stay so close to each other if she got married, how? Such thoughts streamed through her mind.
“But, what about us?” She asked him. “We are best friends” he said. The words almost broke her heart. “But, I love you” she mumbled, looking away, feeling the rush of tears behind her eyes. She looked tenderly at his hands and took his palm in her hand and kissed it. It had started to drizzle. He stood frozen not knowing what to say. She let his hand go and walked away, tears blinding her eyes. Later in the evening, Nimish called her up. He told her, “If it’s difficult for you, I can stop keeping in touch”. Whether he loved her or not in the way she wanted him to, she couldn’t erase him from her life now. So, she said “No, that isn’t necessary”. “Mm, it would be tough for me too” he said.
It was February 14th, Valentine’s day again. It was three or four months after Nimish’s rejection. Shrishti was bitter but to the one person whom she wanted the most she couldn’t show it. She couldn’t let him know that nothing had changed, maybe nothing would ever change. She was at work in her night-shift as usual. As it struck midnight, she texted Nimish “Happy Valentine’s day!” He texted back wishing her too the same. “Not sleeping yet?” She typed and sent. “Watching a movie, Drew Barrymore is so pretty in this one” He wrote back.
For no apparent reason, she felt irritation rise in her. Here she was – a nice, good-looking girl, so loyal, his best friend and yet he took her for granted. “Yeah, it’s only me whom you don’t like” She wrote. He called her. Now she was going mad, “I love you, please say yes” she pleaded.
“I already told you how I feel about you” He said slowly and patiently.
She knew she was begging but her tongue ran on “Please, think about it, I’ll die if you don’t say yes, tell yes, please…”
“Shrishti, calm down, we’ll talk about this tomorrow” He told her.
She knew she had lost and felt so degraded now. She muttered “Sorry” and hung up. Her head was reeling. If she cried now, there’d be an ocean. So, she tried to remain calm. Later, Rakesh came up to her asking “shall we go for breakfast?’” She got up and went with him. Their “breakfast” was at 2.30 a.m. before the shift got over. Tanya was on leave that day. After breakfast, Rakesh casually asked, “Shall we go for a walk?”
Usually, she wouldn’t have been interested. But today she didn’t care, “Why not?” They took the fire exit from the seventh floor to go downstairs. He held her hand, she didn’t resist. She too held his hand tightly. Probably, he must have been surprised. She leant on his shoulder. They went down arm-in-arm. This was totally unlike her. She was the type who never flirted even for fun. “What if I hold him a bit? ” She was thinking, “For whom am I being so immaculate for? The man whom I love more than anything can’t say he loves me even if I’d die…” After a short walk in the early hours of the morning, they went back to their floor hand-in-hand again. Rakesh was pretty casual with girls, so it wouldn’t matter later at all. And that was what Shrishti wanted just then. Somehow, she felt she had revenged Nimish by this flirtation though he’d never know anything about it ever.
In the days that followed, Shrishti was bent upon getting over this loneliness, this emotional dependency on Nimish. She would go to the internet café in the afternoons. She started to chat with an old college mate. His name was Rohan. Actually, they didn’t know each other much while in college. Soon, they were talking on the phone to each other. He wasn’t working then, waiting to be admitted to a foreign university for his research. He proposed to her too which she accepted very quickly. Whenever, they spoke on the phone, she wondered why his voice sounded so effeminate in quality, sort of a shrill voice. But she chose to ignore it. Rohan told her that he would come down to her hometown to meet her. She was delighted. Being the straightforward girl that she was, she told her parents too about the new man in her life. They were happy for her.
It was the morning of Rohan’s arrival. Shrishti was trying out different outfits. Her mom was helping her choose what to wear. Finally, she wore a Chilli red kurta with yellow piping on the neckline and a yellow churidar. Rohan was waiting for her in the city. They went to “Sagar restaurant”. It wasn’t lunchtime yet and he said he wasn’t hungry either. She just ordered a lime juice and drank it. Later, they went to the Planetarium. They sat next to each other leaning back, looking up at the artificial star-lit sky in the hall. “It feels nice,” thought Shrishti. Rohan apologized to her later as he couldn’t pay for lunch since he was unemployed at the moment. It hardly mattered to her. She gave him her brightest smile. He promised her “I’ll shower you with all the stuff you love once I start my work”.
Later in the evening, they went to the beach, walked hand-in-hand as the waves lapped at their feet. Before he left town, he met her father too. They all had dinner together at a posh restaurant near the beach. Rohan expressed his wish to marry her to Shrishti’s father. It was one of the happiest times in her life. Finally, everything was falling in place. After a few days, Shrishti went back to Bangalore. Her friends were eagerly waiting for the updates of her love life. Tanya and Shrishti had cubicles next to each other at office.
“Hey, you know what; you both should go somewhere together, on a trip or something”. Tanya suggested.
“But, we aren’t married yet!” said Shrishti. “Anyway, you’re going to marry each other soon, right? So, it’s ok” She said.
Shrishti gave it some thought later. She and Rohan discussed the matter and finally decided to meet at Coimbatore and head to Ooty from there. She was quite excited. She did some quick clothes’ shopping. She bought a calf length skirt with lace trimming and a beige shirt. Nimish and Shrishti still remained friends. But for some reason, She didn’t disclose completely of her plans to head to Ooty and stay with Rohan at a hotel. Rohan and Shrishti met at Coimbatore bustand. All the buses to Ooty were tightly packed.
“It’s better to take a taxi” Rohan suggested. She agreed. They got into a taxi shared with another couple. Shrishti handed over the taxi fare to Rohan. Around 2.30 pm, they reached Ooty. They checked into a nice hotel. Once in the room, both of them freshened up and then sat on the plush bed together. “Wow, feels great!” said Rohan. “Just you and me!” They hugged each other. He told her solemnly, “We should promise each other that we won’t cross our boundaries, we’ll share each other completely after we’re married.” “Definitely” Shrishti agreed. She was happy that he was so decent. They lay together on the bed, her head resting on his shoulder. He shifted and leant over her face and touched her lips slightly with his. She kissed him back. They went on kissing and touching each other for hours, warm and cozy in the double bed.
They went for a walk in the evening. Later, they had a nice dinner at a dainty Chinese restaurant. After a romantic evening in each other’s arms, they fell asleep holding each other. Next morning, they went together to the bustand. Her bus was leaving earlier than his. They waved each other good-bye. He promised to call her.
Many days passed, Rohan’s calls were getting infrequent and he sounded very distracted whenever he spoke to her. His application for the research fellowship had been rejected he said. She tried to pacify him “Come over to Bangalore, you’ll get a job here and we’ll be able to see each other often”. The idea didn’t appeal to him much. “Actually, Shrishti, I’m not sure about us” he said. Shrishti could feel her heart sinking like a capsized boat. Nothing could convince him to change his mind. In the coming days, he stopped all communication with her and left her calls unanswered. Just one time, he answered her call. His tone was cold and matter-of –fact, a stranger’s tone when he said “I’m busy now…and please don’t disturb me again, I’m not going to marry you or anything, try and understand the situation”. Her throat felt constricted. That was a real harsh blow. “Sorry” She croaked and hung up.
After some days, one evening, Shrishti was feeling very low and she texted Nimish. He called her up then and there. Her voice was choking; she just managed to say “I want to see you”.
He replied so tenderly, “When do you want to see me? I’ll come any day”. She would never forget the tenderness in her voice that day. On lonely nights, she would think with tears in her eyes, “Ni, if only you would have loved me back, I wouldn’t have had all this drama in my life”. He was her soul mate. She knew it. There wasn’t anything both of them didn’t share with each other. But Nimish chose to refer to their relationship as “friendship”. She loved him deeply, the kind of love you have for someone who is like an extension to you.
After a lot of contemplation, Shrishti agreed to meet the guy whom her parents had chosen. She knew she couldn’t keep waiting for Nimish forever. He had made his point very clear to her and she dreaded the situation where she’d be still single and he’d marry another girl. She was almost 28 now. A few men had proposed to her over the years. She had tried to like them too, but it was like she was under some spell cast by Nimish that no man could ever really win her heart as she had already given it away forever to the one man who didn’t want her.
A few months later
It was around 8 in the evening. Shrishti was leaving to her hometown. She was getting married in two weeks’ time. She and Nimish were together in a cab taking her to Mysore Satellite Bustand. He had gifted her a box of expensive chocolates, arranged this cab and also taken her bus ticket. She had given her a gift in cash too as a wedding gift. She had insisted on returning the money to him, but he would hear none of it. They held hands as they sat at the back of the cab, “Wow, I am getting married” she said. He smiled at her and squeezed her palm slightly.
Shrishti had married Ajay, an arranged match. He was based in Cochin. They were in a hotel room then. He had come to attend an interview in Bangalore. Before they married, he had agreed to move to Bangalore and settle there. It had been Shrishti’s wish. Ajay didn’t like the organization where he had given the interview. So, he wasn’t taking up the offer. Shrishti pleaded to him “Please Ajay, join here. Later we could look for another job”.
Ajay was stubborn. “I feel really sorry for you, but I can’t take up the offer”. He was a quiet gentleman but stubborn in character. She sat at the edge of the bed crying. He turned over and tried to sleep. Little did he care about her tears. The next evening, he was leaving for Cochin. He told her “Don’t worry; I’ll keep trying for jobs here”.
She nodded. She had a sinking feeling in her heart that it was not going to work out anyway. As weeks passed by, Ajay’s calls also became infrequent. He told her that he’d look for jobs in Bangalore from Cochin itself. She had known this was coming and where this was going. She tried hard to love Ajay but his aloofness and independence made it all the more difficult. Now, she was ‘Ajay’s wife ‘ in front of everyone but actually having none of the privileges of the same.
Later, Shrishti decided to quit her job and go live with Ajay in Cochin. Their marriage was suffering. Ajay was getting comfortable in his old bachelor routine. Nimish filled the void in her heart a bit. She was in a total mess. Before she left Bangalore she visited Nimish’s place. He opened the door for her as she rang the door bell. “Come in” he smiled and invited her in. They sat together on the sofa in the living room. He had bought lunch for them from her favourite take away place. They chatted and ate lunch. After lunch they were watching TV sitting on the sofa. Nimish moved closer to her and took her arm. She was a bit surprised but she leaned on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her and she nestled in his arms. He ran his fingers through her rippling black hair and started planting tiny kisses all over her face. She hesitated a bit when he reached for her lips but gave in as she realized she too had wanted him from long. They made love slowly and tenderly. After they were done, she lay on her back, her hair all over the pillow. He leaned over, his face above hers. He cupped her face in his palms and looked tenderly at her “who else would give me something so special?”. Tears welled up in her eyes. He wiped them away and said “No tears, we’ll always be close”. He buried his face on her chest and lay with eyes closed. Their relationship had come a full circle; it was complete.
After a few weeks
As she lay on her upper berth in the train taking her to Cochin, tears were streaming down her eyes. She had given her all to one man and going to live with another. It tore her heart as the train started leaving the station. She hugged her phone close to her chest. It was his farewell gift.
She started her new life in Cochin. Ajay was more like a roommate to her than a husband. She cooked for him faithfully and he enjoyed it too. He never took any effort to strike up any meaningful conversation with her. They never went out together either. One night, she asked Ajay in bed “How about trying for a baby?”. He replied in a matter-of-fact tone “No, not until you take up a job”. The words tore her heart. She was too hurt even to retaliate. So, she just pulled up her blanket up to her face and shed silent tears in the darkness. The next morning when she was looking at her phone, Nimish’s message came on WhatsApp.
“Hi” he had sent. Her heart leapt for joy. She frantically typed back, “Hi”. “I miss you” he typed. She looked adoringly at the words. “Mm…” She replied. They chatted for half an hour. He told her that he’d video chat with her on Skype in the evening. After her afternoon nap, Shrishti took a shower and shampooed her hair. She was getting ready to see Nimish on Skype. She wondered a bit guiltily that lately she had stopped dressing up for Ajay. Ajay never noticed anyway.
She wore a maxi dress in floral print and brushed her hair and put it over her left shoulder. She dabbed some pink lip-gloss too. He called her as promised. Her heart swelled with love when she saw his face on her phone. “You look gorgeous” he complimented her. She smiled shyly at him. She touched his nose on the screen. “What are you doing?” he asked. “I just touched your nose” she giggled. “O-ho I’m not saying anything!” he said mockingly. They talked for a long time, had tea together virtually. She sat with her tea at her home and he in his while talking. That night Shrishti slept happily and was least bothered whether Ajay spoke to her or not. They started speaking regularly on chat. When either of them wasn’t free, they’d send audio messages to each other. Ajay was lost in his own world. He wasn’t much of a user of any communication devices or anything for that matter.
Tanya called Shrishti one day. “Babes, I’m getting married” she informed gleefully.
“Wow, great news!” Shrishti said. “How’s your married life going?” Tanya asked.
“As usual” Shrishti replied.
“I’ll send you the soft copy of my invitation, all the details are there, you send me your new address too so that I can mail you a copy as well. And both of you have to attend ok..?” She said.
“I’ll let you know da” replied Shrishti. When Ajay came back from work, Shrishti told him about her friend’s upcoming wedding. He didn’t even look at her face when replying “Oh no, I don’t want to travel so far, it’s okay, you can go alone”
Shrishti didn’t coax further. The next day, when she spoke to Nimish, she told him about the wedding. He was very happy. “You come here. You can stay at my place” he said. “I’d have to think about that” She said. Tanya’s wedding was lovely. She got married to her longtime boyfriend – Christopher in a beautiful church ceremony held at St. Joseph’s church in Bangalore. Shrishti’s other friends Rakesh and Anju were also there. It was a great get together. Nimish came to pick her up after the festivities were over. As he came walking out of his car towards her, he couldn’t help but notice how beautiful Shrishti looked in her Burgundy off-shouldered gown. Her lips parted into a wide smile as she saw him. He stretched his palm out to her and she took it without hesitation and they walked to the car. Both were silent as he drove to his place. As she stepped into his home, she remembered the last time she had been there and coloured up a bit. “You can take a shower and freshen up” he suggested. He turned on the TV and sat on the sofa. She went with her bag to the bedroom. She had reached Bangalore that morning and had gone straight to Tanya’s home in Cox Town from where she got ready and went to the wedding along with the bridal party.
After bath, she came out wearing a white nightgown with pink flowers. Her wet hair lay open on her shoulders down to her waist. Nimish came behind her and smelled her hair “Mm, lovely” he said and kissed her on the back of her neck. He wrapped his arms around her waist and started unbuttoning her nightgown. It slipped over her shoulder and she moved into his arms. He slowly lifted her up in his arms and carried her to the bedroom. In the semi darkness, he undressed her slowly and they made love passionately.
Later, as they lay together Shrishti asked Nimish, “What are we doing? Where is this going?” He looked at her and said “Hmm..I’m not sure, let’s see what happens; we’ll just go with the flow”. She sat up in bed. Her dark brows were knitted together as she looked at him with flashing eyes “You know that isn’t possible, I’m married. What a mess have I got into…oh god” she looked down at her folded hands on her lap.
“Why are you complicating stuff now? We had such a nice time together”. She glared at him ” I can’t pretend any longer, I can’t lead a double life…be one man’s wife and be your…what? Mistress? Is it? Or friends with benefits?”.
“You know it isn’t like that” he said. “Then what is it? I feel really tired” she said. She got up and went to the kitchen to drink water. He came behind her. “Now, be a sweetie and don’t be mad at me; come I’ll take you to bed”. She looked at him one time and went silently to the bedroom. He tried talking to her but she was determined not to talk. She just turned to the other side and slept.
The next morning, when Nimish woke up there wasn’t any trace of Shrishti in his house. He looked around to see if she had left any note or something. There was none. He checked his phone. There were some messages from her on his WhatsApp chat. It read “Thanks for everything; I do not want to complicate anything further. I’m leaving for Cochin. Please do not try to contact me. What we had together was just a dream to be forgotten. Good bye…”
He sighed and checked the time of her message. She had sent them around 6.10 AM. She had been ‘last seen at’ 6.15 AM.
Shrishti was back home. Things were back to her old routine. There had been no contact with Nimish so far. She knew she only had told him not to contact her, yet in some corner of her heart she hoped for a reply. She controlled herself not to check her phone to see if he had replied on many occasions. It had been about 2 months now. She hated that she was constantly checking his ‘last seen at’ status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable, almost torturous.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message. But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn’t know if he was joking or not. What was this? His message read “I’m in Cochin now, I’ve come to see you, to discuss with you. Meet me at Coffee Day on MG road around 4 pm.”
She took an auto to go to Coffee Day. She could have ridden there on her bike. But, her mind was in full turmoil and she didn’t want to take the risk of riding whilst her mind was totally distracted. She saw him at a table in the corner and went over and sat opposite facing him. His face looked drawn and he had dark circles under his eyes. He started speaking to her “I know I hurt you. I’m not saying sorry. It’s gone past that. But I want you to know there’s no one as special to me as you are and there never will be. It’s my fault that I let you marry…gave you away…” Shrishti sat silently wondering what he was going to say. He paused and then continued, ” It’s very late that I realized…that I love you”. He looked at her straight in the eye. She couldn’t meet his gaze. He kept his palm on hers, “Marry me”. He said. She withdrew her hand. “I know it isn’t easy for you. You have a husband, family etc..But I don’t know, I just wanted to tell you I love you and I’ll be waiting for you”.
They sat in silence for the next few moments. Later she left saying ‘bye’ quietly.
After two years
Shrishti was looking at baby stuff in the department store debating whether to buy a blue or pink cap when someone came up to her, “Hi Shrishti, longtime, how are you?”. It was her old friend Rakesh. She smiled and greeted him. “And congrats for your baby, how many months?” he said referring to her baby bump. “Six months now” she said. Her husband came up just then and greeted Rakesh. “Meet my husband Nimish”. She introduced to Rakesh.
Shrishti and Nimish had been married over a year now, some 6 months after her divorce had come through. Ajay had been surprised at first when asked for a divorce, but he had consented after some initial reluctance and some trouble from his family also. It had been a hard time but once Shrishti and Nimish got married, life couldn’t have been sweeter…finally she had come home…