“Oops….I am so sorry” said Ronit as he dropped some fish curry on her stole.
“You idiot….couldn’t you see I am standing behind you?”
“I don’t have eyes on my back” he wanted to say but chose to keep quiet.
“You have spoiled my dress………….” tears rolled down her cheeks. “And it stinks! God…..”
“Hey listen,I am really sorry…that wasn’t intentional. Please don’t cry. I will wash your stole….I mean I will get it washed for you. Don’t worry.”He kept his plate aside and tried to console her. “By the way, it does not stink, the fish curry is awesome……I was taking a second serving. You should also try. You will find it amazing. This is the only thing they cooked well. Fresh hilsa steam cooked in mustard paste…and its aroma…………..”
“I am a VEGETARIAN………….”she said with a straight face looking into his eyes and handed over her stole to him. “Can’t use this anymore. Keep it with you”
Ronit bit his lips. He was speechless. He wished he could board a time machine and fly back to the moment when he spilled the curry on her stole. He wished he could replace the curry with an ice cream. He could just wish. The damage was done!
By the time he gained his senses, she was not there anymore.
The course required all the students to stay in campus so hostels were allotted to each of them. Next day lecture started at 6 am. Boys and girls walked in like zombies. Ronit occupied a seat in the last row. That had been his favourite seat all through his study years. However that never stopped him from being a topper year after year. And now he had got admission in one of the most prestigious MBA colleges. He was in his night pyjamas and his hair reminded of the TV commercials of center fresh.
The lecture had just started when the last student hurried into the classroom. She could not find any seat other than one left in the last row. White kurta with blue Patiala and bule dupatta……..she represented a fresh early morning. She moved towards her seat and found a pair of eyes staring at her. Ronit was in the adjacent seat.
“You…”she yelled. The class looked at her, professor signalled silence and she quietly took her seat.
The lecture started with a round of introductions. It started from the first row.
“I am really sorry for that day……..” Ronit said in a very low voice.
She looked at him. Fair skin, hazel eyes and a beautiful fragrance……..Ronit was just stunned. She was as fresh as dawn and perhaps the only one in the whole class who had managed to look “not sleepy at all”. Blue and silver bangles and a matching bindi….Ronit kept staring. How dint he notice it the other day. May be he was too busy with his fish curry….damn it!
“Its ok…..no problem” she said and looked towards a student who was introducing himself. And finally the last row…
“Hello everyone. This is Ronit Majumdar. I am from Kolkata and I am a graduate in mechanical engineering.”
“Hi. This is Ananya Subramanian from Chennai. I have done my graduation in economics” she said with a calm voice.
The lecture was on Organizational Behavoiur and continued till half an hour. The class broke after that. The next lecture was scheduled after 45 minutes. Everyone moved out. Ananya kept sitting there gazing at her notebook. She had noted down few points during the class.
“Ananya…..” Called Ronit. She looked up.
“Are you by any chance planning to spend next 45 minutes staring your boring notebook?”
Ananya laughed. “What is so boring about it?”
“Ah…no may be not……. But the dollars on your notebook cover do not excite me or the organizational behavior stuff that you might have noted down.”
“Can you accompany me for a cup of coffee?” Asked Ronit
She seemed thoughtful.
“I promise I won’t spoil your dress again. If you want we will sit at extreme corners of the table.”
Ananya burst into laughter.
“Funny…come let’s go.” She closed her notebook and they move towards the cafeteria. They occupied a table at one of the corners and ordered for coffee and sandwiches. “So Mr. Majumdar……I should have guessed your bong background that day itself. Your love for the fish curry….hahaha.” She laughed again, this time brutally. Ronit felt embarrassed.
“I wish I could erase the day from my life.” He said
“Come on…nothing that serious. Just that I lost my favourite stole.” She said with a sad smile. “And we might not have met otherwise.”
“Hmmmm. That’s true.”
And Ronit and Ananya became friends. Although they were from different cultural and educational backgrounds, they shared a lot in common. They helped each other with studies and assignments. During weekends, they went out for movies, shopping, etc. They enjoyed each others company. Gradually they started liking each other but left it unsaid. Ronit was waiting for the right moment to express his feelings. Although Ananya never said anything to him, he could sense her feelings towards him. The two years passed by like a moment and finally the important phase came in their lives. It was placement season. The college being the topmost, there was no dearth of companies and offers. It was just a matter of choice for the students. Ananya landed up with a job in a Financial Research firm.
Ronit was waiting for his dream company to come to the camps. He knew he would crack it and was just waiting for the opportunity. Finally, the FMCG giant came to the campus and selected 4 students. And Ronit was one of them.
His happiness knew no bounds when the results were displayed. Ananya was with him. He just jumped with joy and hugged her tight.
“Congratulations Mr. Majumdar…..I am so happy for you….”she screamed. The moment was wonderful. It was the last day for placements and the next day were celebrations.
The dance floor was set on fire by the students as the DJ played wonderful dance numbers. Suddenly the music changed to a slow and melodious tune. The stage was set for ball dance. The crowd of individuals converted into couples. Ronit and Ananya followed steps.
Holding her palm with his, Ronit put his other arm around her waist. She placed her palm over his shoulder and the music played. They looked at each other, kept looking at each other. It felt so good. Ronit leaned over and whispered in her ears “I want to tell you something. Can you please come out with me for a moment?”
She stared blankly at him and nodded. Ronit moved towards the balcony and stood there watching the lights. Ananya stood beside him and looked towards him.
Ronit turned towards Ananya. Wind was blowing. And it just felt like the right time he was waiting for. He stared at her and removed the strand of hair from her face.
“Ananya…….I just wanted to tell you that……” he stopped and stared at her, then looked away.
“Ronit…?” She turned him towards her
“I LOVE YOU Ananya” he looked at her…deep into her eyes.
And it seemed that everything stopped around them.
Ananya had known this all the while but was not expecting this at the moment. She knew she felt the same for him but was scared.
“Ananya…..I wanted to tell this to you long back but was waiting for the right time. Today when both of us have achieved our dreams, I thought I should share this with you. And it is completely ok if you do not feel the same for me. I mean…… I just wanted to express my feelings. And yes….we shall always remain good friends”
“Now will you please let me speak…..U bongs are so talkative…………God!”
Ronit felt embarrassed and looked down. Ananya came closer and looked at him.
He looked up. Their eyes met. Time stopped. His heart skipped a beat when Ananya leaned and whispered in his ear “Love you too Ronit”
She didn’t move after she spoke. It was that speechless moment when the hearts spoke. Silence prevailed.
Ronit cupped her face in his palms. “Ananya…..I really do not know what to say but life has been beautiful since we met. And I want it to be beautiful ever after. Would you like to be the love of my life?”
The question came in too fast. She knew she loved Ronit and had admitted. But was she ready to marry him or did she even have the right to decide for herself…she wasn’t sure.
“R…Ronit……we will talk about this….let’s enjoy the party today and let me enjoy this moment with you.” She took his hand into hers and smiled lovingly.
They were on the dance floor again but this time it felt different. They kept dancing to the tune and looking at each other. Love was in the air.
They met at lunch. This was their last month on campus. They would join their respective jobs after that. Ronit was to move to Mumbai and Ananya to Bangalore. Ronit’s question had remained unanswered by Ananya.
They were sitting on the same side of the table. Ronit took her hand into his. “I don’t know how life would be in Mumbai. I am excited about my job but gonna miss u badly…..”
Ananya looked at him but could not speak. She seemed thoughtful. “Ananya….what happened…are you ok?” Ronit was worried.
“Hmm…I am fine….it’s over a week Ronit and I haven’t answered your question.” She sighed.
“It is ok Ananya….marriage is a very important decision of life. I don’t want to force you into a relationship. You can take your time and I will respect your decision whatever it will be”.
“Ronit…I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you…under the same roof…but” she stopped.
“But what Ananya?”
Ananya started sobbing. Ronit turned her towards him and she buried her face into his chest. She was sobbing hard. He hugged her tight. “Ananya…relax….what happened?” She kept crying. After a while, when Ronit released her from his arms, her eyes were red and swollen. Her hair was all over her face. He handed her a glass of water.
Ananya was the only daughter of her parents. Her dad was in a central govt job and mother a home maker. Always a rank holder, Ananya was the pride of her parents. She was much pampered and her parents doted on her. She was never denied a single thing she asked for. But this time, she was asking for something big and really difficult. The night when Ronit proposed her, she very much knew her answer to his question but was not sure of her parents’ decision. She had called them up the very next day. Her mom was shocked when Ananya mentioned Ronit. She was unhappy to know that her daughter wanted to spend her life with such a person. Ronit was from the eastern part of India and moreover he was a non-vegetarian. She expressed her concerns and handed over the phone to her dad. Ananya had been closer to her dad and was expecting her dad to understand her as he always did.
“Ananya….I have always supported you in every decision of yours. But I did not expect this from you. How can you expect a person to keep you happy for ever who does not understand your ways of life? Are you aware of the cultural differences between the families?”
“I am aware of everything dad, and we have known each other for past 2 years. I am happy whenever I am with him. He does not want me to adopt his ways of life. He is quite liberal. We understand and respect the differences we have……..” The call lasted for an hour but Ananya could not convince her parents.
She burst into tears once again when she narrated the story to Ronit. He was trying to console her.
“It is ok Ananya. It is very natural for them to react in such a manner. We need to understand. And today is not the end of the world. We have enough time. I am sure you will be able to convince them. I am in no hurry. And if you feel, I will speak to them about this. We can make both are parents meet….there are ways yar. Do not worry. Give yourself some time.”
Ananya nodded. “Now can we order something mam…..I will die of hunger”. Ronit asked. She smiled.
Ronit moved to Mumbai. And Ananya to Bangalore. She had spoken to her parents many a times but to no avail. It was 6 am when Ronit’s phone rang. Wondering who it could be so early, he picked up his phone rubbing his eyes. The cell phone flashed Ananya’s number. He was surprised. Ananya was in Chennai with her parents for a vacation and they chose not to speak when she was home.
“Gud morning baby…wssp?”
“Ananya…are you all right? Is everything ok at your home?”
“Ronit…..wanted to tell you something…….Ronit…I am getting married.”
“Yeah. He is the son of my dad’s friend.”
“What rubbish? How can you take such a decision Ananya?”
“Ronit the decision has been taken for me. I just want to abide by it….” she said in a sad voice. “I was not aware of anything when I planned this trip to home. When I reached here, I got to know that I am supposed to meet the guy. I know him…we have been childhood friends. He went to the US a couple of years ago. He is back now. My marriage is almost fixed Ronit.”
“Ananya…can’t you refuse this proposal? Talk to that boy if you cannot talk to your parents. Or let me handle this. I will come over.”
“No Ronit….I spoke to my parents and they are against our relationship. Even if I refuse this proposal, they will never let me marry you.”
“Ronit…I am sorry but I can go against their wishes to marry you. I love them a lot”
“I am sorry Ronit….”she started crying.
“Ananya…relax…there is no need to be sorry. I had told you I will respect your decision but this is not YOUR decision Ananya. Would you be happy with any other person?”
“I don’t know Ronit but at least I will make my parents happy. I don’t want to let them down……I just can’t.”
“Ananya…I have nothing to say at this moment. I could fight the whole world for you if you were on my side. But you have rendered me helpless. You could have at least given me a chance to sort this out.”
“Ronit…..”she kept crying.
“It is ok. Calm down. I hope you stay happy with whoever you parents have chosen for you. Wish you all the very best!!”
“Thanks Ronit…”that is all she could say.
Where are you yaar? Not in touch with anyone…..you did not even share your new number,
By the way this is to tell you that we are planning to attend this year’s alumni party. Yes most from our group. Pls try to join us…..
Ronit had got the invitation from his college for the alumni party. But had ignored it as always. It was 5 years after they graduated. He never felt like going back to the campus and reliving the memories. He had become a pure workaholic.
He decided to ignore the mail first but then picked up his cell and dialled a number.
“Hey Sid. How are you?” Ronit here.
“Ronit !!” the person on other side screamed. “You ra*cal…where have you been so many years?”
“Sorry yar….had been really busy….wassup with you? How are you doing?”
“I am good but got married…”he said in a sad tone.
“Hahaha….idiot…that’s a good news!”
“No yar…girls do not look at me anymore….”.
“You still are the same.” Ronit said
“What about you? What’s new?”
“Nothin much…..just work n work. Still in same company.”
“Ok…..so…joining for the party right?”
“No yar…I just called up to talk to you but would not be able to make it to the party. Little busy this weekend.”
“Oye don’t give me any excuses. You will have to come. You can do your work later. Company does not pay you to work on weekends. Or does it?”
“Yar….nahi ho payega…..”
“Ronit…pls yar…everyone is coming…aniruddha, shilpi, vikrant, ananya……”and he continued. But Ronit could not hear anything else after he heard Ananya. Was she coming? He knew she was married. Must have kids by now. He thought. Was he ready to face her?
“Sid…I will try yar….but I am not sure.”
Ronit’s heart wanted to see her once….talk to her but his mind would not allow him. He was confused and could not decide.
It was Saturday and the party hall was buzzing with noise. Students hugged each other, some met after years. “Ronit!!!……” Shilpi screamed and waved when she spotted him at the entrance. Ronit had finally decided to join the party. His heart had overpowered his mind.
He met all of them and was punched hard for not being in touch. He felt good after a long time. They ate, drank and had fun. But Ronit was looking for someone. He could not see her. He had come there only for her. Sid mentioned she would come…he remembered but it did not feel right to ask about her. But his eyes kept searching for her….when he heard…..
“Hey Ananya…..you are late baby” said a female voice.
“Yeah….I am so sorry.” Ananya’s voice was still the same. Ronit could recognize but did not turn to see her.
“Hello everyone.” Ananya came towards them. Ronit’s heart was beating faster. He had come to see her but could not muster the courage to look at her.
“Hi Ronit….how are you?” She said softly
Ronit looked at her. Still the same….fresh as dawn…she looked pink in her pink dress.
“Hi A..Ananya…I am good, how are you. Nice to see you.”
“I am good. Thanks”
The party continued. They danced whole night. Ronit could not. He occupied a table at the corner and kept looking at Ananya who tried to match steps with everyone. After some time, Ananya came towards the table.
“Can I sit here?”
“Yes of course…please.”
She sat across him.
“Not enjoying the dance?” Asked Ronit.
“I don’t enjoy dancing anymore. Shilpi just pulled me. So….
“What about you? What’s new in life?”
“Nothing much…….work keeps me busy.”
“Not yet…..”he looked at her.
She kept staring as if wanted to say something.
“Actually did not find any time for myself. May be in near future….”Ronit tried to smile.
“How about you, Ananya? How is your hubby?”
“He is good. And I have a daughter now…..a year old.”
“Wow….congratulations! Good to know that.”
Everything stopped after that. Both of them could not speak. After Ananya stepped out of his life, Ronit had immersed himself into work. He had not been able to give that place to any other girl. Ananya seemed to be happy in her new life. Ronit felt happy for her.
Breaking the silence, Ronit said “Ananya can I ask you a question?”
“Are you REALLY happy?”
Ananya stared at him, kept silent for a moment and then said “Ronit, I don’t know what it means to be happy. I never felt the way I did when I was with you. But if happiness is all about having a husband and kids, then yes I AM HAPPY.”
They stared at each other. Ronit could not understand what she meant or perhaps he did.