The winter had just set in and the cold piercing breeze had strength enough to force one wrap tight in jackets and blankets. Weekend had come as a relief from the usual routine of work. I was back home after hours of shopping for my new house in the new town. But there lay before me the Herculean task of unpacking bags, packets and cartons- big and small- and arranging them with the eye of a perfectionist.
I prepared myself a cup of coffee and started off. To give it an easy start, I began with my favourite section- the carton of books and notes. Dickens, Hardy, Austen- their works are such unbeatable classics! And Shakespeare- I love his plays- Romeo & Juliet to top the chart. You never know the collection you have until you start arranging your stuffs. I was in proud possession of a good number of books- both classics and contemporary. And suddenly I realized something in red lying at the bottom of the carton only when I had emptied it of books.
It was a big envelope. I hadn’t desired to carry it here but certain acts are done beyond consciousness. I never knew that I had packed it along with other undesirable stuffs. Yes, there were eighteen of them- not just blank envelopes, but cards of love.
It was the story of a lost love. I could hear my thumping heart beat faster and faster as I picked them one by one. Eighteen cards in past five years were not mere pieces of paper. Each of them said a story and when unfurled revealed the emotions of a passionate lover. When the distance acts as barrier, such pieces of paper assume far greater importance- conveying the yearning, the ardor, the piety and the zeal, on occasion or no occasion- as long as they are preserved. And indeed, I had preserved them over these years despite my several attempts to get rid of them.
My heart pined at the mere thought of him and my eyes welled up. His cards in my hand made me reminiscent of the past and all my strength put together failed to combat the influx of his memories. As to every girl, his boy is way different from the world and the best, so was he to me and the cards once again reminded me of his style.
No, I had to stand up to my resolution not to shed a drop of tear for him. I had to erase all his memories, and I decided to wipe them all out. I decided to flame all these cards, possibly the only materialistic token of our love, left with me. But my heart insisted on having a last glance at the cards, at his handwriting and of course, the last chance to smell his perfume which he used to spray in all of them, and my hands allowed that before lighting the matchstick.
One after another, fifteen cards were turned to ashes and I was unable to sum up if I was feeling better or suffering from remorse. But, of course, the heat it generated was a relief from the cold winter for me, within! Next card, the sixteenth one, the biggest one, and his scribbling all over it-
“I shall love you forever
I can leave you never
Let’s walk our lives together
Honey, I am your crazy lover.”
Oh! Such a pathetic poet he was! For sure, that had brought a hint of smile on my face but I managed to overcome it with a strong display of aversion and contempt for such feelings as love. As I further unfolded the card to read his another cute pathetic poem and addresses to me, there fell a piece of paper on my lap- a letter sent along with this card. I knew the content of the letter. Though in these years, not more than once had I visited this page, its sight brought before me a vivid scene from my past.
As every girl wants his boy to cajole and pamper her- for cause or no cause- and often makes display of false resentment, I too used to be involved in such fibbing, on my every desire to see him. Fate had villainously separated us, moving him to a distant town for job, while detained me in the town for higher studies. I had no intentions of sending him away, but stronger were my intentions of not sounding selfish. He must go for his good and for ours. He despite staying miles away from me, and our means of daily conversation now being restricted to phone calls, emails, chats and texts, would make sure to drop at my place on every occasion of my demand. A mere glimpse of him would me more than enough to assuage my feelings and his loving and caring words would always balm me. It had been rather customary that it was always he travelling to see me. Indeed, he had the pretext of visiting his family too.
And as every rule has an exception, for once, his rule of keeping up his promise was broken. Of course, he was back in the town and it was our anniversary- as I had accepted his proposal of love exactly four years back, after we staying as friends for over an year. This was the day he had always jubilated more than me. And it was nothing but his happiness bringing me immense pleasure. The clock struck twelve to mark the beginning of a new day- our day- and we wished each other over phone. Several more hours of our conversation brought forth our oft repeated plans of future, and the most special plan of the special day ahead.
‘I didn’t for the whole night sleep,
And waited for the sun to peep-
Through my windows, with the dawn
And present me a beautiful morn.’
I recited the lines from one of my own poems-
‘Once again my face had a blushing hue,
As I from beneath my pillow drew,
A bundle of cards and letters of love
And the snap of my beloved, all above.’
With the dawn, I impatiently expecting a call from him, myself dialed his number only to listen to the automated “no response” reply. I consoled my over-excited self that he must be busy preparing for the date, or must be on his way, driving, the reasons for not answering me. But utter temptation made me dial again, and again, and again, but no reply. Probably it was the effect of the special day driving me crazy, for I had always understood his reasons for not answering my calls on earlier occasions.
It was in the late afternoon that I received a call from him. Flared up as I was, I blasted, “Finally you could spare a minute to speak to me and I am so blessed.”
But his tone sounded serious, “Honey, I am sorry. I was stuck with some really urgent work, believe me.”
I tried to ignore his serious tone. Though his mere words striking my ears had melted my heart and I could see my anger vanishing in thin air, I still had to sound tough, “Oh, is it? And of course, your urgent task is too private for you to discuss with me.”
“Not at all, honey. I called you up to share it with you. I know you trust me and will understand this situation too.”
“Go ahead”, was my curt reply.
“Do you remember Mansi?”
I did remember Mansi and had even come across her the day before.
“I do. But what with Mansi? She is your friend, Abhijit’s girlfriend.”
“You are right. Her uncle met with a road accident this morning and was to be immediately admitted in the hospital. Abhijit called me up to know if I could drop Mansi’s uncle and her family to the hospital in my car. How could I refuse in such a grave situation? Besides, it was too rude on my part to just drop them and return. I stayed there for a few hours with Mansi and her family. Tell me if I was wrong.”
This was unexpected. I was clueless about the answer I should make. Different thoughts tussled in my mind, ‘Why did Abhijit and Mansi call him when Abhijit himself owns a car? May be, they ran the risk of letting their families know about their affair. But what held him back from answering my calls when he was with Mansi’s family? Probably, he didn’t want to make them feel guilty for detaining him if they happened to discover the importance of the day for him.
“Tell me if I was wrong, honey?” he repeated.
“You weren’t,” I blurted, while I tried combating all the negative thoughts. “Where are you now?” I could hear some music in the background.
“I am out with Abhijit and Mansi. They were so disturbed. I thought a treat to them on our special day would refresh their mood.”
“So you are in a restaurant,” I didn’t ask but asserted my guess. The background music was so familiar and I knew they were in my favourite restaurant- the one we had planned for the day. My negative thought won the combat, ‘How could he be there today without me? He has his friend there and his friend’s girlfriend, both of whom should logically be tensed to abstain from any celebrations. And even though he wanted to treat them, at least he could have told me. I myself would have invited them. After all, it was our day, not his alone. And leave alone letting me know, he didn’t even ask me to join!’
“What’s the plan for the day, honey? Shall we meet now?” It would soon turn dark and he was asking me my plan for the day.
“Don’t bother yourself, boy. You already must be too tired after such a taxing day. Enjoy with your friends.” And I disconnected the call to discontinue our conversation after giving him the cold shoulder without waiting to know the impact of taunts on him. I knew he would call me up and apologize, but I was wrong. The entire episode had rubbed me the wrong way and I needed to meet him to avoid any misunderstandings.
The next call from him was the next day and was to inform me that he was in the train as he had been urgently asked to cancel his leave and join work. The flow of events in the past two days signaled me towards some mishap. I was left too infuriated that I didn’t answer his calls. I didn’t speak to him for a week and the next day had arrived this letter and card of apology of a lover.
Now, with this sixteenth letter and the card in hand, once again, I couldn’t stop myself from reading the letter and his every word made me feel his presence again as I had felt that day after reading it for the first time and had called him up without delay and had promised him never to stop speaking to him. Yes, the last sentence in the letter was-
‘Be upset with me if you are, shout at me if you are angry, slap me tight if you think I have wronged you, but please, for the sake of our love, never stay indifferent to me. Never ever refuse to speak to me.’
It was more than six months since my decision of breaking up with him, leading a life away from love, and that I hadn’t answered any of his calls or mails since then. Although it was for about another year that we were together but the signals of mishap weren’t wrong. Soon I realized most of our conversation would end up in misunderstandings as had happened on our anniversary. Misunderstandings led way to arguments and the latter to the former, until finally, unsatisfied with all his fibbing and explanations, we decided to break up. And I did no more than mailing him my final words-
I beg of the world, don’t mock at me-
Who’s carrying a broken heart.
Trying to smile, despite all sorrows,
I am still learning this art.
Sounds untrue, yet I have learnt to believe
That I love you no more,
It was you who walked away,
While I stood waiting at the door.
Dunno if my heart beats still,
Or keeps alive the flame.
Even though if it still keeps burning-
It certainly isn’t your name.
Better, my life, for you is no more-
My soul, I managed to persuade;
No more expectations will ever be born,
And the existing ones are all dead.
But wouldn’t it be better to say-
I never loved you ever!
Than be lost in love, and lose,
And suffer the pains graver.
Wish we had never met-
I find it better to say,
And convince my soul with this false fact,
Than live a life of such dismay.
But up above all, would be the best
Had a self persuasion been made-
That I never formed a part of your world,
That I just never existed.
And now this letter had rekindled a spark in me- probably it wasn’t love again. But of course, something asking me to keep my promise- yes, the promise I had made to him in response to his only demand in love, after we had sobbed for hours on phone. I had promised I would never ever refuse or stop speaking to him.
I didn’t know if that promise had any relevance to me today. But of course, I could feel butterflies in my stomach. I had deleted his contact numbers from every possible place, but my heart knew it was still safe. My fingers dialed his number and with the first ring my ears could hear the most familiar and the most soothing words, “Hi sweetheart, I still love you.”