One cannot have friends like the ones I’ve got! May be there could be a few. But it’s always good to have some in hopeless cases like mine. They’ve been my lifeline, but this time they are trying to push me back into the deep hole. I’ve never been on a date before, but I cannot stay a bachelor forever.
I am excited! But I’m a bit nervous too. Josh was unusually early to pick me up which he never does on regular days. It wasn’t just me who was excited that day. The excitement meter of all three of us raced all the way up. Yami gave me no clue about the girl who could possibly be my wife in a few years.
The cafeteria was a 30 minutes ride away from my home. Josh has a cool sound system in his car. I’ve never bothered to notice it before but today it felt like the sky played songs. To keep my cool I shifted my gaze to the things outside on the road. After a long time my mind was all messed up, just that I wasn’t up against a situation like this in the past few years. I cannot pass all of my life without facing this day.
Don’t mess it up, keep your cool. I rehearsed many times in my mind on how to impress the girl. I shouldn’t overdo being gentle nor go to the other extreme as well. I could be 25 but my teenage fantasies are still fresh in me. We reached the cafeteria 15 minutes earlier than the planned time. We took a four seater table leaving one empty for the girl I’m currently fantasizing. I was able to rehearse one last time in front of the mirror filling up the 15 minutes gap.
The humongous mirror in the restroom was crystal clear and the false twin of mine on the mirror failed miserably. May be he was as nervous as I was. I wasn’t so nervous even during my first interview. Taking two deep breaths I corrected my hair and patted myself good luck. The person who went into the toilet when I came in finally came out after a long time, I then realized it was time for me to go out too. It had been a long time since I felt this way. I had that insane smile on my face. The table was filled by three leaving one empty space, but this time it was my seat that was empty. She was 5 minutes early than the planned time which was unusual for any girl, but she was late by 10 minutes than me which is usual for almost every girl (at least most of ’em).
S**t! How should I greet her now? should I be gentle? should I be cheesy? crap should I hug her? I would get into an awkward position if I hug her now. My palm grew chill, if I shake hands with her now it’d clearly show that I’m dead nervous. What should I do? My heart beat was fast and loud now. I walked fast to cover up my nervousness.
I looked at Josh and he had a grin on his face and I was in no state to bother about it. I almost stood for a moment to check if I had my kerchief and josh used that perfect opportunity. He pointed at me and said “Waiter, can we have some water please?”. And I was like ‘Fk you baard! You spoiled my whole image’. I then understood the reason behind the grin. The girls started giggling and Yami’s was the loudest laugh. The girl who could possibly be my girlfriend and whose face I haven’t seen yet had a beautiful voice. Wait! I didn’t listen to her speaking. May be I felt it from the way she giggled, or may be I’m imagining things.
I took my seat still looking at Josh with a pissed look. Josh signaled me to look at her. And I had to change expressions from pissed to welcoming in seconds and I’m no actor to do it perfectly, yet I gave a shot at it and threw a smile at her. The smile didn’t last a second, it started fading faster. And my heartbeat went down in disbelief. I found it hard to suck in air and harder to breathe it out.
I’ve seen this smile before, but it cannot be. I’ve seen these eyes before, but it cannot be. I’ve stared at these lips before, but it cannot be. This cannot be her. It shouldn’t be her. But it is her and here she is. In front of me. Staring at me but with a lot lesser shock on her face. “Hi Aravind!”, She gathered to speak those first words after a very long time. Say what, like its been almost 7 years since we last spoke.
Riya, the best part of my life. I first saw her at Dadar railway station in Mumbai. Out of all those girls around, my gaze was fixed at her. I was on my way back home. I wished that she boards the same train. And so my wish was granted and it came with better benefits. We were in the same compartment and of all, her seat was next to mine. What more do you need to be busy in a train. I wish I had a guitar in my hand. Of course I knew leads for a few songs then and I could play chords for a few too, but now I’m out of practice.
I would have proposed her like surya in vaaranam aayiram movie (if not as good as him, at least to a level of impressing her). But it didn’t require those props. I had stared at her most of the time with chetan bagat’s novel in my hand opened . I found the novel to be exceedingly boring, and which fool would choose to only read the novel having such a beautiful girl in front.
Our eyes met a few times, like some 8 or 10 times. Every time it happened I had a chill running down my spine. I couldn’t turn my gaze off her. She redefined cuteness. Her elder sister started a conversation with me. And the reason was the novel which I didn’t care about. The novel proved itself to be useful and I was grateful to chetan bagat. We played a game then which her sister invited me to join. I would have been the dumbest person on planet earth if I had turned it down.
All the time while playing, I had one eye fixed to her and every expression of her made me go crazy. I somehow managed to peep into her sister’s mobile, without her noticing it, while she was looking at a tagged picture of her family. And there she was standing next to her mother, well more than standing, clinging to her. The tag read Riya Ravichandran. The very next moment I started searching for her profile in facebook and was able to find it in minutes.
Her timeline had not many pictures, just 250 pictures. Most of them were selfies. Selfies with her family, selfies with her friends, selfies with her……wait! Who’s this guy? oh! good lord, its her cousin. I gathered a lot of informations about her in quick time. No, I wasn’t stalking her, may be it is so for you! But I was genuine in what I was doing. I didn’t send her request though. I didn’t want to be hasty.
The night was beautiful. I was lying on the top berth facing the white ceiling and fan. Smiling non-stop and changing positions constantly. I wasn’t feeling sleepy. The lights were out and I came down from my berth. I wanted another place to enjoy the night. I stood next to the door opened. I stood at a safe distance, holding the bar on the door. The train was moving over an open terrain. There was hardly any building. The stars were visible. I could see thousand stars and even more that night. I think the night sky reacts to our mood, it adds beauty to the happy moments, exposing every star in its gallery. It covers up everyone of them and pours down as rain when you’re sad. Or may be it happens every now and then and we only bother to notice when we need it.
The night was one to be remembered and cherished for a long time. But I didn’t know it then, until she came out of the compartment too. She smiled at me warmingly and I fell for her again. I was nervous. Clueless on what to speak. I was struggling to make a conversation. Every theory I made up in my mind to talk to her, got banished.
“Can I stand here for sometime?”, This was unexpected. She was the first to initiate a conversation. But that wasn’t the unexpected thing, but a girl asked me if she could stand with me. I wouldn’t have neglected it even in the most horrible dream of mine. We stood there for some 5 minutes without a word spoken.
“So where are you going?”, This was the second time in a row she tried to initiate a conversation with a question. I didn’t let her down this time. Soon we shared headphones and our phone numbers. I found a good friend in her. She was perfect for me. Every second of that night was invaluable for me. I didn’t want the night to end.
We went to our berths at 12.30 a.m. For the first time in a long time I slept peacefully. I woke up at 7 a.m just to find that she was gone! I started to worry if the whole of the previous night was just a dream. I found a note left in my bag’s bottle slot.
‘It was like a dream night. Feels good to have found a great companion in you.’, read the note. I was relieved that it happened in real. Her handwriting was beautiful as she was.
We had spent days and nights together yet miles away from each other. Our day would be incomplete without a text or a call from either of us. But neither of us had opened up about our feelings for each other. One fine evening she had called me up, and her voice was as cheerful as ever. She then told me the best news I could have heard in a million years. She was all set to join the same college where I had got admitted.
The first day of college was filled with so much excitements. Of all excitements, the excitement of meeting her after a long time had the best of me.
She came through the door and it was perfect. Her eyes were searching something or someone! Wait its me! She’s searching for me. Our eyes met and she stood still smiling with a bit of shock, and my face lit up in reflex with a big smile. We went to the canteen for lunch. Her feet slipped and she fell in my arms. The never peeped out before face of mine popped out. “I know I’ll sweep you off your feet, but not so early. I don’t know if I’d get any better chance than this. Will you be mine? forever?”
“Dude. You’ve grabbed my waist and people are watching it.” That wasn’t the reply I expected. But it brought me back to my senses. We walked in silence for a few minutes, while I was trying to cover up the awkward reaction on my face. But she was smiling all along. And she said “I’ll be.” Yeah that’s right. We accidentally fell in love. We were crazily in love.
Her birthday was a week away, and I had been planning on it. I faked to be angry with her. We were to meet in the park and she was early than me. She looked depressed and her eyes were reddish. I hugged her to comfort her and she couldn’t fight back her tears. I had no clue what had happened to her. It was my plan not to speak to her until her birthday and to surprise her. But it had turned out to be a mess.
“I’m sorry Aravind. I never thought it’d come to this point. Trust me I loved you from my heart.” The past tense in the last sentence left me aghast. She hugged me firmly. “I’m sorry Aravind. Don’t look out for me. I know its too much to ask for. Its all my fault. I shouldn’t have come into your life.” She kissed me and walked past me leaving me shellshocked. I hadn’t moved from there for a long time. The sky grew dark and it started pouring down. It covered up my tears. I worked on permutations and combinations in my mind on why she would have made this decision. I had literally lost contact with her. She changed her mobile number and none of her friends knew where she was. But her roommate saw her leave with her mother in a car. Her roommate told me that Riya had cried in the last few days she stayed there.
I tried to find her but every attempt ended up a failure. I received a mail. The notification had her name and in no time I was reading the mail. It was more of a reply than a straight mail. She replied for those 116 mails I had sent her. One thing that I understood out of it was that she’ll never be mine and I shouldn’t disturb her anymore. Life had soon turned pace from fast to slow, from best to worst in real quick time. It wasn’t easy for me to forget her. Her traces left in me as bruises.
I started hitting the gym. It helped me burn out stress and aggression with calories. It was better than getting addicted to drugs. Since then I had led an empty life with a lot happening around but had no impact over me. I completed my degree with average marks but got a job with decent salary. My routine was Eat-Work-Gym-Sleep. Cricket in the weekends helped a lot too. I had become more philosophical like never before and my playlist queued with more breakup songs. Neither Josh nor Yami knew about our relationship in the past. For that matter hardly anyone knew our story. When I thought life was going to take a turn, it has come to where it started.
Josh and Yami had left us alone. I had no energy left in me to stop either of them. It drained to null the moment I saw Riya. I couldn’t walk out or face her. We sat in silence for some 5 minutes and she was yet again the first person to initiate a conversation.
“How are you Aravind?”, her voice broke my chain of thoughts. How am I? Did you really ask me that Riya? I battled with my heart and eyes, not to breakdown. Riya continued to speak but I understood nothing. I wasn’t deafened cause my ears could sense that she was talking something. But my brain failed to receive it.
“Aravind, I love you.” Riya spelled these words out, bringing back my fast fading soul.
“I’m..I..I should go.” All that I wanted at that time was to leave the place. I stood to leave when she asked me to take her along. I was in no state to react. I went on walking and Riya came following me. Isn’t it unusual for a girl to come behind a boy. But my Riya did. I was angry too. I wanted answers! Reasons! And it is fair for me to be angry.
Josh had parked the car on the other side of the road, and both of them were in the car. I wanted to punch Josh in his face for fixing this date for me. I crossed the road and Riya followed me. She shouldn’t have followed me.
It’s been 10 years now, since it happened. Every time I pass through that road I stop for a while.
Nah! My daughter’s name isn’t Riya! Its my wife’s name! She didn’t meet with any accident that day. It was her father. He caught his daughter crying out a guy’s name and so it went on. Dr.Ravichandran wasn’t as tough as he looked on the outside. In an year’s time we got engaged and married. I stop for a while everytime I pass that road cause Riya’s office was in the same street.
The day we met after a long time had several answers and questions to be told and asked. Riya’s father dragged her home and I saw her cry. She didn’t mind her dad was around, she kept screaming my name. I stood there watching it all happen. Josh slapped me hard bringing me back to reality. I hadn’t moved an inch for a long time. My system was in standby mode until Josh pushed a button. “You dumbass, she’s your girlfriend and here you stand just watch her taken away. Go and face your problems instead of staying idle. Bas**rd say something!”
“I need your car!”, I grabbed the key from his pocket and rushed to her home, leaving both Josh and Yami on the road. I picked my mom on the way. I didn’t reveal her where we were going. I told her everything only when we reached her home and mom was like ‘I could have worn better clothes if I knew it before.’
The name plate infront of the home read “Dr.Ravichandran M.B.B.S.”, I checked it twice to make sure we are at the right place. Mom took care of Riya’s parents, I would have given her 10 outta 10 if it were any performance and I was to judge it. I had no idea how she managed it.
My dad arrived too and it was parent to parent conversation and everything seemed to fall in line. But a character was missing in the scene. I went upstairs to Riya’s room. The last time I was sneaking to her room but this time I kind of had the permission to. Her room was all the same. Except the mirror broken and the curtains changed. She wasn’t in her room. Her study table was filled with papers and stuffs. I went on to take a closer look. She has preserved every card and letters I had given her. Every single one of them reminded me of her and my days with her. Life was so lively with her, I was half-dead without her. May be walking dead!…err that’s a game’s name.
“How did you come in?”, the character which was missing in the scene has finally found the way in.
“Through the door, of course.”, I could now talk to her at a stretch without any breathing problem.
“That’s not funny! Get out of my room. I never allow anyone into my room. And how dare you take my belongings.”, Riya was running amok.
“Wait! It’s me who should be angry. I must be shouting and not you. Why are we switching characters now?”
“I did no mistake. It was all your fault.” , Riya started hitting me with the pillow and I took one for my defense. Yes, only for defense. Not even the word offense can be used against a women, it has its own side effects.
In moments were lying on the bed. No words spoken. We were taken 7 years aback. And I did spoil the moment yet again. I wanted answers. “Why did you do that Riya? That day, in the park. You left me without telling me anything.”
” Don’t lie! I said ‘bye’ before leaving right.”, I almost slapped myself for asking that. Riya stole a giggle for a second. Watching me react she continued to laugh. I let her finish laughing and she prepared herself to deliver the answer.
“How’s your mom?”, when I thought she was going to give me the answer, she came up with another question. “She’s fine, but this is not what I expected you to tell.”
“Chill babe! Your mom hasn’t seen me yet right?”, another question. God, I almost stood to leave. Riya pulled me back and asked me to be patient. “Your mom and I, have met already. She knew about our relationship then. 6 years back, before the day I left you, your mom and I met. She asked me to leave her son alone. At least until you both complete your studies. She knew her son from feet to hair tip. She knew the reason why your CGPA was low in the first 2 semesters. And also my dad was getting transferred to Pune and I decided to drop this course and do BBA. Engineering wasn’t my thing you know. And Dad understood it. Also you acted to be angry on me, and I didn’t know how you’d take it. So I decided to do this.
I felt this to be the best way to satisfy everyone, your mother who cared for you and my father who was ready to do anything and give only the best to me. But I regretted everyday after leaving you. Dad retired six months ago and we came back here. Right from the day I arrived here, I started looking out for you and it wasn’t a big task to find you. But I took time and got in touch with your friends. I explained Josh and Yami about our past and it took them sometime to trust me. We had been planning on this date for the past 3 months. Babe get me some water nah I’ve never explained anything at a stretch like this.”
I took time to visualize everything and everyone except me was well informed and planned. I was so dumb that I failed to realize it. Damn it. Josh I’m breaking your car’s headlight.
The night sky was as clear as the first day I met her. We stood there counting stars. And our parents came up with yet another question. Where do you wanna buy your wedding dress? Trust me that question almost took me some 6 months to answer.
Riya shouldn’t have followed me that day. If she hadn’t followed me that day I wouldn’t have to wait 3 hours straight in parlor every weekend. But still, love is a beautiful thing ain’t it?