Present day, Indira Gandhi International Airport Delhi
It was still dawn when I stepped out of the cab and walked towards the entry gate of the Delhi airport. The early morning February air was pleasantly cold. I was travelling to Bengaluru to attend Tusshar & Manya’s wedding. It had been four years since we graduated from the same college. This wedding was also going to be a reunion of our batch mates. But what I didn’t know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time; right in the queue in front of the airline counter.
I was almost sure it was her. Same height! Same long hair! Same complexion! Curiosity had my eyes glued to her. And then about 60-odd seconds later, when she turned, she proved me right. My ex-girlfriend Anisha stood two places ahead of me in that queue. We had never met after the college farewell.
‘I can’t believe you two, since when have you guys been going around?’ bellowed Manya as she and other friends Tusshar and Pritam ganged up against Anisha & me as they pulled their chairs facing the two of us in the college cafeteria.
‘Yeah, I thought you guys knew about us’ I added scratching my head in embarrassment trying not to look at any of them directly.
‘Well! It’s not been too long guys, so relax. We haven’t “done anything yet”’ said Anisha using air quotes who seemed pretty cool about our friends finding out about us.
‘I think it’s great that you two are together’ said a beaming Pritam.
‘Hey! That’s not fair of them to hide it from us’ Tusshar accusingly. ‘But yeah it sure is great’ he added later quietly out of Manya’s earshot who was still crossing her hands and looking intently at Anisha & me. It took a while for both of us to placate Manya. She couldn’t pull the grim face any longer ‘So, when do you plan to tell your parents Ani?’ Manya couldn’t contain her excitement as she hugged Anisha, meanwhile we exchanged a puzzled look at each other.
Manya, Anisha, Tusshar, Pritam & me were five best friends studying in DSIT, Bengaluru. Anisha & Me started dating each other from the beginning of our 3rd year. To add to our joy, by the end of our 4th semester our other two friends Manya and Tusshar also started seeing other.
Final year final semester on the last day of farewell
‘Anisha, it’s too early to say anything. Don’t you think we should look at our careers? You have a very good opportunity to do your masters in New York. I think you should pursue that.’
‘I can’t believe you are not serious about us Rahul! Mom & Dad know about us; I don’t want to go to USA this year. I’ll postpone it to next year.’ said Anisha desperately.
‘Look, I love you Anisha, but I have some goals. I want to work here. Besides, don’t you think it’s great that you are getting to study in NYU?’ I tried convincing, ‘I really think this is going all too fast. We are too young to get married.’ I put my hand across her shoulder.
‘..and what if you find someone else? What if your parents set you up with some girl? will you leave me in the lurch?’ Anisha interjected. Her voice was shaking and eyes were filled with tears.
‘I dint say I will leave you. It’s good for both of us if we just pursue our careers and let’s get back after you are done with your masters. I am saying this because long distance relationships don’t work. We should take a break from each other do what we want to do and then get back together’ I again tried putting my arm around Anisha’s shoulder which she brushed aside.
‘oh! So this is a nice way of breaking up. I don’t even know why was I even contemplating on pushing my studies for you. You don’t seem to care the fact that I was doing it for us.’ Anisha walked out of the room indignantly. I tried calling her out but she just walked away.
Present day, Indira Gandhi International Airport Delhi
As the queue was moving forward into the boarding, I was careful not to get too close to her. I was innocently checking her out from the behind, she was twice as beautiful than the last time I had seen her. Suddenly I saw a shiny silver ring on her toe as she marched ahead. And a bomb dropped in my stomach, it couldn’t be, could it? I wondered.
As we moved into the flight I looked at her hoping she would turn, at the same time I dint want her to look at me. Too many feelings were rushing inside my head. I wanted to quickly rush to my seat far away from her. I found my way & dashed into the old lady, dropping her hand bag in an urge to escape from Anisha. I sat by the aisle with two teenage girls by my side. I could see Anisha as she kept her hand bag into the cabin. My heart sank at the thought that she was married. I wondered if the guy next to her was her husband. But they were not even looking at each other, I was reassured. I kept looking at her sharp side face which looked so pretty. And her hair tied in a messy bun. She was busy reading a novel, I remembered that she was an avid reader. I closed my eyes and all the past memories just played in a flash back: The way we pulled each other’s leg, our evening hangouts, our night escapades.
I was suddenly disturbed by the giggly girls by my side who were constantly talking about how much of weight some girl had put on. I couldn’t even listen to any music as I had forgotten my headsets in the check in luggage.
‘hey check out my toe ring! It’s so cute na? These are so much in vogue these days’ One of the girls said to the other ‘I know! I saw this on Pooja Chopra in that serial. I think even I want one’.
A sudden rush of hope had creeped into me, there was an enthusiasm to immediately go and check if Anisha was wearing one or two of those toe rings. I stopped myself as it would look so stupid and desperate. I had to wait for the flight to land so that I can somehow get a little sight of her feet. I was now preparing myself to speak to Anisha, at the same time not sounding too needy as it was I who ended the relationship, yes I was guilty.
The plane landed in Bengaluru. I quickly picked my cabin luggage because I did not want to miss my chance this time. I saw Anisha picking her hand bag from the cabin as she moved forward. I followed her sneakily as I was praying ardently that I see only one toe ring. We got down from the plane and walked towards the exit. I finally got a chance to catch a glimpse of her feet. The toe ring was only on one foot (obviously Anisha was a fashionista! I thought to myself, with a smile on my face). I was so overjoyed that I wanted to go and hug those giggly girls who spoke about the toe ring.
Now all I had to do was to try speaking to Anisha not too formal not to casual, I kept telling myself as I finally reached the baggage counter. I saw her collect her luggage and heading to the main exit. This was my chance I said to myself as I grabbed my yellow suitcase and sprinted in close lines with her. Suddenly I missed her from my eye sight as I was paused by a group of foreigners who blocked my way for a while. I felt so crestfallen that I lost her, my speech was ready. Oh Man! Now I have to meet her along with the others at the wedding. It’s going to be so awkward, I can’t even try now. I reached out the taxi stand gloomily, and went to the nearest one available.
‘Hi Rahul!’ someone patted my shoulder from behind. It was Anisha. I was enthralled at the holy sight of her. I could only manage to fumble a Hi. ‘I dint see you here, were you on the same flight?’ I sounded so unconvincing as I looked away from her.
‘Er yeah, weren’t you the one trying to check my feet in the queue?’ she added mischievously. I was red with embarrassment. ‘why exactly?’ Anisha was smiling sheepishly.
I bet she was enjoying this so much. ‘n-no, I wasn’t’ I sounded shifty. She looked at me sharply and continued ‘anyways, if we both are heading to the wedding hall why not we take the same cab? We’ll share’.
I couldn’t say no, plus this was more than I expected. We got an Airport taxi and headed to our destination. I couldn’t believe my luck that Anisha was sitting beside me. Although, her behaviour was surprisingly reposeful. She looked much more confident and oh so beautiful. I kept checking her out by the corner of my eye.
‘So, how have you been?’ Anisha asked.
‘huh!’ I was distracted ‘er yeah! I am good. I’m in the IT firm’ I replied in a low voice. ‘so, how are you?’ I finally asked looking straight into her beautiful eyes.
‘oh! I’m doing great. I just finished my course and working with AOL. Life’s pretty good. I love New York’ she went on. I was looking for an opportunity to ask her if she was seeing someone but instead I preferred listening to her talk as it had been a while and she spoke really well. We reached the wedding venue much earlier than I had anticipated. ‘Nothing has changed about this city’ Anisha said dreamily. We got down took our luggage. Pritam was the first one to welcome us with a big bear hug.
Pritam and I went into a room booked at the hotel. ‘so how was the eventful journey with Anisha?’ Pritam teased.
‘huh!’ I was side-tracked from my thoughts ‘Oh yeah it was good. Nothing awkward’ I lied.
Pritam was laughing on my face ‘look at your face, you look so confused and you say it wasn’t awkward.’
‘well it was. Hey you know what I really have started to see the light of the day. All these years I tried to contacting her but couldn’t. But now that she is right in front of me I really think I should sort things out between us and give our relationship a second lease. What do you think?’ I ignored his giggles.
‘well all I have to do is come and dance in two other friends’ wedding. Ask her what are you seeking my approval for?’. I was thoughtful and waited for an opportunity and the right words. I dint want to mess this up this time.
It was one of best days of my life after college when the five of us got together and were like a house on fire. I was constantly checking out Anisha and her pink lehenga. She looked gorgeous, I was making up my mind that I have to tell her how I feel. It’s now or never again. I finally found an opportunity when we were going toward the dining area spread across in the lawn and there was no one there to disturb us. We walked across took our plates full of mouth-watering food and found a quiet place. But I wasn’t hungry, I was on a mission. A man can never eat until he completed his mission. So I was just playing with the paneer and she was merrily eating the Gulab Jamoon. I was trying to find the right words and she spoke first.
‘so are you seeing someone?’ she sounded so breezy. I stopped playing with my food and looked directly into her eyes. Man! She definitely has changed since the last time I had seen her.
‘No!’ came my response.
‘Why? Aren’t you settled enough? You should’ve looked for a match by now’.
‘well! I really haven’t given that a thought. Actually I ..’ I continued until she cut me across ‘you know, moving to New York was the best decision I ever took. You propelled me to take this up and I am really thankful to you for that.’
I waited for something nasty, but this was going somewhere and I was curious to know where this was going. ‘I was really mad at you for not being serious about us and you driving me away to New York and you finding job and stuff’ at this point there was a pinching pain in my heart. But when I went there and got busy with my studies I realised may be it was the best for us. But deep down in my heart I was still waiting for you to call me and ask me to come back’ I gleamed into her eyes I could see how soft her expression had turned.
‘So are you seeing someone?’ I just blurted out, not even realising how rude I sounded, but I had to ask. She was clearly appalled but she shook her head dissenting.
‘Anisha, please let me’. I quickly grabbed her hand which was on the table. ‘I know what are you thinking right now. Look whatever happened in the past was silly and naïve, I thought I was thinking for both of us. May be I was wrong. But I tried contacting you since the day I got to know you decided to pursue New York. I really wanted to meet you and congratulate you. But somehow I held myself back. I tried contacting you over social network but I was too embarrassed to make the first move. I’m really glad that you’ve changed for the better. And I’m so delighted to see you all confident and independent and mature. May be losing you 5 years back was not the best decision I made. But look at us today, somehow we ended up meeting each other after we’ve achieved what we wanted. If not everything at least something.’ I looked hopefully waiting for her nod, but she continued staring back. I took one long breath and continued. ‘I wanted to start things back again.’ I looked intently. She paused for a while before she spoke.
‘I have to go back Rahul. I have no intentions of coming back for a good 10 years. I just started enjoying my career and I am doing really good. I don’t think I will change my mind now. I am not the old Anisha anymore who would stay back for love. I am sorry’
My heart sank but I dint loosen the grip of my hand on hers. She was firm and had an unperturbed expression. But I knew she still loved me. She got up from her seat to move away, she was a bit emotional so she moved her hands off my grip. I just sat there still looking at her and waiting for something magical. ‘I don’t think you should wait for me that long’ she smiled half-heartedly. ‘oh believe me this time I want to.’ I smiled confidently and smiled back some more.
With all the chaos in the wedding there was something very constant Anisha.