March 19, 2009
She glanced at her watch. It was half-past-six. “Late, again…” she sighed to herself. She had gotten used to this. She waited at the railway station, as trains passed by every few minutes, the boy at the stall cleaned the counter with a rag, half-a-dozen people answered their cell-phones, scores of people passed her by, a couple of guys who looked like rogues checked her out from top to bottom… all this, while she waited for him. “Half an hour is just too much,” she complained to herself, “he’s had it today!”
“Hi jaanu…” he panted.
“Humpphhh,” she looked away.
“Kya hua, late hoon isliye? Kaha na tumse, main der nahi karta, der ho jaati hai!” he teased, “aur waise bhi, intezaar ke baad hi to pyar ka asli maza aata hai!”
“Yeah, right,” she mocked. He always sweet-talked her into forgetting all the anger and sneaked his way out of the mess.
“Kaisi lag rahi hoon main,” she asked. She’d worn a saree and looked every inch the prototypical young blushing Indian girl.
“Yeh saree kyon aaj, koi tyohar hai kya?” he inquired.
“Haan, tyohar hi samjho. Hamari anniversary ka…” she blushed.
He had conveniently forgotten it… even this time! By now, she’d learnt to take such things in her stride. He was never the one who’d make an effort to remember such occasions. “So what if he doesn’t remember… doesn’t mean he loves me any less!” she’d say in an attempt to console herself.
“Bahut pyaari lag rahi ho…” he said lovingly, looking at her as she blushed.
“Last week hi khareedi. Your favorite color… suits me na? Tum mujhe mummy se milwaane le jaaoge na, tab yahi saree pehnoongi,” she said excitedly, “Ab chalen? All the waiting for you has left me famished!” she laughed.
After grabbing a quick bite, they arrived at their favorite hangout—Joggers’ Park. It was a beautiful little garden by the sea, and this was where they’d first met. Every time they had a reason to celebrate, they’d come here. It was an unspoken, unwritten, but mutually agreed upon fact about their relationship. They walked hand-in-hand up to their favorite bench in the corner from where they could hear the waves, feel the breeze, and enjoy each other’s company.
They sat next to each other on the bench. She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder, while he placed his arm on her shoulder, encircled around her.
“Jaan,” she said.
“Haan, bolo..” he replied.
“I love you…” she whispered into his ear, as her lips lightly touched his cheek, his slight stubble brushing against her lips.
“Hmmm…” he said, and looked away into nowhere. She was surprised. He’d never reacted this way.
“Jaan, kya baat ho gayi?” she asked, nervous, tensed up.
He winced. “Kuch nahi,” he said without meaning it.
“Batao mujhe… mera jee ghabra raha hai…” she urged. Their relationship had not exactly been smooth sailing. Parental pressure and opposition to their marriage was bound to be there. But not so soon… she wasn’t ready for this. She cringed.
“Kaho naa…” she urged him again.
“Jaanu…kal meri engagement hai,” he said ominously.
She could not believe what had just been said!
Suddenly, she remembered something. She smiled.
“Haan…” she said, “Mujhse!!! Hai na?” she burst out laughing. “Last time aise hi dara diya thha mujhe tumne! Phir se thhode hi tumhaari baton mein aa jaaoongi?” she mocked.
His expression had not changed. Her heart skipped a beat, still unsure whether he was really joking. “Of course, he’s joking,” she calmed herself, “he is a good actor… always fools me! Lekin aaj main bhi dekhti hoon…” she geared herself up.
“Jaanu, kal seriously meri engagement hai…” he repeated.
“Really…” she teased, “mujhe invite karne aaye ho? Main kal busy hoon. Thhoda postpone kar lo na. I am sure ladki mind nahi karegi…” she went on.
His face was grim. Her instinct told her that this was not good news. Was it he… or her fate… that was playing games with her? Now she was genuinely worried.
“Jaan, sachchi hai?” she asked uncomfortably, hoping he would answer in the negative.
“Haan. Kal meri engagement hai…” he said morosely, “ladki hamare hi mazhab se hai. Mummy aur daddy ne pasand ki hai. Baat picchle hafte hi tay ho gayi thhi. Par tumhe batane ki himmat hi nahi juta paa raha thha…” he added apologetically, “I am sorry jaanu, par yahi sach hai.”
She was numbed. The world around her—the waves, the breeze, the birds—had suddenly come to a standstill. A part of her reconfirmed what she had just heard, while another part disagreed. Something within her churned. Suddenly, she could not see his face. Instead, her mind conjured up some random images that played on, in front of her eyes…
Walking on the pavement by the sea, hand-in hand, gazing into each other’s eyes, under one umbrella, in heavy rain…
Holding his hand tightly while watching a horror film in the cinema hall…
Enjoying a carefree ride on his new bike, hugging him tight, feeling the wind blowing through her hair…
Holding on to him inside the crowded compartment of a local train, his arms around her, protecting her from the crowd…
Calling him up in the middle of the night while he was on a night shift, and whispering sweet nothings to each other…
Him escorting her to the examination hall for her entrance exam and handing her his lucky pen…
Posing with him for a photograph on their wedding, when they’d get married…
Making his favorite fried fish to cheer him up when he’d come back home from work, all tired, despite being a vegetarian herself…
Lovingly scolding him for pampering their baby daughter too much…
Tears flowed from her eyes without her even realizing this was happening. Her memories, her dreams had been shattered that very instant. His message, although loud and clear, had not even started to sink in. How could fate have been so cruel to her? She desperately hoped this was a bad dream and her mum would walk in and wake her up the next moment. Alas! That was not to be…she was living all this…
“Par… …hu… h… hum??” she asked. Words failed her.
“I’m sorry,” he managed a meek reply. His voice was choked. Clearly, this wasn’t easy for him too.
“Hum?” she repeated, in a futile effort to make him change his mind.
“Jaanu… ho sake toh mujhe maaf kar do. Mujhe apni family ko choose karna pada. Main jaanta hoon main tumhare saath na-insaafi kar raha hoon… par main tumhaare liye apni family ko nahi chhod sakta. Chahe mujhe kamzor ya kuch aur keh lo… par ab kuch nahi ho sakta…” he uttered, his words interspersed with muffled sobs.
He proceeded to hold her hand. She withdrew. Bravely, she wiped her tears and then looked up at the face of the man she’d wanted to trust her life with… unfortunately, in place of him, she saw a complete stranger.
“Chalo yahan se,” she said in a stern voice, surprising herself with her courage, “der ho rahi hai. Ghar jaana hai.”
They hired a cab and sat next to each other. But neither looked at the other nor spoke a word. Deathly silence prevailed. She gave him half the fare, and he understood. He quietly took the money.
For some reason, the crowd at the station was rather thin, comprising hardly a dozen people instead of the usual scores.
“Chalta hoon,” he said without daring to look into her eyes. He turned, and walked away… and disappeared into oblivion.
The gush of tears started, blinding her vision, but that hardly mattered… there was no one to see, no one to look forward to… the few people around her wondered what had happened… but only she knew why she was crying…
At last, she let out a much-suppressed wail…
Someone had just died...
The woman… within her…
PS: Probably sounds like it's all made up, but believe me when I say it's true. It's more of a minute-by-minute account of what happened. Apologies again for having written such a sad story. Guess I have this thing with sad endings, eh? I had originally thought of naming the characters Golu and Bhondu. But Golu and Bhondu seem to be a very happy couple... so decided against it (I can see the relieved look on Sandeep's face!)...
This post also marks the beginning of a hibernation of sorts for me. I'll be back in full swing on the 28th of March (that's after my exams!). Wish me luck people... :)
Perfection personified... but with some room for improvement, always!!! They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail... but i take each day as it comes. I expect the best, but prepare myself to face the worst too!!! I may not be the best... but then, I'm unique, like everyone else!