Pre-script: All names mentioned are fictitious. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely co-incidental.
“Here’s a steaming cuppa Neha’s special espresso sir…” I announced as I entered Sandy’s cabin. It was 4’o clock, time for our coffee break at work. We used to sit in adjacent cabins. Dark, unsweetened espresso coffee, the stock markets, and writing were a few of the threads that bound us.
“And who’s that chick?” I exclaimed, on seeing a sweet girl’s photograph rather than the usual Raghu (of Roadies fame) on his desktop.
“That’s Bhondu…” he said without taking his eyes off the computer, “my Bhondu…”
“What… Bhondu?!?!?!” the weirdness of the name struck me.
“Yeah, Bhondu… Kajal… my girl…” Sandeep blushed.
“Oooooooohhhhhh…. Bhondu… and what does she call you? Dhondu ?!?!?!?” I retorted.
“Naah… I’m Golu…” he replied, amused.
“Sandy’s so much better…” I said.
“Yeah, but try telling that to my mother… she’s the one who nicknamed me Golu…” he defended.
“Come to think of it, Golu is better than Bhonduuuuuu…” I burst out laughing.
“Yeah right, that was my reaction too when I first heard it, but try telling that to her mother…” he replied.
“Thank God my mother never gave me a weird nickname! But dude, how come you never mentioned her in 8 months?” I asked. “Tell me about her… now,” I demanded.
“I can vividly recall our first meeting… we met in the train. Mum and I were on our way back from a wedding in Trichur… and she was also with her mum. Her mum called her Bhondu… and I couldn’t hold my laughter… but then, soon, it was my turn to be laughed at… my mum entered and addressed me as Goluuuuu… you should have seen her giggle at that… that smile… oh… that very moment, I was floored! Then we talked throughout the journey; I came to know that she stayed pretty close by… and before we knew it, we’d fallen in love…” Sandy got nostalgic.
“Aww… that’s so sweet… and then?” now, I was getting interested.
“We were both in college, albeit different ones. Phone calls, dates, movies… it was beautiful… She was very easy to win over... very specifically, pink roses, Cadbury’s dairy milk chocolates, teddies, and small trinkets… Our regular hangout was this shack on the beach, mainly because that was the only thing I could afford! She loved the chaat there… she used to tell the vendor to make it extra tangy and then, while eating, she’d lick the chutney off her fingers…” he reminisced, as I let out an Eeeewwwwww!
“And then,” I asked.
“Time flew by, and we graduated. I decided to do a post-grad degree from the US. She was happy but clearly upset. I remember her call as I was about to board my flight. She was afraid that in one year, I’d forget her and fall for some blonde chick in the US,” he chuckled, “Crazy girl! Then I pacified her… one year? I wouldn’t trade her for anyone in one lifetime!!!” he said.
“Wow… you are one crazy romantic at heart dude!” I exclaimed, “And then you came back... and???” I asked.
“A few months after I was back, she called me to say she was going to the US for a year. Now, it was my turn to feel insecure. I realized how she must’ve felt when I was going away. It would be killing… but then, she pacified me.”
“Hehehehe… tasted your own medicine huh?” I teased, “You guys never fought and made up? Seems like you were always agreeing to what she said, you romantic fool…”
“No, not at all. We fought like crazy. In fact, just this weekend, we had a huge fight over how she’d not called me or spoken to me online in weeks. She said, she’d been busy… as if I don’t know how it is like, in the US. I didn’t budge… and I banged the phone as well…”
“So, how many years with her?” I was getting excited about it.
“Seven years…” he sighed.
“Wow… seven years… that’s huge!” I remarked. “So, when are you inviting me for you wedding?” I teased him.
“Wedding, eh? There’s a slight problem…” he said, his voice ominously low.
“Arey yaar, no religion problem there… caste-waste aajkal kaun dekhta hai… and jab miya biwi raazi, toh kya karenge paaji? Chat mangni te pat byaah ho jaaye… I think it’s high time you guys got married… you are totally made for each other… and mad for each other!!!” I was on fire.
“I can’t marry her,” he said, “because she’s no more,” he said, looking at me, smiling, tears welling up in his eyes.
I could not believe my ears! “BBuutttt, how… where…” I stammered.
“I hung up on her this weekend… little did I know that it would be our last conversation… the next day, I got a call from her parents informing me that she’d succumbed to cancer of the pancreas, a disease that she’d been diagnosed with when I was in the US. She’d never told me about it, lest it worry me and distract me from my studies. In fact, she was in the US for treatment. And I shouted at her for not calling me and speaking to me… Worse still, I didn’t even apologize… and before I knew it, she’d left me… forever…” Sandy was wailing now.
On impulse, I hugged Sandy. Oh, the pain… a lump formed in my throat. I didn’t realize when tears started to flow from my eyes… I didn’t know what to say, what to do.
“How could you be so unfair God?” I silently asked, my eyes staring at the ceiling.
“Life is like that Nehu… unjust, unfair, but we’ve gotta live it… and move on,” Sandy replied, as though he’d heard my question.
“You know Nehu…” Sandy sobbed, “she may be gone, but her presence lingers. My Bhondu will always be here… in her Golu’s heart… and if you ever love someone, don’t wait for the next day or next moment to say it or apologize… coz you’ll never know when life takes him or her away…”
“A lesson learnt, but at what cost… a lifetime of pain?” I thought, as we hugged each other, crying, sharing the sorrow. Life, at times, was indeed unfair… and we, mere mortals, helpless.
My journey back home that evening was slightly different. I would usually switch off my mobile phone and go off to sleep on my way in the train. That day, the first thing I did on my journey back home was to call up my family members and my boyfriend and say three simple words: I love you.
PS: Apologies for the sad ending. Had to retain the names of the characters because it's a series. Apolgies for that as well. It's pretty much a true story... happened to one of my friends. This is dedicated to him. So all of you out there, say the three magical words to your loved ones as many times as possible. Doesn't cost anything! :)