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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Love Story

It is nearing Christmas. Romance is in the air. Writing a small love story.........


The weather is just right, and the mood mellow. It is almost foggy in the early evening. Even in Bombay. Though foggy-smoggy is a more apt word. But yes, the sun loses its scorchiness by 2.00 pm. The evenings bring along a gloom which is not entirely unwelcome. On the streets, the beam of headlights of vehicles, tear through the smog. Old memories come back by the herds. Memories which with their sheer intensity push back the urgency of tasks to be accomplished as part of the daily grind.

Flash back to a good 20 years ago. Fresh out of college, - having completed her graduation. Now what? She decides to pursue a part-time post-graduate diploma in sales, marketing and advertising.

The first day of the new college. She is late. As she steps into the classroom, she realises that she is the youngest in the class. Most of the others are working men and women who have joined the course for that extra edge during promotions.

The lectures are interesting. Advertising and promotion gimmicks are dissected. In sales and marketing, they talk about PERT, CPM, cash cows and economics of demand and supply. She slowly settles down to the routine of evening classes. Lectures from 6.30 to 8.30 pm

New friends are made as they walk back to the bus-stop after class. One particularly tall lanky curly haired and bespectacled gentleman catches her eye. He is definitely not the most handsome of the lot. But the confident swagger and lazy grace in his walk attract her towards him. The piercing eyes, the glint in those eyes, the dark lips which curl on one side when he smiles indulgently, make her go weak in the knees. Soon she is looking out for him at the bus-stop on her way to class. They still have not spoken to each other.

'Can i borrow your economics notes', he says and the ice is broken. Soon, they are no longer taking the bus after class. They walk down for a whole 20 minutes, so that they can spend that much time together. I say 'they', but in reality it is she who savors his company more. He is atleast 5 years her senior and more worldly-wise. She is fresh out of the safe warm cocoon of home. She basks in the indulgent attention showered on her. These are her first moments of independent interaction with members of the opposite sex.

She talks to him about everything under the sun. Her home, her parents,her friends, her hobbies, her dreams,her desires and her fears. He listens. He teases her. She likes his protective attitude towards her.

She walks amidst the clouds. She is in love. Going to college is just a reason to spend those 15-20 minutes with him.

Half a term of the course is over. It is December. She appears for an interview, for the post of a sales executive. Thinking it to be a desk job, she accepts it. The word executive had her tricked. She did not want to be a 'Sales Woman' as her dear mom put it. But she decides to give it a shot. It was a Friday evening when she received her appointment letter. Monday was her first day at her first job. She wore a Jaipuri cotton chudidaar kurta. Off white in colour with peacock blue flowers on it. Her hair tied up in a chignon.

That evening she had all the more reason to look forward to going to college. After classes she rushed to him. I've got a job, she squealed in excitement. Hopping up and down. He was happy for her. 'This calls for a treat', he said. 'Let's go to the canteen'. He called for Tutti Frutti ice-cream.

The tangy fruity taste of the ice-cream still lingers on. That was the last time she ate her favourite icecream. Not once in the last 20 years...............

The office environment is very different. All the guys seemed to have girl friends and vice versa. They go out on dates. Sometimes she felt very lonely, almost unloved. She craved for someone special to make her feel very special.

He invites her over for New Year's. Of course, she couldn't go. She could not even dream of asking her parents. Going out with a guy, that too late in the night... IMPOSSIBLE!!.

Then something happened on the 25th of January. He asked her out to lunch. On the 27th. She was ecstatic. Her friends teased her no end. It was her first official lunch date. Why.. It was her first date. She wore her favourite red and yellow chudidaar. It enhanced her fair complexion. Her boss dropped her at his office. She went in. He was waiting for her.

They go to a restaurant close by. She is absorbing every moment. Music played in the background...."Aaj phir tum pe pyaar aaya hai, behad aur behisaab aaya hai'. Movie - Dayaavan. Song picturised on Madhuri Dixit and the very happening Vinod Khanna. A song sensuously picturized.

What did they eat?? Masala papad, roti and choley.

He had to report back to work. So did she. She saw him off at the bus stop. She took a deep breath and committed every moment of her rendezvous to memory.

Job and classes kept her busy, and her friendship with him blossomed. Now she had new experiences to share with him. Simple things like handling a computer for the first time. Amusing anecdotes of her mother instructing her to take the stairs and not the lift when she went on 'calls'. Anecdotes of her trudging up and down a eight or nine storeyed building because she was petrified of being held up in a lift with strange and potentially dangerous folks. Interesting experiences of meeting people from various industries, ranging from apparel manufacturers to Ad Agencies, as part of her job. The thrill she experienced when she went to a store to buy her father a Double Bull shirt (with money from her first salary) and when she did not know what size to buy , going up to an absolute stranger and asking him what size he wore in shirts, as her father was of a similar built. Her mother's fears of 'log kya kahenge' as she travelled with her male colleague/s in a taxi on their way to a meeting. The joy when she closed her first sale of a product worth 12,000 and then 2 more and finally netting a commission of a princely Rs 400 and a letter of appreciation to go along with it. Dear, oh, dear! She sure 'grew up' in those 3 months.

It was March. The 9th of March . Today evening, she decided, she would confide the one thing she had kept from him. Today she would tell him, she cared about him. Today she would tell him, SHE LOVED HIM.

That day, as had become the everyday practice, they did not take the bus. On the way HE said, 'I want to ask you something'.

'What is it that you want from me?', 'Is it just emotional support, friendship only, or is it something more?' She was caught unawares.

'Nothing', she blurted out. 'I expect nothing from you', she repeated in her confusion.

'Thank god!' he said. 'You don't know how relieved I am to hear you say this. I have been killing myself over this for the past couple of weeks. I got engaged in January. There's no doubt, I am terribly attracted to you. I just can't help it, you are so different from the other girls that I have met so far. You are young, and I don't want you hurt so early in life. I meant to tell you earlier. But i just didn't know how to.........'

Several tumultuous thoughts passed through her mind all at once, in those couple of seconds.

  • He spoke out of turn. It was she who was going to start, 'I want to say something to you'.
  • He was engaged..... to another woman. Oh my God! ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED!
  • She went totally blank,.
  • She was relieved that she said , ' I expect nothing from you', saving herself red faced embarrassment.
  • A warm feeling when he said he was attracted to her.
  • Pride when he said he hadn't met anybody like her.
  • A glad feeling of having avoided the melodrama, - if she had confessed her love and he had pleaded helplessness OR the other scenario wherein he would have promised to set things right and the resulting messy situation. She wouldn't have liked to see him cracked up like that
  • A feeling of Great Loss and EMPTINESS, she was NOT the CHOSEN ONE
She was nauseous. But she regained her composure and assured him that it was only friendship that she had sought. He took her for a cup of coffee. They both needed a couple of moments to calm those nerves. He kept saying, ''May be I should call off my engagement, ". She reassured him that he need not feel so responsible. That day he dropped her upto the railway station and waited with her till she boarded her train. She bade goodbye, and sank into her seat. She held back her tears till she reached home. In the privacy of her bathroom, they flowed and flowed and flowed.

The next day when her friend heard the story, he said - 'There are plenty of fish in the ocean. The Ocean is really huge you know'. It brought a tiny smile to her lips.

Soon he gave up the course. She continued her classes. Now she took the bus home.

He got married as scheduled. He had come home  to invite her for the wedding.  He made a fine impression on her parents too.

She did not go as the marriage coincided with the examination schedule.

She carefully stashed away the red and yellow churidar kurta from her luncheon date with him. Along with it was the wedding invite.

She kept in touch with Him for some time, wishing him on his birthday and his anniversary. A year after his marriage, they happened to meet again. He had invited her and another 2 guys from the class, for tea. He walked her to the railway station. " I wish you had meant everything you had said then, and not flirted. I wish you had been more serious '' This time she retorted back, 'I do not flirt.'

She eventually did get over him. She changed her job. Made new friends. Was loved for the very same qualities he had appreciated in her.

She moved on. She fell in love once more. This time, her feelings were reciprocated with equal fervour. They got married.

The red and yellow dress and the wedding invite have been junked for several years now. And yet, she never ever ate TUTTI FRUTTI ice cream again.

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