Whisper of Hope
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 a college friend’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 she. 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 stood two places ahead of me in that queue. We had never met after the college farewell. There is a familiarity. The smell, the presence, the physical comfort, there’s a sense of familiarity. You know this soul, you know this person. You know everything. You know every beat but still, you don’t know what’s going on in their mind and whether they replicate your feelings too. Secretly I wished that I get a seat beside her. She smiled, soon it turned into a grin and then she greets me in one of the most sarcastic ways possible.
‘So how come the Big man with the big job found time for wedding’
‘Who told I came for the wedding, I came to reignite the spark between us!’
‘Haven’t you see the wedding card, sir, I am the bride’
‘Oh seriously, shut Up Rashmi…You and bride?…you can never top me in sense of humour…’
‘Remember that time when I broke up with you for a prank, You cried that day..’
‘Cried? seriously? I was happy that I got away from the clutches of Bellatrix..ha..ha’
‘Oh my dear Harry Potter, Varun told me that you cried so much that night that your nose was as red as Mars..’
That was the bond between us, Some connections are never lost. And that’s exactly what I missed since so long. We never failed to tickle each others’ funny bones even in the toughest of the situations. After another round of taking digs at each others’ jobs, weight, nasty hairstyles and spectacles which were thicker that Saint-Gobain bullet-proof glasses, I had one question.
‘Whats now, Rashu?’
‘Handshake or a hug?’
‘Obviously, it will be a hug!’
She was almost a foot shorter than me which was perfect to smell her hair, The feeling was exactly same as 7 years back, just that her hair colour changed from black to blue and this time, the hug was not lengthy-romantic but was a shorter-friendly one. It triggered a lot of old memories which were sweet but the idea of not having those was bitter. Such irony!
‘Which plane Ankit?’
‘Oh My God! Are you following me?’
‘I must ask this, are you following me?’
‘Just kidding…I am glad that I have some company, don’t want to chat up with some middle-aged man talking about how Modi Government is going to change our country..’
‘Yes, He is!’
‘Shut Up, though you look like a middle-aged man…(Giggles) you are not one, don’t talk about all such boring things’
‘At least, I am not looking like I-am-an-artist-and-I-am-cool woman’
She took her handbag and hit me, this was her way of getting back at people when she was out of words. After the Airport formalities, we hopped onto our plane and with great effort convinced her neighbour to swap seats with me.
The Other Side
A lot had changed since we broke up, Only Vani, my then-roommate knows what I went through after the break-up. The disadvantage of being the most popular couple in the college is that you cannot bury your sorrow in solace because there was always one or the other person coming up with tonnes of What, How, Why questions. Seeing him after seven years was awesome, especially when he was the least expected person to barge into at an Airport, Our Gang had 5 people and 2 got married, he missed those weddings and I expected him to skip this wedding too but as fate wanted, Here he was beside me on the same flight. I was lost in thoughts, he gently tapped my finger.
‘Yes please’, I grabbed a couple of toffees wrapped in surprisingly shiny purple coloured wrappers.
‘So Ankit, How are the things going on in life?’
‘Come on Rashmi, don’t ask routine questions…Tell me what’s going on in your life? Any new Boyfriends? Maybe I should say Prospective Hubby?’
‘Ha..ha..No No, you have spoiled me so much that I am not finding anybody interesting..You gotta say, any new girlfriend? Or should I say girlfriends?’
Though I wanted to have an answer to that question, A part of me wanted him to reply with NO. I didn’t know whether I still wanted him or not, but I was quite sure I didn’t want him to be in a relationship with another woman.
‘Not exactly, but…leave…nothing serious’
‘But what? Who is the girl Ankit?’
‘Its Anushka, my B-school mate, I don’t know what’s going on between us, but She is totally into me, I don’t know what she saw in me, But I do not feel for her’
It was established. Anushka was my worst enemy at the moment. I didn’t know her but that B-I-T-C-H was in pursuit of something which she should not have. I am gonna kill her but yet with a gentle grin I replied,
‘ Whats wrong with her?’
‘Its hilarious! She is a kid…She is 6 years younger to me and its like we are from different generations, Get this…She thinks Alice in Wonderland is the best movie ever and Let it Go is the best song ever, How can I be in a relationship with her, I tried convincing her that its just infatuation but she is not convinced yet’
‘Can you do something for me, Rashmi?’
‘Can you help me escape from her?’
‘Ooooh…Mr.Bigshot needs help!’
‘Yes, for God’s sake please! she is coming to the wedding too. She wants to meet my friends and get to know them’
‘Ankit, Its totally inappropriate but did you two have sex?’
‘Yes, We have every day, Twice…Once in her car and once in my car and 10 times on the weekend…You can call us Lusty Sex Machines!’
Seeing the puzzled look on my face he continued, ‘ Rashu, Stop this weird expression… I only had sex with one person in my life, scratch it I almost had, and that person is sitting next to me now’
I was shocked by his reply, During our farewell party, we almost had it. A mention of that moment gave me goosebumps, but still, I jokingly replied, ‘So you are a Thirty-Year-Old-Virgin ?’
Now it was his turn to take potshots at me, Time flew by and within moments, we were at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru. Cloudy skies and cool breeze invited us. But there was someone else who was happier to see us at the Arrival point. She came running and hugged Ankit. I guessed It was my Arch Nemesis, Anushka. She was like cotton candy, deceptively big but actually small yet effective to leave that annoying pink colour in your mouth for a long time. She was way too tall for a girl of 25, Wearing a revealing dress, she was sure to make anybody weak in the knees and it alarmed me that I had this hard task of breaking them up. Ankit introduced us, after a lame handshake and formal conversation later, we went to The Bell Hotel, where our friends Ruhi and Rahul were tying knots.
Shadows of Past
12th Feb 2009, IISC Farewell Party – Dept. of Computer Science Varun: What Happened?
Me: We Broke Up!
Varun: What in God’s name are you talking Ankit? Are you out of your minds?
Me: I do not know..
Varun: Seriously? Dude, you guys were together for two years, and trust me Rashmi is the best you can get..
Me: It’s not me who broke up, It’s her.
Varun: Come on, you guys are the coolest couple in college and trust me many envy you. There is nothing that you cannot sort out.
Me: Things are out of control Varun, She thinks I am cheating on her.
Varun: What? Tell me exactly what happened.
Me: She thinks I am a horrible person, She is a complete opposite to me, You don’t know but we have already broken up 4 times and got back together; the third time we broke up, I met another girl during my internship, she was younger and we had a lot in common. She wasn’t interested in me, well that’s what she told me. After a while, we stopped talking. When I and Rashu got together yet again, I was really happy. During my second term at the internship, I and that girl, Rekha started taking again and her birthday was nearing, she had lent me her iPad. Accidentally I broke it, I felt I owed her. I had forgotten about it but I set a reminder on my phone for the day I got my stipend. So I figured I would get her a new iPad and put a birthday card in it and say I was sorry and explain myself in the card. On her birthday we kissed, it didn’t mean anything, After a while, I got afraid of Rashmi finding out about this some other way. So Today, I told her what I did and why I decided to tell her to. She didn’t like any of it and she said some nasty things and we broke up for the very last time. It was always on the brink, Its good that it happened today.
All I Want is You
Rahul’s Sangeet was going on and after a lot of pseudo-dancing we were tired, I and Anushka went to a corner and had a small shot of Vodka mixed with coconut water. We made sure we gave enough tip to the waiter so that the vodka spree doesn’t stop until we tell so. Rashmi was dancing, She was a pro, In our college days she lead a dance group BRiO, They were also part of University Blues. After some time, even she got tired and joined us. Half a dozen shots later she bent towards me and whispered in my ears, ‘Happy Independence Day!’
I said, ‘What?’
She took her forefinger and signalled me to keep quiet, ‘Psssssssh’
Soon her unexpected monologue begun…
She turned to Anushka and started,
‘Anushka, Leave him alone!’
‘What? What are you talking?’
‘Yes, Leave Ankit alone…He is mine’
I got shocked and interrupted, ‘ Anushka, don’t mind her…It’s the booze which is talking’
‘No Ankit, It’s me, Rashmi, your Rashmi…I want to apologise for my stupid mistake of doubting you…You are the best thing to have ever happened to me in my life..You know what? I never stopped loving you, That day I wanted you to come to me and console me, but you never came, instead, you sent Varun to say that you are done with me’
‘Whhhat?You guys were in a relationship?’, a visibly shocked Anushka enquired
‘Yes…We were in a relationship’
‘Ankit, I want you to answer not her’
‘Anu, it was thing of past..forget it’
‘See Anushka, please leave him alone, There has been a time where I wanted to say that Love is something which only idiots believe in but this man whom you call yours has dented my heart, the hole is so big that it can never be repaired even if I wanted to. I could not stop loving him any more than I could stop breathing, When he left me, The Love only got stronger. Leave him, I am hopeless, overwhelmingly in love with him, I love every single part of him, More than he’ll ever know’
Anushka left the place.
I was in the state of shock, Never expected this. All I wanted is Rashmi, Knowing that she also replicated my feelings, was the best feeling ever. At that moment, I wanted to hug her tightly and kiss her without caring about hundreds of people around watching us without batting their eyelids. She came towards me, Her tears were rolling on her cheeks like dew drops on a rose petal. She came close, she whispered, ‘ And the Oscar for best Actress goes to Rashmi Gupta’
I was bewildered. She did that act to help me get rid of Anushka. But her eyes were telling a whole different story. My whole world came tumbling down. After the function, I crashed soon. I made sure that I make a quick exit from the wedding, the next day. At departure, I thanked God that we got different flights. I never knew whether she was really in love with me, or she acted or whether she wanted me to say those three golden words to her. I regret not telling her.
Six Months Later – The Text Message
Birla Auditorium, CitiBank Branch Office, Bengaluru
I was giving the opening speech to the new Interns. My Phone beeped. A text from Unknown number landed in my inbox. But I didn’t unlock the phone and continued the speech, letting them know the nuances of Banking. It took an hour to finish the speech and another hour for QnA session. I went to the cafeteria for coffee. I unlocked my phone and read the message.
‘Hi Ankit, This is Rashmi….I got engaged’
Trust me, I have been through many painful things. At 7, I got my knee fractured; At 15, I fell off my bike; At 17, My Dad died; At 24 I got 10 straight job rejections and it hurt a lot but the pain this message caused was more than the combined pain of fracture, fall, dad’s death and job rejections. Yet, I gathered some courage and was about to text her. The Phone beeped again, another message from her number.
‘Please do not come to marriage’
—-In some stories, you don’t know the end, But You know how you want them to end——