My eyes were glued on the door of his classroom while I was stepping inside mine. It’s been only a week since we (or may be only I) had been noticing each other from distance. I had chosen a new bus stop, changed my usual way of going home. It’s because the new longer route passed through his bus stop and I got to see him till the time he got off and walked towards his house.
Ronit had the cutest smile and I loved his spectacle’s frame. It resembled Hrithik Roshan’s who had become a heartthrob after his first blockbuster that year. It started with staring at each other without words while standing at the classroom’s door. We started waiting for each other at the bus stop and then even leaving the bus if one of us were not there at that particular time. Going to school never seemed so exciting, I dreaded Sundays which kept us away from seeing each other. This silent admiration continued till the end of the first semester and then in next few months on 14th Feb, I went ahead and approached Ronit during a longer recess. I walked towards his classroom and in front of his friends and other kids loitering in the corridor, I said, “Ronit, I like you a lot” looking deep into his eyes, blushing. He said, “me too”. Everyone around us started cheering. That was the first time I astonished myself. From where did I gather that courage? I had no clue. All I remember is that my world had changed from that day onwards.
We started talking over our landline phones for hours, giving stupid excuses to our parents of suddenly raised telephone bill amounts. We had started sharing the seat on the BEST bus during the journey back home. I even wrote him a letter to convey my day by day increasing affection for him. And those were the first ever intimate moments of my adolescent years. I was certain that Ronit is the one for me and we will end up together till the end of time. And soon this was tested.
One afternoon when everyone had gone out of town except Mom, I was talking with Ronit over my landline phone. Mom was sleeping in the bedroom. I loved looking out of the window while talking with Ronit. I admired the trees, birds, and the playground while listening to his voice. Hence I couldn’t look at the door of the hall.
“Alright, one last thing before I hang up, lots of hugs and kisses to you.” I didn’t care how dusty my receiver was while literally brushing my lips against it. Smiling at everything that passed my vision, I slowly turned around. And there, my smile disappeared. Mom was sitting on the couch behind me. I couldn’t make another eye contact.
“Go inside, I am sure you have to complete your homework”, she broke the awkward silence without looking into my eyes.
I finished my homework half-heartedly that evening, mom finished her chores, we had dinner together again without any eye contact or verbal communication. As I made the bed for us I heard Mom’s low voice, I knew I had to face this.
“Who was it, Kaya? What’s going on? Would you like to explain?” I finally gathered the courage to look into her eyes.
“Mom…… Actually… It’s… Well…. We are just…” I had never hidden anything from Mom till then. Right from irritating teachers to my bench-partner, my dreams of becoming a dancer to my fun time with best friends she knew all the stories. My struggle with mathematics to my messy hair knots, my fear of standing under the shower to my fear of rats, my worries, and my sorrows, she was there to listen and help me solve everything.
“Mom, I guess……. I really love him, he is in 8th like me…… studies in ‘A’ division, he is quite smart in studies……… We met a few months back, and I haven’t been able to forget his face since then” Wow, I felt lighter after pouring this out.
The next two hours were spent in a long conversation between a 14-year-old and her protective mom. The mom tried her best to make the daughter see the practicality of her situation. Why and how having this so called romantic affair might ruin her studies, her other talents or how this could be only an infatuation.
“But mom, I just can’t live without him. What can I do about that? Please tell me. Please, don’t separate me from him,” my tears just couldn’t stop.
The daughter tried selling the idea of love so innocently that the mom had to give up. As this mother was not like any other usual mother to impose her thoughts on her children.
“Okay, Beta. So be it, if that makes you so happy.” She pulled me closer in her arms, wiped my tears, oiled my hair, and put me to sleep giving me a soothing head massage.
The next 2-3 years were like bliss. Ronit and I shared a wonderful time together. Right from the bus ride to talking over the phone about us, school, our friends, our future, it just all looked perfect. We did have our little misunderstandings at the end of the 2nd semester but only a month we both could manage without each other.
By the time we were in 10th we had got really close to each other, in fact, during the study vacation, we used to talk for hours over the phone. However, we managed to score well on our board exams. We ended up in different colleges post 10th as both of our interest lied in different streams. I wasn’t very sure of the distant future, but I chose ‘Arts’ as it appealed to me. Before the first day of college, we had gone on our first date. The gardens were flocked that day being Sunday. CCD hadn’t been introduced by then.
After few months Mom had asked me to invite Ronit at home, I was more than happy. I introduced him to Mom. Ronit’s simple and polite behavior impressed her. She praised his dream of becoming
an Engineer. I found it tad boring.
As we grew closer we slowly discovered there were a few things which we didn’t like about each other. Like our views on choosing a career path, our ideas of spending time together or our different interests. By this time our HSC final exams were coming closer.
Very soon I decided to pursue my graduation in Psychology from one of the reputed colleges in Panchgani. Mumbai did have a lot of options, but this college seemed extraordinary. Mom was not convinced by the thought of me staying in a hostel. “Are you sure you will manage alone? Aren’t there any other options?” she kept asking. But I was very certain about moving out of the house, I was seeking a bit more privacy and freedom as well.
Ronit was a bit upset the day he came to know about it. And even I didn’t try convincing as I expected his support. I easily got the admission due to my bright scores and soon I moved out of Mumbai. Ronit didn’t come to drop or say goodbye to me at the bus stop. I did hope to see him before leaving though. As the bus moved Mom had tears in her eyes and that affected me too.
Hostel life and a new environment during those teenage years of your life create some adrenaline rush. For me, it was exciting and full of surprises. The classrooms were spacious, the faculties were very helpful, especially Professor Sinha, he was the most motivating. The library was huge and I loved the collection. The view from my hostel’s room was breath-taking, we could see a waterfall. The green valley made me forget everything else. We learned in a creative way at our college. Though our subject involved a lot of theory, we used to go out of the classroom to read, we discussed the theories in groups, there were also projects that involved us going out of campus- meeting people, communicating. I thoroughly enjoyed learning this way. Mom was getting my updates every day. I spoke to Ronit twice but the conversation used to be very brief and dull. And I just couldn’t stand anything dull in my bright life at that point in time. I had also started visiting home, and once during
one of these visits Ronit and I had decided to meet. He waited for me in the same garden we used to meet.
“Hey, how have you been?” he greeted me with a forced smile. His awkward hug didn’t surprise me.
“Well, happier than ever. You have lost a lot of weight. Are you fine?” I noticed.
“I am, Kaya. In fact like you, very much content. I have started walking to college every day so perhaps that could be the reason for weight loss. So tell me, why you thought of meeting?” his attempt to show ‘he was strong and happy’ sounded ridiculous to me. I hated that insecurity coated arrogance, which I can’t stand till date.
“Well, there are some things we can’t talk over the phone always. I know you prefer that, but apparently, I don’t. So… yes…. I guess you would agree with the fact that we have grown apart.”
“Yes, And whom do you hold responsible for that?” he said without looking at me.
“Noone. The situation was unavoidable. Our career choices were diff…….”
“No one? Really? Kaya gets real. Your career choice was different. You never wanted to make this work. You chose to leave me and stay in some different city for your selfish reasons. There are a thousand options in Mumbai for you, still, you left. What do you expect me to do then? Wait for you? Forever?”
Oh my god! I had no clue I had done this damage to Ronit. But I didn’t understand the part of me being selfish. Wasn’t he selfish when he always considered me after his friends? Or when he conveniently used my time as per his wish?
“Well, I am sorry if I hurt….” I was easily giving in.
“Oh, please don’t be. You haven’t hurt me; you don’t have the power to do that. And thank you very much you left. If you had not then I wouldn’t have met Neha……” He smiled deviously.
The next 15 minutes, we argued, cried, blaming each other. He was persistently explaining the reasons for his affair and I tried explaining my career decision. He left and then I left too.
I continuously rang the doorbell. I hugged Mom and sobbed as soon as she opened the door.
“Kaya, come inside……. Relax. ………..You know you gave your hundred percent to him right? May be it was not meant to last!” her warm hands held my shoulder and she guided me in. And how come she knew it already? That too, the exact situation, God knows!
“Mooo…… Mom…. He already… already…. Has someone in his life. He forgot about me totally.” I managed to say, gulping my salty tears.
Mom asked me to stay back that weekend and get back to college late, at first I denied. But then I had to listen to her as I no longer had the energy to make any decision as such. I lied in bed crying.
All that while Mom just listened, stroked my hair, repeatedly requested me to freshen up, eat and stop crying, kept making me understand how it’s all going to pass soon. She made the most delicious meal that night but I ate only half.
I was miserable for the next whole week. I extended my vacation for two more days. In that time Mom made sure that I eat at least something if not like usual. She played my favorite songs on the Music player, invited our neighbor’s dog to cheer me, left me alone for some time, kept alluring me with my favorite food preparations like Prawns Curry, Peas Pulao, and Cauliflower Paratha. I just nibbled in a numb state, stretched my lips, observed the design of my furniture like never before, stared at the trees, birds, garden from the same window of my hall when I used to talk to Ronit. And went back to sleep after every while.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
“Hi Mom, I have reached safely to the college” I informed entering my hostel room.
“Great. Please try to eat on time. And take your medicines. Take care of yourself, Kaya.” Mom hoped that coming to Panchgani would make things better for me. I had just recovered from viral fever. I had no clue what was happening to me, or what just happened. Why was I so dull about this entire Ronit episode? He wasn’t entirely wrong about what he said that day. And I already had an idea that things might not work between us since the ending days of our 12th. But why would he choose someone else? And how could he? We did have our differences, but was that the only way out of it? I thought that things might go rough but one day we might unite again. These and many contradictory questions filled my mind. Panchgani’s pleasant winter helped to a certain extent to cheer me for a while, but the numbness continued. My faculties and friends were surprised to see such a calm version of mine; they couldn’t believe this was the same Kaya.
The first semester exams were coming closer and it had been almost 2 months since my meeting with Ronit. I didn’t go home, but Mom visited thrice on the weekends. Her homemade delicacies
were enjoyed by my roommates. One day my favourite faculty Prof. Sinha called me to the teacher’s lounge saying he wanted to talk. I met him during the lunch break.
“Kaya, have a seat my dear. How are you doing?” His nickname was ‘grandpa’ named by my batch mates as he was in his early 70’s. But his passion for teaching Psychology never allowed him to rest.
“I am fine, Professor Sinha. Hope you are doing well” I sat on the chair in front of him.
“I am a little concerned; your project submission has been delayed. And I have noticed that you are losing your focus during the lessons too. Is there anything bothering you?” his old quivering voice was comforting. And for once I even thought of telling him the truth.
“No, Sir. I am okay” my inner guards stopped me.
“Hmmmmm…..I see.” He said getting up from his chair. “You are studying psychology and I am teaching it. We are very close to understanding human emotions, yet we decide to suppress. Anyway,
your choice, my dear! But If you need to share anything or just have someone to listen to you, do remember me. By the way, since you are one of the brightest students in my class. I have a favor to ask you.” He said walking around the room.
“Sure Sir, anything for you.” I felt a bit hopeful. A new task or challenge might be helpful for me at this point.
“There is a late admission accepted recently. And this guy needs to catch up a lot of it which we have covered. I have had a conversation with him. Seems like a smart kid. But you will have to help him with few projects and the studies which he has missed. Will you be able to do that dear?”
“It would be my pleasure, Sir. I am glad you considered me for this task…” I said rising from my chair to shake hand with grandpa.
“Well, Sameer has joined from today. He just arrived some time back. I would like you to meet him.”
He dialed from the phone at his desk and asked the peon to send him in. A tall guy wearing an orange jacket, white t-shirt, jeans, and a huge bag pack walked in smiling. His sharp features and energetic persona made me observe him little longer. He greeted professor
smiling and they shared a small talk about his journey, I faintly remember as I was engrossed in noticing him.
“…… Yes, So this is Kaya… I was talking about. She will be helping you out” Grandpa introduced us.
And I kind of thanked him once more from within.
“Hey….. Hi, Kaya. Nice to meet you. And I am really grateful to you. Thank you so much for extending this help to me, without which it would be impossible for me to start this year.” He shook hands with me. Warm and comforting handshake! I was getting impressed by everything about him.
“Trust me; it’s my privilege, Sameer. I would get to revise and relearn so much while helping you out.
Glad to meet you.” I smiled looking into his hazel eyes.
Professor Sinha must have noticed the sudden shift in my mood as he looked at me smiling. We left the teacher’s lounge bidding goodbye to Professor. The wind has brought some change for sure. I spent an hour telling Mom about Sameer that night. She was glad to hear my cheerful voice.
We had decided to spend an hour in the morning before lectures and between 4:00-6:00 in the evening after lectures every day. Sameer used to come near the gate of girls hostel to wake me up
near the second window of our laundry room. He was surely fun too. And as Professor rightly mentioned his enthusiasm to learn helped me to explain theories in an easier way. I learned a new perspective of the same lessons which I hadn’t thought of before. We hung around together even after study hours playing basketball in the recreation center. He had become friends with all my friends. We all started going out on the weekends to admire the waterfalls, famous forts, lakes in Panchgani. I started loving Panchgani more than before.
More than a month had passed when I once decided to tell Sameer. We were sitting at the lake and the rest of our friends were playing volleyball at distance. I hesitated to speak first but then I just couldn’t suppress anymore to express my feelings.
“Hey, Isn’t this just wonderful? These days, our study hours, our basketball time, our picnics and everything…….” I was blushing.
“Yes, it is, dude. It’s fabulous and I love spending time with you. In fact, a day without you is unimaginable” He smiled back at me.
“So…. So….. Sameer…. Don’t you think this may lead to something more interesting than just what it is right now? I mean I like you so much in so many ways that I can’t tell you how much I want us to be together….”
“Ahhhh…. Me too…….ahhhh… but I didn’t get you. Something more? I value our friendship, Kaya. But beyond that, I don’t know. I mean I don’t think so.” He hesitated and avoided looking at me.
I understood his answer. We came back to the hostel before the sunset that evening. I was lost and clueless once more. I had no clue why this happened? Or what exactly happened? I was disappointed. I was going back to my shell again. From that day onwards I maintained distance from Sameer. I avoided hanging out with him after study hours. Even the learning hours were filled with lot of awkward silence. My post break up syndrome was getting repeated. I hardly ate, stopped playing or spending time with other friends. And after Mom insisted persistently I decided to go home that weekend.
“Why Mom? Why it’s always me? Why do I have to face this? Why people do this to me? I had so many hopes when I met Sameer. Everything was going so well. Then what went wrong?” I cried louder hugging mom by her waist as she stood near the bed stroking my hair.
“Kaya…. Calm down, please. There is nothing wrong. Circumstances are beyond our control. You really can’t blame anyone” She tried, as usual, to comfort me with her warm voice and offered me my favorite hot chocolate to drink.
“Mom, No…. I don’t want it, please…… You won’t understand……. Just leave me alone…..” I untied my arms from her waist and pushed the tray in her hand. The hot chocolate spilled on the floor.
Thankfully the glass didn’t break. I ran to the other room sobbing. Mom and I didn’t speak much that weekend. I left early on Sunday afternoon to catch my bus. I was upset with myself, and everything
As I reached Panchgini, I regretted not saying sorry to Mom for my unreasonable behavior. I called her to apologize but she wasn’t angry at all. This made me regret even more. I don’t know what I
was going through. I couldn’t understand my own mind. I stared at the ceiling that entire night and few nights after that. I had bunked sessions for 2 days lying that I was sick and locked myself in my room. My roommate got the food for me from the cafeteria, but I hardly ate. On my 2nd depressed night, a quote pinned on my desk caught my attention, this cut-out was actually given to me by Professor Sinha. It read, ‘We become what we think about’- Earl Nightingale.
The next morning I woke up early, went for a walk around the campus while listening to Sufi music. Then got back to my room, freshened up and went early to have breakfast in the cafeteria. I reached the college building which was just opposite our hostel; I was almost two hours early before the lectures. I checked in the teacher’s lounge, Professor Sinha was about to arrive in some time. I waited in the lounge which was just unlocked by the peon.
“Good morning, my dear. The peon said you have been here for some time. Is everything alright?”
Professor Sinha greeted taking off his coat, settling at his desk.
“Good Morning Sir, happy to see you. But otherwise, things are not exactly fine with me. In fact…. For quite a while they are not fine. I need to talk to you. May I have some of your time?” I had some
different confidence in me.
“Well, I am not surprised, you have been absent for sessions to which I was told you were unwell. I gauged it must have been not physical” he smiled, twinkling his eyes. “The time is all yours, dear, we are yet to start the lectures. Lighten up your heart, come on…”
I finally spoke and spoke about everything that was bothering me. Right from Ronit’s story, our relationship and then the separation, my state after getting separated from him, then my hopeful time with Sameer and my disappointment and frustration after his response, the increasing anxiety, depression of past few weeks. He listened to me so carefully, questioned in between and listened again.
“Is it like am I looking for love in wrong people? Or is it a wrong age to fall in love? Or is it that I don’t understand them? Or does it happen to everyone? Why can’t I finally get and be content with the love I want? Why do I have to keep fighting or struggling or get disappointing after it?” I felt as if someone just lifted a heavy weight from my shoulders. I don’t know how I could be so frank with Professor.
“Hmmmmmm….” Professor sighed offering me a glass of water “Well, Ms. Kaya Mathur. You are a brave girl, I must say. That must have taken hell lot of courage both telling me and loving people the way you love, intensely, wearing your heart on your sleeves! Did you hear yourself from past 20 minutes when you have been talking?”
“No,” His questioned confused me, “Why Sir?”
“Well, I wish I could record it. Because every love story of yours was filled with a short time of happiness and longer time of grief & complaints. And if you ask me in your every story I could hear only one love story and that was not with those boys.”
“I couldn’t get it, Sir….. What…?”
“That’s the problem, my dear, you aren’t getting it yet. Your only pleasant stories I heard was the one that involved your mother. Before that school fellow…. Ronit…. you spoke about her. How much you love the fact that she understood your love for Ronit. Then after that how she helped you going through your heartbreak both in case of Ronit and Sameer. Her unending attempts to ensure your happiness, your safety, your health, everything. Her acceptance of your tantrums, your affairs, her non-judgemental support, her timely advice, I mean did you notice? Or do you notice?”
“Kaya, you had just questioned why you aren’t receiving the love you want. Have you ever noticed you already have that? Have you ever asked any friends of yours how freely they can speak to their mothers about everything and I mean almost everything that happens to them? How many mothers tell their daughter to follow their heart and ensure that still if something goes wrong they will be there for them? How many mothers sacrifice their career to help their child build theirs? Have you ever questioned why & how your mother manages to shower this much love, support to you without any demands or expectations?”
Tears were rolling from my eyes.
“The day you have all these or at least one of these answers Kaya, you will get your answer too. And coming to your relationships part …..Dear…. Well, I can’t say much, as I haven’t heard their part of the story. Also, there seems to be incomplete communication from both sides in both the scenarios. It’s completely fine to fall for someone, Kaya. And your age is very tender, you must experience this. But the moment you become demanding & forceful with your expectations, my dear, the feeling ‘love’ ends within you and for you. You have abundant love to offer others because you already receive so much from your mother. Perhaps you are looking for someone who would listen to you exactly the way your mother does, for hours. Someone who can tolerate your mood swings, your
impulsiveness, your need of freedom, your need of giving you attention and time and most importantly accepting you the way you are.” Professor patted my back.
I looked at him smiling. “I have no words to thank you, Sir………… But ….. I knew I would find some breakthrough once I meet you.” I handed him the cut-out of one of the quotes I carried in my book.
“This is for you Sir.” The quote read, ‘I want to try making things right because picking up the pieces is way better than leaving them the way they are.’- Simone Elkeles
I came out of the teacher’s lounge and dialed Mom’s number.