I didn’t even realize that I had gone off to deep sleep recalling the past. It was 8.30 am. I looked around. The old man was clumsily massaging his teeth with Lal Dant
Manjan. The couple was fast asleep-the man’s head hinged to the window while the lady’s to her husband’s shoulder.
The train had halted at some small junction.
A group of 3 teenaged boys
ascended the bogie and got settled in our compartment. Funky jeans, flashy cell-phones,
colourful T-shirts, informal slangs- they reminded me of my own old days. Funny slogans were written on their T-shirts.
They sat on the opposite berth- near the lady. Their non-stop speaking mouths made me miss Mitsu even more.
I looked outside through the window. The morning was dull; sun was glaring oppressively; the hawkers
were screeching unmelodiously-“ Moong-phali lelo, jaam lelo jaaaam , le garama-garam
chaaaai , pani ka pouch..” Their cacophony was irritating. The hustle-bustle at the station, the selfish people pushing each-other to embark the train, the coolies oscillating to and fro – the entire world just seemed so null..so void.
Just then I saw 4 Muslim ladies clad in burqas approaching our compartment. Murphy’s laws! In this long Rajadhani Express with hundreds of bogies, they chose the one that contained me. Not just the bogie, but the compartment too!
I decided then and there that I wouldn’t look at them at all so as to keep Varshaan out of my mind. I tried to concentrate on the hawkers, vendors and stalls at the station. I just wouldn’t tilt my face away from the window.
They settled the baggage and 3 of them began giving
instructions to the fourth one regarding safety measures to be followed while travelling alone. I heaved a sigh of relief. So not all 4 but just one of them was going to be my companion in the journey. One Varshaan-souvenir was far better than four. I couldn’t hear them very clearly but overheard that the fourth one had to descend at Adilabad, which was just 4 hrs away! A 4-hrs journey & a flood of safety instructions! Why were they so insecure ? Or scared? Or strict? Not getting the right word. They reminded me of Varshaan’s mom who never liked my friendship with her. When I’d call at her place, she’d lie that Varshaan was not at home. If I’d ever visit her place to collect notes, she would not even invite me in. “Uhhhhh…but why am I thinking about all this?? I hate her…Just hate her.”, I reprimanded myself.
The train whistled and the three Varshaan-souvenirs finally descended the train, leaving one
behind to haunt me for the next four hrs.
The opposite berth was full. So she sat between me and the old man. Though my neck was aching, I would just not turn away from the window. The fourth Varshaan-souvenir suddenly stood up. I was rejoiced. “She’s changing the compartment perhaps. Hurray! No torture for the next 4 hrs then”, I thought to myself. But my celebration was very short-lived. She didn’t take the bag with her as she left the compartment. Alas! Just a washroom visit & not a compartment-shuffle.
Meanwhile the elevating voices of the teenagers woke up the newly wed hubby. His wife was still asleep. And you should have seen the terrified expression on his face when he saw 3 young boys seated adjacent to his & only HIS wife! “Hota hai, hota hai, shuru-shuru mai aisa hi hota hai”, I thought to myself. After a few years, if someone sat near his wife, he would pray that he took her(=musibat) away too along with the baggage. He awoke his wife and said, “ Babita, I’m feeling quite cold here near the window. I am not even carrying a jacket. Can you sit here at the window-seat for sometime?”
“ Ya, sure”, said the wife as they swapped their positions & only then did the creases on the over-possessive man’s forehead finally disappear. I’m 200% sure that the innocent wife could never have even thought about the real reason behind the change in seating arrangement. I wonder what he’d do with his wife’s male friends (if any).
No man on this earth can accept the fact that his wife can have other males in her life who are just friends. Being moderately possessive is fine but over-possessiveness, jealousy & suspicion destroy the sanctity and purity of genuine love.
Suddenly wind blew somebody’s dupatta across my face.. a white shiffon dupatta. I looked up and…………..Var……..shaaaaaaaaaaaaan………..
So the fourth Varshaan-souvenir was Varshaan herself! She was now carrying the burqa in her hands.
Our eyes met.. our eyes had met after 8 yrs. The last eye-contact was when I’d proposed her. After that, even when we had to go to the same school and face each other till Board exams, we never even looked at each other.
“ Uh…um.. I am sorry”, said Varshaan nervously
and hastily seated herself, farther from me and nearer to the old man this time.
“ It’s ok.”, I said in a rather husky voice.
“ Saying sorry for an accidental dupatta-fall. But will you say sorry for the shit you’ve made of my life…for the phase of depression that I’d gone through.. for the phase of nostalgia that I’d gone through…..for the phase of hysteria that I’d gone through…and the phase of hatred that I’m still going through..? I’ll never ever forgive you Varshaan..nevvvvvver..You are the culprit of this condition of mine. I am paying for your delinquency.”-I wanted to say all this to her but remained silent.
Why did this have to happen to me? I was on my way to my sweetheart’s place. I ought to be happy, pleased, excited. But look, instead I was raging vehemently, my heart bursting out of anger
and hatred. The dormant volcano inside me had suddenly activated at the sight of Varshaan and caused commotion. I grew frantic, exasperated and ruffled. The volcano wanted to erupt flamboyantly at Varshaan. I wanted to spit out my anger on her…wanted to vomit all that had been haunting me since 8 years.. wanted to tell her how muchhhhhh…. I haaaated her…loving her was one of the biggest mistakes of my life…a mistake that I was still paying for.. tell her that I still curse the day Jab We Met. I wanted answers to many
unanswered questions. Why didn’t she say anything when I proposed her? Why did she leave my life silently? I was her friend..a very good friend afterall. Pasand nahi tha toh bolti! Kuchh toh bolti ! We could have at least remained friends if she didn’t consider me deserving enough to become her special someone. But she abandoned me.. left me crying, weeping, lamenting all by myself. When I most needed her, she wasn’t there at all. What a stupe I was! I was thinking of a relationship beyond friendship when she couldn’t even become a good friend!
“Maa da ladla bigad gaya.. maa da ladla bigad gaya..munda sada doli chad gaya band baj gaya oye hoye hoye..”- the cellphone of one of the teenagers burst.
“ Hello..oh.. I’ll submit it by next week. Pakka..pakka.. Achchha yeh sab chhod! Tune Dolly
ko propose maara?”
One second, what did I just hear? Propose maara? Chaata maara, thappad maara, dhakka maara , mukka maara , taana maara – sounds proper but propose maara ! What an absurd lingo! Poor Dolly! Getting a proposal from such a guy is equivalent to getting a tight slap or a push or a punch or a bitter sarcasm.( i.e Propose maara = Chaata maara= thappad maara = dhakka maara = mukka maara =taana maara)
“ What? Saali ne mana kar diya! Bandariya apne aapko Aishwarya
samajhne lagi hai! Koi baat nahi, Shelly pe try maar !”
The shameless guy didn’t even bother to notice that all the people in the compartment were listening to his filthy and profane talks.
Varshaan and I grew more & more uncomfortable as the guy kept uttering the word ‘propose’ again & again. It reminded us of the Best of luck party. It reminded me of Varshaan’s silence.
My cell rang . “ Hello, Mitali.. ya, slept well…hello…hello….I can’t hear you…hello…” The call dropped as the network failed.
“ You take mine. It’s showing full network.” I was surprised as Varshaan handed over her cellphone to me. She was talking to me.. Me…?
“ No thanks..”, I tried to deny taking her phone but she insisted. Are all girls obstinate?
Mitali gave me some very useful tips of what her father (= my sasurji) liked and what he despised. We talked for a few mins and then I returned the cellphone to Varshaan without even thanking her.
“Belated happy birthday, Niket”, Varshaan said in a low voice.
“ Oh..you remember my b’day, my name, you remember me too. Good memory!” I replied with a vengeance in a sarcastic tone.
“ Good memory is a curse.. Anyways, we are meeting after 8 yrs….”-Varshaan
“ 7 years 8 months and 21 days to be precise.”- After having said this, I myself wondered why I had to say this.
“ Ok. We are meeting after 7 years 8 months and 21 days. Won’t you say something? Anything? I mean….Achha tell me, how’s your practice going on at Indore? Geeta (our common friend) told me you’ve become a Chartered Accountant.”
“ Oh, it’s stupendous. What are you doing right now?” I tried to sound as cheerful as I could. I didn’t want to display that her leaving my life had affected me in any way. And though I knew she was an ex-GSITSian & ex-IIMian, I pretended as if I didn’t know anything that had happened in her life since we parted.
“ I’ve just completed my marketing course from IIM-L. I had graduated from GSITS, Indore.”
“ IIM-L, that’s cool…” I smiled hypocritically.
She had evidently overheard our conversation (mine and Mitsu’s) and teased me chuckling-“ Hoooh…Mitaaaaali !”
“Ya, am going over to Hyderabad to talk to her parents…damn nervous..”
“ Don’t worry. Be confident. They’ll accept you.”- Varshaan.
“So easy to say- They will accept you. If I’m so good, why did You dump me Varshaan?”- I thought to myself.
I saw a diamond
ring on her finger. “Engaged?”, I asked.
“ Yup.. Getting married in December”, said she while taking an invitation-card out of her purse.
“ You and Mitali have to come.”
“ We’ll try.”
I read the card:
Aamir Siddiqui weds Varshaan Qazi
“ So Varshaan Qazi now becomes Varshaan Siddiqui.”-I said teasing her. I looked calm & pleased superficially but deep inside me was a volcano ready to explode. Aamir Siddiqui- a new addition to my hate-list. I remembered how in school-days I used to write Varshaan Mukherjee on the back-page of all my copies and then strike it.
“ Aamir and I were class-mates at IIM-L yet we hardly talked to each other. Then his dad came with his proposal for him and me and Abu gladly accepted. Am going to Adilabad to attend the wedding of Aamir’s sister.”
I always had a hunch that hers would be an arranged marriage. I still remember an excerpt from the essay she’d written
in 8th std on Love v/s Arranged marriages: “Marrying someone you already know can be one of the most boring things in life. In an arranged marriage, you are supposed to hold the hands of a complete stranger. And the journey of that person becoming a true soulmate from a complete stranger is exactly what makes a married life more romantic, exciting, interesting & happening.” The English teacher had appreciated her for having such lucid vision at a tender age.
The train was heading towards Adilabad. I had to bear Varshaan for just half an hour more. The old man initiated a talk on politics and soon Varshaan, I and the newly wed man too joined him. We discussed Lalooji, Soniya Gandhi, Uma Bharti, Himmat Kothari, Digvijay Singh etc etc. The boys didn’t participate though and kept on crunching
chips while listening to us.
Varshaan behaved so normally as if nothing like the Best Of Luck Party episode had ever happened between us. She had met an old school-friend: that’s it! But for me, meeting her unexpectedly was not really normal. She was not just an old school friend- she was the root cause of my miseries; she was a criminal who had murdered my happiness many years ago; she was a thief who had first stolen my heart and then stole the smile from my face; she was the one who had shackled
me in fetters of Hatred.
Adilabad was just 10 mins away. My heart was throbbing with rapidity. All along the journey, I’d been wishing to get rid of her as soon as possible. Now, when my wish was to come true in a few mins, I wished that I could hold back the time…that I could get the answers to so many unanswered questions. My soul wouldn’t get relief unless Varshaan answers them. My heart & mind were again in conflict with each-other. The mind said- “What’s the sense of digging the graveyard now after 8 yrs, Niket? You have Mitali & you love her. And who are you to question Varshaan? It’s her life afterall.”
But my heart protested-“ You undoubtedly love Mitali.. but you still hate Varshaan. Ask her why did she do this to you? Just ask her. Maybe your heart will find peace after that. Ask her. Ask her…You’ll have to muster courage. Perhaps this is the last time you’re meeting her, so the last chance to get the answers. Come on Niket…”
The train was slowing down. We had reached the Adilabad station.
The old man and others were busy discussing politics. Varshaan stood up and pulled her baggage from the rack. My heart was gasping violently. “Your last chance Niket…last chance”- my inner voice echoed.
Varshaan was about to leave. I looked around. Nobody was noticing us.
I finally mustered my courage.
“ Varshaan, want to say something before you leave.”
Varshaan didn’t speak a word but looked at me in awe.
“ Don’t know whether I should say this…You never realized one thing….”, I continued.
“ What did I not realize Niket?”, she asked gently.
“ That…that…that.. I was damn serious for you”, I finally said after much hesitation.
She stood silent for sometime….gazing profoundly into my eyes. Those few mins seemed like centuries. Will she again leave silently? Why doesn’t she say something?..anything? Silence kills more than harsh words.
The train was about to move. Her eyes had a sad expression. She picked up her baggage & began to leave. “ So she’s again leaving silently…leaving me with the unanswered questions and a deafening silence.”- I thought to myself.
But she suddenly turned back, looked at me and whispered-“ So was I !”
I was numb…motionless….speechless….exalted. The moment was ecstatic beyond measure. My spirits had surged. Before I could understand anything or react, she was gone. While descending the train too, she looked back again & waved her hands in connotation of saying bye.
But I was not in a position to wave back. I was in a trance. I kept looking at her until she was gone. An equally fair-complexioned Muslim guy had come to receive her. It was Aamir. The sad expression in her eyes soon disappeared at the sight of Aamir. Aamir took the baggage from her hands and together they left the station.
The train was moving away from Adilabad. I could still see them. They were looking very cute together…made for each-other.
“ So was I !” “ So was I !” “ So was I !”
Her voice was still echoing inside my head. Those 3 words kept coming back to my ears again & again. It felt like the sight of water in the Sahara desert; like the soothing touch of a cube of ice on a burnt finger; like the arrival of a life-saving boat for the drowning; like a prisoner liberated from confinement after 8 years.
Was it a dream? I pinched myself & it hurt. No, it wasn’t a dream. It was reality. So the girl for whom I was damn serious, too , was serious for me. The girl for whom I’d shed oceans of tears, too, had cried for me. My love wasn’t one-sided. It wasn’t unrequited! I had always thought of myself as a jilted & abandoned lover. The worst feeling in life is the feeling of being unwanted, the feeling of being rejected. Now, I had overcome that feeling. Even Varshaan must be feeling lighter & better now. She had been carrying a heavy heart since 8 years. How can girls keep things to themselves for so long?
But why didn’t she say this 8 yrs back? Why didn’t she accept me? Why did she leave me…my life silently? What was the reason behind her silence? Why didn’t she ever look back? Has she finally moved on? How much time did she take to move on? Did she hate me the way I hated her? Had she told Aamir about me? Did Aamir accept her even after knowing about me?……etc….etc….etc…etc
Those 3 words of hers had left even more unanswered questions.
But few questions had automatically found their answers. Now I know why she kept silent when I proposed her… why she didn’t insult or rebuke me…why she too had changed the school… why she couldn’t make it to the IITs.. And why she had just said that good memory is a curse…She too must have taken her own time to move on. The fact that she made it to the IIM-L proved that she must have moved on by then. She had moved on before me. Maybe because she hadn’t let the seeds of hatred grow inside her.
In the school-days, I had always wished to hear 3 golden words from her- I Love You….But the 3 words that she spoke today were far more golden.. more golden than anything else on this earth.. golden enough to shatter my fetters of hatred in a few seconds.. Eight years of frustration, eight years in darkness, eight years of immense hatred and the solution: 3 seconds and these 3 Golden Words ! Sometimes when we wish from the depths of our heart, the wishes do come true. Prayers have power. I’d once wished this while studying taxation and look, my feelings of hatred are not being carried forward beyond 8 years.
I looked outside through the window. The entire world was so beautiful without the fetters of hatred. The sun seemed to be smiling at me ; the hawkers seemed to enjoy their work ; the rushing crowd represented the enthusiastic people who value their time; the ladies clad in suits looked as elegant as never before; the colour pink was never this bright & beautiful earlier. I felt a soft corner for all the Muslim people around. I respect their
religion. I no more despise the Science students. No country can go ahead without scientific researches & developments. IIM is a prestigious institute. My life had found a new meaning…a new beginning.
This episode in my life had taught me a lesson…a lesson to despise hatred. We always know just one side of the story. We see the world from our own point of view. The other side of the story is always unknown/hidden to us. We never know what phase the other person is going through while we keep on hating the other person. We live with our own assumptions, beliefs, prejudices & delusions until mysteries of life get unraveled in their own ways. But once they manifest themselves, they leave us wondering. Mystic are the ways of life.
We see the things not the way they are but the way we are. Change your outlook, change yourself & the entire world will seem to have changed. Life is a boomerang. You get what you give. The best way to be understood is to be understanding.
It always takes two to form a quarrel.
Everybody flounders. Nobody is perfectly right but nobody is perfectly wrong either. One may be more right than the other but who are we to decide this. We all have our own story to tell. We all feel that we are the most affected or hurt because we never know what’s happening at the other end. Hatred is not a solution but a problem in itself.
I felt a strong guilt for
hating dad. He must have had his own reasons. Like Varshaan had her reasons. He was badly addicted..was helpless but I could never understand him. I sobbed for the first time after his death.
Never hate anything or anybody in life. If you still want to hate something, then hate hatred itself. Hatred is not going to do any good to you. And it’s not going to do any bad to the one you hate too. Even if the other person has done something wrong to you, don’t let that creature degrade your soul by making you hate him/her. Hate the sin, not the sinner.
By hating him/her, you are giving the obnoxious person undue importance in your life. In the end, the one who suffers is the one who hates. It’s upto you : you want to suffer or prosper in life?
My cell beeped. It was Gopu’s sms:
The only person in the entire world who can stop you from crying is the one who made you cry in the first place!!
The sms suited the current situation so well.
Did I still love Varshaan? Did I want her back? What about Mitsu? Had these three golden words again evoked the feeling of love in me for Varshaan ?
– No. Not at all! Mitsu had taken a very special place in my life.. a place that nobody can replace ever. The feeling of love for Varshaan had extinguished long back. But these 3 golden words had vanquished the feelings of hatred as well.
Should I tell this to Mitali? What if she takes it otherwise? I love her more than my own life and simply can’t afford to lose her. But she’s possessive.
How will she take this news?