“I am scared Ryan! What if..” “You must relax Tara. All will be well. We are almost there at the hospital. Try holding on for a while.”
She had asked me stay back home, she knew that she wasn’t alright. It was her last trimester and I should have been there next to her but I wasn’t. I had these dreams of building a perfect future for our kid, a world which we couldn’t receive. I never realised how carried away I would become. I never did, even then.
We luckily reached on time, and all went well. Our daughter Arya was born. She had her mothers eyes, those curious little ones which followed me wherever I went.
But now when I reminiscence the day, I could clearly sense that something broke between me and Tara. She didn’t actually confront me but I could see it in her eyes. I had let her down, and it became the beginning of our fall.
Marriages are mostly arranged in India. Mine was no different. It was in the fall of 1999, I had been working for a civil consulting firm for the past four years and was ready to take the big step of marriage. I had a failed relationship when I was in college; the heart break had left me shattered for years. I just didn’t have the courage or the excitement to move on. The pain was pretty intense initially but it waned way with time, slowly bit by bit. Now when I was ready to get hitched, a small part of me became curious, the one which badly wanted to fall in love all over again. That’s when Tara happened to me. She and I had met only a couple of times before we got married. We didn’t get a chance of getting to know each other more, it was only after marriage that we realised how perfect we were for each other.
The first night together is always the most awkward phase in any arranged marriage. I remember Tara walking in with the trademark glass of milk in her hand. Her hands were shivering as she placed the glass on the table and sat right next to me. We both were nervous and we both didn’t know what to speak then.
“What do you know about me, Tara?” I passed a line to break the silence.
“That you work for a consulting firm and you’re a talented civil engineer.”
“About my personality, my character?” I stressed. Her eyes moved curiously towards me.
“I think…that you love speaking a lot. You didn’t give me a chance to speak back then when we met.” She had a sigh of relief as she finally muttered those words. I on the other hand was a little shocked but pleasantly happy. She was finally speaking up and it was my turn to reciprocate.
“You had those curious eyes stuck on me, just the way you have them now. Every time I finished a statement, your expression remained the same so I thought you were expecting more. And so I went on!”
“You have a nice voice Ryan. It felt like I have heard your voice somewhere. It was like a deja vu for me. That’s why that expression I believe.”
“Thank you. That’s a first. Where did you hear me before?”
“Do the math engineer. Where could our lives possibly intersect?”
“I had attended an event in your college. But I don’t know whether you were there in the audience. We were staging a play and I was the narrator. That’s the only connect I can think of. I moved to Delhi, and you to Bangalore.” Still thinking where else she could have heard me.
“Do you remember the host for the event?”
“I don’t, to be frank. But there surely was a lot of hooplah by my friends about the cute host. I on the other hand was busy on my phone, narrating every detail to my ex.”
“You are bang on. But I didn’t knew that I also got compliments! I was too scared of my saree, I had worn it for the first time.” She paused for a while, then continued as she passed me the milk and picked up an apple for herself.
“Ex? What happened, if you don’t mind?”
“Not a problem, it was a long time ago. We broke up after college. Long distance doesn’t work in my case. To be honest it took me time to get over her. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life. I had so gotten used to her company that after we fell apart, I found no one to share them with. My stories, my emotions, I just couldn’t handle them.”
“Then how did you cope?”
“I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, time does heal. I found my voice through my blogs, I tried to showing my emotions in open. I slowly tweaked my quality to become more of an extrovert. It wasn’t easy but I had already made up my mind to make things work. So I think they finally did.”
“That was deep!”
“I have a habit of going deeper in conversations. Hope you don’t mind.”
“I am similar on that note.” She added.
“Tell me your story? Boyfriend?”
“Where do I start?”
“That seems like a long list!” I tried my humour but all I got was a blank expression from her. She sat down near me, after placing back the jewels, with a dead pan expression, looking straight at the wall in front.
“No Ryan. Akash was the only one.”
“What happened then?”
There were tears that started to appear. She spoke slowly and finally uttered, “He is no more.”
“It was three years ago. There was a car accident, a lorry had rammed into his vehicle. And I didn’t see him again.”
“I had just spoken to him an hour before then. I never knew that it would be our last. I never knew that.”
“I am sorry Tara. I really am.”
“Don’t be Ryan. I am okay now. He is the reason for me starting my NGO, “Rakshak”. It deals with implementing better rules and infrastructure for road safety. We are working with the government to get the Act together, and if brought in & passed by the house it would be revolutionary Ryan.”
“I now remember. I saw your interview in “The Hindu”, Tara. You have wonderful ideas lady, I hope your dream succeeds.”
“Thank you Ryan. Won’t you be supporting me?”
“Always will, always.”
“You still thinking about Akash?” She enquired.
“Yeah. See I will try making one thing clear Tara. I won’t try to take the place what you have for Akash; I won’t ask or compel you to forget him. He is part of you and I respect that.”
I could see her eyes get moist again; she had those curious eyes back on me. She wiped away the tears and made herself comfortable on the sofa.
“Come here Ryan. Are you tired or can you narrate a story to me?”
I smiled as I sat to her left, and narrated the story I know the best. Her expressions, I could never forget them, they were the most beautiful ones I have ever seen. She had her giggle going for her, and I saw her finally the way I always hoped her to be, smiling. The conversation went long; we moved from one story to another but managed to keep our curiosity burning high even after the exhausting talk. That night we shared a sofa, like all friends do. She dozed off on one end while I on the other. We woke up with a smile for eternity in our eyes but never knew that we would end up divorcing each other eight years later.
I got up from my seat as I saw her coming. It felt like she hadn’t aged at all, the twinkle in her eyes remained alive for me. Though we did have our share of grey hair, but a date was a date. That too after ten long years since we separated. I decided to narrate what I knew the best, and she was all ears to the old story of mine which she had heard enumerable times before. Her curious eyes remained the same, even after eighteen years since that night of our marriage. So I began.
“Don’t make that sound, people are looking at us.” I chirped.
“That’s how I drink my coffee. The sound has a flavour of its own.” She hit back.
“Like this one?” I held out a loud slurp, now even the manager at the counter was looking at us with blank eyes.
“Stop it Ryan. You will get us evicted!”
“Who started it? Flavour and all? I want to find my flavour too.”
“Oh please, can we get over this?”
“Not until I am done with my coffee!” I sipped another loud one. Her expressions changed all of a sudden, she became quiet and pretended that I don’t exist.
“Attitude” I broke the silence with an awkward laugh. But she didn’t reply a word, so I got back to my coffee, and this time it was only silence. As I placed my cup back on the table, I heard a loud sip. There she was giggling her way through, and I couldn’t resist but to fall for her a little more.
“We could have done that together.”
“Next time for sure! we are meeting your parents tomorrow right. We will do it there.” She winked as I followed her outside dumbfounded with no words to counter; like always she had the last laugh.
“There is always a walk that I wonder about,
the one I so wanted to take her along;
I was too lost in her thoughts, I was too happy
within the possibilities of chirping in a word
or two, leaving her convinced that I was no creep,
that I was someone who genuinely cared
and had an equal share of respect tagged along;
these possibilities were too beautiful to stay away
but the reality a bit too weird to come about
making me stuff those words deep within, and the moment
when she glanced across I had my head tilted away with embarrassment as my mind roared with many voices at once,
leaving a few that caught be my surprise;
“Did she judge me as another stalker?” I felt terribly small
at the sight of this very thought; I hid my face deeper within my palms to see between the gaps a person walking right towards me,
I glanced again into the ever widening gaps to find her
waiting for me to come out from my hiding
that I graciously avoided for a solid two minutes,
before she patted her way across, leaving me with no choice
but to stand a feet way with the most creepy smile that I always dread about.
I sheepishly tried to defend my act,
“I wasn’t looking at you, not me. No me. I just came!” and what not,
only to see a smile appear over her face as she walked past me
to stop a moment later to look back at what I was possibly wondering and may be thinking whether I would ever ask her out,
but the mystique within me, the one who saw the possibilities
remained preoccupied again and the words that I had stuffed earlier
didn’t come out right even now as she disappeared from my plain sight into the mist as I whispered a silent “Hi” and sat back down
wondering about the walk that could have been,
the one I so wanted to take her along.”
Pic Courtesy: pxleyes.com (Created by Patty)
Letters, the hand written ones, were something that kept our relationship going, despite the mess that long distance was turning out to be. In the internet era with fast paced devices at our disposal, we still relied on the postal services to communicate. She had left for America a couple of months ago, while I was stuck at the national capital with my pesky job at hand.
As every normal guy, I hated my job and dreamt of something big that I was meant to achieve only to find myself in midst of constant nagging in my friend circle about how big a writer I would become. While she had it quite figured about what she really wants from life, what she wants to become, and where she will settle. When I met her for the first time, she was dating her perfect guy and was part timing at a reputed publishing firm in Delhi, and the moment my eyes met hers, I knew it right then, that she is way out of my league. She had these thick glasses with the most pleasing smile anyone could flaunt, and a persona to encapsulate anyone near her proximity.
The meet was in a small cubicle of hers, I had gone there to inquire about her boss, the famous Tanisha Rai, the publishing mogul to know the status of my novel submission. After weeks of persuading and turning up at her office only to find a blank no at my request, I returned dejected and less confident about being a writer ever. As I was about to put up my chequered tie, a corporate office melodramatic tool (aka Comet), to turn up to the sales executive job the next day, I received a text “I read your work, it’s really beautiful Ryan. Don’t worry, you will make it big one day. Try other firms, Mrs Rai has her hands full and wouldn’t give the importance this novel deserves. Take care, Tara. (P.S. This is not a corporate gimmick to keep your heart :P)”
The texts went on a spree from there on, that’s a story for another day, but things finally led to a date at apparently a restaurant which later became our favourite for years to come. That night of our first date, we ticked our many firsts and one of them, the most modest one, being was pulling an all-nighter. We spoke for hours together; bid the other goodbye for a straight 6 times to get our sleep for the morning shift we had, but the conversations kept us abuzz, making the clock go on snooze forever.
That was three years ago, and now as we faced the dilemma of long distance in our minds, we searched for the glue that would make us stick no matter what. We had our minds rolling to find that, and weird things came up to our mind only to rest on something that got us started the first place.
Three years ago, the first date
Tara: Do you handwrite all the stuff? I saw your copy of submission; it was a Xerox of a handwritten one.
Ryan: When I really love something, I ink it with my pen. I somehow, believe if I am really interested in a topic, my ink won’t be scared of shedding and would make no mistake in foretelling the story I behold.
Tara: I like that. I do the same actually but not just for the love of writing but the paper creases and the smell of paper make me feel special. I don’t know why, maybe I sound a little stupid there!
Ryan: You don’t. You won’t believe my love for handwritten pieces started from the letters of my parents during their college days. They spoke how they used to write their feelings in a tiny sheet of paper and send it across to the other. They said that the paper was enough; it conveyed the emotions they swelled within them.
Tara: Do you still have them?
Ryan: I do, but I have been made to promise to open them when I meet someone special.
Tara: That’s sweet…really sweet Ryan. So did you meet anyone?
I smiled as we kept our eyes engaged and it’s been three years since, we had that box with us but never dared to open it; always getting scared about whether we were all ready for it or not!
We didn’t open it even on our last day together, before Tara flew away to the states. We heard our share of stories about long distance relationship, and we didn’t have the courage to challenge that long held view. The next day at the airport when I went to bid her adieu, I placed a letter I had written for days on her hand “Tara, I don’t know what I am trying with this letter, but I think this would be our glue that would make us stick. Take care, and do write back. I would be waiting for your reply.”
She had tears in her eyes, as she clutched on to the letter and disappeared among the crowd, leaving me with a shattering pain to accompany. It was a week since she left, that morning when I walked out I found her letter at my doorstep.
Photo credit: Fountain Pen by Antonio Littorio (The Power of Words)
“She held a quite corner in a crowded metro rail as she rallied her mystifying presence with her narrative filled eyes to perfection. The very first time when I found her amid the chaos, she felt to me like an angel sent in disguise. It was her smile, the one which started from her lips and ended with her sparkling eyes, that made me stand in awe and observe her with a kind of serenity I never knew before. However, it only lasted a few minutes as she slowly rolled her eyes towards me, making me look away in haste. I tried to look back at her, I thought may be this time I could smile when she looks at me again but to my disbelief she hadn’t moved her eyes away from me. I was stuck in between my thoughts and her smile which she held as her eyes met mine, leaving me with a weird smile to flaunt. It was embarrassing as it could be, but I didn’t lose hope and this time it was a laugh that broke the freeze as we noticed a teenager sleeping with his mouth open. The laughter was slowly replaced by a silent gaze before she disappeared among the crowd as the gates of the metro rail opened, flushing out people in great number while leaving my heart thumping about a possible loss. As I rested my head over the side wall, I found her smiling from a distance, and before I could think of anything about approaching her, she had her hand waiving, bidding me a final goodbye. I was moved back a little, but I finally managed to put my arm in action and left her with a goodbye and a memory to remember. Meanwhile losing myself in possible thoughts about how things would have been if and only if we could have managed to speak.”