The guy was standing at the entrance of the cafeteria, watching girls with rapt attention, saying to himself, "Will she come? Will she not?" But, no. She was no where to be seen. Sadly, he sat down on a nearby table. The bearer as usual arrived and asked if he required anything. He replied, "No, thanks."
Rahul was a middle class guy studying in college. On the first day of college, he saw a wonderful girl, very different from others. Not that she was extremely good looking, but her mannerisms, the way she smiled, her nose wrinkled, her steps, everything made him go crazy about her. Sadly the girl was from a different department and so, there was less chance of them getting to know each other. However, as destiny would have it, one fine day, he got the opportunity to interact with this dream girl. It was just a coincidence. She had come to the library with one of her friends, looking for a particular book, but was unable to find it. Rahul had a glimpse of her from one end of the shelf and suddenly felt the urge to speak to her. But, being very shy, he could not gather much courage. He egged himself on and ultimately went forward and said, "Excuse me, miss, I think you are looking for this book." The girl was initially surprised, but then smiled and said "Thank you". She took the book and just walked away. Rahul was kept standing there. He understood that he had missed a golden opportunity of interacting with his dream girl. Later that day, he spoke to his room mate in his hostel about the incident. He told his friend how expressive her eyes were, the way she smiled, the way she got surprised, everything about her was so mesmerizing, so magical. His friend laughed out loud and said, "Never mind dost, you would get more opportunities, I am sure." For the next few weeks, Rahul did not see her. He wondered if something was wrong, but he was unable to find the right person to ask about her. Finally, he got to know that there had been a calamity in her family which had forced the girl to take leave.
But the pain remained, he wished he could be of some help to her at such an ill-fated moment. Finally, the wait was over. She was back. A bit tense, a bit pensive, traumatic, but nevertheless attractive as ever. Rahul thought to himself, "Today, I need to speak, no matter what the outcome would be." He approached her, "Hi, this is Rahul. We met that day in the library. Do you remember?" The girl stared at him and slowly said, "Yes, I do remember." Rahul: "So, may I know your name and are we friends?" She replied, "My name is Aindrilla, but I would need to think before accepting a stranger as my friend. Got some work. Would you mind if we talk later?" Rahul said, "Well... nope... surely, please go ahead.". The poor guy was left standing. This was not the exact start he was looking for. The girl seemed so very organized, sober and cool at her first demeanour. But is it like "What you see is NOT what you get" ? Surely, Rahul needed to investigate more. There are more shadows to a woman than one could imagine and this woman seemed no different.
Suddenly he felt a bit sad. Was it that she was not liking him, misinterpreting his overtures as something else? He did not wish to think. It also dawned on him that he had fallen hopelessly in love with her, although he did not know anything about her. She could be engaged to someone. There could be painful incidents in the prime of her life which had made her lose all interest in love and its derivatives! Oh.. he suddenly felt a bit dizzy.
Aindrilla returned to her room after a hectic day at college. She got herself freshened up and started thinking over the day's incidents. The college was not as bad as she thought it to be. After the tragic death of her grandmother, whom she was so close to, she really looked forward to enjoying here. Afterall, she needed to divert her mind and get accustomed to the loss.
Her roomie Sandhya came and asked, "Hey tamatar, how was your day today? haan... " Aindrilla smiled at her and said, "Well, it was good yaar. Today professor Jadav gave a wonderful lecture on Particle Dynamics. He was so fast, I had to literally use shorthand to take down the notes. Even the lab sessions were nice. I have started liking the place, yaar."
Sandhya chuckled and asked,"What about the guys, sweetheart? Did you find anyone worth a second glance?"
Aindrilla: "Tu bhi yaar... I haven't had that much interaction with anyone till now, but most of them seem okay. Few of them are flirts like anything. Ladki dekhi nahi ki shuru... Arey, today I met a guy... My goodness me! I saw him once in the library. He had helped me out with finding a book and now, he wants friendship. Ufff... What a flirt!" Sandhya: "Come on yaar, did you ask his name?"
Aindrilla: "Who cares yaar? I have seen hundreds like that. I stopped short of giving him a piece of my mind today. Next day, I won't spare him, if he approaches again."
Sandhya: "Peculiar dear? What happened? Did he misbehave?"
Aindrilla: "Nahi nahi, not like that. He seemed friendly, but sooner or later, he would come to the same topic as any other flirt. I am sure."
Sandhya: "Come on yaar, don't be a spoilsport. If he wants friendship, what is the harm in it, yaar. See I am engaged to Suraj for five long years and what a sweetheart he is!"
Aindrilla suddenly lay flat on her bed, staring straight at the ceiling: "Hey Sandi! I don't think like that! My darling would be a handsome prince, he would be wealthy, powerful and sexy. I would fall head over heels over him at first glance. The boys out here do not fire my imagination. These are just timepasses. And I hate guys who are only too eager to get hold of a girl. These kinda guys are never reliable. Hopefully your Suraj is not like that."
Sandhya: "Aha.. is it like that? ok... we'll see dear... I have seen many instances of girls as stern and robust as you are, who have melted like ice and crumbled like a pack of cards, when they have fallen in love."
Aindrilla: "Ok... take it as a challenge!"
The next few days Rahul thought a lot about the mysterious girl. He suddenly found out that out of 24 hours a day, he would spend 12 hours thinking about her alone. It was having serious implications on his studies as well, as he was not able to concentrate on tasks at hand. His roomie noticed this and told him that he should make friends with someone who knows the girl well, else, it would be difficult to coaxe the girl into meeting him. Rahul thought for a moment and said, "Yes yaar, I have seen a girl with her often. She is very friendly and seem very close to her. Lets see, if I can have a chat with her." The next day only, Rahul saw Aindrilla's close friend.Without the slightest hesitation, he approached. Rahul: "Excuse me..." Sandhya: "Yes, wanna say something to me?" Rahul: "Yeah.. well actually I am from the same year as you. Mechanics department. Can we be friends?" Sandhya smiled and said: "Hey nice to meet you. This is Sandhya and am from the Civil department." Rahul: "Thanks Sandhya... So you are alone today? Where is your friend?" Sandhya:"Who? Aindrilla? Oh she would be coming late. Well do you know her?" Rahul had his heart in his mouth for a moment but he tried to remain composed and answered as coolly as possible. "Oh... no no... that was a casual question. I often see both of you together. So asked about her..." Sandhya: "Ok..." She suddenly glanced at her watch and said, "Oops. I am already late for my class. Cya sometime later. Ok?" Rahul: "Sure"
Rahul thought that the drama had gone as he had wanted.
Sandhya hurried on for the class. As usual she was again late. The professor had started teaching in full swing. Once Sandhya reached, the professor gave her a stern look and glanced at his watch. Aindrilla had in fact reached before her although she was supposed to come late. After the class Aindrilla giggled at Sandhya and said, "Well Sandi, you have made quite a name for yourself as Late Latif. Koi appointment thaa kya?" Sandhya: "Don't ask yaar. I met a guy.... oh what was his name? umm... yeah, Rahul and forgot that I had this class. Arey you know he was asking about you... !!!" Aindrilla: "What? me? I mean, why? I don't think I remember anyone by that name!!!" Sandhya: "Oh no no... he also said he doesn't know you and he just asked since he had got used to seeing both of us together and as you know sweetheart, you were not there today!"
Aindrilla thought for a moment, "Tell me how he looks." Sandhya: "Uff.. I can't describe him like that. Lets go to the canteen and if I see him, I will have both of you introduced to each other. Ok?" Aindrilla: "Hmm... Sandi, don't say you are upto something. Am not falling or it, ok?" Sandhya: "Arrey no yaar. You asked about him. That's why I said. Ok? Even if you get introduced to him, what's the harm?" Aindrilla: "ok ok... You are much superior when it comes to arguing, first God and second you... I agree.." Both of them walked off from the classroom and saw Rahul standing at the entrance of the canteen. Sandhya walked in front of him and said: "Hey Rahul, this is my friend, Aindrilla. Aindrilla, meet Rahul." Aindrilla: "Hello... but I think we know each other, right?" Rahul: "Yeah.. " Sandhya: "But Rahul, you said you do not know her?" Rahul was in a soup now. Somehow he muttered," Well, she did not accept me as a friend, so how could I say, I know her. Besides, it is a fact since I know nothing about her except her name!" and tried to smile... Aindrilla: "Rahul, for you my name is enough. Okay? Sandi I think I am getting late and have some more important works at hand. Do you mind, if I leave." Sandhya: "Hey, wait. I'll also go. Sorry Rahul. I'll talk to you later." Rahul was left stranded where he was. For the first time he felt an adrenaline rush. He was getting angry. What the hell did the girl think of herself! Was she a princess or what? And how dare she insult him like that! And he did not think he had said or done something derogatory to her dignity. Something was wrong definitely but what was it?
Aindrilla hurried on to her hostel room. Sandhya went after her and got hold of her. "What is wrong with you tamatar? Why did you behave like that? I don't think the guy said or did something so as to hurt you! Then? Look at me. Tell me, what is wrong!" Aindrilla looked at her. And then, Sandhya could not believe what she saw, her friend's beautiful eyes were aflush with tears. Sandhya: "You? Crying? Why?" Aindrilla suddenly put her arms round Sandhya and continued to sob hugging her Sandi as tightly as ever...
Rahul could not have as much as a wink of sleep that night. He thought about the incidents the day before. His Roomie asked him numerous times about it, but to no avail. He kept mum the whole evening and then at night as well. As the hours passed by, anger gave way to sadness, melancholy. It always happened like that. Whenever he happened to like or love someone,
invariably they would get snatched away from him by the cruel scheme of destiny. He remembered he had a cute kitten who would play with him day in and day out and one day she was gone forever, never ever to return again. He was very close to his grandmother as well and she too left for her heavenly abode. He had fallen hopelessly in love with this girl, but her
reactions hurt him. How could she be so heartless? [sigh] There was nothing he could do. He needed to move on, look for greener pastures. But what is the guarantee that the same story would not get repeated! Oops! No! He was losing his self confidence. Shit yaar! How could he! Forget it! Everything would be normal again. The show must go on!
He felt a bit rejuvinated and set out for the college after hurrying through the morning chores. After a long time, he attended all the lectures, answered tough questions posed by the professors, tried to concentrate on studies more than ever before and also found out that Einstein's theory was not as difficult as he had thought before! His bosom friends were pleasantly surprised. After a tiring day, he was ready to go home. And just when he was at the exit, he saw her... Sandhya... He did not feel an urge to speak to her! "Girls are all the same", he thought. But he could not avoid. Sandhya stopped him on his way and said,"Hey Rahul, I am very sorry for whatever happened yesterday. Please do not get her wrong. She is very depressed." Rahul did not utter a word for a moment or two.
Finally he said,"So?"
Sandhya: "Lets see dear. First tell me, are you serious?"
He silently nodded his head in affirmation.
Sandi: "umm... ok, let me see what can be done... bye"
Sandhya silently walked off. She was still thinking about the incidents last night. Aindrilla had cried and cried. Sandi could finally steady her and asked her,"Tell me what is it! And do not cry! Else I will give you a tight slap! Look at me."
Aindrilla had then narrated what she had gone through in her past, how she had loved someone with her everything, how she had been ditched and humiliated, how her love had walked off with another bitch! It was pathetic! She had lost all her trust on men. She had come to realise that whatever men looked for in a woman was not love, she shuddered to think what it was! Her
beliefs had only been strengthened by the growing number of incidents of a variety of physical and mental harassment that women faced regularly in their day to day life. She hated men! Yes! She hated men! Sandi let out a silent sigh. The task was extremely tough for her and more so, for Rahul to win her love. What was the way out? She would speak to her today. Yesterday, she had been too traumatised to even utter a single word. Finally she reached her door and found it locked from inside. Aindrilla had not gone to classes. The whole day, she had kept
herself locked inside. Sandi knocked on the door. One, two, three, four... After four knocks, the door opened.
Sandi: "Hey hi tamatar! What did you do the whole day?"
Aindrilla: "Nothing jaan... just slept through.."
"Yeah yeah that is evident from your swollen eyes. By the way, it was good that you blurted everything out yesterday. See you must be feeling lighter now."
"Ya.. true Sandi... "
"Hey you know, I met Rahul today! You won't believe, he seemed so sad!"
"I tell you one thing tamatar, the guy is not bad! Why don't you meet him once and get to know him in person..."
"I have told you everything jaan... Why do you insist? IT WOULD SIMPLY NOT HAPPEN!!! I don't have a heart any more"
"Arre... be friends with him. Speak to him. He is not gonna bite you, is he? So what's the problem?"
"Hmm... I'll think about it. Lets have something to eat now. I feel hungry..."
"Arre thik hai yaar... come to the kitchen... lets make parathas and gobi ke sabji..." :-P
"Yeah... would like that very much jaan..."
They had a nice time out in the evening making parathas and savouring on them later on...
Rahul felt a tad happier. Will Sandi be able to do some trick? Hmm... who knows! She was Aindrilla's best friend and roomie as well. She might be able to convince her. He slept in peace that night. At night he dreamt that he was cycling down a certain highway in the fog. There was a river flowing beside with a sweet sound of flowing water. The birds were chirping merrily. The weather was chilly. And as he was cruising along the highway, a red scarf caught her attention. It was entangled in a branch of a tree. The scarf appeared somewhat known to him. Yes, it was Aindrilla's. But where was she? Oh there she was! As stunning as ever. Standing at a distance. Eyes closed, as if feeling the cold air. Her long hair swaying gently in the breeze. Her hands outstretched, as she tried to feel it with her soul and mind. Rahul was left stranded. He
forgot where he had to go, who he was... rather he wanted to forget everything. He wanted to live in the moment. Just then he felt rain drops on his body. Ooooh! So cold! He needed shelter! But where is she? Did she take shelter somewhere else? And his cycle! Oh God! And then he saw his roomie!
"Get up Shahenshah Akbar! I am ready for classes already and it's 9:30 AM."
Rahul woke up with a start. Shit. He was dreaming again! He hurried up and was just in time for the classes. On the way, he saw both of them together again. It seemed Aindrilla gave her more than a passing glance. And did she smile? Oh no no! Figment of fertile imagination! He needed to concentrate on studies! Later on, he would speak to Sandhya.
The professors gave their lectures one after the another. Little went inside Rahul's head. The more he tried to forget about the morning's encounter, the more he felt restless. At the recess, he got in touch with Sandi, when Aindrilla was not with her.
Rahul: "Hi Sandi"
Sandhya: "Hi Rahul"
" [smile] You are so impatient! Wait dear. I have spoken to her. She has not agreed yet. But, I shall be able to coaxe her into meeting you in person, I assure. But..."
"But, promise me, if she really falls for you, you would not ditch her. Promise?"
"Yes. I promise."
"Ok... gotta go now. I would let you know of any updates."
"Can I have her cell number?"
"No. She is not ready yet. When, it's time, you would have it. Okay? Bye."
Saying so, she hurried away.
Rahul wondered whether there was light at the end of the dark tunnel. Well, it was difficult to guess the temperament of girls. They hardly meant whatever they said. At least that had been his experience till then. Slowly he walked off to his classroom.
After the classes were over, Aindrilla and Sandhya went off to their hostel. After relaxing a bit, both of them started chatting about the day's incidents. Finally, Sandi said:
"Did you give a thought?"
"A thought... !!! to what?"
"About the guy... Rahul.."
"Why do you insist jaan?"
"Aindrilla, he is very serious about it. At least meet him once. If you happen to not like him, you can always reject. But at least see him once."
"[sigh] Okay. Fix a date."
"Oh great. Tamatar! muaah! Let me talk to Rahul and we'll fix an appointment for you."
Finally the date was fixed. It had to be the cafetaria at the end of the Fancy Market Road. Sunday evening.
Rahul was standing at the entrance of the cafeteria, watching girls with rapt attention, saying to himself, "Will she come? Will she not?" But, no. She was no where to be seen. Sadly, he sat down on a nearby table. The bearer as usual arrived and asked if he required anything. He replied, "No, thanks."
He could not figure the issue. Sandy had called him and spoken clearly about it. It was fixed well in advance. Then? Aindrilla was supposed to come at 5 pm and it was 5:30 pm already. As Rahul grew restless, he decided to call up Sandy and just when Sandy's cell started ringing, he saw her... "Wow", he thought. Clad in a white kurti, she looked like an angel. For a moment or two, Rahul could not speak.
Aindrilla: "Helloooo!!!!" [as if to break his day dream]
Rahul: "Oh.. am so sorry... well, please be seated. So, hopefully you did not have much trouble coming here. Did you?"
"So, are we friends now?"
"Hmm, yes, why not!"
"Thanks, you know what Aindrilla, I had been waiting for this day since ages. And today you are in front of me."
"Hello! Don't start getting ideas. Ok? The fact that I have come to meet you doesn't necessarily imply that I have fallen for you or something like that! Yes, ok, we are friends. But as of this moment, nothing more than that.."
Rahul smiled and said,"Will you have some water? You spoke non-stop.."
"Will you have something? Coffee or icecream or drinks? I know you would say "no", still...."
Rahul called up the bearer and ordered two chilled coffee and they started chit chatting about this and that. He cautiously cut out the 'romance' part and rather concentrated on general mundane topics that he would occasionally discuss with friends. Finally, Aindrilla had a glance at her watch and declared she needed to leave, since it was already 7:00 pm by then.
Rahul asked,"Ok. Lets move. So, did you like meeting me today?"
"Oh I mean, hopefully you enjoyed hanging out with me today."
"Yes. It was fun." Aindrilla smiled.
"Hey thanks! So will we meet again, soon? Next week? Same time, same place?"
And thus, they continued meeting each other on weekends and chatted for hours. But Rahul had a jinx... a confusion. He was wondering where his one way crush was headed. Since, Aindrilla had already made her intentions clear (about continuing only as friends), he had failed to raise the issue again. He was afraid that their weekend rendezvous would end if he pressed the panic button. Will Sandy be able to help? No. Sandy was no more interested. She made it clear the other day that her task was to get the two of them to meet up. Ater that she would leave the scene. She had done exactly that. *sigh*
But, there was more drama waiting. One fine evening Rahul saw Aindrilla holding hands with a stranger and sharing the same ice cream. He could not bear the sight and decided to call up Aindrilla immediately. He made his concern very clear. But she said,"Did I not tell you? We are just friends. Ok? And who are you to keep a watch on me? Its entirely upto me. Whom I would meet or hang out with is none of your business. Is that clear?"
Rahul could not reply back. He just hung up the phone. He felt a choking sensation in his throat. Finally, the one way traffic had come to a "dead end". The crush had been crushed oh so cruelly! He deleted Aindrilla's and Sandy's numbers from his cell. As his family was slotted for a transfer, he decided to change his college. Never ever did he call Aindrilla again. Never ever did they meet again.
Today after 10 years, Rahul is well settled in another city. But still... he thinks if it would have been appropriate for them to continue as friends. But then, he had chosen to die rather than live on a life support system........
And what happens can never be reverted back. No regrets. No sadness. Life has moved on. Life has to move on. But hey, what is this drop on his lap? A stray tear ...running down his cheeks?
Image source: http://www.headinjurytheater.com
Disclaimer: The story depicted here is entirely fictitous. The plot is imaginary. Any resemblance to an incident or a person living or dead is purely coincidental.
Copyright: Chiranjib Mazumdar, 2009