“I loved him with all my heart, for years
Then one day I started loving myself too
And we separated!!”
He was amazed at the turn of the events earlier in the day. Amazed is a mild word, he was almost shocked! No, he was not at all reflective in nature. Never in his entire life had he ever thought about anyone but himself. So what changed that today?
It was early morning when he was driving his truck on the highway. He saw a car ahead. A SUV. Someone was having fun driving it, swaying in the middle of the road. He could easily overtake the care and saw that a girl, or rather, a young lady was driving it. A very beautiful young lady; with long dark curly hair framing her face. Those dark locks were jiggling with facial jive. She was listening to some music, may be. He smirked. There was no one till the eyes could see. She was alone. He smirked again. Just then the lady looked at him and smiled. She SMILED?! This must be his lucky day! He pressed the pedal of his truck harder so that he can intercept her car and then… She probably sensed that and so she laughed throwing her head back and sped up her car too. This confused him. This was the first time that he was trying to eve-tease and instead of getting agitated or angry the girl was laughing in his face. Either she was drunk or out of her mind. Or was she taunting him? His male ego did not like the third option. He pressed the accelerator even harder. She did the same. Now they were racing on the highway. Every time they were side by side, she would look at him and smile broadly. She was enjoying this! Bloody B#@*$.
They were almost at the end of the highway. A little ahead and he could actually intercept her. His truck came to a screeching halt in front of her car. She pressed the brakes hard and stopped her car just in the nick of time. He looked around. The Sun was up and there were people around. They started gathering around to see what was going on. He jumped from the truck and was seething with anger of losing the opportunity to teach her a fitting lesson. Lesson for having fun, lesson for having her own way, lesson for not getting scared of a MAN, lesson for being a WOMAN!!
She opened her car door too and jumped down. She was a small woman, he smirked again. People started asking her if there was something wrong. She casually said no. He was surprised. And confused. People confirmed again and she gave them her smile and laughed, the same laughter she was taunting him with the whole way. People shrugged and went about their way. She looked at him and smiled again. He could see now that she was genuinely smiling.
And then she said jovially with the same laughter in her voice, “You won. Damn! Though there was no bet between us, let me treat you to an ice-cream. You won, fairly and squarely.” She laughed again.
Was she dumb and did not realise that he was a threat to her or was she putting up a façade to throw him off-guard or was she genuinely this trusting?He felt smaller in front of her, in spite of the fact that he was easily a foot taller than her. He forgot that he wanted to tease her, make her feel uncomfortable. He forgot he wanted to teach her some lesson. He forgot that he wanted to harm her. No, he wasn’t smitten by her. But something in her, confidence, made him uneasy.
He awkwardly smiled, mumbled something illegible and retraced his steps. Within no time he was on his way. He could see her standing tall, next to her black SUV, looking at his truck.
It will surely be a long long time before he would forget this day, if ever he does!!
“Did you read this today?” asked Rahil, “Men need to cuddle and women need sex to be happy in a relationship.” He was referring to the latest research outcome reported in the newspaper. “Really, hun?” he smirked at his wife, Sati. Sati’s face crumbled with embarrassment.
She was timid and more docile when it came to the physical intimacy with her husband, even a year after their marriage. But his regular taunts were getting on her nerves. It wasn’t that she was not interested or was frigid by any mean. She had a healthy libido but somehow Rahil could not just arouse her. She could not help it!
But enough was enough… she looked at her husband and smiled like never before. Rahil could sense the difference and was taken aback. Something was changed in Sati suddenly. Sensuality oozed from Sati, her kohled black eyes, her big red kumkum bindi, her long loose hair, her sari draped lithe body… everything seemed different. This was not Sati he was used to. He was a bit scared at the transformation. Sati moved towards Rahil with a grace of a tigress. She came and sat on Rahil’s lap and started muttering sweet nothings in his ears. Rahil could hear blood pounding in his own ears. He sat there dumb struck. Sati went about the task at hand. What ensued was beyond Rahil’s wildest imagination. He was taken to heaven and back and then back to heaven again. Sati did not wait for Rahil to take her anywhere, she took Rahil with her. The journey started tentatively and became more adventurous as they went ahead. Sati looked at her exhausted husband and his shocked, idiotic smile. He did not know what hit him but he was not complaining at all. Sati gathered her clothes, went to wash room and smiled; a satisfied, triumphant smile; at her own reflection. She could see Rahil, spent and sprawled on their bed. She half turned and smirked at the sorry figure he cut.
She looked at her reflection in the mirror again, redone her smudged kumkum bindi and murmured “Sorry Jay, but I could not take the taunts any longer. Hope you understand.” With that she was gone to her daily chores and called out to her husband to come and finish his breakfast.
What was she expecting from herself?
Why this heartache when she knew this relationship cannot work out?
She was not a sixteen year old who believed in fairytale love stories. She was a mature woman who had seen world. She had always lived her life at her own terms. She was a successful business woman who had recently been featured on Times front page for achieving “Young Entrepreneur Award”. People were envious of her and called her “Ice Princess” on her back but at the same time admired her guts too. She had chosen to be alone in life and had vowed never to marry. It was not that she had never experienced love, but that one failed relationship had taught her never to completely give herself to anyone. She was cautious even among friends.
So what made her long for Kshitij? How things changed between them?
She sat at her french window looking at the gloomy sky. Even natural elements were feeling as sad as her, she felt! She knew Kshitij since more than a decade now. They were never best friends, or so to say, but quite close. They had stood by each other in the testing times they faced in their lives. Even though they did not reside in the same city for many years now, their bond was intact, just a bit rusted.
Then came the news of Kshitij shifting his business base to his motherland last year, coming nearer to her. Though they kept busy with their respective lives, they made sure to keep in touch. Technology had made communication easier. Or complicated?!
She never realized when she started expecting his calls every day or when she started getting upset when he did not sms her good night. He would be the first person she would want to share the good news with. Oh hell, any news for that matter! She felt miserable the whole day, when she did not hear his cheerful good morning. She started getting more demanding on his time and never realized when she clung to him so tightly that made Kshitij suffocated. There were never any exchanges of lovey dovey promises. But the tell-tale signs were there for anyone to notice.
Probably even Kshitij noticed the change in the “Ice Princess”. He saw his friend turning into something else. He was not sure whether he liked that change, though.
She knew she cannot have him for herself even if she wanted. He was married and had two lovely daughters. For all practical purposes he was off-limits. She was not kind of a person who would wreck havoc in anyone’s life, least of all Kshitij’s. Plus, she was not sure what he thought about her. He was always friendly with her, teasing her, bantering with her, sparring with her. He would change subject when he saw that soft look in her eyes, but will not stop talking to her or cutting her off.
Was he too in love with her? Was he feeling guilty of having a wife and hence was not opening up to her? Or was it just that he was too much of a man to insult his friend and cut her off completely but at the same time will not go ahead with anything shameful.
She was so lost in her thoughts that she did not realize someone standing behind her. Kshitij felt a knife twisting in his chest when he saw his strong, iron-willed friend sitting like a lost child at the window. He knew what was she going through, but he also knew she would come around, especially when he was not there anymore. She was made of tough material. He would miss her strong will, her unbending support, her rock-solid backing, but he knew he had to take this decision, for them.
He squeezed her hand. Her eyes lit up the moment she saw him but could sense something was seriously wrong. Her eyes searched his for some clue.
With a lot of efforts he said, “Bye, Roshni!”
At that moment she knew they were never going to meet again as Kshitij never said “bye”, for him it was always “bye for now”.
Roshni looked in his eyes one last time as she asked, “can I hug you just once before you go?”
He took her in his arms and they stood there for some time. Roshni was lost in him when he gently took her arms off him, patted her cheeks and said, “Take Care”. With that he was gone, and with him gone was Roshni’s heart. She stood there with tears flowing uncontrollably.
In a few weeks time ‘Ice Princess” was back with a bang, never to melt again.
Mrinal inhaled deeply, she loved freshly baked cake aroma. She peeked from the transparent oven door and sniffed again. This one was his favourite, chocolate cake. She was sure he would love it. She smiled to herself. Today was their “friendship anniversary” and she wanted to surprise Saaras on their special day.
“How time flies…” Mrinal thought wistfully. It was two years since they first met at the contemporary painting exhibition. They hit off instantly. They were different and yet there was something special that bound them. After that first meeting they met again at a few more shows and their friendship deepened. For Mrinal he was a wave of fresh air. She loved listening to his ideas. It was not that she agreed to everything that he said but Saaras’ passion for art and culture drew her closer to him. She loved their good natured banter. Sometimes Mrinal’s husband too would join them but mainly he was happy to see his wife getting a friend with whom she could share her love for art, who understood her world of colours. Mrinal loved spending time with Saaras. There was something magical about their togetherness. It was difficult to give a name to their relationship. Friendship was the milder and more acceptable term. Though their feelings ran deeper than mere friendship, there was not even one instance where anyone can point fingers at them.
Mrinal was awakened from her reverie with a beep from oven indicating that the cake was ready. She took it out, looked at it and smiled again. She looked at the clock and rushed to get ready. She wanted to be at Saaras’ place before he was back from work. She wore a beautiful peacock blue saree, looked at herself in the mirror and was happy with what she saw. A small bindi between her brows made her babyish face look even more beautiful. There was no other make-up needed.
Saaras was already home when she reached and was surprised to see Mrinal. She enthusiastically wished him “Happy Friendship Anniversary” and smiled broadly. Saaras smile at her childish exuberance but he seemed miles away. Mrinal sensed that there was something wrong but shook the doubt out of her mind and went on gushing about how happy she was. She proudly showed the cake she had baked and went on to get the knife. She had even got candles for them to blow together. She set the cake on the table and called Saaras to cut it with her. Mrinal offered him a piece of cake out of her hand and hugged him with childlike ebullience.
Instead of his usual friendly hug, his arms tightened around her waist. He drew her closer and held tightly. Mrinal looked up into his eyes and was taken aback at the emotions that lurked there. She tried to wriggle out of his embrace. She freed herself and looked at Saaras with a questioning look, almost accusing him.
“What happened Saaras?” Mrinal asked more for herself than him.
Rather than answering her, he went and sat at the edge of sofa with his head in his palms. He looked miffed. Mrinal was surprised at his reaction and went to sit beside him. He got up with a jolt and looked at Mrinal again with unfathomable expressions.
“What happened Saaras?” Mrinal asked again, a little scared.
Something snapped in Saaras.
“What is all this Mrinal? You are a married woman. All these talks of friendship and platonic love are nothing but bullshit. This is nothing but lust. And when I hold you, you look at me as if I have committed some crime!” Saaras shouted.
Looking at Mrinal’s mortified face, Saaras regained his senses. He swore under his breath and went to Mrinal, to hold her, to appease her, to ask for her forgiveness for his callousness. Once again she looked in Saaras’ eyes with her own moist ones. She got up and went out of his home, without looking back!
“If only you knew, how much I love you, Mrinal!” Saaras sighed longingly after her.
May be one day they will be together again, like old days… may be not!
“Why are you not ready yet?” shouted Meenu’s mother with irritation. Meenu’s eyes welled up yet again. She was going to be subjected to the torture once again. She went into her room and stood in front of the mirror to assess herself, which she did a lot more often these days.
What she saw was not comforting, especially just minutes before the prospective groom’s arrival. She heaved a deep sigh and started getting ready for the circus. She took out a mustard coloured kurti with crimpson patyala salwaar and crimson dupatta with golden border. It was a beautiful dress and accentuated her pleasingly plump frame. She put a small red bindi between her well shaped eyebrows, applied a little lipstick and let her beautiful, dark, long tresses loose. She appraised her reflection in the mirror again and smiled a bit. “Not bad”, she thought.
As soon as her mother saw her, annoyance showed on her face again.
“How many times have I told you not to wear such bright clothes! Look at your colour…” she scoffed her off.
Meenu tried not to be perturbed, and in any case, this was not the first time that she was ridiculed by her mother. She always sought her mother’s approval and the quest continued in adulthood, though in vain. She stood there with downcast eyes which made her mother even more irritated.
“Now just don’t stand on my head and hope that this man likes you else…” her voice trailed off as she rushed to open the door. Her mother’s voice modulated to a sweet melody as she received the guests.
Meenu knew the routine by now. She had to wait till she was called for and go with downcast eyes and not to speak much. She sighed again and looked up as if asking God, why he had chosen her for such torture. She shook her head in resignation.
She used to be such a happy child. Her mother was always like this but her father loved her a lot. He used to make up for all the hurt her mother bestowed upon her. He never compared her with anyone. He loved her as she was and she basked under his love. She was an intelligent child too, did well in school and went on to become an engineer. Her father was ecstatic when she won gold medals in university examinations. Her mother was hard to please though. She could never come to love her. She chided her father for his affection for their ugly duckling.
“All these medals and certificate will not help in marrying her off!” Meenu had heard this line so many times that it lost its edge, so to speak. Her father would kindly smile or wink or make faces after her mother to make her smile. It was also his way of telling her that don’t take her seriously, you are doing fine. And her heart would swell with love for her father. He would hug her and they would go on to discuss something about current affairs or politics or something silly as which boy was after which girl in the college or how stupid boys were! They would laugh together and her mother’s venomous words would be drowned in their love.
Meenu was awakened from her reverie by her mother’s harsh voice.
“What are you doing standing like a wooden doll?” Meenu smirked at the word “doll” and followed her mother to the lounge.
Even though she was told to keep her eyes downcast, she stole a look at the prospective groom and she froze in her track. Was this a joke? Had he not seen her picture before coming over (she no longer looked at the pictures since she thought it was a futile exercise)? What was the problem with him?
Her heart started beating faster. He looked like a Greek God to her. He was fair and handsome, polite and soft spoken. She cursed herself for not looking at his biodata. She hoped he was not just good looking. As she was floating in the air, her eyes fell on her mother and her jeering look brought her down on earth. She looked at the man in front of her and compared herself with him mentally.
“What is point of coming here and mocking me? One look at me and he will be out of this house. Why insult a girl like that?”
But by the look of it, he was still having polite conversation with her father and stealing looks too. He did not seem like he is going to run away. Their eyes met and he smiled softly at her. Meenu’s pulse quickened and she blushed. His smile broadened at her discomfort.
“Did he make out that I am blushing? Oh come on, Meenu, whom are you kidding? With your colour? Keep your feet firmly on the ground.” she reprimanded herself mentally.
She was startled when she heard her name. He was standing and she knew the meeting was over. As usual she was rejected because she did not fall in the conventional category of being beautiful. No one noticed her delicate features, beautiful coal lined eyes or long, flowing dark hair. No one was interested in her intelligence. It did not matter that she was witty and could make a guy laugh till tears ran down his cheeks. It did not matter how beautiful she was from inside. All that mattered was that she was chubby and dark. She had all the qualities to make a good wife, she had it in herself to turn a house into home, but no one was bothered about it. Her eyes welled up again and she sat there with her head bowed.
She was startled again at her mother’s sweet voice calling her and she looked up to see that he was still standing and looking at her with a quizzical look on his face.
“Shall we?” he asked. She was bewildered as to what was going on. She looked at her father and he smiled at her with his usual soft smile. “Go, talk to him” he nudged her towards him.
More that surprised, she was shocked at the turn of events. “He really wants to talk to me? ME?” she could not believe it but here she was, following him in their garden to find a suitable place to talk.
What followed was unbelievable to her. She could not believe her luck. They talked as if they knew each other always. They seem to share common tastes in music, books and even food. It seemed like a fairytale to her, too good to be true!
“I think I am fine with this match. What do you think?” he asked her. She could not believe her ears. When she did not reply, he went on.
“I can understand if you do not want to answer right away. You do need to sort out by yourself if you would want to spend your entire life with a stranger. A stranger who has a three year old paraplegic daughter!”
In the last two minutes, this was the second time that she could not believe her ears. What did he just say? A three year old paraplegic daughter?
He was saying something and stopped in mid sentence when he saw her shocked face.
“You knew about my daughter, didn’t you? I had told your parents at the off-set.”
She was no longer with him.
She wanted to look into her father’s eyes just once before saying yes.