Cold wind slapped my face as the cab picked up speed. I was suddenly awakened from my nostalgia. After checking all my belongings to make sure I got them in place, I sat staring out of the window; thinking about the climax to my story. In no time the songs on the radio seemed distant melody and my eyes soon got lost in oblivion. The jerk of the halt dropped me to reality. I paid my fare and opened the door.
It was still dawn when I stepped out of the cab and walked towards the entry gate of the Delhi airport. The early morning February air was pleasantly cold.
I was travelling to Bengaluru to attend a college friend's wedding. It had been four years since we graduated from the same college. This wedding was also going to be a reunion of our batch mates. But what I didn't know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time; right in the queue in front of the airline counter.
I was almost sure it was she. Same height! Same long hair! Same complexion! Curiosity had my eyes glued to her. And then about 60-odd seconds later, when she turned, she proved me right. My ex-girlfriend stood two places ahead of me in that queue. We had never met after the college farewell.
I caught a glimpse of pain on her face which she expertly wrapped in a surprised eyes and a hesitant smile as soon as she met my gaze. After struggling to wrestle out the right words all we could manage to say “Hey Sam!” both at the same time, and we laughed. On the memory lane which was frequently accessed since the news of Shekhar’s wedding, I reached the day we had first met. In the queue for collecting our mark sheet where she stood quarrelling with the clerk; her mark sheet had 2 marks less than she actually earned. I could not believe that 2marks were actually the reason she had us all waiting for over 15 dreary minutes. I tilted my head side ways to take a look at the ‘bandit queen’ of the college, and right I was in conferring her that title, as she honestly didn’t knew how to even look like a normal girl. The students ahead of me had already left the queue by the time she won her battle with the clerk. She moved aside to allow me to go ahead and stood stuffing all the papers she had carried to ensure her victory, in her bag pack. I didn’t have the patience to even look at my mark sheet. I was signing the register when someone called “Hey Sam!” and we both turned to say in perfect sync “Yup”, and then we both looked at each other; admiring her lovely deep black big eyes I forgot to wonder what could be her name.
“Sir, your booking id please.” I blankly completed the check-in procedure. She was waiting for me at the end of the queue, fidgeting with the boarding pass in her hands, trying to escape my intent look. She had changed, her long hair resting peacefully behind her shoulders, one small curl left to fall over face. And she was wearing ‘Chudidar kameez’ instead of her usual ragged pair of jeans and t-shirt.
“So how are you?” I bravely began the conversation. “Good” She replied with a radiant smile that had never failed to make my heart skip a beat. ‘We are sorry to inform that all the flights have been delayed by 2 hours due to fog.’ “Oh No! We’ll be late for the wedding.” I said sounding disappointed although it really didn’t matter. “We? Who else is going for the wedding?” She asked rhetorically. “Why? Weren’t you invited?” I mocked. “Who dare not invite me? I got Shekhar’s mail of course. But I had plans made which could not be cancelled. So I am not going.” “Ooo, I see. . .” She only changed her appearance I thought. “And what are you doing these days?” I asked. “Exactly what I had planned, I am a senior project manager with DELL in Texas” “So you moved out of India, I didn’t knew I scared you so much” “Very funny! I joined it 3 years back as a senior programmer; I just got promoted last month” “Miss Perfectionist as always.” “You are just being modest like always” “I mean it look here” I showed her a part of the manuscript where I described her as ‘A girl full of confidence and the potential to change the world’ “Wow! I am flattered” She chuckled “What are you writing? Our story?” “Well, do we have one?” She said nothing; we just looked at each other for some time. After few seconds or minutes maybe she asked interrupting the conversation of our silence. “Coffee?” “Sure.” To lighten the grave silence as we walked I asked “And where is mom?” “Obviously with me; why would I leave her here?” “That’s nice” She was shivering so I offered her my jacket.
We went to CCD. She chose a place close to the glass window right in the corner like our golden days. I went to place the order. Life had always been a roller coaster ride since the time I had met her and this reminded me just how it all begun. It was at CCD next to our college when we had to share our table as everywhere else was occupied. She had come to the table where I was sipping over my coffee as I sat scribbling some rhymes in my Diary. “So you write diary huh?” she asked pulling the chair without seeking my permission to share the table. “Oh! It’s just few thoughts I try to capture. Not a diary as such, more of a scrap book.” “Impressive, I’m Samaira by the way-Sam” she held out her hand. “I am Samvit Mehra-Sam” I took her hand in response. She gave that breath-taking radiant smile and maybe just at that moment I knew something went missing in the left part of my chest. This time I wasn’t surprised at what she had ordered for her.
“So, what’s going on?” she asked interrupting my thoughts. “As in?” “As in, in your life, career etc etc . . .” “Nothing much; looking after dad’s business.” “What about those manuscripts you showed then?” “It’s just a hobby.” She gave a teasingly disappointed smile. “What?” I asked pretending to not understand her expressions. “You know I never approved of this.” I had just opened my mouth to answer her when she continued “Let’s not talk about it.” ‘One cappuccino and one green apple tea.’ The café guy brought our order. “You remembered?” she exclaimed jubilantly picking up the green apple tea. “Who can forget your strange choices?” “You were one of my choices.” “But you never trusted me” She opened her mouth to say something, but my phone rang and I used that opportunity to excuse myself.
After the call I needed some time to gather myself so I did not return immediately. Sam and I were together since the first semester of the college. We never had to officially express our feelings to each other. Somehow we both just knew we were in love. Not the ‘mushy-mushy’ kind. But it was real for sure. I wanted to give this relationship a sweet bend towards marriage. For one reason I wanted to be sure that this angel with a devils mind and a golden heart gets no reason to escape me, and second because my dad had started indicating that I should get married to his partner’s only daughter. So before they took any serious decision I decided to take Samaira before them, to avoid any confusion later. I was sure my parents wouldn’t have minded. They were not the filmy orthodox kind. I did not wish to hurt their emotions by delaying my engagement with Sam. I decided to propose to her we were in CCD when I began. “So Sam, What do you think about me?” I asked her trying to sound as casual as I could, “Samvit, my dear, are you a programming error about which I should be thinking? I mean seriously, don’t I have any other work to do.” She replied teasingly. Samaira was known to make people whom she spoke with nervous with her replies, but in 4 years of college I had known her enough to not be intimidated by her flamboyant attitude; I was obtrusive enough for her. I pulled down the reference book she was pretending to read, looked straight in her eyes (which was not so much a good idea) and told her cuttingly “ Now, you better Listen to me Miss Samaria Bakshi or you be ready for the drama that I am capable of creating.” Her expressions turned from mischievous to apprehensive and it felt like my cat caught her tongue for once in her life. But her silence made me all the more dumbstruck, and I completely ran out of any vocabulary I ever knew. She was waiting for me to speak and I kept staring at her and attempting to find at least one word to utter. Finally I handed over the letter I had written to use just in case like this.
“I had once read and believed since then that ‘when you discover something that made you tighten inside, you had better try to learn more about it.’ And so did me after I saw you for the first time. Although you didn’t seem girl enough to stalk after, you have always succeeded in attracting me. And I know you never want to see it that way, but you are beautiful, intelligent, confident and most importantly, you are real. I want to spend my life with you. I know you are a little difficult person, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. You may be wondering that we fight more than half of the time we are together, and we are worlds apart, but whatever our souls are made up of is same. We will have to work it out every day, and I am ready to do that because I want you. Just as you are, No conditions apply. So Miss Samaira Bakshi will you please grant me the life-time imprisonment of your crazy companionship and agree to Marry Me?”
She had not read the letter in my presence. But she started avoiding me. After 48 plus heart pounding hours she came to me and said “Hi!” as if nothing ever happened. I was surprised by her casual attitude, was she actually behaving that way or was I dreaming all the while for 2 days. She announced she got selected at Wipro and was moving to Mysore after graduation. I was shocked as she had never mentioned that she had applied and there were no placement drive until after final exams that year. It was last working day of the college, just before farewell. She left college saying that she had to reach home early. I went behind her. We were talking as we walked towards her home. I asked her what the reason for her silence was, and what she thought about the letter. She tried to avoid the questions in every way possible but finally stopped walking looked at me and erupted “I like you Sam, but I cannot get married, I have a career to make, I don’t have time to think about marriage. You have a settled future, own mansion, dad’s business and so your dreams don’t inspire you, but I am not born with that luxury, my mum and dad got divorced when I was 12, I have seen my mother struggling alone to raise me, and now it’s my turn to give her some rest and happiness. This world is not a fairy tale Sam, in real life there is no prince-charming, your letter was very sweet, but when such Love is rubbed against the obstacles of reality, it fades away. Things change, people change Samvit and the world can go rolling down. Moreover, you could not stand for your own dreams; you wanted to study literature and did engineering just because your parents wanted you to. How will you stand for my love? I cannot trust you with my life Samvit, I cannot trust anyone with my happiness”
She walked away. I was shocked by her response and deeply hurt specially by her last line. I watched with breaking heart as she slowly faded away.
Moisture had made my vision foggy as my heart remembered our last conversation. I had attended the farewell just to avoid questions from our group. She had looked her best in black saree, was she really happy or was she an expert pretender, I wondered, then chose to believe the former. Concluding she didn’t love me I had made peace with my destiny with lot of efforts. But this unexpected encounter today was very overwhelming.
I went back to the seat. She was scribbling something on a notepad, the paper that she tore of and began to fold just as she saw me approaching her. “You took a long time anything serious?” In hurtful rage I bloated, “Yes My fiancé” “Oh! You’re engaged to be married, Congratulations!” This time she failed in feigning disinterest. “Who is the lucky girl if I may ask?” “Rashmi. Remember?” Meanwhile she crumbled the paper she was folding and put it in the pocket of the jacket absent minded. “Your dad’s business partner’s daughter, isn’t she?” “Yes” ‘Calling attention for all passengers that the flights have been resumed. All the passengers on INDIGO AIRLINES flight IND683 to Kolkata please go to gate 4’ “That’s my flight” she stood up. We started walking towards the departure lounge. “Where did you get lost?” I asked. “Nothing, I will be back” she replied in haste and walked towards the loo. After some 10 minutes or so she returned looking conclusive about something. It was a long queue at the gate, so we stood nearby waiting for people to lessen. “I am seeing someone too; back in Australia.” she blurted. “That’s nice” I laughed to myself; assuming it to be a lie. “His name is Shubhrato Roy, my manager.” “Woah!” I exclaimed. “In fact I am on my way to Kolkata to meet his family.” “That’s awesome.” I replied masking excitement. ‘You found someone you could trust your life and happiness with.’ I thought bitterly. “I was not sure about this relationship. But now I think I can handle it.” We both laughed. She gave me a tight hug “Thank you for everything” Her voice melted in my ears. I was enchanted by the spell of that moment. After that little ‘forever’ she started draging herself towards the boarding gate. “Hey Samaira!” I called behind her. “She turned, her eyes were moist. “My Jacket” “Oh” she said and handed me my jacket. I held her hand and I wanted to say ‘Please don’t go’ but I couldn’t break my family’s commitment and Rashmi’s heart we were to get married in a month, she loved me sincerely and we were committed since 2 years now and moreover Samaira had also moved on. I was not sure if she even loved me. Shubrato seemed a better guy for her. “All The Best for your future” was all I could say “Thanks” she replied and as she walked past the gate I watched once again with breaking heart as she slowly faded away.
I wore my jacket which now had her fragrance in it. In few minutes I boarded my flight too. I am a little old school, and don’t fancy technology much, so I opened my book to write the end to my story. As I put my hand in the pocket to get the pen I found the crumbled paper. I straightened it. It was addressed to me.
My Dear Sam
I still remember and cherish our time together. Those were the best days I lived. I had felt your letter through tears. Today, though I accomplished all my dreams; there is a Sam-shaped hollow in my heart, which could not be inhabited by anything. When you proposed me, I was not ready, I had always feared marriage. Mum, dad, and I were very happy; I never saw it coming that they will break up. Dad fell in love with his secretary and moved out of the house. The world came crashing on my mom. They were high school sweethearts and married for 15 years. Still their Love faded. I grew up way before my age. I didn’t want to lose you and I was not ready for marriage. I was too harsh in my reply but knowing you, so stubborn, there was no other way. Recently when Shubhrato (my manager) proposed to me, I told my mom about it she quoted this line from a book “Finding someone you love and who loves you back is a wonderful, wonderful feeling. But finding a true soul mate is an even better feeling. A soul mate is someone who understands you like no other, loves you like no other, will be there for you forever, no matter what. They say that nothing lasts forever, but I am a firm believer in the fact that for some, love lives on even after we're gone.” As she read these words, I thought about you. The last time I hugged someone, really hugged someone was you and your arms never failed to ease the storm in my heart. I thought of contacting you; but the way I treated you last time, I was too afraid of your reaction. I couldn’t have tolerated your abhorrence. No matter how well I portray myself as the ‘Bandit Queen’ there is a highly sensitive girl in me. I know I should have given you fair reasons earlier. I regret that so much. Today when I saw you I was hopeful again, and the warmth of your presence gave me the confidence to write this note. If there is any way I could, I would Love to spend my Life with you.
Tears rolled down as I completed the letter, I could had jumped in frenzy had I got this note few months earlier, but all I could remember now was Edgar Allan Poe
“In the visions of Dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed-
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken hearted.”
I have dreamed of joy departed-
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken hearted.”