PRESENT DAY, BANGALORE
Vartika had moved to Bangalore a couple of months back. She had joined as an apprentice to a renowned musician and was 'almost' living her dream. She loved music or should I say she adore it. It was her life and to some extent mine too, after I met her after ten years. We went to the same school and lived in the same neighborhood for five years before she moved to Mumbai with her parents. It took just a couple of meetings before she had accepted her feelings towards me. I cannot call myself a charmer, but I think it was being myself that had worked, or should I say that we had a undying romance within ourselves that had withstood the test of time. We were happy and so was everything else around us. Everything seemed perfect or may be she made everything look perfect. Most evening that we spent at my place, she would play Jazz on her saxophone and I would hear her, mesmerized. I felt lucky, to have her by my side. She would appreciate the dinner I would fix for her, no matter how horribly bland it was. In short life would seem shorter and sweeter at the same time.
JULY 2011, DELHI
"Your tears don't fall, they crash around me...", the dark room was filled with the track when the lights were thrown on.
"Rahul, what happened?" mom said as she yanked the ear-phone off my ears.
"Nothing Mom." I said as I tried to put my earphone back.
"Beta, I am your mom, what has happened?"
I stopped for a second and put the ear-phones back into my ear. There is something with moms all around the world, they know when you are actually sad and when you need a reassuring touch. I have completed engineering and had a well paying job, which I was about to join in next 3 days so why was I sad?
DEC 2010, BANGALORE
It was the last day of my internship in Thomson Reuters, Sunidhi has told me that she will be leaving the office early today. I wanted her to stay a little late, I knew this is probably the last time I am seeing her. I was going back to college to complete my studies and I was not sure I will ever come to Bangalore again. I decided to walk her off to the bus stop.
"So this is it, right?" I said, I did not know what else to say.
"Yes, I guess so. Actually you know what, I would have gone by myself... I mean you should meet every one in the team." she replied back.
"I think it will be fine, I drop you to the bus stop."
"As you wish."
I had nothing else to say. A voice inside told me not to let her go. Another told me that she is already gone. I wanted to hold her hand and tell her how I feel. I wanted to look into her eyes and tell her to stop. I looked at her, she was calm as ever. Her eyes were as beautiful as ever and her long hair occasionally crossed her face. I realized we were at the bus stop.
"So will you remember me once I am gone." I asked, Something in my head had screamed 'Talk you stupid! This is the last time you are with her.'
"What do you mean?"
I avoided answering the question, as I knew that she was very clear as to what I meant.
I saw her bus coming from a distance, my heart sunk. I felt that the bus has come a little early, probably it was the agony that reflected in my thoughts. I wanted to say something, but couldn't. I looked at her and I was never more helpless than this.
"My bus is here." she said, her sight still fixed at the bus.
She turns to me and for the first time in the day we were looking right into each others eyes. She wore a beautiful smile, which on any other day would have been sufficient to take all my pain and worries away, but for some reason it wasn't enough today.
"Bye." I said.
She boarded the bus and all I could do was turned around and kept walking before tears rolled down my eyes.
OCT 2010, BANGALORE
"Can I sit here?" I asked, as I tried finding a place in the unusually filled office cafeteria.
"Hmmm." came the reply from the girl who was sitting alone on a table for two and was having a home made lunch.
I saw her, her gazed fixed on her spoon. She looked pretty. I have seen her around the office, a few times and frankly, I had a crush on her. When someone has spent 3 years in a college without girls, quite literally, and two years before that, studying, with his butt on a hot plate, to get into some good college, you can't blame him.
"Hi I am Rahul." I set the fruit bowl down and pulled the chair.
"Hmmm." came another short reply.
"I saw you the other day, in the team meeting, I guess you have joined our team rather recently."
"Yes, I have recently joined, actually just two weeks back."
"Oh, that's great, So how do you like the company."
"Hmmm, lets not talk about it." for the first time she has given me a broad grin.
"Okay, I won't, So you from Bangalore?"
"Yes, look I have a meeting, I have to go, will see you around."
I noticed that she has finished her meal. I saw her lunch box, I was of the shape and size of, if not smaller, than the smallest pencil box I have ever taken to school.
"Oh, you done with your lunch?" I asked, my astonishment was quite evident on my face.
She gave a smile, and packed her lunch box and started to leave.
"Hey, I didn't get your name." I asked innocently. I realized she hasn't told me her name.
"You can do a little better than that" came a subtle reply.
For the first time in past many years I have met a girl who was both beautiful and spontaneous.
"Well Sunidhi, let's meet for a coffee then, some place nice."
Yes, I knew her name as when you have a crush on someone the least you can do is to find her name.
"I don't drink coffee." She winked and there was a notorious smile on her lips
"Neither do I, So let's just meet outside the office."
She walked away with a smile and my heart was racing faster than usual. I was happy as asking a pretty girl for a coffee was something which I have heard people classify as 'the most difficult thing to do', especially for an commoner like me.
We added each other on Gtalk and we use to "ping" each other 'good morning' and for lunch. She was quite reserved, she did not have many friends in office. We usually go for the lunch in the cafeteria and I would get amused at the meagerness of the food she would eat. All this time I became a little confused about my feelings for her, we have become friends and I did not want to ruin it.
"So do you have a boyfriend?" I asked hesitantly.
"No, and me no wants also." Sometime I loved the way she used catch phrases.
"I have something to confess." I wanted to do this for a few days now and I thought this was the right time.
"I have a crush on you since the day we first met." I know this was lame, the moment I finished the sentence. And to my amusement I found her, laughing.
"Why you laughing?"
"Okay, Okay, but you do realize that nothing can happen between us, right?" she said trying to control her laughter.
I did not say anything, but she understood that I was sad.
"I am at least 3 year older than you. I will be married soon. It is not gonna work out between us."
I made an eye contact with her, her eyes demanded a response.
"Hmmm, I understand that, Let's just be friends then, at least I will be close to you."
"You are a nice guy Rahul, you will definitely get someone nice."
I wanted to ask 'then why not you?', but stopped.
"I know." I said and winked.
Even though I have decided to be friends with her, it was killing me from inside. My heart told me that she was the one, my mind would say otherwise. We kept going out for lunch and would meet each other during the coffee break.I tried making things as casual as possible between us and things were going pretty normal. Everyday we would meet for lunch or during the coffee break where, she would tell me that her boss is so nice to her(I so much wished if I had a Shot-gun, I would have put a bullet right through his head, Texas style.) and I would share a few jokes with her, which she would classify as PJ's. I wanted to keep things that way, because I wanted to be with her as much as possible and also she looked amazing when she laughed.
Over the time I grew more and more restless and one day I decided to have the 'talk'.
"My internship will be over next month."
"Oh, Great! It was a six months thing right?" she replied looking up from her lunch box.
"Yes, But what about us?"
"What about us, what? Its not like we are going out or something."
She is right, we aren't going out. then why am I so sad? My mind became more and more confused as I thought about it. I thought how I am being irrational. I though more about it in the silence that persisted.
"We should not come for lunch together." I blurted out.
"Why?" Sometime I get amazed at the calmness with which she approaches situations.
"I am not cool with being friends, with you. I have feelings for you and I don't want to subdue them."
"We have discussed this already and I think, its closed. so can you please stop this?" For the first time I seen her frustrated.
I remained silent and waited for her to finished her lunch.
PRESENT DAY, BANGALORE
It was late, way past the regular office hours. I usually left office late in the evening to avoid the horrible Bangalore traffic. Also Vartika was not in the city. Her Jazz group was travelling to Spain to attend Leeds International Jazz Education Conference. I had no reason to be home early. Also i had decided to finish off the week's work early to keep it easy on the next week.
The phone rang. The name along with the picture of the caller flashed on the screen as did my time in Thomson Reuters flashed before my eyes, as if it was the present going in fast forward, really fast.
I decided not to pick up the phone. Why did I do that? I was in love with this girl once. I had cried for her, I never cried for Vartika. "Was that love?"
The phone rang, only this time the phone seemed to ring longer than usual. I looked at the phone again. It was Sunidhi calling again. I felt compelled to answer the phone. Why does it become obligatory to answer a ringing phone? I picked up. voice on the other side seemed familiar.
"How are you?"
"Hmm Good. Listen, I have something to talk to you."
"Okay? About what?"
"Well I am getting engaged."
"Oh congrats!" I had no idea why I did not feel a thing. There was no sinking feeling in the heart, no lump in the throat that I had before picking up the phone. I had sounded almost ecstatic. I felt free, free from the self-imposed exile that was in for past two year.
"Thanks, I thought it will be awkward, but it was simpler." She seemed relaxed as well.
We shared some more pleasantries before we disconnected.
I sat on my chair, reclining. I closed my eyes. Vartika's smiling face appeared before me. And almost as a reflex action, I picked up the phone and dialed Vartika's hotel phone half way across the globe. She picked up after a ring
"Hey!! Oh this is a surprise!"
"I just wanted to tell you that I love you."
"I know!" I could almost picture her wink.