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Reporter: Mr. Verma, one last question. Your previous novels are based on the essence of longing, but in your recent two novels, the characters have assumed a new zest to fight for their love. What caused this transition?
Aakash Verma (sighing): Well, 2 hours on a cold February morning..
2 hours to boarding
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 Bangalore 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 batchmates. 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.
Familiar soothing unrest tickled the pit of my stomach and set my nervous heart aflutter. She still had that pulsating effect on me. I had pictured this moment almost every day since that day. Each time the thought of seeing her again, arose different emotions in me. When I had last seen her, I had hoped I would never see her again. But, since the time I last saw her, every moment I yearned to see that angelic face again. I would think, maybe I would someday bump into her as a happy man with my beautiful wife by my side, or maybe I still being the lovelorn man and she a happily married woman, or maybe after long lost years, our children would meet to live our unfinished tale. Yes, that was the depth of my desperation to savor any last bit of connection!
But, now she was just an arm’s length from me and I didn’t know what to do. Should I say Hi? Should I dodge? Should I bunk the flight, the wedding and go sob at home? Would she want to meet me? Do I want to meet her? Oh who am I fooling! I decided to come to this wedding, hoping to see her. But she is in Delhi? Is she alone? I can’t see anyone with her.
Before, I could take my pick, she spotted me. And like always, she was to write this chapter too, for both of us!
Sometimes I wonder, if my story would have been different, if for that one time, my head was not so overwhelmed by my heart! Am I glad about it?
Her eyes met mine and they assumed the same tinge that had colored those two pearls with the emotional turmoil cascading her heart, when we last saw each other. The memory of that last moment, last hug, those tears rolling down the slant of her cheek, that burning angst creasing my heart! It all sent shivers down my spine.
We stood still gazing at each other and everything else around us blurred for that moment. The two people between us in the queue got agitated and she sidestepped. That she was as flabbergasted as me, gave me a pained relief that at least this was the feeling we were sharing mutually, after all.
“H..umm..Hi Aakash. How are you?” She asked, fidgeting with the loose end of her dupatta, and tongue tied. The mellifluousness of her voice and splendidness of her beauty shaking every living breath inside of me! God, even after all these years!!
“Hi Avantika. I am good”, I somehow managed to string those words. “Umm and umm..how are you?”, I finally managed to ask.
She smiled, “I am also fine”.
Our gazes bore into the hollowness in each other’s eyes, maybe seeking answers to the tsunami of what’s and why’s floundering our minds, when the entire queue had made its way into the airport and the officer urged us to step in.
We made our way to the check in counter, with the uncomfortable silence boring into our souls. It’s so funny! At some point in our lives, we could sit for hours without uttering a single word and yet feel so connected to each other!
Yet again, she took the lead. In the check in queue, I was standing behind her and I could see her glancing sideways in my direction. Finally, she spoke, “Hey, Congratulations on becoming a successful writer! Finally, you made it”
I knew she was genuinely happy for me. And why not, after all it was over umpteen cups of extra sweet coffee that I would bore her endlessly with my aspiration to become a writer and not a banker and she would just keep motivating me, inspiring me to chase my dreams and be at it.
I so much wanted to say Thanks to you, but I settled with a smile and “Thanks”.
1.5 hours to boarding
After we received our boarding passes, I didn’t know if this was the end of it. We both knew we were to board the same flight, but maybe neither of us was sure if either of us wanted to prolong our reunion.
We again stood fumbling with our baggage tags. She was carrying a handbag and a cabin suitcase. While she was trying to put the baggage tag on it, her handbag slipped from her arm. I picked it up and laughingly said “You still can’t multitask, is it?” She looked at me and I realized maybe I shouldn’t have said that, but she started laughing.
This was a private joke we had. You know the sort that couples have! Whenever we used to study together, I would start drawing random nothings on her arm with my finger and that would always tickle and distract her. When I would ask her to focus on her studies, she would make an irritated, cute puppy face and hitting me with her free hand, would say “I can’t multitask like you scholar. Let go of me!”
Gosh! What happened! Why did it happen! That was such a good time!
Anyway that broke the ice and we sat next to each other in the waiting lounge.
“It’s unbelievable Preeti and Rohan are actually getting married”, I felt that was the safest topic to broach.
She animatedly jumped from her seat and with that familiar twinkle in her eyes said, “I know!! I mean who could believe that with all the fights they used to have they will finally end up together”
“Exactly, I was fed up of listening to Rohan sulking over their purported breakup for approx. 25 times”, and we both laughed our hearts out, discussing the love hate relationship of our friends.
1 hour to boarding
I don’t know what prompted me to, maybe the volcano forced down into my heart erupted, and I said “You know I always thought it would be us who would be the first ones from our batch to get marri…”
Just as I was about to finish the sentence, I realized I had touched the topic that we were being cautious enough to not let out from underneath the carpet. But now I had inadvertently brushed the first layer of dust.
Her eyes drooped and she started fidgeting with her hands, something she always does when nervous.
“Forget it. How are your parents?” I tried to change the topic knowing there was no point waking demons of the past. Or was there?
Maybe even she agreed that there was after all a point and didn’t immediately respond to me. She finally spoke “They are fine”
She looked at her watch and then at the flight boarding schedule. “Aakash, listen” she sat straight, still looking at anything but me and fidgeting with her hands.
“Aakash, look I know I hurt yo..” “No you don’t”. I cut her off mid-sentence and she sat there staring at me. I was angry, yes of course I was still mad at her. It’s just that I still loved her enough to not put her at any discomfort, but maybe it was now finally some closure time.
“I don’t? Well, if I don’t, then even you don’t! In fact I am right. It’s not me but you, who actually doesn’t care. All these years, you never bothered to find out where I was, how I was, if I was dead or alive, if was happy or not!” She was furious and then her voice dropped as the tears shone brighter in her eyes, “if I was still waiting to live life”, she sighed. “You blocked me on Facebook, you vanished from any of our batch’s whatsapp groups, you made it a point to not be at any wedding where you assumed I would be present. What the hell! I wasn’t even sure you were coming to this wedding”, she gasped for breath and stared at my shocked face.
Yes, that’s right. I had been very cautious to not let any news about her reach me. Despite how much I wanted to “accidentally bump” into her, I was never prepared to face her, or let’s say I was still waiting to get hold of the emotion that had been eating the insides of me.
She finally regained her composure and then I exploded, “What was I to do then? Sit around and wait for you to announce the news of your motherhood to me, just like you did of your engagement, on the last day of our college?” There, I said it!
My words had stung her and the pain that shot in her eyes made me want to kill myself, but I wasn’t budging now. It was I who was left and who had lived every moment of the past 4 years trapped in the sweet and venomous pangs of the 2 years we were together, the 2 years that have been the best of my life!
“Aakash you know how it was at my place. My parents would have never allowed. Do you think it was easy for me? You just had to forget me. I had to get over you, live with the guilt of breaking your heart and learn to live with another man as his wife”. The water waiting to explode from her eyes was now boiling with the tremor of the pain she must have had to go through.
“But you could have asked them for some more time. Or did you also secretly wanted to get married to Mr. Richie Rich?” I knew I shouldn’t have. My voice might have notched up a bit, because people around us turned to look, or maybe it was Avantika’s reddened face.
“Oh by the way, where’s that filthily rich husband of yours? Out buying some yacht for you?” Yes, I didn’t stop. I was the worst possible man that anyone could ever be at that time.
40 minutes to boarding
“I am divorced.” There was a steely nonchalance when she said that and she got up to leave.
What! How! Damn, so stupid of me. Could I be any more insensitive? I got up and walked to; keep pace with her, “Sorry, I..I didn’t know about that”.
She stopped, turned towards me and said with the eyes of a stung woman, “How would you know! You were so busy pitying yourself on being ‘dumped’ that you forgot any love for the person who was the other half of that relationship!”
“I..I forgot our love? Is that what you mean to say? Have you read any of my novels?” I understand it was my mistake and I so guilty about it but how could she say that!
“Yes, I have read all your novels. And I know all of them are your interpretations of our story. Of how you loved me, you cared for me, you wanted a life with me and I left you! This is what I am to you? Inspiration for your bestsellers to write heart wrenching sob stories? Mr. Aakash Verma, you are a damn good writer, but you still have a long way to go. A writer ought to comprehend emotions of every character in the story. That’s what makes him complete! The least I could expect of you was to understand my pain. And what time were you talking about? Did you for even a moment say that you would take a stand for me in front of my parents? No! It’s very convenient to shift the blame and be the hurt one, but it takes guts and lot of love to take a stand, even if it breaks you from within.”
She was right! Of course!
I sat there in busiest waiting lounge, feeling all alone. I felt as if everyone around was laughing at me. Look at that guy crying over spilled milk for 4 years, when all he had to do was pick up the wiping cloth lying next to him.
I couldn’t imagine what Avantika might have had to go through. These past years, my friends and family had tried to set me up for dates, but I failed to see anyone in search for Avantika. While she had to be a wife to someone! I felt embarrassed at myself now! It was not she, it was me who had left her, all alone, to get pricked by the thorns of our love.
She loved me. Just that she loved her family more. How could someone have space for so much love in their heart!
And she got divorced! How is it even possible that someone couldn’t love my Avi!
12 minutes to boarding
I saw her sitting near the boarding gate. I had to talk to her.
“Avantika listen, please”, she looked away from me. “I umm I am very sorry..for being so self-centered. ” She glanced at me and then turned away immediately.
She kept looking away and I kept hoping she would soften and turn to face me. I would set everything alright this time.
At last, she turned towards me. She was crying.
I held her hands in mine, “So, how are you Avantika?” I asked her again and this time genuinely wanting her to share with me how she was.
My emotions took the better of me and I bent down on my knee and said, “Avi, do you know my novels always have sad endings, because I had stopped believing in happy endings. My happy ending and happy beginning is all you and I don’t want to let go of this chance to re-write our story. After this wedding, can we please go to your parents and request them for their blessings?”
2 minutes past boarding time
It was pretty dramatic, quite unlikely me, but that moment and the euphoria it brought into the rest of my life with my eternal love, was also quite unlike of anything before.
She laughed, then hugged me tight and then we wept 4 years of distance, till the man at boarding gate threatened us to close the gate if we didn’t make our way.
Reporter: Wow! Can we expect to soon read about this magical experience in your novel?
Aakash: Those 2 hours are the basis of anything I write or will ever write!
Part of the Love collection
Published on March 16, 2016
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