The Lost Love

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THE LAST DAY

It was dark outside. I could see only the dim lights in the makeshift houses lined along the railway tracks. I looked at my phone; the notification light was continuously blinking because the phone battery was down. Cold breeze flew in through the windows as the train ran past the stations. I was not in a hurry; I wished that the train kept running and never stopped. I wished the night would never end, just as I wished that we shouldn’t have broke up.

I was going back home after the college farewell. It was the last day in more than a way for me and I was filled with distress and anguish. I wanted to talk to her. Stations passed, people got down and the train stopped too but I did not want to go anywhere. I sat there numb and looked at my phone; the phone that she had gifted me. It was still blinking. It pleaded me to charge; it pleaded me to call her. I finally decided to call her once again.  I pressed the unlock button.

“The train will leave for the carshed, young man. Get out of here...  Go home, it’s late,” said the police hawaldaar who entered the train and thumped his stick twice on the floor to disrupt into my thoughts.

He did not wait till I looked up. I looked around to see if there was any place to sit on the platform. The police hawaldaar saw me again and gestured me to the way out of the station. I pressed the unlock button again as I went out of the station. My phone beeped. It was Mom.


THAT DAY

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 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.

She was wearing blue jeans and a grey top with a cross bag. Eyes covered with huge glasses that touched her cheeks as she talked to the attendant. Her hair was carelessly folded into a knot which was on the verge of falling out. She was holding the phone in her mouth and probably searching for the ID in her cross bag. She looked even more beautiful than the college days. Her luggage appeared almost her weight. How did she carry that beast up to here!

The queue reminded me of the days when we would wait for the bus at the bus stop. We would talk sense and non sense for hours without realizing how time flew away and the buses passed away. Time also flew these four years and I didn’t even realize until this day that the last day was four years ago.

I overheard her blocking the window seat number 8A. I gave a thought on blocking 8B but that would have been very awkward for both of us. And it was my first flight; who would want to miss the window on the first flight? I blocked 12A.


THE FIRST DAY

Our first meeting was an accident or it can be called as a lesson in value education – Punctuality. Our second semester exams were over and we were awaiting the results.  Our group decided to go out on an excursion. Aditi was also in my class but the girls had different groups and different plans. The only interaction between girls and boys during the class would be of lover couples gesturing each to bunk the next class; our plans would be top secret. Aditi and I never had an interaction longer than a “Hi!”

It was early morning on a Saturday. We had to get up even before the Sun would and be there at the Dadar Terminus. The hostel rates in Byculla near our college were too high so I found a PG facility 4 kilometers away from Dadar railway station. All my other friends would come over from Byculla which is about 10 minutes from Dadar by train.

I knew I was late. I still don’t remember switching off the alarm and sleeping again. I woke up an hour late. When I reached, the train had already started leaving the station. I ran with all my vigour, with a hope that if the train stopped, I would jump in.

I was not the only one running after the train; even Aditi was running after the same train. She was having an even more tough time running with her many and heavy belongings. We were both running completely aware that we had missed the train. By the time the train entirely left the platform, we were gasping for breath with both our hands over the knees. She was looking beautiful in her full length black skirt and a polka top.

“Goa?” I asked after gathering some breath.

“Yes,” she replied, still gasping.

“So how did the girls know about our Goa plan?” I asked curiously after gulping down some water.

“It was Varun who told Sneha about your trip.” Aditi took long pauses between each sentence to gather all the oxygen that she could. ”Sneha convinced us because she wanted to go out with him.”

We enquired outside the station and got to know that there were buses from the Dadar Bus Depot. We rushed to the depot and booked two seats to Goa. The bus would be slower than the train and would reach Goa by late night. We would be late to catch up with our respective groups but it was our fault.

“Are all these bags yours or are we expecting someone else?” I asked her in a teasing tone.

Aditi pinched me hard on my arm and the conversations started. We never joined back with our groups in Goa and we never stopped pulling each other’s legs until the night of the farewell.


THAT NIGHT

The college campus was all set up to host the farewell of its five hundred students who would officially be engineers after a couple of months. Dinner was set and the teachers had started munching. Announcements started, urging the students to rush to the dinner counters. Aditi was one of the few students who were dancing from the moment they entered the campus; she was in no mood to stop.

“Aditi, let’s go and eat... it’s getting late.” I shouted as loud as I could have, but Aditi couldn’t hear it.

Even Aditi was from Delhi and after the first year we found out a place for her too in Dadar. We had to reach Byculla station before the last train would leave; we had an hour in hand. I also had some good news for her. I gestured Aditi to wait backstage. I took more food than I could eat so that Aditi could eat some.

“Now tell me.” Aditi crossed her arms and brought her ears close to me. “What is the good news?” she whispered and picked up a paneer tikka from the plate.

“I am going to the US, Aditi...”—I held her shoulders and bought her closer to me —“...to do my masters.”

“Are you serious— I mean, are you telling this to me now?”

“This was the surprise, Aditi, aren’t... you happy?”

“How can you just leave Rishab? You know long distance never works.”

“We will make it work Aditi. We both believe in each other don’t we?”

“How should I believe you? You take important decisions— and, you are telling me now—”

“Because this... was the surprise. I... I thought you‘d be happy.”

“How can I be happy when the person whom I love is leaving? You broke my heart... Rishab, you can’t do this.”

“What’s wrong with you Aditi? It’s just a matter of some years. Everything will be fine then.”

“You will never come back Rishab. No one comes back. You have to choose between your dollars and me, Rishab.”

“Don’t... do this to me Aditi.” I muttered to myself as Aditi went away putting down the paneer tikka which she had picked up to eat. My plate was full of food. We hadn’t eaten anything. She was hurt. But I couldn’t have missed a golden chance to study in the US. I searched for Aditi but I couldn’t find her. Sneha told me that she just took a cab and left. My phone beeped. I hurriedly took my phone out of my pocket, thinking it would be Aditi; it was the low battery alert – 10%. I was stunned by the metaphor that phone showed the juice left in the battery or in our relationship.  I called Aditi.

“Pick up! Pick up Aditi. I want to talk to you.” The phone kept ringing forever, but Aditi didn’t pick up.

All that our three year relationship boasted of was the belief that we had in each other and today Aditi did not trust me. She left me alone. We have had quarrels – a many of them but today I was scared. I had lost something valuable. I was feeling empty. Aditi was my strength and today, I was helpless, hopeless and powerless.

“Come back Aditi. Please.”


REUNION

“Delicious!”

Paneer Tikka has always been my favourite.  I had taken more than I could eat. The cuisine was so exhaustive that anybody would have been spoilt for choice. The dining hall was full of lights. The walls were all glass which made it look larger than the original size. I had met a few friends, but not many from my group had turned up. The close knots tied in the college did not continue really well after those four years.

 I was engrossed in picking up my third gulab jamun when someone patted on my back.  I did not turn around till I safely escorted the sweet to my plate.

I was confused whether I should smile or be stern. I wasn’t prepared for this. I had thought, I would be the one to approach first, but it was Aditi.  Time flied back four years and all those memories, laughs, fights and the break up exploded up like a volcano inside me but I remained calm on the outside. I smiled and offered her food. She took a piece of paneer tikka, dipped it in the green chutney and took a bite.

“If only you had eaten that piece on the farewell too, Aditi,” I thought to myself.

 I still repented that breakup because the time we had spent together was unforgettable and the way in which we broke up was appalling. We chatted on how good the food was, how beautiful the bride was and how Bengaluru is not as cold as Delhi. We took long awkward pauses before we could think of a new topic to talk on.

“I never found anyone who is so loving and caring. Let us give our relationship, a second chance.” Aditi broke the ice and took the topic that we both avoided for a little while.

“I never searched for anyone else, Aditi. For me, it was always you but you left me when I needed you the most. I still didn’t understand why you didn’t trust me.”

“Rishab, I knew you would go to the US for sure...it was your dream. I wanted to secure our relationship. I was scared that you wouldn’t return.”

“How could you not be sure about... about me, Aditi?”

“I did what I felt right at that moment. That is past. You have returned back and we have met again. Don’t you think, we should live back those moments once again?”

“I did not go to the US, Aditi... That night, each and every minute of time went against me. After leaving college, Mom called me. Dad had a heart attack and his health was extremely critical. I left for Delhi next morning by the first train but till the time I reached... he was no more.  I couldn’t have left Mom alone so I decided to skip the US. I tried again but it never worked.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Aditi was shocked.

“I called you a dozen times that night, but you never picked up. You never called back. The innocence in our love had grown up into a selfish beast and I had failed to recognize that... It’s better to leave it alone for our own good. What if we had never met again? How can you even think of asking about a second chance?  I am sorry... Aditi... but this time... I do not trust you.” 

My phone beeped and vibrated hard.  It made a very loud noise because I had kept it on the table; it wasn’t a call. The battery had completely drained out and the phone switched off.

The above short story was my submission for the TOI Write India Contest - Month of January.

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