This is one of my worst posts I know!
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.
She scanned the airport, clearly looking for somebody. Her searching eyes passed over me. Just passed. She never noticed me. Or maybe she did and had decided to ignore me…I never knew.
A few minutes later, as I leaned back and closed my eyes in the waiting area, aware of her presence within a few yards, memories of the year 2012 pulled me in. The college farewell, the tears, the smiles, the promises floated back to me. But in the midst of them all, I stumbled upon that well avoided part of my mental book of memories which I had dreaded ever since the college farewell.
Well, it wasn’t really a breakup, I reminded myself. I had dumped her cruelly.
An involuntary sigh escaped me as the despair of 2012 started seeping in once again. I had, by now, accepted the fact that I had acted like a self centered, attention seeking, and egoistic pig. And I hadn’t yet apologized for my mistakes, owing to my male pride.
But now, when the only girl for whom my heart had fluttered was sitting yards away from me, a sheer sense of shamefulness engulfed me.
“Samaira, I think this is the right time for us to…to walk towards our own goals”, I had whispered to her in the farewell.
“What do you mean?”
“I think we should move on. I mean, I no longer want this relationship. My life goals are different. And you don’t fit in there!”
And like the perfect pervert I was, I had expected her to fall down on her knees, to beg me to stay, to shed tears for me.
But, like the sensible girl she’d always been, she had turned towards me with the words, “I won’t be able to live without you! The rest is your choice.”
I had walked off, never to return.
But every conscious moment of my life had been spent thinking about her voice, her smell, her talks, her secrets, her habits…about her!
And today, after 4 long years, she was finally right in front of me. She had never operated her facebook, her whatsapp or any other social media application since that fateful year. Yet, here she was, her eyes glued to her smart phone as she kept pushing her bangs off her face.
She hated bangs and had always avoided getting “flicks” during a haircut, I remembered. But times change, and so do people, I thought.
A black clad young fellow entered the area and almost blocked my view of her as he leaned down to whisper something over her shoulder. She shook her head and went back to typing on her phone as the man occupied the seat beside her. An ardent desire to punch him in the face rose in me as he pulled her close and held her by the shoulders while she rested her head on his shoulder.
It struck me harder than an act of blasphemy would strike a priest; harder than the apple struck Newton (whereby he gave whacky formulae to the world); harder than Cabrera’s bat struck the ball, as he leaned down to kiss her. With a frown scrunching up my dark circles to look darker, I watched on as she kissed him back and went back to her phone.
She had moved on. I had not.
The stark reality was harder than what I had imagined. I still loved her, but she didn’t. She had moved on!
They stuck together like Munchkin county Cows throughout the journey. I tried hard not to look, but failed terribly.
Once in Bengaluru and into the hotel I was booked on, I decided to push away thoughts of Samaira and the guy and enjoy the wedding.
We, my batch mates and I, had decided to meet up at Ahana’s place – a resident of Bengaluru itself.
For a minute, amongst hugs and handshakes, I had completely forgotten about Sam. But then, I saw the black clad fellow from the airport there. He was dressed up in a jeans and a shirt and was walking straight towards me.
“Rohan! My brother!” he greeted me. I looked on, completely perplexed, as he took my hands in his. I never knew him…did I?
I looked around for Samaira, but she was nowhere to be seen.
“Rohan? You recognized me right?” he asked, noting my baffled glances.
“Rohan!” he shook me repeatedly by the hand, and amongst the buzz of reunion I did something that I probably shouldn’t have.
I punched him in the face. Right on his nose.
He took a step back. The hall grew silent. Every eye was on me. I looked around at those faces that I had known so well and then at the one standing in front of me. I wanted to apologize but a surge of emotions refrained me from doing so.
I staggered back a step or two, heading for the door. Heading out of the silent mob of stares and accusing glances. My eyes met Riya’s, Samaira’s best friend. They were glowing with rebuke. Why? Just because I had left Samaira for no particular reason? I wanted to yell out that Sam was happy, and that she should mind her own business.
But I walked off silently. Outside the building, a pleasant breeze cooled my brow. Digging my hands into my pant pockets, I walked on aimlessly into the ignominious darkness of an alley.
I couldn’t digest the fact that she didn’t whine for me, that she didn’t try to contact me. Maybe it was my “male ego”, as she used say long ago.
“Rohan!” I heard a distant voice. A woman’s voice. I turned around to find Riya standing at the alleyway entrance.
“Riya? Is that you…?” I asked, mentally wincing at my stupid question.
“No, this is Sam’s ghost reporting!” she yelled back. Lame!
“What do you want?” I fired.
“Your blood!” she retorted. Super lame!
I jogged back to her, unwillingly.
She looked me in the eye, “You punched Yash.”
A look of horror crept up my face as my feet grew cold. It was Yash!
He had been Sam’s neighbor and our batch mate and a good friend of mine for the couple of years he had been in our college. After a student exchange program, we had never met. Moreover, his clean shaved face and the fit built was nowhere near what he used to be years ago.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, “but it’s none of your business.”
The fact that Yash was with Sam was even harder to digest.
“Were you born a defaulter? I wish you wouldn’t have entered our lives in the first place Rohan! Do you have any idea about the amount of hate I currently carry for you!?” she looked at me, apparently expecting an answer.
I felt sick and a deep knot tightened in my stomach.
“You never even turned up at her funeral…” she almost whispered. I was a bit surprised to find tears welling up in her dark eyes.
“Funeral? Whose funeral?” I questioned.
She turned to hide her tears as a male voice replied, “Sam’s funeral.”
Yash stood behind her, a few drops of red staining the region below his nose which had been blood wiped off hastily.
“Sam’s funeral? What are you guys talking about?”
It was probably a mistake because at that very instant Riya turned at around said something under her breath and I was positive that her look alone could kill.
“Rohan…we need to talk”.
5 minutes later, the mild afternoon sun found us sitting in the Home Town Café with three untouched lattes kept on the table before us.
“Ok so I’m going against Riya and telling you something that I guess you need to know,” Yash said, breaking the awkward silence.
“Rohan, you remember the college farewell?” he started.
“Who wouldn’t,” Riya sliced in.
“You remember you went off to Delhi after the farewell, right?” Yash continued.
“Of course he does, you douche bag!” Riya interrupted again.
“You know what Sam did after that?”
I shook my head.
“She boarded a plane to come to you to Delhi. She wanted to see you for the last time,” Riya said, her voice still cold.
“But she never came to me…” I said, slowly.
“She never reached you Rohan,” Yash continued, “Remember the 2012 plane crash near Rohra?”
I shook my head again, my throat going dry.
“Do you live in a wild life sanction or don’t you have TV and a newspaper subscription?” Riya questioned, her tone cold enough to freeze steam into pointed icicles.
“Sam was on that plane,” Yash stated.
“She…did she die?” my voice croaked, my throat was dry and even the slightest effort to talk hurt in my stomach.
“No, not right away,” Riya answered, “She got a back injury. Her spinal cord was adversely affected and she went into abdominal coma for a few weeks. The doctors said that the operation involved could kill her.”
I was silent. The whole world seemed to be silent as Yash continued, “Sam had made friends with a girl in the plane. Her name’s Aanchal. She was with her master as a maid. When the plane crashed, the master died. And Aanchal was kept in the same hospital as Sam. For weeks no one came to take her responsibility. According to Sam, Aanchal was an orphan.”
I nodded again.
“Aanchal’s face was distorted. Completely. Sam knew that she was dying and so she requested her parents to adopt Aanchal as their own daughter,” Yash stopped to take a breath.
“Wait Yash, he ought to know Sam’s word,” turning to me Riya continued, “She said she had no will to stay alive after losing you. She asked Uncle to get Aanchal’s face done up. She wished Aanchal would have HER face. And she gave up her eyes to Aanchal. Aanchal has taken her place now…”
“You mean…the girl I saw you with was Aanchal?” I questioned, cautious not to meet Riya’s stare.
“Yes,” Yash replied.
“Rohan, do even feel a tiny bit of guilt residing in you? Why…why did you leave her in the first place? Were you tired of her? You had used her to the highest level possible and found her useless? Was it the reason?” Riya bombarded me with questions, half of which were lost in a jumble of words within my brain.
I wanted to yell at her to stop. I wanted to tell her how much I had loved Sam, how much I longed for her right then. I opened my mouth but no words came out. I couldn’t make sense of anything for a while
Sam was dead, and this was the hardest of blows I had had this week. Sam died on the way to meet ME.
I’d never see her again. All because of me!
“Can I …meet Anchal?” I whispered.
“No Rohan. You took away Sam from us. This is her second chance to life and we can’t let you spoil that,” Riya hissed before getting up to leave.
“Being a man is ok. But being a beast is not. Pride is ok, Rohan, ego is just not! Grow up man,” Yash said, before leaving.
Grow up…maybe I had to.