Another Love story
Disclaimer: This is a true work of fiction and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is just purely coincidental. I mean it this time !
3 hours in bus, 1 AM at night and not once have I dozed off. Not because I didn’t try, but because even sleep has decided to leave me alone today. Her shortest smile used to make me forget the worst dreams, but today her smiling face has dragged me to the graveyard. How ironic, it is the best memories that can hurt the most. Only if I had a delete button that could remove all memories of her.
ZZZZzzzzzzZzzzzzZZZZZZzzz … What is that? I looked at the adjacent seat from where the sound came. It sounded like a lion’s roar, but the snoring man in the next seat didn’t look like one. He continued to snore like an old rusty diesel generator and others in the bus turned towards me as if I was responsible for disturbing their sleep. Hello…., I don’t know him! I wanted to tell them. They continued to stare and I was left with no other option than to wake this “Kumbhakarnan”. His thick curls covered his forehead and most of his face was hidden inside the ungroomed facial hair.
“Excuse me “, I said. No response. I cleared my throat and repeated once again, this time loud enough to wake up the passengers in the next bus. Still no response. Instead, the very next minute he leaned on my shoulder as if he was my girlfriend. Without any hesitation I pinched him hard on his arms. To everyone’s delight the snoring finally stopped. They all went back to sleep and I was back thinking about her.
“15 mins break. If anyone wants to use the toilet, please do it now. Bus will not stop anywhere else”, said the bus driver. The lights were on and the bus had stopped near a roadside hotel. I stepped down for a tea. Cool breeze swept over my already cold body. I could sense her smell in the air, as if she was beside me.
“Boss, cigarette? “, it was the snoring guy. For a minute, I thought he was after me for the pinch I gifted him earlier.
“No, thanks I don’t smoke”, I said.
He-he-he, he gave a weird smile.
“Actually, I saw it popping out of your pant pocket and thought of borrowing one”, he said. He was wearing a loose T-shirt and shorts. Not the regular kind of shorts which can be described ‘decent’. I took the cigarette pack and handed it to him. It was a new pack with just one short of ten. He took two cigarettes and extended his hand to return the pack back to me.
“So you don’t smoke?” he asked. He was giggling again.
“No I don’t. You keep it”, I replied.
He looked pleased and extended his hands once again. This time to shake hands.
“I am Som and you? “.
John, I replied.
“What bad roads, couldn’t sleep at all. On top of it there are bugs. See my arm, some shit has bitten me”, said Som pointing to the spot where I pinched.
“By the way, do you have a lighter, non-smoker? “, Som continued to giggle.
I was getting irritated with this character. But I had a lighter which I gave him.
Som, in the mean time emptied the cigarette dust. Took a small pack and started filling the cigarette roll with it. He lit the end product, took a deep puff. Thick smoke came out of his nose.
“Want to try this non smoker? Top quality grass with zero nicotine. “, said Som.
I was a non smoker till yesterday. My love life has dragged me into such complex situation that I bought a cigarette pack today. I tried to smoke one before getting into this bus. But my lungs rejected it badly. Now, someone is offering me grass. Yes, I want to try. When you are on the verge of dying, what is the harm in trying a bit of grass? I took the half burned cigarette from him and took a deep puff. Once, twice, thrice, until I almost burned my fingers. I looked at Som and giggled. For a change I started liking Som’s giggle.
“So how is it? “, asked Som.
“Don’t know. I am trying for the first time and my head is spinning a bit”, I replied.
“See. This is reality. Your teacher must have taught you that earth spins. To feel it spinning you should try this. Now look at those stars, you can even feel them move.”
I looked at the stars. It was a magnificent sight. When was the last time I looked at the sky, I wondered. It felt like they were joining dots and forming her face. Man, how I miss her.
“Can you see her in the stars? “, I asked Som.
“Yes, I can. I can see her. There she is with her hands wide spread, face tilted towards one side, her brown hair blowing in the wind “
“Brown hair? No, she has black hair. Silkiest hair I have ever felt. “
“Jesus, does not have black hair, she has brown“, Som said.
“What? Jesus? When did Jesus become she? Jesus is he. “, I said
“Whatever, but she has brown hair and not black as you said”.
“I was not talking about Jesus. I am seeing my Neha in the sky. My love. She is the most beautiful girl I have ever met”.
“Hmmm ..interesting, Neha John, inter-cast, no chance of dowry. So, how did she die?” Som asked.
Before I replied, our bus driver started honking. Back in the bus, Som sat beside me. He patted slowly on my back and said: “Sorry mate. Didn’t know you had such a bad love story. How did it happen? “.
“I mean. Who killed Neha?”
“Who told she’s dead ?“.
“Oh, she’s not dead? Then how did you see her among the stars? “
“You won’t understand mate. For that you need to fall in love. “
“Humm, so why are you looking so sad. You are in a bus to Kannur, you are in love with a pretty girl and you look smart and rich.”
I took a few deep breaths and continued. “Life always brings these twists and turns. Some twists break your heart, some make you wealthy and some makes your life meaningless.”
My head was feeling light and I was no were in the present. Time has gone back by 6 months.
The day I joined Info Technologies, Bangalore. I was thrilled to be a part of such a great organization. I was sitting in the lobby waiting for the HR to receive me, when I saw her for the first time. She was in black formals, talking to someone over the phone. I was mesmerized. May be I didn’t breathe for a few seconds. Everything was in slow motion. The way she came with the coffee, the way she sat in the sofa opposite to me and the way she crossed her legs. The next minute, I heard her speaking in Malayalam. It was like the icing on the cake. The realization that this beauty is from my native. But that was it, by then my HR came and I had to leave for the joining formalities. My slow motion had to end.
For even the smallest break I went back to the lobby and sat there. What if she comes to the lobby once more? By the end of the day, the receptionist was giving me weird looks. May be she thought I had a crush on her. The HR mentioned that this was the largest campus in India and close to 30,000 people worked here. The news was supposed to amuse me, but the thought that I may not meet her again crushed all the day dreams I had till then.
Next day 9 AM the office cab came to pick me. I was supposed to reach office only by 10, and 9 AM was too early for the pickup for a 15 minute drive.
“Sir, I can wait for only 5 minutes and not more than that “, told the driver over the phone.
I was in the toilet, reading newspaper. “Only 5 minutes? “, I was shocked. How am I going to take bath, dress up and start in 5 minutes?
”Okay, but please don’t leave without me “, I replied.
In the next 10 minutes, I would have received driver’s call 5 more times and every time I asked for one minute extension.
I was almost done and was busy wearing my shoes when someone banged on my door. Wearing only one shoe and limping on the other leg, I opened the door. For a minute, everything turned into slow motion again. There she was in front of my door, with anger in her eyes, her white face had turned pink or may be red and she shouted, “Are you going to come anytime now? If you don’t come in a minute, this cab will leave without you. “
Those words sounded like sweet melody to me and my mind was singing the Tamil song:
“kangal irandaal un kangal irandaal
ennai katti izhuthai izhuthai podhadhene”
Oh god, how do I thank you. You gave me the job I want, you sowed the seeds of love within me and now you brought her in front of my house the very second day. By then she had already turned back and walked furiously towards the vehicle. In the next 5 seconds I was in the cab beside her.
“Sorry”, yes that was the first thing I told her. Our love story had not even started and I had to say sorry. I felt sorry about that.
She didn’t react. Instead she asked the driver to hurry up.
The driver slammed the accelerator and the vehicle moved in full throttle, as if we were in a James Bond movie chasing the bad guys. Two minutes on the road and I realized I had not taken my mobile.
“Oops!! Sorry, Sorry, we need to go back home to collect my mobile “.
Apparently, out of the four words I spoke to her till now, three happened to be “Sorry”.
“What sir? We already waited fifteen minutes for you and now you are asking me to go back. Madam is late for a meeting”, the driver said.
“Really sorry madam. Today is my second day at office and some of the important information is stored in my phone. I really cannot go to work without it. It is just a matter of 2 more minutes, please”, I begged to her.
With a huge sigh, she asked the driver to go back to my place.
“Thank you. Thanks a lot”, I said for which she just turned her head to the other side.
Five more minutes and I was back in the cab and we were going in full speed to the office.
She was wearing a sleeveless dress and there was a beautiful tattoo of a butterfly that was visible on her arms.
“Nice tattoo “, I said.
“Will you just shut up. I am going to miss an important meeting today all because of you”
I wanted to tell “Sorry” once more. But then I reserved it for the next time. Come on, the cab came early, the pressure from the driver and the shocking entry of this little angry but cute butterfly pulled me into a state of absent mindedness, which according to me was quite human.
Next minute I heard her talk in Malayalam to someone over the phone.
“Send me his number. I will drop him a message that I am going to be late for the meeting. “, she said.
After a gap she continued. “All because of a stupid guy in the cab. Will tell the details later “.
“Stupid guy”, that was my first title. Obviously she didn’t know I was a Mallu. Anyways I liked the way she said that.
I didn’t have the courage to talk to her again but that didn’t restrict me from watching her. Pretending to look outside, I looked at her reflection in the tinted window. The chill, the silence, the mild smell of her perfume, felt like nature, just after a heavy rain and her reflection was the rainbow.
The 15 minute drive actually took more than 50 minutes. Thanks to the Bangalore traffic. Even if it had taken a year, I wouldn’t have complained, after all she was just a few inches away.
“Boss, let me guess what happened next”, interrupted Som.
It brought me back from the dream world to reality. I didn’t even realize that I was telling my story to a stranger beside me.
“Neha’s meeting was actually scheduled with you. Right?” said Som.
‘No, I was not that lucky”, I replied.
“We both were in different projects and worked from different buildings. But she was my cab mate. Morning 9 to 10 and evening 8 to 9 became the best part of the day. I used to spend hours before the mirror, adorn the best dress and be ready at least 10 mins before the cab came. All to redraw my lost image. It didn’t take long before we started talking. Being a mallu also helped. “
Then one day, I was doing my usual time pass of watching her reflection in the window, when she said, “I understood your problem “.
“What problem?” I got a little embarrassed.
“Are you really looking outside? Or watching me through that reflection?” she asked.
The question was blunt. I felt as if I was naked in front of a huge crowd. Not knowing where to hide. My brain was looking for a lie but my heart didn’t give a second thought and I replied: “Watching you!”
There was a bit of silence after that. She didn’t say anything. May be she smiled, but I don’t know because I didn’t had the courage to look towards her.
After a few more minutes, I turned towards her. She was looking outside. Or may be she was looking at me through the reflection. My brain was slow again and I was thinking of something to break the silence, to cover up everything, to hide the embarrassment. But my heart started again: “Beautiful fingers”
This time she couldn’t control. Through the reflection I saw her smile. She turned towards me with a straight face and said, “How about this ring?’.
May be I never noticed that ring till that point. Or maybe I purposely ignored that ring from the start. I still curse that moment, when she said that she was engaged to an NRI and their marriage was fixed after 6 months. I didn’t want to show my disappointment and said, “So what? With or without the ring, it does not matter. It is a pleasure to escort this beauty everyday and I feel privileged.”
This time she blushed. I could see her cheeks turning red.
I extended my arm to shake hands and asked. “Friends?”
There was a pause. May be she was not sure what to do. And then she extended her warm hands to me. It felt like a hundred bells ringing together and flowers falling from sky to bless this auspicious moment. I was overjoyed. The fact that she was going to be someone else’s wife didn’t bother me a bit.
Som: Good scene. A beautiful girl all set to be an NRI’s wife. In one way, you were getting into a time pass relationship with no commitments.
Me: Time pass? Never. You know Som, I have this beautiful relationship with God. First of all, I do not trouble him much with a long wish list. But whenever I desire for something deeply from my heart, he helps me get it somehow. Even in Neha’s case I was confident that our NRI fellow had nothing to do with her life and that ring in her fingers was just a piece of yellow metal.
Som: Funny, you have such good faith in God and looking at your present condition, I doubt if everything went well.
Me: I won’t blame him for it. If I am a looser in the end, it is all because of my actions.
Som: No, don’t spoil the climax. What happened after that?
From just friends we became good friends. We talked a lot, shared all the beautiful memories about our past, the dreams about the future. She was the pet of her parents. The wedding proposal came through a family friend. NRI, super rich, smart looking, in a way this wedding was tailor made, the way she dreamed. She always wanted to settle abroad.
“So John, how come you don’t have a girl friend?” she questioned one day.
“Who said I don’t?”
“What!! You have a girlfriend and you never told me? Tell me, who is the lucky girl?”
“Sorry, I won’t tell her name. I’ll spit and show. Shall I?” I said giving a wicked smile.
“Rascal, I am your friend, not girlfriend”, she replied smiling.
“Who said, it is you?”
“Who else is there in this cab that you can spit on? The driver?”
“Yaa, the driver. One more secret you didn’t know. I am a gay”
“That I very well made out the way you used to watch me through that reflection “
“Haa, what to do. All girls prefer NRI’s, what will an average Indian boy like me do?”
“Don’t worry da. I will find someone for you. Soon”
That was the time I bought a new Enfield. Neha was super excited. She came with me to the showroom to receive the bike.
“Dai, deadly selection yaar. Promise me you are going to teach me drive this”, she said.
“You really don’t want to get hurt before the wedding.”
“Why will I get hurt when my escort is here to protect me?”
I thought Enfield was a man’s bike. But when I left the showroom, I was in the back seat and it was Neha who rode the bike. To my amaze she drove it like a master. I didn’t know till then that her dad had a bullet and she has been driving it from her teens. Sitting at the back, with her silky hair blowing on my face, the evening breeze giving me chills, for a moment I felt desperate to hug her, to feel her warmth. But deep down inside my heart I was afraid, what if she didn’t like it. I couldn’t even take the thought of loosing her company. I was so madly in love with this butterfly who was all set to marry a stranger. For the first time, the realization that she will not be mine, hurt me badly. I felt as if the dark clouds had covered the clear blue sky. What chance does a Christian guy have to marry a Hindu girl who is already engaged, who loved her parents more than herself that she won’t take the smallest of the step against them.
Bike brought us even closer, we stopped taking cab. Morning, she drove the beast and evening me. And then one evening, when it was just a month away from her wedding date, something bad happened or was it something good. I was waiting in the parking lot eagerly to see her run towards me with a big smile. But today was different. I could see tears in her eyes.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Nothing, take the bike “, she said.
There was something totally wrong with her. She was not in her usual witty mood. For few minutes she didn’t talk at all. And then, while crossing a pub she said: “Stop the bike”.
“Why? Why do you want to stop here?”
I stopped the bike. Even before I could turn, she was off the bike, walking towards the pub.
“Hey, Neha. What happened?”
I left the bike and ran towards her. This pub was our usual office party place and I used to come here every month. I have never seen Neha drink. Inside the pub, being a weekday the place was almost empty. Neha ordered beer for both of us and then she broke down.
“John, I don’t want this wedding”, she hugged me and cried like a small kid.
What should I feel? How should I react? She was hurt, very badly and I was the only one to support her.
“I had a visitor today. A girl from Mumbai. She was the ex-secretary of my would-be. They were in a physical relationship for the past 6 months. She was fired from the company when she questioned him about our wedding. “, said Neha.
“Did she show you any proof?”
“Many. But I don’t have them as she didn’t want to share those compromising pictures and clips“; she wiped her tears and took the glass of beer. She had it as fast as she can. I didn’t object.
“John, he never used to call me. May be once in a week and then talk about how busy his week was. I never had any emotional connect with him and I am not crying because this wedding will be called off, I am not crying because I have to face a bunch of people who will try to sympathize over this. It is my parents, when I said this to them, they didn’t believe me. They think I am in love with you and I am making stories to break this wedding. They don’t believe me John. “, her head was on my shoulder.
I couldn’t hide my tears. I couldn’t see her weep like this. I loved this girl more than anything in this world. I kissed her forehead and said: “Don’t worry I will talk to your parents. I will convince them that I am just your friend and we have nothing between us.”
I used both my hands to cover my face. Because I was weeping like a coward and I didn’t want her to realize.
Her phone was ringing and it was her dad. I answered the phone. It was the first time I was talking to him. We spoke a lot; I convinced him that there was nothing between us.
“You should be proud to have such a loving daughter. Thank god, we got to know this before the wedding. Don’t worry about her, I will take care. She may weep for the next two days which is fine; at least she won’t have to weep her entire life.”
Som: “Are you okay?”
Me: “Didn’t I tell you about this connection I have with God. He gave me a chance. An opportunity to get her into my life. But I screwed it big time. I convinced her dad that I had nothing towards her. The next day I got a note from her, “love you teddy bear. Hugs and kisses.”
Som: “Doest that mean she loved you?”
Me: “”May be? May be not. The wedding was called off and Neha was very happy. But in a weeks time her parents fixed the wedding with someone else. Someone whom they knew very well. Not an NRI this time and the wedding is happening tomorrow. ”
Som, giggled. He couldn’t stop. He found my story funny.
“Don’t tell me you are going for her wedding”, he said.
Me: I thought of suicide. But if I die, she won’t be able to live. She knew I loved her a lot. Even I know she loved me equally. If I had forced her, maybe she would have come with me. But society, just like her parents, no one would have believed the truth about the other bastard. Instead, they would all blame Neha for calling off the wedding and our NRI pal would become the innocent boy in our story.
Som: You think she will live happily without you?
Me: I don’t know. What I know is that time is a bloody healer. It will heal the entire wound, the entire pain. I want to see her one last time in those wedding clothes. That is why I took this bus. After that I want to vanish from her life. Somewhere far. Not sure if I will be able to. May be my friend God will help me with this desire too.
I had just finished my sentence when I heard a loud noise. Our driver jammed the breaks hard and I was thrown to the front. It took few minutes to realize what was happening. There was a lot of chaos. Our bus was facing an accident scene. A large gas tanker was on the road, upside down. People were running. Some shouted.
“GAS IS LEAKING. IT WILL EXPLODE ANY MOMENT. RUN “.
I looked for Som. I didn’t see him. I started running. I too shouted, “RUN, THIS WILL EXPLODE ANY TIME. RUN FOR YOR LIFE”.
Outside the bus, I could see only trees on both sides of the road. We were in some remote place. I ran through the trees. Gas from the tanker was chocking me and I was running out of breath. I had only one aim, to get as far as possible from the gas tanker. At that moment, nothing else mattered, no society, no pride, I suddenly had the desire to live, to live once again. After running a few miles, I could see a huge wall before me. It looked like a bungalow in middle of some estate. I could hear a dog barking madly. If I climb this wall and get to the other side, may be I will escape the fire. As if for me, there was a ladder against the wall. I climbed the ladder in haste and when I was just on top, I heard a huge explosion and I fell to the other side of the huge wall.
Not sure for how long I was unconscious. When I woke up, I was in a huge cage. Next to me was a dead dog. May be this dog died chocking due to the thick smoke from the explosion, or may be the dog died because I fell on top of him. My phone was missing. The fact was I was in a huge dog cage which was locked from outside. I shouted, cried for help. But no one answered. There was food inside the cage. Good food, may be it was kept for the dog. I had it and drank the water in the pan.
10 YEARS LATER
I am still in the cage. Not sure, if I survived the explosion that day. It is possible that this is my after life. May be this is hell. But I am still not sure. The only human I get to see is an old lady, who thinks I am her dog. I tried to make her understand that the dog is dead. But she never replies, I have never heard her talk. I get to see her only when she comes with the food. I have grown weak, I still think about Neha and the last sentence I said to Som, “I want to vanish from her life. Somewhere far. Not sure if I will be able to. May be my friend God will help me with this desire too.”
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Controversial Climax : I got many feedback about the ending being confusing. I will leave it to the reader’s discretion. Some believe he died and was reborn as a dog, but memories about Neha lived forever and he didnt want to accept the reality. Some believe, God fulfilled his last desire, he was held captive in a lonely place were only a mentally retarded women lived with her dog. The dog died, but the women considered him as her lost dog. The fact is consciously John can never leave Neha.
Also check my new blog : www.shineingindia.com
Also check my new blog : www.shineingindia.com