Have you ever witnessed that moment where swathes of emotion, of lingering love and shimmering longing for years, restrained inside, seem to gush out, without you being able to control it, like a river bursting out from a civilized dam, to wreak havoc in its vicinity, or as poets would see it- to herald the onset of new beginnings? Well, it was none of that.
It’s 2026. So much has changed.
These words hanging on the surface of a brilliant white page in my journal suitably reflected the kind of emotional dilemma I was swaying in. The vast stretches of blankness of the page held a quaint hope, at least that is what I briefly saw in them. Horrible then that the words themselves reminded me of the brutal reality- it’s 2026, a lot of time had been lost, or so I surely thought. Five years and not a lot was spoken between the two of us. That didn’t hinder the human ability to understand the other person’s emotional journey from a distance. To an extent, I wouldn’t be wrong in suggesting we understood each other rather well. As much as our temperaments would allow. A peaceful silence lurked in our bonding; never really bothered the two. Not to say, my patience wasn’t tested. It was at the brink of an explosion at times, and yet, it was her unfazed equanimity in how she attended to the needs of our friendship, which did it for me. I was calmed in the instant, but endlessly restless afterwards. It was understood then that silence was our status quo and the unsure youth in me was too feeble to wage any sort of resistance to it, let alone confront the weight of feelings. Wait.
Are you by any chance imagining me as some sort of old school romantic who’s pining for his girl? Well, I am unapologetic in breaking this to you that your impression of me couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, I am no hardcore lover. I am your quintessential existentialist dreamer; questioning everything, believing anything and everything, and yet nothing. Imagine, if you will, every Ranbir Kapoor character. The coming-of-age is always in ‘about to happen’ mode. However, what goes against the grain, is the series of socially-accepted achievements I have had of late. At the start of my 20s, I was as confused as my writing. You must have noted it by now. In case you haven’t, you have been just caught napping. Hello? Well, yes, I was confused about all things that are made to confuse a 20-year-old- love, career, life, meaning, passion. You know it. As ever, like every confused graduate, I did that seemingly useful three-lettered course from a fancy three-lettered place burning truckloads of premium, incurring many sleepless nights, only to land at a monotonous and stressful way of living, which nevertheless put enough in my pockets to command respect from the society. That’s enough for most people. But not for your RK. He has to have meaning. Seeking meaning in a job is as pointless as searching for humanity’s soul in a world ruled by capitalism. Anyway, I do a few odd things on the side to preserve my sanity and soul. Writing and all that crap. Anyways, amidst all this pathetic chase, I wasn’t sitting a saint. The bountiful life would shower many chances upon me, but I was alert and quick to only take up a couple of them. One was a wholesome relationship except for the fact that it wasn’t after a point and so the two involved called it quits. The other one was painfully short. I would like to believe the fault in both the cases was squarely on me, but as ever, it was somewhere in-between. And all this while, she remained a constant. Not a constant by any stretch of traditional imagination, but somebody who remained a possibility in the hallowed portals of the heightened emotions of the heart. For instance, I wouldn’t think of her every day or for that matter, not even when I was in my lows. It happened in a much more complex way. Like, after a sumptuous meal I would wonder how she would have reacted to this, or how she would make a kitten face if she wanted something or surmising over the possibility of a long drive, the cool wind washing away our lost time. It’s rather terrific that I could keep up with this for all these years without a tinge of weariness. Can you imagine the utter impossibility of this? I understand, and I, therefore, don’t bother to explain this to anybody. Nobody after all wants to be engulfed in a quantum physics kind of world. Linearity and coherence, we all seek, and rightfully so.
It’s 2026. So much has changed.
My eyes hadn’t lifted their gaze off the journal. The day had finally come. Well, writers have the tendency to ameliorate the weight of an event even when the event has none of its own accord. No point in picturing a casual meet as a do-or-die event. After all, we have all seen enough of life to know that it never is as important as it seems. Who hasn’t been trapped with the gruesome thought ‘I couldn’t score well. I am doomed!’? Hardly any time has passed by when we see how the thought is just a suspended figment of our imagination, a potent output of the recency effect. Anyway, we were meeting for dinner. I was in her city and busier lives couldn’t afford any more.
The fog in my head was only growing further, approaching a point where visibility came to a standstill, and hence new thoughts felt discouraged to travel in the low-visibility zones of my head. The business world always believes in understanding the objective of any endeavor. In fact, many life coaches aka modern monks, a euphemism for shitheads, propound that knowing what you want from a situation eases it all for you. God help me then. I didn’t know what to want from the meet.
So much has changed.
I still had my eyes glued at it, and a different feeling passed over me. Had a lot really changed? Or I could still catch up with the evading flashes of time? There was a hidden ray of hope deep down. I decided to go ahead and see for myself the reality of what it actually was, and what was still possible.
You don’t want me to detail the usual. The sartorial descriptions are more like your business cards, phonebooks- rendered ineffective over time. A description of how I reached the decided place would be too bland. I would rather like you to know my mind space, of which I have already profusely written about. Look, I was over the moon looking forward to the prospect of setting my eyes on not only her charming presence but also her fascinating inner world. There’s no ambiguity there. But that didn’t lessen the burden of having to face an eventual outcome. What if it wasn’t what I had thought it would be? What if the world I see in my head actually existed only there? What if the practicality of how the world runs outweighed the sheer fantastic thoughts and hopes I had from the coming moments? Before the windshield of my nervousness inside could be wiped, the car had arrived at its destination.
I was five minutes late. At least something was normal. I was greeted and welcomed. I looked tentatively to my left. At this moment I was aware about her unmistakable presence to my right. But if I had ever learnt a millennial thing, it was this. I called her up. ‘Hey I have reached the place…’. The pretense didn’t last long. “Hey”, I was beckoned by a slender silver of an arm. I walked up to the corner table.
There she was! Attempting the best defense shot I had for the deadly yorker the God of Nervousness bowled at me, I tried to register her. A brief pause. Okay, here we are finally then. Yes.
I had never been subject to a stronger magnetic pull than what I experienced in that moment. No, I am not committing the writer’s exaggeration folly here. Okay, calm down.
She seemed genuinely happy to see me. We had an uncomfortable embrace followed by wide smiles. “So, how are you?”, I asked smiling nervously, which I have been told, could sometimes come across as irresistibly sweet. We took our seats and the conversation gathered momentum.
The first few minutes were spent on trying to catch up with each other’s life events. Look, social media tells it all these days. But, that’s only the shiny, lacquered cover of our lives. The real meat lies in the smaller details, inside the cover. It looked like, at least that is what I liked to believe in the moment, she was single. She had been involved in quite a bit of flings of late. But no life-affirming, soul-rejuvenating love saga. Wonderful. Seeing anybody now? I don’t ask the direct questions.
One aspect that had always caught me by surprise was the effortlessness with which I laughed like a monkey in front of her. That big goofy grin on my face could be seen any moment I was whiling away my hours with her. Have you noticed how at times we have roars of laughter with somebody even in the most serious of moments? That person was her. Her narration of a recent embarrassment at work cracked me up. She shared that she was relieved to find out I was still the exact person she knew. It got me thinking if the same description applied to her as well. I was still not sure.
We ate marvelously, like two boisterous teenagers after a game of cricket. That doesn’t speak about romance, you complain? I know it, you do. Well, pure, unadulterated moments of this kind is the closest two souls can come to, in terms of bonding. I tell you, it’s special. To not have to be very correct and sober, to not have to be a certain way, when for all you want, you can just be the most natural you. That’s special.
I snuggle gleefully in the comfort of knowing very well, some things about some people don’t change at all, like the levity, the lightheartedness Irrfan sir brought to every scene, unfailingly. It’s nice to witness the similarity that we had once so dearly relished. I watched her as she licked her little finger that was smeared with a drip of the curry we were having. A small habit from the past she continued with, and the hopeful dreamer in me commenced singing. Some things are still the same!
Some fine wine, some good food, some warm conversations. We split the bill and ventured out for a walk. It was a little chilly. The onset of winter is a beautiful time, just the right amount of cold and wind. As the wind blew caressing her hair, I was like a flying kite, light, but hooked only by a thread, a slim hope. She spoke about her desire to learn a musical instrument. I told her about a naughty thing that popped up in my head. “Imagine you playing an instrument all nude, and the love of your life watching from a distance, a candle-lit dinner table and fresh lilies between the two of you, wrapped in silence.” She laughed at my wild imagination. She always did. It seemed all too unreal to her. I desperately wished to interrupt her, tell her, how this was a very possible event. But interrupting her would mean applying a pause to her childlike laughter, and I couldn’t risk not enjoying her laughter. So, I chimed in, chortling, in barks.
The marching steps, and the matching silliness, took us ahead. Ever not noticed the passing of time? Be assured, it is then that you’re living the moment. We took a left on the main road, branching into a nice, posh colony. The houses looked majestic and especially like, villas, on further inspection. I have always had a proclivity for sprawling mansions. They represent, to me, some sort of testimony to somebody’s dreams coming true. What other manifestation did my heart need to keep believing in dreams? The girl I was walking with perhaps. Watching the elaborate driveways in spacious lawns, it felt as if we were being warmly welcomed. It felt surreal to encapsulate a richness of such high quality, especially so, in the company of this celestial girl, a galaxy of stars beaming at us overhead.
Escaping my hands playfully, she pointed towards a park we were about to pass by. “Let’s go in?”, she announced. When the princess had made up her mind, my opinion hardly mattered. I found it attractive- the delicious, unbridled authority she exercised over me. The gate was closed, obviously. So, we jumped in after carefully climbing the squat walls fencing the park. “Athletic!”, I exclaimed as she bounced on her feet. “Yes, hero. I am strong”, she retorted. A smile emerged, and lingered languidly, as we playfully, and sometimes, if I may add, warmly, held hands; pushed-pulled each other. She played on the swing. I watched her erupt into the starry night sky, dive down precipitously into me, as I pushed her gently for one more magical round.
We then sat on a bench, talking meaningful and silly. Washed in moonlight, we held hands and in no time, I asked “Would you like to dance with me?”
We melted slowly into a rhythm, tapping foot and exchanging glances and smiles. Soon enough, we were dabbling in uncoordinated body movements, what I would like to call waltz. It felt electric. All the while my body danced, I leaped within. A feeling of euphoria was all over us. As we closed in on the moves, I drew her close. Eyes locked, we stood quiet. The moment was an infinity within itself. I saw something indescribably warm in her eyes that I was sure I was going to search for the rest of my life. A gust of mildly cold wind passed us by, with not even so much as disturbing a strand of hair. So still. She closed her eyes, and slowly placed her hands on mine. It was this darkness that I found the most amount of clarity in. Inching forward, she planted a soft peck, before whisking me away to an unknown place, where I felt harmony with everything in my life. I felt poetry, even though there was no poet there. I felt her without even so much as embracing her.
It was a fragile, beautiful bubble, and before I could utter a word, her phone made a noise. She withdrew, and walked away, talking. It was some Raj. No, I hadn’t heard the name. I was too happy to connect the dots. She joined me back with a concerned look all over her face. I asked if she was okay. She assured me she was. All too fake. I interrogated further. “It’s getting late. I think I should leave.” Well, I didn’t have an answer to that except for offering my chauffeuring service, to which she politely declined. On further insistence, she agreed. We hurried back to my car and left for her place which was a 20-minute drive.
She was typing something in her phone. I have always felt the interior of a car to be a very cozy place. Yes, I can see you nodding. But that night, it felt strangely cold. No, the AC was fine. It was the silence that hung in the air. It augured something dark. I tried to joke. I failed. She mumbled something about routine topics. My mom’s health, her parents etc. I was feeling suffocated. By what? I didn’t know. It took me some time to put two and two together. I confronted her. “Tell me what it is. Will you?”
“Raj. Um, he’s my colleague at work. And we have been together for some time now.”
Okay, we can safely agree it quite came out of the blue. I digested it, or rather tried to, but vomited. It was worse than that. My eyes fixated on the road, I wanted to punch the windshield. I feigned a casual smile and asked the question I shouldn’t have.
“Do you love him?”
Let’s just say, tears stopped short of pouring out. With the tyres screeching in unison, echoing my feelings, we reached her place. A tall, handsome guy was standing coolly at the gate. I wanted to mistake him for the watchman, but deep down, I knew he was much more than that. I stepped outside and the three of us pushed the civilized human side ahead of raw emotions. I shook hands with him. She was smiling radiantly now as if my approval mattered.
A goodbye hug, and I vanished away hiding my face. The rear-view mirror held two people in an embrace, and I suddenly realized it was too cold in the car.
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