Age does not get the better of you all the time. Sometimes, things persist. Sometimes, things you like to stay with forever really cling on to you. And how fateful it is to know that the thing that’s clung on to you, is love?
It is our 50th anniversary today. After 50 years of matrimony, some monotony was to have seeped in. It did not happen in our case. We are still lively.
I wake up early in the morning today. It is still dark outside. The clock says 3:30 am. A good three-four hours until she wakes up.
I get down from my bed and slowly walk towards the other room. In my tip-toe, there is my childish glee. The one you feel when you are doing something to surprise someone. I pull out the huge file that I have treasured all this while. It has dust on it. Has been a long time since I last had a peek into it; some years. Today, I could not resist.
I sit down in the drawing room, the file in front of me. With the eagerness of a child openings gift, I open the file.
It had all the letters the lady sleeping in the next room had written me all this while. 58 years of love and feelings, some anger and a sea of happiness in those pages.
I cannot but remember the first day I met her.
“Bro, she is out of your league!”, Sameer whispered into my ears as my eyes were fixed on her.
I did not know her name then. I’d just seen her for the first time. It was the last semester of college and it seemed I’d finally found out the one I’d live with for the rest of my life. Where was she all this time?
Now as she sat in front of me, in the train, smiling as she chatted along with her friends, I could all but fall in her love deeper and deeper.
They say love at first sight does not last too long. I knew this would.
Her name was Kangna, I find out- a batch senior to me at college.
All of a sudden, all my life began to be concentrated on her. That too, without her knowing about it at all. I did stalk her. On social platforms, on forced trips to her college for random competitions. From which profile picture she put on WhatsApp to which was her most recent status.
I’d watch her as she sat with her friends, at the corridor, on the stairs; how she’d speak on the podium, recite poetry, debate, everywhere. I’d be shy the moment she’d come a tad close to me. My heart seemed to skip a beat the moment she crossed me on the corridors.
She was the thing for me in college. Love had struck me. I was now in flight.
Sadly, she was taken. She had a guy.
Could I give up without a try? No.
We became friends. No, the shyness was still there every time I saw her in front of me. It was Facebook to the rescue.
It was there that we began to talk. We became friends.
Every chat there seemed to have an aura. An aura only she could seem to propagate.
We exchange numbers after a lot of pushing from my side. We moved from chats to calls.
Life seemed good.
Now, we were friends. But that wasn’t all that I wanted. It wasn’t unclear from either of our sides that my affection was more than that of friendship. That my heart wanted more was not a secret.
Then one day, it happened.
She was crying that day. She had a heartbreak. He’d left her. Out of the blue. Suddenly. Without a notice.
It seemed as of her life had come to a standstill.
That night, we were talking. It was one of the few times we’d talked. We always exchanged messages. That day, we needed to talk.
She was saying everything. How they were so perfect until yesterday and today, they weren’t ‘they’ anymore. Everything finished. And she, still did not know how and why?
Somehow I sensed she wanted me to speak up. She wanted someone not only to listen to her but to say something to her as well.
I played the perfect partner for the moment. And it seemed to have an effect on her. She was listening me speak. She seemed happier than before with me that day.
“I love you!”, I finally tell her a month after that day.
“Oh, what? I don’t know what to say… I mean, are you serious?”
“Every word of it. I have loved you since the day I saw you.”
“I never saw this coming.”
“I have only thought of you. Always.”
“I really don’t what to say…”
“You can take your time. You have all the time. I will wait.”
I waited. And I did get my answer.
She’d always considered me a friend, she said. Nothing more.
But was I going to give up?
I tell her that I will wait. I will wait for her to consider me in that place once. For that was now a necessity. Necessary for my peace. My survival.
Now, life has a lot of fun taking away from you what you want. But, many times it gives you things you never dreamt of as well. And it happened that fateful winter night!
“Are you sure?”, I ask Kangana for the nth time.
“Yeah, it is fine. I am okay”, she replies.
Actually, her parents sleep in a different room and the door was locked from inside. It was 1 in the morning and Madame had forgotten to bring her blanket from her parents’ room, so, she was freezing in the winter chill. And she was reluctant not to go and knock the door and ask for the blanket because of two reasons. She did not want to disturb her parents, which I thought was baseless, and two, she was afraid to go through the dark corridors and reach out for the room. Legit?
She was like that that night and I was trying my best to keep her warm by staying some kilometers away.
“Worry not, the night will be over before you blink your eyes!”, I tell her.
“Yeah, right”, she replies.
A few more messages telling her that I am there for her and then she says, “You are always there for me, aren’t you?”
“Always”, I reply.
What she sent next still give me goose bumps.
“I love you, Pragyan!”
And suddenly I fall into a sea of happiness. I drown….
I still ask her, was that message an instant reaction or something she calculated.
She still replies with a smile.
And I love that smile.
All the days of college seemed to pass away in the blink of the eye as we would always be together. Time would fall short to enjoy the company we had. Every day was a good day- each better than the one before.
She started working after college, I still had one more year to go. On her last day of college, she said one thing that I could never forget.
“You may say I am not going to be with you for the next year you are going to spend in college. But search for me once anywhere we’d sat together, and you will see me there…”
I did that a lot, and she was true. The next few years of education passed remembering all the moments together.
The alarm clock is ringing. It is 5 am already. She must not wake up. I am not finished with the story.
I run to the room and somehow stop the alarm from ringing further.
As I walk back to where I was sitting, I turn once to see her. She looks like an angel while asleep. The wrinkles, I find them pretty. Age, for me, can never define love. Love was and will be forever a thing to be felt, not seen.
I cannot stop myself. I put the blanket that’d slipped from over her back onto her.
Blankets have a lot to do in our lives.
We meet regularly after college too. Well, not as regularly as before, but we do.
And it is fun filled every single time.
From moving out of restaurants after checking the menu and finding it too costly to shoplifting onions from the supermarket. From her crying on my shoulder while watching Kundan die for Zoya to me boring her with talks of Walter White all through Breaking Bad. From she getting late and me getting angry, to me getting even more late and she being cool.
Our meetings had some or the other element that made us remember that day.
The first day some stranger called us a couple? That small kid who with a bucket full of coins blurted out, “In the name of sister please spare me a penny! You two will get married!”, at which we both had a hearty laugh.
Well, I did not give the penny that day, but our marriage was nigh impossible.
You can’t stop so much of the want and love, can you?
Our first kid, we named her Antara.
And wasn’t she so happy to have her? She seemed so much like her mother, I must admit; it was love at first sight again.
And this time I did not have to make an effort to make her love me. She was born with a part of me.
What more could I have asked from Kangna?
Years have rolled on.
She did not reply to my first letter. She has replied to everyone ever since. She never thought of me that way, but in all these years, she never missed a chance to make me feel like I am the most special person in this world.
What can I give her today, I think.
And then, I go on to finish the letter.
If there is one truth by which I can stand by for my whole life, it is this: you have given me the perfect life. I cannot but thank you for everything.. From love to children, you have given me all the happiness in this world. I see you today and still the same feeling that brought me to you all those years ago, grip me. Your smile still mesmerises me, you know that.
And I know, we have a lot more years to be together, to love each other.
…..A hand suddenly touches my shoulder from behind. I am taken aback.
“You are up?”
“Yes, have been watching you for a good thirty minutes now”, Kangana says.
“Planning to make me cry today as well, my hubby?”
“Well, I was just…”
I could not complete as her lips did not let me.
And once again, I melted in those arms, in that hug that I proudly call mine..