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 her. Same height! 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.
I immediately tried to hide behind the man right in front of me but then hesitantly showed up. I was nervous. It seemed as if I met her almost every day. Not a day had passed when I did not think of her. In seconds my mind flashbacked to the days of our college four years back.
I am Amit. I met Aahana for the first time in Hindu College during our graduation days. The roll numbers in the first year of college were allotted as per the grades in class twelve, and her roll number was two whereas mine was way beyond the thirties. I always pondered as for how could a beautiful girl be intelligent at the same time. My experience from my school days was that all those attractive, beautiful girls usually were the last ones in scores. But Aahana was different. Every boy in the college was trying to impress her. I was not one of them as I was scared that she might know my weaknesses in the subjects especially accountancy. In the class, my eyes were mostly trying to locate her all the time.
One day the college organized a blood donation camp, and most of the students participated including me. My eyes were searching for Aahana as she was missing. I spotted one of her good friends Maanvi and approached her.
‘Not all are present today.’ I said casually expecting her to say something.
‘‘Yes”. Said Maanvi. ‘Even my best friend Aahana has not come.”
‘Oh.’ You know most people are scared to donate blood, she must be one of them.”
‘No’ ‘She is not one of that kind. She isn’t well.”
‘Ha…what an excuse. ‘I said sarcastically and left.
Next morning I saw Aahana missing from the class. I could not concentrate on my subjects.
‘Why hasn’t she recovered yet?’ I thought.”
Aahana came after three days. I was excited and relieved to see her. That day, as I was daydreaming of chatting with her, the lecturer broke the silence by yelling out marks of the accounts subject for one of the class tests.
‘Roll no thirty-six,’ shrieked the teacher Mr. Gopal Sharma Panditji.All the students used to call him Panditji, since he had one small ring of hair over his head and his big fat belly, pulled down towards the ground through massive gravitational force.
‘Yes, Sir.’ I said and stood.
‘You have scored forty out of hundred and lowest in the class. ‘Congratulations.’
‘Sir if you have any other secrets of mine, please tell them also loudly so that others will know.’ I said. The whole class laughed.
I was feeling embarrassed now that what Aahana must be thinking. Fully disgusted as I was about to leave the class, I heard a sweet voice from behind.
‘What happened? Your scores were good in the last test.’
I turned and was about to tumble. There stood Aahana. Classic, simple, beautiful.
‘Oh, Hi…Ah.That’s right…I don’t know what happened, but yes, you are right.’
‘Never Mind, you look like a studious student, but I am sure there must be something that’s taking you away from your studies. You can take help from me if you want.’
‘Ya sure.’ I wanted to agree with everything she said.
‘Can I discuss the topic with you right now if you have time.’ I said without wasting precious moments.
‘‘I am Amit,” I said.
She smiled and said ‘I know…. And I am Aahana.”
‘Oh, Thanks, Aahana. Lovely name.’ I said awkwardly.
That day I spent some time with her. It was an awesome feeling, and my heart was full of music and tunes that played in Bollywood movies, once hero falls in love with the heroine. My dull days of college were over now. From that day I frequently met her on one pretext or other. Our favorite joint was Café Coffee Day just outside the college. All my doubts on accountancy seem cleared. I took her phone number and started sending her, so called useless inspirational quotes on WhatsApp, which later turned to regular chats. I felt a bit of closeness towards her. But I was a bit scared if I had not become a member of FOSLA club. A slang used in college for Frustrated One Sided Lovers Association.
During our farewell party in the third year, I mustered some courage and asked her the usual hard, scary question, which every man would like to ask a woman. ‘Do you love me?’
She just smiled and said ‘‘OMG, at last, you managed to say it.”
I immediately decided that I cannot choose any other life partner other than Aahana and told her wholeheartedly.
But life has its twist and turns. I forgot that theirs always a villain in every love story. And that villain was my own Dad. Everything was good until I broke this news to my parents. The very first question he asked me was about her family of which I had no clue. Second question shot was about her address. I knew she stayed somewhere in Trans Yamuna in Delhi but did not know anything about her exact address. My father had a big house in posh Greater Kailash Colony and owned successful petrochemical business. He was in the habit of measuring everyone on the scale of money. Anyways I knew that these things could convince my Dad, but not me. But still I called Aahana next day, and in the casual chat, I asked her silly questions. It was a bad feeling to know that she lost her father long time back. Her mother taught in a school. She also had a younger brother who studied in seventh grade. I knew my dad would never agree to this family. So I fairly told Aahana about this and assured her that these things least bother me. She did not say anything. I could feel sadness on her face.
We graduated in 2012. I got a job in a multinational and had to shift to Mumbai from Delhi. I was constantly in touch with her on the phone when suddenly she slowed down on my call and messages. I could not assess. I tried contacting her. She would hardly pick up my calls and seemed down.
I was feeling heart broken. So one night I called her and spoke to her unswervingly. To my surprise, she responded in a very unenthusiastic manner. She told me to maintain a distance, and the most shocking news was about her engagement. It was like a lightening hitting me straight on my face. I didn’t know how to respond to this. I tried asking her the reason of engagement without my consent. But she was stern and requested me not to call her ever again.
My parents were already against this and now Aahana. Perhaps females mature faster. Maybe she was of a marriageable age while I had few years to settle down to support a family unless I took over my Dad’s business. Maybe my father was right. I headed straight for the nearest bar and ordered Patiala peg of some cheap whiskey. My tension slowed, and I downed almost five large that day. It bowled me, as I was habitual of taking beer occasionally.
Next day instead of a hangover I woke up fresh. It appeared a new life to me. Maybe it was a life without the thoughts of Aahana. The busy life of Mumbai involved me in my work, and I tried forgetting everything.
Few years passed. I got busy in my job. One day I received a call from one of my old college mates Rajat. He was a good friend from the college group and had cleared his IAS exam. It was a wedding invitation from him and also a college reunion at Bengaluru. I accepted it to have some change in my life. But somewhere my mind was fluctuating. I was probably scared to meet Aahana at the reunion. I thought might be she wasn’t invited. Anyway I was excited about it and took a week off from my office to meet my parents in Delhi before leaving for Bengaluru. I decided to reach Bengaluru four days prior and explore the city. As I was boarding from Delhi Airport, I saw Aahana right in the queue in front of the airline counter. She had seen me by now. I was confused but then went straight to her two places forward in the queue. As usual people in the queue were badly staring at me for breaking the line but I wasn’t bothered.
‘Hi, …she said’ There was silence for few seconds. ‘Are you going to Bengaluru?’
‘Yes… and you?’ I asked.
‘Yes, …she laughed deliberately. But why are you going so early.’
‘Ah…I had some official work in Bengaluru …and what about you? You are also going so early.”
She didn’t say anything.
‘So where have you been for such a long time. No news.’ She asked with her eyes unable to contact mine.
‘No just got busy. You said you were getting engaged, so I didn’t bother you.”
‘Oh…I told you, but I did not.” her smile faded.
‘What!” I could not believe this.
‘We still have one hour to go. Can we have coffee?’ I said.
We both sat in Café coffee day at the Airport. The smell of freshly brewed coffee freshened up our memory of college days. She had the same old gorgeousness. I had to start a conversation. As we were sitting across each other silently, something went in my mind, and I quietly touched her hand. She was shaken for a second but did not move. Tears were out of her eyes. I could feel something happening in last few years.
‘Tell me everything. Everything. I am here to listen to you. Don’t mind even if the flight leaves.’ I said.
‘Ok…I lied to you that I was getting engaged.”
‘And why did you do that.’ I asked somewhat sternly.
‘I hid something from you. You know.’ By this time her eyes were full of tears.
‘I was detected of Colon cancer during that period. I wanted to stay alone and not be a burden on anyone. I knew you loved me. I thought that if I die, you would not be able to bear it. So I decided to move away from your life as early as possible.’
She started crying. I held her hand more firmly and felt hurt from inside. I wanted to absorb all her problems through some miraculous shift via telepathy through her hands.
‘Then what happened?’
‘I was treated at AIIMS hospital. You know my mother was the only working person in the family. Without fathers support, it was difficult for us. We did not know what to do. But one of our old friends helped us at such time. He supported us in and out even financially. Finally, after two years of battling with cancer, I came out of it completely, and doctors gave me a clean chit. I am presently working in a bank in Delhi.’ She said it all and hid her face to control all her cries falling like Niagara Falls. I was shattered to listen to all this. I was feeling cursed by gods of not sharing her distressed time with me. I assured her that no one in this world could ever take her away from me. I was ready to marry her there and then. But she refused.
‘Do you have Rajat’s wedding card with you.’ She asked.
‘‘Yes of course and I put my hand in my handbag and took the card out.”
‘‘Please read it carefully.”
I opened it with a torn face, and there I read it again. It said ‘Rajat weds Aahana.”
I felt like falling from the sofa. Destiny had again played a prank with me. Now it was my turn to cry.
‘Rajat was the one who supported us throughout, and it was due to his help I was able to fight Cancer.’ She said with tight lips.
‘My family has already left for Bengaluru; I was late due to some official work here but going there now. There are four more days to go for the wedding.”
‘Congrats…you go ahead. I don’t have such big heart to attend this wedding or…reunion.’ I said.
But Aahana was bent upon me to attend the wedding. She swore to me that if I didn’t accompany her, she would call off everything. I had to agree and we reached Bengaluru. I bid her goodbye on the airport and told her that I would be there on the wedding day and she can continue with her ceremonies.
My four days in Bengaluru passed like hell. All those visits to swanky malls and city sightseeing seemed dead. Somehow I passed the time like a lost lover.
Finally, the D–Day arrived. I reached at the venue little early in the evening and met Rajat. It was a real warm welcome from him. I enquired about Aahana, but probably she was getting ready for the wedding somewhere. Most of my college mates were already present. As we all grouped on one side, I saw Rajat’s father and few of his family members coming towards us. To my surprise, his father came straight to me and asked me to go with him on one side.
‘You see Amit; we are in a typical situation here. Aahana is a very sweet girl. She was honest enough to discuss everything with Rajat before marriage. Rajat and I could read her mind.’ said Rajat’s Father.
As I did not know what to say, a hand touched my shoulder.
I turned, and it was Rajat.
‘Yes dear…Aahana still loves you.’ said Rajat. ‘And you are the right person for her marriage, not me.”
I was very nervous by now. I didn’t know why I always had dark clouds in my mind. As I stood there dumbfound, there appeared Aahana in front of me. Dressed in her wedding Lehenga, she was crying like a child and looking as beautiful as ever. I moved forward. My batch mates cheered me. It was the happiest moment of my life. I was still in thinking mode that who was the real hero here. Definitely, Not me.