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(Hello. As you’ve seen, I’ve been on a chicklit overkill and thought why not attempt writing something on my own. After a lot of ‘should I or shouldn’t I’, I’ve finally decided to post this (five-part) story here. Would really appreciate your honest feedback. Thank you.)

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October in Hyderabad. One of those months that I love. Not too cold, not too hot. Pleasant weather. Gentle breeze. Beautiful flowers. There’s a bit of a romance in there, isn’t it? Romance. Somehow this word never refuses to leave my vocabulary. Even though there are times I voluntarily push it away from my life, it keeps propping about in various forms. Rain. Smiles. Flowers. Breeze. Caterpillars. Everything seems romantic to me. I wonder why I am being such an eternal incorrigible romantic? And end up getting my heart broken.

Meghna made her filter kaapi decoction and added the milk to it. She spooned in some sugar and tried to stir it in. She let out an involuntary smirk. Amma would’ve never approved of this. May be, I should take another cup and froth it like she does. But hey, why hasn’t Amma called today yet? I’ll wait for some more time. She took out her cuppa and sat in the morning sun. Birds were chirping aloud. She looked at the blooming hibiscus. Red. A colour that she adored. She smiled like a child. There is a certain romance to early mornings. Aah.. She winced like she was in pain. Again the R word. She realized that she was thinking of Pranav, subconsciously.

I met Pranav when we were doing our Masters in Literature. I love literature. Romance and books have an inherent connection. Or at least, that’s what I think. If I am not sleeping (which I do very less by the way), I am with my books. Either, writing or reading. But hey, I was talking about Pranav, ain’t I? Not so tall. Well built. Really handsome. Super romantic. But also, very aggressive; and a bit regressive. Even the way he proposed to me was pretty aggressive. Or so I thought later on. Of course, at that time it was way too romantic. ‘You know what, Meghna? We should have at least three kids when we get married. Teek hai?’ I still don’t know if it was his opinion or his command.

I still liked him. You know, he’d bring me a surprise gift (a red rose or a chocolate or something that he knows that I’ll like!) during paper presentations. ‘I thought it will cheer you up and make you do better!’, he’d reason. It would. My jitters would vanish miraculously. I’d stop stammering and fretting about the stage and the people. He’d talk Shelley and Keats while eating roadside pani puri.

Once, as I was busy browsing for something, he called me. ‘Meg.. Can you come down immediately to my PG? I am in a bit of problem.’ I rode as fast as my bike could go to his PG with my heart in my mouth all the time. As the door hesitantly opened, I could see all my friends (and Pranav, of course!) screaming. ‘Surprise!’. It was a real surprise to me ‘cos it was not even my birthday. Later, really later, I realized that I had been awarded by the Harvard for my short story for kids. That evening is one that I can never forget, not until now; not even after my ugly break-up with Pranav. It was the best surprise of my life. Yet.

College ended. Both of us had different plans. I moved to the US to complete my creative writing course. While, Pranav was trying hard for a break in writing books. Pranav was undergoing a tough time selling his work. As publisher after publisher returned his stories, Pranav was frustrated. Already aggressive and now, being practically bankrupt didn’t do much to his already diminished demeanour. Every time I spoke to him, I could sense that our relationship was slipping away from my hands; the distance was not doing much either. I spoke to him every day and ended up arguing with him, everyday. So many days, I’ve cried myself to sleep. The final straw came when I met him during my winter break.

‘God. You look awful, Pranav. It’s like you haven’t slept for days.’
‘I really haven’t, Meghna. I’ve been trying hard at selling my ideas to publishers but no one seems even remotely interested. I really can’t understand why. And..’
‘And?’
‘And, even you are not around here and this long-distance thingy is only adding to my stress.’
‘I get it, Pranav. I really get it. Just bear with me for some more time and I’ll be back with you.’
‘You know what, Meg. Now, that you are here for the next ten days, I think we should..’
‘We should?’
‘You know, don’t take it otherwise. But, I really love you. And, need you. With all that is happening on my career front, I am totally dejected, Meg. I need some reassurance about life. Which only you can give. I was just thinking if we can erm.. you know, get married in the ten days that you’re here and then, you can go back to study.’

I still remember how I felt that minute. I really wanted to laugh because well, he was joking, right! But, with his pleading expressions, I knew he wasn’t. The intensity in his eyes were too much to bear. It felt like there were sparks from those eyes that came down with a vengeance to crush my heart.

‘But how will marriage help, Pranav? It will only worsen you. You know what? May be, you should stop trying too hard with your publishers and do something else for a while. It will relieve you of your stress. Giving it a break and then getting back to it will give you some peace. It will help you prioritize.’ But, of course he would have none of it.
‘So, like those stupid publishers, you are also thinking that I am a good for nothing fellow. Am I right?’ I was almost expecting this kind of a response.
‘It’s not that, Pranav. Why don’t you try to understand what I am saying?’
‘Right. After good for nothing, you are calling me a mentally challenged person who could not even understand what you are saying. This is AWESOME!’ He screamed. The entire restaurant turned to see what was going on.
Tears welled up in my eyes.
‘See Pranav.. This doesn’t seem the right time or place to talk. I’ll leave now. Give me a call when you feel like it. We can talk then.’
‘Right. Because I am a good for nothing fellow who is almost bankrupt and on the verge of becoming a lunatic, you think you can call the shots. So, I need madam’s permission to even talk. Right.’
‘When did I even say that? I was just saying…’
‘YOU JUST DID!’
‘I really didn’t say that, Pranav. Please.’
‘If you didn’t, then, let’s get married now. Else…’
‘Else?’
‘It means you don’t love me.’
‘This is emotional blackmail, Pranav.’ I screamed. I was losing it too.
‘No.. It isn’t’.
‘It is. You don’t even understand the consequences of a marriage in this situation. Do you realize we can’t even support ourselves if we get married now? And, I am half through a course which is as pressurizing as hell. Leave that. Do you remember that it is me who’s been paying your rent for the last two months? That there is a big personal loan looming large over your head. And, you are talking about mar..’

Slap. Before I could finish, there was one fist that hit right across my cheek. It took sometime for me to register what had happened. This is the man who I loved beyond anything in this world. The eyes of the entire restaurant were on us. But, I didn’t care anymore. I took a deep breath and spoke to him. My voice wasn’t loud but my message was clear.

‘I don’t want you in my life anymore. You are not the Pranav I fell in love with. You have changed. You have changed a lot. Thanks for whatever you did for me. Good bye!’ I stomped out of the restaurant. And, out of his life. I keep wondering, till now, if I did the right thing at the restaurant that day. That was almost a year ago. My only justification at that time was that once a relationship gets physical, there’s no place for love in it. But then, three months ago, when I heard that Pranav’s gotten married to a big shot’s daughter, it only reconfirmed my decision. Yet.. Yet.. I still can’t forget the better days that I spent with him. I am still not able to forget him. Why?

The telephone rang shaking Meghna to her senses. She ran to pick it up. ‘Kannamma!’ This one word is what I wait for every morning. It brings with it the love and care only a mother can give.

‘Amma!’

‘Are you okay, Meg? Is there something bothering you?’ How is it that mothers have this foreboding of finding out if something is wrong with their children with just one word uttered? Sheer magic this was.

‘I am okay, Amma. Was just thinking of Pranav!’

‘Aaah.. I thought so. It’s been a year now and you are still thinking about him. You’re having your book-reading today, right? Haven’t you gotten ready yet?’

‘I’ll have to, Amma. In some time. How is Appa and Anna?’

‘They are fine, Kannamma. Another month or so and I should be back from Madrid. I feel helpless sitting here and leaving you there all alone.’

‘Amma.. It is okay. I am fine. There’s nothing to bother about me.’

‘Then, promise me you’ll stop thinking about Pranav and happily carry on with your life.’

‘Hah. I can’t promise I’ll stop thinking about him but I sure will carry on with my life. Happily. Is that a good oath?’

‘It is. Kind of.’ Her mother paused. She thought for a second if she should complete the sentence. Then, she went for it. ‘Always remember, Meghna, that your guy is out there somewhere in this world, getting ready to sweep you off your feet and like you’d finish your stories with, live with you happily together ever after.’

As this conversation between Meghna and her mother was happening, up north in the midst of the sweltering October heat in Chandigarh, there was a loud scream. ‘That’s it!’ With one fist pump and a small secure jump in the air, he put his rifle back in its case.

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