‘It was your first day in the college. Having heard horrible tales of seniors ragging newbies, you tried your best to lose yourself among the crowd of the students, without coming into the notice of any senior. Do you remember how tense those few minutes were, that you had spent on the ground floor, searching for your name in the list of students and the classrooms!?
As you were rushing through the last few stairs, you collided with another person who was in a hurry to get down. Your bag fell down, the zip split up and all the contents of your bag put up a splendid display for the whole world to see. You hastily started putting everything inside your bag. To your relief, the person with whom you had collided started helping you.
“Thanks!” You said, taking a proper look at the guy. Brown and curious eyes met your own. Do you remember his hair that was longer than most boys and fell across his face in waves? Do you remember watching in silent wonder as he collected all the strands of his hair and tumbled them together into a rough pony-tail?
“First day in college?” You asked him. He nodded.
“Which division you are in?”
The boy simply stared.
“You can’t talk!?” You whispered while the boy shrugged.
“Oh my God! They will roast you alive!” You exclaimed in dismay. When the boy raised his eyebrows in question, you leaned towards him and whispered. “The seniors. They rag new-comers, you know. Make them do uncomfortable stuff. Do you have anyone with you to accompany you to your class?”.
He shook his head.
“Where is your class, by the way?”
He gestured towards the second floor.
You took a brave decision that day. “Tell you what, I will come with you to your class. I don’t want anyone to rag you. Come on.” You got up and the boy followed you.
“I am Sneha. I have opted for Commerce. What is your name?”
He took out a notebook from his bag and showed the first page to you.
“Oh, glad to meet you, Navin. This is my first day too. I was so scared of being ragged! Why can’t seniors be welcoming and warm, instead of ragging newbies so ruthlessly!” You kept up a one-way communication until you both reached the second floor.
“Wait a minute, this is the division for second-year students. May be you got it wrong. Do you want to re-check the list?” You turned towards Navin and saw him smiling mischievously.
“Hey bro… Who is this? A newbie?” You looked around in confusion as a group of boys came out of the class and stood beside Navin who scowled at the boy who had said this.
“She is with me. You won’t trouble her in any way.” Your eyes widened as you heard Navin speak.
“You can speak!?” You asked, wishing your voice didn’t reflect your hurt. After all, you were only being helpful to him while he had been apparently fooling you all the while.
Navin’s gaze softened. “Yeah I can speak. I am sorry, I just thought it was fun when you assumed me to be mute.”
To your dismay, your eyes filled up. “I guess you can take it from here then. It is getting late for my class.” You rushed towards the stairs.
“Please wait!” Navin followed you but you were feeling too hurt to respond to his call. You wiped your eyes and somehow made it to your class. You sat on a bench and saw Navin linger outside, looking at you uncertainly. When he saw a professor approach the class, he left.
The first three of your lectures went well. You even made two new friends and had already forgotten your ordeal of the morning. In fact, after a while, you could look at the funny side of the whole matter and smile. How the incorrigible rascal fooled you! It was good for him that he was so good looking. He probably walked away free from most of the crimes he committed by just smiling at people.
You looked outside the class and gasped. Did you conjure him? The said rascal was approaching the class with some students. He winked at you and marched confidently towards the professor.
“Sir, on behalf of my second-year division, I and my friends would like to welcome all the newcomers. We just wanted to distribute some chocolates to them.” Navin said. The professor smiled at him and gestured him to go ahead. Soon the whole class erupted into a flurry of activity as the seniors gave chocolates to the newcomers and asked them about themselves.
You were hardly surprised when Navin proceeded towards you first. He handed you a Dairy Milk chocolate. You squirmed in your seat, for, the rest of the students were getting considerably smaller sized chocolates. Navin leaned towards you and whispered. “I am sorry.” You took the chocolate and smiled at him. He inhaled sharply and for few seconds, looked at you so intensely that you felt butterflies flutter in your stomach. Then he smiled at you and left the class.
Finally, the bell for the end of the day sounded out. You walked out with your friends, none of whom lived near your home. You were walking by when you heard the sound of a bike beside you. You turned and saw Navin grinning at you.
“I can drop you home. Come.” He gestured towards the back of his bike.
You shook your head. “No thanks. I would rather walk home.”
“Then wait a minute.” Navin said as he got down from his bike. “I will also walk with you if you don’t mind. Where do you stay?”
You looked at him for few seconds. “Actually, I stay far. It would take a walk of about twenty minutes to reach my home. Hope it won’t be a problem for you.”
Navin tossed the keys of his bike to his friend. “Drop the bike at my home.” He told him and started walking beside you.
“What is your favourite past-time?” Navin asked.
“Painting. And yours?”
“Movies, cricket, badminton… basically I like to hang out with my friends.” Navin said.
You came across an ice-cream stall.
“Want to have an ice-cream?” Navin asked. You smiled and gestured towards a building opposite to the stall. “That’s where I live.”
Navin’s jaw dropped. “But you said you live far!” Was that disappointment in his voice?
You smiled slyly. “Consider it payback for the prank you pulled over me.”
Navin shook his head, looking amused. “Will I see you tomorrow then?” He asked, sounding hopeful. You shyly nodded and waved to him as you walked away.
Sometime later, you would realize that Navin had been willing to walk with you for a long while, just to be in your company.
Also, this would turn out to be the first of the many walks that you both would have over the years.’
With trembling hands, she took out the next letter.
‘That day, you stepped out of the college and found yourself caught up in a torrent of heavy rainfall. You started running towards your home when you felt someone grab your arm. You turned around, only to find Navin ushering you under the shed of the bus-stop near your college.
“You will be totally drenched by the time you reach your apartment. Wait here for few minutes; let the rain slow down.” He said as he tussled his shoulder-long hair with his fingers, trying to dry it up. You couldn’t help staring at him. When he caught you in the act, you shyly lowered your eyes and looked around in panic, afraid that your feelings for him would show on your face. Yes, you had fallen head-over-heels for him. His presence made you both nervous and happy. You couldn’t help but smile whenever you thought about him, and you did think, a lot. In just a matter of seven months, he had become the most un-avoidable yet welcome and much-needed presence in your life.
“My mother has given me an ultimatum to cut my hair this weekend or she would cut it herself, she said.” Navin dryly remarked, completely oblivious to the commotion he had just caused in your heart.
“No!” You shouted. When Navin raised his eyebrows, you cleared your throat. “I mean, whatever you wish to…” You got all flustered and tried to hide your face behind a pillar of the bus-stop. It didn’t help when Navin playfully leaned his face towards you from the other side of the pillar and asked in a low voice. “What do you want me to do? I will do whatever you say.”
The moment seemed to be suspended in limbo. Caught in the intensity of the moment, you gently twirled a strand of his hair between your fingers. He stood absolutely still, not even daring to breathe. You murmured, all your attention on his hair. “This is beautiful, please don’t cut it.”
He gulped and whispered. “Okay I won’t.”
A horn sounded somewhere and broke off the intimacy of the moment. You stepped back, unable to face Navin. That rascal, on the other hand, confidently marched towards you. When you finally stopped, he stepped in front of you and lifted your chin with his finger. “Be mine?!” He managed to make it sound both as a question and an assertion, his eyes boring into your own with intensity and longing.
There was no question about it. You shyly nodded, lowering your eyes. He dipped his head towards you and whispered in shock and elation. “For real?” When you nodded again, he let out a whoop of joy and ran out into the rain, his arms spread, his face upwards and a beautiful smile on his face. He closed his eyes and ran his hands over his drenched hair. Then he looked at you as if you were the only person in his life and you wished that you could freeze the moment forever.’
You stretched your hand towards his. “Get inside the bus-stop; you are totally drenched.” With a mischievous grin, he held your hand and came back to the bus stop. Then the rascal shook his hair near your face and showered you with water droplets. You shrieked and then laughed as he kept doing it without letting go of your hand.
That was the first time, the first of the rest of your lives when he would always hold your hand whenever you both were together.’
She started reading the next letter.
‘You had only heard about the empty-nest syndrome. But now that your sons were married and you and Navin had the house to yourselves, you were feeling and living the dreadful syndrome.
That evening, you sat by the window of the kitchen, gazing into the playground of the complex where you now lived. You felt a pair of hands wrap around your waist from behind. You felt the scratch of the stubble that seemed to stay forever on Navin’s cheek. The long hair was still there. He trimmed the same occasionally to maintain its length. But now the pony-tail contained more of silver than black. You still loved it.
“What is my queen thinking?” He whispered in your ears. You still felt the same goosebumps that every touch of him gave you.
“I feel like there is no more work to do. I have been a mother for so many years. Now that the children are settled and made new lives for themselves, I do not know what to do with mine.” You leaned back on his chest.
“Live for yourself now. Do all that you have missed all these years. Infact, tell me what do you want to do now, at this moment.” He said, coming face to face with you and smiling that beautiful smile that always set your heart on fire.
You gave him a mischievous grin. Holding his hand, you put on a song in your mobile. It was his favourite song. You placed your arms on his shoulders while he gently held your waist. You both danced, lost in yourselves and completely oblivious to the world. The lyrics kept playing, you both kept swaying to the music:
We’re only getting older, baby!
And I’ve been thinking about it lately;
Does it ever drive you crazy,
Just how fast the night changes?!
Everything that you have ever dreamed of,
Disappearing when you wake up!
But there’s nothing to be afraid of
Even when the night changes;
It will never change me and you!
In case you are wondering, this song is from a band called One Direction. Navin loved this song and often hummed the lyrics. You teased him, suggesting that he should stick to age-appropriate songs of yesteryears. He would smile haughtily and tell you that his heart hadn’t aged at all.
As you both danced to the song, you realized something. It had been a long while since it was just you and Navin. The thought made you smile. What empty-nest syndrome!? You had your best friend and the love of your life with you. That was more than enough to get by!’
She took another letter, her curiosity getting the better of her. Who was Navin? Who wrote these letters to her?
‘The day will come when you may wonder who wrote these letters to you and why. Here is the answer to your question.
We go through many moments in our life. Some become good memories, some become painful ones. But the memories are always there, a reminder of how we have lived life till now.
Sadly, sometimes, the memories decide to leave. It happened so in your case. One fine day, you woke up in the morning, with no idea of where you were or who you are. Your sons panicked and rushed you to the hospital, where, after some time, you regained your memory. Your sons teased you, saying that this was a cunning ploy for attention. You laughed along with them and returned home where everyone made a big fuss over you. All was well. At least for a while.
In the afternoon, you stepped out of your room. As you passed by your son’s room, you could hear him talking to his sibling. You heard just three words – ‘onset of Alzheimer’s.’ You quietly went back to your room. You reached out to the photo of your late husband, your Navin, forever frozen into the photograph in his sixties. “I cannot forget you, no matter what. I cannot forget the times that we both spent together – right from the first day of college, to working in the same company, getting married, giving birth to our sons, the day when you left me for a better world….” You took a resolution then and there, that before the disease left you as a broken shell of a living being, you would write out these letters to yourself, to be read every morning on waking up. You immediately started writing the letters, remembering as much as you could and freezing Navin’s memory forever in paper.
Why did I use the word ‘you’ in all the letters, when I myself wrote them? Because, I am the one with the memories for now. And by the time I write these letters, I would have become you, the one with whom memories will play hide-n-seek eternally. I dread this, the transition from the ‘I with memories’ to ‘you without memories’. Without my memories, who am I?! If not Navin’s Sneha, who would you be then?
Keep these letters beside you, and on reading them, if you remember something, immediately write it down. Every memory of Navin is precious. He loved you till he took his last breath. You loved him too. You still love him. Do not forget this ever!
Yours in memory,
Sneha carefully folded the letter and kept it inside her medicine box. She sat gazing into the distance, having no idea of who she was or who was Navin. She closed her eyes when a gentle breeze blew over her. For few seconds, a face flashed in the deep recesses of her mind – a boy with brown eyes and long wavy hair. He smiled at her. She gasped. Just for a moment of time, her memory resurfaced. ‘Navin!’ She sobbed, reaching her hand out as if she could hold him to her forever. But then her nurse came inside the room.
‘Madam, do you need anything?’ The nurse asked. Sneha came out of her trance, already trying to remember what she was thinking about.
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