Sam had a fair complexion, brown eyes, and a well-defined figure. He lived with his parents in Australia before moving to India for higher education after completing his 12th grade. He stayed with his maternal uncle in Mumbai, and it took him a while to get used to Mumbai’s bustling roads and humid climate.
One day when he went out for a stroll, he was surprised to see the sharing cabs and rickshaws packed. Where only three people could sit in a Rickshaw, there were four. Sometimes even five.
“Why are people in this city always on their toes? Do they get time to breathe peacefully? Do they get enough sleep? Eight hours of sleep,” he wondered.
He enrolled himself in a college close to where his uncle lived. He deliberately chose that college so he could avoid travelling and save time. The first day was pretty good, though he couldn’t meet Shalu, his best friend.
Yes, Shalu is Sam’s childhood friend, and the two of them studied together in Australia through the 12th grade. She has a cleft chin and round face, and the blunt-cut hair suits her. She has a great sense of humour and is also very emotional. She found happiness in small things and often went out of the way to help others. Her skin tone was wheatish, but her features were bright. Shalu shifted to Mumbai with her family a couple of weeks ago for good and joined the same college as Sam.
Shalu and Sam decided to catch up and did so later that evening. Suddenly, it started to rain. They both sprinted to a nearby restaurant to take shelter. Pushing the glass door, they stepped inside. A table was vacant to their left. They sat and placed a coffee order.
Shalu had given a red checkered shirt to Sam on his last birthday, and he was sporting it.
“Mauah!” She sent a flying kiss. You look so good in this shirt. Hot. Adorable!
Sam could not take his eyes off her and kept them fixed on her warily without blinking. She waved her hand across his face and said, “Hey, what happened? Why are you staring at me?”
“Shalu, you are looking so different today. This yellow top and black jeans suit you.” He said and winked at her.
He continued, “I love your eyes. It speaks. Very expressive.”
“Oh, is it? So what do my eyes say? What did you learn” she asked and smiled.
The raindrops drumming against the window stopped leaving the ground drenched, which was far better than the scorching heat. They chose to walk down home instead of taking a bus or auto so that they could spend more time together.
Their college life began. Shalu and Sam became popular soon. Most of them felt they were not just friends but a couple. When Neha, Ravi, and Sachin joined their group, Shalu named the group Hum Paanch’. They were in the mid-term of the academic year when Meeta joined the college. Addition to the group. She had long, silky hair, fair skin, and blue eyes. They were in their final year of high school.
Months passed. Sam fell for Meeta, the blue-eyed girl but never dared to tell her. His heart skipped a beat, and he felt butterflies in his stomach whenever he saw Meeta.
After the last lecture, Sam went to Shalu and said, “Hey bestie, I want to tell you something.”
“Yes, shoot, if there is something important else, don’t irritate me. I am in no good mood.” She said.
Looking straight into her eyes, he said, “I am in loveeee, Shalu, Madly in love. On cloud nine.”
“Shalu’s expression instantly changed, and her mood uplifted. Sunshine flooded her soul.”
“Oh, Sam! Really. Are you serious? Music to my ears” she jumped with joy.
“Yes, I am in love with Meeta.” He said excitedly.
“What? What did you say? Did you say Meeta?” She couldn’t believe her ears.
“Yes. That’s right. You heard it right.” He said aloud and showed her the poem he wrote personally for Meeta.
“Met at the college entrance by chance
You stole my heart at one glance.
My eyes caught your deep blue eyes,
This very first meeting left me mesmerized.
Shining and dazzling like the stars in the sky
I saw paradise in your heavenly deep blue eyes.
Like an avid reader who gets lost in the book,
I got lost in your almond-shaped eyes when you looked.”
“But, but, I am quite nervous. Suggest some ideas. You are good at it. I know.” Sam requested.
“Shalu wore her reading glass, trying to hide her tears. You write poems, Sam? I never knew. Something that I discovered today.” Shalu said, a sob rising in her throat.
“This poem is beautiful. Right from your heart. Meeta is going to love it.” Shalu praised him.
Go ahead and share your feelings. You don’t need any ideas. Just go.” She suggested.
“I knew only you could help me and give me the confidence,” Sam said and hugged her.
“I am going right away to meet, but before that, shall I drop you home?” Asked Sam.
“No. I have some other work in this vicinity. I will manage.” Shalu replied, still trying hard to stop her tears from flowing.
Sam went to meet Meeta. He rang the doorbell, but there was no response. Her phone was also not reachable. When he was about to leave, his phone chimed. Meeta dropped a message in the group that she was on her way to her hometown to meet her sick mom and would be back in a week. Sam felt disappointed and returned home.
When Meeta came the following week, none of them could catch up. Everyone was busy studying for examinations.
Immediately after the exams, Meeta moved back to her hometown. Sam did not get an opportunity to speak to her in person.
Time slipped by like grains of sand. However, none of them looked back because they had made enough memories to take with them when they graduated.
Sam is working for a multinational company based in Mumbai. The company recently opened its branch in Amsterdam and asked him to move there. Sam immediately agreed as he could now stay with his parents. It was his last day in the Mumbai branch.
Sam returned home from work post-midnight, quickly took a shower and hit the bed. He was in deep slumber. The landline suddenly rang, and Sam woke up with a jolt, spraining his neck. He moved the pillow at the back of his head and stretched his hand to pick up the phone.
“Hello,” he said in a low voice.
“Sam, are you still sleeping? It is already 9.00 am, son. Is your flight on time? Did you pack your bag?” asked mom, her voice laced with concern.
“Yes, mom. All done. Shalu helped me pack most of my stuff,” Sam replied.
“Ok. See you soon, Sam,” she said.
“Alright, mom,” Sam replied and quickly got out of bed to get ready.
On the day of his travel, Shalu arrived well before the time with his favourite almond cookies and decided to accompany him to the airport. He felt overwhelmed and hugged her tightly. Tears welled up in his eyes and stained Shalu’s white dress. Shalu also found it arduous to hold back her tears, but she successfully hid her emotions behind her smile and said. “Sam, is that you? I have never seen you so emotional. Never. Not all these years.”
Sam quickly wiped his teary eyes, blew his nose with a handkerchief and smirked. “Ok. Stop making fun of me and hurry up,” He responded, but he loved it when she teased and hit him playfully.
Sam continued, “Mumbai’s traffic is usually congested, time-consuming, particularly during peak hours. So it is ok to reach early rather than late. I have already booked a cab and will reach in the next 10 minutes.”
They rode the elevator down. The taxi was standing by. After parking the luggage in the dicky of the cab, they settled down. According to Google Maps, the trip to the airport was going to take one hour.
“Ok. Did you express your feelings to Meeta?” Shalu inquired.
“No. I will talk later.” Sam answered.
“I am afraid I disagree with you, Sam. You have had feelings for Meeta for the last six months. Now that you are leaving the country, you should have expressed. What is in store for all of us who knows?” expressed Shalu.
“Yes, that’s correct, spot on, you’re dead right. I will speak to her.” Sam said and patted Shalu on her shoulder.
“Ok,” Shalu replied and shrugged her shoulders.
“And if she says no, I will propose to you,” Sam took Shalu’s hands in his tenderly and said with a flirtatious smile.
“You are such a ‘dil fekh man’. Thank God we are not couples.” Shalu retaliated.
They both laughed and hugged one last time before bidding goodbye.
After check-in, Sam started moving toward the security check. He looked back again. His eyes were searching for Shalu, but she had disappeared. He felt a wave of sadness washed over him.
Sam checked the gate number on the boarding pass, followed the signs at the airport and moved in that direction. He reached the lounge and parked his ass on one of the chairs. He rolled his eyes. Passengers were moving. Some were holding the hands of kids, while some were having snacks. Amidst all this, he couldn’t help but think of Meeta.
The airline staff announced that the flight to Amsterdam was running behind schedule and delayed by an hour. To kill time, Sam moved around the airport. His gaze landed on the exquisite crafts/artwork spread all over the airport. He praised the artist’s skills. There was a souvenir shop next to one of the paintings of Lord Buddha. He stopped by to get something for his mom. Sam usually did. (His mom loved to collect souvenirs and paste them on her refrigerator door.) He paid at the counter and rushed back. People had started boarding the flight.
He joined the queue. Soon after boarding the flight, he headed towards his seat, placed his hand baggage in the overhead bin and settled down.
He quickly fished out the mobile from his pocket to message. “I boarded the flight.” He first messaged his mom and then Shalu.
“Ok, Good. See you soon, son.” mom replied
He checked his WhatsApp again. Shalu had not seen his message. The two ticks had not turned blue.
Sam turned the sign to flight mode and slipped his phone into his right trouser pocket. He then quickly buried his head to read the summary of the book he was holding in his hand and found it interesting. He ran his fingers through the leaves of the book. After Reading about 15 odd pages, he placed a bookmark and closed it. He fastened his seat belt and shut his eyes to snap all the connections with the world. But no matter how hard he tried, Meeta’s face came before his eyes, and he smiled. The aroma of the perfume the air hostess was wearing roused him. She was standing there to serve him his meals before moving ahead.
After having meals, he adjusted his seat to catch up on some movies. Soon, the plane screeched to a halt. Sam unlocked his seat belt, gathered his belongings and waited for his turn to get off the flight.
Sam was dealing with the aftermath of a long international flight, jet lag. The next day, being a Sunday, his mom let him sleep and did not wake him up.
He woke up in the afternoon with a jolt and felt shalu was around him. He was not thinking about Shalu but felt her presence. Everywhere, all over the place.
“But why? I love Meeta. Why does Shalu keep coming into my thoughts? Silly me.” he said and tried to shun his thoughts.
It was pretty cool in Australia, even during noons, unlike in India, where it is too humid and tiring. Sam took a hot shower and went downstairs to the kitchen. The kitchen area smelt heavenly with the aroma of Biryani, garnished by his favourite soft music.
He joined his parents for lunch. Over the table, he spoke about Shalu and his work. He wanted to share about Meeta but avoided the subject.
It was more than a month since Sam moved to Australia. Neither Shalu nor he spoke to each other. Sam had stored her number on the speed dial list. He pressed one, and it started ringing. Her phone went into answering mode. “Please leave your message. I will call you back.” He dropped a message. An hour later, she called him back, and he felt rejuvenated hearing her voice. Whenever she spoke to him, he felt good, happier, above the world.
“Hi, sweetheart. Long-time no calls. All ok?” Sam checked on her and said he was missing her.
“Yes. All good. I recently took up a new assignment and am quite busy nowadays.” Shalu responded and quickly switched the subject.
“I hope you called Meeta,” Shalu said.
“Arey no, dear. Not yet.” Sam replied.
What? Why? Why haven’t you yet? She poured questions back to back.
“Look, Sam, though Meeta and I are friends, I cannot talk to her on your behalf. Right?” she continued.
“Yes. You are right. I will surely call this evening.” Sam replied with pauses.
“Ok then, bye. I have something urgent to do. Catch up later.” Shalu said and hung up.
Sam sensed something wrong, not because she hung up abruptly but because he felt a pain in her voice. After all, he knew her well, very well, more than anybody else.
“He was in the middle of his bubble bath water-drenched when his mom knocked on his bathroom door. What is it, mom?” Sam asked.
“Son, there are missed calls from someone named Meeta. I think she wants to talk to you urgently. Call her once you are out.” mom informed Sam and shut his room door behind her.
Oh my God! Is this telepathy or my dream with open eyes? “Shalu, you are truly my lucky charm, best friend, a sweetheart,” Sam said to himself with a smile.
Sam dialled Meeta’s number. “Hey, hi, Meeta. What a wonderful coincidence. I was talking to Shalu about you and was to call you in the evening.” he said excitedly.
“Oh, is it? Ok then, you speak up first.” Meeta expressed and said.
Happiness glowed inside him. He gathered courage and said, “Meeta, promise me you won’t get upset and stop talking to me after hearing what I have to say.”
“Ok. I promise. Now speak up.” Meeta said.
“Meeta, I love you and wish to spend the rest of my life with you.” Will you marry me? Sam proposed with joy.
There was no response from Meeta for a couple of minutes. Before Sam could speak further, he heard a thud. He disconnected the phone and rushed down.
His mom missed the steps and slipped while stepping down the stairs and fell on the floor, breaking her arm. He immediately rushed her to the hospital and waited outside the doctor’s cabin while the doctor treated her.
“Sorry, Meeta. I will call you back. There is an emergency,” Sam dropped a message on WhatsApp. Meeta did not respond.
Sam’s mom was still inside the cabin. So he called Meeta again. She answered his call in a low tone, sounding unhappy, and upset.
“My mom fell down the stairs. I have brought her to the hospital. She is fine now.” Sam said.
Oh, ok. I am sorry, Sam, but I have no feelings for you, and never did I have. I am already engaged and soon going to tie the knot. I called to invite you to my wedding and needed your email ID to send something.” Meeta responded.
“What is it Meeta?” Sam asked, his face instantly clouded with disappointment. Tears welled up in his eyes, slowly touched his cheek and fell off quickly.
“I was in Mumbai for work, and after finishing that, I visited Shalu. I noticed a book on romance on her shelf and borrowed it. When I reached home and opened the book to read, I found a pink colour letter with heart images kept inside the book. It is a love letter.” Meeta said.
A love letter and Shalu? Are you kidding me? No way!” Sam responded
“Common, don’t pretend to be bechara types,” Meeta said with a giggle.
Meeta’s words left him speechless. Under the silence, a million questions popped up. “I always claimed I knew Shalu very well. But do I? Did I ever know her well?” Sam muttered to himself.
“Hello, are you there, Sam?” Meeta asked.
Her voice interrupted his thoughts, and he said, “Y-Yes Meeta”
“Anyway, I am sending that letter to you via email,” Meeta replied and disconnected.
Sam quickly opened his laptop and angled the screen. His mind was tickling, whirring, spinning. The body of the mail was blank. There was an attachment. He clicked on it. It was a handwritten note written by shalu. She had written for him and poured her heart out. He swallowed his Saliva and stood in shock.
He always thought they were just friends and knew Shalu inside out. “Her eyes spoke volumes. Didn’t they? But did I read them carefully?” he pondered.
Anger, sadness, and fear everything were brewing up at the same time. He didn’t know what to do, and between his paused breaths, he felt, “Oh, love is so complicated. It is. It surely is.”
As the leaves of time flew, he was getting more and more restless. He re-read Shalu’s letter again, slowly, carefully. He had an answer to his question of why there was a pain in her voice when she spoke to him a couple of weeks back.
Why did she do that? Why did she never confess? Why? A one-sided conversation was taking place in his mind, and he was in a dilemma. Sam felt undone by his thoughts. “Someone, please help me come out of this labyrinth,” his inner voice screamed.
His mother came to his rescue and said, “Sam, is everything ok? I think you are going through some stress, and if you wish, you can share it with me. I am not only your mom but your friend too. Well, if you think you can deal with this, I will not interfere.”
Sam placed his head on his mother’s lap and wept. He then told her about Shalu’s letter and her feelings for him.
His mom ran her fingers through Sam’s hair and said, “Look, son, a girl, who sacrifices her love for the happiness of others, understands the true meaning of love. Shalu cares for you. You know that, don’t you? It’s up to you to decide now.”
“Yes, mom, I understand. But why am I in denial?” he asked.
“Stay calm. I am sure there will be a clear sky above the calm ocean.” Mom said.
Sam lifted his head, wiped his tears with her sari pallu and thanked her for the suggestion. He now knew what to do.
He quickly dialled Shalu’s number. She picked up immediately as if she was waiting for his call. He took a deep breath and straight came to the point. “Shalu, I know you love me and please don’t even try to hide it anymore,” he said with a sob.
After 30 seconds of deafening silence, Shalu asked, “how did you know the secrets of my heart? The secret that stayed deep in me, none knew.”
With a choked voice, He said, “You left a pink colour letter written for me in one of your books that fell in Meeta’s hands. She forwarded it to me. You only thought about me and my happiness. I am such an idiot. I didn’t even notice that. Please forgive me, Shalu. I am coming to Mumbai soon.”
He took the first available flight to Mumbai. As soon as their eyes met, tears flowed down her face like a river escaping a dam. They hugged each other and cried and laughed. His tangled mind calmed down. It was as if the past and the present were co-existing in one perfect moment.
Sam finally found his Amour, the love of his life, forever. He whispered, “I Love you Shalu. I do. Yours forever and ever.”
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