In the end, life is all about the journey we take; we look back at our past to see how we have been shaped by it, as we always remain dreamers of a better tomorrow.” Anirban Bhattacharyya *** “Hello there, strangers! This is 101.1 Geet FM, and you are listening to your host and dost Kalki. We are fast approaching midnight and with it, we will welcome a whole new year full of a whole new era of possibilities!  “On today’s segment of Dil Ki Baat, we have a listener who wants to reach out to her long-lost love! Hi, Meera, how are you doing?”  “Hi Kalki, I am okay. Thank you for bringing me ON AIR. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this.”  “Hey, this is what I am here for. And if I can help in relaying your words to that special someone out there, my job is done! By the way, who do you want to send this message to?”  “Oh, you must think I am being foolish beyond belief, but this message is for a boy I used to know when we were in school. He… He was the first boy I fell in love with.”  “Wow! That’s so amazing, yar. And how long have you known him? Do you think he’s listening tonight?” “It’s been decades, really. We lost touch after school and our paths never really crossed after that. I don’t know if he’s listening, to be honest. Guess that makes me sound really stupid. But I need to say this. I need to get in touch with him and I don’t know how else. You will record this, right?”  “Oh, yes, we record every episode.”  “Oh, okay then. Erm… shall I… shall I start?”  “Yes, yes, Meera, please go ahead!” “Okay… okay… erm… yes (clears throat). Hi Madhav, it’s me, Meera. I hope you are doing well. Well, this must seem totally out of the blue, right? I… I tried getting in touch with a couple of people we used to know back in school. But nobody seems to know where you went afterwards. I really hope you are okay and that I am not just talking to… well.  “Anyway, it’s been a long time, huh? I don’t know where to start (papers shuffling). There’s so much I want to say to you. I fear I cannot possibly express everything I feel. I fear that once I start, I wouldn’t be able to stop. I guess you can call this a love letter of sorts.  “You know, I always thought there should be a better, more significant word to describe letters. How can a piece of paper hold the weight of so much love and hope and longing? “Okay, umm… what else… oh, yes, I am back home. Yeah! I am sitting outside on our old porch. It’s so quiet. It’s like there’s nothing and nobody out there except us. It’s so weird being back here, you know?! After all these years, I am back here where we grew up. Isn’t that something? You won’t believe how it has changed. But you know how it is with small towns. It changes, but it remains the same (nervously chuckles) “Many people we knew when we were kids are gone now. I guess that’s one way you could say that this town has changed. It has new blood now. That’s life, isn’t it? I was overwhelmed when mom told me that most of the people we knew had passed away or moved on. I think that was when I missed you the most. After so many years, I suddenly wished that you were here and we could be each other’s strength again. “(sighs) Everything in this town reminds me of you. That restaurant at the end of the town where we met for the first time and you swept me off my feet; that little park beside the lake where we sat, looking up at the clouds and making castles in the air; that time we danced in the town hall where we swayed to the music, holding onto each other, those twisted aisles of the town library where we spent hours together reading poems to each other. It feels like every moment we spent together plays on in my mind, over and over again. In the few short months we were together, you gave me the memories of a lifetime.” (static) “Hello, Kiran? Are we… still LIVE?”  “Yes, Meera, we are LIVE, just ignore the static.” “Oh, okay. Right… So (shuffling of papers) …”  “Yes, yes (pauses). Madhav, did you miss me? Well, I missed you. A lot. I never thought it was possible to miss someone like I missed you. I also never thought it was possible to hate someone as much as I hated you and still loved you. Because, well, I did love you, Madhav. I hope you knew that back then. I loved you so much that it hurt to breathe.  “Sometimes, your absence is like a vacuum. I miss the sound of your voice, your laughter. I miss the way your eyes crinkled whenever you smiled; I miss the way you held me so gently, afraid that I would break. More than anything, I miss our endless walks, holding hands, being with each other. I miss the me I was when we were together. It is surprising that somehow, this time apart, has made me fall more deeply in love with you.  “I pass that bridge on my walk every morning; the one beside that… er… no, wait. The one where we kissed before we said goodbye! You remember? The touch of your lips, the warmth of your embrace, the raindrops falling on our faces, mixing with our tears. Sometimes, I still see us there, frozen in that moment, together forever.  (static) “It was so hard to let you go after such a short time. I know it must have been excruciating for you, too. I took so much of you with me when I left. I am sorry, but I wanted to be selfish then. Did you keep a part of me with you, too? I feel like you did. Otherwise, there’s no reason for this emptiness inside me. If you did, I hope that part of me keeps you company during the difficult days. “I know you must be thinking, if I loved you so much, why did I leave? You know I had very limited options then. Our parents would never have agreed to our union. You remember how my father was? And I… I really didn’t want to hurt you. But, I guess, I just didn’t know how to stand up for what I wanted.  “But more than that, I hope you understand now that our separation must have been destined. I feel like we had to find our own way. We had to live our lives. You had to be Madhav, and I had to be Meera. Not the Meera and Madhav we were when we were with each other. But a different Meera and a different Madhav.  “I don’t know if you ever found that new Madhav, but I did find a different Meera. I hope you’ll be happy to know that I have learnt to ask for what I want now, to stand up for myself. It wasn’t easy, but I persisted.  “Oh, and I also fell in love again! And I even got lucky enough to marry the man I loved. We have been married for nearly… oh, I forget the number… but it has been decades now. We have a daughter. Her name is Vaidehi.  “Did you find love again? I hope you did. I hope you had a son, and you named him Raghav. Remember how we had picked out those names? God! We were seventeen! So young and we had planned out our whole life together, haina?”  (laughs, then sighs deeply and resumes after a beat of staticky silence) “Another night, another year, will soon pass on. One of many more to come, I guess. You know, those first few months apart, the only thought that helped me get through the nights, was that somewhere out there, you were looking up at the same sky, talking to the same moon and thinking of me, as I thought of you. It was the only way the distance between us seemed to shrink a little, and it became a little easier to breathe.  “Some nights, when the memories of our time together resurface in my heart, I still spend the nights talking to the moon. I wonder how many lovers the moon has united in this way? (pauses and a soft sniffling can be heard) “You know how they say that people come and go, that lovers come and go, and probably all of them will eventually break your heart. Maybe it is true. I broke your heart. But… (voice cracks) I never forgot about you. I am married now, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a mother… even so, I carry you and your memories in my heart. Would you call me unfaithful? Is that cheating? I don’t know. The only thing I know is that I couldn’t erase you from my life, simply because I didn’t want to. “I don’t know if I ever told you how much I valued our love. How much you meant to me, and still do. Before I met you, I would never have believed that it was possible to feel such an extreme range of emotions, from exhilaration to longing, at the memory of a person. Oh, how wonderfully ignorant I was! (papers shuffling) The brief span of time we got to spend with each other now illuminates the empty spaces in my heart with a light so bright that it dulls out everything else. It truly was our very own summer of love. Golden, vibrant, alive. “You taught me to love Madhav. You showed me how loving another opened me up to loving myself.   “Do you remember that verse I used to sing to you? That poem by… that famous poet? Erm… Can I read it out here? Koral?” “Yes, yes, please go ahead.” “Okay, so I wrote it down for you, Madhav.  Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense. The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep. (pauses) “I hope these words find you well and if not; they pull you out of your troubles and comfort you wherever you go. I hope these words convey all of my love for you. Time goes on and every passing day is bringing us closer to when we will meet again. If not in this lifetime, perhaps… no, certainly, in the next one.  Madhav, my love, we will be together again, and I will kiss you again and it will be summer again. Remember me. Remember that I love you, from the first time that we met, till the last time I breathe, I love you.” (static) “Hello... erm...? I am done.”  “Oh, Meera, wow… I… I don’t know what to say except, Madhav, wherever you are, whoever you are, I hope this reaches you. And I hope you know that you are loved. “Meera, thank you for sharing this love letter with us and with the entire world. I am going to pray for you tonight. Pray that your Madhav finds this message.”  “Thank you. This means so much to me.”  “Could you stay back for a second while I loop in this song for our listeners? Guys, it is midnight! A very Happy New Year to all my listeners. I wish for a lot of love for all of you this year. May we amass a wealth of new experiences and create new memories! I don’t know why but hearing Meera’s story made me think of this song. Let’s go back in time and relive this beautiful song. This is your 101.1 Geet FM and I am your host and dost, Kalki.”  (Opening notes of Lag ja Gale…*) “Meera? Are you still with me?” “Yes, uh… Kalki, yes, I am here.”  Yar, that was so beautiful! You made me cry! Would you want us to notify you if your Madhav hears this message and calls us back?”  “No. That’s alright. I might not be here then.”  “I am sorry? Are you moving?”  “You could say that. I… I have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. This year might be my last with his memories.”  (a long silence after which Kalki sniffs and clears her throat) “Listen, maybe I can help you locate Madhav. Could you give me some details about him? His full name, his last known address, whatever you can remember.”  “Well, how long is your program?” *** References: This story is my interpretation of this poem by E. E. Cummings - i carry your heart with me(i carry it in) i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling) i fear no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet) i want no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true) and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart) *** * Lag Ja Gale is a Hindi song with music by Madan Mohan Kohli and lyrics by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, written for the 1964 Bollywood film Woh Kaun Thi? *** Author’s Note: This story happened because of a phone conversation that happens between long-lost lovers at the end of the book The Hills Are Burning by Anirban Bhattacharyya. A story inspired by another story. Perhaps the only thing similar in these two stories is the fact of lovers separated, but this one is a direct result of the emotions that rose within me as I turned the last page of that book. It is also an ode to the timeless classic ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, where the last line of this story is spoken by Tom Hanks when the lady on the other end of the telephone line asks him –  “What was so special about your wife? (she has passed away)” “Well, how long is your program?” Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!