“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired”- Robert Frost
In a classroom filled with kids, Avi saw Rasha, a girl with round specs, two black eyes peeping through them, a pug nose and two little ponytails tied on two sides. Avi was a new admission in the midterm. Rasha was one of the good students. The teacher asked her to help Avi. She nodded sweetly and offered him a seat next to her. She was a calm; cute girl and he was notorious. Very soon the friendship blossomed from sharing lunch, notes, and so on. She turned into a chatterbox in his company. Rasha was completely enjoying this transformation. One day, when both were busy talking, the teacher called out, “Avi, please stop talking and go out of the class.”
“ You need to write- I am sorry, I will not talk in the class 100 times and bring it to me in the lunch break.”, said the teacher to Avi who was standing outside the class. As the bell rang, Avi started writing. Rasha came and snatched the pencil from his hand, wrote the sentence 75 times in a blink of an eye and handed over to him and said, “Finish and show it to Ma’am. Come for lunch I am hungry”. He smiled and lost his little heart to his friend.
Rasha did not attend school for a week due to fever. Avi left the school as his father was once again transferred to another city. His father had a transferable job, and this always affected Avi’s life. But, this time two hearts and lives were affected. Unaware, Rasha and Avi left a piece of their heart in each other. Rasha turned into an introvert again and Avi somewhere kept searching for those innocent eyes.
Seven years passed. Rasha and Avi were living different lives, in different cities. Rasha was pursuing MBA from a reputed college. She was from a humble background, but that never showed in her personality. She was extremely intelligent and a superb dancer along with a pleasing personality. She easily befriended the elite girl’s squad in the college. One day, the girl squad was discussing their boyfriends. Rasha did not have the privilege to think about boyfriends as she had a lot of responsibilities to fulfill. Suddenly one of her friends asked, “You do not have a boyfriend, right?”. “Avi, he is tall, dark, and charming”, pat came the reply from Rasha. The only boyfriend she remembered all these years. She was surprised by her own answer. For a moment she thought to herself, what would happen if ever Avi comes to know about the lie she is living in, just to overcome her inferiority complex.
On the last day of College, everyone decided to go to the cybercafe and create profiles on Orkut. It will help them stay connected, someone said, deep inside her heart Rasha so wished would find Avi.
Rasha could not control herself from going to the cybercafe the very next day, her heart started racing when she saw a message from Avi. It read, “Ek bar bhebe chhilam tomae khuje nebo” (I always knew I would find you one day). She left her email id in the inbox and asked him to email. This was when mobile phones were a luxury. Next day, when she opened her email, there was a long email, the emotions in the form of words, her eyes melting, her cheeks were hot, was it a dream she thought. He had requested her to meet once.
They agreed to meet in a book fair. Wearing a pink coloured salwar kameez, open hair, and small bindi, Rasha looked graceful like a woman, but her face was so childish that clearly the world had left no impression there. Avi arrived and looking at her he said, “You still look the same my chashmish (spectacled)”. She was about to say something, then her girl squad appeared out of nowhere.
“Oho! Hello, so you are Avi, Rasha has told so much about you, when did you return from the UK?” “Both of you look so perfect”. The comments were endless.
Baffled, Avi looked at Rasha. Rasha jumped in between the conversation and said, “Avi, these are my batchmates and they know everything about us”.
“Hmm, everything. Wow”, said Avi with a wink.
The unison of two childhood sweethearts could not be completed. The currents of untold feelings remained confined inside the walls of their heart. Avi had to leave for Delhi due to his new job. He promised that they will meet once he is back.
Soon Rasha started working with a Bank. Her financial independence gave her immense strength. She wanted to fulfill all wishes of her Maa and sister. Her diligence and hard work impressed everyone in the office. One day, when she was busy attending to a huge queue of customers, a customer came running from behind. Rasha shouted, “Sir, please be in line, wait for your turn”.
“Madam, Avi Sir has sent this bouquet and gift for you. Happy Birthday Madam”. The whole office sang in chorus, “Happy Birthday, Madam”. Her lips were sealed but she was smiling through her eyes. For a moment she wished to leave everything and open her gift from her lover like a teenage college-going girl. But then she tried to remain calm and composed. After business hours, she rushed to the pantry to open her gift. It was a mobile phone, white Micromax Bling embedded with diamond in the center. As soon as she switched it on, it rang. She rushed to the washroom. Resting her back on the wall, taking a deep breath, with a lump in her throat, she answered the call, “Ki chao?” (what do you want). She heard him sing, “O Janeja, dono jahan, meri bahon me a bhool ja, Baby I love you, Baby I love you”. Silent sighs, music of heartbeats, salty pearls of pure bliss dropping from her eyes said, “I love you too”. Since then, there were endless phone calls throughout the day, she used to talk to him holding her phone between her ear and shoulder. The talks and ear to ear smile made her jaws pain but the pain was beautiful. The lie she had lived for years had come true in the form of a beautiful dream.
A month later, Avi arrived in the city and requested her to meet over a movie date. He booked two tickets for the gold lounge for the movie Wada Raha, one of the boring movies. But who was bothered about the movie at all? Sitting so close, smelling each other, she felt if life ended at that very moment of bliss. She had lied to her Maa for the first time, she had informed at home that there were audit preparations in the office that Sunday.
Avi asked her for marriage. Rasha accepted it, on one condition that she would continue to work post-marriage. She was the breadwinner for her family, her father never fulfilled his responsibilities. She had to take care of her Maa and little sister. While walking towards the bus stand, hand in hand, they talked about their wedding, room decors, the colour of the curtains, beige and white, turquoise, and golden cushions, cappuccino coloured cushioned king-size bed, crape jasmine tree peeping through a window intruding through their privacy, babies and their names. “Beep, Beep”, the bus horn brought them back to the world of reality. They had already imagined themselves as man and wife that day.
When Avi informed his parents about this condition, they were a bit apprehensive. On learning this, Rasha requested Avi to end this relationship on a happy note. “Each and every love story may not turn into marriage, my feeling for you is divine”, she said to Avi. Avi’s father was partially blind and his mother had health issues. Rasha requested him to respect their wish. As they hugged each other for the first and last time, there were tunes of melancholy in the breeze and tears fell from the sky. In the rain, hand in hand, they walked through the streets for hours that day. It was a walk to cherish for life.
Keeping her own pain aside, Rasha planned a trip to Hrishikesh with family as she had promised to her mother. She planned everything in detail. She planned the entire itinerary, stay, guide, clothes. She bought a pair of new bellies for her mother that would not get spoiled in water. Her mother was elated like a little girl with the thought of going on a trip. After all, in twenty-five years of marriage that lady had never enjoyed herself. Rasha thought of taking her mother to the Doctor for a general check-up before the trip.
The Doctor asked for some blood tests to be done. The report had a different story to tell. Rasha’s mother was suffering from a severe blood disorder. The blood platelet count was as low as 15,000 (the normal being 1,50,000). The doctors could not believe how her mother was working normally. May it be her will power. Ten days leave, which she had applied for the trip, was consumed in hospitalization. It was due to her job; she could afford the best hospital for her mother. There was a sudden sign of recovery and then Rasha lost her mother within a fortnight, she lost everything. Her world ceased to exist. She lost herself. She started living as a robot. Everyday going to the office, taking care of home and repeating. Her mother was her only support at home, although she had never shared her pains with her, still talking to her everyday made her feel better. When her mother used to pull her cheeks with hands full of flour, she loved it. She had never imagined her life without her mother. Two years passed and she could not accept the loss. Rasha somehow came out of the trauma. She decided to get married. While she started searching for a partner, similar questions and rejections left her in a state of distress. Adding to her woes, her father met with an accident. He lost his memory. The two siblings somehow managed to bring him back to his current state of life. However, the incidence left some traces of dementia on his mind. She sent her sister for higher studies and once again started her search for a life partner. She was a as giver since childhood. She so wished to break down in someone’s arms. She was tired of being strong. She found Mihir who not only loved her but accepted her with her responsibilities.
Six years later, in a Durga Puja pandal, Avi saw Rasha. She looked surreal clad in an authentic Lal Paar Saree (Saree with white base and red border) adorning big gold earrings kissing her cheeks, golden bangles tinkling and adding grace to her wrist, a big red Sindoor bindi on her forehead shining like a Sun, a dazzling red pathway of Sindoor running across her long open tresses, her kohl tainted eyes, her lips like rose petals. She was running after her son clad in dhoti kurta, just like Yashoda Maa was trying to catch her little Krishna, it was a sight to behold. The announcement for Pushpanjali was made, everyone gathered inside the pandal. Just behind Rasha, someone raised his hand to ask for flowers. His smell Rasha had never forgotten, it was Avi standing right behind her. Smelling her hair, pretending to take flowers, he said, “Your son is cute”. Closing her eyes, she said, “I know”. Rasha vanished before Avi could see her.
Rasha reached home, put her son to bed. She opened her closet. There was a beautiful handcrafted diary, wrapped in her mother’s saree. Pressed between the rusted pages of the diary, there was a rose she had treasured from the bouquet Avi had gifted her. It had dried out but smelt the same. Her breath mingled with the fragrance of the dried rose and drove her to the memories galore. She smiled and murmured to herself,
“Let us be like this forever,
Away, still in love,
Painful yet beautiful”!
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