Yesterday, Once More

Anushka had had a long day at work. She made herself a cup of hot chocolate and flopped on to the sofa to have it in peace. A busy surgeon, she loved these few minutes of Me Time she found before falling asleep. The kids had gone off to bed. Vijay was away on tour. Her father in law had also had his dinner and was resting. She had just peeped in on him to see if he was well settled for the night.

 

As she idly flipped through the pages of a women’s magazine, her phone rang. It was her friend, Priya. After the usual chit chat, she said, “You know what? I met Sahil the other day. He is now in Malaysia on an assignment. Are you in touch with him these days?” “No” answered Anushka. “I would like to get in touch though. If you have his number, do forward it to me.” “ I don’t, but Ill try to get it,” replied Priya. After a few more minutes of do-you-knows and ‘Hey, remembers?’, Priya hung up.

 

They had all been batch mates at Medical School. Anushka felt her mind wandering. How do people who become such huge parts of one’s lives just fall off the face of the earth once you leave, she wondered. Anushka and Sahil. Inseparable friends.  They had no sense of time when they talked. Books, sports, politics. You name it and they had enough to say to each other about it. A firebrand herself, she loved his ideas and they were together in the forefront of all agitations and activisms on the campus. With a cause or without! They had an unspoken bond which was evident to everyone around them. They travelled to their hometown together in second class unreserved compartments, talking the night away with cups of coffee for company. Of course, they had friends and they played dumb charades and had fun that can only be had in groups. But within any group, they had a little world of their own.  

 

She did find a twinge of attraction seeping into their conversations sometimes, but the young Anushka was perhaps taken with the idea of having a “Best friend” of the opposite gender and never allowed the idea that it could love to take root in her mind. Besides Sahil never said anything to even remotely suggest that either. So life went on. They were each other’s confidantes and he would confide everything to her. A brilliant student otherwise, he had had a bad run in the first year which had pushed him into a morose place. It was her constant presence and gentle cajoling that had brought him out of it and he had gone on to top the next year exam! He attributed his own success to her support and encouragement. That was how strong their influence on each other could be.

 

Anushka shook herself out of the reverie she had got into. After doing her last-minute chores, she got into bed and slept.

 

The next day, as she was leaving the clinic she worked at, her phone rang. Absently she answered it. “Hi,” said a voice at the other end. “Saahil!!”, she squealed. ” Is that you? I can’t believe it!” “Neither can I ?”  was the happy reply. Priya met me at the conference he explained how he got her number.

 

They fell into an animated conversation that had them falling over words to catch up – laughing and happy. The intervening 20 years just fell away. They never existed, it seemed.

 

Anushka was so happy that day, she seemed to be perpetually smiling.

 

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months as the happy friends caught up with life, work, interests and family. They discovered their shared love of the written word still bound them. As did so much else. Gradually Sahil started confiding much as he used to back in college. She had been an anchor to him he told her then and he was finding the same anchor in her, now.  They would mail each other often which finally turned to daily mails. One day she asked him, “You know something always struck me as odd those days. You were so happy to be with me when we were alone, but I always sensed a wariness in you when we were among friends and even amongst family. Why?”

 

He sent a cryptic mail in reply.” If I tell you the reason will you promise to let it not affect our friendship?” Anushka was intrigued. “Yes of course. Why would it? I care for you. I promise.”

 

Two days later, her assistant came into her office. “You’ve got mail “she said. Anushka recognised the handwriting at once. It was Sahil’s. For a brief time at college they had exchanged handwritten letters instead of meeting or calling the solitary hostel phones. They were rambling letters detailing the day’s events, fears and hopes. He had a rounded firm and deliberate handwriting. His signature started with a small “s” which always intrigued her. She had read somewhere that people with high self esteem would always have the first letter of their name in big capitals when they signed.  Sahil had vulnerabilities but had high self-esteem. Anyways, she was delighted to see the cherished handwriting after so many years.

 

She quickly opened the letter.

My dear Anushka,

 

Where do I start? Your question brought back so many memories and events. I guess its best to start at the beginning.

 

I, as you know, am an only child. Born to my parents a little late in their lives, my mother had so many complications that they never looked at having a second child thereafter.  So though I had a happy childhood It was a lonely one sometimes. I would play on my own often. My mother was over protective in a way and I had very few friends coming over. I never learned to share.

 

Meeting you in college was a turning point for me. For some reason I could open up to you in a way I never had to anyone before.  It was a totally new experience. I could tell you things I never had told anyone before. I looked forward to the time we spent together so much. When we travelled back home in those rickety second-class compartments, I would keep wishing for the train to be late.

 

Soon I realised what I felt for you was love. I thought about you constantly. Then one day you said you had something to tell me. I was thrilled. Perhaps you too felt the same way I did. You then went on to say that you considered me the brother you never had. I was dumbfounded. What was a 19yr old to do? I did not want to lose you. I was scared to tell you how I felt. I loved you from afar. But by then many of my friends had guessed. They would tease me. Then there were the others – your fans. I actually had a fisticuff with Abhishek at the hostel. He said I should stay away form you.

 

It was difficult to get over my feelings for you while remaining your best friend. But somehow, I did it. But whenever there were people around, I would wear a mask. Worried that it would be too evident.  You probably saw that as wariness. I was always worried that the mask would slip and everyone would see how much I loved you.

 

So, this is what I have to tell you.

 

Having said that, you have no idea of the stability and peace and a kind of calm that has come over me after we started communicating now.  Its like I have come home. Now that I have found you, I do not want to lose you. Please. I will stay within whatever boundaries you set for us. But let us remain in touch. I have so much more to tell you,

 

Remember you promised to not let whatever I told you to affect our friendship as it is today.

 

Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

My life has changed after we became friends again, Anushka.  I am relaxed happy and cheerful. You’ve become my anchor again.  I would hate to lose you.

 

Do send a reply at the earliest. I will be waiting.

 

As always,

 

Sahil

 

Anushka was stunned. She had no inkling of his feelings all those years ago. She let her mind travel back into the young Anushka’s. She had to admit that the thought had crossed her mind. But for one, he was almost a year younger than her. That was not the conventional way things worked. Besides he came from a social strata that was above her own. She liked him but did not allow herself to think along those lines. And finally, before they passed out Sahil had also found a girlfriend.  To whom he was now married.

 

Anushka did not know how to process the information. She decided to go for a long walk, listening to her favourite playlist. After returning, she sat down to pen a letter back.

 

My Dear Sahil,

 

I really don’t know what to say.

 

First of all, I think I am happy that you found me worthy of your love. I know you don’t like Hindi songs much, but it reminds me of the song “Aap ki Nazaron ne samjha Pyar ke kaabil muhje,”

 

The young Anushka always felt you were in a place unreachable to her and perhaps never allowed her to think of you in those terms. I am so surprised to hear that you had fights in the hostel over me. And never mentioned that to me despite confiding everything else. I cannot understand that.

 

It’s taken me a while to absorb what you have told me. Right now, even as I pen these lines, my mind keeps going over everything we said or did and maybe I was blind not see what we shared as love.

However, a lot of water has flown under the bridge. Were now married to different people and have families of our own. Whatever we do impacts them as well. That is the only boundary I would draw. Nothing we do should hurt the people who love us.

As far as I am concerned, we will be the same Sahil and Anushka of 20 years ago who were each other’s best friends. I trust you completely. And I know you will not cross any boundary I set.

 

I’m happy to have found you, too after all these years.

 

So, let us not let something that happened or rather something that did not happen come in the way of our beautiful new friendship. I too do not want to lose you. Again. Ever.

 

Looking forward to your next missive. And a lot more happiness between us.

 

Back to the past – our gang of two!

 

Affectionately,

Anushka

 

It wasn’t long before there was a call. The relief was apparent in Sahil’s voice. “I’m so happy,” he kept saying as Anushka smiled.

 

Yes, it was good to have a best friend again. It was good to share words. It was good to share thoughts ideas and interests. Some relationships can never be defined or fitted into any particular mould. They just are. They just let one be. They just let one live. Without judgement. An integral part of one’s soul without which one feels incomplete.

 

Anushka would always be Sahil’s person. His anchor. And he would be hers.

 

No questions asked. No answers sought.

 

Just being.

_______________________________________________________________

 

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Aruna Menon

Aruna Menon is a Gynecologist working in the Central Government. Relationships and words fascinate her. She writes both prose and verse. She loves weaving stories and has a blog called Ripples and Reflections on WordPress. She loves her job and often writes on work life balance. She's always a romantic at heart.

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