I was introduced to Arindam a month after I joined senior college. He was two years my senior and the quintessential star on campus. The captain of the cricket team, the students’ representative and was awarded the best student last year.
He was well built, brown hair, had deep dimples and an effervescent smile. Every girl in college had a crush on him. I too liked him the first day I saw him on campus.
I was captain of the junior college basketball team and was part of the senior’s team. Our sports instructor introduced us. ‘She is Radhika, she will be joining our basketball team and he is Arindam, our college’s cricket and sports captain’
He flashed his radiant smile and the dimples sunk deep into his cheeks, he put his hand forward for a handshake and said ‘Good to have you. We had lost last year in the semis of the inter-college basketball championship but now with a champion like you in the team, we must win it’.
My heart skipped a beat, from this close he looked fascinating. I put my hand forward and replied ‘Sure, we will give our best’
The next few weeks we kept seeing each other on campus and exchanged a cordial ‘hello’ or a ‘hi’.
That year in the inter college basketball championship, we lost in the finals. But we won a lot of hearts. Our team won the award for fair-play and I the best player. Arindam did come to see and cheer the team in the finals. Like all of us, he was disappointed for missing out on the trophy but he too took heart, like all of us, in the way we played and fought. Despite being the runner’s up, we had a hero’s welcome in the college.
That evening, Arindam came to me and asked ‘would the champion whom all the boys in the college are vying, come out with me for coffee?’
‘Look who is talking’ I blushed.
‘Is that a yes?’
‘Yes. It is’
That first date with Arindam, will forever be etched in my memory. It started with coffee in the evening and ended with a kiss, late in the night.
We effortlessly slipped into deep conversation. Right from the beginning there was no awkwardness, talking to him. There was comfort and oneness. It seemed we had known each other for forever- from a different life; from a parallel universe. Talking to Arindam was like coming home. Though he appeared to be outgoing and an extrovert, he was very shy and he used his gregariousness to hide his reticence. One thing that attracted me most was his humility and honesty. Arindam accepted he was destiny’s child; born in a well to do family, he had it the easy way. And he always felt the pressure to make a good life out of all the bounties that he was blessed with. He was ambitious and was very kind.
When I told him about myself, he hugged me tight. There was empathy in his ways and importantly an assurance in that hug –what had happened was past and the future will be different. He was almost in tears to know how I lost my father at a young age and how my mother raised me single handedly. How she worked very hard to make ends meet and saved every penny for my studies and fulfilling my dream of playing basketball and how I had started taking odd jobs at a very early age to help her.
Finally when he dropped me home after the coffee, the stroll on the streets, seeing the sun set, the pizzas and the ice cream shop, our index fingers holding each other’s Arindam confessed “I’ve never spoken to anyone about myself, as I did with you. You are so warm and easy going. The first day I met you, I knew you were special”
“Then what took you so long to ask me out”
“I was scared, you would say no” he blushed.
“Thank you, for asking me out. Even I’ve never shared things about myself so candidly with anyone. And I never once felt you would judge or ridicule me. I just knew you would understand everything I say. Talking to you was like talking to myself”
Just then Arindam turned and kissed me. I was first taken aback, but kissed him back. That was the only way then for me to show how much that moment meant to me. How grateful I was for making me feel closer to myself. I knew I had found someone special. And that kiss had sealed my love for him. That night I could not sleep, I was too excited and ecstatic. I kept replaying the entire evening in my mind, over and over again- every moment, every word, every gesture, every expression.
The next three years, my relation with Arindam were surreal. I had read in stories of love like this – a deep bond, blind trust, affection beyond words, and eagerness to keep the other happy at all times. It’s not that we never fought, but how we handled our differences and came out stronger was what made us special. He was celebrating me with myself. The physical intimacy was just the outcome of the deep bond we shared. There were no inhibitions, it was not planned nor forced. The intimacy was just an expression of love. Every time I told him ‘I love you to the moon and back’ he would reply with ‘I love you to infinity and back.’
Another memory that will remain etched on soul is the last day I spent with Arindam. Arindam was in the final year of his masters and I was in my last year of bachelor’s course. That evening we were at our favorite place- a small hill a few kilometers outside the city, it had a bird’s view of the city and the view of the sun setting behind the city skyline. We both loved that view and the mise en scène – I holding his hands and resting in his arms and talking about us. It got late, just sitting there and talking and it was quickly getting dark. We left on Arindam’s motorbike, I behind, holding him close. Arindam was riding steadily and suddenly a bus came from behind and started blowing the horn for side. But on the narrow winding downhill road there was no place to move. The bus kept getting closer and trying to hurry us up, Arindam moved a little faster and on the next turn, suddenly a truck came right in front of us with its headlights beaming in our eyes. Arindam applied the brakes in reflex and the bus hit us from behind and we hit the truck. I flew off the bike. I fell on the road side and hit my head and the last thing I remember was seeing Arindam tumbling down the hill still on his bike and I fell unconscious.
5 days later I gained my consciousness. In between, in my drugged state I kept asking for Arindam and someone kept assuring me he too is in the ICU, recuperating. But my conscious kept nagging, something was wrong with my Arindam. The next day my mother held me close to her bosom and said ‘we lost Arindam’. I didn’t know how to react, my worst fears had come true. Darkness engulfed my heart. I did not cry. I had no emotions to convey my grief. My throat was parched. I was feeling choked. Everything around me was now a blur. I just let out a scream. That night I wept and wept. My world had changed forever.
Arindam’s body was never found. Only his mangled motorcycle and his blood soaked clothes. The police suspected the wolves or leopards in the jungle may have attacked him and dragged his body in to the deep woods. It felt like a chasm in my life and a feeling of emptiness. A chasm that kept growing- deeper and wider. And there appeared no way to fill that gap inside me. Suddenly everything was distant and unimportant. I missed my final year exams that year. I could not go the college. All the places in the college haunted me. The classes, the labs, the grounds, the library, the stairs, the corridors, the parking- there was no place without memories of Arindam. I finished my bachelor’s the next year. My mother and my friends kept assuring me that time was the best healer.
And as time started to pass, I became a recluse. Nothing seemed to capture my attention. I was just going through the motions of life, without emotions, just a mechanical life. I was dwelling in the memories of the times celebrated with Arindam. I felt blessed to have experienced the kind of love, attachment and bond, which most people are unaware of. I didn’t think I would ever fall in love again. I know that everyone says that after a heartbreak, but the difference is that I’m not heartbroken. I’m not pessimistic, or sad. I’m just someone who once felt something bigger than anything else I’d ever felt and when I lost it, I honestly believed I would never have that again. That experience was the best I ever had and nothing that I will have from now, will match up to that. But, I was just 20 years old then and life is long. Who knows what can happen.
With time my wounds were healing- both the one on the outside- quickly and the one inside- slowly. I took up a job after graduation and life was getting routine. I was now working with a sports management company and had reached the post of marketing manager in five years. Enjoying what I do and putting everything I have in my job.
I’m feeling things right now that I haven’t in a long, long time. And these feeling come from my proximity to Krutarth. Krutarth has joined our company about 6 months ago. He is vice-president marketing, about 30-32 years old. He is athletic, has a bushy mustache and carries himself well. Dresses smartly and smells good. From the day I saw him I knew there was something about Krutarth. The way his eyes looked at me, it seemed as if he was gazing at my soul. As if he knew everything about me. I often felt his eyes following me in office and it often did. But there was nothing offensive or lecherous about his look. His eyes were always searching for my eyes and never staring at my body.
We were celebrating an association our company had signed with a foreign conglomerate. We were at a high-end lounge and everybody was enjoying and making merry. Alcohol was flowing, music was loud and everybody was partying hard. Just then Krutarth came to me and asked ‘would the most gorgeous lady in office dance with me?’ And before I could respond, he held my hand and pulled me up. The VP- Marketing and the Manager-Marketing were on the dance floor. Everybody was cheering and rooting for us and I was matching his move for move. He was nimble and smart; I was matching it with my grace and fluency. The music was reaching a crescendo and so was the dancing and the party. Dancing for more than an hour now, I was exhausted. I found a place to sit and looked around for something to drink. Just then Krutarth came with a drink for me.
‘Radhika this is for you. Haven’t danced like that in ages’ a drenched Krutarth let out a sigh
‘Thank you and me too’ I replied, taking a sip
‘You dance so well’
‘Thank you, you too not bad either’
‘Hardly, just managing’ Krutarth said raising his glass
I too raised my glass.
I finished my drink and was ready to leave. I looked around and saw Krutarth checking on each one, how are they going home and did anyone need a ride, especially the women? In times when chivalry was considered dead, it was heartwarming to see this.
He finally turned to me ‘Radhika I will drop you’. I was a little taken aback with his outright display of possessiveness, but honestly I was enjoying it – the attention, the care, the butterflies and the beginning of something good.
On the way back home we stopped over at the river front. As the cool breeze kept soothing us, Krutarth started to talk. He spoke of himself, his education, his ambitions and his ex-wife. He was a widower and had lost his wife in a car accident, only after 6 months of marriage. He said he never liked to talk of it and hence just mentioned it briefly. I did not talk much, just listening to Krutarth was magical. It was close to sunrise when we decided to head back home. When we reached home, we were a little tentative – shake hands, hug, kiss or just let it be. Finally Krutarth gave a light kiss on my cheek and with a broad smile said ‘Have a good day’. This dawn is like a new dawn in my life. I was too euphoric to sleep. I am feeling these lovely vibes after all these years. May be I was falling in love again.
We met every day in the evenings after that night. Listening to him talk of his childhood, his journey, growing up years, his relations with his parents, his friends, his work ethics, was intoxicating. Every day I wanted to know a little more of him, every day I was falling a little more in love with him. I had told him about Arindam and thought of me as a strong woman to comeback after such a loss.
Now there is a zing in my step, a twinkle in my eye and a bounce in my hair. I was looking forward to life again. We are trying to maintain a dignified distance in office and not let it affect our work commitments but our smiles are wider, our glances linger a while and end with a wink, our meetings last longer and unintended physical contact happen too often.
We’ve have been dating for eight months now and Krutarth has asked me to be ready for a special date. The date he chose ignorantly, was the one when I had lost Arindam. I accepted to go with him, I had to move on.
Krutarth, as usual was punctual to pick me.
Krutarth kissed and ushered me in to the waiting car ‘you look lovely’
‘But where are we going’
Krutarth just grinned and shrugged
He tapped the driver and we started moving, the car slowly maneuvered through the evening traffic and arrived at a famous rooftop lounge. I was filled with excitement. Krutarth had booked a dining table, overlooking the city and the sunset. The table was laid with a bottle of champagne and white lilies.
‘This is one of my favorite places in the city’ exclaimed Krutarth. The lounge was on the same fateful hill where I had lost Arindam in that accident.
After we had settled down on the sofa, close to each other holding hands Krutarth said ‘Radhika, I want to concede how madly I am in love with you. With you it feels – I am with myself; it feels like I have come home. No one has ever touched my soul like you have. I’ve found with you, something I never believed existed. Now I cannot imagine a life without you. And Radhika I can never say –I love you in the past tense ever again’
I was blushing ‘Krutarth I’ve told you about Arindam. But after losing him, I never thought I could love any one. But meeting you, stirred the emotions in me, which I never knew could be relived. With you I found the love that I thought I could never have. You make me feel alive, your touch arouses me. You fantasticate me. You’ve brought me closer to myself. The chasm inside is filled with your love and care. You complete me Krutarth’ we hugged a while then I asked tentatively ‘just one thing’ he pulled me away from him and Krutarth looked as I continued ‘I really want to know about your wife’s accident’
Krutarth got very conscious and moved away
‘I know you don’t like to talk about it. You don’t want to visit that part of your being. But please don’t run away Krutarth, talk to me, don’t let it remain buried in you, let it heal’
He was fumbling for words ‘I…I.. don’t know where to start. Nisha and I had an arranged marriage. One evening she insisted on seeing the sun set and I got her to this hill outside the city. We were running a little late and by the time we were at the foot hills the sun had already set, but since we had travelled all the way, we decided to go up there and spend some time. We were tailgating a truck and waiting for side. But suddenly the truck applied the brakes and I could not control and rammed my car in the back of the truck. Nisha took the impact head-on and hit the windshield and died on the spot. The steering wheel hit me in my legs and my head hit the steering wheel.’ Krutarth’s face began to quiver with sobs. He was visibly shaking. I had never seen Krutarth like this. I hugged him and frightfully asked ‘Was there anyone else involved in that accident?’
Gathering himself Krutarth answered ‘Yes I later got to know, a couple on the bike hit the truck and hence the truck had to apply urgent brakes. The girl survived but the boy’s body was never found’ I was now crying inconsolably and shivering and in a trembling voice asked ‘Was that date as today and on this hill?’
‘That girl was me Krutarth and that boy was Arindam’. Krutarth was embracing me tightly and we both wept. We fathomed the irony of life. We had bared our souls. We were both healing. We had surrendered ourselves to each other. We were losing ourselves to each other but wining ourselves back. Though destiny had taken away something from us at that moment, but our fates were written to find true love and be together ever after. To celebrate and cherish forever. Same date, same place we lost our loved ones and then we found each other.
‘Radhika I love you to the moon and back. Will you marry me?’
I nodded a yes… ‘I love you to infinity and back’
Moirai smiled and ticked a box in front of the names of Krutharth and Radhika