Shutting the main door as hubby dearest left for work I sat on the lounge chair in the favourite part of my home…my balcony. Admiring the bougainvillea spread in its pink hues on the left and the canopy of the beautiful jasmine on the right as the climber prolifically covered the top edge of my safety grills, the scent refreshing me as always, I poured myself a cup of tea watching the world pass by and picked up the remote control to my FM system… This was the only time during the day I could listen to old melodies with leisure. The children were in school and my maid wasn’t due for an hour after which my house turns into a mini hotel with the housekeeping, cleaning and cooking all in its varied chaotic proportions blending into each other! So this was it…I laid back smiling switching on the system which was already tuned to the Channel of my choice. The RJ kept droning on about how the romances no longer resembled the innocence and liveliness, not to mention integrity of the 90s. Oh I knew that so very well, I chuckled as the last twenty five summers of my forty flew past my eyes… And then the song played… “tujhe dekha to ye jaana sanam…”
Ahhh… the blockbuster film from 1995 had its own charm those days. I was in the tenth grade and was feeling the hormonal surge every time, I watched Simran rush into Raj’s trademark waiting arms… How I wished someone would hold me too. And then suddenly the teacher’s stern voice in class would rouse me up from my reverie. Well it was fine, I guess… A girl could dream, couldn’t she? But then one fine day Nirav entered our classroom and all hell turned loose… Oh My God… I had only heard of handsome Greek God looks in my Mills and Boons which I had secretly borrowed from Shubha my bestie who had a liberal family background and two older sisters in college who taught her all she had to know, well in advance. She in turn generously passed on the baton of keeping the romantic fantasies alive on to me along with her worn out copies on M&Bs. I had just read one, last night where the hero had the drool-worthy looks and lo behold… the new guy in class was handpicked it looked like, to just give a face to my fantasy. Apparently, his father was a central Government employee and had a transfer. Our school was only too thrilled to have a brilliant guy in our batch-mix of notoriously less studious children. I was the class prefect and never liked the extra duties that came in its wake until today. The class teacher asked me to help the new student with the notes which he had missed. A month full of academics…oh I couldn’t be happier. I got to sit next to him in the recess that day and I knew my jealous classmates wouldn’t overtly speak up but must be wanting to kill to be in my shoes. However they could have been rest assured, Nirav was a guy of few words… after ten minutes of my blabbering, he only nodded in affirmation and then a tiny movement of his pretty lips resulting in what I assumed was a tiny bit of a smile, he said a soft thank you and oh boy…oops…oh man… what a voice. A baritone that would give Kabir Bedi a run for his money and I was a sucker for those… he was barely fifteen. The flutters that flew through my heart… it was a surreal experience. I couldn’t name it but it was beautiful.
The week that followed I helped him out with different subjects and he barely spoke a word. He didn’t speak to anyone in class and because of his tall built he was seated on the last bench. I even gave him my landline number with the hope that he would call… for clearing academic doubts, of course and had proudly declared at home that I was the chosen one to help a student in need. My parents only glared with neutral expressions and shook their heads as if they thought I was making a mountain of a molehill… But I wished he would call just to hear that voice which sent shivers through my body every time he spoke and the number of words, he had uttered in the entire week was less than twenty. But there was an icing on the cake… a day earlier I had seen his face closely as he had arrived after me from the washroom for our recess rendezvous… He had Prussian blue eyes… really…? He was bespectacled but I didn’t know if the tinge on the edges of his glasses were from his eyes or vice versa… whatever it was, he was the most beautiful specimen in that gender I had ever come across… and the only one I hadn’t fought with as yet. Guys stayed away from me and Shubha told me that was because I intimidated them. Oh come on… seriously? I didn’t care though. But with Nirav it as different. Probably because he was a great listener and only nodded and smiled slightly. He was a wizard at Maths and Physics, the two subjects I loathed and that was where the ice finally broke. We connected on academics… I remembered to say a private thank you to both those subjects because Nirav finally spoke!
“…Uh… no… that’s not the correct method of finding the resonance, Anisha… look here…” and then he had explained it meticulously with a diagram. Though I barely paid attention, as I was distracted by the baritone and those thin but muscular long fingers holding my Reynolds ball point… I understood the topic. Physics was never more interesting. From there began our friendship and amidst the academic pressures of tenth grade, the emotional upheavals form the parental expectations to score well, he was the one good thing, silver lining enough to light up gloomy days. We became the best of friends. Though our official recess rendezvous was done with, we still made it a point to speak daily. And my heart sored every time I realised, he only spoke with me or the teachers. Never to any other guy or girl in the class for which he was sneered upon but his grades shut them all up. Shubha even asked me a couple of times if I felt something for Nirav but those days it was a taboo to even think of it, especially in the tenth grade so I laughed over it. But the truth was, even as Shubha looked away my eyes searched for those beautiful orbs behind the glasses sitting away in the corner and scribbling something in his book. Oh yes, he loved solving Maths problems and always kept at it. He continuously topped the class in all the exams and finally even the boards. He was a merit holder and topped the local ward. I scored well too and was on the seventh heaven when I got into a junior college of my choice only because Nirav got in too. We both were in the same class again and so we traveled together and this time we sat together as well.
In a classroom filled with strangers, we got solace in each other’s company. His father got a mid-term transfer again so he opted to stay in the college hostel rather than disrupt his studies. I couldn’t have been happier except that I missed my travel buddy. But we would spend time studying together after college and as always, he helped me out with my Physics miseries. He was reserved throughout like in school and I had resigned to the fact that he was an introvert speaking only what was necessary. He had often joked that I compensated for his poor communication skills. I however had made many friends in class.
It was the time of the college festival and we eleventh graders were asked to present a couple of dances on the cultural day. I was enthusiastic and though I danced with my two left feet, I enrolled. There was a choreographer appointed by the college who tried his best to set my steps with another guy who was my dance partner… the song was the blockbuster… “Ruk jaao dil deewane…” and the choreography ended exactly like the movie where Raj drops Simran in the end. I didn’t have a problem except that my partner dropped me a bit too hard and, in my anxiety, I often stepped on his toes. Nirav always watched our practice and I could feel him chuckling at my clumsiness. Two days prior to the event, a guy in the group backed out due to personal reasons and my partner wasted no time in changing over to the stranded girl’s side… what a wench! I was on the verge of tears that I had to step down when a warm hand engulfed mine… It was Nirav who came up to the choreographer saying he would be my partner… I mean really…? The choreographer nodded and asked him to give a try and to my utmost surprise…rather, shock, Nirav was smooth on his feet…just like a professional dancer… I had known him for a while now and didn’t know he could dance…let alone so gracefully. Because of him we got to stand right in front and since he was my partner, I didn’t face any anxiety. The final event went by without any incident and we received the maximum applause… Those two days, I had spent the maximum time with Nirav than ever before. We laughed, studied, did our assignments, had lunch and evening snacks those two days stuck to each other like glue. As I got off the bus to go home on the day of the event, I missed him so much and had no doubt that I was in love with my best friend…
But then there is no true love without jealousy…is there? Nirav became quite popular in college ever since the dance event. Girls clamored for his attention and though he didn’t respond much the green-eyed monster in me reared up its ugly head. I was terribly annoyed whenever he spoke to any good-looking girl in class. Of course, it was an innocent gesture on his part and I knew it. But I was sixteen and my temper peaked with a drop of a hat whenever it had anything to do with him. Deep in my heart I knew I was being immature but still, I had no control over my feelings. The fact that I didn’t score well in the semester exams and had to face the ire of my father back home for negligence of studies, made matters worse. I changed my seat but not before assuring Nirav sat next to a guy who I later got to know was his hostel friend too. I avoided speaking with him… He didn’t stop trying though. He was an aspiring IIT candidate and worked pretty hard which only made me more guilty. With a heavy heart I decided to let go of my feelings and focus on my studies.
For a month or so during our final exams we barely spoke or even acknowledged. He didn’t come to me as well…I missed him but more than everything I missed my best friend. Shubha too had moved to her hometown and I was not in touch with anyone else from school. It was the month of February and I had finished the last paper, the dreaded Geometry for class XI and as expected it was pathetic… I only hoped to pass. The next session for std XII was to commence in a week and so were my tuition. It would be very difficult year and I had braced up to work harder to secure admission to my choice of medical college. A far-fetched dream mainly for my parents, now considering my dismal performance but I wanted to give it my best. As I walked on the lane in the campus moving towards the exit, I was lost in thought and every aspect was threatening to come right up to the surface. My parents’ expectation, the fear of letting them down, losing my best friend and being clueless as to how to go ahead with studying the subjects I had no interest in whatsoever… The dams broke open and I sat on a seat right there my back hunched as I cried my heart out. For the first time in my life I had lost control and I didn’t know how long I wept… Someone touched my back. It was firm but familiar… what? I looked up to see Nirav sitting next to me worry etched on his handsome face his Adam’s apple bobbing as if he wanted to say something but held back. I must have been looking like some demoness… with my Kohl smudged with all the crying.
“…what happened Ani… paper was that bad…?” He finally asked.
“…Yeah…” I wiped my eyes as a strange calm settled in. Nirav was the only one who could do that for me.
“…its ok.. you will clear it. Focus on the upcoming year…”
“…yeah…” I parroted the same reply
“…So…what’s up with you Ani…?”
And then I started my tirade. We spoke for the next couple of hours till it was getting late for me to leave for home and I had an hour-long bus journey. Nirav insisted I make it before dark. My heart fluttered again at the concern he demonstrated and all those feelings dormant for months together surfaced up again. He walked with me to the bus stop and waited till I caught one leading to my destination. I don’t know if it was just a fragment of my imagination, I thought he had something to tell me but hesitated. Nonetheless I had my friend back and knew he would eventually come through.
That night for the first time in days I had a sound sleep…irrespective of the fact that I had done miserably in the examination.
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