It was a strange sight. Nearly four hundred people had gathered inside the small yet accommodating perimeters of the College Hall to mark and celebrate an eventful journey that was slowly nearing its end. It was the last time that the class of 2011 was to be seen at the same place and every heart had the same wish. A few more days, a few more hours in the safe havens of this place they liked to call College. This was the place where many relations were forged, many were broken, some dreams had shattered and some destinies were fulfilled. And at last, it was the moment of closure for all that had gone by. It was time for them to say goodbye.
The atmosphere was moist with the smoldering hearts whose warmth had penetrated deep into the eyes and had forced a drop or two of tears out of them. It all looked like a pot with myriad emotions bubbling and intermingling with one another, giving out a nostalgic and cherishing aroma. In the crowd of those swarming faces and hearts, all soaked up in a heavenly yellow hued light descending from the ceiling lamps above, there stood Ayushmaan, all dressed up in his new farewell suit. The one he had taken exclusively for that evening. With a smile spread all over his face, he was clicking pictures of his batch mates and placing himself in the glare of many flashes. In his mind, he was collecting every single grain of memory of the people who had once been a part of his life and weaving them in a silken thread as a beautiful souvenir of his glorious present which was just at the brink of dissolving and may be disappearing into past.
There was chaos all around the place with different voices sweeping through the air heavy with fragile and tense words. Yet, amidst so many eyes, he could still recognize the ones emanating a magnetic light from them. The eyes that had enraptured his gaze for many months. The two windows that opened to a beautiful promise of life. At a distance of a few meters, her face was twinkling like a diamond against the countless hues of the vast commotion that seemed indistinguishable in the vibrant shadow of that evening.
Dhwani. Yes, that was her name, in absolute justification of its meaning, voice. This was the voice that had become the hymn of his heartbeat, the rhythm of his pulses and the light of his soul. Her face was veiled in a partial shimmer of the moon light leaving the brilliant features she was gifted with, exposed. There were unexplained creases all over her face due to weariness of the day and her hair were flying carelessly in every possible direction. Her attire was very plain with no exaggeration, a typical Blue Kurta and a Jeans to go with it, she did not look exactly like a sworn epitome of beauty.
Yet, for Ayushmaan, she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
His heart was pounding heavily and each of his breath echoed clearly in his ears despite the deluge of voices he was immersed in. He had thought about making a much delayed and needed confession to her. Words were flowing in a wave of haphazardness and were culminating to an unsuccessful attempt of making meaning out of them. He had rehearsed many times in his mind for this moment but he seemed to be forgetting all his sense of coherence on the sight of her. But it had to be done somehow and at this moment only. He knew that in a few months, he would be leaving Delhi for an unknown period of time and would never get a chance to express his heart and its voice would remain unheard forever. He didn’t know whether he was meeting Dhwani for the last time. Fearing the worst, he had decided to pour his feelings out to her that evening.
Nature had also worn its best robe to be a witness of the decisive moment. The evening dusk had just set in and the orange traces of the evening sun were slowly melting away from the sky. The lovely showers had just fallen over the earth as blessing from heavens and the weather was still basking in the bliss of the pleasant coolness of them. The clouds above waited above with bated breaths letting out a soft rumble sometimes wishing him luck.
Mustering all the courage he had been endowed with, he proceeded towards her with ginger steps. His brain was spinning with innumerable anticipations that might follow. He knew he loved her. He was as certain of this as he possibly could be…or perhaps more certain than anything else in the world today.
May be her response would be yes or may be she would say no but oddly the prospect of either of them didn’t thrill or scare him much because deep in his heart he had an unshakable faith upon his love for her. And whatever might be her reply today, he would be at peace with himself for the rest of his life for not betraying or turning against the call of it.
His love was honest, selfless and above all pure. There was never a question in his mind that raised doubts about its credibility or intent. The conscience from which it manifested was absolutely blemish less and lust less. And may be this was the reason that with every step, he could feel his belief growing stronger and stronger in only one assertion that she was indeed, his destiny.
As the crisp breeze gushed past her ruffling and unsettling a few streaks of her hair, she gently closed her eyes may be to seep in every ounce of comfort it gave. Ayushmaan liked to call them “The smiling eyes” which always reminded him of the smile on the face of an innocent new born which was the source of utmost joy and pleasure for everyone around him.
“Hi, Dhwani”, he said in a tone whose gravity he himself could not fathom.
“Hi, Ayush. You look smart in this Suit”, she said
“Haha! Thanks a lot. And you look mesmerizingly beautiful”
“Oh Ayush! Never ever leave a chance to lie or do you? I know I look horrible”, she said in a manner which forced out a suppressed smile from his thoughtful face
“I’m not lying, not this time at least which might as well be the last time we are seeing each other. Believe me, you are one of the most charming girls I’ve ever laid my eyes upon”
“Now you are seriously making me blush.” There was a restrained euphoria layered very subtly in the overtones of a feigned embarrassment in her voice. “And what is this “last time” affair. College is ending but that doesn’t mean that our friendship ceases to exist beyond its boundaries”
“Ahh! You never know, Dhwani for the journey of life is very strange that tends to make people stranger”
“Yes. But on the same journey strangers become acquaintances and slowly acquaintances transform into life long companions that become as inseparable as one’s soul.”
“Agreed but as times change, people also change. Nothing or nobody remains the same. You might be talking like this to me now but who knows after ten years you might not even remember my face or even my name”
“Ok, Mr. Philosopher. It’s always been impossible to win in an argument with you. But let me assure you one thing, that I won’t forget you ever. Not after ten years, not after fifty tears when you’ll need a stick to walk and I would still be whistled at by my grandchildren’s friends or not until I live”
“Jesus! Are you sure that you would keep a spot permanently reserved for a person like me who has at best annoyed you to no limits?”
“Yes, I am”
As soon as she said those words, there was a sustained and unexplained silence hanging in between the breaths they drew. For some moments, neither of them had any clue what to say next.
With a practiced precision, Ayushmaan broke the ice.
“How do you suggest if we go out for a walk? The weather is wonderful”
“Umm..Ok. As you say”, she said as they started walking towards a relatively less populated pavement.
This needs to be done right away, he thought. It’s either now or never. You won’t be with her for a lifetime. No one stays for that long and you’re well aware of the fact. All the promises of being there forever are made in an adrenaline bout which are downright impractical, to say the least. This is your time, this is your chance so don’t let this opportunity slip away from your hands. Say it, say it!!!
“So, how has college life been to you?” he suddenly blurted out in a rush
“Well, it has been eventful or rather wonderful. There were some rough patches, some hard times but that is life, isn’t it? I met some of the most amazing people here and had the fortune of making some really precious friends..like you”
Her last words almost faded into a whisper whose echoes were too loud and irresistible for him to escape. What exactly did she want to say? Was there a hint of implicitness in them that she wanted him to understand? He could never get to the end of the mysterious trail she was unknowingly leaving with each of her utterance.
“Dhwani, please pardon me for this transgression but would you mind terribly if I ask you a personal question?”
“Depends upon how personal it is.” She replied casually
“How come a girl like you is not into any relationship till now? You are intelligent, smart and good looking and yet you don’t have ..umm a boyfriend?” He asked in a hesitant manner that seemed more like an apology.
“Why do I have to have a Boyfriend just for the sake of it? Well, there is no definite or appropriate reply to that question. Just that these things never interested me too much. I was far too absorbed in my studies to spare a thought on this aspect. But yes, I have been approached by a few guys in the past but I could not see them beyond being friends.”
“So that’s with me. Hey! What about you? Why is there no girl in your life? Don’t YOU like someone?” She asked raising her eyebrows in a mischievous arch.
Her question was so unexpected and sudden that it took him a moment to recover from the straightness with which it was posed. All of a sudden the delicate balance between their lives had been disturbed and everything that she knew, thought and felt about him was going to change forever.
He remained silent for a moment and then stopped. He was aware of that the ripple of every syllable uttered by him would come back to haunt him in his future but today, he wasn’t worried about the consequences. He slowly turned towards her, locked his eyes with that of her and letting out a soft sigh, he said, “As a matter of fact, I do”
A lot had happened in the split second that had just passed by. She was too surprised to react or even to know the reason behind it. His words were quite mysterious, as they always used to be but somehow, he wasn’t. He had conveyed a lot through his brevity. Everything was perfectly clear as a day sky but still she wasn’t ready to accept the subtlety in which it was said. Regaining herself, she faked a laugh.
“So, who is the lucky girl?”
But his eyes didn’t make any movement. They were speaking volumes at that very instant, pleading to get understood. Every feature and expression on his face had become motionless and it seemed that his eyes were the only breathing part of his existence. He kept looking at her, without any blink, without any twitch.
“Every golden syllable that crossed our breaths is hanging to my lips, floating inside my eyes. May be I’ll never say, may be you’ll never see” He said
But she could see it. It was right there in his eyes. Every shadow of doubt had been removed when she saw her own reflection glinting inside his watery eyes and she knew that very second what he had meant by those words. Her beauty was beheld in his eyes in a way she could have never imagined.
“Stop joking Ayush, now you are freaking me out. I’m not being able to understand the meaning of your hyperboles”, she said, taking a step backward and avoiding his uncomfortable and piercing gaze.
“Do you really think that I’m joking, Dhwani? And are you being true to yourself when you say that you don’t understand any of what I’m saying?” he said in a voice that was grave and heavy.
She chose to stay silent. She knew that she was lying to him and to herself. His plainness had made her a prisoner in her own mind and there was no escape from it. She was losing every bit of sanity she had managed to hold back until now.
And at last, he said it.
“Yes, Dhwani, I have started loving you. I don’t know the reason myself but I do. And you’re the first and possibly the last girl in this college for whom I’ve had such strong and fierce emotions. I know that I’m putting our friendship at great risk by making this confession but I don’t want to lead my entire life with a trailing regret. From here on, whatever happens, I don’t care because right now, this moment is what matters to me and you, whose presence makes
it all the more beautiful."
“But why me, of all the girls you’ve met in your life, why me only?”
“Can you ever know the reason why you like a specific color? Why you identify with certain emotions more than anyone else around you? Have you ever tried to figure out what makes you feel connected to someone instantly? No because you can never get to the reasons behind any of them. Some things in life are beyond reasoning and rationality and that is the beauty of them. They don’t need any reason to exist, any definition to be defined. They are
purposeless yet indispensable.”
“I really don’t know what to say. I’ve never given myself this chance of seeing you in this light. I’ve always liked you as a friend but moving beyond friendship is a thought that never came to pass”
“Love is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice that we all have to make. Sometimes sooner and sometimes later. sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. But in the end, we all have to answer to its call which is what I’m doing right now. I’m not saying that I’ll love you the most. That is a promise whose practicality is far-fetched but let me assure you that I would love you to the best of my abilities. Now I leave it upon you to respond to its call."
“You’ve given me a tough choice to make. All that you have said is perhaps right but all these matters seem too complicated to me. I have a lot of friends and all of them are so important and special to me that I fail to understand the necessity or compulsion of having someone who is beyond this mold”
“Then maybe it is time for you to break your molds and see what lies ahead. Having a companion will not lessen your ties with your friends even by an ounce. In fact, companionship is a ripened product of a true friendship. The line of distinction is very thin and it’s up to the people whether they are able to understand that and preserve both of them or not. It’s not every day that love knocks on your doors but when it does, take a step forward and accept what it has to offer because today you might not need it but later in your life, when you do, it might be too late. Like time, love is also transient. It is as sensitive in its nature as it is rare. It bestows its bliss only upon the people chosen by it and the others spend their entire lives in an eternal and an unsatiated yearning for it”
She was listening in rapt attention to his every word. For the first time in her life may be, all that had looked incomprehensible to her was staring in her eyes, deeply and dangerously simplified. She was lost in a deep introspection and her eyes were darting frantically here and there. No matter how unwelcoming or uncomfortable it was, there was no denial that everything Ayush had said made perfect sense.
“It bestows its bliss only upon the people chosen by it and the remaining spend their entire lives in an eternal and unsatiated yearning for it”
She was gripped by those words that refused to die down inside her mind. Had she been really indifferent to love and its pull? She certainly wanted to be loved but wasn’t ready for it at the time. Yet, there was a possibility that she might never be able to find out what it is to love and to be loved. What if that really happens?
They both were walking now, on a taut string of silence that was disturbed by Ayush.
“I hope you can think it over while having an ice cream”, he spoke with a sudden lightness in his voice.
“Thank you but I think I’ll pass” she said, still lost in some far away thoughts
“Are you angry or upset with me?” he asked
“No. Just that I don’t feel like having it. You go ahead. I’ll take a bite from yours”
“You sure about that because I don’t like people who take a bite from my ice cream and FYI, I’m paying.” He said with a wink.
“Well, Mr. Ayush then it’s time for you to break your mold and make this one time exception. And FYI, I know that you are paying”, she replied with a smile
And they both laughed. It seemed like the birth of a new dawn after a long, long night. The past Ninety minutes had changed and redefined many meanings for both of them. It’s every tick, as long as a decade, was now an inseparable part of both of their lives which had intertwined for that frame and given them a goblet of beautiful memories for their entire life.
Spotting an ice cream van nearby, Ayushmaan went over to buy an ice cream. When he came back, she insisted on leaving as it was 10 already and she was getting late for home as was evident from the relentless calls from her home. He knew that he could not make her stay any further irrespective of how much he wanted her to. He offered to drop her home to which she agreed after a mild protest.
When they reached near her home, she said that she would go alone from thereon. The mere thought of separation had evoked an unprecedented fear in him and now it was time to face the moment he had been dreading the most.
“So, I guess here we part our ways. Thanks for the wonderful evening.” She said with a suppressed shade of sadness in her voice.
“Yes, I guess so. Thank you for gifting me some of the most beautiful moments of my life
which I would never be able to forget”
“Goodnight, Dhwani. Give me a call when you reach home”
“I shall. Bye”
He stood there for some moments until he could no longer see her shadow and hear her footfalls. And when he could not see her, he turned around and started walking back.
As he looked up in the sky, the night was entering into its youth and a crescent shaped Moon had appeared like some beautiful pendant on its neck.
For a moment, he felt that the moon was actually smiling at him and a distant star glittered just then, as if it had winked at him and a few words conjured themselves up in the shape of a poem
The restlessness of waves and their longing for moon
A silent witness of which is the solitary shore
Drenched with a taste and hope that they’ll come soon
Forever in incomplete embrace, when did it ask for more?
Always content with a handful of oysters left behind
As souvenirs of a brevity, plain, wet and white
Hopeful that its voice will resonate across until the waves find
And rush for an eternal rendezvous despite the moonlight.
One can never get to know what happened between Ayushmaan and Dhwani after that. What was her reply to him, I don’t know and truly speaking, I don’t find the need of it because somewhere within each and every one of us, there live an Ayushmaan and a Dhwani who awaken us to the voice of our hearts and guide us to the path of love and make us believe in one fact that irrespective of the outcome, the mere presence of it can make every moment of life more beautiful. Love makes us less cynical and more certain about all the goodness on this Earth and everyone should undergo the mystical and magical journey of it
And we all have a unique story having a unique flavor to it. Different stories have different endings but tales like these are never meant to end because they never really originated from anywhere. They had been there always and would always be. Just like eternity, unborn yet immortal. Only the characters would change but the stories would live on forever. And I hope that you also find your story very soon.
Oh btw, she ate away half of his ice cream.