Saturday, 4 May 2013


Can love happen at first sight?  And can a single person make all the difference in your life? Was togetherness necessary for a relation to work out?
I never believed in love at first sight and maybe I would never believe in it, but while I narrate my story, I myself get confused about that single theory. Was it love at first sight or was it those talks that followed the first meeting which made me fall in love.
I was 15 when I first met him and he was 17 and was doing his senior year in high school and I met him at an unusual place. Many people meet in a book store, but no one gets anything beyond an unnecessary friendly gesture and that was what exactly I received.
I was exploring the romantic fiction section, girls of 15 are fond of romantic fiction, that is a time when they start realising the real yet virtual world around them and the almost virtual thing called romance fiction get them head over heels. They start exploring their romance hero in everybody they come across and they get obsessed with the idea of love and romantic relations and at that age they would do the stupidest sacrifices.
When I glanced into my wallet, I realised that I couldn’t afford books in airport for double prices. I was about to reach for the magazine section when he appeared next to me. His arms came first and they were fair and strong, I doubted some muscles too and then came his face which was fair and handsome and from a simple and innocent view of an early teen he was way too sexy. He had small eyes, thick brows and hugely black lashes and he had this real boyish hair cut short in the back.
He smiled at me like any other stranger in a book store would do and he had dimples on his right cheek like me, I wanted to admire him for a long time, but I came up to my senses and gave him a smile back.
He was in a t-shirt and shorts, perfect outfit for a journey according to me and his t-shirt read ‘out of your league’ in bold black letters and his white t-shirt went well with his brown shorts. His ray ban sunglass hung out from his short’s pocket and he had a yellowish muffler around his neck, he was the perfect outcome of the modern generation. And I was nothing less. I myself was dressed in a casual jean and t-shirt and my handbag talked about the freak I was. My mom said I looked like a beggar with it, but honestly it makes me feel hotter. He was checking out my favourite book and was about to put it back, the conversation was unnecessary but I made it anyway,
‘You should go for it that is a nice one’ I assured him and gave another of my trademark smile.
‘Uhh, am not really into romance’ he winked at me.
‘Oh, so you were just looking at it absently, I guess’ I said
‘Yeah, something like that’ he chuckled slightly ‘I was goanna buy this anyway’ he showed me a crime thriller which he already chose.
‘Crime thriller, huh?’ I asked.
‘Boy stuff’ he smiled or should I say grinned?
‘Actually I have read it’ I teased him and went to the counter to pay for my Filmfare.
‘No books, huh?’ he asked me while he waited to pay behind me.
‘I have got not enough Indian money’ I said.
‘Oh, dollars then?’ maybe he was teasing me.
‘Dirham actually, I am headed for Dubai’
‘Oh, we are on the same flight’
‘Dubai, huh?’ I enquired.
‘London, Emirates connection flight through Dubai’
‘Ok, nice meeting you’ I said as I done paying and went for the waiting area to sit with the coffee I bought earlier and with the Filmfare. I felt no urge to look back, ask his name or anything, I just left him behind and went to my things nor did he follow me despite how much I wanted him to.
Do you believe in destiny? Maybe from that day on I started believing in destiny. I had my seat in the third row, left side and aisle seat. I was wondering about who would take the window seat and whether that person would mind switching seats. Because I really hated aisle seats for a reason that everybody pass would nudge you and that was real disturbing stuff and painful at times. And then he appeared again with his boarding pass, searching for his seat and he didn’t notice me until he stuffed his relatively huge backpack to the overboard deck.
‘Wow, you again’ he said and stared at me for a bare second, he had his novel in his hand, the only thing he chose to sit with while I had my diary, pen, laptop, cell phone, headset and my favourite novel. I stuffed them in the seat pocket and made myself comfortable. And he just settled in fast and buckled the seat belt and connected the stereo to the system on plane and started listening to god knows what. I didn’t know for what reason he preferred to talk less, but that was so unfair, fate wanted us to be friends, that was why we met again.
‘You goanna read?’ I asked and he suddenly got rid of his stereo and gave me his full attention, well that was gentlemanly.
‘Sorry, what?’
‘I was just initiating a conversation’ I confessed and grinned.
‘Hello, I hope that was what you said’
‘Hey, leave that, I am Anna by the way’ I offered him my hand.
‘Aflaan’ he shook my hand.
‘Strange name’ I commented.
‘I get that a lot’ he chuckled again and his eyes narrowed in the process.
He preferred movies over talking. first I wanted to leave him alone, so I scribbled in my diary and then I couldn’t help talking and at last he gave up the movie and became a wonderful listener, nodding and laughing at right times. I talked mainly about my best friend and he said I was lucky to have such a sacred relation and then I talked about my parents, siblings and home. Then I ended up talking about my interests, crushes at school, my favourite subject, my career plans, my dreams and then we got stuck on Dubai.
I started to explain how and why I loved that place, how it became another home for me, how fun nights were, how boring days were and how wonderful boys were. In short words I opened my autobiography in front of him, at first I thought he would be a mere listener, but while I was finished with my thing, he opened his book of life for me. About his family, his younger and only sister whom he loved a lot and about his school, life in UK and how much he loved India and how desperately he wished to stay back instead of flying back to London.
His school life was nothing like mine and he loved the cold weather and snow like I did, he had a girl friend which he recently dumped and it was fun hearing how the urban life in London worked out for Indian teenagers. What I realised was, he was way too different from me and I simply loved his way of life. The way he lead his days like nothing else mattered, the way he made use of every single moment.
He was a city boy with almost western culture but still the Indian in him was alive. He respected traditions and wished to come back once and settle in India forever. He said he loved urban life, but also missed India, the way Indian relations worked out, the Indian weddings, Indian night outs, Indian street shopping, Indian music and dance and mostly he missed his grandmother which was the reason for his visit to India alone without his family at the first place.
I never missed India and despite that I always wanted to leave the country behind and live in Dubai, the city of my dreams forever. I had no priorities or sympathies like him; all I cared about was me, I suddenly felt that I was selfish all the time. The funny thing was, in that 3 and half hours, we almost watched a movie, had a perfect dinner and made a wonderful bond of friendship or whatever. He was not that hard a person like I thought he was. It was really easy talking to him and I got to know a simple and small part of the person he was.
I didn’t know that he was rich, but he explained what his dad was and how much he wanted to fly economy class. I thought of it as weird. It was his first economy class journey, I was dying to fly first class of a luxury plain. He told me that he got a first class ticket to London as the journey was tiring and long 16 hours and he said he was glad that he took economy for Dubai so that we met. I really wanted to be flying to London instead of Dubai and spend those 16 hours with him instead of those 3 hours.
He bought me a gold plated locket from the onboard duty free and I loved it. It was a simple and elegant knot and expensive of course. I was modest at first but I did accept his gift, considering the fact that we may never cross each other’s path again, it was kind of symbol that told me that, that 3 hours were real.
We shared a last cup of sweet tea and my favourite song which he liked, he smiled and stared at me all through the song and said I had a great taste for music. He desperately wanted to read my pocket diary and I let him. He told me that I should write more and that he loved my words and I promised him that once I would publish my stuff and then he would remember that 3 hours and that I would dedicate him one of my stories, so that he would know that I was real and the simple relation we had was real too.
There was an announcement that the plane was about to reach the grounds of Dubai in a few minutes. I felt sad for landing for the first time in my life, I didn’t want that to end, the spell to break, but there was nothing I could do. I kept my face pleasant though my inside was screaming out loud.
‘I need you to keep this’ I gave him my favourite book.
‘This is the same book, right?’ he asked while examining that.
‘My favourite of all times, I have read it like a thousand times’ I smiled a sad one.
‘Oh, then I shouldn’t take it from you’
‘It’s ok, I want you to have it and read it; that is a nice story’ I assured him again, for the second time in that same day and he smiled back.
‘Shouldn’t be bad and I will definitely read it’
‘This is my first copy, I had it when I was 13 and I have underlined all my favourite parts’ I gave him the unnecessary extra detail, after all nothing I said was specifically necessary.
‘Think I too will love your favourite parts’ he said as he went for it.
‘I will underline again while I get a new one, that one is special, take care’ I said, being dramatic.
‘Sorry, I couldn’t give you anything special’ he said and made a face.
‘Well, I will keep this special’ I pressed the locket to my chest and smiled.
‘I am glad you liked it’
‘I loved it and I am going to put some music on and close my eyes for a while, I really don’t like the sound of landing’
‘Ok’ he said and I put on the music and closed my eyes and relaxed back. I had an instinct that he was watching my face while I sat back, I had an urge to look, but I fought it back and tried my best to be lost into the music and as adding insult to injury, a super romantic song played through my ears and I went all mad inside. I fell in love with that guy, I didn’t know the exact moment, when I first saw him? When we listened to my favourite song? When he talked about himself? Or when we had a nice dinner?
We reached the gate where we should part, he kept his bag a side and dragged me into a corner.
‘It was nice meeting you and you are sweet’ he said.
‘Should I answer that?’ I teased him.
‘That was not a question’
‘ are hot’ I said back.
‘I should have liked something like cute or adorable’
‘You are cute as a puppy’
‘Sounds better’ he exhaled ‘I better get going; my flight is in half hour’.
‘I should be going too, passport control will be so crowded’ I said.
And then he hugged me and dragged me close to him, our faces were inches apart that I thought I was going to have my first real kiss in front of a strange and busily moving crowd. He slightly brushed his lips on mine and went for my cheek and held me for a moment in a hug. I backed a little and kissed his cheeks and then before letting me go completely he kissed my forehead. I smiled the saddest smile ever and backed away.
‘Bye, love you’ he gritted through his teeth, more like he was holding back grief.
‘Love you too’ I whispered and then his figure slowly faded away into distance. I stood there for a long moment and started walking on autopilot.
I have lived 15 years by then and I have never felt that complete than in that 3 hours. And those 3 hours seemed the only time I lived and I lost it then and there. I had a lot of time before and after, buy why was that small time everything to me and why did I fell in love with a stranger? What magic was that? What happened? Was that attraction, lust or anything? Or was that love? And if it wasn’t love, how did those 3 hours felt like my whole life to me and why did he have to go away in such a short notice? Wasn’t togetherness a necessary thing?
I loved that it happened and hated the way it ended, we were not supposed to be just that. I once more stared at the locket and went right into the arms of my waiting brother. While his mind danced with joy that at last his sister came to him, my heart was burning with grief. I was not sure of what would happen to my life then, would I be able to find love again? Would I ever meet that special person again? Was Aflaan going to be just a chapter of my life? A beautiful, yet sad memory?
‘Anna, you need to get up from there’ came my cousin sister’s voice. I was on my best friend’s bed and I was curled in it by hugging his favourite pillow. The whole room smelled of him, I couldn’t believe what was going on. Life could be so cruel at times and that was such a time. My cheeks were pink and damp from the uncontrollable tears I shed and my own lips tasted salty from my tears.
Years went by after I met Aflaan, I was no more a teenager, I was way too grown up from being a fantasising teenager, I learned to live, learned to differentiate fantasies from reality. Learned how it felt like to lose people, how it felt to be loved and to love. I was 25. A lot happened in my life, important and non-important events. I graduated b-school and had a very convincing job and great reputation in my career. I almost got married to my family friend and that was a mess.
Indian parents have an urge to marry away their daughters when they go beyond 21 and that was what exactly happened with me. I had 3 boyfriends so far and had 3 break up’s as well. Relations simply didn’t work for me and then my parents came up with the marriage idea and there was no reason to say no, I had no one to wait for, I had nothing much to do in life, so a marriage was fine with me. I was not really fond of the groom, he was way too different from me, but I guessed that is how marriages always worked out.
It was when he dumped me that I found out that he was not too fond of the bride either. He went for his ex-girlfriend and got married to her without even breaking the engagement with me. First I felt like shit, being abandoned, then I realised I was happy that it went that way, I was forcing myself even to like him, so what was the big deal. And because of that horrible thing my parents decided not to push me further and stopped making matches for me and let me be. I was getting good on my own but that was when my best friend’s life went upside down.
He was about to get married to his long term girlfriend when he was diagnosed with blood cancer. He was about to call off the wedding himself after he knew that he wouldn’t make it up to the aisle and wait for her, he had no time, but before he could do anything she dumped him and said that she couldn’t be with him. I always thought he was weak, but he was so strong, he didn’t even shed a single tear, he let her go with a brief goodbye.  I wanted to kill her at that moment itself, first of all, he was the sweetest person I have ever met in my life and second of all, he had committed his entire life for that single girl and had treated her well all the time and I hated to see him hurt.
The relation I had with him was way too special and immortal. We grew up together and went to school together. From kinder garden to our post graduate, we were practically on the same bench. He got job in another firm though the same city. I never had to miss him once in my life because we were never apart. He was there for me all the time I needed him and in my life, I never knew how it would feel to miss him.
We always had the same friend circle, same interest and same social life, so practically we did every damn thing in our life together; we even went on double dates. While he made music, I wrote the lines, while he danced, I sang for him, while he played a match, I cheered for him, when he dumped classes, I deliberately became his guardian, when he come home late, I became his protector. No one had to ask me, ‘who is your best friend?’ because the answer was too obvious all the time.
He was always too protective of me like a brother and loved me like his own soul and from him only I knew how it felt to be loved deeply. He always bought a smile on my face and always cheered me up after my break up’s. He never really talked about my boyfriends, he was too possessive and basically hated everybody and told me that they were not the right ones, but he never blamed me when my relations go worse but instead he crack pathetic jokes about my ex’s and make me laugh. He always put me first, even before his own things and needs and that made me feel special.
His girlfriends were all too jealous of me and never really liked our relation, they didn’t like him putting me first and giving me all the care in the world. But they were all happy when we showed them our rakhi. We exchanged them on a rakhi bandhan, it was not one of our religious rituals, but we found it interesting and always did it, we expressed our love in whatever way possible. I and he always had two bands on our hands, one rakhi and one friendship band; we never really take it off. My mom always complained that those bands didn’t go well with my party gowns, but I didn’t care, I told her that, I am never going to take it off, not even on my wedding no matter whether it go with my white gown or not. I loved it when he called me sis sweetly, even my own brother doesn’t call me that sweetly, but I love my brother too, but that was another story.
He was hospitalized immediately and I always cried near his bed and he was the one who consoled me, he stayed strong all the time. He told me that everything was going to be alright but never told me how it was going to be ok. I barely went home and always stayed with him. We both knew well that no miracle could save him; he knew he had less time and he being the best used that time to make me feel better. He was always worried about me, how the hell I would feel, I was guilty that he always thought about me but not about himself.
He was a good actor, but not in front of me, one day he broke down in front of me and told me how much it hurt, feeling being abandoned, he told me that he had gone for the wrong girl his all life and that he was glad that he had me. He expected her to be the one by his side, when he closed his eyes forever, but he told me that he was glad that it ended up that way and that I became the last one left for him.
‘Will it make you feel better if I married you?’ I asked him that day and he was too weak by then, he was sleeping a lot and was taking in a huge dose of morphine.
‘Yew, I am not marrying my sister’ he said all childishly despite of his condition. He proved to me that, that kind of relations were also possible in the world. I always doubted he had something romantic for me and I ended up a complete idiot, he meant every word and loved me unconditionally and love not necessarily is romantic all the time.
I leaned in and kissed his forehead, though I knew my tears made him weaker, I poured my tears on him, he kissed me back on the cheek weakly and gave me the sweetest smile ever, he was too fragile and pale but yet he was so beautiful, I had no idea why his girlfriend left him. Yeah, I knew, because she didn’t want to be married to a dying man. He insisted on keeping our bands while doctors forced them out and after the battle, he did keep those and showed me them proudly. We got a pair every year and he told me to keep them safe and I always did, he never had to ask.
‘You should get to Aflaan’ he said out of nowhere.
‘What?’ I asked, stunned as a rock.
‘I was just saying, you know, no one really suited you, I never met that guy, but from what you blabber about him, I like him the most in your boyfriends’ I barely bought Aflaan to our conversation, I was sure not for a couple of years anyway, he always teased me and enjoyed them.
People say that time heals every people, but time didn’t make me forget him, I always kept that locket safe and always remembered those 3 hours when I saw that and when I read my favourite book and pocket diary. During my high school I completely forgot him but then my crush came along and he resembled Aflaan and bought the memories back, I even doubted that it was him, but there was no slightest possibility by which Aflaan could end up in our school.
‘I was 15 for god’s sake’ I told him as I absently wiped my tears away.
‘Appropriate age to fall in love’
‘I didn’t’ I told him again, more strongly though his voice stood in the same frequency.
‘Then why were you searching for him in every other face?’ I had no answer for that and we both were not in the condition to fight.
‘It is not even possible, think practically, it was just 3 hours’
‘I am not thinking practically anymore, it is too late to think that way, girl’ he unwillingly made me into tears and we stopped talking then and I faced against him and fought my tears.
Maybe he was true about me searching Aflaan on every face I came across, it made no sense anyway, I moved on, but that memory stayed fresh. When I thought about it I felt stupid, but it was true, what I wanted was Aflaan, a complete stranger I met on plane and I have only spend 3 hours with him, it was weird, after all the whole world was weird.
I tried once to find him and failed to find him, and I felt strange, so I gave up. What if it was only for me, what if the feeling was not mutual? Maybe he got a girlfriend and all and would be living a very convincing life and I clearly didn’t want friendship from him, so there was no real point in doing so. So instead I started searching for someone else. I strongly believe that I would find love in someone else, but that was a mess, I even reached marriage and I failed, there was something missing all the time and I never knew what. And there was this weirdest thing, after every break up, I would go and stare at my locket and then he would come to my mind and then suddenly I would be happy that my relation with the other guy didn’t work out well. And the only person who knew about Aflaan was dying in front of my eyes, others may think I was mad, only my best friend understood my feelings and weird points. He too believe that I was mad, but we both love that madness for no certain reason.  I thought losing him somehow would make Aflaan seem less real to me.
‘You know, you are always weird and maybe you were supposed to fall in love in that weird way, so don’t feel bad, you are best as this weird’ he told me again which told me he was not goanna give up.
‘Stop it, ok?’
‘Hey listen to me, I know that you would feel lonely once I am gone and I don’t want you to forget him just because you don’t have me to talk about him’ he was making me burn.
‘Stop this stuff, it’s bothering me, don’t you see?’
‘Maybe you should be more practical’ he said ‘Come here’ and I went to him and sat next to him, he was in almost a sitting position by adjusting his bed and he put his arms around my waist and slowly and weekly held me close.
‘Don’t be afraid, ok?’ he breathed ‘we both know what is happening here, I wanted to tell this to you always and I feel like I have no more time’
‘Don’t’ I tried to stop him.
‘Don’t live alone, if I was wrong about Aflaan, though there is no chance from how well I know you, find someone who can love you and you can love, ok?’ he said.
‘You sound like Jack in Titanic, make grandchildren’ I chuckled.
‘Rose was his best friend, huh?’ he teased me back.
‘I hate you’ I said.
‘But I love you, can’t help it, girl, you are so sweet like someone had said’ he said mentioning again to Aflaan.
‘Please don’t act too strong with me, ok?’ I told him sadly.
‘Yea’ and then he hugged me close and I felt his tears on my back as he wept, I knew he was too afraid to go, he never showed it, and I was scared too, I didn’t want to think about a world without him. He was too special to let go and when he started crying I thought it was better for him to act strong, at least it would make me feel that he was not scared to go after all, but I knew my best friend well.
‘When I go unconscious again and when they attach me to those machines again, don’t stay, ok?’ he rose from me and his cheeks were all damp ‘I don’t want you to see me that way, just go back to our place and stay there and don’t ask my updates, I want you to hold on to our memories and don’t come see me until you can hold some Aflaan’s hand and smile that sweet smile, that is how I want to see you’
‘I love you’ I whispered and suddenly those words had all the power and meaning in the world. I thought he was strong, but he was too fragile, mentally and physically and he knew he had to go soon. Those were the last words I told him.
When I came back after getting him and me our favourite coffee, he was shifted from his room, a nurse told me that he went unconscious and that he was taken away. I dropped the coffee, though I had a urge to walk toward the ICU, I took his bands which lied on the side table and walked slowly to my car, I stepped on to my car and went home and took just my handbag with credit cards and passport and went straight to airport and caught the next available flight to Dubai, I went to our place.
And I ended up in his room hugging his pillow and crying into it and I didn’t bother to ask about him, I knew he was gone, I didn’t ask, when or where was he buried, nothing, I just spend my day in his room, in his clothes and tried my best not to let go of him. It was our place, where we loved spending time, that apartment, that was our families’ old apartment and later we took and remodelled it and it became a place of our own, he lived around there and I felt his presence there. We sang all those songs there; we had most of our beautiful memories in that city, especially around that apartment. We never allowed our other friends or our partners in there, they have seen the place, but never had fun there and they didn’t know how to have fun there, it was our own place and I only had his smiling memories there. He was not dizzied off from morphine nor was he burning in agony. He was smiling, laughing and we were singing together.
Life is so strange at times; it gets so strange that we ourselves can’t figure what is going on with our own life. I was living more like a dead person, partly dead anyway. Everything in my life went upside down in a very short time, it was too much for me to take in, I left my real life and started living a virtual one and that was a living hell.
People say that time heals every pain and it did, but like I said, I didn’t become oblivious about what happened in my life. My best friend was still alive for me, like I always used to tell him, he would always be alive for me. Time made me forget his painful face and bought those smiling face instead. I learned to hold on to happy memories, I tried my best to forget those last days and I almost did and I started to smile again, but there was still no Aflaan to hold my hand.
Almost a year went by after he was gone and I never keep account of dates, so I don’t exactly know which day it was, someone long gone appeared again in my life. It sounds crazy but I met Aflaan again, not some Aflaan, but mine, the one I met on plane and he was standing in front of me all alive, it was so much real, not some crazy fantasy which I used to have after my best friend left me.
I never left Dubai, I was waiting to go back after I fulfilled my best friend’s last wish which was of course getting myself a life, when he said get some Aflaan, not in my wildest dreams I thought I would find the real one, suddenly I wished for my best friend to be there, so that I could talk with him about all that later. I was sitting on a park bench after my evening walk, I was in my track suit and t-shirt and I was all sweating and was listening to music by watching the busy cars passing in front of the park. And that is when he appeared. He came and sat near me, like he have known me for a life time, there was no excitement of meeting someone after a long time, it was like he have known that I would be there at the park and like he was coming only to meet me.
I slowly got rid of my hear phone, not believing what I was seeing. He had no changes on his face, he just stared at me absently without even greeting me. He changed a lot, instead of that irresponsible teenager, he was a man then. He wore a casual jean and formal shirt with no tie, he appeared way too mature and his face changed a lot, but appeared the same to me. He still had that glossy cheeks and adorable dimple. I recognised him very swiftly, maybe because he was this another face which kept on running in my mind and thoughts.
He reached my hand which was gripping on the bench and it made him seem more real to me, he kept on staring me and I stared back without even uttering a single word, I didn’t know what changed in his life, I have never known him, then why was I worried about what changed? I was no teenager though, my life changed a great deal and like I said, I could no more deal with fantasies while I was struggling to deal with the realities, I simply had no time or strength to fantasise.
‘Hi’ he greeted me after all that awkward silence.
‘Aflaan?’ I choked out. And as an answer to that he simply smiled, I wanted to smile back, but my life didn’t let me do that, things kept on screaming in my head. He was a stranger, he is a stranger, what was I thinking, he probably came when he saw me from a distance and maybe he want to know how I was, maybe the thing was that simple and then why on earth was I making many assumptions in my mind? He was nothing but an illusion, a real and living illusion, which I can touch but the one I can’t have, the one I shouldn’t think of having.
‘How are you?’ he asked, still like he have known me for a long time, he was not even making sure who I was, maybe like me he didn’t need to do that.
‘I don’t know’ I said and I didn’t know from where that came. He laughed hard at my awkwardness and I just kept on staring, I couldn’t figure out what was going on.
‘Are you done here?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, I guess so’
‘Where are you headed to?’ he asked ‘can I drop you?’
‘No’ I said as a reflex action ‘I have a car’
‘Then can I follow you?’ he chuckled, maybe he was teasing me, but it was hard for me to take it all in. All the more he stared at me I realised that he was a complete stranger, not the one I was dreaming about, not the one I secretly fantasised about.
I didn’t know why on earth I let him follow me to my apartment. I had a quick shower and made coffee for him, I was too bad at that, my best friend used to make coffee all the time, as I was bad at it. When I came with the coffee he was nowhere in the living room and then suddenly I noticed him staring at my best friend’s door.
‘What is this?’ he asked me pointing to the glittering letters on the door and it read ‘Psycho’ in blue bold letters. I pointed at my door which was opposite that and it red ‘Maddie’ in hot pink letters.
‘Psycho?’ he asked.
‘I called my best friend Psycho and as a revenge to that he started calling me maddie, but beyond his expectation of it bothering me, I found that name cute and sweet and then we got used to that and got that written on our doors, he was real mad’ I smiled for the first time that day, maybe because my psycho came back laughing at me.
‘I am sorry for your loss’ he said and I didn’t know how he knew about it as I didn’t mention anything about it.
‘You said I called him, so I figured he.....’ he didn’t say the rest, but still the answer was not fair, just because I used past tense it didn’t mean he was dead.
‘It’s ok’ I said and gave him the coffee, he walked down to the couch as he sipped on the coffee. We sat across from each other and then there was again this awkwardness created by silence, so I started another conversation.
‘How come you are in Dubai?’ I asked.
‘Not another connection flight’ he said and smiled which bought back the only memories I had about him ‘I have been working here for the past 6 months’
‘Oh and what do you do now?’
‘Architect’ he said.
‘Oh that is great, so you chose your father’s path’ I commented, that was all I knew about his dad.
‘Hey why don’t we have a real dinner tonight?’ he asked out of nowhere. I couldn’t remember the last time I had dinner out with someone other than my family and friends. And anyway I had nothing on my schedule, I never have anything on my schedule after his death.
‘I don’t know’ I said that again.
‘You say that a lot now?’ he asked me and it followed a slightest laugh.
‘I don’t know’ this time I said knowingly and I did chuckle, that was surprising to me.
‘Ok, I think I will go’ I said and then we had a long conversation and I became all normal again, I talked with him like I have known him all the time, there was no more awkwardness. I told him about everything that ever happened to me, and like earlier he was a great listener, I broke at some parts and he consoled me in a very convincing and natural way, everything went too easy with him, I didn’t had to pretend or hide anything, it was like once more I was talking to my best friend.
We had another perfect dinner and he told me about him, he said everything about his life, his relations, his career, family and everything and he had less tragedy than me, he had nothing really, his life was normal and like he said, one thing was abnormal, me, meeting me was his strange problem, I couldn’t believe that he thought about me all the time and remembered me and maybe like it was for me, I stopped him from getting a serious relation in his life. After all I knew what we had was mutual, it was just distance which was wrong and time proved our relation true.
I didn’t know when or what was the instinct or who initiated it, but he was kissing me and I suddenly felt like 15 again, like I had no care in the whole world, like nothing mattered but that single moment, it was like we were continuing an incomplete chapter, I suddenly forgot what I was, I was a teenager again with nothing to care about but her fantasies.
We gave our relation time and dealt it like adults instead of being dizzied with the idea of romance. We did fight a lot and unlike in my other relations, I felt no urge to give up, we solved our problems too and there was no single moment when I thought of a break up. Every fights ended in a hope that we would be ok after a while, every days ended with a long await for tomorrow and everyday started with love, hope and joy, my life was getting on tracks again, but still I thought it was not yet the time for me to go back to India, so we stayed in my favourite city of all time and enjoyed each moments of our life together.
One night when we were watching stars from the terrace, he proposed me, there was nothing dramatic, it was not like how I thought it would be, but I loved the way it sounded, it was all real, it felt more real than anything and then I didn’t think, I said yes because, I fell in love with the first time with the same guy and despite how much different we were and how much we fought, I felt real, natural and myself with him and I never felt the need to stay away from him, I never had to think again about that, I was so sure. For the first time in my life, I was sure about a thing without even talking to my psycho.
‘Am I ever goanna get a band like this?’ he asked me once when I was cleaning up my best friend’s room.
‘You can get a wedding band, not this, no offense’
‘I sometimes wish I was him’ he said and I didn’t know what to say, what he was saying was an impossible thing, my best friend was something entirely different, I could never find someone like him again and I don’t know whether anyone could become ‘the best’ again.
‘I am sorry’ I murmured.
‘I know you can’t replace him and it is ok’ he said and kissed my forehead, I was glad that he was not jealous or maybe there was no need to be jealous about a dead man. And I was glad that he understood me better than anybody alive, he was ready to compromise and once again I was proud that I had all the sacred and special relations in this known universe.
‘You never asked me how I found you again’ he whispered against my breath.
Coming back after 2 years felt good, I was back in India after 2 long years and my family was dying to see me and their future son-in-law. Our wedding was supposed to take place in a church in India, very simple and elegant maybe, with only immediate family and close friends. Instead of going straight home we went to see my best friend the first thing.
I was in a graveyard for the first time in my life and I was not scared because I was there to see my best friend and I knew he was smiling then. He rested under a huge tree and he was in a way alone, a little away from others, and I felt him near me, holding my hands and laughing and teasing me about Aflaan and at last telling me how happy he is that I found Aflaan and that he really like Aflaan and telling me that Aflaan was always been the right guy for me.
I closed my eyes and I left Aflaan’s hand, this sounds a bit crazy, but he was there running in my mind, breathlessly laughing instead of giving me his cute smile, he was such a bully at times, I laughed out loud and Aflaan must have wondered what was going on, he must have felt that I was really maddie. 
‘Here I am, smiling and holding hand of not some Aflaan but the real one’ I said out loud happily, if anyone were there, they must have wondered why I was this happy in a graveyard. I was happy because he was happy for me and that is how friendship worked out, we are happy when our best friend is happy and sad when he is sad and mad when he is mad.
‘I love you, psycho’ I said smiling.
‘And I love you’ Aflaan said and hugged me from behind without any notice and kissed my cheeks.
‘Hey what is that written on his grave?’ I asked suddenly noticing something .
‘What exactly is written on his door’ Aflaan answered ‘he asked to do that before he died, he wanted you to know that he loved that after all’
‘He is crazy’ I commented.
‘And you are mad’ Aflaan was rhyming whatever I said.
I stared at my bands and smiled to myself and gave a sweet smile just for my best friend, I hope he loved that too. I kept his favourite flowers on him and stood there for a long time, I didn’t cry, I didn’t know why I didn’t feel that he was gone, I felt like he was hiding somewhere and watching all the fun and that he would come out soon, maybe this was the reason why he didn’t want me to stay, he wanted me to hope that he would come back once and as mad as I was, he did the right thing, because I believed what he wanted me to believe.
‘You know when I found you...’ Aflaan started,
‘How exactly you found me?’ I asked him, demanding an answer this time.
‘You liked and put a command on every damn post on that page’ he said.
‘Which page?’
‘Your favourite book’ he smiled at me embarrassingly. ‘I was going through that page hoping to find you and I did and I mailed you and your cousin got that because you were with him because he was sick and she was maintaining your mails’
‘I remember that, I have not opened my mailbox for 2 years now’
‘And then your cousin asked about me to your best friend and then he contacted me and told me that it was a bad time and that you were not yourself then and that you would turn me down despite how much you want me’ he said and that brought tears to my eyes, he was such a what, I don’t know, he did every damn thing for me and all I ever did was nothing.
‘He told me about your things and told me that it was strange, but you loved me and that you were weird and asked me to come to you once the time seems right and take care of you and I was here for his funeral because he was sure that you wouldn’t be there’ he finished.
‘He did that?’ I asked again.
‘He even threatened me that if I ever hurt you his ghost would kill me’ he laughed, but I was not in the mood, I stared at his grave and stood there absently.
‘I did nothing for him’ I said to myself, a little louder maybe.
‘You did everything for him by just being yourself’ Aflaan consoled ‘I love you’ he kissed me and a tear slowly rolled down my cheeks and touched my lips and he wiped them and kissed me again, I was happy a moment there and then it made me cry, the happiness and his love made me cry, I was sure he was hiding, he would come back in no time, I hoped.
‘Ready for the wedding, miss?’ Asked Aflaan sarcastically.
‘I will miss my best man’ I sighed ‘he promised me that he would walk me down the aisle’
‘He is not in the mood to walk you down, so he will just watch’ Aflaan hugged me and we together watched my best friend smiling.
My dad walked me down the aisle toward Aflaan and he was waiting for me at the end and I was not scared or nervous to walk it down because I wanted to get to him as fast as possible, I belonged there, right next to him, in his different yet beautiful world, all I wanted was to hide myself in his chest and be there forever. And then my dad put my hand in his hand and I saw my best friend, psycho, smiling at me from the abandoned and far corner of the church were we used to sit on Sundays. I took the vows and became Aflaan’s forever.
I just narrated two different and special chapters of my life. One about a person I knew from three hours and the other one I have known for a life time with whom I spend almost every moments of my life. It was strange that I had something romantic for the person I knew less, but at times it doesn’t appear strange when we think that friendship and brotherhood is something beyond romance and maybe that was right.
Maybe the reason my relations didn’t work out was not Aflaan but my best friend, maybe I was too scared that I would have to compromise my friendship for a romantic relation, sometimes I think that it was the exact reason, because earlier I had someone to go to when I was worried or broke and I loved that person unconditionally and love may not be romantic all the times.
It was like I had to lose my best friend to have Aflaan by my side and it was all about time, when I met Aflaan earlier, I knew we had to be together, but nothing went our way and then after years when I needed somebody to love me, he came back and he was exactly what I needed. Maybe relations have something to do with time also.
We realise a lot in our life and we regret and I didn’t regret any decisions or any moments of my life, it was all in the plan, not mine, but the universe’s and for some reason it was better than my own plans. Maybe after all it is true that everything happens for good, even though everything won’t sound good to us, it is good in a strange way.
Everybody’s life is strange and no matter how difficult it is to figure it out, everything makes sense at the end, we suddenly understand what we were and what our life meant, our life’s mission was not what we thought, it was something better, our life didn’t end up like we thought, but we realise at some point that some dreams and fantasies are at their best when they stay so, they really suck in reality. And it is strange that every chapter in our life are connected in one or the other way, like my best friend and Aflaan were connected. For me my best friend was my past and Aflaan was my future, I cherished my memories and lived a life.
Now when I sit here in a beach in Dubai and watch Aflaan playing with our daughter in the sea I realise that this world happened to be strange and maybe I am the strangest alive on that because I fell for a stranger and waited a fortune unknowingly for him to come back. And when I stare to a distance, to the never ending ocean and when I myself get lost in it, I realise that even nature is lying to us, we lost people somewhere deep in there and nothing seems never ending but the ocean and maybe life can be compared to that sea, but nobody make it to the other end, people sink before they are lifted by a loving hand. And those people who smile when they sink not because they are too fond of the afterlife, but just because that they are sure that their loved ones are still safe and happy out there, they are those persons we compare to angels, those persons who deserve endless and immortal love and my best friend was one of them. He lived his life for others, especially for me. I was the luckiest for I had the best persons and relations in my life, though I didn’t deserve every bit of it.
‘I love you, psycho, I love you bro’ I whispered against the wind and a wind blew up my hair and I would know that everything was real until this wind stop touching my face. Suddenly I felt an arm slipping around my waist and dragging me close and then he kissed me into this strange life.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

A life, worth living for!!

It was something much more than just charm, beauty or something in that territory which pulled me close to her. She was not beautiful, not ugly, was not outstanding or extra ordinary, she was just a girl who we meet in our everyday life. There was nothing special in her when she passed me every other day in the corridor by giving me a strange look. She was not special until I started to see more of her than that mere look or embarrassing smile.
I was so much into my studies during my high school; I had to score good grades to get into the college of my dreams, where all my brothers got their education. Getting into that college was the matter of my fame and fortune and a simple matter of my dreams. And because of all that, I had to concentrate hard on my studies and I barely got time to enjoy other things in my school life. When teachers thought of me as a smart student, students though I was a freak and a jerk who only knew to study and score good marks.
I was not much of a friendly person and I had relatively less friends at school, my best friends were my brothers and school was purely a study material for me. The only friend I had at school was Priya, who was another lonely one in our school, she was not too much into studies; she was just lonely and happened to be my classmate. We went along well, so there was no choice other than her for me. She went all cheered up after being with me, but what I cannot figure out was why I was still a freak?
This all doesn’t mean, I had no friends at all, I did have friends, but the thing was I never stayed long with anybody. I went well with everybody and hanged out with everybody, I was on good terms with all and that was always an advantage to my life there. Teachers adored me and that was obvious as I had always managed to score the highest marks and teachers think I am the only one student who got a motive to study. And honestly girls gave me a hard time, was I that gorgeous for them to stare at me all day?
I was such a person who liked to keep my things to myself and not to explain my life or understand my doings to others. If my things really matter to them, let them figure it out, they don’t owe an explanation from me unless asked, that was my attitude. And nobody did ask me about my things, as I said earlier, people thought I was a jerk and so they were not interested in asking me but to make their own gossips. It was true that I was about to slap a girl for which she gave me a hard time, but I have not done it. But the rumours were I cheated her in love and slapped her at last.
First of all, love was not my thing and second of all I had no girl and I had not slapped that girl, I was about to and she has never ever appeared in my life again. This was how high school runs, on gossips and fake love stories. I was in a relationship, about 2 years before, but I am all done with it and I moved on. We were not meant to be together and the relation was just a relationship, I couldn’t find love or anything like that, so I had no choice but to leave that idea alone and move on with my studies and my scheduled life. And I have not cheated her, I was always ready to give it another chance, but she got engaged to somebody, this was what happened in India. She was still there at school, I stare at her occasionally and I was glad that I left her; she was not even a choice.
I study in no international, western style school, so there were no prom dances or Valentine’s Day program. It was just an ordinary school which runs on studies and some boring youth festivals and yeah some cultural programs, with no cultures included. I had a normal school life which most of the ordinary Indians had, it was beautiful indeed.  My school was normal until she and her best friend appeared in my life. I have never seen a girl like that in my life before; she was strange and funny perhaps.
I have noticed her before when she gave me that killing look, I have caught her staring at me and I doubt that she drop her mouth open at my sight. Like I said she was strange and I never tried to figure her strangeness out and she was not a big deal back then. She was one of that many girls stared at me weirdly.
That was a pleasant day and I was walking through the corridor towards staff room. That was when out of nowhere she appeared with her friend. She stood in front of me for a bare moment and was blocking my way. I was about to excuse myself when I saw her friend pushing her and asking something for her to do. And the whole scenario told me that I was involved in their drama. I had no interest in their drama, but something about that girl held me there.
‘Hi’ she said and waved her hand towards me.
‘Excuse me? Do I know you?’ I asked back.
‘No, but...’ she stammered ‘can you please give me a moment, can we talk alone for a minute?’
‘For what?’
 ‘Please’ her face went all funny and pleading and there was no way by which I could refuse her request.
‘Okay’ by that we went a little far from his friend.
‘Who are you?’ I asked.
‘I’ she replied ‘and that is my friend Irfan’
‘You are not Pooja, You can’t be, I can see that you are a Muslim’ I said as it was clear that from her dressing, she had a scarf on vaguely hiding her silky hair.
‘Does name matter? These days we put any names right?’
‘But not Pooja, you are not......’
‘Zoya’ she cut me mid sentence ‘happy now?’ she was talking to me like she has known me for years.
‘Now concentrate on what I am saying, ok?’ she said and she was staring right into my eyes.
‘Do I have another choice?’ I asked and talking with her seemed easy, even easy than talking to any other girls, even priya.
‘Sorry no’
‘Then, shoot’
‘I want you to tell my friend Irfan that I told you that I have a crush on you’ she said in one breath.
‘Come again?’ I said as I couldn’t understand the whole thing ‘you have a crush on your friend and you want me to tell that to him, why?’
‘God damn, I told you to concentrate, listen, I and Irfan were playing truth or dare, you do know what that is don’t you?’
‘I have heard, never played’
‘That question is not usually asked in the exam, so don’t bother’ she was clearly making fun of me and there was no emotions playing on her face other than innocence and restlessness, she was a great actor.
‘And he dared me to tell you that I have a crush on you and if I am not doing it, I have to give him a whole packet of chocolate, I don’t like being failed, so, please...’
‘Crush on me?’
‘It’s a play, man, no big deal, just say that, ok?’ without allowing me to answer she called Irfan near us.
‘Now ask him’ she said proudly to Irfan.
‘She told me that she had a crush on me and Pooja, you wasted my entire break time, I had to see my language teacher’ with that I left and I heard them say,
‘Jerk’ she was saying and I saw her face, usually I get angry at things like that, but that girl bought a smile on my face against the usual.
‘Pooja? Who is Pooja?’ I heard Irfan asking her.
The next day I noticed her again in the corridor, she was not supposed to be in that corridor as it had no connection with her class room, she had no need to be there unless she was taking a long way to the ground. Though she was talking to Irfan while walking I knew she had her eyes on me which told me clearly about the intention of her to talk to me.
‘Hey Ahmed’ she greeted me.
‘What now?’ I asked.
‘Here, for you’ she held out a chocolate to me, it was expensive but not my favourite.
‘Why?’ I asked, I honestly had a lot of questions.
‘I surely am not going to eat a whole box of chocolates’ she said ‘you helped me beat him, anyway’ she winked at me.
‘She has not given me, accept it man, she don’t always share her chocolate with others’ interrupted Irfan. I saw her elbow him for the comment he made and I accepted her chocolate, after all it was a chocolate.
‘I am not giving you now, I was thinking of’ she said.
‘Who needs your chocolate?’ Irfan teased her.
I was about to leave when Irfan said:
‘She does have a crush on you Ahmed’ it made me stare back and I saw her face blush, I gave her a big smile which I very rarely did. And I saw her giving her friend a real hard slap on his hand; he surely was going to have a hard time after that.
After that I haven’t met her much and that made me sick, I wanted to meet her every other morning. My not too blasting days were getting even worse. She bought something with her, some kind of magic which made me smile. I have not discussed her with anyone, not with my brothers, priya, not even my supportive mom, because I myself was not sure about her being in my life. I didn’t know where she belonged, what she was or even whether she had a place in my life.
I decided to see her again; I was not good at that stuff. So I simply passed her corridor, at first I couldn’t see her, but heard her voice from a huge crowd, I saw no girls, she was surrounded with a lot of boys, and she was talking from middle. I noticed Irfan at the door and went near him intentionally to talk.
‘What is going on?’ I asked him.
‘What?’ he was confused.
‘There with.....’
‘Pooja?’ he was clearly making fun of me.
‘Zoya’ I corrected him as I wanted him to know that I did know her name.
‘Nothing much, she is giving them a lecture’ he said and was about to ignore me when I asked again,
‘Which subject?’
‘Chemistry’ he said ‘man, what is wrong with you, she is just talking crap there like usual, no big deal’ at first when he said chemistry I was goanna believe him really.
‘One of our friends needs help, he want to propose to a senior girl, they are making plans’ he explained, at that point I realised how enjoyable school life can get, it was lot more than what I had for myself.
‘Any luck there?’ I asked casually.
‘No, she is a rough one to impress, your batch, she is, real beautiful girl, i think’ he said
‘Priya?’ I asked as priya was always an attraction point to boys, but never to juniors though.
‘Zoya bhai, your crush here wants to know the name of that senior girl, some priya?’ Irfan asked to Zoya by raising his voice into a maximum as he had to out travel a huge voice.
Bhai?’ I said to myself.
Teri baabi thodi tho hein yaar’ commented Irfan on my shortest and irrelevant question.
‘Hi, Ahmed’ one of the boys Zoya was talking to came and hugged me like he have known me for a long time, I didn’t even knew his name. He wanted me to talk with priya, so my guess was not wrong, they were discussing about my best friend.
‘Varun, I have a great idea, buy him some chocolates and he will do anything’ said Zoya as she approached me and laughed at her own pathetic joke. By that she went with Irfan, why was she always with Irfan. I have never spotted her without Irfan at school. I actually came there to talk to her and she went by leaving me in the middle of some crazy guys.
After that I had to make up a reason to meet her again and it was real hard to bring up something. And out of the plans, she appeared in front of me again, in canteen this time. She was not having lunch but was talking with her usual group, Irfan right near her of course. I was alone there to get a change for priya and I decided to talk to Zoya, which seemed the right time to do it.
‘Zoya’ I called from near her table which clearly interrupted her lecture of chemistry.
‘Hi’ she was kind of shocked to see me, but she did greet me.
‘Can I have a moment, please?’ I asked her.
‘Me?’ why was she that surprised that she dropped her mouth open and had a ridiculous expression on her face.  
‘Yeah’ I said and she rose slowly and I noticed the stupid smile on Irfan’s face.
‘You want us to wait, Zoya?’ asked Irfan.
‘Wait by the corridor, will you? That boy from high school gives me a hard time’ she said.
 ‘Still?’ he asked ‘don’t worry, never again, I will take care of that, you take care of your crush, man, I got this one’ Irfan winked at her. Their friendship was something for me to watch, they were so caring, loving and understanding about each other and still they were silly, ridiculous and always stupid. I was always jealous of Zoya that she got such an adorable relationship, friendship.
‘Thanks man’ with that we went out of the canteen towards the great tree of our grounds, it was a great place. First of all, that was the only place in that bare ground where the sun couldn’t reach directly, and then it was a usual spot for silly talking. Whatever crap we talk in that school, that tree should have witnessed it.
And I have heard that, it witnessed a great proposal, one of our teacher proposed to a student for marriage and that she agreed, that was weird, but the fact that the teacher was fresh out of college, makes it less weird. He was still there at school, my maths professor, he had grown old, but people said that his wife was still dropdown gorgeous. I have heard students tease him for that, but he was a let go and easy person to go with.
‘What you want?’ she asked.
‘Who is giving you a hard time?’ I asked back instead of answering.
‘Nobody’ she smiled one of her dirtiest and broad smile.
‘Can I ask you something?’ I asked.
‘Anything except chocolate’ she said.
‘Why are you always with Irfan?’ I asked, and I didn’t know why I asked it.
‘We are childhood friends, we know each other since we are small children, he is my neighbour, some distant cousin too and most of all, he is my best friend, now is there a question of why I am always with him?’ she said very swiftly, she always talked fast, it was always hard to figure out what she was talking.
‘And the reason behind why you are always around boys?’ i asked again. It was like I interrogating her really.
‘My mom sends you to spy on me?’ She asked and she had this unexplainable expression on her face.
‘Sorry’ I said.
‘I was always with Irfan, and he didn’t like girls much, he was always with guys and obviously we came as a package deal, every friend of him is mine, and I hardly got much time to make some girl friends, but I do have some, you want me to hook you up with someone?’ she was fast again, I really wanted to tell her to slow down.
‘You are a girl too, Irfan doesn’t have a problem with you’
‘Excuse me, what is your problem, now you have a crush on Irfan?’ she asked, restless.
‘What, no, no, no, I was just asking’ I said, she did talk real crap.
‘He has no such problems with girls, ok? I just became like this for no reason, how am I goanna make you understand?’  I did know why she became like that, it was the reason why people adored her, she was as good as she was, no alterations recommended.
‘You don’t have to’ I said.
‘Hold on a sec, why are we talking again? I thought you needed some help from me or something like that’ she said.
‘Sorry, yeah, I do need a help from you’ I said.
‘I want you to write me my words’ I said.
‘Yeah, a speech’ with that she started laughing; actually she was pretending a laugh.
‘Very funny, I can’t even write my English exam properly and what is your topic, some global warming or something? I tell you, man, those things are the least I care about in my life, so I am not goanna write a speech in the first place because I am no good at this stuff and.....’ she was going on like that and it seemed to me that she was never goanna stop talking.
‘Love, Love of friends......friendship, that is my topic’ I cut her mid sentence. I stammered a bit, but the right topic came out at last.
‘Friendship?’ she asked.
‘Yes’ I replied.
‘Which club are you in, again?’ she asked, she was clearly making fun of me.
‘Literature and it is for the friendship day program we are organising’
‘Good and you want me to write it who is a member in no club, why me? I am no good at this stuff’ she said.
‘You are good at friendship, you are so close with Irfan, I just like the idea of you two and you are the best person to talk about friendship’ I said.
‘Blah blah blah’ she started making that sound.
‘There is a writer in everybody, you just try, please, you can, you just write what comes to your mind, ok?’ I asked and I really wanted her to write it.
‘What comes to my mind right now is a poem but very unfortunately it is already written by Shelly and I have to by heart it properly for next hour, so please’ she said, there was no sign that she was goanna take my offer.
‘I will give you a box of chocolates’
‘Hello, Mr. Chocolate, I am no fan of chocolates, and I can afford a box or two now, when I go very poor, I will consider writing you words’ she said ‘if you can’t really write one, Google it, that is the best way and if you need help in googling I will ask Varun to help you, just help him to get to priya’ with that she was leaving.
‘I did help Varun’ I said
‘I know’ she smiled and waved me a bye and walked away towards her best friend, neighbour and some distant cousin.
I was not expecting her to write the words after that, not a chance. And my hopes were disagreed when she and Irfan came to see me at the club meeting. Obviously they both had no club and were wandering that time. Irfan came and called me out of the meeting and we met Zoya in the corridor waiting for us to come.
‘Here you go’ she said and held out a relatively long fair white paper and it was filled with her slightly curved yet beautiful handwriting.
‘Speech?’ I asked ‘you wrote it yourself?’
‘Yeah, Irfan saw me writing, ask him’ I didn’t had to ask Irfan as I kind of believed her and never believed in Irfan’s small lies to hide his dearest friend’s face from sins. And the speech she wrote was just magnificent; I have not expected that much, not even close. I doubted for a second that she googled it, the language was amazing and something out from the Zoya known to me and I barely knew her.
‘This is amazing, how....’
‘She writes stories man, when you have time read the school magazine and look for articles signed by Z’ Irfan interrupted and gave me the answer for the question which I was about to ask.
‘What about those English exams....’
‘It is because she doesn’t like the English teacher’ said Irfan and winked at me and they both walked away.
Her speech was no doubt but amazing, everybody accepted the known fact and appreciated me after presenting the thing in the program, I did mentioned that the speech was by Zoya who is known as Z. Her secret was no more a secret. Not everybody knew who Z was. Some teachers and her classmates knew. Our school was a big world, so there were a lot of citizens who didn’t know Z. Not everybody read her writings and wondered who Z was, because you know how much students read their own school magazine. Talking about me, I have only watched the pictures until Irfan mentioned Z. until then the magazine was safe in my book shelf, but from then on it became even safer and special. And I am sure that people read that after the program to see who the mysterious girl was. And she was definitely not happy with what I did, she didn’t want to reveal Z and she should have given Irfan a hard time to mentioning it to me. And after I knew she was mad with me from Irfan, I was clearly scared to face her angry face, I have not known how it was, and I have only seen her happy, enthusiastic and silly face. But like I said, I barely knew her; I had to see a lot more of her. And I owed her the chocolate which I promised her to give, so that was the right opportunity, I was not dared to go to her, but looked out for her in the corridor, and I have not noticed her or Irfan.
When I was to leave school with my friend on his bike, I saw Zoya walking alone, probably towards bus stand to catch her bus home, but against the usual she was alone, Irfan was not there. I smelled some fights. I decided to go to her and got off the bike and told my friend to not wait for me and that I will catch a bus home. It was not too hard to reach her as she walked even slower than a snail. I barely had to run to reach her.
‘Zoya bhai,’ I tried the dirtiest number to greet her.
‘huh? Who told you that name?’ she asked facing me bravely.
‘I heard Irfan call that’ I confessed.
‘If you have heard Irfan call that, not anybody else, you should understand that it is for Irfan to call, not you’ she was talking fast again, was she practicing to do a drama on vampires?
‘Sorry, what should I call you, then?’ I asked.
‘Call me Z, anyway that is quite famous now’ usually that was supposed to follow with a big smile, but the absence of smile told me how mad she was at me.
‘I am not sorry about that’ I said firmly.
‘And I don’t expect you to be’ she snapped to my face.
‘You were supposed to be known, ok?’ I said
‘Haah, and now people know how pathetic I am, first people thought I was cool, now they think that I am a jerk’ she explained ‘I was invisible and I was as good as that’
‘Maybe you are not supposed to be invisible’ I was not ready to leave my point.
‘Excuse me, why are you giving me a hard time at this point? I am perfectly fine by walking alone’ she said and she had a pathetic expression on her face. She have not clearly meant what she said, her face was telling me how hard it was for her to walk alone. She always needed somebody to walk with and wanted to talk with somebody always, which was what she was.
‘Talking about walking alone, where is Irfan?’ I asked.
‘Big story’ she said ‘not going to be there for a week’ she said by looking up and like talking to the wind.
‘Why? Is he alright?’ I asked.
‘Broke his leg’ she snapped.
‘Is that real bad?’ I asked.
‘Not bad at all, he was waiting for a excuse anyway and now he found it to ditch school and my mom won’t allow me to stay at home, he is having a good time now, meal at bed and me in this stupid school’ she sounded frustrated and a little bit disappointed for what her mom had done to her, the maximum of cruelty.
‘Ask him how much he misses school, he surely will be missing, make him jealous about how much you enjoyed in school and all that stuff’ I suggested.
‘Nice suggestion, but not a good one, he will know how much I enjoy school without him being here to mess up, ditch classes and share textbooks’ she said ‘he will know how much boring chemistry would be without him to tease that grumpy professor’ I listened closely like a good student in math class.
‘And this walking part is real hard, walking alone sucks’ she has said just before that she was fine with walking alone and now this ‘and I am scared to catch bus alone, scares the hell out of me when some strangers stare at me’
‘Maybe I can help, walking with you until Irfan is back and help you to catch the bus without you noticing how many strangers are staring at you’ I said and I had hope, I was thinking of what to talk in the next week and we would have to talk more as she walked very slowly, she should have the speed she had in speaking in walking and the speed she had in walking in speaking, she applied all those velocities wrong. Actually what to talk was not a big deal, the talkative Zoya could never run out of topics to talk.
‘No thanks’ she said and this time it followed with her big, embarrassing smile.
‘Okay’ actually that was not okay, I had not asked her permission to walk with her that day, so there was no question of her permission for doing the same for a week or even more. I gave her a chocolate, not quite like I promised, not a whole box, but a big one. She had no hesitation to take it, she grabbed and thanked me and gave me one of her sweetest smiles.
‘You are crazy about chocolates, huh?’  I asked.
‘Not quite, ice creams drive me crazy really’ she said as she was proceeding to eat her chocolate.
‘Your flavour?’ I asked.
‘Praline n cream’ she replied as she offered me a piece of her chocolate.
‘Never heard of such a flavour’ I commented.
‘Baskin Robbins’ she replied.
‘Rich lad’ I commented again, clearly making fun of her. With that she gave me a hard punch on my chest like the ones she used to give Irfan all that time. Honestly, it hurts a great deal, but was tolerable. Irfan should have got used to it.
We talked for a great deal of time; anyway we had to reach a fair deal of distance with her speed rate. I got her into a bus and waved bye, she gave me a thanking smile and a wave and then the bus sped off with her in it. I watched the bus disappear along the bend in the road and I noticed her high fiving an old man in the bus. She had friends everywhere, of every age, time and type. I tell you, she was a nasty piece of girl to deal with.
All my unintentional intensions were fulfilled, strange but true. I have not intended to walk with her for the next week with her on purpose, but I did it was purely intentional, and right now don’t ask me, I just don’t know how to explain that whole scenario. But I can definitely say this, it was fun, a great deal of fun and I made a friend, a very special and rare one. First of all, friends for me were rare, but she was rare of the rarest. Irfan too had to be my friend, because they always came as a package deal, honestly that was not a bad thing, because Irfan too was a great person to be with, a gem as a friend.
After one week Irfan appeared and that was a bit sad for me, now that he came, I wouldn’t get the honour to walk her to the bus. But of course, coming back of Irfan was pleasant; the person Zoya with Irfan was real different than with me. He thanked me for taking care of her, of course without her hearing it, if she had heard, she would give him a hard time, that was sure. She got this motto that she was not a small child to be taken care of, but honestly saying, she needed protection more than a child, she was so damn scared to walk alone and loneliness and silence used to freak her out. And then still she said, I am not a small kid to be taken care of. But actually I should have thanked him, but that would be cruel and humiliating. After all what should I tell him, thanks for playing football, breaking your leg and leaving your friend for me to talk for a week?
But to my surprise, Irfan wanted me to walk with them all evening. At first I thought it would be boring to walk with both of them together, they were this great friends known for forever and what was I, a person came yesterday to their funny, silly and special world. But it was nothing like I thought it would be, they both together were a piece of mess, the fun they made, the things they discussed, the reasons they fought for, all this things told me how simple, easy and adorable life actually was. I knew almost everything about her by walking with her for two or three weeks, but still that girl was full of mysteries, after knowing all those things, I barely knew her, she still had knots to be untied.
I knew she had a craze for ice cream, her favourite movie and book was ‘A walk to remember’, her best friend was Irfan, I knew she wrote romance stories and I knew she was good at what she did. But all of them were just silly when I knew more of her. Behind all those laughter, there were millions of tears hidden, behind all that silly fights, there were real sorrows, behind every talk, there was a loneliness hunting her, behind every smiles, there were some missing and behind all that friends, there were some strangers which she never wanted to stay as strangers.
It was from Irfan that I knew that she had lost her mom when she was 5 years old, as I was mentioning her mom always; Irfan decided it best to tell me. When I mentioned her mom, she smiled and acted like she had a mom, I honestly didn’t knew how it would be like to lose a mom or to lose any person in life as I had no experience to recall. But it must have been hard, at least I know it now, after losing some special persons in my life.
‘But she herself mentioned mom once’ I told Irfan as I was not convinced and as I recall her saying mom not allowing her to ditch school.
‘When?’ Irfan was asking me while we were sitting in the canteen and were having lunch, Zoya was away with her English teacher, to sort out some of her academic problems.
‘She once said, mom didn’t allow her to ditch school’ I explained.
‘She is talking about my mom’ he said ‘after her mom’s death, she was taken care of by my mom, and we are close neighbours and cousins’
‘I didn’t know’ I said.
‘We both grew up together from childhood, her dad and my dad was business partners too and we both are only children, so obviously, we grew up like siblings and made it into friends somewhere in the way’ he was saying ‘I never really fancied girls as friends, but I couldn’t help it with her and she is a adorable sister too’
‘I did know something about you two being family’ I said as it was necessary for me to make any comments at all.
‘This is nothing you know about her, she is more complicated than that, there are a lot of things which you still don’t know about her’ he said and the time proved it true.
‘She is a girl of mysteries’ I commented.
‘Yeah, but not for me, I should get some award for fully sorting her out’ he said proudly.
‘You too are a bit complicated’
‘We grew up together, so that is obvious’ he winked.
That day Irfan had not told me much about her, and I too considered it best to sort her out on my own and that was a hard job, all my life I was in unleashing those mysteries of that girl and still she stayed that way, she was getting special and mysterious by every passing second, was she some kind of angel?
That day we were walking through the road towards the bus, she was chewing on something, Irfan right next to her and I a little ahead. She was silent and so was us; she was looking around and musing the environment. Like usual she was in her speed rate, I was restless to walk slowly, so always I walked a little ahead in case her mouth was sealed.
‘What you looking at?’ I heard Irfan asking her.
‘Nature, trees in particular’ she answered.
‘What is with trees?’ Irfan asked again.
‘I’ve got a thing for trees, especially in this season when they are kissing their leaves goodbye; they are charming, growing towards the sky, in a blue background with various shades of green’ she said, all poetic.
Wah Shaeir, now you got a crush on trees?’ asked Irfan and that didn’t went well.
‘Yes, do you have a problem with it or is she your girl friend?’ by this I went near them to walk, fights were stronger when it had patient audients.
‘No, of course not, you go on, but I will appreciate it if you are walking a little faster’ said Irfan.
‘Actually, I don’t need your appreciation’
‘I will go my way then’ claimed Irfan proudly.
‘Then go, na?’ she asked, like a very angry tiger cub.
‘Mom will give me a hard time, which is the only reason why I am walking with you’ he said.
‘Really, that is why...’
‘I meant tolerating your speed that is it’
‘My speed comes with me, if that is not going well with you, why don’t you just....’
‘What are you eating?’ I interrupted as I knew the audient had to be impatient at that time as their fight was going to the worse.
‘Chewing gum, why?’ she asked me back. And Irfan mouthed me a thanks for helping him out from the mess, I winked back at him, all this without her noticing of course.
‘Just curious and why are you eating it?’ I asked as I had nothing else to ask, as I started it to stop their fight, I had to find something relevant to ask her.
‘I am having a bad breath today’ she said.
‘I am not goanna kiss you’ I teased her in a silly tone
‘I am not goanna let you’ she said, in that same tune as mine, she knew how to tease back.
‘Zoya’ Irfan interrupted us and came between us ‘I think you should let him’.
‘Idiot’ she said and gave him a very huge punch, which should have hurt a big deal.
‘I am serious, you fantasised a lot of kissing him, now you got a chance’ he said, that was embarrassing and surprising at the same time, I didn’t know she fantasised about kissing me, I told you she was full of mysteries.
‘Excuse me? Fantasised?’ I asked to Irfan and to her.
‘Yeah’ Irfan turned to me ‘she did’
‘Before or after ‘truth or dare’?’ I asked him.
‘Before, that is the reason I asked her to do that’
‘That was not a play then?’I again asked him, curious.
‘Yes, we played and she didn’t thought I would tell her that and I never expected her to tell you’ he explained.
‘That was good, because of that I got two new friends’ I commented, I saw Zoya’s face going all embarrassed, mad and desp. She wanted that subject out, but I had another question left.
‘The crush thing was no joke, it is true then?’ I asked again.
‘Very much true’ said Irfan pleasantly ‘what the hell you thought, I mocked her simply?’ asked Irfan back, and I saw her face getting madder, there was no doubt that she was goanna give him a hard time after I left in my bus.
‘It is valentine’s day next week’ said Zoya, I am sure she did the interruption purpose fully, so that the crush thing would disappear for some moments at least, anyway there was a tension between us after Irfan told that.
‘So?’ asked Irfan.
‘So, this year, we are having a program’ she said
‘Seriously, a valentine’s day program? In our school? I don’t believe this’
‘Under English club’ she said
‘Why on earth English club?’ Irfan asked again.
‘Western culture, I believe’
‘What is there? I mean program’
‘Dance, music and all I think’
‘Are we supposed to have a date?’ Irfan asked, he was mad, no matter how western our school gets, there was limitations and a hell of limitations.
‘Are you out of your mind, Irfan? It is more like our annual day and don’t know how they got the permission to do that’
‘That is bad’
‘Why? Were you going to ask somebody?’ she asked.
‘Yeah, Anita’ he said.
‘But she is Christian’
‘So, that matters? I am not going to be in some passionate love, it is just a date, and you need to grow up girl’ he said, sarcastically.
‘You need to thing straight; you are living in India, ok? Be cultured in an Indian way, don’t go for western, you are uncultured when you are not following your own culture’ she was nothing sarcastic; she was damn serious about what she said.
‘It is not my mistake that British dominated India once’ he said, being silly.
‘So what? That means you have to live their way?’ she asked again.
‘It’s a simple matter of a date, Zoya, leave that alone, will you?’ he said, getting serious.
‘No, I won’t and this is not just about a date, it is much more than that, I am clearly not happy about your way of life’
‘I don’t want you to be happy with my life, you get on good terms with your own life, I will look after my life and I am perfectly alright about my way of life and it’s my way, so stay out of it’ that was getting worse, and Zoya went out of words, she went silent.
‘Zoya, if you were to bring a date, who would that be?’ I asked as I once more had to interrupt, and this time Irfan was mad so there were no thanks and Irfan’s angry face was nothing good to watch.
‘I don’t know’ she said after a long pause ‘I will go with someone I know, not Irfan, he got Anita’ she said, and she was real mad with Anita thing.
‘I think it leaves me with you’ she said without making an eye contact.
‘So, you mean that passionate thing?’ I asked, it was somehow important for me to know what she felt and didn’t knew why, I had a huge desire to kiss her at that right moment, but I knew that it wouldn’t do any good on our relation, if there was one.
‘I will see you tomorrow, Ahmed, bye’ with that she left without telling the answer and she was so swift which was an extraordinary thing about her and she didn’t managed to get Irfan with her which told me very clearly that she was very mad with Irfan. They fought usually, but a not talking basis fight was very rare.
 And I knew that it was not a good evening for her. She had to fight with her best friend and she had o face her own confusions and a big question of which she was not sure about the answer. She was struggling to say and walk, I saw her walk away towards the bus and at that moment I knew, if I was to have a life, it was with her, only with her. I realised the girl of my life, she just walked into a bus, she made my life, I stood watching her for a minute and it bought me a smile as somehow I myself was sure that, she was not goanna go out of my hands, that she belonged to me and that she would always come back to me whatever happened life.
For the next days, she was walking alone, without Irfan and didn’t give me a chance to talk, she slipped all the time and I wanted to talk to her so much, it was a strong need. She was so disturbed and that was the first time I saw her like that, she was always happy and fun. Her face used to make me smile, made me sad that day, it was real hard for me to watch her strange face, so was for Irfan.
I met him and asked him about the whole thing, he told me that it was likely for her to drop the fight, but my valentine thing disturbed her and that she was not ready to talk to Irfan or solve their silly fight. That made me feel guilty and it was my mistake for sure. So by each second it became my need to talk to her and I thought Irfan would need the same thing and so we both went up to her and blocked her path and forced her to stop and listen to us.
‘We need to talk’ I said as Irfan was forcing her to stay by blocking her path.
‘I have nothing to talk, Ahmed’ she said.
‘Zoya Irani, you listen to me’ Irfan started ‘don’t you dare play me, I know you a great deal, so stop acting, now’
‘Oh really? I am acting Mr. Irani? You think so? Then let it be and you know nothing about me’ she fired and then my role was to stay silent.
‘Sarcastic! Out of all people, I don’t know you? I don’t know my best friend, Zoya? Now this is funny’ Irfan did his sarcastic yet strong denial and she went out of words which happened very rarely and that told me how disturbed she was.
‘As far as I know you, Zoya, what you need right now is to talk, and talk to me for god’s sake’
‘I....I have nothing to talk about’ she stammered
‘Then what is this drama all about?’
‘If I am the problem Zoya, I am sorry’ I interrupted.
‘You, stay out of this’ she fired at me and that was the first time I saw her mad at me, all the confusions inside her came out as frustration. Irfan winked me to stay away and I did as that seemed the right thing to do then.
‘Zoya, spit it out, what is bothering you?’ Irfan asked again and obviously we both knew the answer, but somehow Irfan wanted it out of her mouth.
‘You should know Irfan, you said you are my best friend’
‘I know this for sure, my date thing is not bothering you, because we have gone through the same fight for a hundred times and you always made it funny at the end’ Irfan said and made his part clear.
‘You’ she turned to me ‘please stay out of our life, will you? We were happy before you, if you cannot find friends for yourself that doesn’t mean that you can spoil ours’ that was the worse, my eyes went all misty in a bare second and I said nothing. Deep down I knew she didn’t want me to go away or that she hated my friendship. But the fact that her tongue cheated her left me no choice but to leave without any complaints or questions.
‘If that is what you want, ok, anyway I had some good days with you two and thanks for the company if it is to be thanked, bye, Irfan, Zoya’ it was hard for me to say bye, but did I have a choice? I walked away swiftly without giving her a chance for second thoughts. I saw her crying and hugging Irfan, at least their problem was solved, weed was out.
If I was the problem in her life and her friendship, I was out of there as I never meant to spoil anything. It was hard to bid goodbye, but I dealt with my fate and got settled with it, that was the wisest thing to do, after all.
After a week, Irfan came to see me in the library, I assured him out as our librarian had a problem with noise, she cannot even bare minute voices, let go of our high pitched voices. We went to the library corridor which was near the boy’s bathroom and that area was always left abandoned as none of the students actually fancied coming to library or even crossing it. I didn’t know what bought him there, maybe he felt sorry for me, or Zoya send him to say sorry which was not necessary.
‘So, what brings you to me?  The guy who failed to find friends’ I said, a little mean, I sounded.
‘That is not funny, Ahmed’ he said.
‘Nothing was funny’ I said, without losing the power in my voice.
‘I am sorry for that’ He said
‘Zoya send you?’ I asked him out of curiosity.
‘I said sorry in my behalf, I too was your friend, sorry that I kept my silence then’ at least Irfan was wise; he was not a post man carrying Zoya Irani’s message, but a barer of his own.
‘It’s ok, everything alright between you two?’ I asked, didn’t knew why I asked that as the answer was obvious after I went out of their lives.
‘The real question is, are you alright?’ Irfan asked me.
‘I am dragging my ass through library, you can guess the answer, I mean who comes to our library?’
‘Yeah, I can see that’ he smiled his half smile ‘I am here to talk not for my best friend, as you too is my friend and I got to consider your feelings too, I am here to talk for my sister’ well said by Irfan Irani the great.
‘You don’t have to make it clear’ I said.
‘I will kill you both, shut your mouth and listen to me, Ahmed’ he said and those words were just strong enough to make my mouth shut.
‘I know Zoya, she meant nothing, she was too overwhelmed that she said something stupid, not you or anything can spoil our friendship, it is marked down there, so, don’t worry about that’ he explained ‘she was not in her happiest after you left, which clearly states that your presence is not the problem, but your absence and I honestly don’t want my sister to be worried and I will never tolerate she being hurt, and now within a month, I have grown fond of you too, so I will, most of all, hate to see you both sad and hurting each other, so before you two make me mad and go out of the equation, sort the problems out’ he ended his long lecture and I was glad that I made it to his top list of friends, so I was not that bad at friendship.
‘There is no but, you are the man and the eldest, so come and sort it out before it gets worse and don’t worry, she will be lot easier to deal with than you thought’ he assured me and went. Irfan too was an angel, a messenger maybe, leading both of us through the right path, making us regret of our bad doings and proud of what we did right. There were no questions further after he left, it was my duty to sort our problems out as Irfan’s sister’s sad face hurt me too. He was right, there was no need to fight, she was stupid and mad and I am the eldest one, I should be more wise and gentle, I should be the one to make her think straight instead of fetching the wrong way myself. I was supposed to stay, I always was, I was stupid and proud enough to step away when she told me to.
She was in her classroom when I went to see her and she was reading a book that was out of usual, she always talked merrily with others in classroom instead of hiding her face in a goddamn book. Maybe she sensed my presence, she stared up from the book and got stuck at my face, I was not that charming for her to be stuck , maybe I was, after all, I was her high school crush. Irfan called her to the corridor and she hesitated at first, but nobody can deny Irfan’s angry face, scares you out, that guy. She came very reluctantly and she was not quite looking at me, she was confused, scared, embarrassed, guilty, all at a time.
‘Zoya, Ahmed needs to talk to you’ Irfan told her.
‘No’ she denied without looking at him or me.
‘I am not asking your permission, you should talk with him’ Irfan went all stubborn at times, and like I said it was hard to deny him. So we ended up under the tree where we started it all.
‘Well, I am sorry’ she said, still not looking at me.
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘For saying all that’
‘You didn’t meant to?’
‘No, never, I was so confused and mad and.....I don’t know, it just came out’ she sounded very disturbed.
‘Are you still mad and confused?’ I asked swiftly and demanded answers quickly so that she wouldn’t get time to edit her thoughts.
‘No, I am alright now, I was fighting with Irfan and all that’ she sounded so innocent, buy why?
‘Why are you not looking at me while talking?’ I asked ‘you never look down’
‘Sorry’ she said and lifted her face to look at me which bought into view her beautiful face, misty eyes, blushed cheeks and full lips. It made me smile at first and regret next that i was the reason for the absence of that huge, dirty smile on her face.
‘Why are you blushing?’
‘I am not’
‘You are, your cheeks are all pink’ I said
‘Pink? Is that good?’ she asked, never been that innocent before and I have never seen a girl that innocent.
‘No, it’s not cool, like the Z thing revealed’ I said, to make her go mad and smile at the end.
‘Really?’ she touched her cheek and rubbed it like a small kid.
‘Now, it gets worse’ I commented and chuckled, now she realised I was kidding her.
‘Excuse me, what is your problem?’ she asked, exactly like how she asked me the first time.
‘My problem, is you’
‘Zoya Irani is my problem; can you find a solution for that?’
‘You are mad’ she stated and that was kind of true.
‘Yeah, for a date with you’ I made it as easy as possible.
‘No’ she said.
‘You really have nothing for me?’ I asked.
‘No’ she said, without actually facing my gaze.
‘Then why did you say that you would go with me as my valentine?’ I had a lot of questions to counter her and I was the debate team captain, so there was no way her defeating me.
‘That was a joke’
‘Which followed a big fight?’
‘I love drama’ she said.
‘That was too beyond a drama’ I commented.
‘Not my problem’ she said again.
‘Of course it is your problem that you fell for me, that you unintentionally fell in love with your crush who accidently became your friend’ I was not to narrate the whole story there.
‘For god’s sake, I had no crush at you’
‘Irfan said’
‘He lied, then’
‘Ok, he lied, but my eyes cannot lie to me, I have seen you stuck staring at me’ I said and smiled, embarrassing her of course.
‘That is bullshit’ she said ‘what you think, that you are charming?’
‘Yeah, I am gorgeous, deal with the fact, girl’ I winked at her.
‘You are ugly’
‘Ok, agreed, but don’t say that you have not felled for that ugly, charming boy’
‘Just stop this, ok?’ she said.
‘Why should I?’
‘It’s bothering me’
‘Really, then why don’t you just spit it out and get good with it?’ I asked very swiftly.
‘That you fell for me and will go on a date with me’ I said and she became silent and started at me for a long time and came firing at me,
‘You did it na? You happy now?’ she punched my chest like she had gone mad.
Hogaya na pyaar, abbh kya?’
I didn’t want to answer it, what was the whole point, again? Everything was clear and out, no secrets and no confusions. I moved towards her and took her hands punching me and forced her still. I stared at her eyes and she went still and stared back at me.
‘What are we going to do now?’ I asked her back.
‘You tell me’ she said slowly and I held her more close to my chest and surrendered her in my arms.
Chalo shaadi karee?’
‘Irfan se poocthi hein’ she said.
‘We need a witness, right?’ she asked back.
‘Are we eloping?’ I asked, acting surprise.
‘Let me ask Irfan to convince dad.......’ she was going on with the talking, but it was irresistible for me to kiss her, I didn’t want to wait long and so I kissed her and she kissed back, we could make the arrangements later. And that oldest tree witnessed one more uniting, and this was a strange unison it ever witnessed, after all that silly fights and talks, we marked our love under that legendary tree and smiled towards the sky, thanking god, for giving us each other.
Right after she graduated high school, I married her, not because I was afraid of losing her or something, because there was simply no reason for me to stay away from her for another moment. I was ready for the commitment and there was no question of finding somebody else or anything like that, she was the girl for me and she came earlier in my life which made it possible for both of us to live together long. And so, I got married at 19 and she at 18, it was strange and sweet. We started our life early and we faced no problems, we were fine all along, it was love and my charm which held us for so long, I am kidding about the charm part though.
And now when I sit here, outside a school in London in my Jaguar waiting for my daughter to come out of school, I realise that I am the luckiest guy in world, I got all I asked for, a big home, a well known business, a charming daughter, just like her mother. I and Zoya lived together for 10 years and then she left, leaving me a baby girl. There was no fights when she left me, she still had that smile on her when she slowly closed her eyes.
That was unexpected, that morning when I took her to hospital, I was hoping to see another living soul not to lose her in that dark room, it was hard on me, but I had to deal with it. I wept by holding my baby close to my heart, she was what left of Zoya, the living part of Zoya. Time had this power of healing pains and making people forget things but time failed to make me fall in love again.
I was lost in her love, her smile, her talks, and I simply didn’t fell in love again. It was being 10 years now, it is my daughter’s 10th birthday and still I remember that huge, dirty smile of Zoya, her fights and strong punches, I was still in love that I didn’t had to fall for another living soul, she was never gone inside me. She lived and her heart beat with mine. I felt her with me, I saw her in my life, holding and being there with me and helping me with life. It was never like she went, she stayed somewhere around, watching our lives from a corner and silently smiling.
I am a successful person, in everything, and now I realise that she was the biggest and sweetest success of my life. She was there inside me, her presence was visible in whatever I did and I had the happiest 10 years of my life with her. Her first novel came in print after she went, I was sorry that she didn’t lived to see that, but she saw me grow and she went merrily seeing my success and seeing our daughter’s cute face, she was happy that she provided me some company before leaving. Her 3 novels came into print after that, I got the first one’s author’s copy, autographed by her, she didn’t lived long to see the rest. I was glad and her smiling face came to me while I saw those books in print. I was proud and happy and I don’t know how to explain that feeling, how to explain that special girl of mine, I just always knew, I was in love, I am in love and will always be in love with that mad mad girl who made my life, worth living for.
My daughter came running to my car and opened the car and busted into the front seat, she started at me in surprised and dropped her mouth open like Zoya used to do when she had a crush on me.
‘What you have a crush on me, Zoya?’ I asked, my little Zoya.
‘Where is uncle Pete?’ she asked.
‘Why, you don’t want me to pick you up from school?’ I asked her. As an answer for that she leaned and kissed my forehead.
‘I am glad, daddy’ she said and smiled that huge, dirty smile.
‘What was that thing with that boy?’ I asked her
‘Which boy?’ she asked back.
‘At the entrance of school’ I said.
‘My friend, Michael, giving me a hard time’
‘He thinks I have a crush on that guy, our senior year, but he is kidding’ she said, little embarrassed. I smiled at her and she always made me remember Zoya, I have not actually watched Zoya’s eyes, but my daughter’s eyes make me remember Zoya, it was like she lived through our daughter. And my little Zoya was exactly like her mother. She got that same charm, fun, eyes, hair and that dirty smile and I hope that once she too would make a good writer and that she would fall for her crush once.
‘Why are you taking me today?’ she asked.
‘Don’t want me to?’
‘Just curious, dad’
‘We are going to Irfan uncle’s’ I told her about Irfan, the greatest friend me and Zoya ever had, he too was settled in London, being a part of my business, we were partners, there was no way of getting rid of him.
‘That is great, that Imran Irani ditched school, today, faking a head ache, I got to see him, how dare he left me alone for school?’ she was getting mad about her best friend being absent for the day, she and Imran was of same age and was together and they were just great.
‘He is not faking a headache, Zoya, he is moving near to us’ I told her about their decision of moving near our house.
‘Wow, he never told me, he is goanna have a hard time and a good time after that’ she said and I realise, the next lucky person alive will be my little Zoya’s crush and I am the luckiest as I got both of those girls in my life and because they both were always mine and always will stay special.