“Stupid rains”, I screamed and pressed the horn with whatever energy I was left with.
On any given day without the rains, it usually didn’t take more than ten minutes to pass the main road and take the left turn towards my home. But today it had been more than one hour and I haven’t even crossed the first signal, all thanks to the rains and water clogging afterwards.
Suddenly the traffic started moving but stopped again as the signal turned red, perfectly matching the color of my angry face.
Fifty nine more seconds to go, I noticed the blinking numbers on the traffic light.
I took a really long breath to get over my grumpy mood but it didn’t help.
I turned right to look at the cars which were queued up to take the right turn. Traffic on the right was still moving and one by one, cars were taking turns as I waited for the signal to go green.
Suddenly I noticed a car with a familiar face inside. I narrowed my eyes to see clearly, maybe I was mistaken, but no, it was him.
“No it can’t be him, he is in London.” My mind told me. The signal turned green and I pushed the accelerator with trembling foot.
I stopped my car after two hundred meters and scrolled the contact list of my phone. Suddenly my fingers stopped at “P”.
“Pranav Dalmia”, I looked at the old friend’s name, that was now just another name in my contact list.
“I shouldn’t be calling him,” I thought and put the phone aside.
A part of me wanted to see an old friend who was angry with me, but another part told me that I had screwed things up beyond repair.
It was always more than friendship for Pranav. But I was deeply in love with someone else. The same someone I saw my future with. I never encouraged Pranav but he never stopped loving me.
When my ex-boyfriend dumped me, he took no time to ask if he could fill in the empty space in my heart. It was too early to make a decision but I said yes.
I was angry with the strange turn of events and I thought moving on in my life could be a way to punish my ex-boyfriend.
I wasn’t sure if Pranav was happy that I got dumped and he could finally have his chance or was unhappy to see the person he loved so much in such a miserable state.
When I was with Pranav, I tried my level best not to make it a rebound relationship. I wanted to give him a genuine chance. I was twenty seven years old already and handing a breakup at that age was harder than it sounds as your own ego eats you up.
“I am too smart to get dumped. I am too strong to cry”. The constant struggle between how you are feeling and how you should be feeling makes you challenge your own understanding of yourself.
“Am I so difficult to live with?” I once asked Pranav.
“No you are not difficult, but you are complicated and I like solving puzzles.” He replied.
I wasn’t comfortable with his reply but I kept quiet. I pushed myself into loving him as much as I could but was not able to feel anything.
He was perfect for me, everyone said, much better than my ex-boyfriend, but his perfection was exhausting and holding me back. I was constantly struggling to feel happy whenever he was around, infact I felt happier and relieved whenever he wasn’t near me.
I couldn’t stand the weird uncomfortable feeling I got when he held my hand or tried to caress my hair or gave me small kisses. His touch didn’t give me any pleasure but reminded me of the compromise that I was doing as a trade off for the uncertainty of my life at that time.
Then one day I told him about how I felt.
He understood, didn’t say anything nasty but from then on, kept reasonable distance from me and I let him do it. His last words were, “I don’t think you are capable of loving anyone anymore. Take a hold of yourself before it gets too late.”
At that time, it sounded like the words of a hurt lover but today his words sounds like the bitter truth of my life.
According to me, it wasn’t about my capability of loving anyone, but rather my willingness to do so. I wasn’t willing to love anyone then, and I am not sure if anything had changed, even today.
“Drop the idea of meeting him. You don’t want to hurt him again.” I thought. Rebelling my thoughts, I picked the phone and called his number.
“Hello,” a familiar voice came from the other side.
“Hi. Is this Pranav?”
“Yes it is. Who’s that?” He asked in a sharp tone.
“It’s Megha, you deleted my number?”
He didn’t reply.
“Megha, Megha Varma.” I helped him recall.
“I know. How are you?” He said in a little mellowed down tone.
“I am good. I just saw you on the E block main red light. Can we meet?” I asked with a little resistance hoping to hear a ‘no’ from him.
“Sure we should. Where are you right now?”
“I am on the other side of the road, on the way back home.”
“Come at Barney. I will see you there in ten minutes”, he said and disconnected the call.
We used to study together at Barney’s when we were preparing for our LLB entrance. It was a small café which served coffee, tea and some light snacks.
I looked into the rare view mirror and checked my makeup. I looked all washed off but couldn’t do much about it. I just combed my hair, wiped my face and put on some balm on my dry lips.
I parked my car outside Barney which was the only place in the city which didn’t get caught in the race of looking hippy and cool. It went through renovation last year but still had its authenticity, like some guys who have the boyish charm almost all their life.
I took a seat near the window and looked at the slow rains outside.
“Rains are not stupid, they are beautiful. Its all our fault, we don’t know how to deal with them.” I thought
“Heyyy”, I heard a voice and looked up. Pranav was there, decked up in a Business suit.
I got up to hug him but he took the seat opposite to me.
I suddenly noticed the song in the background, “Phir le aaya dil humein majboor kya kije, raas na aaya rehna door kya kije”.
“What a coincidence?” I thought.
“Nice song”, he said.
“It can’t get more perfect.” I replied and laughed a little.
“How is everyone at home?” He asked.
“Everyone is good including me.” I replied with a smile.
I noticed Pranav more closely now.
“Have you lost weight?” I asked him.
“Yes, a little.” He replied.
“And you have a gained a few kilos, opposite to me, like always.” He said in an amusingly taunting way.
“Ya I know. I look shitty now.” I replied ignoring his taunt.
“Oh no, the extra weight suits you.”
“Well that’s an apparent lie. But thanks for the compliment” I replied.
“Girls like lies. Isn’t it?” He said and started going through the menu card.
“No they don’t.” I gave the obvious reply.
“Alright, so let me put it this way: they like twisted truth.”
“Hmm. So you have finally learnt to give twisted interesting replies.” I asked.
“Yes, my wife taught me well.”
“Wow, that’s nice she could do it, considering it was a tough job.” I passed a mean comment on which he just smiled.
“How is your son doing? Must be three months now.” I asked.
“He is doing fine, keeps Richa and I awake all night.” He replied.
“You are keeping quiet a track of my life.” He said next.
“You have stopped following me but we are still friends on Facebook. And in today’s time you don’t need to be a detective to keep track of anyone’s life, it shows up on your screen, loud and clear, repetitively.” I replied.
“Oh yeah! So as you know I don’t follow you, what’s up with your life?”
“Nothing as such, I am enjoying life. Lately I have realized I am not that getting married and raising kids’ sort of material.” I said defending my single status before giving him a chance to ask about it.
He smiled and tried to control his urge to say something.
“Say it, I won’t mind.” I told him.
“Nothing, you haven’t changed at all.”
“As in?” I asked.
“I will tell you, let us order something first. The waiter is staring at us.” He said and we ordered tea with some light snacks.
Pranav told me that by ‘not changed at all’ comment he meant that I haven’t changed at all in outer appearance. I didn’t believe him but didn’t push him into explaining it.
“Have you completed the book that you were writing?” He asked.
“In process”, I replied sipping my tea.
“It’s been more than three years.”
“I know. I am still working on it.”
“Send me a signed copy once you are done.” He said.
“Sure”, I replied and started talking about his current life.
As the conversation flowed, I got to know that he was happily married and much in love with his wife. I couldn’t exactly tell whether that made me feel happy for him or weird for myself. He shifted back to India as he wanted to stay closer to his parents.
“So what are your plans for your thirtieth birthday next month?” He asked.
“I am going for a solo trek. I want to stay alone.” I replied.
“Hmm”, he replied and nodded his head in disagreement but didn’t pass any comment on it.
“I have got my solace in my wife and my son, and I like the simplicity of life now, done with complications.” He said and I just nodded my head. I knew exactly what he meant and why he said it.
We finished our tea. He looked at his watch and told me that he got to be going now.
“Thanks for not marrying me.” He said and gave me a side hug after we came out. His comment pinched me somewhere.
“I know what you mean; we all have heard the story of sour grapes.” I said and winked at him.
“What if the grapes were actually sour? How can we say they were always sweet?” He replied.
“You are turning complicated dude. Relax.” I said and moved myself out of that conversation. A part of me couldn’t believe that his explanation made sense.
“What if the grapes were actually sour?” This thought had a lot of depth.
“What if?” I thought again and turned to walk in the direction of my car.
“Take care of yourself on the solo trek.” He said and waved his hand.
“I will, Thanks”, I replied and waved back at him.
“I have been taking care of myself well.” I murmured to myself and got inside the car. I didn’t feel guilty anymore.