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-Arati Gurung

He’s getting married. Everything that we had for one another is ending with this marriage. Next week, he begins a new chapter in life with a girl he barely knows and I sit here staring into my coffee barely knowing myself.

It had all begun with a harmless little joke, which I wasn’t even intended to hear. We had been classmates for two years and it just took one measly line to turn everything around. By the end of the last year of college we had become inseparable.

‘I’d rather spend the rest of my life miserable with Shibani than ever get married – if marriage is anything as what that joke suggests!’ everyone around him laughed. Suddenly aware that I was in close proximity, Sujay turned around and apologised.’I’m sorry Shibani, I didn’t mean to…’. Everyone laughed again. I had heard the joke and hated him for linking me up with it but shy as I was, I couldn’t say a thing. In quick reflex, I fumbled for my lunch box and left the class.

 My friends used to tease me for bringing tiffin, but wouldn’t think twice to gorge on my mother’s delicious paratha’s and pickles. ‘Shibani, where have you been, we’ve been waiting for hours! Let’s eat!’ As we were eating, Sujay and his friends passed our table. ‘Sujay, weren’t you looking for Shibani? Ask her is she’s willing to spend the rest of her life with you – without getting married!’ and they laughed away. Sujay ran after them, giving me an apologetic look.

‘What was that?’ my friends asked.’ Nothing’ I replied, ‘they’re just fooling around’. The girls wouldn’t let me be so I told them what happened. ‘Why did he take your name? There’s something here Shibani, you’re not the only girl in college, come on tell us what you’ve been hiding!’

I wasn’t hiding anything. Sujay was nothing but a classmate - till that day. Whatever followed that little episode was when my heart began to follow his name. That’s how it began. Atleast that’s how it began with me. The girls’ teasing would make me blush and I couldn’t help but smile everytime anyone mentioned Sujay. Ultimately everyone in college began tying me up with him. Maybe it was because he was a handsome boy, smart and confident – nothing like me, maybe it was because I was never linked up with anyone before or maybe it was because noone ever looked at me the way he did. Those beautiful brown eyes, always apologizing for his friends remarks, I fell in love with those eyes.

 ‘Shibani loves Sujay’, read a note on the notice board one day. When I reached college, the girls told me about how they tried to get the note off, but couldn’t. The net covered board was locked and there was nothing that could fit into the net that could rip it out. ‘They’ve even cut out your pictures from the college book and made this funny diagram for your body and…’ I stood still for a while taking in the details, unable to decide what to do, make a fool out of myself by trying to poke at the note through the net or sit and watch as the note made a fool out of me. The bell told me to go to class.

‘Your grades are out’, announced our MIS professor, ‘and Shibani, I never thought you would be so reckless, what made you bring in a B-? Come back to earth Shibani, stop wandering over things that ruin your concentration on your studies. Boys can wait but your education won’t’. A long pause and after what seemed like ages, ‘who else do we have here, Atul….’  The professor had seen the note. The professor was my Dad’s friend. What else was on that note? How did I get a B-? What happened to me? What am I doing with nail polished fingers? I hate nail polish! Why am I wearing heels that are killing me? And why am I carrying a bag that can’t hold my folder? How did I turn into this person I can’t even relate to? All of this for what, a boy who does nothing but smile?

After that day, I went back to being myself. But someone became something no one thought he would. My friends told me how bad Sujay felt about what his friends did and how he wanted to apologize. He would leave flowers on my desk and send cards through my friends. The more I ignored them, the more he would send along. I rejected all my friends’ ideas to talk to him and as much I wanted to meet him, I forced him out of my mind.

But it wasn’t possible, after the exams were over, I couldn’t stop myself from accepting to be his dance date at the college farewell party. Sujay told me how he loved my simplicity and my innocence, he was smitten by the way I would smile every time his friends ragged me and he said that my tiffin was the sweetest thing he ever saw. That evening, slow dancing in his arms, I opened up to a totally new world.

The final year of college was wonderful, we were doing great as students and even better as a couple. My friends told me they had never thought I could turn out to be so confident and attractive.

My parents found out about us after our final year, my aunt had seen us driving to Godavari. They couldn’t believe their daughter could do ‘such a shameful thing as searching for a man for herself, what was the rush?’, ‘after all that we have done for you, is this how you show your gratitude, by having people talk about us behind our backs?’  Hours of crying and interrogation followed and by the end of it, my parents had convinced me to leave him. And I did.

Four years of living with what little memory I had of us together, four years of going to work, home, work and home again, after four years of searching for him in the crowds and dreaming of him night and day, I now hear he’s getting married next week.

‘We can make it’, he had said, ‘your parents will approve, just you see. Please don’t give up now, I can’t lose you.’ I wouldn’t listen. Filled with grief for the way I had cheated on my parents, I was determined to let go. How I let go and how I lived the last four years is a never ending story I choose to keep to myself. But as I sit here now, I realize that it was nothing compared to what I feel right now.

Right now, I feel helpless, hopeless and heartless. There’s a big hole in my soul that no amount of crying is ever going to fill. I cannot imagine him leaving me. I left him – but it was only in person, never in heart. ‘I’d rather spend the rest of my life miserable with Shibani than ever get married ..’ isn’t that what he said? How can he marry someone else when I still have him in my every being? How can he even think of spending the rest of his life with someone else when I have built my life around him? The answer is me. The fault is mine. I am the one to blame. Not him.

My fingers tremble as it encircles the coffee cup rims. My cell; I have his number on my cell. A number I have been staring at for the last four years. 9841299834…Sujay…beautiful brown eyed Sujay….sweet smelling Sujay…in whose arms lie my world…should I or should I not ….what would he say…what will I say …should I…or…should I not…..what then…what now…

...ah! His voice...‘Hello? ...Hello?’...

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