“Hey, how are you?” I asked as soon as the person on the other side of the phone received my call.
“I am good and someone seems to be chirpy and super happy. What is it, Maya?”
“It is 27 June Naren. Do you remember what it is?”
“Ummm. I don’t know. Maybe it’s… er.. any annual observance or maybe the birthday of one of our mutual friends? Or, maybe it’s uh… umm the day we…. went on our college trip.”
“You will always be bad with the dates. It’s the day I confessed my love for you Naren.”
“You said it on 27 June? I think it was on 10 July…. Or no, maybe you are right… Ahh, I think I should write it down somewhere.”
“Honestly, Naren. I think I should make you memorize each and every day we have spent together so far,” I pretended to be annoyed. Naren’s habit of forgetting dates was a big turn-off for me. “You never remember any special day,” this time I spoke in a disappointed manner.
“I am sorry Maya,” he spoke in a gentle and calm voice. However, I could hear him giggling from the other side of the phone. I have always secretly loved him for this. After a brief chit-chat, I hung up the call and sat on the chair near the window in my room. A hundred thoughts started racing down in my mind. All those thoughts belonged to Naren and the moments I spent with him.
Naren and I were college sweethearts. However, we didn’t fall for each other at once. In fact, we discovered our love for each other while we were friends. To me, Naren seemed to be a tight-lipped man. He never socialized much with people, although I often caught him stealing glances at me. One day I asked him, “Why do you often steal glances at me? Do you like me?” My question made him nervous and he said, “Er,… N… uh…. No, it is not that. I…. I just like the way…..the way you laugh….um.. and enjoy every moment of your life.” This answer was the beginning of your friendship.
Eventually, Naren and I became good friends. We used to help each other with assignments, notes, and projects. He turned out to be a mature, sensible, and calm person while I was a chirpy and fun-loving girl. Together, we enjoyed our college life to its fullest. After graduating, we moved to another city in search of jobs and couldn’t meet. This is when I realized how important Naren was in my life.
One day my parents brought a picture of a man in his late 20s and asked me if I liked him. I was first taken aback. I told my parents, “How am I supposed to like someone without knowing him/her?” But my parents said, “You should be happy that we showed you the picture of this guy. In our times, we used to see our spouse only after getting married. We have chosen him for you and would be marrying you soon to him.”
The next thing that I knew was my parents had already started the preparations for the wedding. I called Naren and asked him if he could meet me. Finally, we met in the evening at our usual spot and I broke the news to him. He seemed to be quiet and calm as always. When I asked him if he was fine with this, he said, “I will be the happiest person at your wedding. I am going to buy a nice tuxedo suit and will go for grooming.” However, somewhere I felt he was lying to me.
He asked me, “Are you happy with this alliance?” But after getting no response from me, he said, “I hope you find love and contentment in your married life. Everything will be fine.”
Amidst all the preparations and wedding rituals, I could see Naren handling all the work on his own. While others asked me to look happy and joyful, I could see Naren always forcing a smile on his face. He tried his level best to avoid spending any time with me. He would either work or would entertain my relatives and guests.
Then came the day when I looked my best. My friends and cousins helped me look phenomenal in a red banarasi saree and gold jewelry. While I sat there in front of the mirror and looked at myself, Naren came with a wedding gift. I could see, this time he wasn’t forcing a smile on his face. “You look beautiful, Maya.”
All I could do was look into his eyes with a looming sadness into mine. He held my hands and said, “Do you remember the day you caught me looking at you in the college? You had asked if I liked you. I lied to you.”
“Why did you lie, Naren?”
“Because it was more than that. I always felt so grateful to have you as a friend but seeing you like someone else’s bride is painful. It tears me apart and I don’t know why.”
“I love you Naren and have always loved you. I wish all these preparations, saree, mehndi, jewelry, and happiness were for you.” I finally told him but it was too late.
For a few minutes, we stood there in silence looking into each other’s eyes filled with tears. We wanted the time to stop once and for all.
“I don’t know why we fell in love, Maya,” Naren handed over the gift to me. He then kissed my forehead and said, “I hope your husband gives you abundant love. So much so that it consumes you and makes you feel blessed.” After this, Naren left for his home while I was taken to the Mandap.
It’s been 43 years since I married Arun. After getting married to him, I told him about Naren and he never forced me to forget him. Over the years, we have become good friends. But even today, I love Naren, and Arun knows this.
In fact, a few years ago, Arun had told me, “You know, Maya, I think, your love for Naren, consumes you. Maybe you and Naren were meant to be in love but not together.”
Now today, I have the answer to why Naren and I fell in love.
Prerna loves to write and shower love on animals. She enjoys reading and exploring places. Though sweet in her pictures, at times, she is difficult to understand. Being a strong believer in hard work and karma, she loves solitude and peace. Apart from this, she loves petrichor and harmony and wishes to achieve her one and only ataraxia for a lifetime.