Thursday, January 17, 2013

Love knows no boundaries - 2

Continued from Love knows no boundaries Part 1

‘Actually I have been thinking of donating a part of my salary to an NGO. And that day I saw you entering this institute and I thought...’ I stopped with my eyebrows raised, waiting to see how she would respond.

‘So were you actually stalking me that day?’ she snapped.

‘No, no. I just happened to see you entering this institute. I work as a marketing manager in Nagarjuna Constructions’ and then showed her my ID.

‘Just chill Mr...’, she paused and then began to laugh at my nervousness more than anything else.

‘Oh! I am Srivats’

‘Yeah, Mr Srivats. I was just kidding. Anyway you definitely don’t look like a stalker or a roadside Romeo to me’ she giggled again.

‘And may I know your good name?’ I asked her politely this time gathering some courage, finally that she smiled.

‘I am Aaliya and I teach mathematics here at the primary level’

Whenever she smiled, I felt the cupid himself strumming up the Harp nearby for me; celebrating the fact that mere dil mein garden garden was happening.  

‘So, Srivats. You will have to fill up this form and sign a declaration. Your donations will be non taxable under Section 80 D’

After all the formalities were done away with, she took me around to a tour of the institute. After the tour, I did what later turned out to be the best decision of my life.

‘Can we go out for a cup of coffee?’ I signalled coffee with my hands while asking her out.

‘Sure. Let’s go to the canteen’

I wanted to take her out to the Minerva in my car and possibly savour moments of timeless romance. But the moment she uttered ‘Canteen’, the dream then and there shattered to smithereens.

‘I guess you are one of the many corporate slaves in this city. I have met many who spend all their lives working for money. But money isn't everything right?’

That was out of the blue. Here was I, thinking how to start off the conversation and she wasted no time opining about my profession. I felt this was the right moment to impress her.

‘Yeah that is what I feel sometimes. And this donation is nothing but an attempt to break away from the monotony I have been experiencing for the last 4 years.’

She smiled at me. I had to always look at her while speaking so that she could read my lip movements. But at the same time, I was also looking at her eyes as well. I could sense a lot of loneliness in them, but she never gave an impression that she was one. I don’t know what she saw in me but I sensed that she must have gone through a lot of struggle and pain. So much so that even the tears have now dried up, leaving only the smile behind. May be she had realized that clutching on to optimism was the only way she could survive in this cruel world now.

‘So where do you live?’ I started the process of knowing her more.

‘Oh! This is my home’ she referred to the institute. ‘We have the hostel right beside the church where I live.’

‘And your family....?’ I hesitatingly asked her though I never wanted to. I was an orphan myself.

‘I never knew who my parents were. I was brought up here and this is my world where I have dedicated myself to’, she gently added this time in a low serious tone.

There was a brief moment of silence before the conversation resumed again.

On the pretext of donations, I began to visit the institute every month. Slowly and gradually the frequency of visits began to increase and there came a time when we started meeting every weekend to go out for dinner and shopping. She was unofficially my girlfriend now. But she never acted like one would do - Be demanding and ask the guy to shell out and burn their pockets(Of course, not all girlfriends are like that but then....). She was a woman who was supremely assertive and yet gentle in a nice strange way and treated me like a friend. I was able to be myself with her. Despite her happy go lucky demeanour, she also managed to listen to me and advise me sensibly whenever required.

Every Sunday I would meet her in the church. I started loving it inside the Church where I found solace in the silence pervading all around; something which I was craving for a long time. Inside the Church, Aaliya would be a totally different self; calm and serene like a silent Himalayan lake. I was feeling good now that I was contributing something for the children at the institute. I started accompanying Aaliya to her favourite places like the Sultan Bazar, where she often bought books for the institute and then we would go and have Pani Puri at Gokul Chat or have tea at the nearby stalls, though I hated the fact that they were never hygienic to my ultra-posh standards. People around would stare at me when we communicated using signs. But we both were always oblivious to the surroundings. Or at least I managed to pretend that way!! I could sense that she was comfortable with me and so was I. But she never expressed her feelings for me and in her words our status was: ‘WE ARE SPECIAL FRIENDS’. I absolutely hated this part as I was in love with her.

SMS was the only way we could communicate whenever we were not together. One fine day I was typing an SMS which read ‘I will pick you up at the institute by 6pm’ when the office peon commented, ’Sir, these days you have been messaging a lot. What’s happening?’ stressing on the last word with a mischievous blink.

‘Dude, this is the only way I can chat with her’ I blinked and smiled back.

‘But you could call and talk to her right? Why stress your fingers on the keypad?’ He was obviously confused.

‘You won’t understand’ I replied nonchalantly.

The word ‘understand’ brought back the fear and anxiety I was facing all these days. I was seriously pondering on how to propose her for marriage. And then I would think of what her reaction would be. This kept happening since the last three months and never once was I able to gather the guts and utter those three magical words to her. I left for the parking lot in a hurry and saw that I had only thirty minutes to manage the Hyderabad traffic and pick her up at 6. Unlike girls I have been with, she would always be on time and there was never a moment when I waited for her. It was probably because she was never the one to rely on cosmetics to enhance her looks. And even without that, she looked absolutely gorgeous to me. God! I was so in love with her!!

‘You are 20 minutes late!!’ she announced with a stern upset look on her face.

I immediately presented her a ‘5 Star’ chocobar and all her anger vanished into thin air. She absolutely loved chocolates and I used it as a secret weapon to calm her down whenever she was upset or angry for any reason. The mere mention of the word ‘Chocolate’ would lighten her up. So, it wasn’t surprising that we were a regular to Monginis to have chocolate brownies together.

‘So where are we going?’

‘Just wait and watch’ she winked and put her hands on my shoulders. It was always a special feeling whenever she did that and I wanted her to do that for life.

She asked me to drive to Ohri’s. I looked at her in surprise.

‘Arey keep driving na. I will tell you when we get there’

Twenty minutes later, we reached Ohri’s and sat on a table that was reserved. This wasn’t cool and happening for me – Especially the chivalrous part of me was feeling very embarrassed. Usually it is the guys who reserve tables and arrange a date. But here I was; so helpless that I chose to be silent, wait and see what was in store for me.

‘Happy birthday Sri’, she announced with a thousand watt bright gorgeous smile that made me yet again go weak in the knees. Immediately a band of musicians made their presence felt  and started playing my favourite song ‘Har ghadi badal rahi hai roop zindagi....’ from the movie Kal Ho Naa Ho. It all happened in a flash that I didn’t know how to react. Or rather, I was dumbstruck at the suddenness of it for I never expected such a lovely surprise from her. While I was enjoying the song, here was Aaliya who could never experience the mellifluous feel of those musical notes the band was playing. But she nevertheless enjoyed all the way. 

‘Thank you so much Aaliya. This is my best birthday ever’

The next moment she hugged me and then I realised that losing her would be indeed very painful. I decided it was time to propose. But then again like always, I couldn't!! Was it my ego or the fear of listening to a NO from her? I don't know. We had dinner and spoke of all the things we did since we met.

‘You are indeed special to me Aaliya. The world around me has changed since the day I met you’

‘It is not the world that has changed silly. You have changed. The world doesn't care what happens to you or me. Life goes on’, she said philosophically.

‘And believe me, even I have come out of my shell. The institute was all that meant to me, but now I have seen and experienced lots of other things. Been to malls, movie theatres and coffee bars and have had the time of my life. All thanks to you’ she further added.

‘Oh! I guess we should stop this mutual admiration society now’, I said blushing. And we both had a hearty laugh. But still I couldn't utter those magical words. There was something that was suppressing my urge to express my heart out to her.

Three days later, I got an SMS which was alarming in its tone. It was from Aaliya and read ‘Come quickly to the Lakdi-ka-pul station. I am alone here waiting for the MMTS’. What was she doing at the station all alone at 11 pm in the night? There were no buses running that day as a scheduled RTC union strike was on that week. So I reached there in about half an hour driving at the maximum speed possible. All this while though, my mind kept imagining things horrible beyond belief and my heart was threatening to implode with the heart beat at its peak as adrenaline surged through my blood vessels.

When I reached the platform, I noticed her frozen in a tensed state facing two huge guys. They definitely appeared like someone who could have easily pulped me black and blue had I tried to act smart like a hero. I knew she was in trouble and so ran towards her like there was no tomorrow.

‘Yeah Aaliya. Wassup? Shall we leave now?’ huffing and puffing, I was hardly able to catch my breath, but I nevertheless asked her pretending as if nothing had happened. Along with her, I wanted to escape from there unscathed as soon as possible.

She was silent, clearly too scared to even mutter. One of the guys then interrupted me.

‘Is she your wife?’ he interrogated

‘Yeah she is my wife.’ I was panting heavily and in the silence of it all, it could be clearly heard.

‘Is your wife dumb or what? We were asking her the way to Necklace road and she wasn't even looking at us. Teach her some manners dude!!’ the other guy added in a condescending tone.

Now this was getting into my head but moments later, both of them then went away to oblivion. I managed to stay calm as I held her hand and led her towards my car. She was shit scared and I was lost in thoughts. It was total silence all the way till the moment I burst out all agitated. 

‘What were you doing at the railway station at this point of time?’ I was gesturing vigorously through signs by now.

‘Stop the car Sri’, she said softly. I was shell shocked. Did I say something wrong? Did I piss her off?

‘What happened Aaliya?’

‘Stop the car’, she said sternly this time raising her tone as well.

The car stopped. The next moment, she held my hand in her palms firmly. And then she uttered those words that went on to define the best moments of my life.

‘Stupid!! Why didn't you propose to me till now?’ she questioned me.

Tears rolling down her eyes, I began to stutter!!

'Ohh...Yeah...Hmmm...I know...I felt....' 

‘I love it when you stutter. I love the time that I spend with you. I love the way you care for me when we go out. I love the way you look at me in the Church. I love the way you readily agree to accompany me to all those stupid little places I have wanted to go, those tea stalls and countless fancy emporiums. I love the way you listen to my demands when we are hanging out (Whatever little she demanded compared to some of the girls I have known!!). I loved the way you came running, huffing and puffing all the way for me at the railway station. I love the way you have pani puris with me even though you don’t like them’ she was in a very excited state and all this while was also gesturing what she was saying vigorously through signs; something which she rarely does when she is with me. 

I opened my mouth wide open, pleasantly shocked at the suddenness of it. But the next moment, she pinched me in the arm. I yelled.

‘This is not a dream you Dumbo. I love you. Will you marry me?’ she came close to me and gently whispered those magical words in my ear.

I looked back and forth. The roads were still and empty. There wasn't a single soul. This was definitely not a romantic place to propose. But who cares when I am with the love of my life? I emerged out of the car and started yelling loudly and crazily danced in elation. It was sheer utopia. She started laughing heartily on seeing how crazy I was now. Out of the car beside the door, she waited patiently for this crazy maniac-like celebration to be over with.

After this stunt was over, I went to her and lifted her up in my arms. Looking at each other's eyes, I could hear her breathe and smell her distinct scent. But then she was too heavy for me to  have held her in my arms like that till till eternity!!. So moments later, I had to put her down. Then I took my cell phone out, typed something on the keypad and showed her this
‘I LOVE YOU TOO LIKE CRAZY. Yes, let’s marry J

The next day we married in the Church with the blessings of all the students and nuns in the institute.