I was running behind my two year old son, who was galloping around in the wedding hall, trying to play tag with his uncooperative mother. My eyes were glued on the little tyke, praying fervently that he did not hurt himself, when I dashed against the broad shoulders of a man. I lost my balance and my eyes scrunched tightly shut, I braced myself for the impact of the fall on my back. But the fall never came. Instead I found myself in the long and sturdy arms of the man, whose shoulders, I may have caused some serious damage.
I opened my eyes to profusely thank the stranger but I found myself staring into a pair of familiar dark brown eyes that crinkled in amusement. Time stopped for me, the loud cacophony around me fell silent, and the hundreds of people who had come to bless the newly wedded ceased to exist for me. It was just me and him. I remembered the last time I had seen him, it was the day my dreams had come crashing down, the day I wanted to die, the day I realized that life could be brutally unfair.
“Raksha, instead of just drooling over him, why don’t you over there, and speak to him?” Neeta asked exasperated.
“But what will I tell him?” I asked eyeing Vikram and sighing longingly.
“Well, you can begin by telling him that you love him. That you have loved him for the past 3 years. That every damn day in class, you sit behind him and watch him instead of paying attention to the lecture. That you have never missed watching a cricket match that he was playing in. That you secretly write love letters to him but never post it.”
I gasped at the last sentence. “How do you know that? I never showed you those letters.”
“The last time I came to your house, your cupboard was open and I was just curious”, replied Neeta a tad guilty.
“You have been pining after him for so many years. It’s time to confess your feelings for him”, Neeta prodded on.
Suddenly, the object of my fervent desire, Vikram Mehta, turned to look at us. We quickly lowered our gazes and pretended to be engrossed in the boring book in front of us. When we dared to look at him again, he was walking out of the library with a swagger that made me swoon. Vikram was undeniably one of the good-looking boys in our college. This, combined with the fact that he was the cricket team captain and son of the richest industrialist in town, made him extremely popular in the campus. And I fell in love with him the instant my eyes set on his dark brown ones’.
I knew that a plain Jane like me could never make a popular boy like Vikram, my boyfriend. I still pined for him, I followed him like a lost puppy, I dreamed of being pinned against him and kissing him feverishly. But I could not muster enough courage to even say a ‘hi’ to him.
That night as I lay in my bed, thinking about my conversation with Neeta, my friend, I realized that she had been right. In few weeks’ time we would be graduating from college, and after that I wouldn’t be able to meet Vikram ever. I decided that I would tell him about how I felt, he may laugh at me, he may reject my proposal but at least I would get it off my chest. I decided that I would propose Vikram on the last day of college, during the graduation party, that our juniors were hosting for us.
Just before the party, I smoothed down my burgundy gown that I had borrowed from Neeta. Neeta’s family was well to do and she could afford to spend her pocket money on such exquisite gowns. My father would have fainted just looking at the price tag on the dress. Again I was reminded of the huge difference between me and Vikram, but I brushed it aside quickly. I didn’t want to discourage myself. Today I was going to pour my heart out to my sweetheart.
As I entered the party venue I could see a lot of young boys and girls dancing close to each other. Slow music was playing in the background. Oh, how I wished that I and Vikram could dance like that- wrapped to each other and drowned in our love. I found Vikram on the dance floor, but he was with a girl. My heart stopped and I felt the world spinning around me as Vikram enclosed the girl in his arms and planted a kiss on her lips.
As Vikram raised his head after the long, wet kiss I could see that the girl was Neeta. I was in shock and I could feel the hot tears stinging my cheeks. I wanted to scream, I wanted to hit Neeta, I wanted an explanation, but I stood rooted to the spot.
Neeta saw me and came rushing to me.
“Raksha, can you believe Vikram proposed to me? He asked me to marry him.” she gushed.
“How can you do it, Neeta? You know very well that I love him.” I cried ignoring the stares that we were receiving for creating a scene.
“Oh, come on, Raksha. What you had for him was just a crush. Did you seriously believe that you had a chance with him? Vikram and I have the same status level and we mingle in a similar society. We are a perfect match. And you? Well let’s say that Vikram never noticed you in the 3 years that you followed him like a dog.”
I couldn’t stand it anymore. I ran and ran, till I reached my home and threw myself on the bed. I howled, I cried, I shouted at myself for being so stupid. I didn’t know what hurt me more, the fact that I had lost my first love or the fact that my best friend had betrayed me and left me shattered.
Over the years I slowly forgot the pain and hurt. I prayed that I would never meet Vikram or Neeta again, but life had other plans. It’s a small world and after 10 years, here I was, face to face with Vikram again.
“Do I know you from somewhere?” he asked as I straightened.
“Err, yeah, we studied in the same college. I’m Neeta’s friend.” I realized that age had not been lenient with Vikram. Except for a patch of hair on the back of his head, he was bald. He looked haggard and there were huge bags under his eyes. His fit and trim figure had gone mellow and he had an ungainly paunch.
“Ah, Neeta! We separated a few years back. An ugly divorce, if I have to say! I’m glad that I managed to shake that blood sucking parasite off my back.”
I winced at his words.
“I’m sorry, but things were nasty with us, and now I’m just happy that I got rid of her.”
There was an awkward pause between us and in that fraction of a second I realized I was happy that I had not proposed to Vikram. I was glad that I had never been a part of his life. I was relieved. I felt liberated as if I had been freed from a huge burden that I had been carrying from a long time.
“I have to go but I must mention that you look lovely. Wish I had fallen for a girl like you back in college!” Vikram shook my hand as I smiled at his comment.
I was still smiling when my husband surprised me by sneaking behind me and wrapping his arms around me. I looked at his tall, trim and handsome figure with few gray hairs that added to his charm. We smiled as our eyes spoke volumes of the love that we shared. Life was good again!