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the sharp hones of dilemma

by poonam saha

Whether it was to be the first in answering the tricky questions of the professors in the class, whether it was to debate rigorously and wittingly in the literary club, whether it was to exhibit the best posters and paintings in the fine arts exhibition, there was one common name to all these: Prachi. After having entered IIT, she had gained the reputation of a celebrity in the college in a short span of just two months. Besides, she was the kholu (opening ranker of the college).

To my amazement, she was a short-heighted girl with long hair tied into a ponytail. She was an average looking girl with dusky complexion. Simplicity was typical to her style. She appeared studious. There was an extraordinary spark of confidence on her face. Her intelligence level coupled with her talents presented an aura that commanded her respect.

She was outgoing while I was very introvert. I preferred to avoid talking to girls.

I never felt like studying Chemistry. But recently, I was encountering some changes in me. Wooden racks with beakers filled with colorful chemicals, bringing life to chemical equations into the test tubes, dyeing our white aprons red and yellow were giving me delight; I was enjoying my weekly routine of Chemistry Lab. This was possible because we had consecutive roll numbers. Initially, news of me clubbing with a girl gave me goose bumps. Like an obedient child, I used to search for the required chemicals in the laboratory. She, like an expert, used to perform the experiments with patience and precision. I was too shy to talk. So, she was the one who initiated conversation most of the time. As the days passed, I was feeling comfortable in her company. Our level of conversation upgraded from talks on chemical equations to what plans we had for future.

Lab sessions ended but our familiarity began with this. Sharing notes and discussions on study related topics kept us connected and gave us opportunities to discover each other. I was spending more time with her. It was only when second year was approaching its end and preparation for bagging coveted internships started building pressure that our life turned busier than ever. But this bustling period ended well with both of us getting internship offers in the same city.

Two years had passed, but surprisingly, our contact number was yet to be exchanged. And it was our winter vacation with internship offers in our hands. We had no targets to achieve; we could relax. So, what do you think – I got her number from her friend and called her up – and the contact numbers got exchanged?

Sometimes, even expected events take unexpected twists and leave us with experiences worth remembering in future.

With an ordinary purpose to stay in touch with each other during vacation, I texted her.

I: Hello Prachi! How are you? I am Pallav.

Prachi: Are you sure?

I (realizing that she was perhaps annoyed with anonymous calls and texts): Yes, I am sure.

But she didn't reply further. After a few minutes, I got her message on Facebook which read: “Hey!
9587612345… Is this you?”

It instantly aroused my inner self which was different from my outer self. Besides studying for IAS and internship, I loved to play pranks on people, and the free time and her unexpected reply gave it a kick.

I replied her saying ‘no.’

Now, our celebrity became a detective. She gave me several calls which I avoided. Meanwhile, I kept assuring her through our conversation on Facebook that the guy must be someone else. Two days passed like this and the process of revealing the unknown person was continued. I was taking pleasure in playing that prank; but suddenly, in the afternoon, I was astonished to read her message: “Hello Pallav Jain, the son of Mr. Subhash Jain! You are exposed now.” I got frightened and instantly called her up to apologize and got a sigh of relief only when she assured that she didn’t mind that. Though the unknown person was revealed, my acquaintance with her gained another level.

Unlimited messaging on a cheap tariff was common those days. My free time was going in chatting with her; the range of topics on which we could chat was getting wider. I came to know that she knew how to cook food and do household chores; she even taught some children from her locality free of cost during vacations. I was taken aback at my discovery about her: she was an all-rounder.

Those days were passing like heaven; I started avoiding outings with my friends during evening to continue texting with her. My every single moment was made available for her and she was unknowingly making her time available for me. Our mornings started with wishing each other good morning and then continued chatting, except for lunch and dinner time and then ended with good night wishes. My mother was worried to spot me most of the time with my phone plugged in for charging and my fingers busy typing messages on the phone.

Gradually, we had come to know about each other’s family and close friends, likes and dislikes, daily habits, how many girlfriends or boyfriends we had in the past (I had none but she had one; but the good thing was that she was single then), and many more. My growing emotions for her came to the brink when I visited my sister’s house for two days and my SIM card was on roaming. Texting her every single moment was dearer for my pocket and the rewards of being a guest at my sister’s house left me with practically no private time. I was missing her badly and perhaps, she was missing me too. After all, we were addicted to text each other. Second midnight, I managed to call her. The deepness and heaviness in our voice with which we talked implicitly revealed our feelings for each other.

The pleasing cold winter vacation ended gifting me a cute little girlfriend.

Back in college, we were seeing each other in different light. The passing time strengthened our bond, and we both seemed excited for our internship at Bengaluru. Time flew quickly and we were at Bengaluru. Internship schedule was very hectic but meeting at weekends couldn’t be stopped. We spent seven weekends together. Every meeting brought new colors to our life. Watching her in salwar suit with her dupatta floating in the air was like a dream come true for me, and ‘accidental’ hand-touching used to give me electric shocks.

One weekend, while she was sitting behind me on a scooty, it started to drizzle. We were slightly wet and shivering in cold. The touch of her head on my back while she was making efforts to hide behind me from rain was exciting me. The rain drops falling on my spectacles were hindering my vision and we decided to stand in a nearby shed. But before I could stop, she expressed her desire to try hands at driving (She had once started learning how to drive scooty but discontinued after three days due to her classes). I slid back giving her space to sit in front of me and take command. She started to drive. She was doing the very common mistake of accelerating the vehicle while holding the breaks. In my attempt to prevent imbalance, I tried to hold the handles but accidentally kept my hands on hers. The touch of her hands was heavenly. I felt a feeling passing between us and was lost in it. Soon I realized, she might resist it which she did, and I uplifted my hands. As soon as she gained a little confidence in driving, we jumped over a speed-breaker and my hands fell on her shoulders seeking support. She didn’t resist this time. It was perhaps she understood that it was not intentional.

That day was over but it took us nearly a week to get over the emotional impact it had left on our minds. The power of touch conveyed more than we could ever do. We made implicit promises of love. Surely, that city gave me the most beautiful moment to cherish with my lovable girlfriend.

We reached our final year in the college with busy days awaiting us. Our preparation for campus placements with my preparation for civil services examination in addition to it kept us busy but talking to each other was then a part of our life, and no excuses existed for passionate lovers.

And then came the black day of my life; I faced the mirror of a truth and soon, I saw it getting broken into countless little pieces hurting both of us; I had no courage to repair it.

She had texted me expressing her love for me: “Pallav, I think that I am in love with you.”

 Instead of jumping for joy, I was getting panic attacks. The question that was lying dormant in my sub-conscious mind surfaced. Would my strictly religious mother ever accept a Hindu daughter-in-law into a Jain family? Was I courageous enough to withstand the societal pressure against inter-religion marriage? I was realizing that it was me who fell in love first; it was me who induced in her feelings of love; it was me who initiated a relationship to which I myself couldn’t commit. The feelings of guilt, worry, and fear were overshadowing my vision, and I cowardly chose to flee than to face her. I neither gave her the reply nor the reason for it. I avoided talking to her by pretending I was busy with my preparations. I talked only when she tried to talk, and that gradually reduced to a call in a month and then in two months and finally, none. Perhaps, she guessed the reason.

As years rolled by, books became my friend. I graduated and thereafter joined Indian Administrative Service. Hectic workloads, frequent tours to rural hinterland, and tackling immense political pressures became the limited dimensions of my life.

Sometimes, when I had little time, I wondered that life was another name of change. In the midst of moving forward, I had no idea when my feelings of love for her subsided.

Truly, life is unpredictable. No one knows what happens next. I was completely unaware of what else was there for me in store ahead.

It was still dawn when I stepped out of the cab and walked towards the entry gate of the Delhi airport. The early morning February air was pleasantly cold.

 was travelling to Bengaluru to attend a college friend’s wedding. It had been four years since we graduated from the same college. This wedding was also going to be a reunion of our batchmates. But what I didn’t know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time; right in the queue in front of the airline counter.

I was almost sure it was she. Same height! Same long hair! Same complexion! Curiosity had my eyes glued to her. And then 60-odd seconds later, when she turned, she proved me right. My ex-girlfriend stood two places ahead of me in that queue. We had never met after the college farewell.

Glimpse of her in beautifully embroidered orange sari which she had worn on the day of farewell instantly captured my mind and a shiver ran down my spine. The flashback from treasured memories began. All of a sudden, her smiling face, boisterous laugh, witty jokes, and many such thoughts started popping up in my mind. Only one thing was occurring to me: I was not at all prepared to meet her like this. I was feeling very awkward; especially, after how abruptly I had ended my relationship with her. I wanted to run away; I wanted to hide my face but alas! couldn’t do that. Somehow, I hid my hesitations and managed to shake hands with her. I didn’t know what to speak. So, what I did was only stammer.

The Short story is continued here......