‘We sat on the bench by the sea. Two people. My beau and I. I leaned into him. He clasped my shoulder in a side embrace. The waves washed the shores. We got up. I turned around first. He was about to turn. Tall, lean frame. Wavy mop for hair. I waited to see that face. He turned and…
“Antara, wake up! Quick!! I gotta show you something exciting.”, Dad’s sharp voice woke me up even before I could see his face. I couldn’t believe how I controlled my rage. At first, I thought something’s wrong! But, then I saw dad waving at me excitedly. He stood inside my room, by the window. I leapt out of bed and joined him. He pulled the curtain string down a bit and all my anger melted. A female dog and her litter lay comfortably under the Syntex Water Tank stand. The mommy dog was lying on the floor and the puppies were nipping milk from her. They were so young that they hadn’t opened their eyes yet. I shrieked and ran out of the room. “What happened? Maata aayi kya?”, Mom had best worst liners in her arsenal. For almost all occasions. I flung open the door and my Dad, my partner in crime followed. When he caught mom looking at him, he threw his hands in air. Giving her a ‘not my involvement’ gesture.
We adopted Toby! Beige, innocent eyes. Deep and mystic. And his ears smelled so good. My brother hated that smell. But, I liked it. Quite cheese like. My mom after few days of fighting gave up.
I am finally in the college now. St. Stephen’s College is a constituent college of the University of Delhi. Widely regarded as one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges for arts and sciences in India, the institution has produced a line of distinguished alumni. It was established by the Cambridge mission to Delhi. It is a matter of prestige to be discussed among neighbours and relatives. Mom and dad are very happy. Although, they give me credit for being selected at St Stephen, but I must say it’s because of their relentless efforts. They both took untiring initiatives to keep me awake, get up at midnight and offer me tea, sit with me although they were sleepy. They took so many mock interviews before the real one that I learnt a thing about ‘experience’. Experience is living an event already before it happens. & when it does, it becomes quite predictable. And thus, easier to handle. Next year my brother will appear for his board exams. He studies in a funny way. He dozes off to sleep with books in front of him. There is a funny story behind it.
We have a dance group in college. I have joined the group there. With the college fest nearing, there is a lot of hustle bustle in the campus. Our group is appearing for the auditions. I have got a new friend here in dance group. Her name is Pratima. She is from a different town and stays at college hostel. Mom is very fond of her and invites her to our home. Her festivals are now spent with our family. Mom says that way she will not miss her parents and wouldn’t get home sick. But I don’t see her being homesick much. Except sleeping, she is mostly at our home only. She is more than a friend, she is a sister to me now.
While we were performing for the audition, my eyes caught somewhat familiar face. He stood quietly, clapping and cheering us. Smiling. His hair falling on his forehead. My heart skipped a beat. Is that Suvin? Or not? Pratima elbowed me to remind me of the steps that I missed while checking him out. I just waited for the dance to get over. Somehow, dancing stopped amusing me.
I came out of backstage. Ran towards the spot I saw him. He wasn’t there. Must’ve been a mistake. A doppelganger may be! I parted my hair clip with my teeth as I gave up. “Hi Antara”, a calm voice came from over my shoulder. I turned around. To see him. With the hair clip still stuck between my teeth. “Do you recognize me Antara?”, he asked. I pretended as if I didn’t. “Umm, not really! Your face looks familiar. But, I can’t place you.”, I just won the Oscar for best performance. He giggled and said, “Well, your eyes tell a different story. By the way, I am Suvin. I am friend of Prakash who is your friend Shobha’s brother.” Of course I know you! God, he is in my college? that’s a pleasant surprise (read, pleasant with lot of butterflies in stomach). I always thought he would study something related to stars or music as he was so fond of it. He extended his hand for a handshake. I held his hand. And something happened. I just forgot who or where I was.
Soon, we started hanging out together. Sitting under the tree, talking for hours. My friends also thought he was quite a gentleman. They all liked him. The initial hesitant talk became long lasting chatter, we both didn’t realize.
Every time I saw him at a distance, I skipped a beat. All this was so overwhelming for me. I knew he was my Mr. Right. I would need a partner like him who is calm, understanding, unpredictable. One who can take care of my tantrums, my immature and childish behaviour. Even Pratima agrees to this. Although, he wasn’t the same with other people. With them he is quite introvert. Or should I say, ‘Mind your business’ types? Direct and stern. Pratima has given me enough boost I have done a lot of practice and preparation with her and I have decided not to wait for him to ask me, but I will propose him for taking our relationship to next level.
It’s a very important day for me. I am waiting at our regular place for him to turn up, I am so nervous. Suvin teased me, “Exams are far away and all your research work is done, then why are you so nervous?” I murmured softly so he could not hear, “Suvin, will you marry me?” “What was that, I couldn’t hear you. Are you scared of something?”, he asked. Yes! I am indeed scared of hearing a refusal from him. Now, I have to finish this mammoth task which I have voluntarily taken up that I should have waited, ‘It’s all Pratima’s fault’. She should have stopped me rather than encouraging me. My stream of thoughts was disturbed, when Suvin knocked my forehead and joked, “Are you here?”
This time, I mustered all my courage and asked him.” Suvin, will you marry me? Not dating or girlfriend boyfriend. Marriage??” He paused for a moment and laughed out loud as if it were a joke. I was heartbroken and angry. And I realised my eyes were wet too. Once he controlled his laughter he asked, “What made you ask this question? Of course, I will marry you babe. Who else will I marry?”
I couldn’t control my ear to ear smile. They were still wet. But this time they were happy tears.
We bribed one of our colony boys to exchange our letters; even Pratima was a great help. On pretext of meeting her at hostel or for studying with her at hostel, I could go out of the house and meet Suvin. I got the collection of pink scented letterheads; and wrote so many letters to him. And I am thankful, that all our feelings were mutual. He already knew that I was getting admission in this college. H later told me that had seen me and dad when we came to do formalities for admission. And he came for dance audition to see me…. I just can’t stop blushing. Every time I write him a letter, I sing rafi saab’s song “ye mera prem patra padhkar”. I love his singing, I am not sure if there will be any other singer like him, again.
This was the 6th train that we saw pass by. We sat on a bench near the railway track. My beau and I.. I leaned into him. He clasped my shoulder in a side embrace. The gentle breeze kissed my face. “Oye Rajesh Khanna- Hema Malini!!”, yelled a policeman from a distance. Potbellied. Wielding a cane, he ran towards us. We got up. I turned around first. He was about to turn. Tall, lean frame. Wavy mop for hair. I waited to see that face. He turned and I looked at him. Thank God, it was Suvin. Honestly, I always wanted that to be Suvin!
And we ran! Real fast, hand in hand!!
This blog of part of #A2Z Challenge, there will be 26 blogs in this series all the blogs are in continuation. I am writing them from Z to A, as the story also flows from Death towards life. Hope you enjoy knowing Antara’s journey.
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