I know

smile

 

I love you da, I said.

She paused for a tiny second and replied, I know. She smiled.

I instantly felt happy.

****************************************************

I was eight. I was naughty as naughty could be. I remember my red T-shirt and sky blue shorts. Red was my favorite color growing up. Speaking of growing up, Dhriti was my favorite person in the whole wide world. She moved in a few years ago. We were the best of friends. Sumedha and Dhriti, the name always echoed in the neighborhood. We were two naughty kids made for mischief. We were always together. We went to the same school. We both would usually walk to our school. It wasn’t either far away from where we lived or littered with traffic to make things unsafe for us. There was always either my mom or hers accompanying us. I bet our mothers loved the arrangement. One of them could breathe a sigh of relief from the hectic routines of the morning.

We were in the same class too, Dhriti and I. But of course, we never sat together. It was pretty uncool to sit with a girl at school. They all sat on the left half of the classroom. The benches were partitioned into two sections within each classroom. The left, usually meant for the girls and the right, where we boys sat. She was never really far away. We’d look at each other from time to time and giggle.We were always up to something even when we were pretending to study in our classroom.

That day, I was wearing my usual favorite. Red and blue. It was the first time i told her that. We were playing hide and seek. Bhanu was the seeker. We all went our ways into hiding. Dhriti was hiding with me. I don’t exactly know why I said it or what made me say it. I said it anyways.

I looked at her and casually blurted the magic words. Dhriti, I love you da.

She smiled and said I know.

Back in the day, I thought when people liked each other to a great degree, they obliged by saying those words in that order. I had seen quite a few many movies. Every movie had an uncle conveying the same to his friend, the aunty. I thought that was the way of the world.

I instantly felt happy telling her that.

****************************************

Nothing had changed. Red was still the color of my choice. I moved away from blue to black. Black jeans were cool. I was always seen sporting one. Dhriti was still the same. All the boys in our class had a crush on her. I couldn’t blame them. Dhriti was beautiful. It was a crucial year for us. The dreaded 12th Standard. Our entire lives depended on this critical year, or so I was told. Neither she nor I had the time for romance. We never distracted ourselves away from our status quo. We were always together, we were always nearly one. My love for her never changed. Hers for mine never changed. I still remember the day. The results were out. We both had fared reasonably well. Dhriti’s dad got her enrolled into a college in Delhi. I was to pursue my education here in Chennai. She was to leave in a week’s time.

That evening we both went out for our usual walk by the beach. It was a windy day. The skies had darkened. The skies were kind that evening. They decided to open up and a gentle shower smothered us with delicate drops. We both walked back home. We both were holding our hands together. It wasn’t gripped tight. I had her hand in my hand. I knew nothing was ever going to take that away from me.

Dhriti, I love you da. I said.

She smiled and said, I know.

I instantly felt happy.

We hugged. It was time for her to head back home.

I cried that night. In love yes, a fool no. She hadn’t said me too. She hadn’t said I love you either. She hadn’t changed the status quo. Sadness gripped me. That sadness didn’t last long. In time she flew off to Delhi. My classes had also started. Soon, all was forgotten. Well, almost.

**************************************************

The music was loud indeed. The evening was fun. So many people around. I found myself enjoying the event. I was busy flirting with a few of her friends. Harmless casual flirting. It didn’t mean anything. It didn’t have to either. I liked the moment. I had their attention span for a while and they had mine in return too. I excused myself to pick a glass of orange juice that was served ice cold. Delhi was a hot place. Summer was unforgiving. Even though the sun had gone down, the heat that it left behind remained.

I snaked my way through the young dancing crowd. I knocked at Dhriti’s door. Hey, Its me. I announced. She let me in a few minutes later. She looked gorgeous. She was dressed in Red. I smiled at the irony of the evening. She was dressed in my favorite color and I was dressed in hers. Yellow.

Big day huh, I asked.

Yup, she let out a nervous smile.

Hey, its gonna be alright, I comforted her.

She hugged me tight and I could feel the anxiety and fears and possibly a million other emotions that were running rampant in her heart.

Dhriti, I love you da, I said.

She didn’t lift her head that was resting on my shoulder. I reckon she smiled. I know da, she said.

I instantly felt happy.

She hugged me tight.

Theek hai, theek hai, i declared. Its almost time. Your groom awaits you darling, I teased her. Get ready soon. And dont worry, everything is going to be alright.

******************************************

Life happened. Dhriti moved to the United States. I roamed about in Europe. Like a nomad, I wandered from one city to another. I wandered from one country to another. My mom got fed up of my recluse life. She got me married off to Hridaya. She was sweet. I remember our wedding. Folks kept talking about us being the perfect pair. I was Krishna’s namesake and she was Radha’s.

I’d like to believe that we lead a happy life together. I’m sure she’d list a million things that she hates about me. I used to drive her nuts. She never grew tired of my tantrums. This one time, the four of us met for the new years in London. Dhriti, Amit , Hri and I. Was a nice vacation.

Hri knew our history. She saw us for what we were. Unconditional lovers, is what she called us. Of course, not in public. There were days when I’d drive her absolutely nuts and her anger would erupt like a volcano. Those were the days she used the term. You should have married your unconditional love. I’m sure I’d have been happier with someone else. She can gladly keep you and the childishness that you are. My stupid fate, she’d tease me.

We had a wonderful decade together. Life happened. She exit the stage.

**************************************************

I rested comfortable. My tired eyes couldn’t keep themselves open. I enjoyed my peaceful sleep. Age had taken its toll. I’d like to believe that I lived a full life. I lived for Hridaya, I lived for myself. We didn’t have kids. One thing less to worry about, I’d comfort her on days when someone managed to hurt her feelings. She was a child to me. I was always her child , her naughty mischievous child. I was lost in thoughts about Hri when a familiar voice shook me away from my memories.

I opened my eyes feebly. It was Dhriti. She had flown in. I guess someone would have called her. She stayed in Mumbai the last few years.

She looked at me with like how she had always looked at me. With awe and love. There was a tinge of sadness in her eyes today.

I struggled to remove the ventilator that covered my face. I tried speaking through them but my voice felt very raspy. Dhriti helped me with it.

She still looked beautiful. She almost looked like the way she did when we first met. Same eyes. Same smile.

Take care, she said as she assured me by patting on my hand.

Dhriti, I love you da, I said.

It had been decades since I told her that. The thought had never occurred to me before. We were two people separated by life. Somewhere down the line, It didn’t feel right to tell her that anymore. Somewhere down the line, I didn’t feel the need to tell her that anymore. I knew that. She knew that. I knew what she’d say anyways. Somewhere down the line, it felt redundant. Words felt redundant.

It had been decades since I told her that. The second time in my life, I didn’t know how she’d respond to that. I found the irony of the predicament funny. The first time, I was young and full of life. I thought i the whole of eternity ahead of me. Today, I knew i wasn’t that young lad anymore. I knew there wasn’t an eternity ahead.

The silence was killing me.

I know da. She said and smiled.

I instantly felt happy.

I closed my eyes and smiled.

Katz

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