‘Antara, why don’t you clean your room today, beta,’ said her mother. ‘Diwali is in a few days anyway.’
‘What? Don’t tell me you haven’t cleaned my room for the past 3 Diwalis!’ exclaimed Antara acting shocked.
‘Hahaha, no, no, your room is being cleaned every day, but I haven’t touched your bookshelf. Check what you need and whatever you don’t put it in this carton, I’ll give it away,’ said her mother handing her a carton.
Antara was home for Diwali after a long time and just seeing the preparations - the cleaning, the decorations and sweets and savory being prepared made her realise how much she had missed home. She walked to her bookshelf and smiled. She ran a happy finger over the books, bent over and took a deep long breath, inhaling the dusky smell of her books. It brought back so many memories!
‘Looks like you are going to stand here all day without getting anything done,’ chided her mother.
‘Hahaha, no ma, I’m getting on the job right away!’ she said taking out the first stack of books. ‘College books first,’ she told herself. At the top of the stack was the familiar ink blue cover staring at her. ‘Mr. Kotler! How I’ve missed you!’ she said fondly picking up the marketing management book by Philip Kotler and blowing off the dust on the top. ‘I can’t possibly part with you!’ she said holding it close to her body. One by one she looked at the books and by the time she had finished with the stack, very few books were in the carton to be thrown away.
Suddenly, her eyes caught something at the end of the stack. ‘You are here!’ she exclaimed, ‘I thought I had lost you!’ she picked up a diary with a warm brown leather cover and the year 2013 inscribed on it. She opened the diary and flipped through the pages. Farewell messages from her friends occupied the pages, some neatly written, some hastily scribbled but all of them exuding the love and affection they shared. She read them one after the other, letting nostalgia flood her again.
‘I still remember that lucky shoulder of mine that gave you support when you fell asleep during our field trip to Mumbai’, Nishanth had scribbled. She laughed at the memory. The Mumbai-Goa trip! What fun!
‘You were my right hand (literally!) when I suffered a fracture’, her best friend Saanch had written. She had filled in three complete pages before signing off, ‘You are the best! I’ll miss you!’ She kissed the page and hugged the diary, ‘You are the best too, Saanch!’
Then her eyes fell on a folded piece of paper neatly tucked into one of the pages. She instantly knew what it was. She held in her hand for some time debating if she should open it. ‘One last time,’ she promised herself. She opened the folds spreading the A4 sheet of paper and proceeded to read it contents. She had not addressed it to anyone, but she knew whom it was for.
“That evening is so vividly etched in my mind. It seems like yesterday, but almost a year has passed. Nothing about the evening seems farce to me. Everything was as true as truth can be. The feelings, the emotions and the words. They came out in a torrent as if they had been waiting for years for that momentous evening and when it finally came, it washed us away and drenched us in love. I would like to believe that every word was said as it was meant. I hope no one tells me otherwise or it will leave me heartbroken and I will never be able to place my trust on anyone ever again. I trust every word that you said. It stirred feelings within me like never before. It took me to heights I had never climbed before. It was dizzying but I trusted that you will hold me if I were to fall. You did not see me explode with joy when you said the three magical words nor did you see my hands shake and tremble as I said them to you. It seemed wrong but felt so right.
When I think about it, nothing has ever felt more right. Never have I expressed myself more languidly before. Never have I felt so free as I gave wings to my feelings. Yes, I have loved you wholly and completely. I have put my trust in you. You have been in my thoughts every waking hour. You have been in the songs that I listen to. You have been in the books that I read and in the words that I write. It feels like you silently crept inside me and became a part of me.
Sometimes, I wonder why that moment was fleeting. Why did it not last? It got over before it even began. Why then am I still in that girdle? Why cannot I lift myself out of it? Were your words not true? Did you not speak your mind? Were you not as much in love? If you were, then why did you let go of me? Why did you tell me how much I mean to you if I did not?
I refuse to believe you lied. I refuse to believe that was fake. Tell me that everything about that evening was true. Tell me that whatever is holding you back is not me. Tell me that you love me as much as I do. I secretly pray that you love me as much as you said you do. I pray that someday you'd say it again. Just like you did that evening. And this time you'd not run away.
Why are you running away? From whom are you trying to escape? Is it from me? Or from yourself? Maybe from circumstances? Or maybe from destiny? Maybe we were not meant to be. Maybe we will never be too. But does that take away from us the right to love? I want nothing more than for you to tell me that you love me too. This is my wish that I send out to the universe. I hope it is listening and I hope it will come true someday.
I will wait...even if it takes forever. I cannot describe how much I miss talking to you. I miss the way you made me feel. I miss the wit, the humour, the jokes. I miss the way you cared, I miss the tenderness. I miss your words, your voice, your love. I miss you. I do.’
She folded the piece of paper and placed it where it was. She smiled. That surprised her because she remembered the day she had written this. Tears wouldn’t stop flooding her face even as she tried to put her feelings on paper. And she had cried on the innumerable occasions she had read it after that. But today, she could smile. She wondered why she had never posted the letter. But today she realised that she had done the right thing not posting it. It was surprising, that today those emotions were gone. It was hard to believe that she could have felt such an intense emotion for someone. She remembered what a nervous wreck she was those days. If someone had told her that three years down the line all this would look so distant and would not matter anymore, she could have strangled them. But it was true. Those memories were indeed distant and they didn’t matter to her anymore. They were only memories now and she had been able to make peace with them.
Whoever said ‘time heals’ was right.
She opened her purse and looked at the picture of her husband Abhishek smiling at her. It took her three years to realise that it was the right decision choosing not to wait. That forever would have been truly forever! For the first time, she was glad the universe had not listened to her!