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First loves are special and always stay with us, even if they don’t get fulfilled. Here is the story of my first love, which will always remain irreplaceable to me.
We studied in the same school and he was three years elder to me. As a young boy, his features were least attractive for the girls. He was skinny, tall and his cheekbones gave him a skeletal look. He played football and he, too, was least bothered about girls. I was in standard seven and he was in standard ten. We used to walk down to the same bus stop together, me speaking to Durba didi on how callous he looked and how he pretended to be very intellectual. He always walked much ahead of us with a book in his hand. He never spoke to me, but I remember him speaking to Durba didi and asking for some help with notes and blah blah blah. I never liked him and always thought he was the most arrogant boy I had ever come across in my life. By the time he reached standard twelve, I was in standard nine. He had developed muscles which, I guess were because of his gym sessions and his bone structures grew symmetrical and he looked manly. With each passing year, his inner beauty glowed on his face and there was a softness in his eyes and a gentleness in his smile.
Given to his good scores he got admission to a very premier medical school and three years down the line, I, too, was in the making of an engineer.
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One day while I was in my study room making my projects for the upcoming semester, I heard my grandmother saying to my mother “I think Rimli and Jayant will make a good match. You need not have to search for a groom, speak to his mother someday”. Before she could finish I ran to my grandmother and lashed out “Okay, I am a student and you are already planning for my marriage, just know this, for me, studies are more important than the need to settle down. And with Jayant, no ways, I don’t like him at all.”
But deep within, I knew I had already fallen in love with Jayant. I tried to deny it but in your hear you cannot lie your own self. I knew he too carried the same feelings for me. He had a very good voice and he used to love singing a song from the movie Rajput “Akela gaya tha main/haan main na aaya akela/mere sang-sang sang sang sang aaya teri yaadon ka mela/Akela gaya tha main/Haan main na aaya akela haan/Mere sang-sang sang sang sang aaya teri yaadon ka mela”
I heard that song several times when he crossed our house, playing the mouth organ and eyeing our terrace as that was the place I used to sit and enjoy the evening breeze. He came only during his summer holidays but at that time, though he had a holiday, I had my semester working. But deep in me, I felt like studying more so that I could be his perfect match, his bride someday. During his breaks, my parents invited him and his family for lunch as we were very close neighbours. We dwelled in a small city and we all had a strong bond with all the adjacent families. Strangely I could not speak a word with him. I blushed each time he asked me something, I struggled to reply. I used to quickly run back to my room, look at the mirror, apply some more kohl on the already applied kohl in my eyes and didn’t even realize I looked like a zombie with such a huge patch of black under my eyes. Then after applying some additional face powder from my mother’s share of cosmetic and some lipstick I use to go back and settle down with them for lunch. I used to take extra precaution that my lipstick remained intact while I ate, so one day in a whispering tone he said: “I don’t love you for your lipstick, I love you the way you are”. He continued eating and I sat stunned. I felt like an idiot rather. He pushed something on my dress a small handwritten chit written in blue ink “Meet me at the stadium at four in the evening”. I was scared, if anyone saw us together, we would be talk of the town, but I felt the need to see him. But my mother was extra vigilant about my moves as she believed girls need to be cautious lest they got raped or molested. Now as I am writing this essay and my mother is no more, I would have loved to tell my mother sadly nothing has changed, we are still fighting this patriarchal society and it’s norms. That we women are equal no more, only known for their breasts and vaginas to be groped and fucked in private as well as in public.
Lying to my parents that I was visiting Mou my childhood friend I reached the stadium. I had already cautioned Mou not to spill the beans that I hadn’t come to their house and Mou asking me a thousand questions on why I was lying. I bribed her with my kohl and lipstick and asked her to shut her mouth till I got back.
I remember wearing my red salwar kameez with dupatta covered properly so that my breasts weren’t visible to any men. Red is still my favourite colour and so was that dress. I saw him waiting at the stadium, looking like a soccer player, with a stripped Tee and under that, an acrobatic body which knew how to play with his face backing the kicks he played with that football. He saw me; in moments his mouth gave up the stoicism and broke into a boyish grin. I could no longer hold myself, I ran into his arms, holding me close and nudging my burning earlobes, he murmured “You took so long to say this to me”. Smiling he also said, “You need not apply kohl for me and also that lipstick, I am going to spoil it, you know?” He removed my silk dupatta and touched the crevasses of my neckline. He placed that dupatta on my head and said: “You look like a newlywed bride, will you allow your groom to kiss his bride?” I recoiled in horror and replied, “Nooooo, it’s a sin please, let’s get married and then you can kiss your bride”. He respected my wish, he did not kiss me but took my hands in his and gently placed a rose saying “Keep it with you and gift it on the day when I marry you”. We spoke with each other all the while he held me in his arms when we realized we are getting late. It was a small town so we decided we wouldn’t go together so I left before and he, being a man, could reach later in the evening. He respected that wish too. He was watching me go when I looked back at him and came running back to his arms, sobbing I told him “Say to me once you love me”. With a deep voice, his eyes fixed on mine he sang “Akela gaya tha main/haan main na aaya akela/mere sang-sang sang sang sang aaya teri yaadon ka mela/Akela gaya tha main/Haan main na aaya akela haan/Mere sang-sang sang sang sang aaya teri yaadon ka mela.”
I felt like staying in his arms forever but I had to go. I walked back towards my home carrying his fragrance and that rose. He left for his Masters to Delhi and I landed in Mumbai with a job. Those days phone calls were costly, I couldn’t manage with the money I got as remuneration as Mumbai was and still is a city with a high cost of living. Neither could he, as studies took a toll on him. We lost each other in two different cities. I fell a victim to an abuser whom I married as I was vulnerable and could not cope with the new city life. He too got married. While he got a loving wife I got an abusive husband who broke my spine with an iron rod. I divorced that man as I could no longer deal with his attitude towards women. He was abusive and had no manners.
Years later, post my divorce I met Jayant at Café Coffee Day, Kolkata. I had my daughter along with me. He lifted my daughter, bought her ice cream and chocolates which her own father never bothered. All the while we spoke, my daughter was sat in Jayant’s lap, for once when my daughter said “Jayant uncle you are very good, I love you more than mummy. Mummy says I have tonsils, you are a doctor, so you will remove my tonsils na!” Smiling and stroking my daughter’s hair Jayant said: “When I am there you will never get tonsils, now enjoy your ice cream while I talk to your mother.”
Again we spoke, I had carried the rose which we gifted me long back, I reached to give him, he said “Keep it, in the next birth I will not allow someone else to steal my bride, in that first wedding night gift me this rose”. Breaking in sobs I shamelessly said “Do you know I still love you?” Smiling he again sang “Akela gaya tha main/haan main na aaya akela/mere sang-sang sang sang sang aaya teri yaadon ka mela/Akela gaya tha main/Haan main na aaya akela haan/Mere sang-sang sang sang sang aaya teri yaadon ka mela.”
Holding my daughter’s hand I yelled for a cab, I looked back at him, I wanted to run in his arms but I couldn’t. He smiled and waved saying “Keep the rose safely, remember our next birth, you will be mine”.
As I write this essay I say to each woman- do not be a fool like me. Stick to that man who will love your spiritual soul. I gave in to my vulnerability but you shouldn’t, no matter how impuissant you feel. Just know it is all in the mind and you have a power in your mind. Jayant respected my wish, he never kissed me without my consent but he loved me as a soul and he did not cheat on his wife either. So find that suitable person for you and I am sure you will get your special person. And maybe you get to sing that song “Akela gaya tha main/haan main na aaya akela/mere sang-sang sang sang sang aaya teri yaadon ka mela/Akela gaya tha main/Haan main na aaya akela haan/Mere sang-sang sang sang sang aaya teri yaadon ka mela.”
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Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of
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