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A beautiful story about a young girl who receives an message from Pakistan, which changes her life forever.
As, I sit to write this, the smell of fresh mehendi is all around me. Yes, tomorrow is my wedding. Daddy sneaked me to his study where I can take some rest with everyone obsessing around me. Daddy’s study is my favorite place on earth. There is a small bed attached to it. It was meant to take a small nap at times, but all the last 24 years of my life, I have just spent lazy hours in this small bed reading, writing, thinking, lazing and may be falling in love with Ahmed!
Daddy is a criminal lawyer at the Supreme Court of Delhi, Maa a lecturer at Delhi University. She teaches biology to graduate students at Miranda House and Bhai has just joined Daddy in the courts. That is my family. I am the only daughter to my parents. I guess Daddy loves me more than anything and anyone in the world. I have never heard him saying no to anything I have asked for. Even to things Maa vehemently opposed. Yes! I am the typical Daddy’s girl, a little pampered, a little lost and a little stubborn. Tomorrow I get married to Sudipto Banerjee, my childhood friend. We even went to the same school at Mother’s International and then to Delhi University, Hindu College. Everyone knew and it was taken for granted that Sudipto would marry me. He was always in love with me since the day, he knew to feel that he is a boy and I am a girl. It was an open secret between our parents that if there be a man in my life it would be Sudipto. I remember the huge rows I had with him in college where he had to accompany me to every party. Interestingly, I fought for independence from Sudipto rather than my parents. I can’t believe Sudipto accompanied me in one of my dates. But from tomorrow he will be my husband.
But as I write this on my Daddy’s couch a tear trickle down my eyes. As, my thoughts go back to the first man I loved, my beautiful Lahori that was what I called him. After graduation Sudipto left for Bangalore to do his M.B.A. I happily joined Masters in English from Delhi University. Sudipto never stopped calling and I never stopped fighting.
I still remember that day, it was raining. Our summer vacations were still not over after our first year exams. I just could not make up my mind, if I should talk to Vishal or Navneet anymore. Both had asked me out and after two weeks, both have started to irritate me. I was as confused as ever. Love enticed me and fascinated me at the same time. That day it rained in Delhi, Daddy was at work, Maa was at Naani’s place and Bhaai as always was at his friends. I was sitting in the same couch, suddenly there was downpour. The rain was splashing against the window glass and the wind chimes were beating against each other. In a place like Delhi, rains are a welcome from the everyday dust and heat. But that day something stormed within as I sat with my chaai watching the rain. I was just crying. As, I kept thinking, I realized that Daddy and Maa created a beautiful home for us. Bhai and I had everything that we ever asked for. I always had the best of everything being Dad’s apple of the eye. He even named me Noyontaara Mehra, which means ‘apple of the eyes.’ Looking around, I saw that our study had the best of books and music around the world. I took to words, books; poetry, music very early in life and the first time my poem was published in my school magazine, there was a feast home. Both the children were loved and celebrated. It was just six more days to my birthday; I knew the hundreds of friends who would call me up and the treats that will go for a week almost. But that day something felt so empty and sad. May be for the first time in my heart was not of a friend or a daughter it was of a woman wanting to share something only a man she might love would understand. I wanted to tell someone that the birds looked beautiful as the rain washed them. Friends, yes! There are many, but that day I yearned for someone special. The door bell broke away my spell. Bhai was back.
But that day not for a moment I thought love would come the way it did.
Next day I had a mail from our college professor, she needed some students for her Indo-Pak peace project. I being the most enthusiastic student joined in and with me my whole gang did. Voluntarily I joined Indo-Pak friendship page on facebook. I never knew cupid was waiting ready, that too on a facebook page. I started posting on the page- quotes, thoughts and pictures. Another guy from Karachi named Ali Ahmed posted too. Thus a casual conversation between us began.
My birthday came. Dad gifted me a Samsung Tab. The whole day passed with birthday wishes, treats with friends, innumerable calls and final dinner with family at the Hiltons, a place we visit each birthday. It was almost 1 am at night when I could call it a day. I finally went to Dad’s study and lied on the couch. I did check fb during the day and now it was time to reply a few. Hoards of people have wished. Secretly I felt very important. I scrolled through my message box, bang there was a lovely message from Ali Ahmed. I strangely felt so good, may be deep down I was waiting for a message. I still don’t know why having a general public conversation on a fb page made me just so happy. Some people are destined to meet and love. Ali and I were one of those.
That very day, I sent him a fb request. Within nano seconds we were friends. The chat showed him online and me too. He pinged, “Happy Birthday Noyontara.” I replied with a big smile. That was the first time I spoke to him directly.
Over the course of time, I learnt that Ali was a 24 year old writer. He wrote scripts for serials in Pakistan.
Over the course of time, I learnt that Ali was a 24 year old writer. He wrote scripts for serials in Pakistan. So, Ali worked all night and slept during the day. So, each day we mailed each other. Ali was not the kind of man I have known or grown up with. He always had, a wall a restrain even when he mailed. He lived in a cage of his own. But nevertheless he would still mail me each day. One thing I knew about him, he was a great conversationalist. He could come up with questions like, “How is it to be lost in the streets of Delhi?” I would reply, “Just as to be lost in Lahore.” Ali’s grandparents migrated to Lahore from Lucknow during partition and his father settled in Karachi. Ali visited India only once when he was 15 and fell in love with an Indian girl. That was his first love story. As, time passed by I became the listener and Ali started pouring his heart. His Indian love story flopped when her Dad married her off to a businessman in India. Ali once told me that when he was just 16 and his heart was broken he sat all night by the sea in Karachi and all he wanted was to walk through the sea and reach her. Only when he grew up he realized that the sea linked to Mumbai not Lucknow.
As, he was born in Lahore, I called him, Mr. Lahori. So from Summer to Autumn and now finally it was Winter. Ali and I were talking over fb. The phone never left my hand and neither his. I knew when he felt asleep or when he woke up, my attention throughout the term that year was facebook. When I went to Dilli haat, I told him about the lovely momos and fabrics I loved there. He left me a message when he visited T2F at Karachi for a coffee or a musical evening with his friends. Every movie I watched in India, he watched in Karachi. I still remember Atrium Mall that is where he watched all his movies. Weekends we would chat, I lying on my favorite couch and he on his chair. We never used Skype. I was scared of waking up parents. That night as I was talking to him, I told him that for three days, I will be going to Chandigarh to attend my cousin’s wedding. He suddenly asked my number. I gave. That was the first time, I heard his voice. Something deep, husky and very manly a voice. I was so tongue tied. We spoke for a few minutes and he hung up. My heart just flattered. I could not sleep that night. But before I left, he left a message saying that I should put kajal the way I put on my fb profile picture, I looked beautiful. That day as Maa and Daddy were rushing, I stood before the mirror, looked into my eyes, put some kajal. I never saw my eyes or face so carefully, that day I did, I felt like a woman. I felt so beautiful. I just did not wear my casual jeans and tee I always did. I pulled a beautiful kurta and a shawl, took a photo and uploaded it on fb. He liked it. I was happy.
On the way, we stopped to eat at a restaurant, and what I discover I lost my phone. Maa was angry, Dad tried not to say a word. So, for the next three days, I was without a phone and most importantly fb. I missed Ali. I met so many eligible bachelors, so many interested men but all I yearned was to go home and talk to Ali. I wanted to share the molten sunset from the farm house with him. After three days, the moment we reached home, I logged in fb. My heart melted with almost thirty messages Ali wrote. All he said was that he was missing me. That day I called. The first words were, “Where were you?” I explained. He just said, “Never leave me alone again.” We both understood it was more than friendship.
As, I look back now, Ali was a man who knew to love or hurt. His past has taught him to defend or fight, with me it was a flow.
As, I look back now, Ali was a man who knew to love or hurt. His past has taught him to defend or fight, with me it was a flow. My presence made him happy. As, he told me, he started to whistle a lot. We both were happy in either side of the border. I often wondered are borders real. Ali could have been one of us, staying and living at our neighborhood. New year came, we spent with each other on fb. March came, one day I was in a bad mood, Ali was talking on and on. I just replied, “Ali all you need me is to listen to you. That’s why you befriended me.” It was as if I opened the Pandora box. I never thought he had so much hidden within him. He just lost it. He called. “How could you say so, that I just used you.” He blurted. I could only grasp my breath. He continued, “Why do you hurt me?” I did not know what to say, at the end we were both crying.
After that day, there were times one of us would cry for the silliest of reason. We both knew we were in love. One fine day in April, Ali called. I was studying. He declared that after ten years he will be visiting India in August, and will stay with his relatives in Delhi for sometime before visiting Lucknow. I danced. Finally we would both see each other. That year I post-graduated in July. I started interning for a magazine. I was dead sure of becoming a writer. All I wanted was August 7th to come. I demanded that Ali should bring me a Kajal from Lahore and a red Lahori Dupatta. He would be coming via- Lahore. I still remember that day, it was 5th of August, I had a call from a different number, it was Ali calling from his best friend’s Atif’s number. “I am coming Noyontaara.”
It was late morning of 6th that day. I had a call from the same number. I was at work. I thought it was Ali from Atif’s number. I picked up with a smile. But, no it was Atif. His words are still fresh in my ears, “Hi Noyontaara this is Atif. Yesterday Ali was in the markets of Lahore to buy something and there was a blast, Ali lost his life.” All I know that after that I must have fainted. I was home for ten days with Maa and Daddy not being able to make out what happened. On the tenth day, I looked fine. I opened my fb. The last message was, “ See you soon with your red Lahori Duppatta and Kajal.” I knew Ali was in the market to buy my dupatta. I cursed myself. I slowly clicked his fb account. It was full of RIPs. That day the sky of Delhi was red, blood red.
A year passed. Sudipto came back to Delhi. He started to work in Gurgoan.
A year passed. Sudipto came back to Delhi. He started to work in Gurgoan. When I connected with him again, I was not the same old girl who fought all the time. I accepted more of him, I became calm. I saw a new side to him. A year later he proposed. I agreed.
Tomorrow I am marrying him. Yes, I missed Ali. For a woman’s heart knows deep within, the way she was loved. Sudipto loved me to marry him. Ali did for all I was, and he asked nothing. His love for me was unconditional. Ali was in love with my presence.
I lost the man I loved and I am marrying my friend, my best friend. I never mentioned Ali to anyone. Ali lived and died with me. As, I write this, I can feel Ali’s presence, the beauty that I felt when he was around as a man who was far far away. It’s late, I can hear Maa calling my name, I have to go out. But tomorrow as I wear my deep red wedding dress, I know the sky of Lahore will be red too. Ali will be around somewhere as a smile, as a little fight, as a fb message or may be as a friend! And the skies of Delhi and Lahore will again turn red.
Cover image via Shutterstock
Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer.
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