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True love is timeless. Here is a short story of Naina, her love for Veer, loss and a longing for 12 years.
The train was chugging along. Soon, she would hear the porters calling out – 2018 New Delhi Junction. Naina was going back where it had all started for her. Its been 12 years since the first time she came to that city and first met Veer.
The story is rather a simple one, of love having unexpectedly surfaced at a college campus. Philosophers often say that life is what happens to you, when you’re busy making other plans. The realization hits you one fine day, like a gut wrenching blow. Naina and Veer, had met, become friends, fell hopelessly in love, and had gone on to become strangers with memories. Like so many of us do every single day.
What was it that caused the fissure? Fate? Ego? Anger? Hurt? Resentment? All had piled up in neat little boxes and tucked away in a far corner. When it ended, they had moved to different geographies, worked hard, built different lives for themselves. They had met new people, fell in love again. But deep down the tug at that unfinished desire stilled lingered.
It has been 12 years since Veer had stood on the same platform, waiting for her to step down. She could still see him, the sheepish grin on his face, intended to surprise her. Trains and platforms reminded her of him. Much like everything else did. Everything reminded her of him.
It was the halting, wet, waterlogged end of July. A month where the city gets a tad bit of respite from the relentless heat. Arush was tying the knot. He wanted everyone to be there on his big day and they had readily complied, not just for him, but for that one last chance at memories before all of them started moving away. She hoped miserably that Veer would come. It was at the station that she had fought with him the last time. He had wanted her to stay, but she wanted to flee before she could begin comprehending her feelings for her best friend.
Naina knew Veer had never forgiven her for leaving him. She had always been hurt that he hadn’t tried to bring her back. He never tried for her but she could still see his face as the train had started to depart. His eyes had that haunting look as he stood rock still amidst the cacophony and chaos of the platform. His eyes had never left hers, until she had had to look away to hold back her tears. He had never spoken to her after that. She knew he hated trains because of her. She knew he hated her too.
But did he really? Did he hate her? Veer had disappeared. He had done well like her. However, he had practically cut chords with everyone, except Arush. Everyone thought she was the reason. They just hadn’t said it out loud. Maybe she was. She knew she was. Naina had to space out from him. And yet, today she had taken the train in the pointless romanticism of finding him there again. Like the last day she had seen him, standing motionless, aloof on the platform, looking at her, looking into her. She had wanted to reverse the clock and go back into that moment, when he was still her Veer.
Life had moved along different paths for her too. Naina had bumped into Sujoy at a coffee shop near the local station. He had come to work on his presentation and she needed some downtime to think. The button sized place was overflowing as were the streets outside. Mumbai is equally dreary and beautiful in the rains. Arush had called her that morning to apprise her of the fact that Veer had found someone and was thinking of settling down soon. Naina’s collective conscious had screeched to a halt. She had never considered that Veer might love someone else someday. In her mind, he was always hers to love and to keep.
So when Sujoy had walked up to her and struck up a conversation, she had gone through it as if in a trance. Sujoy was a good person. She had ended up hurting him, and herself in the process. He hadn’t deserved it. The relationship had imploded on itself. But Naina knew she was damaged with or without Veer. Or rather, she was damaged except for Veer. When his relationship had ended, as suddenly as hers had, she had made up her mind to amend and atone. Naina had promised herself to find Veer and tell him how mistaken she had been and how much he meant to her.
When the chance came to return to Delhi, she had jumped to the idea of taking a train in the salt pepper nostalgia of old days. Veer was going to be at the wedding, she knew for certain. But would he know her after all this time?
There was an arrival announcement on the intercom. They had jazzed up the old things so much. Trains, like many other things of this city lived and moved in parallel dimensions. The old rustic nostalgia of the past was all but gone. And the new, recent world of updates and automatons. Strange how all their realities often interwove and skipped in between these planes. Nonetheless, the old slumberous thing had finally managed to pull through. She was here. Time had come to touch the air, feel the spices, hear the northern twang in accents. Delhi, at last!
Naina scrambled down and stood on the platform taking it all in. It was strange to be back here after so long, oddly happy and yet equally fragile. Arush was coming to pick her up. He had texted her, surprised by her choice of a train. Who spends precious hours stuck in a railway carriage these days? Memories, she had said. He hadn’t pushed her beyond that.
As she stood there lost in thought, Naina felt a sudden sense of panic. As if, something inside her was shifting, like a sense of gap that was closing with laborious pain. She snapped up and looked in front. And there he was, standing aloof in the middle of the commotion, looking at her, looking into her. They stood there motionless for a long time, looking at each other. I suppose 12 years of accumulated silt takes time to wash away. As the train pulled out, Veer walked up to her, picked up her bag and walked on ahead. Naina knew she was home at last. She did exactly what she had done that day. She looked at the train, and she looked at Veer. But this time she let her heart lead the way.
Published earlier here.
Image Source – Pexels
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Manojita loves to write alongside her regular 9-5. Flair for language, poetry, art etc
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