Saturday, 16 April 2016


She willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking his 'last seen at' status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago. Yet she couldn't stop herself. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable, almost torturous.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message.
But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn't know ifhe was joking or not. What was this?
“Look to your left.” It read.

The massive crowd of Kolkata Metro, especially this time of the day made it almost impossible to move your head, let alone spotting someone in the midst of it. But from the corner seat, she somehow managed to look up, to the left, and among many unfamiliar faces, she found the familiar one. Gobsmacked, she was. She didn’t understand. He should be in another country, riding a train to grand central may be, but there he was, standing in the jostle of Metro crowd, with no trace of worry on his face. He was smiling.
A hearty smile, was the first thing she remembered that ensured that she falls for him. And when he flashed that enticing heart-stealing smile of his one more time, she knew that it’ll take a lifetime, maybe more to get over him.
“Hey.” She tried to shout, but the buzzing sound of the rail ensured that never reaches his ears. He waved his hands, asking her where she’d get off. She pointed, the next station. They both got down from the train.
“You’re supposed to be in USA right now. What are you doing here?” she asked as soon as she got the chance.
“I changed my mind.” He said, still smiling.
“What?” She still was in an awe.
“Are you hungry? I’m starving. Let’s go get something to eat.” And before she could answer something, he took her hand and started dragging. He was always like this. The youngest child of the legendary ‘Chowdhury’ house of Shyambazar. Always doing what he wanted. He wanted to study commerce, so he did. He wanted to pursue economics, and he did. He wanted to do his masters from
abroad, and he got in. But now, he wanted to not go, so he didn’t. Adamant, persistent, there isn’t an adjective with similar meaning that can’t define him. And she, on the other hand, was the calmer one. Music, art and poetry that interested her more than numbers.
They were childhood friends. Their parents were business partners. Though the business never worked out, but their friendship did. And with that came thousand memories.

“Mitra cafĂ©?” He asked. She nodded.
In came the famous kabiraji and cutlet.
“Will you tell me, or do I have to ask again?” she said, taking a bite.
“Tell you what?” He replied, instantaneously.
“Sounak…” she warned him, rolling her eyes.
“Okay okay. Ask me, what do you want to know?”
“Why are you still here?” She asked.
“Because I never got in the plane.” He said, paying no heed to her curiosity and concentrating solely on his mutton.
“Why?” she almost shouted.
He gobbled the meat, put down his knife and fork, looked up to her, and replied reluctantly –
“Because I didn’t want to.”
“I don’t understand. You scored the highest marks in your college. You got into the University of your choice. You even secured a grant. Then why are you backing off?” She still was confused. “Because I belong here. This is my home, and I can’t leave my home.” He said.
He was a rational man, or so she thought. She never knew he could take such a decision purely based upon emotions.
"You had your life planned. It was perfect. Why would you abandon it? Just because you’ll be away from home?" she asked.
“Yeah pretty much. I realized I could never leave Kolkata.” He replied, still on his cutlet.
“What?” she tried to understand him.
“Wow I didn’t know that Kolkata means so much to you.” She said. Again he put down his fork and replied in a disturbed tone -
“Why won’t it? It is like the oldest companion I have. It has seen me being born. It has seen how in lazy Sundays I curl up in the front porch and listen to Manna Dey. It has seen me in my best, and in my worst. It has seen my cricket playing phase, my pink floyd loving phase, my long beard, short hair. It has seen me grow. My first friend, first math book, first school dress, first guitar, first cigarette, first parker pen, it has given me all my firsts. I know in its lanes like they were veins running through in back of my palm…”
“But is a city enough to hold you off your dreams?” she cut him midway.
“Dreams change Divya, and so do we.” He said.
“So you want me to believe that the love of a city changed you?” She asked.
“But you know it’s not solely about the city. It’s the people that changed me. You know, just a few days ago, when I was all set to go, Baba came into my room, my things were packed. The room never seemed so big. He came and sat on my bed, and in a shaky voice, he told me how proud he was. But never, not for once had he looked me in the eye. I knew the reason when I saw a tiny drop of tear escaping his eyes.
Later, when I told him I won’t go, I again saw another drop of tear finding its way out. This time he didn’t tell me how proud he was, instead he scolded me. But believe me, more than words could explain, the difference between those teardrops explained the truth. He never wanted me to go.”
A silence prevailed. She had known him for the most of her life, but had never seen this side of him. And the strangest part is she couldn’t make how she should feel. Shattered? Because he’s throwing his life away just like that. Or happy? Because at least now he will always be in her sight? Ever since childhood, she was madly in love with him, but never had the courage to confront. For she realized that numbers and figures are more important for him than flowers and kisses. But this new found side of him shook her beliefs from the root. She thought she knew him. But now she doubted that. She realized all she ever knew was a fraction of him, maybe the larger one, but it still was a fraction. The fraction he let her see. The fraction he himself unveiled to her, and the fraction she unveiled of him. He was far too real to be bounded by a finite number of adjectives, she thought. “If you’re not going, then what are you going to do here? Are you applying in colleges? for your masters?”  She tried to understand him, the most she could. “No.” he replied.
“Then?” she inquired. A strange smile tuned up on his face. His eyes danced in the rhythm of excitement.
“Well, I’m thinking of starting the restaurant again.” He said.
“Are you serious?” her face lighted up. It was the same restaurant that her and his fathers opened jointly.
“Yeah. I mean think about it. The restaurant has been shut down for year. Yet our fathers never thought of it to sell.” He said.
“But it didn’t run well the first time it was opened? What made you think that it’ll run good this time? And have you spoken to your baba about it? I don’t know about him, but I know my Dad. He’ll be tough to convince.” She almost shouted. The mere idea of opening the long lost restaurant was exciting for her too. She had so many childhood memories there. And besides when he is so excited, it’s tough not to be excited. After all, excitement is a contagious emotion. “I believe, if I can convince them to let me have it, then I can make it work. I’ve done a detailed research of how much it would cost, and how profitable it would be if it is operated with patience and precision.” He said, flashing a smile. “I have faith in you. I know you can do it.” She smiled.
They finished their plates. The waiter came in with a bill in his hands. Sounak put a five hundred rupees note in the booklet and said, “Divya…” “Yes?” she replied.
“Apart from Kolkata, baba, and everything else, there was another reason why even when reaching the airport, I could not get in the airplane.”
“What reason?” She asked, trying to think what other reason it could be.

He replied with a smile, "The reason is..."

Source: here.

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