It was still dawn when I stepped out of the cab and walked towards the entry gate of the Delhi airport. The early morning February air was pleasantly cold.
I was travelling to Bengaluru to attend a college friend's wedding. It had been four years since we graduated from the same college. This wedding was also going to be a reunion of our batch-mates. But what I didn't know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time; right in the queue in front of the airline counter.
I was almost sure it was she. Same height! Same long hair! Same complexion! Curiosity had my eyes glued to her. And then about 60-odd seconds later, when she turned, she proved me right. My ex-girlfriend stood two places ahead of me in that queue. We had never met after the college farewell.
They were a wrong fit right from the start. She was a simple, happy-go-lucky person, didn’t expect much from life, and was content in the company of a few selective friends. He, on the other, was chaos to her carefully knitted world. He had got those kinds of looks, which almost challenged her not to fall for him. She was drawn to him because of the empty, lifeless look in his eyes, of the worry lines on his forehead which lingered even during the brightest of his laughs. She was drawn to him because he was broken. And she was a fixer.
The moment she realized she was falling for him, a warning light shone brightly in her mind. She was made aware that this was the kind of love which would destroy her to the very core of her existence. But she acknowledged the warning and chose to ignore it. She knew that there would be no one to fix the fixer herself.
“You should stay.” They had been standing at the bus stop for quite some time; bus would be delayed due to the heavy rains. He had started to walk out in the rains alone and she had taken this as an opportunity to talk to him.
He turned around and looked at her in confusion.
She pointed to sky in indication. “It’s raining too hard to walk without an umbrella. You shouldn’t go walking in such weather.
“The bus is delayed.”
“Well then, the sun will come up. It always does.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “Sorry but do you know me?”
She would have answered this question in millions of different ways but she chose to go with the basic reply. “We are in the same division.”
“I am Ragini, by the way.”
She already knew that of course. But she was trying hard not to be too much of a stalker here.
She didn’t miss the grimace on his face before his mask was back on.
She looked at him from the corner of the eye as he debated whether to step out in the rain again and she decided to push her luck a little bit.
“That’s ironic, isn’t it?”
The surprised look was back on his face. It was a better reaction than the blank polite expression.
“What do you mean?”
“Well you know…there’s the first ray of sun. And then there’s you.”
A flicker of anger sparkled in his eyes fiercely. She knew that she was playing with fire.
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“I hardly see you talking to anyone in the college.”
“Then you should have realized that I am not interested in talking to everyone and anyone.” He scoffed.
“Here you are standing at a bus stop, arguing with someone you don’t even know.”
She bore her eyes into his. “Maybe I edited the truth a little bit. Maybe I do know you.”
“Yeah whatever, we are in the same class. That doesn’t change the fact that you are a stranger to me.”
“Strangers are often illusions.”
“Look I am done with all this. I don’t understand whether this is some pathetic flirting attempt or whether you are trying to pass time. Whatever drama this is, I don’t want to be a part of it.”
She smiled at his little tirade.
He sighed. “Why are you smiling now?”
She pointed at the sky again. “It has stopped raining.”
He looked at her expression. She was grinning proudly.
“Is that what you wanted to prove? That time passes quickly when you are having random conversations?”
She shook her head gently. “No. I wanted to prove that the sun does come up. It always does.”
“You should stay.”
“Why?” he whispered. “It has stopped raining now.”
“I know,” she whispered back. “I still want you to stay.”
She lowered her eyes this time, feeling shy at blurting out such a bold answer. He looked at the delightful, confusing girl next to him, as her shades changed from confident to fragile in the fraction of a second.
Sure enough, loving him was one of the most difficult and challenging things she had ever done in life. There were times when he shut her out completely. She had to beg and plead him to let his mask down. There were times when he sank back into his depressed, dark side and she had to go out of her way to bring him back into the light. Slowly and gradually, he had opened up to her about his past. He lost his parents when he was very young, father was a successful business man and his business associate took over after his death and his world completely changed.
She had seen his vulnerable phase, his moody, bleak days, his lonely phase, his tired phase. She had seen him laugh his heart out, tease her about stupid things, crack jokes which were so lame that they turned out to be funny, sing tunelessly on top of his voice and smile for no reason. She had seen him at his best and his worst. All she knew was when she is with him, her ordinary life was pushed to the extremes. She experienced the kind of love which was intense, passionate, heart-breaking yet breathtakingly beautiful. He excited her, challenged her, and pushed her beyond boundaries which she didn’t even know existed. Although she was a dreamer at heart, her hold over reality hadn’t loosened. She did know that it wasn’t possible to be this happy for too long. She had soared the skies of paradise with him and knew that there would come a day when she would have to sink to the depths of hell too.
“It is hard Kabir! There is no easy way to break up with someone you have been in love with for three years! Don’t you get it? It is hard! It is heart-breaking! It hurts like hell! It is supposed to be this way. So stop turning off your emotions every time you start to feel something.” She was trying her best to sound annoyed but her voice broke at the end of the sentence.
“You know this had to end someday Maybe this is it. It’s time.”
“Why are you so sure that this had to end someday?” she whispered, refusing to let him break away from her stare. “I am not going to be one to come after you. I love you Kabir and I know that you love me too. But that is not enough. I believe in us. I believe that we will survive all of this. And I need you to do the same. I can’t be the only one fighting for our relationship anymore. I need you to fight with me. I am going to be the one walking away this time Kabir. But you need to understand that does not mean I am leaving you. You need to understand that love is not just something that happens once and then that’s it. You need to fight for it every day and every single moment of that day. Because if this ever gets too hard, if it ever feels unbearable, if I ever walk away from you, I need to know that you’ll come after me. I need to know that I’m worth fighting for.”
She turned away, took slow, measured footsteps, afraid that she might collapse at minute now. She reached the door and paused for a moment, hoping against hope. As she closed the door behind her, she allowed the tears which she had been holding back for so long, to finally make way.
It had been 4 years, since she had last seen him, the pain still fresh in her mind. She didn’t know how she had survived. She had fake smiled her way through life. She had reminded herself to breathe in and breathe out every now and then. She had done all of this over and over again, hoping that one day she wouldn’t have to remind herself to live anymore.
Today, at the airport when she turned around, he was standing in front of her
“You should stay.”
Her breathe got stuck in her throat.
She could instantly spot the subtle changes in him. Things like the way he hadn’t shaved for months, the way his voice sounded hesitant as if he was afraid she was going to ignore him. But beneath all that, it was still the guy she had given her heart away to and hadn’t yet got it back.
She looked into his soft glance and asked, “Why?”
“Because I want you to.”
She shook her head, choking back a sob. “That’s not good enough. How long do you want me for? Until the next fight?”
Before she knew it, he was right in front of her, his fingers wrapped around hers. “I want you to shout at me when I am pushing you away. I want you to hold my hand when nothing feels right. I want you to grumble about petty things just to watch me pamper you. I want you tell me the same stories over and over again so that I can watch you while you do. I want you to complain when I let you win purposefully and accuse me of cheating when I don’t. I want you cry your heart out in front of me, so that I can kiss your tears away.” He brushed his fingers against her cheek tenderly. “I want you through the good and the bad, through the laughter and the pain, through the difficult times and the easy ones. I want you every single day, for the rest of my life.”
She did break down this time, right into his arms. He wrapped her in a protective embrace as he kissed the top of her head lightly.
“You were right Ragini. I had been hurt too many times before to believe in happy endings. I had lost my faith in everything. When things got bad, I gave up on them because I believed that they wouldn’t have worked out anyway. But then I met you and you showed me how wrong I was. You are the girl who showed me that even after the stormiest of nights, the sun will come up. It always does.”
She sighed in content in his embrace, symbolizing the end of a stormy period and a new beginning.