Saturday, January 16, 2016

That Feeling Called Love...

She wore a loose green kurta and a white dupata draped almost half her body. Her hair was neatly tied up in a bun and she stepped inside the college campus nervously. Her finger nails kept pinning down her bag straps. She got more nervous seeing her classmates. Not a single girl she could find was without make up. Her cosmetics kit consisted of a vaseline petroleum jelly, a comb, a cold cream and ponds powder. The girls flaunted their curves in tights, their coloured lips were shining, and their open hairs were swinging. She wondered how they could manage to walk swiftly with those thin pencils underneath their shoes. Nahid knew she was ordinary, she wasn’t like them and she could never be like them. But her Abbu always told her she was his star, his Nahid. She did not feel like a star here. A guy brushed past her, she literally started trembling. She had never ever talked to any guy other than her Abbu. Being born in a middle class orthodox Muslim family Nahid was instilled heavily with cultural values that even prohibited her from talking to unknown men. She was not even allowed to look directly at the face of the seventy year old grocer near her house. She would ask for groceries looking at her own feet as if she was committing a crime. A girls’ school had saved her from the crime of looking at men or talking to them. Nahid badly wished her family had at least prepared her before sending her to a coeducational college. The welcome session wasn’t really warm. By the end of the day everyone had someone to say “see you tomorrow.” She felt like she had an invisibility cloak on her. Nobody even smiled at her. Nevertheless she was happy she made it to her favourite English honours and the next three years would not be that bad. As she walked out of the campus the Lucknow streets welcomed her with the aroma of “tunday kababs.” She forgot everything and raced back home to urge Ammi Jaan to make some kababs. She wished she could just hangout with people of her age at food outlets and gulp down the kababs and let the faluda kulfi melt in her mouth. But she knew she couldn’t.

As a Psychology intern when Soham entered the college campus he wasn’t aware of the fact that it was the first day of college for many just like him. He joined it as part of an exchange program. The whole campus was crowded. His vision fished through the moving bodies and rested on a particular face. It did not have a single sign of make up on it yet it was the most beautiful face he had ever seen. She moved through the crowd with anxious steps and her eyes were fixed on the path before her. She looked like a dream in green and white. He wished he did not have to rush to meet the Psychology head, he simply wanted to look at the innocent face and study it more deeply.

Nothing spectacular happened on the second day. Nahid felt like she did not exist. Except for a few “whatever” looks nothing changed. She was branded with a “behenji” tag. The guy who sat near her nudged her in between a lecture asking for a pen. The touch of a guy made her so nervous she was literally on the verge of falling off the bench. The guy noticed it and could not help laughing. The next few days were hell for her. Boys would knowingly brush past her, nudge her. Except for a few girls nobody ever talked to her. The few girls who talked were simply after her class notes. Every evening Nahid would come back home teary eyed. She would lock herself in the washroom and cry under the shower. The seniors also did not spare her. The ragging sessions humiliated her even more. Sometimes she wanted to leave and never come back again. She had lost the zeal to study, to do anything.

Soham couldn’t get his mind off the girl he saw on his first day. When lady luck smiled he would only catch a glimpse of her but she would disappear before he could reach her. In the last few months he could only find out her name. But he could easily read the emptiness in her eyes. His “Happy to Help” Project always kept him busy and he could not approach her no matter how much he wanted to.

“Need a friend? Tired of surviving? Want to start living? We are ‘Happy to Help.’ We don’t provide counsellors but friends.” Nahid felt she didn’t need a counsellor but the advertisement said they provide friends. She wrote her first email to “Happy to Help.”  Her mail contained 1500 words about her life, her broken soul, her helplessness and lastly a hope. She did not know where these words emerged from, but all she knew was sadness had engulfed her and she didn’t know how to make it go away. It was terrifying to let someone know the darkest secrets of her soul, nevertheless she took the chance.  Soham read the mail twice. He wanted to hug her and say “I am there for you.”
Dear Nahid,                                                                                                                                                  Thank you for trusting us. But before helping you I want you to help me. Think about these questions and answer me back. Who are the people who mask their faces? Why do you need to paint your face to look like them? Maybe you don’t need any of those stuffs because you are already so beautiful. Your eyes seem like an endless universe (your mail makes me guess so!). Do you need to lose yourself in order to become like them? Are you that bad? Don’t let anybody take your smile away. Have you given yourself the chance to live? To make friends? Have you tried to fit in? At some point you have to stop being so sad. Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t let anyone do it to you. Think and reply back. I am happy to help 24*7 J  P.S: Men are not monsters.
He sent the mail, closed his eyes and saw her face.
Nahid walked confidently into the class, smiled and sat with the first guy she saw. It takes time for a fortress wall to fall but someday she knew it will. And this was just the beginning.
That night she answered him back on the “Happy to Help” emergency number instead of mailing. “Dear Happy to Help Friend you are right to some extent I am responsible for whatever happened to me. Thank you for helping me let go off my fear that always held me back. Today I tried to make friends. Nahid

Soham wanted to jump and shout “she messaged!!she messaged!!” He became her daily diary. And his sole object in life became making her happy. Gradually she changed. She was a completely different person with a new mindset and a new outlook. She learnt to live, laugh and most importantly to love. She was in love with herself like never before. He taught her to love herself and that was the beauty of his love. She walked with a confidence and enjoyed Shakespeare plays with zeal like never before. She felt truly like her Abbu’s star. She had her favourite street food with her new friends without any guilt but with happiness that she had never ever experienced before. It was all because of her “happy to help” friend. She couldn’t think of beginning or ending a day without messaging him.  She even asked him to help her find a dance partner for college dance. And this was Soham’s chance to take the next step. The next day a guy in red shirt walked towards Nahid and said “Hi I am Soham, I am a 2nd year psychology student. I was wondering if you would like to come to the college dance with me. I will be here tomorrow waiting for you.” Nahid couldn’t respond she tried to speak but neither could she say yes or no. She simply nodded and messaged her dear friend if she should go ahead with him. And of course Mr happy to help would be more than happy if she went out with the red shirt guy.
This was probably the best day of Soham’s life. He wanted her to look into his eyes and tell him the three words he was dying to hear. But Nahid never looked into his eyes her mind was with her “Happy to help” friend. She longed to be held in his arms and dance to the music. She wanted him to be there with her always and forever. She realised she had fallen head over heels for him. Soham wanted to tell her everything but before he could say anything Nahid excused herself saying she was tired and vanished somewhere.

Nahid didn’t message her friend that night. He had asked about her dance and her dance partner. She didn’t reply. Soham wasn’t sure if Nahid liked her dance partner. But her message made it clear.
Hey!!I am really scared..I think I am in love..And it’s been a while..I feel the happiest when I talk to him...I can’t stop thinking about him...I don’t know what to do? Should I tell him?”
He knew he shouldn’t feel so let down if she found someone else. He didn’t own her and perhaps never will. He had no right to feel jealous, angry or even sad. She was happy and that mattered. He decided he would never let her know about his feelings. But he would never stop loving her. It was time for him to let go off her, to walk away from her. Perhaps this was also a part of loving someone. She deserved to be happy and perhaps her happiness lies with this newly found love of hers.  His phone beeped. It was Nahid’s message. He ignored it.

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 if he was joking or not. What was this?
Dearest Nahid,                                                                                                                                            Some of the world’s most amazing people are scarred with hardships and imperfections and when they recover, they are stronger like never before. I am glad to have known such an amazing person. You are truly a star. It’s time for me to say goodbye. You don’t need a counsellor anymore. Trust me you can shine all alone without any help. Never let pain destroy you. Good luck! I am more than happy to have helped you. J
This cannot be happening. How could he simply say goodbye? She wanted to shout and scream.  “You were never supposed to mean this much to me, I was never supposed to fall this hard for you. But it happened. I can’t let go off you. I love you.“ She typed the message but could not send it. “Maybe I was just another girl he was helping out, after all he was just a counsellor” she thought. She erased the message but deep within she knew he was engraved in her soul. She pushed back her tears and promised she won’t let pain destroy her ever.

Every morning she got up hoping for a miracle and checked her phone. She wrote everything that happened in her life in her diary in form of letters to her “Happy to Help” friend. It’s been five years but she still started and ended her days thinking about him. She ran an online counselling service “Spread Happiness” in his memory and happily helped people. One fine morning she received an email that changed everything.
She is that part of my life which will never be anything short of a dream. I might never get the chance to be together with Nahid but I am always happy that whatever memories I have of her will always be pure and untouched. Learning to be okay without her is weird. I swear I am fine for weeks but one morning I get up and my heart feels heavy. I feel like I lost her all over again. I miss her. I miss waking up and checking my phone for her message. I still mumble her name in my sleep. The thought of her being with someone else sometimes suffocates me. It hurts...hurts bad...I could never tell her how much she means to me, how much I love her. It’s been five years now and I still remember the first time I saw her. Her green kurta, her white dupata and how she walked nervously holding her bag…..

Nahid read the mail rather read her own story. Her hands were trembling and tears flowed down her cheeks. She wasn’t sure whether they were tears of happiness or sadness. The happiness of finally finding him or the sadness that had engulfed them both. He had always admired her the way nobody else did but sometimes she was too broken to realise it, sometimes she was too afraid to acknowledge it and sometimes she was too happy to notice it. Yet he was there always even when she longed to be held by him and dance with him, he was there. And five years later he is still there for her. Maybe what they say is true if it is meant to be it will find a way. Love finds its way through an email.


pintu said...

Hey ankita, I dont know you and i don't know how did i land on this blogspot . Wat an amazing story it is, i was suppose to stop reading in between ,but the story is so beautiful , it holds me back till the end.Keep writing.. Cheers !!

ankita said...

Thank you so much :)

Roshan said...

Very well written story. Keep it up. :)