Thursday, March 3, 2016

If You Could Remember Me Now..

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 batchmates. 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.

I stood like a fool looking at her unable to understand my own reaction. When we parted our ways four years back I had put a full stop on that chapter of my life and moved on. I never expected to see her again after all these years. I felt something funny inside my stomach. It was a strange feeling. We both stared at each other for a few seconds but none of us spoke. She turned and walked away swiftly. Her heels still made the irritating sound. I smiled remembering her irritating “tock tock.” I realised she was walking away like a stranger. Perhaps she didn’t notice me. Maybe if I had worked out a little bit or shaved my beard she would have recognised me.

I sat and sipped coffee while waiting to board the flight. I saw her again. She was sitting right there in front of me holding a big fat picture album and a book. I shouted “Hey Ayesha!!” She gave me a confused stare and behaved like she didn’t hear me. I wasn’t going to give up this easily. I went and sat near her and spoke in a clear voice “Ayesha it’s me Akash!!” She looked at me and said “sorry I don’t think I know you.” Before I could respond she had already left.

Throughout the flight I couldn’t help thinking about her. How could she simply walk away saying she doesn’t know me? I wasn’t sure what was worse, bumping into your ex girlfriend who doesn’t remember you or realizing the fact that her behaviour still affects you after all these years. It was my fault. We broke up because I realized I wasn’t really in love with her and I wasn’t ready for a relationship. I knew she was very serious about me.  She was hurt but she never said a word, she didn’t demand any explanation. We broke up and never looked back, didn’t even bother to stay in touch. I just had a strange feeling that she was still somewhere around.

Ayesha looked at the clouds flying along with her. They looked like small packets of memories to her. She wished she could open the packets and find out what they stored. She opened the album hoping to uncover some packet of memories. She went through all the college photos for the tenth time since morning but this time her eyes got stuck on a particular face, a neatly shaved handsome guy standing next to her. She looked at his eyes and remembered the man at the airport calling out her name. She nudged her elder sister sitting next to her and pointed at the guy on the picture.

The Bengaluru climate totally made me forget about what had happened few hours back at Delhi Airport. Before I could feel the pleasant climate properly I heard someone whisper my name. I turned to find Ayesha standing right before me. I was confused. What’s wrong with women? Unpredictable! She spoke very slowly almost like whispering “I am sorry I couldn’t recognise you at the airport..I kind of have this problem..I…I..I am unable to remember people..” She struggled through the last line. Her eyes looked lost and helpless. “It's okay Ayesha! I don’t blame you I am no more that handsome hunk I used to be back then.” I laughed and joked. She didn’t say anything, simply smiled and walked away.

I was still in a state of confusion when someone tapped on my shoulder. It was Ridhima, Ayesha’s elder sister. It was always a pleasure to meet her. I hugged her. “What a pleasant surprise!! How are you?” I almost shouted.
Akash it’s nice to see you after such a long time..Hope you are doing good..I wanted to apologise to you for Ayesha’s indifferent behaviour. I understand you might have felt bad. But then it’s not her fault. She genuinely doesn’t remember you, me, or even herself.” She spoke while her eyes were still glued to Ayesha. There was concern and fear in her eyes. “One year back she met with an accident, she was in coma for five months and when she woke up she wasn’t the same. There was a new Ayesha who didn’t even know herself. She lost her memory. Since the last three months I have been taking her to new doctors, places she liked, people she loved. But nothing has worked. And finally I got Rohit’s wedding invitation I thought some miracle might happen here. But she couldn’t even remember you…I guess there is no hope left..” She broke down.

I promise Ridhima, she will be fine.. We will help her out together...I promise..” I don’t know how and from where these words came from. It wasn’t just my tongue but somewhere deep inside someone was making me say this.
Ridhima thanked me and said “she just knows you were good friends.”
Everything looked blurred and I realised I was crying. My eyes seemed blocked by tears. This cannot happen to her. She didn’t deserve this.

Normally an open bar meant heaven for me. But tonight I wasn’t drinking. As everyone raised their toasts on the sangeet night, I kept looking at Ayesha. She sat and smiled. Everyone had started dancing. Her lost eyes looked around; they fished through the crowd hoping they would soon find out the way. She clearly didn’t remember anyone, not even her girls’ gang. The whole gang was hugging sobbing and perhaps sympathising. The more I looked at her the more I remembered the past. She was the girl who set the dance floor on fire. The first time she was drunk she had puked all over me. I hated her for that. But today I badly wished she would do that again. A part of me wasn’t ready to accept the fact that she didn’t remember me. Though I had moved on and closed that chapter of my life, the chapter remained safe inside me.

Ridhima was on dance floor and Ayesha looked at her like a small kid lost in the midst of a crowd who knows her mother is somewhere around to protect her. Her eyes and facial expressions are still transparent. She hated me for seeing through her in and out. I could know what she wanted, how she felt just by the look on her face. She disliked the fact that I knew her so well. I pulled a chair and sat near her.
“Hey I am Akash.. You must be Ayesha? You look gorgeous.” I spoke in a flirtatious voice.
 She laughed and said “Hi Akash why aren’t you on the dance floor?” 
“Because the best dancer isn’t dancing today. She is simply sitting and looking gorgeous. She used to be my dance partner in college. I like dancing with her. So Miss Ayesha would you like to dance me? Please don’t say no!”
She held my hand and we were on the dance floor. We didn’t dance like the others. We just moved to and fro slowly in the crowd.
Ridhima says we were very good friends in college..So tell me something..about me..about you.. about us..” she spoke softly.
I laughed and said “Indeed we were and we are.. you were a terrific dancer and you never talked to anyone while dancing…you just set the floor on fire.. Don’t you wish to dance that way again? Ayesha you once danced on the streets near college with thirty unknown random people.. What’s stopping you today? We are a bunch of unknown people and I am sure you do remember dancing because you danced from your heart not brain.”

She smiled and we danced. She didn’t set the floor on fire that night but she danced.
 There was music, dance, alcohol and fun. It wasn’t enough for me or her and I knew that. She looked a bit tired. I took her hands and moved out of the crowd. We sat outside near the pool. She looked at the stars. This was her favourite thing to do. Suddenly she would disappear in a world of her own among the clouds, stars and the moon. I simply watched her looking at the sky. I remembered the times when we were together and she would tell me stories that she made up on her mind while looking at the sky. The moving clouds sometimes became a tree, a horse, a monster or even a palace. I missed her stories, I missed her. I wished I had always stayed in her life, never left. 

Finally I spoke “the moon and the clouds are playing hide and seek and the stars are sparkling out of jealousy.”
She had tears in her eyes as she struggled to speak “how did you know? I haven’t even told you this yet?”
Even I didn’t know how I knew this. This wasn’t the first evening I was with her watching the sky. I just knew. I don’t know how.
Well you were the one who taught me the art of devouring the sky.” I winked at her.
I pointed at the most brightest star “You want me to get that star for you? It is so bright.”
She took my hands in hers and said “You can’t reach the clouds, you can’t touch the stars. I will never ask you for anything impossible. Just give me what I need.”

Time flew and we both sat there the whole night. I read out to her pages from the chapter safe in my heart. Memories that I had saved, memories that she didn’t remember. But she listened to her own story, our story. I never told her about the relationship we had shared once. While visiting the past I realised she was the best thing that had ever happened to me. She was someone who believed in my craziest ideas, someone who understood me more than anyone else, someone who loved me, and I lost her. I had seen her at her best and her worst. She always reminded me of all the good things in life.

The next day she asked me to accompany her to shopping. How could I say no to her? She never even checked out any store or bought anything. We simply spent the whole day together moving around the city. Sometimes we simply sat silently struggling with our own thoughts. I didn’t want to leave her again. I wanted to make up for my mistake. And I didn’t know how. I hoped she never remembers the past. I was scared of losing her again. I lost her once and I didn’t bother, and four years later that seems to be the worst mistake of my life. I had never thought I would bump into her in such circumstances and fall in love with her. I was struggling with my own thoughts while I looked at her. She was beautiful,not like the women on movies or ramp shows. But her smile can conquer anybody’s heart. Her fluttering eyelids could make anyone smile. The way she gagged on food was a sight one would never want to miss. The more I looked at her the more I wanted to be with her.

I was lost in her thoughts and at the same time my eyes were glued to her. I don’t exactly know what happened next but like they say the things you cannot see coming your way are strong enough to kill you, everything went blank. I was on the ground. I was hit. How? When? I had no clue. I could smell blood along with Ayesha’s perfume.

My nostrils didn’t like the smell of the room. The smell always reminded me of all the worse things that had ever happened to me or could happen to me. But for the first time it didn’t remind me of anything. As I opened my eyes I realized I was in a hospital. Perhaps I was dreaming. I couldn’t remember how and why was I there. But the worst part was I couldn’t even remember who I was. The doctor spoke but nothing registered into my mind. I couldn’t listen. He addressed me as Akash. I couldn’t recall any Akash. Who was Akash? Who am I?

My lost eyes scanned through the room and I kept searching myself and then I felt like I found myself when my eyes rested on the girl standing near the door. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She walked towards me. She was crying. At the same time she smiled as she held my hand. She felt familiar. I wanted to ask her a million things but could speak nothing. Her mere presence holding my hand perhaps answered everything.

She held my hand tightly and kissed me on my cheeks and whispered “let’s make new memories together.” 

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