Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kurai Ondrum Illai...Part 6

Shruti was his classmate. They had studied together for the last 6 years. She lived in the street next to Ashok’s house. She was beautiful, a wonderful dancer, and matter of fact in her speech. It was this that attracted Ashok the most. Her matter of factliness. Never has a word been out of place if it came from her. They used to go to school and come back together. Swinging their lunch bags and gossiping merrily. He often used to go to her home too. Her mother and father were very jovial and treated him as their own son. One more reason why Ashok didn’t want to break the equilibrium. (He often got reminded of Sivaji’s dialogue with Nagesh in Vietnam veedu – ‘Ava yaaru da?’. ‘Yaen friend oda thangai’. ‘Unnoda friend un akka kita epdi nadanthikaraan?’ ‘Avan rumba nalla paiyyan pa, en akka va avan akka aatome treat panraan’ ‘Apa nee mattum yaen da avan thangai ya thangai aatum treat panaame kaadhali aatum treat panre?’) Shruti knew that Ashok had a soft corner for her. But she thought it was more due to their familiarity rather than anything ulterior and hence didn’t think too much into it.

One day the earth shook for Ashok. Shruti called him aside in school and confided in him that she thought she was in love with Ravi. In Love? With Ravi? ‘Great! Congratulations’ was all that Ashok could reply. Why is it that all these girls and guys fall in love and then think that they have fallen in love? He didn’t know whether to feel happy for her or sad. Because he knew Ravi inside out and knew that Ravi and Shruti wouldn’t be compatible. He could have told it at Shruti’s face. But then he felt she would attribute a ‘frank’ opinion from him as an attempt to ‘break’ a ‘made in heaven’ relationship. Ashok knew that Shruti for all he candidness was still the typical girl when it came to feelings and emotions. From then on, Ashok despite his best efforts started feeling distanced from her. It was quite natural. 12th was such a time when children think they are entering into adulthood. It is also the time when the dream factory in the brain tilts the balance away from common sense for most of the people. He didn’t feel bad that he couldn’t spend as much time with her as before. However he pitied her because he could foresee what future direction her relation with Ravi would take.

True to his instinct, two months after their Board exams, as Shruti was about to leave for BITS she came home to meet Ashok. She was the pride of his family. They treated her as their own daughter (What was it with parents? Treating their children’s friends as their own children? Don’t they ever understand that this brings in a feeling of brotherliness and sisterliness into the relationship?) They went to the terrace and stood for a long time just viewing the horizon. The Shruti told Ashok, ‘I hate Ravi’. He kept silent. She then cried. He still kept silent. Then the deluge came, ‘He is such a loser. Can’t allow me to be myself. He is so insecure. He keeps asking me to make a promise that I will still love him after going to BITS. Can someone be so juvenile? Not only that, he keeps talking only of our marriage. Doesn’t he realize there are still ages to go before we can eve n think of it? I thought a lot about it. I like Ravi. I still like him. But I feel I can’t stand him day in and day out the way he is. So today I called him on phone. And asked him to ‘Get lost’. I know I sounded very mean and cruel. But unless I did that he wouldn’t hate me. And he wouldn’t leave him. Ashok…did I do the right thing?’

Even though Ashok felt for Shruti, he couldn’t resist asking, ‘If I tell you did the wrong thing, is it gonna change anything?’ He was quick to add, ‘You have your priorities, he has his own priorities. It is good that you realized this and called it quits rather than continuing this torture’. Shruti didn’t tell anything. They stood in silence. Finally she just hugged him, gave him a peck in his cheeks and said ‘Thank you’. Little did she realize what an emotional turmoil Ashok was going through at that moment. It took a monumental effort from him to resist his instincts. True to his usual self he just laconically said, ‘So is the melodrama over?’ She laughed and punched him. He said ‘Lets go down now’ and climbed down the staircase….wiping the speck of tear that came down his cheeks.

Later that week, Shruti went to BITS, Pilani. Ravi became a vagabond. And Ashok went to Loyola College. He didn’t want to get into engineering. He instead chose to study Physics. The first 6 months, both Ashok and Shruti used to exchange lots of letters. Later the frequency dwindled to one every month. Finally it came to a halt. Not that he thought too much into it. He knew each of them had their own life to live. He also realized that the point has been reached where in he should learn to enjoy if and when a story from the past (in this case Shruti) came by rather than pondering and worrying about ‘what could have been’.

Fortunately, Shruti’s parents too shifted from Jambu Nagar to Mumbai. This almost effectively cut off any further natural communication channel that they had. But Shruti never left Ashok’s sight. That was because she was fast becoming the most sought after model in the ad industry. She went to BITS, alright. But quite fortuitously, she was sighted by one famous cameraman when he had come with his crew to shoot a scene in the campus. From then on, the media industry beckoned. And she took to it like a duck to water. For the initial few months, Ashok’s ears used to twitch and eyes used to bulge whenever he heard her name or came across her face. But slowly, it became so commonplace and he became so..hmm….detached that nothing mattered to him. She too became an ‘object from the past’ (Just like Dhaya, thought Ashok)

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