I took my ticket and entered the bus. Mine was seat number 27. The next was still empty. I sat and got my self busy with a novel. After around five minutes, I heard a sound that was sweet and feminine but seemed to be very familiar.
“Excuse me. That seat is mine.”
I looked above. Even the face was familiar. It was Richa, a very old friend of mine. She used to be my grand senior during the first year of my graduation. We had never met after that. But we’d spent a very good time together. I got lost into reveries of that golden period of my life.
My graduation days were simply incomparable. We (Sunny and me) always stayed together. The whole class of ours was quite dull, full of staid and dumb idiots. Since we were the only fun loving creatures, we had to be friends. It was as natural as the laws of gravity. Our friendship grew more intense during a trip in first year. On that trip, we were alone from the first year and all the seniors were busy enjoying in their groups. We tried to intrude into a couple of groups but we were not welcomed eagerly. The girls were few and boys didn’t want any sort of competition. And for a boy, a trip can’t be fun without any girl. It’s a fact. We tried our level best to enjoy among ourselves but how could we tolerate our seniors having fun.
Then Sunny’s eye caught one of our grand senior, Gopal. He was sitting alone with a couple of girls. And Sunny never missed chances. Within seconds he was away and sat with Gopal. I was surprised to see him totally engrossed in their talks. I thought of joining them but wasn’t able to gather enough courage. After every couple of minutes, Sunny looked at me and passed a taunting smile. Jealousy was creeping up in me. Adding more to it, Gopal got up from there and joined his male friends. Now Sunny was alone with them.
After few minutes, one of those girls looked behind towards me. Then Sunny waved his hand signaling me to join them. Now it’s the time to go, I thought.
I went there and Sunny introduced me to them. They were Richa and Shreya. Both were good looking but to be very frank you can’t rate anyone gorgeous. They were quite simple but smart.
“Hey Abhinav,” called Richa.
“Yeah.” I replied.
“Sunny told that you know palmistry.” She said and within a flash of a second their hands were in front of me. You just need to signal these girls that someone knows something about palmistry or astrology; they would reach there within no time. But why did Sunny told that about me. I never wanted to be a babaji in front of them. I just hate him for that. But then I realized, that was the reason she looked behind at me and then asked Sunny to call.
My palmistry increased the chemistry between us. We all were together for the whole trip. Sunny got close to Richa and me with Shreya. Shreya told me that even they too were alone from their class. They were also our grand seniors but from different branch. Gopal was the only one they knew among all in the trip. There on we enjoyed with them and they always maintained a distance which must be there between seniors and juniors. Then we went to an amusement park where we took rides together, we went for boating together, we ate together and even danced together. We got very close to each other with in no time. I’m not sure Richa and Sunny, but I and Shreya got really very close.
After dinner we went for a movie. All were quite excited to see king Khan as Devdas. I sat with Shreya. Movie started and I was drowned deep into the ocean of dreams and don’t know what happened after that. Some loud grins and guffaws wake me up. I was surprised that Shreya’s head was on my shoulder and my head on her head. I rubbed my eyes and looked forward; both Richa and Sunny were standing right in front of us and laughing. It was quite embarrassing for me. And how embarrassed would she be, I thought. A girl found in that position with a grand junior; it might be funny for a guy. But for a girl, it is just a matter of ridicule.
“Oops… Sorry.” I said, looking into her eyes. She was perplexed but tried well enough to hide her embarrassment.
“Oh… it’s fine.” She replied and looked at Richa wrathfully, clenching her teeth. Richa was silent immediately. I wondered if Shreya was the Don among girls. We got up and went to our bus. This time I didn't sit with Sunny, but with Shreya. Now even our seniors looked at us with envy.
The bus started and I looked back towards Sunny’s seat. Even he looked at me and we exchanged smiles. Returning from a trip with a girl sitting besides you; it is always looked upon as an achievement in the world of bachelors. I looked at Shreya; she gave me a cute smile. But that smile was authoritarian: a smile of a typical grand senior. I just thought for a minute, what if I have sex with her, she would lead the show instead of me. I just laughed on my thoughts. But then I thought that why would she lead. She’s senior according to academics but I would be senior to her in what I was thinking. Suddenly her voice brought me out of the amazing world of my thoughts.
“Abhinav… Abhinav…” She said, shaking my arm.
“Yeah. What happened?”
“Where are you lost?”
“Oh… No where… just looking at the lights on the hill.” I replied. How could she know what kind of light was I thinking of.
“Oh wow. They look awesome!” She said with mouth wide open. I don’t know whether to call these girls silly or sweet. But I don’t know how they get attracted and find happiness in such small things.
“Hey Shreya. You know what?”
“You speak very sweetly but your voice sounds childish. I mean ... you understand right, as innocent as a small kid.”
“Yeah. Everybody says that… Didn’t you see me at Jhankaar?”
“Jhankaar? What’s that?”
“You don’t know Jhankaar? Amazing? That’s the inter year cultural fest.” She said as if she was talking about cricket world cup. How could a first year student know about a cultural fest which he has never seen? And how was her childish voice related to the fest? Only god knows how these girls relate things, I thought.
“But how’s your voice related to that?” I quizzed.
“Duffer… I’ve been the best singer of the institute for last two years.”
“What? I’m sitting with the best singer of the whole institute? That’s amazing! ”
After that I kept on insisting her to sing a song but she kept on refusing. Finally she agreed. It was raining heavily outside now and bus was moving very slowly. It looked as if the rain, the clouds, the road, the trees and the whole world was going to accompany her. She started:
“Ajeeb daastaan hai yehYeh roshni ke saath kyun
Kahaan shuruu kahaan khatam
Yeh manzilein hai kaun sii
Na woh samajh sake na hum
Kahaan shuruu kahaan khatam
Yeh manzilein hai kaun sii
Na woh samajh sake na hum
Dhuaan udha chiraag pe
Yeh khwaab dekhthi hun main
Ke jab paddi hun khwaab see
Mubaarakein tumhein ke tum
Kisii ke jitne paas ho
Ke sab se door ho gaye
Kisii ka pyar leke tum
Naya jahaan basaaoge
Yeh shyaam jab bhi aayegi
Tum hum ko yaad aaoge ”
When she ended, I was completely engrossed into it. I had heard that song a lot of times but it never sounded so beautiful. I was speechless, spellbound. I don’t know it was the situation, the time or her voice that created the magic, but what ever it was, the song sounded mellifluous like never before.
I looked at her, she was waiting for a response but I was quiet. I didn't know what to say. Some things are so beautiful that any sort of praise seems trifle. But my expressions spoke well about the extent to which I liked the song. After that, the whole aura turned romantic. We discussed about each other’s love life, past affairs, crushes, likings and all. She told that all the guys she had in her life were not suitable for her. She wanted someone who was up to her standards such that she could respect him. That was quite reasonable for a girl, I thought.
After the trip, the world seemed to have stopped for me. I was lost in her dreams, day in and day out. I feared talking to Sunny since he was prone to make fun of me. I spent my days in a hope to meet her. And if ever I met her, the day seemed to be lucky and on every meeting, we had a good time. I wished to talk to her every day but she didn't have a mobile phone. I often quizzed my self whether it was love or not, but I had no answer at all.
Days went on and time kept on flying. We used to meet twice or thrice a week at the maximum since we were in different departments and she was quite senior to me. Then after a long time I got chance to see her amply when the Jhankaar was on the cards. Since she was the Over All Coordinator, she was seen roaming around in the campus for various arrangements. I was really impressed by her work, and in fact every one was. She had a celebrity status in the institute. But what I liked the most in her was that despite of her status and her hectic life, she treated me very well. She never made me realize that I was junior to her and stood no where near her personality.
Her course was going to be over with in a few days. She was still the same for me. The song she sang in the bus still resonated in my mind. It was not an ordinary crush, but I was surely in love with her. She didn't have a mobile phone but I used to wait for her call every time. I had saved every phone numbers from which she had ever called me. But it really haunted me that she was going to be away within a few days. Time went on flying and it took her along with it. Her course was completed. She had left the institute for ever and was placed in a reputed IT company in Bangalore. I cried a lot.
One day I was sitting in my room when Richa called me. It was only second or third time she had called me. She was someone who never called without any reason. This time the reason was strange, very strange. She told me that Shreya got a message from my mobile number which contained something very contemptible.
“What?” I asked. I was completely shocked as I had never messaged her and more over she didn't even has a mobile phone.
“You know it Abhinav. You sent that, not me.”
“But I never sent any message. And when did she buy a new phone?”
"As if you don't know, Abhinav. She got it as a gift from the sponsors of Jhankar." She said.
"No way, Richa. I don't even have her number."
“Come on Abhinav didn’t you propose her?” She said very coolly but I was stunned. It really froze me. I knew, I never messaged her but the matter was that who messaged her if not me. I had never told anyone that I loved her so much. And moreover no one used my phone. Not even Sunny.
“Why would I message her, Richa... when there’s nothing like that.” I clarified.
“Did you give your phone to anyone?”
“No way. Why should I?”
“Not even to Sunny?”
“Oh… I don’t know how it happened. Whether you messaged her or not but it is true that she got that message and it was from you. By the way tell me one thing.”
“Do you like her?”
“Hey come on. Yes I do like her. She is a fantastic grand senior, very talented and a nice person at heart. I respect her more than I like her.” I said with full enthusiasm.
“Oh ho… Stupid… I didn’t ask in that sense. I meant, do you feel for her?” She asked. I don’t know why she was asking but she was true. But how could I have admitted. She would surely have made fun of me in front of Sunny. And moreover I never thought about it since I knew, I wasn't her choice. I didn't meet her standards. I preferred to deny and rightly so.
“What are you up to Richa? You people are my grand seniors. You know, for me, Shreya is the most respectable person in the whole institute. And you are talking like that.” I replied. Shreya would surely feel great to hear all that, I thought. We ended our talk after that. Richa never turned up again. And neither did Shreya. They went to Bangalore for job. After that incident I never had a talk with any of them. I always waited for her call but she never did. I searched her on facebook and orkut but she wasn’t there. Everything ended but still there was one big mystery in my mind. Who sent that message?
“Abhinav… Is that you?” The voice was same, but this time it was not a phone call. But it was Richa herself standing besides me in the bus asking for seat. Time had changed many things and also healed many things. It was more than two years since I had talked to Shreya. The feeling didn’t trouble me too much now but yes, I still missed her.
Richa was looking a lot sexier now. She had gained a few pounds of weight but it complemented her looks. She was also going to
. We talked about many things about our college time and it was a great feeling meeting her after a long time and luckily our seats were together too. Delhi
“Hey you didn’t marry”
“Nooo. I wasn’t in any hurry like Shreya.”
“Like Shreya… means?”
“What can it mean stupid? She married. What else?” She said in her usual tone. I was shocked. Even if she was out of my life, even if I never thought of marrying her, even if I didn't deserve to marry her, I felt an excruciating pain: A pain of a broken heart.
“Oh, that’s great news.” I said, pretending to look as happy as I could.
“Yeah it is. This time she got someone much better than a foolish grand junior.”
“Foolish grand junior? I’m not getting at all what you are saying.”
“Yeah… You never understand anything. That’s why you are a fool.”
“Please tell me properly Richa. Please.”
“Oh yaar. I don’t know I should be telling this to you or not but she had a liking for you. But you! What to say? You are a typical mamma’s boy. You respect her, but you didn't love her. Huh.” She said. It was the biggest shock of my life, even bigger than the shock of her marriage. That feeling can never be expressed in words, never.
“And… what about that message which I sent?”
“Message which you sent...” She said in a very confused tone, “You sent some message?”
“You told me no, the last time you called.”
“Oh that message… You see that’s why I call you a fool.” She giggled, “She never got a message from you.”
That was enough for me. I just closed my eyes and drops began to trickle. The song again started resonating in my mind. Finally it ended with the line...
" Yeh shyaam jab bhi aayegi
Tum hum ko yaad aaoge ”
Tum hum ko yaad aaoge ”