Glimpses of a Love Story – The Beginning…
It took a long time to conceptualize, visualize and get this down as something close to what I wanted it to be. This post is part of a trilogy which I call Glimpses of a Love Story. This one’s also a dedication to my beautiful university and the characters are a tribute to Raghu and Priya, my best friends and the most beautiful couple on Earth..
So here goes my first attempt at storytelling..
I was bored to death of Hari’s monologue by evening. “If you’d just passed it to me, I was open you know. No one was guarding Ashok even. All you had to do was pass, and we would have won it…”
Actually, I wasn’t bored. I was experiencing guilt. But I couldn’t let that show. “And then what, if I’d passed, you or he would have scored, right? Tell me Hari, how many times have you or Ashok scored for our team. Tell me.” I wasn’t being fair. Hari meant well. He always did. My best friend, my companion and also one of the very few who would take all my self absorbed ramblings. He knew I played better, same way I knew that he was right. I should’ve passed. But I’m not exactly known for being virtuous. “Whatever, let’s get something to drink”, said Hari, and I was happy to oblige.
We had lost the game yesterday. This wasn’t any high level tournament or something. This was just something we guys at college had dreamed up. A league, on the dirt right outside our mess. This was street stuff, football at its rawest and most dangerous, but it was a league and the whole college played in it, and it meant everything to us. “Lime soda for me”, I said and settled into a chair at the ASB canteen. This was Anokha, our college’s annual engineering fest and everyone was busy, running here and there, organising something or the other or running to catch some show that started soon. I was not to be bothered with all this. Who wants to do horse work? “Show me some money”, came a voice from the distance and I grudgingly went over and handed him my purse.
And then time stood still.
I gasped. I couldn’t breathe. I somehow managed to will myself to study the blank menu on the whiteboard so I could watch her out of the corner of my eye. She glided through the place, and I knew every single boy must be looking at her. She was beautiful, if such a mild word could describe her. I had looked at her every day for the past six months, and I knew every expression, every twist of her face, every strand of her hair. I could make her out from a kilometre away. I could tell you that she never fully closed her eyes while praying and that if you looked closely, you could see the mole on her neck. Oh, I could tell you a lot of things about her.
But there was one thing I couldn’t do. I couldn’t, for the life of me, talk to her normally.
Hari could, though. He didn’t suffer from any of the conditions I described before while talking to her. And he chose exactly that moment, right when I was getting back my bearings, about to breathe again, to say this, “Hey Raghu, look who’s here. Hi Priya!” I almost swore. I knew he’d done that on purpose, but again he means well. Except, I was gonna kill him for this. “Hi Priya” I said weakly, as her utter flawlessness permeated into my senses and threatened to make me fall on the floor. She smiled “Hey Raghu, what you guys doing here?” And there it was, a question. She was making conversation. All I’d to do was talk. I just looked at her. She waited, but nothing came out of my mouth. Hari, ever my saviour, jumped in and launched into something about how our HOD had caught us copying and how we managed to wriggle our way out of it. I tuned out, I could only look at her. You see, I have a one track mind. I have no space for processing conversations or something trivial when I can just look stupidly at her.
She was going, and I watched her sail away, and I thought I heard violins play in the background. Well, okay, that’s kinda like a movie, but don’t blame me! She is an angel. What else can I say?
I was in dreamland when Hari cut through “You said today, remember?” “No. I said Anokha” was my lame reply. He just looked at me. “But it’s just been six months since college started man.”, was all I could manage.” “So?” he asked and I had nothing to say. I knew I’d to tell her, sometime or the other and I had promised Hari that I would, during Anokha. But it’s never that easy, is it?
“Look, if you don’t, someone else will, and I have word that Ashwin, you know that tall guy from Mechanical, has been talking about her.” The sky came crashing down around my ears. The guy looks like Ashton Kutcher on steroids. “Who told you that”, I asked, half heartedly. “What does that matter, you @#$%?” went Hari, “Just go tell her.”
It took me all of half an hour to summon up the courage to just go near her. “Priya”, I said. And she turned. Oh my God she turned. I wanted to run away, fall down & kiss her all the same instant. “Yes, Raghu”, she said, her eyes twinkling, as if she already knew this was coming. It took every bit of mental strength that my 18 year old brain had to say the next few words “Can I walk you back to the hostel today? I wanna talk to you.” The stares from her friends were cold and incisive, like hostile she-wolves, but I was there and I stood firm. She said “Sure” and stood up and a few moments later, there I was, with her, walking. I swear, even this was enough to keep me happy for a year, maybe more. But no, everything was at stake now. Ashton Kutcher was lurking, and God knows who else.
We walked through the main university road, where the evening rush was on. This was Anokha, after all. Mostly everyone was rushing to the food stalls. Who wouldn’t, it was the only time of the year you could get Pizzas, Burgers and Chats in campus. I had no idea how or where to start, but she made it easier for me. “What is it, Raghu?” I blinked in the evening sunlight, took a deep breath and went for it “Let’s get something to eat, shall we, Fries?” “No Raghu, I just ate, we came from the canteen, remember.” Nice. That was super dumb. She thinks you’re a joker you fool. I looked up. She was smiling.
That smile made me say what I said next.
“Priya, I think I love you.”
I didn’t say anything else. She didn’t reply, either. She just walked, head down. It was almost dark now, and the neon boards glinted in the dim light. I walked her past the store, my desperation and fear rising with every step. What had I done? She wasn’t even saying a word. We were at the steps of her hostel gates now. I had conceded defeat. As I turned to head back, she called out.
“I’m here Priya”
“What took you so long?”
It took a moment to register. I turned, but she’d gone.
I started running, but it felt as if the air itself was carrying me. I felt light, like a feather. I cannot describe myself as happy. I was overjoyed. I was almost hysterical. I ran, smiling like a maniac and didn’t stop until I reached my hostel gates. Sure enough, there was Hari, on the dirt pitch, as I knew he would be. He saw me first though, and sent me a pass. I took it, swerved past two defenders, dodged another one and sent it straight past the goalie, smiling all the time.
I didn’t need to tell him anything. We hugged each other and jumped up and down, a boy in love and his best friend.