By Aakash Joshi:
I met Anant when I was in 6th grade. A very smart person with decent looks, Anant made for a talkative, naughty and charming classmate. He had a smile which impressed many and helped him make quite a few friends. With each passing grade, we became the best of buddies.
However, when college started, I moved to a different city and phone became the only way to stay connected with my childhood friend. During his college days, he met a girl named Tia – his good looking and charming classmate. Their relationship started with a close friendship and progressed to love. And within the second year of their course, the two of them were in a committed relationship. Whenever I visited my hometown, I would make it a point to meet the two of them. Somehow, I always felt that Anant’s smile was what kept them glued together.
Time passed, and we had reached what you could call the marriageable age. Anant and Tia now had 6 years of togetherness to fall back on. In a generation which has the power to end relations by simply sending a message; where people change with the blink of an eye, here I was witnessing two amateurs who were still dedicatedly in love. They knew each other inside out. Whether it was the happy side or the miserable one, their understanding of each other was what made their bond so extraordinary.
They spoke to their parents about getting married – argued and fought but stayed adamant in not letting go of each other. Somehow they knew that love is something which can be and should be fought for. Before I knew it, I was preparing the invitation cards for the guests. A day I wanted to witness since so long had finally arrived.
In the midst of happiness what we forget is the temporality of our emotions. Nothing lasts longer than it is destined to. We are animals of hope, and that’s what keeps us going. One and a half years after Anant and Tia’s wedding, I got a call. Waking me up from an afternoon nap, I picked up Anant’s call only to have an unknown voice speak to me – “Hi Brother. This is Raj. Our sister in law Tia is no more. Her rituals are to be performed at 11:30 today.”
The phone left me in the state of shock. I was not sure what and how to react. Sitting isolated in my dorm in a different city so far away, I felt incapable of doing anything that would make things better. I called my parents and friends and asked them to reach Anant’s place at the earliest.
And then I was crying. Only to try and hold back my tears and be strong the next moment. All those 6 years of knowing Tia were running through my mind. All the short and sweet memories I had with her and, moreover, with them will now be permanently stained with the sorrow of death.
It took me hours to realise what Anant might be going through. People asked me to talk to him, but it was just not possible for me to do so. Maybe I was scared of witnessing the pain and harsh reality in his voice. I never understood why people often try to console and stop others from crying during such situations. One must shed their share of tears before the wound heals. I didn’t call him for many days. I couldn’t.
My parents told me that Tia had been suffering from lung infection. And as fate would have it, Anant had to move to a different city for his work at around the same time. He would return to the city only on weekends to meet Tia. During the last week when things got worse and she was admitted to the hospital, he could only return by the time she had permanently made peace with his absence.
My parents said they found it overwhelmingly difficult to face Anant at his home. His eyes were swollen with the constant crying. He was not able to carry himself without the support of others. My mother also cried seeing his plight; pitying his loss at such an early age.
I was not able to imagine what Anant might have felt seeing his companion lying lifeless on the hospital bed, not opening her eyes one last time. I blamed fate, destiny and life. I never understood what mistake that 25-year-old girl could have committed?
And what about Anant? Wasn’t this when he was supposed to enjoy life with his love instead of losing everything like this? I cried for days, feeling sorry for all that had happened. I felt sorry that Anant had lost the love which had held him together in times of sorrow and pain; the love which cheered him in his success. The one who was the reason for him to grow and achieve more was now no more. These past 7 years, Anant and Tia had created memories and lived a life of dreams that suddenly all ended in ashes.
3 weeks later, I returned to the city deciding to meet Anant that very night. We sat facing each other, barely talking; not once daring to mention Tia. We exchanged an awkward smile aware more than ever of the huge void she had left behind her. A void that was now filled rather oddly by an inanimate garlanded photo frame, propped in-between our sofas. One that froze her in a single moment complete with her bridal suit and smiling face. We glanced at her photo, looked at each other and could only fall silent again.
Maybe it was still the smile playing charmingly on their faces that was keeping them together even now.