Aradhna Saini* – the bubbliest, chirpiest, liveliest and the most energetic girl I have ever known. She was a bundle of joy who always charged up everything around her.
I first met her at a tutorial centre three years ago. Her cheerfulness, talkative nature and the ease of mixing with people were what attracted me towards her. We instantly connected not knowing that this friendship is going to go a long way.
Time elapsed, strengthening the roots of our bond even more. We started going out after classes frequently, meeting at cafes and the children park in the evening, discussing notes, life problems, girl talk and what not. She was a great motivator and her inspirational thoughts always turned my hopelessness into enthusiasm. She was magical.
I would never realize when and how she slipped into my problematic life and showed me a totally different perspective about life. If I found the glass half empty, she was the one to say that it was actually half full. Her positivity and never-say-die spirit not only inspired me but many who got the opportunity to know her. Slowly, I got used to having her beside me whenever and wherever I needed.
But all of a sudden, during the last month, we lost touch. You can blame our jobs for that. Or was it something else? Earlier, no matter how busy she was, she never said no to talking to me. But then, she started avoiding me. She would even disconnect the phone giving some lame excuse. It was weird for me because I hadn’t seen this side of her before. Eventually, I made peace with it thinking that she must be really busy and will talk once she gets the time.
One day, I was out shopping when I bumped into someone on the footpath. I was about to apologize and move ahead when suddenly something struck me. I turned back to look at the person. “Aradhna?” I screamed with a voice mixed with joy and shock.
She had changed so much. The ever-glowing face had lost its charm, the smile was gone, the sparkling eyes were blank and she looked lost. She had lost so much weight that it was almost impossible for me to recognize her at first glance. It seemed I was seeing her after ages, even though it had just been a little over a month. I instantly hugged her, strangely enough, she did not reciprocate, she didn’t even smile.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Um… Yeah,” she said blankly, still lost in her thoughts.
“No, you are not! What’s wrong?”
She did not reply and kept staring elsewhere. I felt the uneasiness in her and immediately held her hand and dragged her into a nearby cafe. She was reluctant but followed me without a word. This was definitely not the Aradhna I knew.
One hour elapsed. There we were, sitting in a secluded corner of the cafe. The cozy ambience of the place somehow couldn’t reach us. Three cups lay on the table, two empty and one completely full of what was once hot cappuccino, now as cold as the cold marble floor. She had not uttered a word since the time we entered; she was so deeply engrossed in her own world that she didn’t even pay heed to what was going on around her. There was an awkward silence throughout, which needed to be broken.
“Your coffee, it’s too cold already. Won’t you drink it?” I initiated.
“I don’t feel like it,” she said.
I held her arm which was resting on the table and said, “Aradhna, What happened? This is not you. I know there is something major going on inside you. Speak up. You need to.”
“We broke up,” she said blankly.
It was absolutely unbelievable for me to hear what I just did. How was it possible? How could such a pure relationship of more than six years end just like that? What went wrong after so many years? It had been just one month that we hadn’t met and all was perfect then. So what happened suddenly? There were so many questions in my mind and all I could see was a totally blank face in front of me which was not ready to answer or perhaps, didn’t have the answers.
“Yes,” she said without much change in her face.
“What did you just say?” I asked her again since I still could not believe what I heard.
“Manish* and I, we broke up. Did you hear that now?” she almost shouted back with a tone of suppressed anger. It was important for her at this moment. If she didn’t vent out what was going on inside her then it could be dangerous and she would become self-destructive, or maybe she was already in the process.
I tightened my grip on her arm and tried to console her. I couldn’t find the courage to ask her further, but I needed to know what pushed her to a position where she had practically lost her zeal to live. So, gathering all the valour I could, I asked her, “But, only last month when I met you it was all fine between you two. So, what happened exactly? How come everything just ended all of a sudden? I don’t get it.”
“It didn’t end all of a sudden,” she began, getting up from her seat, and clenching her fist, she slowly started walking around our table.
“Just two days after I met you, I was out with him for dinner. I started fidgeting with his phone while waiting for the order to be served. I casually opened his chat and started scrolling through his messages. Although it was something I would normally do, this time he just snatched his phone away saying that he had an urgent call to make and went outside. I felt very weird about this, but did not react. He came back after sometime. By then food had also arrived, so without much talking we ate.”
“That night, somewhere in my head, this incident was continuously running on loop. I don’t know why but I opened his social media profile and started scrolling through posts. One such post was by Ankita, his colleague. He was tagged in one of her pictures showing them both sitting close to each other with her arms wound around his shoulders, with the caption “Me and my baby”. I was petrified. It was all crystal clear to me. My so-called-boyfriend, who I loved madly, was having an affair with his colleague. I called him up immediately.”
“‘Hi baby. You are missing me so much already that you called me at this hour?’ he said cheesily.”
“I got so exasperated at this that I wanted to shout at him and could use some swearing also. But I composed myself and asked him, ‘When are we getting married?'”
“‘What?’, came his shocked reply.”
“‘Yes Manish, now even you’ve settled with a good job and I am working too. Don’t you think this is the right time to talk to our families? And anyway, my mom knows about our relationship and she is fine with it. Persuading dad won’t be a problem. So, why don’t you talk to your parents?'”
“‘Oh baby just relax,’ he interrupted. ‘I will talk to them but not now. It’s not the right time.'”
“‘So, when will your right time come? Why do you always avoid this topic? Will you ever marry me?’ Anger and frustration was growing manifolds in me by now.”
“‘Dear, I am too tired now. Need to catch some sleep. Can we talk about this tomorrow, please?’ And without even listening to my reply, he disconnected the phone.”
“I couldn’t sleep at all that night. I needed answers. I needed to know why he did this to me. Was I so bad as a girlfriend? Where did I fail? What did I do to deserve this? It was not easy to digest the fact that the man of my life had been betraying me.”
“Next morning when I called him, his phone was switched off. Throughout the day it was not available. I was getting restless, so I called up his mom. She was exceptionally rude to me and disconnected the phone saying that he had left Kolkata and I should never call them back again.”
Narrating the whole story, she completely broke down, shivering and crying profusely. She told me that she had tried almost every means to contact him, but everything was in vain.
Wiping her tears, she continued to tell me that now she willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking his ‘last seen at” status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message.
But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn’t know if he was joking or not. “What was this?” I asked.
She handed me the phone. There flashed the message which said, “We don’t make a good couple and I have decided to move on in life. Getting engaged next week. You are free to go too. Have a great life ahead. Goodbye.”
I was fuming with anger at the audacity of this moron, but I controlled myself. It was important for me to pacify Aradhna now, who looked absolutely devastated.
For the next few hours, all I did was was try my best to soothe her with whatever I could. But nothing seemed to heal the agony that had penetrated deep in her heart and mind. Tears flowed down her cheeks and she was constantly chanting only one sentence like a mantra, “I want Manish back, I want him back in my life.”
I somehow managed to drop her home. Her tears had stopped but the grief was still evident on her face. “You will be fine, will you?” I asked her, quite unsure of leaving her. She just nodded and went inside her house.
Next morning at around 6, I was still asleep when my phone rang. “Aradhna Saini” it flashed. I picked it up in haste, still half asleep.
Someone just babbled in a broken voice, “Didi hanged herself last night,” and then all I could hear were loud groans.
I jumped out of bed. It was her sister on the other side. I tried to reconfirm what I just heard. And then came the biggest shock of my life. Aradhna had committed suicide last night by hanging herself from the ceiling fan. I was totally blank after this. All I remembered was rushing towards her house in my night pyjamas.
In the next few hours, however, I saw myself witnessing a series of events in her house – her body being sent for post-mortem, people crying everywhere, police investigating the whole scene and taking things like her phone, the chair and the cloth she had used to hang herself, to investigate further. The most heartbreaking moment of my life was when her body was brought back for her last journey, the cremation.
Police investigation couldn’t lead anywhere. She had deleted every little detail that could have been used as evidence against him; call list, messages, all the numbers. No written notes were found. He couldn’t be traced. They had to finally close the case.
Even when she bid the world adieu forever, she actually saved him. It was her love for him that even when he destroyed her totally and compelled her to take such a drastic step, all she returned was pure love, care and protection to him.
It’s been exactly a year since I last saw her. Scrolling through my photo albums and walking down memory lane, tears of guilt mixed with agony tend to flow from my eyes.
“I miss you, my dear friend. It would be so much different today if only I could do something for you. If only I could hold you back. If only I hadn’t left you alone that night.”
*Names have been changed.