The fact that Rimsha would meet Resham so suddenly, after so many years, was beyond her imagination. But, when he suddenly walked out of that knot of people at Jagu Babu’s bazaar in his patent navy blue t-shirt and jeans it seemed time had stopped since she last met him fifteen years ago at the college campus. It so seemed that clock which stopped watching him melt into the crowd outside college street had waited by that bazaar all these years to tick tock him back to her life. Rimsha touched her hair, uncombed and out of place. Mornings were bad times. Samrat had to go to school and Tuhin had to go to office. There was cooking to be done, readying lunch boxes amidst the scurry to get the child ready and the battle to shove food of down his protesting mouth. And then dragging the child to be bundled into the school bus. “ dal ta dekho toh,” ( keep a watch on the lentil stew) she had called out while trying her hair into a bun. Tuhin was lost in the newspaper. “Hmm,” he answered without looking up. He didn’t listen. He never did. “I said, just look after the dal,” she said a little forceful this time. “ Hmm,” was the answer again. In this ruckus where was the time to comb the hair. ‘But why oh why couldn’t I run the comb over the head just this time?’ She repented biting her lips. She pulled the dupatta over a turmeric stain in her dress, “results of careless cooking, “ she rebuked herself, as she smoothened her faded home worn salwar kameeez hoping that he would not recognise her while she crossed him. Resham perhaps did not at the first go. He had almost crossed her when he suddenly swung around. “ Rimsha!” he exclaimed making her jump with feigned surprise. So, he did recognise her after so many years. She turned with the feigned surprise still lacing her eyes. “Haven’t you recognised me?” he asked with a broadening grin. “Resham?” she queried, it felt nice to mouth his name after so many years. “What a big surprise?” she said.
“I live here for many years,” said Rimsha and added rather slowly, “I mean since I got married.”
“ Where?” he asked as Rimsha pointed her house to him.
“ Here?” he said,” Tui Paltudar bou?”(you are paltuda’s wife?)Paltu is Rimsha’s husband Tuhin’s pet name.
Rimsha nodded as Resham expressed his surprise at how small the world was. He pointed at a house three houses away from her. “That is where I live,” he said.
Rimsha felt a lurch in her heart at the thought that he was living so close all this while. “It is so surprising we never met in all these years though we were living so close by,” she expressed.
“I am here to sell off the property. I really don’t live here anymore. I used to come on and off” clarified Resham, “I live in Bangalore. I hardly made a long trip to the city since I left college,” he added.
Rimsha smiled uncomfortably not knowing what to say. “I must be off. I had come out to drop my son to his school bus.”
“aree jabi! Ektu dara...eto din pore dekha. Cha khabi?” ( Oh come on, hang on for a while. We met after so long. Will you drink tea?) he asked motioning at the roadside tea stall.
Rimsha squirmed at the idea. Roadside tea stalls were never her cup of tea. “No, no, not me” she said.
“You are just the same,” he said turning to look at her face with an amused expression, “ Rimsha Chatterjee the snob. ”
Rimsha laughed dismissively.
“Mone acche...?,”( You remember)he began.
“Gas e ranna boshano. Aarek din hobe,”( I have left food cooking in the gas oven. We will talk another day) she said hurrying home.
“ Kalke ranna boshiye ashish na,” (Don't keep food cooking on the oven tomorriw) he called out behind her.
She had left the Dal( tentil stew) and the shukto( a bittergourd and veg based bengali starter) simmering on the gas. The vegetables in the shukto had just tuned tender and the gravy had reached the right thickness when she reached. “Just in time,” she said with relief as she ladled the stew into a bowl. With practiced hands she held the kadai full of lentils with the pinchers and tilted it over a readied bowl and watched the dal cascading down like a water fall into the bowl. It was not just the dal...it was her memories which were which were cascading down her mind taking her back by years to her college days when she first met Resham while checking out names in the admission list. Her name was just after his in the list while she stood just behind him trying to get the view of the list which his tall frame conveniently blocked. Rimsha could see his ink blotched long rather artistic fingers moving down the names. Her eyes moved with his fingers searchingly, hopeingly , unsurely for her name. His fingers had stopped for a split second as he had exclaimed to his friend standing next to him, “Rimsha Chatterjee, what a sexy name!”
“ let’s go,’ he had then said abruptly turning to leave.
“aar tor naam?”( and your name?) queried his friend slightly surprised.
“ hoye geche, Porer tai,”(got through. It’s the next one) he told.
Resham Sen, Rimsha had read.
Resham was a reasonably good looking guy. The latest haircut that he sported accentuated his looks. He wore a pair of jeans and navy blue t-shirt which Rimsha would later find out would be his house colours throughout his college years. There was something extremely casual about the way he roamed about. He had a ‘been here’ kind of demeanour which made him appear like a senior rather than a first timer. He appeared to be extremely chatty like the ones who knew the whole class on the first day. He openly eyed Rimsha for a while before asking whether she had got through. Rimsha nodded. He smiled and introduced himself. Rimsha did not know how to tell her name after his expert opinion on it. She told him in which school she studied and where she lived instead. “But what do I call you?” he asked finally.
“Rimsha,” she replied quietly, “Rimsha Chatterjee.”
Resham stopped and tuned to look at the list and then at her. His friend who was standing by him gave him a “you and your big mouth,” look and walked out. He grinned gingerly scratching his head before saying, “er...You have a...er... beautiful name.”
Rimsha did not know how to react. Saying the right thing at the right moment was not her forte. She never had her way with words. More so, compliments, such as these, embarrassed her and left her tight lipped. She kept quiet. Resham sensed her discomfort but did not know how he could help. An uneasy quiet hung for few a few split seconds before Resham cleared his throat to speak.
“ When will you take your admission, Rimsha?” he then asked
“Tomorrow,” she replied.
“Ok, see you then,” he said slugging his guitar case which was lying in the corner.
“ You play the guitar?” Rimsha had asked pointing at the instrument.
“I also sing,” he said, “ We have a band.”
“Oh! Really,” said Rimsha, “must hear you sing one day.” The road ahead of had bifurcated into two and they were to go on two different ones. They waved each other good bye. “Rimsha Chaterjee what a sexy name,” she told to herself as a smile crept on her face. The smile stayed on with her all evening that was to follow.
The next day Rimsha made a few more friends while waiting in the queue for admission - Sonali and Ankita. At nineteen how easy it is to make friends. How easy it was to reach out, hold hands and laugh. Guess it was their age that made them inseparables on the first day itself. On her way home as she was trudging out of the campus with her newly made friends in tow, she saw Resham chatting with a group of students. He came by her side the moment he saw her. “Hi Rimsha,” he said walking up to her, “ I thought you’d never come. I was waiting for you,” he said.
Rimsha looked surprised. “for me,” she asked, “why?”
“What do you mean why? Because the sky is so high.”
Rimsha laughed and introduced Sonali and Ankita. Resham blended easily with them like milk on tea....just a stir and he was one of them enhancing the taste of the moment. How they laughed at his jokes!
“Cha khabi,”( would you like some tea) he asked us pointing the roadside tea stall.
“At this roadside shop? No way,” squirmed Rimsha.
Resham raised his eyebrows as he turned to Rimsha and then suddenly, taking everybody by surprise, jumped on top of the cement seat nearby and shouted at the top of his voice. “I, Resham Sen, hereby declare Rimsha Chatterjee, BA (English hons) first year, yet to attend her first class, a snob.” Ankita and Sonali giggled. A couple of people who were passing turned to look at them with amused interest.
“Thappar khabi. I’ll slap, I’ll slap, I’ll slap you,” shrieked Rimsha, hitting him with her bag. Resham made a mock attempt to save himself and then he turned to the small gathering crowd , “ Thank you ladies and gentleman, the convocation is over.” He bowed jumping down from the seat. Then he came to them curtseying, “ladies, please join me for high tea, this side,” he said motioning at the tea stall. Ankita and Sonali rolled of laughing as they followed him. “You are a riot,” declared Ankita. Rimsha stood undecided for a while. She looked at her watch. She was getting late and yet she wanted to stay. “Actually, I am getting late,” she said rather unconvincingly.
“Where do you live, Resham?” asked Ankita
“ Near Jagu Babu’s bazaar,” he said.
“Park Circus,” said Ankita.
“Come, I am going that way...let’s go together,” he said.
“Won’t you go home?” asked Rimsha.
“Home? Now!” he exclaimed.
A week later when college opened Rimsha was terribly excited partly due to the new academic turn of her career as well as the prospect of meeting her new ‘friends’. She took a little extra care to dress up that day adding a tinge of gloss to her lips and a careful application of a camouflaged line of eyeliner over her expressive eyes. Her pink kurta matched with her white churidar. Little silver ear rings matched the dainty bangle in her right hand. Her hair was tied as usual behind in a plait. Rimsha was pretty in a quiet sort of way. Her eyes were calm and her demeanour collected. She looked like one of those people who were always in control of the situation. Primarily because of the way she looked and partly because she never spoke much. She had an innate Indianness in the way she looked , in the way she dressed and perhaps in the way she thought. And yet there was an occasional glint in those calm eyes which spoke a different language. Perhaps there was something in that glint which caught Resham’s interest. He could only identify himself with her by that glint. He seemed to understand her in those unspoken moments of rebellion which always subsided before it took off. Rimsha reached college after Ankita and Sonali. But Resham was nowhere to be seen. They restlessly looked around for him but here is no trace of him. Their first class was fifteen minutes under way when the door flung open and there he was standing at the door unshaven, uncombed in his blue jeans and blue t-shirt. An amused murmur followed his breathless entreaty, “Sorry, Sir. I am late. Request you overlook this mistake as the first and the last of its kind and allow me to enter your class,” he said.
Oxford returned Prof Ghosh looked amused, “First and the last of it’s kind! You promise, Don’t you?”
“I do, Sir. My words on it.”
“ If morning shows the day, Son, you’ll be standing there every single day of the term,” he said, “ It wouldn’t right to throw you out everyday of the term. get in.”
“Thank you, Sir,” said Resham scampering in.
“What happened,” Rimsha had later asked.
“Over slept,” he said briefly.
The days that followed were like a hurricane swirl which made them all tumble and toss over classes, notes, tuitions and of course tumultuous friendships. The initial grouping led to re-grouping and then counter grouping till they found the right slot of friends with whom they matched. Rimsha, Ankita and Sonali stuck together while Resham took a more iconic status- gaining universal popularity. Everybody in the college knew him and gradually he circulated further and further out of their group till they barely communicated beyond a casual hi or a hello. However, he did come up to Rimsha once in a while enquiring, “how are your sem preparations,” or “Would you go to British council today?” or just a, “ This colour suits you, Rims.” Once in a while he would pass a book saying it would help her to understand the “metaphysical s better.” All three of them would read and make notes and return the book in time. Resham was very particular about his books. He would get very angry if a crease would come in the book or even a speck of ink would fall on it. He wanted it to be returned in time. Thus, everybody who took his books seemed to be bearing a cross.
Rimsha was almost six months through her classes when one day she found herself all by herself in college. Both Ankita and Sonali had not come. There were two off periods in between to while away. Initially, she had a few notes to copy and then, by the time she finished and looked around for company the class was empty. At first she walked out to the corridor with the hope to spot a familiar face but in vain. She lingered for a few moments in the verandah by the corridor. Sounds of laughter from the class nearby and boisterous cacophony soothed her. There was a peace in that commotion which was in harmony with the world around. She smiled as a group of students passed her almost bumping into her. With a lazy gait she walked back to her class and opened a book which she was reading. Books have a transcending quality. Soon her surrounding ceased to exist and she was transported into a world of make believe which the book spoke about. Time could be only counted by the number of pages she read when she looked up she found Resham sitting at the edge of the bench looking at her intently.
“Resham!” Rimsha exclaimed ,” when did you come?”
Resham instead of saying anything took the book from her hand and turned it to see it’s name. “When did you come, Resham?” Rimsha repeated again.
“How beautiful you look when you read, Rimsha!” he said rather thoughtfully.
“Huh? What’s wrong with you?” she said.
“ Nothing...I was passing by and a saw you all by yourself reading. I waited by the door and then came in and sat down. You were looking so beautiful in that engrossed expression....I didn’t feel like disturbing you,” he told. Rimsha blushed. She did not know how to react to this. “I know you are feeling quite uncomfortable by what I have said and you really don’t know what to say, Right?” he continued, “don’t try...leave it. I was just joking,” he told.
“You tell me,” asked Rimsha, “what are you up to these days? You seem to be quite in demand, eh?
“Nothing much to deserve such words of praise,” he said rather sarcastically.
“Oh really!” said Rimsha playing on, “your antics make quite a gossip column.”
“ Do they?” he said narrowing his eyes, “ but why should it bother you so much.”
“ it doesn’t Resham,” said Rimsha volleying back her reply,” I was just trying to do some small talk,” she said rising to go.
“ where are you going?”
“ Jai. Ektu hete ashi,”(let me go and take a walk)
“Come, I’ll go with you,”
Just then a group of girls entered the class. They were all close to Resham. “hi Resham,” said one of them, “where were you? We were looking for you all over.”
Rimsha got up and slung her bag and said, “Here come your friends, Chol tata.”( okay, bye)
“Hi,” he told them and then turning he caught her fleeting image from the door. “ Rimsha, dara,”( Rimsha wait) he called out. Then turning to his friends he said, “I’ll just be back.”
Rimsha had heard Resham calling out behind her. She hurried down the stair case to disappear from his sight as fast as she could. But, he soon caught up with her. “Ki re, ( hey you, its an infirmal and friendky way ti say hey you) didn’t I ask you to wait?”
Rimsha did not reply. She was breathless. The exertion had left her hair slightly out of place. A curl which had been held securely by a clip now hung loose on her face. “Ajke ki byapaar bol toh,(tell me what’s the matter today) why are you looking so good?” he asked lifting the curl from her face and securing it behind her ears. Rimsha blushed. “Are you in love?” he asked.
“I’ll slap you,” said Rimsha turning.
“Chol maar dekhi,” ( let me see see you hit. Its said in a fruendly chalkenge)he said with a smile playing in his lips.
Resham followed her talking, “ By the way, why did you say...your friends have come? Tui amar bondhu na?”( Aren't you my friend?)
Rimsha walked on without answering. “Ki re,(hey, you) Are you dumb?” he continued.
There was something within her which seemed to rip that cord of patience . “I don’t think so” she said. Her eyes had lighted up with her occasional glint. Resham eyes were moving from one eye to another.
“ But I think you are my friend,”
“I am honoured by the fact that you think I am,” she replied, “But the truth is we were never friends, we never could be...because you and I were very different in the way we think, live . You are north pole and I am south pole. Thus in spite of being acquainted first to one another we never remained friends. You are too angrezi for me and I am too much of a behenji for you,” she stopped. ( she means to say he is too hi fi and she too much of a vernie for him)
Resham stood there for a while trying to seep in what he just heard and then working on a sudden impulse hugged Rimsha. Not to mention she was so stunned that she staggered a few paces. A couple of students passing them turned to look at them. “that was for your wonderful self realisation!” he said,” behenji, are you?”he laughed and then on a more serious note continued, “Actually you are right we are very different. But with you I think I share a special bonding. Whether you like it or not you’ll always be a very special friend. We may not talk everyday but if there is anyone whom I really understand, its you. ”
“Man na man mein teri mehman.( it's a hindi idion which mean whether you accept it or not, I am your guest) whether you like it or not you are a very special friend,” mimicked Rimsha,” I like it. This is you treat your special friend ...by not even talking to her for days.”
“Ok! I took you for granted because....”
“Because... what? because”
“ because I did not know you look so good while reading,” he said laughingly.
“ you nasty....,” said Rimsha hitting him.
“You nasty what? “ he asked, “ yes, what? You’ll never bring yourself to swear, Rims.”
Rimsha could never, swear, use expletives or foul language. It was not in her. It surprised her to think how Resham understood it. She turned to look at him.
“ Look , I told you no one understands you better than me,” he winked and disappeared round the corner.
Two days later Resham came and sat beside her. “What happened?” she asked.
“Somebody has seen me hugging you and there is a word that we are going around,” he said, “ I thought you are the safest one to be linked to.”
“Don’t you dare ruin my spotless reputation.”
“ You must be thinking what a third grade chalu cheez I am.”
“Miss Chatterjee,” it was prof Ghosh teaching Arms and the Man, “how would you define Sergius’s character.”
“Third rate chalu cheez,” repeated she looking totally confused.
The class roared, Resham had an impish smirk and the professor looked stunned. “Sorry sir, I did not mean to say this,” she said glaring at Resham.
“Sit down Miss Chatterjee. Please meet me after the class.”
Rimsha sat down. Hot tears were rolling down her cheeks. “Dont worry I’ll go and clarify,” said Resham, holding her hand. Rimsha tugged herself free and looked away, anger dripping from her wet eyes.
In the days that followed Resham made several attempts to make amends but Rimsha did not relent. According to her he had transgressed all limits of tolerance. “tell him, he is a jerk of the first order,” said Rimsha, “I’ll never talk to him,” she told Sonali who was trying to strike a conciliation.
“Ask her not to act so pricy,” Resham had returned finally, “ who does she think she is, Queen of England?”
The next day just before the classes were due to begin, Sonali took out a copy of Suitable boy and set it on the table before her. Rimsha turned to her, surprised. “ For you,” she said. “ Why?” asked Rimsha.“ JLT,” she said touching her elbow with a smile.
“I can’t take this. .. it is so expensive!”
“This was bought with a lot of love and warm feelings for you. I don’t think true friendship can match up to any price.”
Rimsha looked at Sonali for a while unblinkingly, thoughtfully then she quietly took the book without one more word. Some things were beyond words!
Much later she said, “Do you know I was so keen on buying this book yesterday and I did not have the money .”
Sonali had hugged Rimsha hard instead of saying anything. She had a very strange expression on her face. As she hugged Sonali just turned to look at someone sitting on a bench behind.
The final exams were nearing and their preparation was running in fifth gear. College was coming to an end . Just one exam more, the big one and it would be all over. Sonali, Rimsha noticed, had gradually become quite close to Resham. Rimsha would often find them sitting together and chatting before class. But, she would always come up to her the moment she would see her coming. However, she would never participate or laugh at Rimsha’s jibes or caustic comments on Resham anymore. Rimsha noticed this with a mixture of paradoxical irritation and acceptance.
Soon after their final exam the college decided to give them a farewell party. One last hurray, they said with a laugh. With the exam off their heads , they were ready to let their hair down and enjoy. All of them were dressed to kill. Rimsha was looking nice in the white dress she wore. Resham, came in a red kurta and a white churidar. For the first time anyone saw him in anything other than blue. There were wolf whistles and cat calls for him. Everybody was complimenting him for his looks. Even Rimsha felt he looked very good in his new avatar. As Rimsha watched him she felt a pang of grief. Her road with Resham ended here. She would not be meeting him anymore. They were not even in talking terms, she thought, there is no reason to even keep in touch. It was difficult to gauge what was going on in Resham’s mind but Rimsha did catch him turning to look at her a few times. As they were walking inside the hall they found themselves in step together. Resham turned to her and spoke first, “ Hi Rimsha, how was your exam?” Rimsha felt colour rising in her cheeks, “OK,” she said and then asked a strained, “ and yours?”
“ Good, quite good actually,” he said with a smile moving on. Sonali who was walking with her was smiling when Rimsha turned to her. Rimsha’s smile showed relief. It would be unbearable to part as without talking. It would be unbearable to part without being friends. She clutched her hand and said, “ You know something?”
“Don’t say it,’ said Sonali, “ I can see it in your face.” Rimsha hugged Sonali tightly.
They moved on and found a corner place for themselves. “I have a confession to make Rimsha,” Sonali said suddenly, “ I can’t forgive myself if I don’t tell you this,” she said. Rimsha turned apprehensively. “You remember we went to book fair together,” she began.
“ yes,” said Rimsha.
“Resham and I returned home that day in the same bus. On the way back he gave me a book to be given to you. I was surprised to mention the least. He told me that you wanted to buy the book very badly. He asked me not to tell you that he had bought it for you. I had told him that why did he take the trouble when you did not even talk to him. He kept quiet for a while and he said, “we may not talk to friends, but that does not mean they cease to exist for us. Rims will always be my friend, whether she likes it or not....You’ll give this to her, wont you?” I nodded “and keep this a secret?” he asked, I nodded again,” ended Sonali.
“Suitable boy!” exclaimed Rimsha, tears rising in her eyes, “Sonali, oh Sonali, why did you not tell me?” Sonali had tears in her eyes too. Rimsha turned to look at where he was sitting. He seemed engrossed in talking to someone. At the end of the formal event they all sat huddled together outside and someone passed him a guitar and everyone insisted on his singing. He began to sing. His resonating voice seemed to flow over like a morning mist and spread over the whole campus. The college building, the gravelled paths seemed to come alive heaving slightly remembering the days passed by. “edelweiss, edelweiss, every morning you greet me....” Resham was singing his last number, “Pure and while, sweet and bright you look happy to meet me....” as he sang, Resham walked up and sat beside Rimsha. Rimsha never sang a line in college all these years. People knew she sang well and it was apparent from her voice but she could never give up her shyness and bring herself to sing. He was lightly strumming the guitar trying to remember the lines, “la the lalalalalala,” he sang humming the tune, “Hmmmmm does anyone have the words,” he queried. His hands we strumming the guitar and the notes played on. “oceans of snow,” said some one, “no no, gown in snow or something,” said someone else. Resham’s head was turned to someone who was trying to help with the lyrics when Rimsha sang out, “blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever,” Resham turned stunned. Rimsha stopped self consciously. “How well you sing ....don’t stop,” he whispered, picking up the cord. “Edelwiess,” she sang in high octave he joined, “Edelwiess,” touching the lower notes. The song meandered through all the memories they shared from the first day till their last in college. They lived those three years in the song. When they ended there was just good feeling towards one another. No anger....no egos. “Edelwiess , edelweiss,” Resham was singing the last line, “ bless my college forever, bless my friends forever, " the strains got drowned in the claps and encore of many. Many of the students were hugging one another and crying . A line of tears had formed at the rim of Rimsha’s eyes as Resham ended the last line. Did he notice.....maybe he did? His eyes lingered on her face a bit longer than it should have before he turned towards his friends. Everybody was hugging him good bye . At the end he came up to Sonali and hugged her and then turned to Rimsha for the last time. Their eyes met for a few seconds unsurely. A smile came to his face as he came up and hugged her tightly. Rimsha had so much to say about the wasted time and about the book and.... and....and....so much more. But Resham was melting into a sea of people. Sonali came up by her side and continued, “ oh! by the way there was one more thing I forgot to tell you. That day when he gave me the book, I thought he was in love with you. I asked him about it. He turned immediately and exclaimed, “one word which is too often profaned! Of course there is a lot of love but I am unsure whether it fits into the defined slot of a stereotype. Er pore ami ekta galpo likhbo...ek khan boi er galpo, Kemon? Kine phelechilam hujuker boshe, jhograti ke diye dish”( after this I'll write a book, okay? A story if a book. Bought it in a whim. Give it to the fighter cock) then we both had laughed”. Rimsha smiled at the thought and then turning towards the disappearing frame of Resham she said rather wistfully, “I wish I had not fought with him... I wish I could talk to him ...just a bit.”
And then it was a fifteen years gap. Rimsha went on to do her MA in English at Calcutta University having done a reasonably good result. Resham surprised all by standing first class first and went abroad for further studies. Sonali was in touch with Resham and through her, Rimsha came to know what he was up to off and on. But Rimsha never tried to get in touch with Resham and nor did he. She eventually learnt that with time memories don’t fade but they moisten up and soften just like old paper left unattended in the loft and stop to make the same impact. But in those yellowed, dampened pages of her memories he lingered on in her mind seeking a proper ending. He seemed to run through the veins in her mind yearning for an outlet or a conclusion. She had later heard he had returned to India and joined a newspaper, while she got married to Tuhin, a bright young engineer working in a MNC. Sonali got married to a NRI and moved to US and Rimsha’s last link with Resham was lost.
That evening when Tuhin returned from work, Rimsha asked him about Resham. “ Do you know someone called Resham Sen?” she asked rather haltingly while serving him his evening tea.
“Resham ? why yes.... Bunty’s younger brother. I know him very well,” he replied turning enquiringly.
“I met him today. We used to study together in college,” she said relating the morning’s meeting.
“Is it? What a co-incidence,” he smiled fondly reminising how he and Bunty grew up together. Meandering through many childhood incidents involving all three of them he explained, how Resham the youngest born in the family refused to follow the family profession of becoming a lawyer. “ They are a family of fourth generation barristers. Everybody in his family, even his brothers took up law except Resham. There was such a ruckus in his house when he wanted to take up English. Taar opore abar English gaan gaito( On top of that she used to sing English songs). His father thought he had gone wayward. He had to bare the brunt of his father’s ire... his father had said...english shudhu meyera pore( only girls study English). Resham baire baire ghure berato ( Reshan used to be barely be at home)Bunty would feel for him. He used to write very well. Finally, I think he came first class first and his father’s outlook somewhat changed. He went to Oxford for further studies. He is now an editor in a newspaper,” ended Tuhin picking up his cup.
Rimsha smiled as reminiscenced, “No wonder he was never in a hurry to return home,” she thought as she returned to the kitchen, “Samrat, open your books...I am coming,” she called out.
The next day Rimsha was little better turned out. Her hair was combed and she wore a better salwar kameez. But Resham was nowhere to be seen. He was as unpredictable in his appearance as he was in his disappearance. “So, typical of him,” she thought with a tinge of indignance. It was almost a week later that Resham reappeared while Rimsha was busy bargaining over a pair of socks in Gariahat. “I never thought you could talk so much at one go,” he said as she walked triumphantly out of the shop with her purchase.
Rimsha checked her watch. “ Not a bad idea,’ she agreed.
Soft orange glow of the afternoon sun fell on them as they walked down dover lane that afternoon. Years had changed them, the way they looked and the way they thought, but somewhere in the corner lurked their much younger, immature selves which resurfaced just for a while having met one another. Resham , she soon learnt had married his colleague at work. “ It was my first job at The times and I had met her there. We have a 10 year old son,” he informed.
Rimsha smiled at the thought. Who could have imagined Resham as a responsible father.
“I still have that book you gave me,” said Rimsha suddenly, “ Suitable boy. I did not know throughout college that you had given it to me.”
Resham sipped his coffee. He did not look up initially. “I hope you liked it?” he said picking up his cup.
“I did, thank you,” she said with a smile.
There was a reminiscent smile when he said, “I still remember how engrossed you were reading the book and how lovingly you were touching it. You deserved to read the book,” he said.
“Coming to think of it,” she said, “ it was darned silly of us to fight.”
“You know something,” Resham continued without listening, “ You came through as a very different sort of girl. You used to talk to very few people in college. You would read a lot and would barely talk unless coaxed to do so. You would rather sit with a book. I often found you reading books which were not in our syllabus in British council.”
“ Yes,” reminisced Rimsha, “I used do that quite often. In fact, I wasted many afternoons reading Byron’s diaries instead of doing my notes. And we just had one poem of Byron which did not need much reference.”
“Pirate father’s return from Don Juan,”
“You also read Don Juan.”
“Oh you noticed that too?” said she looking surprised.
“I had a great interest in you, by the way,” he said with a smile. After all these years everything had become passé. It did not matter to him anymore in letting her know how he felt about her during his college years. In fact, he looked back at those days and those feelings with nostalgia. It was an intagible part of him and perhaps wanted to make her a part of it by letting her know.
“Don’t tell me now that you were in love with me,” laughed Rimsha rather nervously.
“Love? Well yes...it was love,” he thought rather thoughtfully, “ and yet it was much more and yet it was not the way I felt for my girl friends. I could never think of you as my girl friend. It was also not the way I felt towards Sonali or Ankita or any other friend. It was much more undefined, much more engulfing and thus much more confusing. I was always thinking about you..watching what you are up to. Sometimes I wondered if you felt the same.”
“You could have just asked me. I..”
“Don’t say it,” he cautioned, “ If you say it, I fear it will all end. When you don’t know there are so many possibilities still alive. In those many possibilities our story comes alive in a world of make believe quite like those books you read. It’s a different story every time.”
“But did you not guess what my answer would be?’
“I feared a ‘yes’ more than a ‘no’. Let’s leave everything at this point. Let it remain a little ambiguous, a little undefined and a lot unsaid.” Resham got up leave. Rimsha smiled.....as she thought.... Sometimes walking through life undulating paths, we come across many stories. Some remain special because they never end!
They had finished their coffee. “I wish you would write something on that book. The giving would be complete,” she said.
“It’s all written there Rimsha....read it every time you open the book. It has a different message every time,” he said with a grin.
The road ahead of had bifurcated into two and they were to go on two different ones. May be they would not meet anymore...maybe they would but it did not matter to Rimsha anymore. She hugged him tightly much as the way Resham had hugged her when they were leaving college. They smilingly bid each other goodbye. As she walked away she sensed an embalming feeling of conclusion as well as a feeling of continuity......