Do all relationships have a name? Can all feelings be compartmentalized? Are there no relations that move into one another, blurring the so-called ‘boundaries’?
As Shobha tried hard to grapple with her emotions, the feelings she once harboured surfaced again. Ashu was never her boyfriend. He was her friend. But just a friend? No, definitely something more. She’d even tried considering if she had any ‘brotherly’ feelings for him. Far from it. She felt she was very close to him, probably more than any of her relatives. Then what was this all about?
Was it something purely physical? Sure, he was the quintessential tall, dark and handsome man. The kind that high-school girls would drool over and women would want to be seen with. But she hadn’t noticed him for that. Of course, his smart-alecky nature and smooth-talk often caught many of her classmates’ attention. She loathed guys who talked sweet nothings and showered compliments to get noticed. And yet, there was something different about him. He had taken the initiative to talk to her, of course. And she had found him interesting. One thing lead to the other and their friendship took off.
Long conversations on the phone, meeting up during vacations, combined-study sessions - sure enough indications for others to label it an ‘affair’. People smirked and whispered things behind their back. But that never bothered her. She didn’t think it disturbed him either. But she had never asked. Nor did he. A tacit understanding prevailed and they never discussed it. Why spoil something special by trying to ‘categorize’ it? And it remained that way.
As Shobha looked ahead, she saw him. It’s amazing how she can still spot him quickly in a crowd. He saw her and broke into a boyish grin. She faintly smiled back at him. He was climbing the steps now. There. He was waiting for her to speak.
“Hi Ashu, meet my husband Sudheer. Sudhi, this is my close friend, Ashutosh.” There, she had finally said it - close friend. They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. “Please do have lunch before you leave. I don’t want Shobha’s friend to leave our wedding on an empty stomach.” Sudhi was his courteous self. But she was feeling uneasy. There she was, standing between two important men in her life...And she had a sinking feeling she was probably losing one.
“Sorry, I’m leaving for Canada tonight and I have a lot of last-minute things to attend to.” He had never told me he was leaving!
“I wouldn’t miss Shobha’s wedding for anything in this world. We had a deal, didn’t we? You know, she always said that she’d never talk to me if I did not make it for her special day.” She smiled…or at least tried to. “Wish you all the best! Oh, before I forget…here’s your wedding gift.” As he moved away, her eyes never left him. And he never looked back. Was it just her, or did he also have a glint of tears in his eyes? She hoped Sudhi did not notice.
Later in the evening, the first gift she chose to open was his. Inside the ornate wooden box was the magnificent antique necklace that he’d once shown her. It was his family heirloom. A note beside it read:
It was always yours. Love, Ashu…
As she closed the box, the tears she'd tried to rein in all day streamed down her face.
P.S. Wrote this one a few years back. Just posting it in here.