Chapter I: Ayan
Prologue: I was alone in the middle of a desert counting my last breaths. Something was heavy on my chest and I couldn’t continue walking. I fell down on my knees and scavengers circled above me menacingly as if waiting for me to perish. A perfect nightmare on the night before the D-Day!
It was the last day at school before the onset of winter holidays. River High school was dotted with a mixture of black pullovers and blazers of all sizes as everyone tried to beat the morning gust of cold air and dew. There were a few who had even draped their necks with mufflers but they are usually the young ones who haven’t been yet exposed to the peer pressure. By the time you reach class seven you can’t afford to wear all those sorts of crap without being pictured as “un-cool” in the fraternity.
I was standing outside my class room trying to warm my cold body from the dim sun rays that hardly seemed to penetrate the veil of fog. There were still a few minutes left to the assembly and I was just gathering my thoughts in what lied ahead of me. As I set my eyes around me I could see that there was a smile on every face that day. Girls and boys guffawed together in the corridors and small kids indulged in a quick run-chase game just before the classes with a sense of joy and excitement. The holidays permeated a sense of happiness in every heart but somehow I couldn’t find any reason to relate to the festive milieu. I feel alienated because I dreaded these holidays; in fact the days after the holidays got over. Everything would change after this and I felt life would just be a black hole for me, an abyss of listless life. I wasn’t even sure that I would return to school once it re-opened.
I was caught in a tempest…..of love. I was in love with my class-mate, Anamika. I still remember the first day when I saw her like it was just yesterday. It was the beginning of my year in class 6 when on one fine spring morning; the principal accompanied a beautiful Punjabi girl to our class. She sailed through the class room doors in her inimitable elegance and stood there in front of the class in a graceful poise with the principal beside her who was giving his introductory speech. I couldn’t care for the Principal’s words less as if the existence of my eyes and ears were solely for her. You can say I was awestruck, starry-eyed whatever maybe, but one thing for sure I had felt something then that I had never experienced before in my life. The first day I tried hard not to look at her for I was sure that would make my friends suspicious and I would become their new pawn for the after school “teasing games”. But that didn’t help matters as my eyes strayed to her often. It didn’t take long for me to work out that I was in love with her.
I could never find out why girls giggled all the time. It makes a boy nervous when you try to approach them. That was one thing that had kept me at bay from befriending her in that year. However several boys did try to make advances on her but she cold shouldered them much to my secret delight.
Coming to the second year, i.e. class 7, I was happily surprised when the class teacher chose me and Anamika as the class monitors. Being a good student certainly has its advantages. I thanked God and my class teacher from my heart. It turned out as a blessing in disguise as in the ensuing months I achieved what I hadn’t been able to do the whole of last year. The duties entrusted to the class monitors required us to perform some odd jobs like carrying copies from the staff room which was some distance away to our class room. These errands provided me the much-needed breakthrough to cut the ice. I enjoyed the rigours of my new-found responsibility with pleasure as it gave me some isolated moments with her albeit it was only for 5-10 minutes but still, it was enough for me to play my friendship card.
Before the start of the summer holidays I was closer to her than any other guy in our class at least, if not her girl friends. We took tuitions together and during the way back home, I made it a point to walk beside her although I had my bi-cycle which I tugged along with me just for the sake of a few golden moments with her.
As September made its way, on one fine weekend, I finally asked her out on a date. She didn’t respond immediately. But after some anxious 26 hours which seemed like ages for me, she finally gave her consent over phone. It was a memorable evening. She loved the roses that I had brought for her. I had chosen the best restaurant in the town. I knew it would be an expensive affair but I was prepared to take the plunge and spend all my savings. It was as if that day was the most important day in my life. The food was excellent. We were done with the main course and the waiter had just served us the desserts when I moved my head a bit closer to her with my eyes on her and caught hold of her soft left hand that was lying on the table in seclusion as if it anticipated my touch. The soft caressing hold of her fingers sent down shivers through my spine but I steadied myself and told her that I loved her very much. She was taken by surprise and blushed at the same time. Time seemed to have stood still at this moment as our eyes pierced into each other and would have continued till eternity had she not placed her other soft hand on my hand and said those four magical words ”I Love You too” ….I was elated…on cloud nine; didn’t know what to do. I was happy beyond words.
But that was last year. As all good things come to an end so has our small-town love story. Last month her father got promotion and his new position required him to shift to U.S where the company,he worked for, had its headquarters. They were moving to U.S during these upcoming holidays and that meant I couldn’t see her hereafter.
At that moment the bell rang announcing the start of the morning assembly. Everyone made a dash for the assembly ground. I too, followed the crowd but my eyes strained to catch a glimpse of her. As I closed in, I found her standing in front of our class line in the customary position of the monitor. I took my place beside her and exchanged a weak smile before the assembly proceedings. Both were too choked to say anything. Something held the words inside us as if we had nothing to say to each other; silent stares said it all…….
Epilogue: A cold gust of wind blew across our faces as our Principal made his entrance to the assembly. The sun wasn’t visible now as the dark cloak of cloud had buried the sunlight in its grey graveyard. Something else was throbbing violently as if cognizant that it would share the same fate…
Chapter II: Anamika
I was standing in the school assembly ground trying to get all the girls into a straight line. The bell had already rung about 5 minutes ago and the students were now slowly making their way into the grounds. As a monitor you had to get everyone in order or be reprimanded. But at that moment the thought that was foremost on my mind was my tragic loss. Today everyone was happy as the holidays were starting from tomorrow but for me it earmarked a complete darkness. I was about to leave for U.S. during the holidays, maybe forever, away from River High School, away from my friends and away from…Ayan…the love of my life. I shuddered at this thought every moment ever since I caught wind of it, a month ago. When I told Ayan about it, he was completely shattered. We haven’t talked much since because every time we endeavored to strike a conversation, in the end it all came to it. No matter how much we tried to avoid but the thing that choked our throats never failed to find its way to our lips. So we stopped talking. The long chatting sessions that sometimes consumed all night now sparsely continued beyond 10 minutes. We knew that we both couldn’t stand to live without each other but were helpless in the cruel hands of fate.
When everyone was in order I took my spot in front of the girls line of our class. Shortly afterwards Ayan followed and stood beside me. He tried to smile not a convincing one though. It couldn’t mask the storm inside his heart. The same storm was blowing inside me too, but I couldn’t let him be aware of it. It would make our parting more painful for him. So I tried to smile back although I doubt whether I got it right. It was the least I could do for him.
The prayers started but my mind was somewhere else. The last few days I was driven crazy by my restless mind constantly buzzing across plethora of thoughts and a cornucopia of questions. Sometimes I pondered which is more tragic: the pain of being in love and being apart or the pain of not being in love at all; alone, isolated with no one to care for you. So many questions were in my head but no answers. I was torn apart by the betrayal of fate which has played a cruel game with me. Why did I have to meet Ayan in the first place and fall in love with him, if at last we were destined to be separated? I loved Ayan…it was impossible to throw him away from your life once he becomes a part of you. How can I even think of it…No, it was impossible for me to forget him. I knew that the more I thought about him, the more painful will be for me to leave him.
The assembly ended and every student returned to their respective classes. I went through the motions during the rest of the day. I couldn’t chat with Ayan during the break as I was busy with some errand entrusted by our class teacher. So the only time when we could have a word was after school. Although we had lots to say to each other we just couldn’t bring the word “bye” on our mouths although it was uppermost on our minds. Love is simply an irresistible bond that can’t just be broken in accordance with your whims. It is more than that…something that we hadn’t realized all this time that we spent together but now the consciousness of the fact made the moment all the more difficult to bear. Tears started to roll down our eyes as we both hugged each other but in between those sobs I heard Ayan say that although fate has separated us, it can’t stop us from loving each, however apart may we be but our love will remain true forever. With these words we parted each other…unsure about what lied ahead of us……
It was a warm afternoon in the month of May. The small beach that looked into the vast Pacific Ocean was an irony of sorts as if a dwarf was standing next to his elder brother who happens to be the tallest person in the world. The sands had a slight orange tinge as the sun was about to bade adieu to the people in the West.
The beach was deserted for its most part with a few couples enjoying the waves kissing their feet as they ran along the sidelines. A young lady or two were just sprawling across their arm- chairs wearing the ubiquitous two-piece wear with the hope of getting some tan on to their slim figures which might help them in their quest of modeling assignments.
Away from the prejudices of this world, unnoticed were a small girl named Sarah, aged 6 and a boy named James, who was about the same age.
Sarah was trying to build her small castle of dreams for her princess with the sand. Although she was very small for her age her little hands were very deft at building sand castles. Maybe she had learned it from her mom or dad. The castle was on the verge of completion. She had even sculpted the prince who would come to live with the princess, happily ever after. How innocent are the dreams and thoughts in a child; unadulterated by the virulent human desires of greed, wealth, fame, success leading to loss of the most coveted treasure-happiness. To have a pure mind and a heart is a privilege, a priceless treasure possessed only by the innocent small children.
A little way off was a small boy in his blue jeans shorts and colourful tee with a small caricature of perhaps his favorite cartoon character. He was busy collecting pebbles-not the usual type but those that looked off-the-hook in color or in shape. He had made a small collection of his pebbles which he used to store in his small bag, slung over his shoulders.
He was walking across the sandy outlines, in the direction of Sarah, in search of more pebbles. Till then he hadn’t noticed her nor did she. As he closed in, he caught a glimpse of her. He was distracted from his quest as curiosity got the better of him. He walked towards her in small steps, with his eyes on her all the time. He saw her tiny beautiful fingers giving final touch to the castle of her dreams. He was now standing just in front of her with just the castle separating the two. He stopped low with his hands on his knees, revolving his head to and fro all the time in order to get a better view. He was impressed. Sarah was happy as her castle was complete and both were staring at it as if devouring some hidden pleasure known only to them, hidden from the rest of the world.
Suddenly a high rise of wave intruded the sands and destroyed the sand-castle. Sarah was devastated, seeing her castle washed away by the cruel waves of the ocean. Tears rolled down her innocent blue eyes. Her continued sobs made James feel sorry for her.
He sat beside her and showed her his small collection of pebbles. He hoped to try and calm her down. But that didn’t help as Sarah’s loss was too much for her. In her fury, she threw all his stones out into the ocean as an act of retaliation towards her foe-the cruel waves. But James didn’t care for the loss of his priceless collection. At that moment Sarah was all that mattered. He couldn’t bear to see her sob anymore.
He quickly rushed to a spot little farther from her and started building small blocks of sand. He was trying to rebuild Sarah’s castle. After a few minutes, Sarah had stopped crying and was now looking intently at James to see what he was doing but James had his back towards her, so her view was hindered.
James ran hurriedly towards her and caught her by her wrist and took her to show his castle. It wasn’t the perfect castle of her dreams, it was more like blocks of sand but for Sarah it meant more than that-it meant that someone cared for her.
She burst out in laughter as she saw the feeble attempt of James to build a sand castle. She had forgotten everything about the incident for which she was crying a little while ago. She was happy now. Seeing her laugh, a smile appeared on James lips. Then suddenly Sarah planted a small kiss on his cheeks. James face lit up with joy and Sarah’s face turned a tinge redder.
The sun was setting into the vast dark waters of the Pacific. The shadows of two little figures trailed the beach and the sounds of laughter reverberated in the milieu.