(continued from the post,Miracles- do they happen often?)
It wasn’t the time for an evening walk. It was raining heavily and we were halfway his home. I thought to skip the plan as I wasn’t sure of me and Achhu walking peacefully, that too inside a small umbrella, for some 20 minutes. But by sheer luck, we made it home safely. The house was small and cute. Painted in white, it looked peaceful and serene. And we were welcomed with a cup of hot tea, perfect for the rainy evening.
Pranab Bhattacharya. Or Pranab da, Dada. Everyone called him so. Twenty-one years back, when my parents met in Delhi, Pranab da was a potential cupid. He was my father’s colleague and my mother’s good friend, or her guide and a go to person in Delhi. History says that Pranab da, along with my paternal uncle, planned my parents’ wedding. Whatever it might be, he had executed the best plan in the world for me 😅.
After we left Delhi when I was eight months old, we were not in touch with him. And years later (probably during my third grade), Pranab da too got transferred to Mumbai, and he was a usual visitor, eventually to be my best friend. He was the one who made me read books. Whilst everyone brought me chocolates and sweets, he brought me books. The typical Bengali trait. But more than those books, I loved his smile and sweet talks. He taught me Bengali, and probably he was the reason for me getting attached to Kolkata and everything about Kolkata.
He was in his sixties now. But he appeared so young that he appeared to be in his thirties. When I was searching for books in the store, someone called me “Meghaa”. He still appeared the same and hence I identified him. After a long talk full of excitement and happiness, we exchanged phone numbers and addresses, and I assured him to pay a visit to his home.
Pranab da was a single parent for his daughter Charulatha. Charu got married and has a 7 year old son now. After her marriage, Da shifted from Kolkata to Delhi. He left Mumbai a few years after we left. As a natural process, distance faded the communication. We lost each other’s contact. But I would always think about him.
Heavy rains, tea and nostalgic talks. That was heaven. Achhu too was being comfortable and spoke well. Pranab da said I didn’t change a bit and that was a surprise. Because everyone whom I met said me that I changed a lot, including Janaba! Dada was speaking about his wife, whom he lost when Charu was two years old. I could see the twinkle in his eyes, a firm smile between those fragile lips that revealed his age. He loved her so much, that he couldn’t forget her and never wanted anyone to encroach into her space, by marrying again when everyone forced him to get a mother for Charu. Alone, he managed to be an excellent father and a better mother.
We left his home, with a hug as warm as the tea. I was happy. I found my lost treasure. I imagined the days to come, filled with interesting conversations and fun errands.
On the way back home, Achhu spoke a lot about Dada. And suddenly, he asked me about my friend Athulya.
“Athulya is fun, isn’t she?”
“Maybe. But why? You still have a crush on her? She is busy with her projects in California. Don’t disturb her” I laughed.
“Aye dumbo, she is coming tomorrow. I asked her to come. So don’t be surprised”.
2 days later
I woke up with a fear. I was going to meet a person whom I never wanted to. I was thinking what to speak to him, after all the purpose of the meet up was really disgusting. Gathered courage from Achhu and Athulya, I freed myself from all such thoughts and just prayed, whatever comes to mind, I’ll speak out. I haven’t decided anything. So please, make my speak the things which you need me to do. I won’t decide anything. Now this was silly, I know, but sometimes it’s this silliness that helped me.
We met by some 12 pm. A well mannered person, but he wore a simple smile and appeared too boring. Two hours into the conversation and I realised something. Never judge anyone quickly. He was the most interesting person I had met in the past few days. We talked on various topics and realised that we had too much in common. One discussion led to another and we already spent four hours of talking. That was quite long.
By the evening, we were near the Jantar Mantar, a famous observatory in Delhi. After the long talk, we were enjoying the silence. And now it was time to break that silence, I felt.
“We didn’t speak about the actual topic that made us meet. I have to say something. My family forced me to meet you and assured me that I could atleast find a good friend in you. They were true. You are an amazing human being.”
He laughed. “But this isn’t the thing you intend to say. Speak up. I guess we are good friends now, so avoid the preface.”
I didn’t know from where I got those words. Some force or something else made me say althose. And it continued. “We know that it’s about marriage. But I have few reasons to refuse it. And you are not one of them. It’s my guilt and fear.”
“Guilt and fear? Why? I did hear something about you. I knew some of your seniors and they told me about you, how you are in the college and what all you’ve done till now. And thus I got a blog too. So is that true?” he asked with a child’s innocence and curiosity.
“Yes. If I agree for the sake of our families and proceed to be with you, even after few years, it would be equal to cheating. Because with someone else in my mind, I can’t give you that person’s place. And fear is because, I’m not ready to make space for an entirely new person forever. He fit into my space so well that it compelled me to ask him the question then. But I can’t consider anyone else there.”
“So, you still have hopes about him? Waiting for a positive reply from his side?”
“No. I don’t have any hopes. Nor do I expect any positive reply, because I know him and he won’t give such a response. But few things are like that. Once they enter your head without permission, they don’t leave even if you try hard. I’ve tried my maximum. Now all I could do is to wait for his thoughts to leave my mind. I don’t know when that might happen. Maybe they would never ever leave. I’ve no clue. But till then, he remains there. And nobody else could take that place.”
He laughed. I expected a cold response from his side. I was ready for any consequence that might follow. But something different happened.
“It’s fine. I understand. I’m nobody to advise you. But think again. Keeping a toxin with you will only harm you. It won’t do anything better. You’re a matured person, I feel. So it should be easy for you. Be optimistic. You could move on easily. Don’t worry. And yes, for our families, don’t worry about the reply. Just tell them that we are good freinds now. Don’t tell them that you aren’t interested. I could handle this very well. I’d back out when it’s the right time. Till then, don’t upset them. They might not understand you now. Don’t take the unnecessary risk. You’re too young for me. Maybe your senior is the right one” he winked.
He took his phone and showed me a photograph. Yes. She was my senior when I had joined the institution. She was pursuing her post graduation. I knew her.
“Everything was going good. And then, as usual, ego came in between and we parted ways. We weren’t in touch until you became the new topic. She told me many things about you.” His eyes and his voice still revealed his love for her, when he spoke about her.
“Was it easy to forget her?” the curious me was waiting for a story.
“Once you love someone, you would never forget them. Nor do you stop loving them. But, when you realise that you both could no longer move together and it’s better for both of you to move in different directions, it’s the love for each other that makes you let go. And yes, when you find another person, you love her more than the previous one. Hence everything is fair. Everything is sorted.”
It took me bit time to realise his words. Still, it made sense. We spoke about the blog and Janaba. He was happy that such a person existed in today’s world. Yes. Janaba was the best person I’d ever met. A very good freind, one who could assume the roles of my parents, siblings, teacher, a role model and what not. He was so much for me to learn, to explore and moreover, to love. If ever given a chance to be someone else, I’d definitely ask to be someone like Janaba, the perfect human I’d known. For the next one hour of the conversation, I was physically present with my new friend, but my mind was totally with Janaba. He won’t leave that easily, someone whispered in my head.
“So, hope we’ll meet again. I’m leaving today evening. Might be back to Delhi by December. Will surely meet then. Happy with my new freind.”
He was indeed a very good friend by now. Achhu was true. Just be cool and speak whatever comes to your mind. Everything would be fine.
“Yeah sure. And will ask my senior to accompany me next time. You people didn’t meet after the break up, isn’t?”
He laughed. And somehow, my mind was roaming in the white-painted house, Pranab da’s house.