The First Love

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Recently while  sitting with  my  senior professor in the department over a   tete-e-tete the  discussion rolled over  to  the environment  of freeness prevailing in  colleges and  universities these days. The senior professor suddenly  became nostalgic,  kept looking  on  the  wall for sometime  and  said in  a  thick grumpy voice  which had  a speck of  a  regret in it, “I too  used to like a girl in my  college  days  and  could  never  stay  without  having a glimpse of  her everyday.” As  my eyes became  agog at the candid confession @60,  a  memory  not less then 40 years  old , he  avoided looking at me and  continued  looking  at  a  spot on the   blank wall  where  probably  he was seeing a image of her.

“she was my  first love and the last one too”. He said in a low romantic tone and a tiny smile  broke  at his lips.

“ Sir  did you confess your  feelings to  her ?” I  asked giving  a real  worried and concerned  look on my face.

“Obviously  not , in our times  we never  had the  courage  to go in  for  such things. And  even if I had,  I knew the answer  would have  not  only been a ‘No’  but it could  have  resulted  in a  complaint against me  and  a probable rustication from  the  college  itself.   I could not afford  to  taking such  a risk”. He muttered  closing his eyes.  “And Sudhir,   She  was  so  beautiful and  I was  so ugly at  that  time, there was  no chance of getting  an affirmative  answer”

Hearing  this  I could not  resist to let  Sir  not vent  out  his  long suppressed  feelings which  probably  he  had  kept hidden for decades. “ Sir, you know where she  is  now?” I asked .  “ Yes” He nodded. “ Why not say it  now, Sir?” I  pushed a  bit  further.

He took  a deep  breath, looked  at  the  same  spot  on the wall   , then  looked out of the  window at the  budding autumn leaves  on the branches of a  tree which  were  falling on the window of the  Head of  the  Department office. He  closed his  eyes and  said, “No. its too late now Sudhir”.

“Sir,  You  did not speak  to her at  that  time for fear of rejection? Isn’t  it?” I asked.

“Obviously Yes” He said

“Sir,  do you see her often nowdays”I  asked .

“ Not really,  she  is married  in another town  but  has  recently shifted  back to  Ambala after her father’s  demise to stay with  her ailing  mother.” He  was now opening his inner feeling to me.

Though  I  was much younger to  Shukla Sir I too  had  been teaching in the same department  for last  10  years . Me and Shulka  sir  shared a  good friendship and had  common views  on a  number of topics. Sir  had  taught  me  during my MA studies when  he  was  a young  lecturer  in the same department of the  university. As  students we  always found  him to  be  a  smart  teacher  ,  not  ugly at  all  what  he thought of himself  today. He was also  astoundingly  intelligent  and  knowledgeable about his  subject , Economics. Even today  his tall  and  lanky figure  would  be  a  matter of  envy  for  a  large  number of  people  who  are  in his  age bracket. He  even  partially  dyes his hair of  the otherwise receding hairline. He  ensures he  presents  a  smart  demeanor but at the  same  time displays  the  grace  of  his age  in  his day to day dealings with everyone. He is  married to an equally graceful lady.

“ Sir, when did  you see her last” I asked.

“ last week” He responded.

“ Sir, is she as  beautiful  as she  used  to  be in college?” I  asked.

“Come on Sudhir, obviously not,  with age beauty wanes, grace  stays” He  said.

“Sir with age ugliness  also  goes and grace  comes to those  who  are  sincere,  you are  one of  them. You look smart  , rather  very smart for your age and exceedingly handsome and graceful. You are  now  evenly placed. Go ahead tell her your feelings” I  said.

“ How can I say It now? I am married  with grown up kids and your bhabhi has  been  so nice  to me all my life. No,  I cant  do this. It will be a  sin.” He retorted back .

“But you  will  keep remembering  her all the time, is that not a sin?” I  said sounding  adamant now.

“ Sir what I  am  telling  you do is not going to be a sin.”I  said.

He looked  at me but  kept quiet.

“ I too want  to confess  something to you today” I said  looking  at his expectant  eyes.

“Really? You too had a first love”? He said

“ Sir,  everyone  in his life has  a  ‘first  love’ , what  varies is  the intensity with  which  a  person loved  his ‘first love’ . If that  intensity is  high like in your  case  the  feelings  linger on for a lifetime, in others is  just  wanes  down with time. But  that’s  not  what I am going to share with you  today  , What I am going  to share with you  is different. I  had been  a ‘first love’ of someone”. Saying this I suddenly stopped and looked at him.

“ What ?” and you knew about  it”? he said  with eyes  wide open. “

“ No Sir  , I never knew about it. I  knew  her as a friends in the neighbourhood  in my  teens  and  college days  but  never had  any feelings  for her. Both  families  knew  each  other  well and we  used to  meet  like  normal  friends in groups  during  social functions in the coloney. After I got my  job here I  moved out and she  too got married after  a couple of  years.  But there  was  no such  feeling of love and all   ever  from my side.” I said

“ Then  how do you know  you were  her ‘first love’?. He  asked little irascibly.

“ Sir , it  has  been 20 years  and  she  also is well settled  with  grown up kids. Last  year  she  had  come to  our  town on  some family business work and called me up for some help. She  was  staying in  a good hotel here. I  went  to  help her  and  over  a cup of tea  she  became  very serious. I asked  her, “Ruby what happened , you are  in entangled in what thoughts”.

She  said ‘nothing’ but  left  suddenly   after  saying  that she  had to  catch up  with some work   with her business  clients. I  returned  home rather surprised at her behavior.

Shukla Sir was listening  to  me rather attentively now.

“What  happened then?” He asked.

I  got a  call at 10pm that night from her. Worriedly  I picked  up  the  call hoping  all  was  well with  her as she  was  staying all alone in a hotel.

“I want to  talk to  you ,  are you  free now?”She asked

“ Yes,  but you never talked  in the morning  when we met,  what is it?” I  asked.

“ I did not have  the  courage  to  talk  to  you face to  face , that’s why I moved out for my work leaving the tea halfway”. She  said in a  low voice.

“ Tell me now,  what is  it that  you wish to talk to me?” I asked.

“Did  you love me when you were  studying  in college”? She suddenly asked and my heart  missed  a  beat  at this question.

I became  numb.

I did not know  what  to answer. I had  never  loved  her in  a way  she  was asking. I actually  never  even  had  thought of her like that. Infact  we  were not  even best  of friends  . So this question  was  so much of a shock. She was  such  a graceful lady now, mother  of two  teenage  children and  with  a smart husband who had a  big family business in Delhi.

“ I am waiting  for an answer Sudhir, Please answer me ,  you  loved me, right ? but could  not  get  a chance  to  say  it, isn’t it?” She  asked  with  a  voice which was  intense  and  sweet.

“ Ruby, where  are  you right now?, how  was  your  day?” I said.,   trying to avoid  the  answer but concurrently  my  mind was working overtime  to select  the apt words to use if I am cornered  for an answer.

“ Sudhir, I  want to know sincerely. Answer me.” she said.

“ What should I say?…….look we  booth are happily married……..why are you asking this  question  after such  a long  time?” I said trying some cryptic logic to avoid giving  a direct answer.

“ No, I  insist” She  said.

“ Ok  if you  insist, the answer is ‘No’.  But  Ruby  why are you  asking  such  a question….Look  we  are grown up  people now.” I  said.

There  was  a silence  on the other end now. Then she  spoke.

“ There  was not even an iota of feeling of love for me Sudhir, please tell me?” She said   pleadingly.

“Ruby  please don’t misunderstand me, I was too busy in my  studies in college and then immediately after  college I got the  job, I did not have time for  feelings for anyone. But  please  tell me why  this eruption after twenty years?” I said.

“ Because  you were  my first and last love and I always believed you loved me too.” She  whispered  amidst  sobbing.

We both  were  quiet for a while for she  had shocked me and I too had let  her down.

“Ruby please ,  how  would I know that you loved me? Did you ever say it?” I  said  trying to defend my case.

“ Sudhir in our times how could  girls  say such  a thing? you  should have  sensed it yourself.” she said, amidst  intense sobbing.

“ You  can say it today if  you want?” she said.

She was really insistant now and I  could  realise the  intensity  of  love in her voice. But I  was  also  helpless as I could  not say such  a blatent lie at any cost. Let the tears roll but  I will not confess  what was not the truth. Love is  from  the  heart it can’t be pretended even in retrospect.

“ No,  that shall not happen.” I  said.

“ Ruby please  relax,  life  for both of  us has  moved  fine. Lets live  the  way it  is.”  I  said.

Sir, Soon  after  that  she  hung up. I  am  sure she  did not sleep that  night.  I too kept awake for a long time and kept thinking of  the old times but could  not connect any incident  where she  had  displayed  any  special feelings or  may be  I   never  bothered to note. Anyway life  had moved on.

Sir  was listening  attentively to  my  confession.

“ What happened  after that? He asked after a  pause.

“ Sir, she called  up next day in the morning.” I said

“ What ? she  did?  I thought  she  would  never ever   speak  to you after  your rude reply.” he  asked

“ Yes  sir, she  did. You can’t forget your first love so  easily, isn’t it?. I  replied.

 

Next day morning, I  waited for  a minute before I picked up her call. Her  voice was  mellow now.

“ Sudhir, If  time  was to go back,  would you still not love  me?” She asked .

“Ruby  time does  not go back. Lets  live in present.” I answered.

“ But why  can’t  we  think and  take our  minds back?” she  insisted.

“ Look  Ruby my answer  would  still be same”. I  said as I wanted to finally prevail and leave no more misunderstandings.

This time she  did not cry.

“  OK, can we  be friends?” she  asked.

“ on one  condition.” I said.

She  was  shocked but asked  “What  condition?…… That  I  should never call you again? …..Then how will we  remain  friends?” saying this she  laughed  now.

“ I am happy  to  hear you laugh . The condition is that you  will bury the  past and  not mention it again. Ever. Promise?” I insisted on an answer and a promise now.

“ Yes,  I promise.” She  said happily.

After this it was my turn to surprise her.

“ I  too want to confess  something to you.” I  said.

To  which  there  was  a  sound of a deep  breath  which  I  could even   hear  on the mobile.

“What do you want to confess?” she  asked  softly. May be  she  was  expecting  the unexpected confession from me. May be the actual  story would  turn out to  be  a Hindi  movie  climax. But it was  not.

“I  am totally  floored by  your  boldness of  saying this so candidly…….  confessing this after 20  years. And inspite of  having  such  a successful  marriage  and  still taking the  risk of saying this  to  another  person. It requires guts…..hats off  to  you.” I said.

“ Sudhir  ,  you know  something , a  big burden has got off my head and heart today. I am feeling very light. I  feel  I  may have  lost  a  lover  but  I have  regained  a friend” She  said confidently.

“ Indeed you have” . I said  with  a feeling of  triumph of truth over  a lie.Had I lied  under duress I  would have  been in  a  burden throughout rest of my life.

Sir, after that  me and Ruby   have  become    good friends. At times  I even take  some piece of advice from her on important issues and  so does she. There is  no mention of ‘love’ or ‘no love’ any more,  we  are both  living  peaceful lives and knowing well our responsibilities and boundaries.

But  somewhere  within  me  this incident brought   a nice  feeling  that I  was  also loved. Thats it. I did not  get  angry at  her  saying it to me. I  rather felt happy that I  lessened her burden.

“ Sir, why I shared  this very intimate  part of  my life with  you  is to help  you go ahead and lighten your burden”.  I  said ,  looking at  my Head of Department who had  again started  staring blankly at his pet  spot on the wall.

“ I  will not be  able to do it I feel.” He  said somberly.

“ Sir  it will  make you feel  light and believe  me  she will  appreciate it   too. After  all  you look  much smarter  than ever  before.” I said in a light tone but that  did  not change his deep-in-thought expression.

“Hmm…….. I will think about it. Thanks for sharing  your  experience. Bye”. He said in voice  which meant I should leave him alone..

Weeks passed  and Shukla Sir  avoided  meeting me and  stayed  very  serious  in the Department in a world of his own. I too did not bother him.

Then one day  suddenly I  got  a  message  to  reach his office. Seeing me he said , “Thanks  , I am feeling much  lighter today.” the  smile on his face showed that he had succeded.

 

 

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Very nice story. Quite unique

    Reply

  2. Posted by Sonali Swarjeeta Dash on June 26, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Wonderful story which is quite unusual..Sir, you are going great at fiction

    Reply

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