She thought of abandoning Samrat again, but changed her mind. It was too childish. She would tell him that she was getting married and her fiancé had called.
Samrat smiled at her as she walked towards him.
“I’ve to show you something.” He said excitedly, as she settled down.
“What?” His boyish enthusiasm made her smile. Her news could wait.
He opened the last page of her book and pointed at it. “There!”
“What am I looking at?” She peered at the last page, seeing nothing but advertisements of other books and there is was. His book, “An insight into the human mind” by Samrat Kattar.
“Wow!” She exclaimed. “This is so cool!”
“Isn’t it? I know! Its been great.” He looked pleased as a punch.
“You should have put your face on the cover instead of this ugly brain photo.” Nandita said laughing.
“I know, my sentiments exactly, but the publishers didn’t go for it. They thought the brain would sell more copies.”
Nandita’s checklist resurfaced.
Their conversation carried on, smooth as silk. And not once did Nandita feel the need to tell Samrat about her wedding. But with each passing minute, Nandita became aware of something, she had long discarded as a teenage phenomenon. Butterflies.
With every smile, every laugh, she found herself hoping the plane would never take off. They spoke about all sorts of things, their families, their careers everything but their personal life.
He could be married for all you know, A little voice inside her head warned.
No way, why would he hide something like that?
The same reason you are hiding the fact the you are engaged to get married tomorrow.
That’s completely different. It never came up.
The hours they had together were diminishing into minutes. Nandita contemplated what to do next. Should she risk telling Samrat the truth? Or should she wait to see if he felt the same? She was pretty sure, whatever she was feeling, it was the same for Samrat too.
As the plane started landing, both of them became silent, aware of the impending goodbye. Was it to be a goodbye? A goodbye forever?
Nandita could scarcely breathe. Silently, they stood together waiting for their baggage.
“Listen,” Samrat said finally.
“Yes?” Nandita recognized the presence of hope in her voice.
“I had a great time.” Samrat said, taking her hand.
“Me too.” She made no attempt to remove his hand. It felt right somehow. “I think we should keep in touch.”
“Yeah, I think you are right.” He said, pulling out her bag from the baggage claim area. “Lets go?” he smiled at her. The smile that she had come to love.
“Yes, Samrat, there’s something I should tell you..” She took a deep breath, it was time to tell him.
“Hold that thought, I’ve a confession too but,” He touched her face lightly, “I left my other bag inside. Meet you outside?”
She nodded softly.
“You won’t run away again, will you?” He asked, smiling.
“No.” She was surprised with herself. She really meant it. She didn’t intend to let him go.
Nandita walked out of the airport, feeling the glorious sun on her skin. Just as the grey skies had all but disappeared from the sky, they seemed to have disappeared from her life too.
Nandita turned around, shocked.
“What are you doing here?!” Nandita stopped dead in her tracks, staring at the man, who was her fiancé.
“I came to pick you up, is that so wrong?” Rajat looked amused to the conflicting emotions on her face. She was trying to smile at him but she kept glancing around nervously. “Is everything okay?” He asked.
“Yes. Yes, everything’s fine.” A smile appeared on her face. She knew what she had to do now. Soon, it would all be over. She could afford to smile now. She stepped into his embrace and hugged him tight. Whatever was going to happen between them, wouldn’t be pretty, but she knew he was a good man and she had become very fond of him. She was going to miss him.
As she withdrew for him, she saw a puzzled look on Rajat’s face. “Where’s your ring?” He asked, holding her hand.
“I took it off,” She thought quickly, “I didn’t want it to fall down and get lost.”
She knew it sounded fake, but he believed her.
“Lets put it on then.” He took the ring from her and started to slip it on her hand and just then, she saw him Samrat staring at her. His expression indecipherable.
“Lets go?” Rajat picked up her bags and started walking towards the car.
Nandita hesitated. Samrat just stood there, staring at her. Nandita looked down at her hand and knew she what she had to do.
She raised her hand to her face, the back of her hand facing Samrat and pointed at the ring on her finger. She waited with baited breath to see how Samrat would react.
She saw Samrat visibly flinch at her gesture and then with a mocking salute, he turned around and slowly walked away.
“Are you coming or what?” Rajat turned around and beckoned to her.
She took one last glance at Samrat, who had all but blurred into the distance, “I’m coming,” she said.
If Rajat noticed that she was unusually quiet, he was smart enough not to say anything about it.
She was wondering if she would ever see Samrat again and more importantly, was he worth it?
They were pulling up to Rajat’s house. She could see her family and his family waiting outside, eager to see her, happiness dripping from their faces. It was her wedding. She should have been that happy. But she wasn’t. As the car stopped, Rajat leaned across and whispered kindly, “Whatever it is that’s upsetting you, we can talk about it later. Put on a smile for them now.”
He opened the door. The family stepped in closer. Suddenly, Nandita felt like she couldn’t breathe. She felt suffocated.
“No Rajat, we can’t talk about it later.” She pulled the door shut. “Please, can we just drive away for a while?” She turned towards him, her eyes pleading.
“Now?” He looked at his parents through the windshield. They looked confused and bewildered as to why the bride and the groom were not stepping out of the car.
“Yes, please Rajat.” Maybe he saw the desperation in her eyes, but he did exactly that. He shrugged and drove away.
Nandita breathed in large gulps of air, relaxing slowly.
“Thank you..” She said finally.
“What was all that about?” Rajat asked calmly. She wondered how he could be like that.
“I just couldn’t breathe..” She knew how lame it sounded, but it was true.
Rajat glanced at her, at the sweat on her forehead. He stopped the car, “Out with it, what’s wrong? Are you not feeling well?”
She covered her face with her hands. What she was going to do next, she would probably regret for the rest of her life. But she also knew, that if she didn’t do it, she would spend the rest of her life wondering if she had taken the right decision.
“You’re a very nice guy Rajat.” She began.
“Nandita, are you breaking up with me, one day before our wedding?” Rajat asked her in disbelief.
“I’m not breaking up with you, I’m just saying, I don’t want to get married.” She bit her lip. She knew what he was going to say. She knew she should have taken this decision a lot earlier.
“Come on Nandita, whatever it is, we can work it out. What did I do, that you want to call it off?” Rajat didn’t look at her, he was gripping the steering wheel hard.
“Why, Rajat, why do you want to be with me? You deserve someone who loves you, someone who can reciprocate what you feel, why do you want to settle for me? You know, I’m not the one for you.” She clutched his hand, forcing him to look at her.
He didn’t say anything for the longest time. Then he spoke, “Because, despite all that, I think I love you. And despite the fact, that you don’t feel the same for me, I believe, that we can lead a happy life together. I’m not settling for you Nandita, I really want you.” He looked straight at her. It was her turn to look away.
“I’m sorry Rajat, but I don’t want to settle.” She felt like a bitch saying it, after he had so plainly stated his feelings for her.
“So you are saying the wedding’s off?” Rajat asked her quietly.
“Yes, its for the best really. I wouldn’t be happy and I would blame you for everything and I don’t want that. I want to be happy and I want you to be happy and I know you will not find happiness with me.”
The wedding was off. Shocked relatives were being sent back. Gossip mills were working overtime with all strange rumors flying around. Her parents were completely miffed with her. Rajat was heartbroken, she didn’t have a house to live in or a job to go back to. But she was calm.
She felt like she had done the right thing. For everyone. Nobody was looking at it form her point of view. She was sick of trying to explain to her parents that even if she got into this marriage, she would soon seek a divorce. She was sure of it.
But right now, she was the bad person. Everybody thought she was being a fool. But they would see eventually that she had been right all along.
And Samrat? How would she explain all this to him? She had to try. It was up to him to accept her. She would respect his decision. She pulled out her laptop. First, she would have to get some information to contact him.
Feeling confident, she typed out his name “Samrat Kattar” on Google.
Her heart beat a little faster as she clicked on the first link.
Wrong Samrat, this guy was old with white hair and all.
She tried again, “Samrat Kattar An insight into the human mind”
The same page.
And then it dawned on her, Samrat hadn’t been his real name at all. Just as she had lied to him, he had lied to her. On a larger scale.
After a long time in ages, as she realized, how everything had gone so horribly wrong, she broke down and cried.