Ramu’s was a love which made true the old wives tale about ‘love at first sight’, for on the very first day of college he had fallen head over heels over the feminine form, who sat right beside him. When the introductions were given and she introduced herself, he fell more in love, this time with her sound. By the time the first hour got over, he had made plans about their future and even named the first kid, if it was a girl in his mind. After the hour, when she spoke to him and extended her arm in friendship, he knew, he never wanted to let go of that hand again; for he felt a jolt the time she touched him and his entire 19 years of existence on earth took a new meaning.
The fours years of college for him revolved around her, in the course of which he attained the tag, ‘my special friend’. He couldn’t decipher the many tags that young women in their late teens and early adolescence conferred to the males around them; for all his understanding the status of ‘special friend’ earned him the access to her palm in the darkness of the movie halls and invariably found her cuddling on his chest in the limited space that movie theatres could afford.
The first time the honor was bestowed still ran fresh in his memories. It was after the first few months of class when they had bunked classes and sat in the last row of the movie hall to watch a romantic soap; she enthusiastic about the movie and he marveling in the feel of her presence by his side. The protagonist in the movie, held the lady love in his gaze and started singing about love, and that was the moment, her hands slowly traveled across space and lay snuggled to his palm on his lap. His palm was sweating even in the air-conditioned darkness and she comforted him, by holding his hands tight, rubbing his sweat on to hers. She leaned slowly and whispered softly in his ears, “you are my special friend, Ramu. My one and only special friend.” He never asked her what a special friend meant, for all his little understanding of women, the label gave him his right to hold her hand the moment lights were switched off in the cinema hall.
The days of college were getting over, each day a painful reminder of the very little time with her for him. He knew that things would change with the end of college and they would travel in pursuit of their dreams. But, all his dreams were about her and she was the only dream he prayed and craved for. She told him about the Valentines Day around the corner and mentioned that she is awaiting a surprise on that day. She never told him what the surprise was, but then deep in his heart he thought, he knew, the surprise she awaited; proclamation of his love for her on the grand stage of Valentines day.
The morning of Valentines Day was unusually warm for the month of February in the high lands. Small beads of perspiration ran down over his body in the heat or maybe cause of the excitement about the act he was to perform in the evening. He replayed the planned scenes again and again a hundred times, eliminating all possibilities of a screw up and he checked his watch many a time, wondering whether each second was taking thrice its normal pace.
Ramu had chosen the ring after many a laborious hour in the new jeweler’s shop close to the college. The search had made him feel not once, but many a time that the staff in the shop wished to see his back, but then the mantra ‘customer is god’ written across the front of their name tags prevented them from voicing the thought. Walking home with the ring pressed closely against his heart, he felt proud of himself. Pride in the knowledge that his beautiful girl awaited the ring and the ring had been paid for with his sweat and not his dad’s green bills.
The much awaited rendezvous at coffee was almost at the door and he drove with his head held high with Neetha sitting pillion behind him, with her arms around his chest. He prayed that she didn’t feel the excitement his heart was in, but then her palms were pressed close against the loud ‘lubb dhhubb’ his heart was making.
The doors of the café was surprisingly held open for them, and a bunch of red roses gifted the moment she set her foot in, as if their arrival was awaited by the café staff.. A table was kept reserved for them and they walked slowly towards the lit candle on the corner table, with their palms pressed together. A band played the romantic song of the season, all through out and the moment they sat, a sudden hush devolved on to the band, as if the band had forgotten the lines to be sung.
In the silence a male voice boomed from the loud-speakers, as if he was humming a song, “I love you. I loved you from the time I existed and I have always been looking for you, from the darkest alley to the crowded streets. You are the reason my heart ticks and the reason I want to wake up every day. My reason to smile in times of tears and my aspiration during my low. From balls to bones, I am truly madly deeply in love with you NEETHA”.
Ramu didn’t quite hear the last line, but knew something was wrong, the moment a shape started walking to them as soon as the hymn stopped and Neetha had tears in her eyes. A guy almost his age, smartly dressed in whites, floated to their table and held his palm out to her, with a bow. Ramu failed to understand the story unraveling, and didn’t quite know why she took the strangers extended hand and blushed. The stranger kissed her fingers and slipped on a ring, kneeling down. With tears swelling in her eyes she raised him and stood on her toes seeking his lips, engulfed in a passionate kiss, forgetting the world around.
Ramu sat in silence, his face pale like a ghost, fighting the desire to run. His hands were hidden inside the pocket, fiddling with the ring he had bought to proclaim his love. Neetha basking in the aftermath of the passionate kiss noticed him and said, “Ramu, remember the surprise I said about valentines day? This is the surprise. Gokul, my ‘one and only very special friend’.”
The world celebrates the day of romance tomorrow; a day devoted to all those in love to celebrate the romance in their lives. The notion that romance needs a special day to be celebrated is a much debated topic amongst the advocates of tradition and culture and on many a time in the immediate past led to incidents violating the right to human life of the citizens, caught in the wrong places. I do not stand to rebuke the contentions of the advocates of culture, nor do I stand in support of the hype brought to Valentines day, thanks to Archies and Hall Mark and other brethren of theirs. For I believe it is for the individual to decide, what he thinks about the Valentines day and his opine cannot be coerced in support of the traditionalist and the capitalist.