It was a pleasant evening. It was summer but there was no sign of it in that mountain evening. On the first day of August, as I stood near the ITI gate, I was sure of my purpose but not of the force that gave it its potency. I had to meet her, talk to her and tell her something of the circumstances which made my life so very different from when we had last met. It was a hopeless endeavor from the very beginning. A conversation requires receptivity in the listener. I simply could not accept that she had no patience for me though everything pointed to that. When we had last met four days back and she had taken me to her home, the air was that of cold formality and discomfort. But wasn’t there one moment of that same old empathy and deep bonding? If only one moment. Wasn’t she my angel for that moment of gaze and that second of concern? Was she not still the woman I had loved to the point of ecstasy though that love had long been mired with naked jealousy and spite? If she no longer meant anything to me, why had I come back to Solan, the town replete with her memories, and why was I waiting for her to come back from her internship. The point I had chosen was strategic. Whether she got down at the Ganj bazaar bus stand or the New bus stand, she would have to pass from ITI gate to reach her home. This was the third evening I had waited for her. On the previous two evenings, my choice of location hadn’t been strategic enough and I must have missed her because she got down at the wrong bus stand. But today I was determined to meet her and all roads converged at the point where I was standing. I could have called her no her home number but I wanted to talk to her face to face, to let my facial expressions show my sincerity and to look into the visage that had inspired poetry in me. I was not in the best of health. Something was wrong with my stomach and I had an inkling of a fever. I was unshaved and unwashed, wearing a shabby shirt. But appearance hardly mattered to me then. As the evening begun to darken and I had almost lost hope, suddenly she appeared in all her enigmatic beauty. Wearing a light salwar kameez, she was coming towards me. I hadn’t seen her in salwar kameez ,the traditional north Indian dress, since we were classmates, ten years ago. She saw me and her gaze showed discomfort and even a hint of contempt. For she was not alone. Walking side by side was a young man, dressed in a neat pair of fashionable clothes and looking foolishly handsome and charming, if you know what I mean. He seemed taller, neater and more broad-shouldered than me. He even seemed more handsome than me. Now, reasonably I should have done one of the only two decent things to do. The best would have been to intercept them and politely tell her I wanted to talk to her. The second best would have been to keep standing there and let them pass. What I did was the worst possible. I followed them while she knew I was following them. I crossed them near the Traffic chowk and our eyes met, my eyes were a mixture of hatred and pleading and hers of contempt and some other emotion I cannot fathom. I stood still. I saw her conversing with her man and the way she looked into him, the way her gaze completely dominated him and perfectly flowed her being into his being, made me sure they were lovers whose love had stabilized into a shared rhythm when one body talks to another body without any language. I stood stupidly gazing at her against my better judgment. The two of them stopped near the DC office and were having some conversation when suddenly she pointed her finger at me and her lover followed her finger to look at me. And I was looking at her and her pointed finger and the strange mix of ugliness and authority which her face seemed to have become. She seemed to be gesturing me to come to them. It was all dizzy, like a dream. But I saw clearly that she was gesturing me to come to her. I even heard her command for me to come. Like a servant, I moved towards the woman I had loved with all my heart for the last ten years.
‘He is Aman.’ She told her man. ‘So, he is Aman.’, his voice seemed weak and strangely vulgar to me, whether because it really came from a weak man or because of my spite for him is something I can’t ascertain with the intense subjectivity which colors such encounters. ‘Meet Bhanu’, she said to me and after seeing the disgust in my face to which she responded with an expression which was a cross between disgust and spite. I was looking at the ground because my face was full of such hatred and such a realization of my weakness and defeat that I just couldn’t face her. As for him, I thought I would punch him if I looked at him long enough. But would have I? He seemed stronger than me and I was down with fever. I had a tough motorcycle helmet with me and I have hit men much stronger than me when provoked but here, what ground was there for me to fight him? She was free to choose anyone to be her boyfriend, to move around with anyone. But my heart knew nothing of this sort. It was full of intense hatred and a shame which made me shrink. It seemed my very body would crumble under shame. They were talking to each other and he was flashing a cell phone far more expensive than the one I then held in my pocket. The shame was killing me. “ Excuse me Priya, can you please give me your cell no.?” How damn foolish it was on my part to say that, to be so formal as if I had seen her for the first time as if she was that bastard’s property. “I can’t give it to you.”, her voice was pure hatred and hatred always made her look ugly and mean. And she walked away. I stood looking at the ground. He too didn’t move. I considered my options. Should I hit him with my helmet? Finally I moved away. For the next two weeks, I sat in my room, hardly eating anything. Piles of newspapers collected outside my door and I cried unwept tears. As I later looked back at that evening, two things struck me. The first was the feeling of déjà vu and almost pleasure when I saw them coming towards me on the mall road. It seemed so poetic to be defeated in love like this and to see the woman I had loved so deeply and for so long walking with a worthless spineless worm. The second thing was the cycle of karma. It was so beautiful the way it had happened. Two years back, I had boasted to him that he was an economic failure and would never be able to provide for her while I was off to a lucrative career with an MBA admission in a top B-school in hand. Now, the tables had turned. Severe mystical explosions had made me leave my MBA midway and I was living on my parent’s money while he had completed his MBA (from the useless HPU, I thought to some relief compared to my coveted MICA). And he still had her when I had boasted to him she would soon tire of him like her string of earlier boyfriends. Life indeed had come full circle.