I fell in love for the first time 30 years ago, but its sweet memory has not faded; it still lingers in my mind. I was 25 and on the cusp of a new life as a teacher, having graduated in English from a reputed college in Patna. A friend had started a school-cum-coaching centre in Patna City and I was appointed there as an English teacher. Along with me, there were four to five other teachers who were part of the institute since its inception. We came daily and took the same classes. We were teaching little children, but we were learning something new ourselves every day.
Days rolled by. Soon, a young 'Miss' joined our group. Her two sisters also started coming for the coaching. What happened between us started as a quiet affair — a little chit-chat, stolen glances, joint tea sessions, and so on. Not much later, she invited me to her house and I started frequenting it on the pretext of having a cup of tea. Sometimes, she came to my house, too. My frequency of visits, however, was obviously greater. Her house became a haunt for me and I looked forward to visiting it every day with intense, fevered anticipation.
It didn’t take too long for me to realise that I had fallen for her, unwittingly but ardently. Soon, she was all over my mind, occupying every bit of my waking hour. And, perhaps, even my sleep. One day, while resting in a friend’s room on a hot summer afternoon, I blurted out her name in sleep, blabbering something about whether she had come to the school or not. My friend was quick to conclude I was in love. He started teasing me from that day on. Gradually, I found out that she, too, was attracted to me. It was a beautiful feeling. The world suddenly seemed more complete. It made me see meaning in the mundane.
Things continued like this for a while: we would come to the school, with thoughts about each other weighing on our minds, find excuses to talk between classes, plan tea breaks together. However, as it happens with love stories in small towns, people started talking about us: we became the fodder for the neighbourhood gossip mills. One day, suddenly, she left the coaching. It came as a jolt to me; for days, I was devastated, heartbroken, sad. She was my first love and it was hard to shake her off my mind. Our parting, however, was inevitable. We drifted even further apart after she left the city and settled somewhere else. Soon after, I found a marketing job and left the institution.
With the passage of time, the sacred emotion that had tied us once became a thing of the past. The feeling that had kindled between us slowly died down. Subsequently, as two star-crossed lovers in a traditional society, we had to go our separate ways, but that affair in the prime of life has been etched in my memory, like a sweet dream that continues to hold me in its thrall, ensnare me with its fragrance. Even today.
My life is totally different now. I have a 16-year-old differently-abled son to look after, among life’s other priorities. There are times, however, when I do think of that brief romance in school which was an act of pure love — tender and chaste, innocent and unadulterated. We had fallen for each other subconsciously and it had lent melody to our moments. To me, it still does the same. A part of me thinks it does the same to her, wherever she is.