Who begins a love story knowing full well that it would abruptly end? But when decisions are taken from the mind rather than heart when responsibilities weigh on people more than emotions, such love stories happen, the ones that are laced with the inevitability of their end from the very beginning.
Reema, in her early thirties, hailed from Prayagraj (then Allahabad). She had lived all her life in Prayagraj, a city once known as Oxford of the East, with ample educational opportunities. After initial hiccups, she finally landed a job in a local school at Roorkee in Uttarakhand. Unlike her native city, Roorkee was a small town with fewer people, cleaner and with ample vegetation; the common factor between the two being the Ganges.
Like any other growing-up girl, Reema, too, had her share of teenage crushes, affairs, swings, physical relationships. She had had her heartbroken, been ditched and even dumped. At this juncture, she very well understood that the time had passed and she had had enough; it was time to settle down professionally. Love and lust had to take a backseat.
She adjusted to her life in Roorkee well and it resumed on a normal course. She was pursuing PhD at a private university and knew that she needed the doctorate degree to move ahead. Besides, she also got a job at a local convent school. Teaching always remained her passion. Interacting with kids filled her unbridled joy. A workaholic, Reema never missed a chance to take additional responsibilities. Soon, she was entrusted with the task of interacting with parents. This involved devoting extra hours after school, meeting parents and explaining to them about the progress of their child.
Reema could not have imagined that her new responsibility would lead to another story. One day, after winding up the day’s chores, she sprawled out on the couch. It had become a customary thing for her to regularly check the messages on her mobile parents would send, seeking appointments. She would reply to them, mechanically. When she picked up her phone and scrolled down her eyes fell on one particular message that struck her as a bit odd: “Hi, what are you doing?” Clearly, it had nothing to do with her task at school. Though Reema was used to receiving such calls and messages from stalkers, she could sense that this time someone was deliberately trying to strike up a conversation. She, however, chose to ignore it and scrolled away.
The message was soon forgotten and buried in the inbox. The next day, when she reached her class, a kid walked up to her and offered her a chocolate. Taking it as an innocent gesture, she accepted it with a smile, a thank you, and a hug. Once the class was over, she picked up her stuff and lined up the students to leave the class. The kid walked up to her again and remarked: “Ma’am, the chocolate was given by my uncle to you.” As he ran away, Reema stood there, trying to come to terms with what he had said. Later, construing it as a thank you gesture from a guardian, she shrugged the incident off. Parents often gave small gifts to teachers with the intention of getting friendly with them, thinking that they will take proper care of their children.
Back home, Reema finished her household chores and sat down with a cup of coffee. Looking outside the window, she noticed that her favourite plant had reached the window’s height. After some time, when she turned to her phone, she was surprised to see another message from the same number: “Thanks for accepting the chocolate and friendship.” This was the limit. She was furious. She knew where ‘friendship’ often led to. As a single, she was not alien to such overtures. When people would get to know she lived alone, they would approach her, often through messages. They would be promptly blocked. She could not block a parent though: She needed the job and a showdown with a parent would go against her. It was best to ignore the message, hoping that it will sort itself out with the passage of time.
Besides her school work, Reema had to take out time for home tuition, which took care of her monthly expenses and for her higher studies. She would return late at night, eat whatever she could lay her hands on, and then have coffee, which was her stress-buster. Subsequently, she would throw herself on the couch. To her annoyance, the message from the same number kept coming. Their frequency had increased and so had the chocolate from the kid which she could not refuse owing to her job.
One day, Reema thought to herself that enough was enough and decided to do something about it. She reached the school office and asked the staff to fetch the scholar’s register for her class. Her fingers rested on the name of the child who was giving her chocolate. The guardian’s name: Rashid. Office address: Police Headquarters, Roorkee. And the same mobile number. After school, she walked towards the gate where a police van waited to pick up the kid, who was giving her chocolate. Adjusting her uniform blazer, she knocked at the windowpane of the van. As the glass was rolled down, Reema asked: “Sir, this is not fair, you are sending chocolate every day, texting me. Don’t you understand that I am not interested?” The person, who seemed to be in his forties, just smiled. Infuriated, Reema walked away, stamping her feet.
In the days that followed, the messages and the chocolates kept coming. One day, when Reema was unwell, her phone beeped: “Hey how are you doing?” Fed up, Reema replied: “Down with fever and headache.” It was as if the barrier had been breached. Soon, the floodgates opened. Messages continued from both ends well past midnight. The next day, Reema looked out for the kid, but he had skipped school. She wondered whether she was missing him or the chocolate. When she messaged him, she got to know that they were not in town.
The exchange of messages lent a rhythm to their days. A part of Reema had begun to like it, even though she was certain she would be leaving the town once she had completed her PhD in three years. With her days filled with academic pursuits, she neither had the time nor intent for any relationship, leave aside love. But Rashid’s perseverance bore fruit. A year after they had started baring their souls to each other through messages, Reema relented and finally agreed to meet him. Even then, in her heart of hearts, she was still convinced that what they called love would never touch her, sway her or leave her swooning. The meeting lasted a few minutes in his car while she was on her way home. For the first time, Reema realised that she was left speechless; though lauded as a motivational speaker in school, she could not utter a word.
When they were together, he had accidentally brushed against her. She had felt electric. But the battle inside her kept raging: She told herself she hardly needed any love at that stage of her life. After school the next day, Rashid called and Reema acquiesced to meet at a restaurant. Things that were under wraps for a year, were unfolding at a fast pace. One meeting led to another. And another to another. Till the thing between them became a tide that could not be stemmed. Till it became what can be called a torrid affair. Their relationship, however, did not follow the usual course. No gifts were exchanged. No letters were written. There was no acceptance or denial of any offer. Reema knew that this story would eventually die and yet still she drifted towards it.
Rashid, on his part, continued with his usual gestures of impressing her, footing the bills in restaurants for Reema and her friends, sending small goodies to school. For a year, Reema carried on her unspoken love affair with Rashid: Texting him, meeting him at restaurants, losing herself in his warm embrace at hotels.
Finally, the day arrived when Reema completed her PhD and got an offer from a University in Haryana to join. She packed her bags and asked Rashid to drop her at the railway station. Rashid thought she was leaving for her hometown Prayagrai. As they waited for the train, Reema told Rashid: “It is over. I never thought there was anything between us anyway. Whatever happened, I liked it. I am leaving for Haryana and I have texted you my address. Let’s be in touch." The silence was broken as the train chugged into the station. Reema gave him a hug and boarded the train.
Years have passed by but they have never met again. Reema still lives in Haryana. Though they can’t see each other now, they exchange messages. The flame still flickers between them, but the mind takes over the heart, bringing an end to a story, which was not quite a love story to begin with. It could have easily been one though; they could have brought it to a successful conclusion: there was no social pressure, no obstacles. But some stories end without any reason. Just like this one.
(Based on true story, names of characters and cities have been changed)