Having wiped my glasses, I put them back on. I pick up the glass of water from the table, remove the china lid and take a long sip before going back to the obituary section to look more closely at the photo. "It is Shankar Suxena alright. The heartthrob of scores of girls at school.What a wasted life! What a terrible waste indeed!"
I look out the window as the street lights some thirteen floors below, come alive. I revolve the chair to the right and look down at the couple walking along, holding hands with a pang in my heart...
It was a Sunday. Shankar and I had already made plans to spend the day together. Till late in the evening we were a pair of dovey-dovey lovers holding hands, whispering sweet nothings in one znother's ears. At the sundown, as Shankar took me in his hands and held me tight, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. was a eleventh-grader then while he was my senior by a year. I considered myself blessed to have him in my life. I knew how crazy girls in the school were for him. There was nothing impressive about me. I was neither a looker nor a topper. I was an average student from a middle class family. Shankar, on the other hand, belonged to a different planet altogether. The only heir to Suxena & Suxena, he was of imposing build. A topper all through, his extremely good looks made anyone's heart skip a beat. He was also the Captain of the Boys' Basketball team.
Shankar was going steady with a girl from his own class, when I saw him during the Fresher's Show. I was taking part in the drama and he, as the Captain, came to the Green Room to make sure that the drama team was ready. I was just helping the lead actress, someone called, Meena, with her hairstyle when he called out from outside. The play had started by then and other than the two of us, there was no one in the room. Meena asked him to get in. He just removed the curtain to have a peek. He looked at Meena's reflection in the wall mirror before turning to me. I stood like a statue with my hands on her hair. He was the most gorgeous looking boy I had ever seen.
I don't remember how it happened but within weeks after the drama, we were into a whirlwind relationship. Life couldn't have been any better for me. We would meet behind the eucalyptus tree during the break and be lost in one another. That's what I felt. I should have known better looking at how summarily he had dumped his former girl friend. I was so much in love that I had mentally started making future plans.
My dreams came crashing down when one day, the day Shankar had called earlier to tell me of his sickness, while going back from school, I bumped into Ritu, a fellow classmate. She had been on leave and in talking to me, she told me that she had seen Shankar and Meena near the Opera House in the afternoon. The way they were holding hands and giggling, made her very suspicious.
Well, to cut a long story short, Ritu's version of the incident, which I had doubted and distrusted initially, turned out to be true. The truth that Shankar was never interested in me and he used me to get his crush, Meena, were brought home to me.
As I came back home the evening the truth was revealed, something happened to me. I told mom that I wasn't feeling well and wanted to skip dinner. I waited for her to visit me for the enquiries before latching the door from inside. As it happens in the movies, I acted most selfishly in trying to bring an end to my life which had lost all interest once I realized that the boy I wanted to spend the rest of my days with, was nothing but a flirt.
I came to know much, much later how my parents broke open the door, rushed my inert body to the nearest hospital, how they spent the next 72 hours acting lost and crazy. They stayed with me day in and day out till the crucial period was over. My depression kept them on their toes for the next seven months. My dad had me admitted to a school not very far from my school three weeks after my suicidal attempt. Life rolled on as usual until I came to know, quite unexpectedly that both Meena and Shankar were expelled from school. That night for the first time I opened up to my parents. The counselling also helped. I upped the ante to better my performance in the new school. I secured top marks in the Board despite having missed school for close to a month.
There was no looking back for me. You know, life has its own way of healing wounds. I met Amit at the university and he was another positive influence in my life.
I get up from the chair, draw the curtains, make sure that the files go into the drawers and come out. Saru will do the rest. As I get inside the carpetted lift, the lift man bows and presses the switch. I come out of the entrance with all those decorative flower vases past Reception. My chauffeur has ben waiting and takes the carrier out of my hand. He bends down to put it at the back, holds the door open and closes it once I have settled on the back seat. As he drives around the parking lot along the exit, Shankar comes to my mind again......
I met him, Sorry, he met me two years back in my office. He was looking for a job. His all were lost in a court case to his uncle, soon after his father's demise. I asked him if he would mind working at the Reception. He looked down and said:
"I'll let you know, Gouri." He looked insecure, battered. I never heard from him again till I saw his obituary today in the paper advertised by a member of his uncle's family.
The car stops at my bungalow. The chauffeur comes round to open the door. I get inside the palatial building. I feel spent, lonely. They say success comes at a price. I never married in life for I believe love only happens once in life.