I proposed to her 13 times and she said 'No' all the 13 times.
And it is this attraction that is the breeding ground for a very powerful type of electric chemistry. Neha and I are the perfect examples of staunch opposites. We studied together and while she was the teacher’s pet, the same teacher treated me like some lost pet. While she was the Maths topper, I was the undisputed champion of flunking not just Maths, but all the other subjects too (My unbroken record of scoring ‘zero-outta hundred’ for all six semester tests still remains unbroken). While she was the lady everybody wanted to date, I just wanted to date everybody (Gender rules applied!). While she was the college fashionista, my aversion to water and shaving didn’t really help my score on the style quotient. And yet, we somehow connected; there existed a magical chemistry between the two of us. We both hail from God’s own country and whenever we talked in our highly polished convent educated English, our version of the Queen’s language somehow had a faint un-kingly mallu accent, which we both laughed off together many a times. We were always part of different friend groups but we used to find each other in our crowd of friends and always tried to sit next to each other as much as possible for the group eating sessions and the weekend movies with all the friends. We realized that we both liked exactly 3 ice cubes for our vodka and quirkily, both of us loved mayonnaise with our grilled chicken. We loved the same TV shows and hated the same movies. Inspite of all our glaring differences, we had a lot of things in common.
But she never said Yes to me. For 13 times.
And I never took No for an answer. For 13 times.
But after all the times she said ‘No’, she used to greet me with her beautiful broad smile the next day and warmly console me saying “at least, we’re good friends”. And then after a while, I’d propose to her again. And she’d reject me again. And she’ll console me again with her lovely smile the next day. And this went on again and so forth. But with each rejection, we got more and more close. And slowly, we had become inseparable.
Like all good things in life, college came to an end. And while she got placed in Bangalore, I had to relocate to Amsterdam for three years. She had to go to her new office almost as soon as we finished college while I had about 2 months before leaving the country. I decided to be in Bangalore for the two months rather than going home to Kerala so that I could be with her before my three year stint in Amsterdam. I also wanted to propose to her one last time before being separated from her for what then seemed like eternity.
As college got over, we needed to move out of the college hostel and she needed to get a new place to stay. I stayed at my relatives place in Indiranagar. I helped Neha with getting a nice house near her new office, I helped her with buying the furniture, I helped her with getting the gas connection and I helped her with looking into the details of her rent agreement and I made sure I got her her favorite red, red roses every now and then. I helped her cos she gave me that beautiful broad smile of hers more often. I helped her cos I felt happy helping her. I helped her cos I simply wanted to. I helped her cos I was in love. During the day when she went to her office in Koramangala, I used to wait at my relatives place in Indiranagar and in the evening at 6:30, I used to meet up with her and spent time with her till about 10:30 after which I caught the last bus back to Indiranagar. This routine went for the most of the two months. But I still hadn’t proposed to her for the 14th time. Also I did feel that she was expecting me to propose to her before leaving the country. So a week before my flight to Amsterdam, I went home to Kerala to bid adieu to my loved ones there and decided to come back to Bangalore a day earlier. Neha was expecting me a day later so I thought I’d surprise her. I was going to propose to Neha for the 14th and final time. I was nervous but I knew that 14 would be my lucky number.
I reached Bangalore at 6 in the evening and as soon as I reached, I bought a huge bunch of big red roses, the type she liked, and headed straight to her house. I was carrying the huge bunch of roses which covered almost half my body. I gave a big smile to the many, many amused onlookers. As I reached her house, I could hear my heart pounding against my chest. I was really nervous but I knew that everything would turn out well. I stood at her front door and I rehearsed my lines again for the umpteenth time. As I was taking a deep breath, I noticed that her front door was open and I could hear noises from inside the house. She must be making evening tea or something, I thought to myself. As I passed through the partially open door, I walked into her living room. The room was still dark but I could see light from her bed room across the hall. Suddenly I felt that something was amiss. Something was not right. I slowly walked towards the lit up bedroom. And then I heard Neha saying something. There was somebody else with her in her bedroom!!! As I slowly walked towards the brightly lit room, I slowly started to see clothes which were scattered untidily all around the bed. And then, what I saw next froze me in my footsteps.
Neha was in the arms of a man in red, I still don’t remember what he wore but I knew it was distinctly red. They both stood by the bed and he was standing facing towards me and she had her head rested against his chest. He had his arms around her and I think I saw a smile on her face, which was largely covered in his embrace. It was a fire-freeze moment for me: when multiple sets of strong opposing emotions were running frantically against each other in my mind. I wanted to yell out but I could not find my voice. I wanted to lunge the huge bunch of roses, the ones she liked, at him but I could not even move. I was angry, agitated and was screaming wildly inside my mind and yet I did not make a sound. A violent and dirty sense of hatred for the man in red passed through me which was opposed by a deep feeling of love for the one who was in his arms. I could feel blood rushing furiously into my face, tears building up in my eyes, I couldn’t breathe properly and felt that I would choke but I neither cried nor whimpered. I wanted to run far, far away but I also wanted to stay back and ask her how she could do what she was doing then. I did none of the above. I just stood there frozen with a heavy floral bunch in my hand looking at the love of my life in the arms of another man.
She slowly opened her eyes to see me standing right behind her and I saw her smile fade. As her eyes met with mine, I regained my composure and I stormed out of her house in a violent rage that shook off most of the petals off the roses and I marched away in utter disgust. The last I heard was her calling out my name behind me. I suddenly started running in some random direction and kept running. A flood of tears clouded my sight but I still kept running aimlessly. An hour or two later, I found myself sitting under a tree, humiliated, exhausted and dejected.
A week later I left the country with my heavily broken heart.
Three years later, I realized that three years in a foreign country is a really long period of time. I realized that three years is enough time to understand words like loneliness, friends, family and forgiveness. Since mobiles or internet hadn’t become big then, my only contact with home was the weekly ISD calls. I realized that I wanted to come back home as soon as possible. I realized that I was missing the Indianness in my life. I realized that I was missing my life in India. I also realized that I was still madly in love with Neha. But nobody I knew had any idea where she was. There were also rumors that she was about to get married. Three years later, I also learnt that the man in red who I saw her hugging that day was her younger brother Montu. I realized that I had to do something with my life and I had do it fast. But I didn’t know what to do.
Today, 11 years after that fire-freeze moment, I’m back here in India. I have two beautiful children, Neil and Nikila, and the man in red is today, my brother-in-law.
I proposed to her 13 times and she said No all the 13 times.
She never said Yes to me. For 13 times.
But I never took No for an answer. for 13 times.
She later told me that she said Yes to me for the 14th time not because of any ever blasting love but because she simply got fed up of saying ‘no’ and that she hoped that, at least a ‘Yes’ would shut me up.
Liar she is.
Have you ever had a similar fire-freeze moment - an unforgettably magical moment when you felt two strongly opposite emotions? Love/Hate? Elation/Sadness? Anger/Sympathy? The desire to move forward yet run away at the same time?