Even after all the precautions, Shruti was able to find me in Bangalore in 7 months. She was right in front of my door, banging it, calling out my name. ‘True love indeed it is’, I thought as the flimsy latch gave way to Shruti’s relentlessness. Sitting on the only bed in the room, I looked up at her frame. My absence had taken a toll on her gentle frame. The darkness under her eyes and its puffiness had their tale of sleepless nights and sobs to tell. ‘How could you Sambit?’ Shruti demanded to know, “How could you leave me alone?”.
“Kafka…”, I replied with great difficulty and an uneasy smile.
***** 2 Years Ago ******
The headache was almost killing me. It was one of those late nights when I was extending my shift and working on a presentation which I was supposed to present to the clients on the next day. Totally zonked, I decided that a steaming mug of coffee would be of great help before trying to focus on the task at hand. Pushing myself away from the polished chilly desk of the centrally cooled workstation, I strolled towards the pantry.
‘Beep Beep’ … two shrill beeps granted access. Leaving behind the sound of freedom from the chilly confinement of seclusion, I walked towards the pantry… a literally warmer zone of human interaction in cold corporate atmosphere. I met Sanjay gossiping with one of the newest interns in the office, while leaning against the water cooler in the pantry, his hands resting on the new girl’s waist. The girl too had her arms wrapped around Sanjay’s neck. ‘Hey Sambit!’ , Sanjay waved at me, interrupting his flirtatious ramblings with the girl for a moment before being drawn into the conversation without waiting for my response.
‘Nothing much…’ , I wanted to say, but decided otherwise. There wasn’t any point after all. It was not like Sajay was genuinely interested to indulge in a conversation with me while he had this new girl all willing and eager to let him get inside her pants. I passed by them silently to the coffee machine and grabbed a paper cup. My fingers holding the cup gradually felt it, as the hot steaming black liquid poured into the white spotless paper cup.
A few days after that, I met Sanjay in the afternoon at the office cafeteria… Whoever said that guys don’t gossip was either a liar or wasn’t a guy, because office gossip was what consisted of most of our afternoon chatter during lunch. However once Sanjay had moved to a different project, this ritual had become more obscure due to more pressing matters in hand. That day Sanjay asked the same question that my relatives had asked me continuously for 4 years before giving up – “Bhai! Shaadi kab kar raha hai?”Pressing the butt of the cigarette between my lips and flaring up its head with the lighter, I sucked in the noxious smoke within me. Closing my eyes, I tried to feel the numbness mixing in my blood and spreading across my body, while Sanjay waited for my answer. I had to tell him that I never had much faith in the concept of arrange marriages and that I do not like the emotional drama involved in the love marriages. “In Love marriages…”, I opened my eyes. “… the love gradually evanish away like a perfume does from an open bottle. A love affair generally has one of the two fates – either success resulting in marriage with gradual loss of love till there are only two people left who wonder why they fell in love in the first place, or the love affair fails with two people getting separated from each other for different reasons. Love only exists till the end if it does not result in marriage and if the people getting separated are distressed by the idea”. Sanjay sipped the orange juice from his glass for some time contemplating on what I thought about love and marriage before he passed his judgment, ‘You’re just weird!’. I was not weird. It was just that I was the only one who had realized that Kafka was right about love.
A few months had passed after that when one day I stumbled across a woman’s purse in the bus while returning from office. I had my initial doubts if I should open the purse. But once I opened it, I realized that it belonged to one of the employees in my office. The employee had her ID card and approximately three thousand rupees in the purse. The ID card had revealed her name and photo. Shruti Pradhan was her name and she looked decently attractive in the photo. I decided that I should handover the purse to the lost and found department of our company the next day. The next day, while on my way to office, Sanjay called me. ‘Bro, is your blood group A negative?’ , he asked over the phone. Travelling in public buses during office hours in Pune is really a feat that isn’t achieved easily. Standing in almost one toe, latching on to the rod at the top, in a bus swarming with IT people, I somehow managed to answer. ‘Yes. Why do you ask?’. ‘Bhai… come quickly to Life Plus Hospital. One of our employees met an accident and she needs A-negative blood’. Struggling in the ocean of human crowd, I answered, ‘I am stuck in traffic. I will need at least 30 mins to get there’. I forgot to ask the name of the employee who needed my blood.
I was lying on the bed. A needle was pricked into the fold of my arm. The crimson life force was flowing through the needle and transparent tube, dripping into the clear plastic pouch. Everything around here smelled like medicine. Soon the nurse returned with Sanjay and Rahul accompanying her. She removed the needle and rubbed cold cotton on the puncture before folding my arm to hold the cotton between my skin. ‘Take some rest’, she said, smiling at me, before turning to my friends ‘Get some food items for him, he needs energy’. Just to make the decision easier for Sanjay and Rahul, I told them that a glass of milk shake would be preferred. While Rahul rushed to get the milkshake, Sanjay sat on the bed next to me and told me about this new intern who was in a hurry and met with the accident while crossing the road in front of the office. Her name was Shruti Pradhan. What were the odds of having more than one Shruti Pradhan in our office? Now that my blood was rushing in her body, it was only sense to meet her personally to handover her wallet. After two days, I met her in the hospital. She was better now and was to be released from the hospital after one more day. When I returned her belongings, her eyes looked at me as if I was her savior. That wasn’t our last meeting.
Over the weeks and months we continued to meet each other in office and after office. I was charmed by her innocence. We used to love long walks in the evening, our fingers touching. I never uttered the clichéd words ‘I love you’, but she knew that I loved her. And she reciprocated. She had this innocent laughter, like an untainted waterfall that was never violated by anything artificial. I used to stare at her while she laughed, trying to capture as much of it in the film of my memories, as I could. She used to decide the plans for our wedding day, the name of our kids, the name for our house, and I used to smile some more. She never realized that my smile came with pangs of guilt well hidden as I knew that none of it would ever materialize. The truest form of love was to let go. The truest way to preserve love was to let go. I was addicted to her and letting her go was not easy. But I loved her even more than I loved myself. And finally on one day, my heart was strong enough to let the love of my life go. I disappeared. I left Pune and moved to a new company in Bangalore. I deactivated my social networking profiles and lost touch of all friends. I started a new life with just the memories of my love. This love was pure and would know no bounds. This love… would never fade away… the desire would never burnout.
Shruti tried to reason a lot about Kafka’s idea of love stating that our upbringing and our social fiber was totally different from Franz Kafka’s and probably I was just obsessed with Kafka. She thought that Kafka’s idea of love was flawed. I knew true love triumphs over all odds and that I was one of the very few who had realized the truth in Kafka’s love. After several emotional episodes, Shruti accepted that probably Kafka’s idea of true love is everlasting and that probably she would need some more time to understand it completely. She even offered to prepare two cups of coffee as a symbol of truce. I told her that there is no need of truce as there was never a war in the first place but I agreed on coffee. Sipping the steaming coffee, I stared at her once again. I believe the whole ordeal was really tough for her. But then again true love was never easy. Shruti told me that after I went missing in Pune and when none of my friends had any idea about my whereabouts, Sanjay had told her about my idea of Kafkaesque love. Her fingers dived into the depth of her wallet and fished out a red rose and a piece of paper, which she forwarded towards me.
I looked at the scribbles on the piece of paper and then I looked at her face. “I have poisoned your coffee.”. I wanted to laugh at her joke, but I realized that I was no longer in control of my left check and lips. “You believe that pain would keep your love alive till the time you die. But I love you, and I cannot let you bear so much pain. It’s a neurotoxin. You will die a painless death and but your love will not die.”, she stopped. I took a last glimpse on the paper. It read “If we value our lives, let us abandon it all… – Kafka”. Then everything turned white. The letters on the paper, the room, Shruti’s determined face, all of it mixed into the all consuming white. And then it was dark.