Samarth hurried back to his apartment to check his mail the last time. Was he dreaming? Did she actually say she wanted to see him? Clutching the next flight ticket to Delhi, he made his way to the airport. Aparna's melting voice ringing clear in his ears.
"Samarth, i want to meet you once."
No sooner did he hear this, than he got the first flight to her city. Among the many sordid moments in their relationship for the past couple of months now, this call convinced Samarth that they might just be together again. For the last time. He would make all amends. He would change for her completely. He would do all that she ever wanted, and much more. Aparna's innocent and reassuring smile clouded all his apprehensions with hope now.
They met in their small little corner in campus where it had all begun. Samarth had reached much before Aparna arrived. The days just flashed by his eyes. Aparna shedding those tears and looking at him with those searching eyes, his hug which she said reassured her that she could make all wrongs right given that he was with her, their first kiss, their stretched conversations on life, Brecht, sex, career, Marx, malignant cancer cells - everything, everything under the sun jolted the bygone Samarth from this version of him that lay all ruined and incomplete, all half in her absence. Samarth knew, just knew that Aparna was his life.
Aparna came and sat down. Not even a moment passed when she looked up at Samarth and said, "Look Samarth, it is all over. I know you could have been convinced by all these months of ignoring you. But i just needed you to see that i am happy with my status quo. I just needed you to see that i do not need you anymore..."
Samarth cupped her face in his hands. Teary-eyed and almost broken, he muttered, " But i need you Aparna. I just can not live without you. Look, things will work out. I assure you with finality this time. I will do exactly as you say. But please, for godsake, do not leave me alone."
Aparna got up and went out to get coffee. Samarth cried and fresh onslaughts of memories and moments all gone assaulted him in her absence. Aparna was a charming, vivacious girl - very popular for her beautiful ways and intelligence. She was this girl who made things go right just by her magical presence. And suddenly from this one day, she refused to smile. She did everything that she was supposed to do but it seemed as if she was punishing herself with her own life. It was then that Samarth chanced to come in her life. What began as a partnership in the annual cultural festival of college developed into this meaningful, inspiring relationship between them. Aparna got hold of her life ravaged by her widow mother's malignant cancer status and Samarth got a new dimension to his life with this wonderful girl's presence in his life. Together they broke university records academically, coincidentally got into the same work profile in the same company. They had begun to believe that all was perfectly planned for them from above. They were happy. They were just brilliantly happy.
And this one day changed life for them forever. After their job training, Samarth got posted in far south and Aparna was given the prerogative to settle in her hometown given her family condition. They bade emotionally choked good-byes to each other. Perhaps unaware that life would change for them forever.
Aparna came back. She handed over him his coffee mug and insisted on thrusting that sandwich in his hands. After a few silent sips of their once favourite coffee, she began, "Samarth, it is not always necessary that two good people end up making a perfect couple. We all were kids when we indulged in this love-shove business yar. Look at this. I was emotionally wrecked at that time. I found a genuine friend in you. And, come on, you did confess, didn't you, that to date the most popular girl in campus was like the coolest part of this relationship for you? Samarth, we needed each other, mutually. We were friends with benefits. But it ought to get over yar."
Samarth looked at her with utter disbelief. "Aparna don't tell me all that you said right now was true! I did not date you because you were the most popular girl in campus! Never Aparna! I stood by you because i did not want to see a talent as you go waste over her family issue. Love was gradual between us, Aparna. We did not date like star-struck couples. We thought about each and every step all through before we plunged into a commitment. Please do not say we were friends of benefits, for godsake! Aparna, do those evenings of togetherness hold no meaning at all? Do those converstions on......"
"Oh! Shut up Samarth! I am independent. I am smart. I am beautiful. Earn as much as you do. It is juvenile to think Samarth that college days' romance last forever. I need a man different from you, you know. I can't imagine wasting my time and emotions in managing a guy all my life. I need a man. I need someone who is more mature, much much more mature than you. Someone who is strong enough to be able to hold me, control me. Someone who inspires me. Someone who is better than me in all respects, Samarth. Someone i can look upto. Someone who treats me as an equal because he can afford to do so, because he is better than me. Because he isn't insecure about losing me. Someone who respects me for what i am because he believes and trusts his own love enough to guarantee my love for him for the rest of our lives. Samarth, it's all over between us. Look, i am sure, you would be thankful to me to have made this call early on in life before much damage is done."
"Aparna, don't tell me, you manipulated my emotions all these years. Don't tell me i was all but a temporary need for you. I feel used, Aparna. This is not what you were. Ok, what is it? Am i too clingy? Did i ever stop you from doing what you wanted? For Godsake Aparna, what is it?"
"Don't shout, Samarth! I have given you enough reasons for my decision to part ways. I am bored of this love between us. I am bored of this routined call everyday and prying questions about how my days were, whom did i meet, what did i wear and so on and so forth. I need someone who is settled, not a struggler trying to get his way through. I want stability in your and my life, Samarth. However hard you try you can not jump four years hence and work things out for us. It is over because i am no longer a person who lives in the present. I have changed. I think about investments now. I envision a future better than what it can be with you. Samarth, i called you because i wanted you to see the new me."
Samarth gazed blankly at Aparna. She was not the girl he knew. She had changed. He got up and said, "Just answer me one question Aparna? Did you ever love me, even once?"
Just then her phone rang. She picked up and asked the person on the other end to wait outside. She got up and hugged him.
"Take care of yourself Samarth. You need to support your family. They have huge expectations from you. Trust me, five-six years down the lane, you will not regret this decision."
She moved out of the campus, got in the taxi that stood there waiting for her. In a few moments it disappeared on the winding roads. Shattered, Samarth came back to Chennai.
And after these six long years he got this mail. He re-read it once again. Tears rolling down his eyes, he got hold of his car keys. The flight was to leave for Delhi in another hour. He was wondering what could he possibly do with that condolence visit? Should he actually go?
He read the letter for the umpteenth time.
By the time this letter reaches you, i shall be gone forever. I was detected with cancer too in the later stages of Maa's illness. I knew you already had lot of stuff to take care of back home. I did not want to be a burden on you. I spoke all that i spoke that day to make sure you work hard enough to get to the place you are now. And well, i am happy that you did. Just do me a last favour. I have bequeathed my property to the nursing home for cancer patients. Please see to it that it reaches the requisite hands in time.
I needed to fight against myself to do this. Forgive me and carry on with your life.