E18hteen – 5. Shakespeare In Love

0/18 – Prologue

1/18 – A Walk To Remember

2/18 – You’ve Got Mail

3/18 – Cast(e)Away

4/18 – Mission Impossible – Dosth Protocol

You cheeky B@$!@*#

The way you held my shoulders and went on and on about how in the end it was all about ‘loving your parents’ made Amma gently close the door and leave to get you your second juice of the day. 

It was so close that I didn’t dare to sit anywhere near you for the entirety of the time you spent thereafter. 

Following you slurping down that juice like you’ve never seen one before, two things happened that still perplexes me on its levels of audacity. 

  1. How and more importantly why did you choose that moment to profess your feelings for me and asking that question you’d ask repeatedly over the next few years? 

“Mrinalini Kannan, Why don’t we start afresh?”

      2. My reply. My personal favourite among the stupidest things I’ve done.

“Yes Abhimanyu Arjunan Menon… yes yes yes”

If I’d actually been a little stronger and clearer, our lives would have taken turns for the better. 

But hasn’t our luck always been twisted? 

I know I didn’t take that long to say a yes for our first out of seventy-seven attempts at starting afresh. 

Was this a reason you took me for granted Abhi? 

Did I become too easy a catch for you or didn’t you trust me enough when I said you were anything but a rebound?

I’d always asked you to be open about what you felt, but you seemed to do it only when it made sense to you. 

You called me every single day, texted me so frequently that my life revolved only around my phone. 

On retrospect, you seem to have been there everywhere and every single moment of my life. 

Now it may seem pointless and a reminder of the nonexistence of my personal space, but then, it was so magical. 

Things seemed to be on such an upswing. We hardly fought and unlike before, you hardly raised your voice against me for anything. Nevertheless, I do not have the faintest idea why you chose that incident to burst out. 

Abhi, I have no clue why you chose to act like gravity and pull back that swing on its first downward motion. 

Was it a well-concealed resentment eating your insides?

Was it a sense of frustration over others that you decided to let out on me?

You had never spoken to me that way before. No one spoke to me that way before. I had never let anyone do that to me. 

I have let a lot of things pass. A lot of things I brushed off as some one-off stuff. Things that would have ideally made me livid. I let it all pass without bringing it up anytime. 

You didn’t hold my hand while watching a movie saying it wasn’t something you were comfortable doing. However, you held Ashwathy’s hand while crossing the road. 

I didn’t say anything. 

There were times when you were so busy that you couldn’t pick my calls but found time to help Swathi with her college assignments.

I didn’t say anything.

You had excuses for everything that you did. It may have been inconsequential in your eyes but it was important in mine. 

But then, one slip up I have, you send me on a guilt trip. You make me feel like a villain. You made me think that I committed something so grave that this became the only time I asked you if we could start afresh. 

I just did a singular harmless thing that you blew out of proportion. 

I still don’t get how my question got you so flustered that you just stormed out of our actual first date. 

You left me sitting in the cafe. I waited for you to return. 

You didn’t.

You didn’t pick my calls for three days. 

You didn’t reply to any of my texts.

All for one simple question. 

More an observation than a question.

Why?

How?

How could anyone possible get all riled up for this?

All I asked was,“Why do you pronounce your words with a typical local Tamil accent? You are not supposed to pronounce words like ‘award’ or ‘Rachel’ or even the letter ‘H’ in the way you do…”


There are times when the gravest of things wouldn’t make the slightest of difference to a person, but a misplaced pen cap can blow the person’s lid off.

I looked out the window to see the rains finally subsiding.

I took out my fourth cigarette. I was not a chain smoker. Today was different. I was allowed to have my share of early death inducing objects.

I always had a very short fuse.

However, I loved having friends. I liked to be the lynchpin of my group, the big dog of the alley and the centre of attraction. Anger wasn’t a very welcome trait in becoming the things I wanted to be. I had to channel my inner humour skills. There were times when pent up anger flared up and I lost my well-guarded composure.

Generally, it is Amma who bore the brunt. This time it was Rina.

I know I was wrong. I don’t have any excuses. It shouldn’t have been that way. But, on some level, I believe that Rina got what she deserved.

Going back to the day Rina’s mother almost caught us in a ‘compromising’ position, it was my natural ability to lie that made sure that my entry to their house wasn’t restricted.

Yet.

Yes, things did seem to be on a constant upswing. It took a lot of effort. There was many a time I wanted to tell her that texting and talking everyday was becoming monotonous and I needed a break. I needed to have some kind of personal space too.

I didn’t want to be that boyfriend who is always trying to know everything about his girlfriend.

It wasn’t obsessiveness. It was just deep-rooted insecurities.

It started six months into our relationship. We hadn’t even gone on our first date yet.

The peer pressure was killing me. I couldn’t be subject to the ridicule from my group of friends. There were no signs of me being in a relationship except the cell phone that was forever glued to my palm.

There were no photos. There were no dates. She wasn’t willing to meet my friends.

I went through six months of taunts about my girlfriend being imaginary.

Finally, she agreed to come out on a date. She said tickets for a movie had been booked.

I had just one thing in my head while thinking about our first date in the dark lighting of a cinema hall.

I was 20. I couldn’t be faulted.

I reached the theatre. I was wearing my favourite pink shirt and blue jeans. I saw her in that gorgeous blue shirt waving at me.

She was accompanied by her friend Ashwathy.

Who brings a friend to a date? I lost it. I didn’t want to create a scene there and silently went inside the theatre to watch a movie that I wasn’t quite interested in the first place.

Rina tried to make conversation with me during the cinema and I feigned disinterest in talking to her and concentrated more on the movie that was running. I even asked her not to disturb me while am watching a movie.

Every advance of hers on to the armrest of my chair was met with my immediate reaction of keeping my hands folded across my chest. This went on too frequently for her to consider this to be a coincidence.

I know she was angry. I was too.

But, I had never fought with her till then or even raised my voice. I was afraid she might leave me again. I was afraid that if we have any sort of disagreement and go on a break, someone else might swoop in to make use of that situation.

I had done the same. There was nothing stopping some random guy to do what I did to Raagul Samivel.

The only mistake I did then was to help Ashwathy cross the road. Justifiably angry with my behaviour inside the theatre, Rina had already crossed the road leaving Ashwathy behind with me. I had instinctively held her damned hand while crossing that flucking road.

I saw Rina’s eyes. I knew I was in trouble. Her silence over the incident bothered me.

But, I saw it as a way to get back at her. Somewhere inside my head, I started to see it as a competition that I had to win.

I am not exactly proud of it. But, it happened.

The things that followed was all various attempts to hold on to her. I didn’t trust my love to be enough for her to stay.

My head kept going back to the fact that she said yes to me just hours after Sam was outof the picture.

My head kept going back to the fact that I was barred from coming anywhere close to her house after her parents got the slightest idea that we were together.

My head kept going back to the fact that my Kerala roots was a reason for an outright rejection in her household.

My head kept going back to the fact that her house was the only place where I was considered to be a mallu.

My head kept going back to the fact that if I fought with Rina for something, I’d lose her forever.

Again.

I couldn’t let that happen.

I know Rina didn’t believe I was a rebound. Everyone else believed. I know it is her word that should have mattered the most. I know.

The mind is a goofball. It believes the most unnecessary things in the most inopportune moments.

One such inopportune moment was the events that preceded that question.

THAT QUESTION.

Was it an overreaction? Probably.

Was it unnecessary? Probably

Was it out of the blue? Probably

Yes, it was all this and much more.

It was the flucking timing.

As I said earlier, I love to be the lynchpin of a group. I was successful in being one. I was decent enough in my studies and became a bit famous because of my interests in college culturals. It was an excuse to meet Rina for “official reasons”, especially after her parents explicitly asked her to avoid my company.

Things went downhill when I was overlooked for the post of Cultural Secretary.

I had everything ready. Everyone said that it was a foregone conclusion that I would be appointed the cul-sec. I wanted to be one badly. I wanted to prove that my musical talent was worthy enough for me becoming the youngest cul-sec in college.

Although the main reason was that I couldn’t listen to her rant on about the new acquaintance from her culturals. I didn’t like the fact that in Rina’s eyes I was the second best. I couldn’t digest the fact that she thought that some Dhruv Neelakantan was the best musician and orator she had ever come across.

I wanted to show her that I was a better singer than that flucker Dhruv Neelakantan. I wanted to prove to Rina that I am better. I wanted her to believe that I was the best.

I wanted to be better than that Dhruv. I wanted to be the better musician. I wanted to be the better student. I wanted to be the better accomplished. I wanted to be the better speaker. Of course, I couldn’t voice out my concerns to her.

I couldn’t come across as weak in front of her eyes. I had to be the big dog. The alpha male. The Lynchpin.

On retrospect, it does seem petty and unnecessary.

But, retrospection is a gimmick. A gimmick to look back in time and excuse ourselves and the others for our errors in judgement. It is a ploy to make one feel better by forgiving and forgetting the past. It is just a pat on one’s own back. A sad excuse for accepting reality.

So yeah, I didn’t get that post. I didn’t get the accolade that everyone made me believe I deserved. I wouldn’t be the youngest cultural secretary of my college. I was not to be the person who would lead the year’s cultural team to your college. I wouldn’t be the alpha dog. I was to be the also-rans.

This is when I pestered Rina to agree to come out on a date.

I wanted to see her in person. I wanted to pour my heart out to her in person. I wanted to lower the mask and make her privy to my vulnerable side. I didn’t mind being weak in her eyes anymore. I didn’t mind being a loser in her opinion. I just needed someone who would hear me out and understand that am not being petty.

I needed Rina.

I needed to see her face. I needed to see lips move in the way only hers moved. I needed to see the flutter of the eyelashes that only hers fluttered. I needed those healing glances that only her eyes glanced. I needed that whiff of hope that only she could emanate.

I needed Rina.

For the first time since we were together, I needed her.

I didn’t need that overpriced coffee with a weird name.

I didn’t need that overhyped maska bun with chocolate.

I didn’t need the lemon juice that I was supposed to call lemonade in that place.

Most importantly, I didn’t need to hear about Dhruv.

I didn’t want to know if he single-handedly won the culturals for her college with his divine voice.

I didn’t want to know that she was among the hundreds of girls who were mesmerised the moment he took the stage and held a microphone.

I didn’t want to know that he was the toast of the college and got a standing ovation everytime he spoke a word.

I definitely didn’t want to hear a snide remark on my enunciation. I didn’t want a tutorial on how to pronounce a character’s name from a stupid sitcom.

I just wanted Mrinalini to hear me out. I just wanted to lock eyes with her and hear her say that my college made a mistake. I wanted her to stroke my cheeks and say that better things were just around the corner. I wanted her to play with my hair and say these things are part and parcel of college politics and I will reach the pinnacle in no time.

All I wanted was for her to be by my side.

Rina never let me finish my story.

My anger and ego never let me finish my story.

Now, my English is better. There is an improvement in my grammar. I think I do have decent enunciation now.

I write stories now. I am trying to write poetry.

I am more of a storyteller than am an engineer.

It all started with me walking out of that cafe.

I have heard of poets and writers who wrote to impress their love. I became one because I was angry with Rina.

I didn’t want to impress her. I just didn’t want anyone to insult my English ever again.

No one has ever since.

This might have been inconsequential to her, but it was very important for me.

Things were never the same afterwards.

The next couple of years we were just trudging along a path. A path whose destination both of us knew all along.

It was beautiful. It was broken. It was imperfect. It was painful. It was magical.

I do wish I could hold Rina’s hands and say I am sorry.

Not for walking out on our first date.

Not for making her face the burden of my insecurities.

I am sorry Rina.

I am sorry for creating a scene in that culturals a few months later.

I shouldn’t have hit Dhruv. I shouldn’t have kicked him in his shin. I shouldn’t have given him an uppercut and a punch to his face.

More importantly, I so wish I could hold Rina’s hands again to apologize for turning up at her doorstep on that fateful day.

I shouldn’t have locked eyes with her dad and said, “Happy birthday Mr.Kannan. If not for the fact that you are Mrinalini’s father, I’d give your front teeth as the birthday present.”

 

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