"Oh … c’mon … Nandan is the closest person I’ve seen to perfect. He doesnt booze. He doesnt smoke. He doesnt stare at other girls. Very precise in whatever he says, extremely nice and receptive to others. Well read and gr8 sense of humour. What more do u want?" … I finally broke out in frustration and started counting all of Nandan’s virtues.
"Hmm … all these don’t mean he is any fun to live a life with." was her answer.
"Then what else do u need?"
"Lets say someone who can make mistakes, who is fun to argue with, who’ll let me win too … someone who can take instinctive decisions …" she paused with a sly smile. And continued, "say … like deciding to drive if u don’t get tickets to go home!"
For a second I was pale and tried to not show it and then we both laughed.
"Forget me … I’m ‘sold’ for almost 2 yrs now … lets talk about what u like … what kind of a girl are u gonna marry?"
"Hmmm …" I cudn’t think of anything to say so fast.
"Ok … lets say … ash or sush".
"Sush." That was pretty fast decision for me and she looked surprised.
"Thats … strange … most people wud say Ash."
"Hmmm … I think … Sush looks a lot wilder and lively person and Ash is more like a lifeless mannequin."
"Hmm … interesting …" then she added "… I think I'll agree with that!"
Swathi Nandan is fair and petite, had curly hair and that angelic smile of hers showed off a very prominent pair of dimples. I classified her as the pretty, yet friendly girl next door! I always used to fancy wild looking women, like say Sush or Sheethal Mallar, usually tall and athletic with dusky complexion, and she hardly fitted that category. But, after a few hours with her, during this drive from Bangalore to Kerala, I realized that she had something special. May be the mysterious expression in her big eyes or may be the cool and comfortable way in which she interacted with me; I almost felt like I knew her for ages. The most striking thing though was the wild fragrance she carried. It reminded me of some flower or fruit which I could not recollect.
Nandan was in US when they got married and I had met Swathi only a few days before this, when Nandan was in Bangalore for an official visit and had been mostly busy. I haven’t talked much to her, until the day we drove to Kerala together. Underneath her innocent smile and twinkling eyes, she had seemed a very classy lady and somewhat reserved. During the trip, she looked friendly and tried talking about a few things here and there. Initially, it was more about Nandan - She cudnt help laughing when I mentioned that Nandan was called ‘The Saint’ in college, being a strong advocate of teetotalism and more so due to the indifference towards his female fans! With me stating that he was a gentleman in college and talking abt how he ignored his female fans and kept his pledge for teetotalism even after so many years, an animated discussion followed. Soon the conversation shifted to a few other topics and there … I discovered that she was nothing short of an incessant chatterbox!!! In fact, the only few minutes she kept quiet was when I offered her the wheels. She didn’t seem to be comfortable with manual gears and soon gave up, citing the reason that I am a very boring and quiet "navigator" and didn’t provide her any "entertainment"! Well … now I had one more reason to pull her legs?
After crossing the Kerala border and it getting darker, Swathi suggested that we should not drive in the night and take a break somewhere. I was not very receptive of this idea, since my initial plan was to keep driving and reach home even if it takes till midnight. Seeing my reluctance, she had an amused expression and ended up with the taunt:
"U r not comfortable staying at a hotel with me?"
I had to respond with a very defensive "NO! NO! NO! NO … I generally drive all the way in one day and reach by midnight".
"So u r not planning to drop me home???" and another teasing smile. I had to oblige.
It seemed that she was enjoying my discomfort. I was obviously worried about more mundane things like, if she will be ok with a double room! She teased me again with an "I am not going to do anything to you, even if we are in the same room." I felt like a complete moron and looks like she felt sorry for me, finally. She assured me that she and her husband has complete faith that I am a gentleman. I started sweating by now!!! Hopefully, her idea of a "gentleman" is not in lines with "The Saint".
We had dinner en route and selected a decent looking family hotel. Inside the room, there was silence for a short while. We looked at each other and smiled. To avoid the confusion I got up and went to the bathroom. She looked at me with a very curious expression and asked if she can lock me up inside, so that she can wear something more comfortable. With this I burst into laughter and suggested that I would prefer waiting outside and she can take her time inside. While she locked up the door, I was only glad to walk out into the corridor and in the process managed to sneak out a cigarette and lighter. Being a "gentleman" was too difficult a task for me!
In five minutes, she opened the door again and gave me a warm smile. By then she had changed into a skirt and t-shirt. I took some more time to get in and saw her sitting in one of the beds waiting for me. I could not help noticing her perfectly shaped feet, and the contrast of her complexion to the blood-red nail polish she was wearing. Also, that smell of hers was much wilder and stronger now. It had a real mesmerizing effect and my heart has started beating a bit faster by now. I wanted to avoid any more stupidity and asked her if I can switch off the lights. She looked at the watch and said "Its only 8.30", but then said "fine", may be noticing the stupid expression I had.
Lights were off in a flash and I quickly hit the bed, turned around and pretended that I am fast asleep. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes … complete silence and I was assured she will be asleep by then and turned around. At the dim light falling through the window, I realized I was completely wrong – she was lying down there, with her eyes wide open and turning towards my side. Now I had to ask "U r not feeling sleepy?" to which she replied "this early, no way." Two more minutes we gazed at each other and she said "I can not see your face". I was glad to hear this and smiled back.
This triggered another conversation, which lead to "It’s a small bed … I am afraid I’ll fall down" from her and I just kept quite. After a minute’s pause she asked me if I mind "joining the two beds". My heart missed a beat and felt my mouth was completely dry but managed to say "Sure … y not?" without any signs of discomfort and proceeded to join them together. After this we retired to the same position, facing each other, but this time much closer to each other. I wish I could just reach over and pull her towards me, but just stayed petrified. That wild fragrance of hers, hit my nose once again and I was afraid she’ll be able to hear my heartbeats!
Few more minutes later, which I felt like eons, she said I might be tired and it’s better if I go to sleep. I was flustered and wondered if she understood what I was going through, closed my eyes and pretended I am going to sleep. But, sleep had long evaded me by then. I couldn’t keep my eyes closed when I sensed her moving just next to me. On looking towards her, I saw her lying flat with hands pressed on to her forehead. I asked "what happened?" and she said "headache". I was feeling the pain and felt miserable for lying there helpless. For a second time, she closed her eyes tight and pressed her fingers once again into her forehead. As in a dream, I lifted my hand and lowered it towards her forehead and slowly caressed the soft, smooth skin of her forehead.
To my surprise she seemed to be living in the same dream as mine. With her eyes closed she turned her face towards my hand and rested her head there. I could hear my heartbeat by the time I pulled her towards my shoulder. Now, I could feel her fragrance all over me and my fingers running through her soft, curly hair into her back, finally pulling her strongly for a tight hug. With her face deeply buried in my chest and the soft, curly hair all over my face, the next few seconds were way too longer than any normal day in my life. I cud feel her fragrance filling me up and rendering me unconscious.
"It’s not your fault", was her response, the next day when I apologised to her as we were approaching her house. I was wondering what to say to her and finally cudn’t come up with anything better than an apology. She had a smile in her face when she said this, which sounded to me as … ‘so u r finally washing off ur hands with an apology?’ I had to add that "If Nandan happens to know about this, I would have difficulty facing him". She paused for a minute and then looked up at me; I had trouble meeting her gaze and looked away.
As we reached the gate of her house, she said : "See … there are a lot of things you don’t know about us. The only thing I can tell you right now is that I am not afraid about Nandan knowing this. Still … If you don’t want him to know, he wouldn’t!" With this she stepped out of the car, just casually enquired if I want to come inside and upon my expected refusal thanked me for the ride and walked away. With her she carried her wild fragrance and all my peace of mind.
The day of their departure, I offered to drop them at the airport. On that day, I met Swathi again at their guesthouse. She was clad in a blue crape sari and looked gorgeous. She said "Hi" and welcomed me in. Well … she still carried the same fragrance and surely could take my breath away! Nandan was getting ready and we had time for a small chat. She told me that "I will never trouble you for no fault of yours" and vaguely mentioned that "my problems are my own and I would not bother you with them". This got me a little confused and I had to ask "what problems? I don’t see any problems between you guys. I know Nandan quite well and cannot imagine any mistakes from him. He is a perfect gentleman and can never forget his family". She seemed to have recognized the unfriendly and stern tone of my voice and looked upset. When she got up saying, "I am sure Nandan can never forget his family", it looked as if she is about to burst into tears. I suddenly felt guilty questioning her morals. With lowered and almost moist eyes she turned around to go inside. I could feel her bursting into tears when I sat there motionless.
Almost a month passed since this event and the fragrance she carried was still fresh in my mind. She is somebody else’s wife and still I cudn’t help wanting her the way I do. By now, I wanted to believe that Swathi was somehow right in whatever she has done and I wud be right in falling for her fragrance, coz of the same unknown reasons. But, these reasons stayed as a mystery, until I recieved a mail from her … It read:
You may not realize how much I cherish the little time I spent with you. If I tell you that I plan to spend the rest of my life on those memories, you may get some idea. It’s difficult for a girl to forget the moments when she grew into a woman and those are the moments u gave to me. Like I said earlier, I don’t want to complicate your life for no fault of yours. But, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life thinking that the person I owe so much would remember me as a cheating wife for the rest of my life.
I agree with you saying that Nandan will never forget those, who he consider his family. His family consists of an Italian woman, their three year old child and maybe his parents for whose sake he married me. Yes … he wudn’t make the mistake of lending his shoulders to a girl, lying next to him … even though she is his legal wife. Those are the mistakes only human’s make … not Saint’s!
Don’t ask me anything more than this. I also wudn’t know the answers. You are only the 3rd person to know about my life. Hope it stays that way. We may never meet again, but I wish you a very good life ahead with the girl of ur dreams and once again thanks for the time you gave me.
Lots of luv,
I was left there with the same feeling I had when I was lying next to her in that hotel room watching her pressing the forehead; a strong desire to pull her towards me and comfort her. But, she seemed too far away for me to do that!
Posted by usandeep
at 10:01 AM
Updated: Tuesday, 19 February 2008 12:12 AM