She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf, reminding her of how sometimes honesty becomes the heaviest baggage to carry along. It’s true that we all carry these things inside that no one else can see. They hold us down, they make the journey tougher. They take us back in time to question why and how. We all seek answers for our baggage as she did that evening.
….. This is my story, which began in cubicle 6209 of a multinational company in Pune. Yes, that’s when my life began, that’s when this story took birth. I landed in the city with three suitcases, immeasurable hopes and countless dreams. The city welcomed me with heavy rain and I saw that as an omen of something wonderful coming along my way. Yes, I was ready to embrace this new life that I decided to tread alone.
I was a fresher and had spent only a week accustoming myself to the new atmosphere. I had already painted dreams of being awarded employee of the year in just 18 months, leaving an everlasting impression on the team, proving my worth in all challenging situations and everything around being the best. Like everyone else, I entered the industry with zeal. I wanted to be different.
That morning while I was adjusting my bag in the drawer…
‘Hi, you must be Tanya’, said a voice from behind.
‘Hi, yes, I am. And you..’
‘I am Rohan, your colleague who arranged the training sessions for you from Singapore, remember?’ said the dimple cheeked guy before I could finish. His appearance was like the ones you immediately become friends with. He was not tall, dark or strikingly handsome but someone who had a warmth and innocence on his face. I stood up to greet him.
‘Of course, I know you. Pleased to meet you, Rohan. So how was your Singapore trip?’ I asked
‘It was awesome, thanks. I wish I worked a bit there’ he winked.
… And this is how Rohan and I were introduced to each other. I was still an amateur who was getting used to the corporate environment. I had made a few friends by then. OK, I should rephrase it to say I acquainted myself with some of the colleagues who became my lunch and tea time buddies. The latest addition to the group was Rohan.
Life, immediately after college became full of corporate jargons, independence, late night movies, never ending weekend siestas and responsibility. The flat mates and office colleagues gave a ‘home away from home’ kind of a feeling. Whatsapp and facebook became the way of life. My blackberry became my best friend, Starbucks cafe my hangout and colleagues my only social circle. Life had changed, time was flying and I gained some extra kilos if nothing else in just eight months of my professional life. Ironically, I was still a fresher.
By now, I was friends with everyone in the team, Rohan being my closest buddy. His texts on whatsapp became a routine and he was pictured in almost all of my facebook updates. Yes, he became a friend with whom I comfortably shared even my personal life and he reciprocated the same feelings of trust and comfort.
That day, it was an unusual Rohan that I saw, not akin to the casual him. Yes, I knew him well by then. We had spent enough time during shopping, movies, lunch, dinners and weekends. His plastic smile conveyed that he wasn’t fine. We were sitting in Starbucks cafe after office when I asked him what the matter was.
“Are you upset with me for something” I asked
“Of course, not. In fact your presence turns things brighter for me” he said, though was still uncomfortable.
“Then what’s wrong with you? Is it work or something personal?” I questioned.
I never asked him anything about his personal life. He always opened the chapters he wanted me to read and if there was anything more, it never aroused the curiosity in me. I respected the fact that some people open up like onion, one layer at a time and it’s truly their choice. All I knew about him was that he was closest to his best friend, Romel, who became a part of Rohan’s life only after Zylo passed away a couple of years ago. I daily heard the stories about their walks, cuddling, sharing and understanding. There is something miraculous about the dogs that sweep you away. Is it the fact that they love you irrespective of your class and status or is it their faithfulness? I think they understand you more than we can interpret, they are the selfless givers.
“It’s just that … I want to tell you something” he said
“Go on” I comforted myself on the couch.
“I met you almost a year ago and got attracted like a bee to a hive. Initially, I named that feeling as infatuation but later realized that it stayed beyond its duration. I started thinking a lot of you. I want to be with you whenever you are not around. Checking your ‘last seen’ on the whatsapp is the most pleasant activity for me. I admit I got carried away and drifted myself from the reality, where there is no scope for anyone to enter into my life, for I got married two years ago. I know this comes as a shock to you and I am sorry for hiding it all through this time. I was forced into a marriage with Amruta who is in the States these days for her onsite assignment. It was a marriage for the society, not for me. I had to be wedded because I was settled and was approaching mid-twenties. My parent’s embarrassment multiplied each time someone asked about my marital status. ‘Oh, is he still not married’, ‘he earns well, looks good, then what is the problem’ All such questions from the relatives and neighbors became intolerant to an extent that my parents found a suitable girl and made me tie the knot before I could think about it. What about love then? Oh, who cares about love anyway? Soon after our marriage, precisely in four months to be honest, Amruta flew to Boston for her long term project. By the time I could know her, she was gone too far. Ever since then, we have maintained the ‘marriage’ over skype and phone calls. And then I met you and understood that you are what I want. You mean love. You give me the comfort. I love you, Tanya.”
I sat in front of him in complete awe with my mouth wide open. I didn’t know what to say. Should I have handled the situation – How? Did I unknowingly just distort a marriage? I believe yes. I calmly explained that I was not in love with him. I never was. Yes, he was one of my best friends like I had a few more, but nothing more than that. I felt ashamed of myself. I felt cheated. I left the café as I wanted to be alone. I wanted to run away somewhere.
That night, I received several calls and messages from Rohan trying to explain his feelings and situations. He wanted to end his marriage for me and I didn’t want to lose a friend, but I just lost him that night.
I took a couple of days off from work and started to ignore Rohan’s messages and calls. I could sense his restlessness but I had to be the devil. I didn’t want a marriage to break because of me. I understand that there was no element of love and compatibility in his wedding. Why do parents and society force us to get married like this? Why spoil two lives at one shot? Why don’t they understand that life is not a straight line? Life is not a set timeline of milestones. It is okay if you don’t get married by 25 or 30 until you find compatibility and love. You are allowed to backtrack. You are allowed to figure out what inspires you. What is it with society’s need to fast-track relationships? A love bred out of convenience, a love that blossoms from the need to sleep beside someone, a love that caters to our need for attention rather than passion, is a love that will never inspire you. Why don’t parents and society let us strive to discover foundational love, the kind of relationship that motivates us to be a better person. Why aren’t we allowed to just wait to meet the person who makes our cells dance? I felt bad for Rohan, but I was helpless. I believe in second chances but I could not be his as I didn’t love him. Life suddenly seemed so complicated.
Rohan’s growing possessiveness was an indication for me to deliberately distance myself from him. I was being honest. I wanted to be clam and soft with my friend, yet stay assertive in my voice. Things at work started getting hampered as everything was visible to everyone’s eyes. With no other option left, I requested for a release from my project so that Rohan could mend his shattered self.
A month had already passed by and I found a new assignment. The fact that I will work from another floor made me all the more gratified. I had cut off myself from Rohan and was not a party to his calls and messages anymore.
One fateful morning first email I saw in my inbox was from Rohan, which read –
I am sorry for the turbulence I caused to you. Trust me; I never wanted you to land into a situation like this. More than anything, it hurts to lose a friend like you. I am not at peace with myself. I feel guilty and liberated at the same time. If I have to be with someone, it has to be you. But then the guilt of spoiling Amruta’s life kills me daily. I don’t know whether to try to achieve your love or live with her hatred forever. I have fallen into my own eyes. I never loved Amruta. She was not what I wanted. I love you, but can never win you. In either case, I lose.
So, this is to tell you that I am going away from Amruta’s and your life forever. It is probably not the best, but the only route available for me at the moment. I know I am being unfair and I do understand the amount of pain this decision will bring to everyone, but this is what it is.
Take good care and stay blessed.
My mind couldn’t comprehend the email well and I started painting my own assumptions about his decision. It was disturbing. I couldn’t concentrate on the tasks in hand. I was still engrossed in thinking about this situation when a colleague from the previous project called.
“Tanya, we are rushing to Rohan’s apartment. Do you want to join us?” she said terrified.
The world stopped for the moment, my senses were numb, and I was immovable. I was in a shock. I didn’t know what to do. My colleague told that Rohan had committed suicide that morning. He had already bid a bye to us.
I was at Rohan’s place in next hour and the domestic helper opened the door. He had called his parents and they were on their way from Nasik. Romel sat in the corner, completely aware of the tragedy that took place. I am sure even he wondered, why? There was blood on the floor and all around. Romel displayed some red stains as well. Next to Rohan’s body lay the blood stained knife that was used as a self-destruction weapon by him. The police was not informed as instructed by Rohan’s parents. Amruta was on her way to India. There were noises around but I could barely hear. I silently picked up the knife and walked out of Rohan’s apartment. The incessant flow of tears could be well seen in my eyes. I called the auto and headed straight to the Starbucks cafe. I didn’t know where else to go.
What made him do this? What made his family pressurize him to get married? What made him fall in love with me? What about Amruta? There were so many Whys and Whats running through my mind but answer to none. He had a whole life ahead of him that could have offered him a second chance as well.
“This is not done Rohan, just not done. Suicide is not a solution to any problem but facing life is. You left behind so much without caring for your loved ones. You left many scars for your family, Romel and me. You have left all of us shattered. Life is full of opportunities & probabilities; all that was needed is a little patience, courage & wisdom” I spoke to him in silence.
His smiling face kept flashing in front of my eyes as I sipped my coffee, staring outside the window with the blood stained knife covered with blue silk scarf in my handbag. The heavy downpour outside reminded me of how I misinterpreted rain as a good omen when I first landed in Pune.
A month later, I left the city for I could not bear this loss. One year was enough to teach me about corporate life, independence, love, friendship and life. I wrapped my ambition with the same knife in the blue scarf to start on a new journey, something of my own maybe. This knife will always question me if I should have saved a life or destroyed a marriage. I don’t know whether what I did was right or not, I was just truthful. I am sure with all that is left unsaid between Rohan and me, I will meet him someday… somewhere…in some ways.
RIP Rohan, will miss you.