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Authors: Ravinder Singh

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I Too Had a Love Story

BOOK: I Too Had a Love Story
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RAVINDER SINGH
I Too Had a Love Story

PENGUIN BOOKS

I TOO HAD A LOVE STORY

Ravinder Singh is a bestselling author.
I Too Had a Love Story
, his debut novel, is his own story that has touched millions of hearts.
Can Love Happen Twice?
is Ravinder’s second novel. After spending most of his life in Burla, a very small town in western Orissa, Ravinder has finally settled down in Chandigarh. He is an MBA from the renowned India School of Business and is presently working with a prominent multinational company. Ravinder loves playing snooker in his free time. He is crazy about Punjabi music and loves dancing to its beat. The best way to contact Ravinder is through his official fan page on Facebook. You can also write to him at
[email protected]
or visit his website
www.RavinderSinghOnline.com
.

Dedicated to
The loving memory of the girl whom I loved, yet could not marry.
Tere jaane ka asar kuch aisa hua mujh par,
tujhe dhoondate dhoondate, maine khud ko paa liya …

– Anonymous

… Otherwise, I wouldn’t have come across an author in me.

Praise for
I Too Had a Love Story

‘In his book, Singh has beautifully portrayed various emotions of life and love, its trials and tribulations, victory and defeat’


The Indian Express

The past tense in the title is intriguing, as is the dedication: “To the loving memory of the girl whom I loved, yet could not marry.” Ravinder’s narrative is compelling, his emotions reflect a felt experience, and the denouement is touching. His tribute to the girl he loved will touch many a heart’


The Tribune

‘Ravinder’s debut novel promises to strike a chord with the readers. While this poignant tale might not make you smile at the end, it will strengthen your belief in the fact that love stories are eternal’


The Times of India

‘The story is poignant and also real. Full credit goes to the writer, Ravinder Singh, who keeps the story focused. Everything is real in the book. The people, places and especially how they interact with one another. The book narrates a very important chapter in Ravin’s life, but not without the message that the show must go on’


Metro News

‘They say, don’t cry because it’s over but instead smile because it happened. This inherent hope and optimism is what this book embodies. As we accompany Ravin on his journey to find happiness, we go through a range of emotions. From initial excitement to elation, from contentment to anticipation, despair to devastation and finally a sense of resurrection, we see it all through Ravin’s eyes.
I Too Had a Love Story
is a simple story of love, about trysts of destiny that make up life as we know it. I commend Ravin on having the courage to share something so personal with the world.’

—Anupam Mittal, CMD and founder,
Shaadi.com

‘Simple, honest and touching’

—N.R. Narayana Murthy

Not everyone in this world has the fate to cherish the fullest form of
love. Some are born, just to experience the abbreviation of it.

Days pass by somehow

But nights now are a wagon of pain

Injuries may heal with time

But marks will always remain

Restless on my comfortable bed

I toss and turn and try to sleep

But thoughts are bulking my head

And have formed a huge heap

The past is flashing its scorching light beams

Tearing me apart, breaking me at the seams

The darkness of my life is more visible in the dark

And now I am trying to give it a voice, trying to speak my heart

Reunion

I remember the date well: 4 March 2006. I was in Kolkata and about to reach Happy’s home. I had been very excited all morning as I was going to see our gang of four after three years. After our engineering, this was the first time when all of us—Manpreet, Amardeep, Happy and I—were going to be together. During our first year in the hostel, Happy and I were in different rooms on the fourth floor of the Block-A building. Being on the same floor, we were acquaintances but I never wanted to interact with him. I didn’t think him to be ‘a good guy’ because of his fondness for fights and the red on his mark sheet. But, unfortunately, I was late in getting back to the hostel at the beginning of the second year and almost all the rooms were already allotted by then. I was not left with any choice other than becoming Happy’s roommate. And because life is weird, things changed dramatically and, soon, we became the best of buddies. The day our reunion was scheduled, he had been working with TCS for two years and was enjoying his onsite project in London. Happy was blessed with a height of 6’1”, a good physique and stunning looks.

And Happy was always happy. Manpreet, or MP as we called him, is short-statured, fair and healthy.

The reason I use the word ‘healthy’ is because he will kill
me if I use the proper word—‘fat’—for him. He was the first among us to get a computer in the hostel and his machine was home to countless computer games. In fact, this was the very reason Happy and I wanted to be friends with him. MP was quite studious. He had even cracked the Maths Olympiad in his school days, and was always boasting about it. His native place was Modinagar but, at the time of this reunion, he was working with Ocwen in Bangalore.

Amardeep has been baptized ‘Raamji’ by MP. I don’t know when he got this weird nickname or why, but it was probably because of his simple, sober nature. Unlike the rest of us at the hostel, he was not at all a night person and his room’s light would go off precisely at 11 p.m. At times, MP, Happy and I used to stand outside his room a few seconds before 11 and begin to count down, ‘10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … and Raamji has gone down.’ The only mysterious thing about Amardeep was that he used to go somewhere on his bicycle, every Sunday. He never told us where he went. Whenever we tried to follow him, somehow he would know and would digress from his path to shake us off. Even today, none of us knows anything about it. The best thing about the guy, though, is his simplicity. And, very importantly, he was the topper in the final semester of our Engineering batch. He made our group shine. He belonged to Bareilly and was working with Evalueserve when he, along with MP, flew to Kolkata for the reunion.

After college, all of us were pretty much involved in our stereotypical lives. One day, we found out that Happy was coming back from London for two weeks. Everybody was game for a reunion. ‘Happy’s place in Kolkata, 4 March 2006,’ we decided.

Finally, on the scheduled date, I was climbing the stairs to Happy’s apartment two steps at a time. It was about 12.30 in the afternoon when I knocked on his door. His mom opened it and welcomed me in.

As I had often been there, she knew me well. For me, Happy’s house never meant too many formalities. I was having some water when she told me that Happy was not at home and his cell was switched off.

‘Wow! And he asked me not to be late,’ I murmured to myself.

A little later, there was another knock on the door. I got up from my chair to open it, as Happy’s mom was in the kitchen. I pulled it open to shouts of, ‘Oh … Burrraaaaahhhh … Dude … Yeah … Huhaaaaaaaaa … Ohaaaaaaaaaa!’

No, it wasn’t Happy. MP and Amardeep had arrived.

Seeing your college friends after three years is so crazy and exciting that you don’t even realize you are at someone else’s place where you should show some manners and be polite. Then again, the very purpose of this reunion was to recall our college days and this was the perfect start. While we made ourselves comfortable on the sofas in the drawing-room, MP asked about Happy’s whereabouts.

‘He’s not on time in his own home,’ I said looking at MP and we laughed again.

For the next half hour or so, the three of us talked, laughed and made fun of each other while eating lunch made by Happy’s mother. Yes, we started our meal without Happy. This might not sound decent, but we had genuine reason—nobody could predict his arrival, so there was no point in waiting.

A little later, there was another knock. Happy’s mom opened the door.


Happy veeeeeeeer!
’ MP shouted, getting up from the dining chair.

Amardeep and I stared at each other. It seemed as if MP was going to shed tears as he hugged Happy. We remembered how these guys used to cry during their long boozing sessions, when their brains switched off and their hearts started speaking.
Amardeep and I used to enjoy our Coke, while seeing them getting senti.

We all stood up to hug him and as soon as that was done, we continued our lunch. Happy also joined us. The food that day was very tasty. Or maybe it was just because we were having lunch together after so long and that made it special.

After lunch, we moved to another flat, a few floors above, in the same building. This was the second flat which Happy’s family owned, and was meant for relatives and friends like us. We were laughing at one of MP’s jokes while moving in, and were probably still laughing as we fell on the giant couch in the drawing room—upside down—legs on the couch and our torsos on the floor, arms spread across and facing the ceiling; we made ourselves comfortable.

Nobody said anything for a few moments. And then it started again with Happy’s big laugh. I guess he remembered some incident involving Raamji.

That evening, the four of us in that flat were having an amazing time. Talking about our past and present. About those not-so-goodlooking girls in college. About the porn we used to watch on our computer. About our experiences abroad and many other things.

‘So which one did you like more, Europe or the States?’ Happy asked me, getting up.

‘Europe,’ I replied, still lying down and looking at the ceiling.

‘Why?’ Amardeep asked. He always needed to find out the reason behind everything (though he never gave any reason for not telling us where he went every Sunday, during our hostel days).

‘Europe has a history. The languages change when you leave one country and move to another. The food, the art and architecture, fabulous public transport, the scenic beauty, everything is just wonderful in Europe,’ I tried to explain.

‘You did not see all this in the US?’

‘Some things, like public transport, are not that good in comparison to Europe. You and your car are the only options in most of the states, New York being an exception. You won’t hear as many languages as you get to hear in Europe. I mean the US is damn advanced but still, I would prefer Europe to the States.’

Amardeep nodded and this meant his questions had ended.

‘This is the best thing about IT jobs, Amardeep. We get to visit different places which we never dreamt of during our college days,’ MP said to Amardeep. After college MP, Happy and I joined IT firms, while Amardeep joined the KPO industry. He had never liked the hardcore software business.

We were glad to be together again, finally, after the farewell night in college and we kept talking for hours that afternoon. We were planning an outing for the evening when we realized how tired we were and how badly we needed a little rest … I don’t remember which one of us fell asleep first, that afternoon.

‘Wake up, you asses. It’s already 6.30.’

Someone was struggling to get us out from our utopia of dreams. In the hostel, Amardeep was the first among us to wake up and, of course, the only one to wake up others. So we knew that it was our early-morning Amardeep.

Still, how can somebody thumping your door to get you out of bed be pleasant? We human beings have such a weird nature—while asleep, we hate the person who is trying to wake us up, but once we are awake, we tend to love that same person because he did the right thing. As usual, Amardeep was successful in his endeavor. It was 7 in the evening.

This was the first time Amardeep and MP had come to the city, so we decided to explore the streets of Kolkata. Fortunately our host possessed two bikes—his own Pulsar and his younger
brother’s Splendor. We got ready and pulled out the bikes from the garage. MP and I got on the Splendor, Happy and Amardeep on the Pulsar.

We crossed the river Hooghly, over the Vidya Sagar Setu, shouting and talking to each other. Speed-breakers couldn’t break our speed that evening. And where were we? On cloud number nine. Being with your best buddies after such a long time is, at once, sentimental and thrilling.

We went to the Victoria Memorial and few other places. At times, we got down to have some fruit-juice. At times, we halted to enjoy Kolkata’s famous snacks and sweets. At times, we got down because one of us wanted to pee—which initiated a chain-reaction among the rest of us.

We were at some place, enjoying ice-tea in an earthen cup, when MP asked, ‘When do we need to get back home?’ It was already 10.30.

‘No worries. I have the keys for the flat upstairs. We can go any time we want. Hopefully, we will not move in before 1,’ Happy said, finishing his ice-tea down to the last drop.

‘And where are we going to be till then?’ Amardeep was concerned.

Amardeep and his 11 p.m. sleeping time, I remembered, but didn’t bring it to the others’ notice.

Happy looked at me and asked with a smile, ‘Shall we go to the same place?’

‘Oh! That one …?’ Before MP’s dirty brain-cells could start thinking something filthy, I tried to clear the picture. ‘Gentlemen! We are going to a very cool place now, and I bet both of you will find it …’

I was trying to finish when MP became impatient and cut me off, ‘Oh yes. I heard that Chandramukhi was from West Bengal. So, are we guys planning to …?’ His wicked smile and naughty eyes completed the question.

‘You’re nuts,’ Happy said, laughing.

‘Don’t think too much, MP. Just follow us,’ I added.

Without revealing any more, we were back on our bikes, driving to our destination.

It wasn’t yet midnight when we reached the place. The air here was a little colder. At first glance it looked as if we were in the slums. There was a run-down garage which was shuttered. Some trucks were parked outside. Their drivers were probably sleeping. We parked our bikes beside one of the trucks and walked through a small street to the right of the garage. The place was badly lit and utterly silent. Our voices and footsteps rang out loudly. The sounds of insects added to the eeriness of the place. MP heard a pack of dogs barking somewhere nearby. I don’t know if he really heard them, though. Maybe it was just his poor heart, beating loudly.

‘Shhh! They will wake up,’ said Happy with a finger on his lips.

‘Who?’ Amardeep whispered.

‘There are people sleeping on the ground ahead. Watch your step,’ Happy said.

‘People! Sleeping on the road?’ Amardeep slowed down. They were local fishermen. Some were sleeping and some were hung-over from home-made liquor.

Suddenly, the street ended in a wooden channel. This was a staircase-like structure going down, and we could hear a dull sound, like that of water beating against the shore. We stepped on this channel leaving behind the insect-sounds.

In a few seconds, we were at our destination.

It was the river Hooghly, and we were standing at its bay. Amardeep’s and MP’s fear turned into delight.

‘This is the Launch Ghat and, right now, we are in Howrah. This is the point from where the ferry takes you to the other side: Kolkata city,’ Happy announced, pointing across the river.

In our excitement, we jumped onto the wooden harbor-like structure, from the channel. Surrounding this harbor on three sides was the river in its perfect velocity. It was a beautiful night, with the moon overhead and the stars shining bright. And beneath this sky, the four of us!

We sat down beside one of the giant anchors in a corner of the harbor. The river raced against the cool breeze to meet the Bay of Bengal. In the silence, the sound of water hitting the harbor was crystal clear. On the other side of the river was Kolkata. The tall buildings and the chain of tiny, yellow lights reminded me of the New York skyline. But this was much better, just because I was with my friends now.

With our arms wide open, we breathed deep and long, inhaling the fresh, chill air, still intoxicated by the beauty of this place. That was when Happy spoke up.

‘So?’ he asked, looking at Amardeep.

‘What?’ Amardeep asked in return, not understanding Happy’s ‘So.’

‘So, how is this place, dammit?’

‘Oh! This place? I cannot think of a better place than this. This is heaven.’

And then, again, a cool breeze blew, embracing us. We lay down on the harbor.

That was when the discussion started. A serious discussion; a discussion that changed my life. It started with another ‘So’.

‘So?’ Amardeep asked this time, looking at Happy.

‘What?’ Happy asked, raising his chin.

‘What’s the next important thing?’ Amardeep asked.

‘You mean dinner?’ MP jumped in.

‘No, I mean the next important thing in life. Schooling—done. Engineering—done. Getting a good job—done. Going abroad—done. Bank balance—in progress. What’s the next milestone?’

‘Ah! I know what you’re talking about,’ Happy nodded. ‘Ask him,’ he said, pointing his already raised chin towards me.

Everyone looked at me.

‘I don’t know what’s going on in your life and family, but my mom and dad are going crazy. They’re after me like you wouldn’t believe. Don’t I make a good bachelor?’ I said.

‘The story is the same everywhere. We poor bachelors,’ MP said trying to be funny.

‘I am serious, MP,’ Amardeep said.

‘So, have you or your family fixed something?’ I asked him.

‘No. My story is just like yours. But the fact is that, one day, we’ll have to settle down with a life-partner. How long can we ignore our parents’ questions? They too have expectations, wishes and dreams for us.’

BOOK: I Too Had a Love Story
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