It Must have Been Love…

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“Hey Deepthy, listen to this. This is what the daily forecast says. Virgo: This morning is the strongest time of the day for you, as you will have a tremendous amount of love and romance in store for you. You have enough desire to tackle any problems. You have an important business meeting that you should rearrange for this afternoon.”
That is Divya. My flatmate and my best friend. She works with an advertising agency. She is also a Malayalee. We both met in college while doing our MBA. She has a boyfriend who is working in an IT Company. She goes and stays with him on weekends when his flatmates are not in town.
“Yes, as if whatever they write, comes true. Why do you waste your time everyday reading about zodiac signs and their daily forecast? Morning, I have an important meeting with a 50-year old NRI doctor and his wife. So I really don’t think there will be any love in store for me,” I said.
“What else is there to read in a newspaper other than news about some corrupt politicians, philandering ways of some Godman, how many nuclear warheads North Korea got and about people who wait for ache din, which was promised by one political party,” she said while turning the pages of that newspaper. “Hey wait, here is something that you might want to read. Superbike enthusiast crashes into the median, dies,” she said.
“Okay, Divya Maharani, I will try to come early today. You have to come with me to select sarees for my mom and my aunt.”
“Yes virgin Deepthy Devi, call me at lunch break and tell me whether that love and romance happened.”
“Get lost. What is wrong with you? Bye,” I said smiling at Divya.
I work in the sales department of a Construction company.
Reaching office, I sent a text message to Dr. Nateshan reminding of our meeting that day at 11:30 am. He replied confirming the meeting.
I got a WhatsApp message from my father informing me he had sent a mail. He wanted me to check the content he was going to add in a profile he had created for me on one of the matrimonial sites.
I read the mail.
“26-year old MBA Nair girl from Palakkad. Belongs to Nair community. Working in the sales department of a well-reputed construction company in Chennai. Height is 162 cms and her birth star is Vishakham.”
I replied saying that I was not sure about the usage of “belongs to Nair community” because he had used “Nair” it in the first sentence.
At 10:30, I got a text message from Dr. Natashen asking if it was possible to reschedule the meeting to 3:00 pm because some relatives dropped in unexpectedly and he may not be able to meet me at 11:30.
“Not a problem Sir. See you at 3:00 pm”. I replied
While having lunch, I remembered what Divya had told me in the morning after reading my horoscope. Is there any truth in that, I wondered because I had to rearrange the meeting from morning to after-noon. It could be a coincidence. What else could it be because there was no love and romance in store for me in the morning. The morning went with the usual team meeting and briefing by our manager about the upcoming projects.
I sent a WhatsApp message to Divya.
“You have got a black tongue. I had to reschedule the meeting to 3:00 pm!”
“Yes the thing you told me after reading my daily forecast, you moti.”
“Oh…. LOL. Its written honey. Better start believing.”
“Yep… Small issue with a client. Talk to you later. Bye!”
The meeting with Dr. Nateshan went well. He booked a 2BHK apartment on the 11th floor of The Pacific Heights, our new project.
On my way back, I stopped at Mario’s Café. It was 5:00 pm and there were only a few customers. Maybe because it was a weekday, I thought.
While waiting for the coffee, I heard a sound of something falling down outside the café. I turned to check what it was.
I saw a guy stepping out of the car and trying to lift my scooter which had fallen down.
“What happened,” I went outside and asked.
“Is this your scooter? I was trying to park my car and by mistake, it hit the scooter. I am really sorry.”
I took the rear view mirror which was lying on the pavement and tried to fix it back on the scooter handle. The mirror had cracks on it.
“I think its broken. I will buy you a new one. Hope there is no other damage to the scooter. Let me check,” he told.
“That’s okay. I don’t know the cost of a new one. Should be around 450 rupees. I will manage.”
“No. It’s my fault. Wait.” he opened his valet, pulled out a 500-rupee note and handed it to me.
He then parked the car and went inside the café.
While I was drinking my coffee, he came near my table.
“Hi, this is my card. If there is any other damage to the scooter, please give me a call. I can pay for any other spare part or repair charges.”
“Are you a student or working?”
“I am working.”
“Software field?” he asked
“No. Construction.”
“Which company?”
“S.R. Constructions.”
“Oh S.R… we supplied wooden floorings and carpets to your new project in Adyar. I know your purchasing manager Mr. Sentil Kumar.”
“Sorry… I don’t have much contact with the procurement department because my office is in Egmore. I am in sales. But yes, I have heard his name”
“Fine. Do call me if there is any other trouble with your scooter. Thanks. Bye,” he said and walked out of the café.
I watched as he reversed his car. I was scared if he would hit the scooter again.
I looked at his visiting card – ADNAN FLOORING Ltd., Azmat Ali Salman-Sales Manager, Alwarpet, Chennai.
That Friday evening, I travelled to Palakkad by train. I go to Palakkad once a month, for two days.
My parents are very conservative traditional South Indians. Visiting the temple every Saturday morning is a ‘must’ in my family. There are only two days in a month that I get nice vegetarian home cooked meals and coconut oil head massage, before bath.
Back in Chennai, the days were as usual. Neither boring nor exciting.
One day I got a text message from an unfamiliar number.
“Hi, hope there was no other problem with your scooter. Azmat (Accident… broken mirror… Mario’s café 🙂 ).
I pulled out Syed’s card from my bag and checked the number on it with the one I received a message from. It was same.
“No. All fine. Thanks,” I replied.
“Great,” he texted.
After two days, I got another SMS from him.
“Thank God. No maroon colour Honda Activa in the parking lot. I can have a coffee peacefully today”
I smiled reading that message but did not reply.
After one week I got another message from him saying, “These sausage rolls are so yummy. You get these only on Thursday’s at Mario’s.”
“Keep some money aside to visit a doctor for curing a stomach ache” I replied
“Why? 🙁 ”
“Because I am feeling so hungry, but stuck in meetings.”
“Oh! Can I ask someone to deliver it to your office?”
“No, no. Thanks. I am a vegetarian. By the way, who gave you my number?”
“I called your office and they gave me your name and number. I told them that I am a customer and you had come to meet me but I don’t remember your name. So they asked whether it was Nisha or Deepthy. I told them that girl came to my office in a maroon colour scooter.”
“You do this to all the people you meet?”
“I mean, lying and getting contact numbers?”
“I just wanted to say hello to you… so I did that… :)”
“Bye. Enjoy your sausage roll. I have to go. I am busy.”
“Bye 🙁 ,” he replied.
That night I thought about Syed. I was rude to him. I wanted to send a text message and say I did not mean to offend him. But it was already 10:15 pm. Not an appropriate time to send an SMS, I thought.
The next day at lunch break, I messaged him… “How is your tummy. What did the doctor say?”
I got a reply, one hour later…
“Hi, sorry… I was in the mosque. Friday prayers. So far no trouble. Maybe because you are a vegetarian… :). How are you? How many people did you trap today?”
“I mean, that’s what salespeople do right? Give false promises and offers to make people sign the contract and sale deed.”
“Ah! I suspect you are writing from your experience… 😉 . Sales manager’s put pressure on sales associates and customer service executives to close the deal and make profits right? “
“Hmm… you are right. We do that occasionally”
“okay then. Take care” I said
“Wait. Are you free in the evening? or do you have field visit or something? I am getting bored. I am going to Mario’s café.”
“Lucky Sales Managers. They can go out of their office anytime without informing anyone. I have to prepare for tomorrow’s crucial sales meeting. Trying to close this sale since October. You enjoy. Bye”
“Okay… 🙂 .”
At 4:30 pm, I sent a text message to him…
“Where? At Mario’s?”
“Yes 🙂 ”
“What’s today’s special?”
“Nothing… Umm… I think vegetable spring roll. I just ordered one coffee.”
“Vegetable spring roll? I will go there on my way back home and have it. I like their spring rolls.”
“Why can’t you come now? Am I the problem?”
“No… I’m not sure when I can get out of the office. So why to waste your time?”
“Oh… that way… not an issue. I have no other plans today. I will wait.”
“Okay. I should reach there by 5:30.”
“Okay… 🙂 .”
We spoke about work, family background, likes dislikes etc.
He told his parents are Bengalis, settled in Mumbai.
“Adnan is great. I love him”, he said.
“Who? Adnan Sami the singer?” I asked.
“No… My brother Adnan. He is the Arts Club secretary of the Khalid Amin College of Engineering. He is 22 now, nine years younger to me”, he said.
I found it rather unusual for a Muslim boy to stay unmarried till he was 31 years of age. He told me that he was supposed to get married to a girl 4 years ago but due to some issue, it did not work out the way he had planned it.
I loved the way he spoke. He had a cute smile, and I noticed his dimples when he smiled. He was lean and tall.
He asked me about my parents and relatives. He was familiar with places in Kerala because he had clients in Cochin and Calicut.
In between our talks, he asked me what time I normally sleep by, and I said 11 pm.
Only then did I looked at my watch. It was 8:45 pm already!
“Oh, I was thinking it’s only 7 pm! I have to go now”, I said.
Before leaving I extended my hand to give him a handshake. Instead, he gave me a hug and a peck on my cheeks. It all happened in a flash and I didn’t know how to react or what to do.
“Thanks for coming I really enjoyed talking to you. Ride carefully,” he said while he walked with me towards my scooter.
After reaching my apartment, I thought about the things we talked. No one had made such an impression on me the way he did today. He was humble and caring. I could make out that he was very religious from the way he spoke about the Ramadan fasting and how he told that it was his duty to buy goats for Eid, etc.
He sent text messages whenever he could. Within a week, we became very close. Thursday is the day I visit new customers, so it was easy for me to get out of the office and meet him around 5 or 6 pm, after the customer visits.
We met in the parking lot of shopping malls, Besant Nagar beach, and cafes.
One Thursday, we went for a long drive in his car. I enjoyed his company. He would make me laugh. I felt happy. I never felt he belonged to another religion or culture.
He never told me that he loved me but he always said he ‘likes’ me.
I have never been in love before, so I don’t know whether this was love or not, but I felt different when I was with him, or when I think about him.
I never told Divya about Azmat. Knowing her, I was sure that she would never encourage the idea of me being in a relationship with a Muslim boy. So I tried to keep it a secret and kept my mobile on silent mode, whenever I was at home.
Four months after I first met him in Mario’s, I invited him to my apartment on a Sunday for breakfast.
Divya had gone to Mahabalipuram with her boyfriend for a two-day trip.
After having the breakfast, we watched TV for some time.
While leaving, he turned and hugged me. I hugged him back. I pressed my face to his chest and hugged him tight.
He lifted my face and looked into my eyes and kissed my forehead.
“Take care. I have to go now,” he said.
I wanted to tell him to stay with me for some more time, but couldn’t.
Monday morning, 8 am I got a message from him.
“I am going to Mumbai urgently. I will contact you when I come back”.
He did not message me for 6 days. I was missing him badly but didn’t call or message thinking he would be busy with his parents.
Saturday evening, I got a message from him.
“Where are you?”
“Hi, where were you? Why did you not message? I am in front of the ICICI ATM, near my apartment”.
“Wait, I will reach there in 10 minutes.”
“Hey, I have to go back and prepare dinner.”
“On my way, I have something important to tell you. Give me 5-10 minutes.”
What could be so important that he wanted to tell me in person? Did he speak to his parents about me? But then, we never discussed anything about our relationship…
I waited impatiently for him.
His stopped the car near me.
“Get in!”
“Hi, how was the Mumbai trip,” I asked, after sitting inside his car.
He parked the car near a playground.
“Is everything alright”, I asked looking at his sad unshaven face; which I had never seen before.
“Deepthy, I don’t know how to tell you this, I will not contact you again…”
I was shocked hearing that… Or, maybe I was not prepared to hear that. I didn’t know what to say…
“You wanted me to wait, to tell me this? Are we in a committed relationship or something?” I opened the door, stepped out of the car and walked towards an auto rickshaw which was parked nearby.
“Please wait. Let me explain… Look, you will get yourself into trouble if you get close to me… Please… Let me explain,” he said.
“I getting close to you? Wow… Great! How convenient! I know how guys are. Leave me alone, please”, I said and got into the auto rickshaw.
I could hear him say in a very low voice, “I am sorry. I am sorry…”
Divya was not there when I reached the apartment. I went to the bedroom and laid on my bed.
After some time, Divya came home.
“So what are we going to make for dinner,” she asked.
“No. I am not hungry. I want to sleep early today. Feeling tired.”
“Are you sure?
“Yes… I want to sleep.”
“Okay,” she said and closed my bedroom door.
Lying there, I thought, how could someone do this to me?
Like love, I was experiencing the pain of rejection for the first time in my life. He made me happy for a brief period and now, he gave me so much pain.
I don’t deserve this humiliation and rejection. What was my mistake? Trusting him? Loving him? I asked myself. I couldn’t control my tears.
The next day when I woke up, I saw Divya reading the newspaper in the living room.
“Good morning,” I said.
“Good morning. Kept some tea for you.”
“What are you reading?” I asked, looking at her reading with such a serious face.
“I am reading about some religious fanatics and what all they do. It’s crazy.”
“What happened now,” I asked sipping my tea.
“Read”, she said and gave me the sheet of ‘The Sunday World’ she was reading.
I looked at the heading…
Rise in Love Jihad cases in India
The latest case of Love Jihad was reported from Mumbai last week. A 22-year old final year student and Arts Club Secretary of a reputed engineering college in the city, Adnan Ali Salman, was arrested in Mumbai after two cases of abduction and rape was filed against him.
I stopped reading for a moment. ‘Oh my God! This is Azmat’s brother’, I thought.
‘Was it because of this that he went to Mumbai urgently? Was this the reason why he did not contact me while he was in Mumbai? Was this the reason that he told me that he won’t contact me again?’
‘Is he, trying to protect me and keep me away from all these mess? Did he really love me? Or was he playing with my emotions?’

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