Roshni was a thirteen year old school-going girl. She was a vivacious young girl, to say the least. Slightly different from the larger crowd, she buried herself in books, reading during her lunch break when other girls would be swapping tiffin-boxes with each other or gossiping away. She was different that way, but also very ordinary in many ways. She was a studious girl, and put immense pressure on herself for scoring well in tests, and in life. She had just stepped into her teens, and was beginning to understand the complex journey of the heart that she was going to undertake. She lived in a small town in the north-east part of India, living in a colony where everyone knew everyone. She studied in a convent school, with girls and boys and loved going to school.
One of the reasons why she loved going to school these days was because of this new guy called Rishi, who had recently moved to the same colony and school as hers. She was much too young to understand attraction and infatuation – God, she had probably heard of the word the very first time a few months ago. But, nevertheless, she was infatuated. She crushed on Rishi majorly, and her behavior with him was a testimony to that. She never got close to him, because at that time, boys and girls never spoke to each other like friends without inviting the stigma of being labelled boyfriend-girlfriend.
But her adoration was sacred. She would play romantic, mushy songs on her tape-recorder, the doors of her room firmly locked, as if, she didn’t want the outside world to infect her fantasy. She began writing in her diary, things that would make her blush, things that she dreamt of. All of thirteen, her creativity began to flow into her words, into the way she dressed up around him, and right into the dreamland within whose boundaries, she walked in and out of.
She felt like he did not reciprocate her feelings, otherwise, he would have called her, no? He spoke to her at sparse intervals in time, and as the years went by. They sure had an electric chemistry, only understood by those teenage years, where the idea of love was nothing but an illusion, immaturity reeking through every fantasy, but no one could question the integrity and the sanctity of what was felt.
And while the sanctity of her feelings were not to be questioned, her actions were. She became a bit insecure, with his lack of response, to the point where it began to sway her sense of right and wrong. She fell for peer pressure too, where every girl in her group had a crush on some boy, and she didn’t want to be left out. At the time, the biggest validation for a girl with an impressionable mind would be to be proposed by the guy in question, where he professes the same level of admiration for her – She didn’t want much, but when circumstances did not give her the pleasure she wanted, she began living in the fantasy world that she had created with so much aplomb, perfect in its entirety, innocent in its demeanor. She told all her friends that Rishi had proposed to her after all.
She purchased cards and beautiful paper, writing notes to herself and signing off as Rishi. It gave her immense pleasure, because her fantasy world was far more compelling than her reality. Even if it meant lying, what is a small lie in comparison to her heart that was now inflated with hope at all times?
After a couple of years, she left the town where she had spent the better part of her childhood, and moved to a big city. Even then, she kept up with her story. She bought herself a cassette and a card and told all her friends excitedly that Rishi still misses her and sent her gifts on Valentine’s Day. She still called on his landline number, sometimes hanging up immediately because of the instant butterflies she felt, and sometimes hung on for long enough to hear his voice, and hear him say the things she wanted to hear.
And then, snap, something shifted – Maybe she grew up – Something changed – She refused to live this dual life any longer. She slowly distanced herself from Rishi, although felt a twinge of pain every time she thought of him. She moved on in life and fast forward a few years, she found love, real love, the sort of love that set her free. She is very happy today.
Rishi was so pissed at the turn of events – He never wanted to live in this dingy small town, where there were no tall buildings like he had known, neither was there much to do. He was thirteen but was sharp, and easily bored. When he moved to his new school, he quickly managed to make his own inner circle, of friends, who were from a similar background. One of the first girls he noticed in school was Roshni, and he was smitten.
He did not know of her much, but even at that age, he found her to be someone with intellect, and someone who was well put together. She was everywhere – She was in his class, where he looked at her every now and then, between classes, between the summer heat and amidst the other sixty children. She was on his bus home, where she was unreachable, centered around her gang of girls, who were always giggling for some reason. She was in his colony, living very near to his house, her balcony adjacently overlooking his. She was in the dance functions, choreographing, dancing, all at once, while still managing to look like a dream.
He was a bit intimidated by her, her pseudo-confidence shook him a little bit. He found her to be way out of his league, maybe, even for casual friendship. She was unapproachable, her army of friends around her at all times, even when they went for their evening walks. He was sure that there were stolen glances, unspoken nothings and intangible entities brewing between them.
But he wasn’t sure enough. Maybe he was afraid of rejection. Or maybe he had fallen prey to peer pressure as well, as in those days, a boy asking a girl out was a matter of ego. Tough boys don’t fall in love. Tough boys don’t propose to their love interests.
When Roshni left town, he was momentarily devastated, as if it was an end of an era. He wasn’t sure if their paths would ever cross. He wasn’t sure if he would see her again, or have a first conversation with her.
He slept on it, and just like Roshni, time healed everything – He forgot her, or so he thought.
Fast forward a few years later, Roshni and Rishi got back in touch with each other. The wave of social media did not spare anyone their anonymous status. They spoke to each other like long lost friends, from another lifetime. Roshni did not have feelings of that magnitude for him any longer. But I guess he did. And equipped with maturity and better understanding of his own self, Rishi thought of finally confessing his feelings.
But I guess it was really too late.
Not too late to profess, but too late for anything to materialize.
She was with somebody, and was moving at a completely different direction in life.
She had left her duality, her insecurities and moved on to another chapter in her life, where she was still vivacious, but now accentuated with earth-shattering confidence that only true love could bring.
It is the satirical irony of life that, despite Roshni and Rishi feeling equally for each other at one time, did not speak up.
They held on to their acquitted emotions, not ever speaking of it, fearing the outcomes, fearing society and maybe fearing their own selves.
And there is nothing worse in life than regret – You must always say what you feel like, because, darling, who knows what could have been?
There are all sorts of love stories.
There are some that are unrequited.
And we romantics, dig unrequited love stories – Where love itself is not fulfilled – Where there is an underlying pain to love.
Some love stories are eternal, some are made into movies and some are spoken about by people even hundred years later.
This is my story about The Guy Who Was Too Late.