The rain crackles like a log fire. I sit in the old brown armchair with her notebook on my lap, half shut and half read, peering out through the drenched pane. The citylights are colorful fuzzy specks on my window glass, and the city itself, the lively, incessant, immortal city, a quiet frozen artwork on my door glass. I watch the torrents, and I think about the book and about friendship and love and about her and me and us, and that’s when it all starts to come back, the downpour of that monsoon….
We used to be the oddballs of our class. Me, an arrogant over achieving dork, and she, a quiet lost underdog. She wasn’t the most beautiful girl you’d see, nor was she the dumbest. Almond eyes, oval face, and hair done in ponies, always in ponies – she wasn’t a cindrella or a Snow white, yet something about her hooked me right from day 1. The brown bag that was the same shade as her irises, the slow relaxed steps of her walk, the way she said ‘electrolysis’ – I don’t know, but there was that something which you never understand but always feel.
I was in my IITJEE phase those days. It was the exam I lived for. Computer Science from IITDelhi, get a job at microsoft or google, MBA from Cambridge, earn till 40s, settle in Paris, live the dream – it was my plan. I knew I could do that. Piles of certificates on my shelf would say that. I didn’t have a girl or a love story in my bucket list. Love – I’d made myself believe that – was an over secretion of Dopamine.
It was the morning of July. It was falling in buckets. The sky roared like the day of apocalypse. I walked out of the house 40 minutes before the Assembly bell, knowing most of the students would not come. As I reached the classroom, there she was, slouched over her desk, scribbling something in her notebook. She shut that as soon as she saw me.
“Is that a secret diary or something? “I asked. “Are you working for ISIS? “I joked, wondering if she even knew what ISIS was. I had a sudden hankering to teach her the whole Islamist history that I read on my train journy to Nainital.
“Nothing. “She said.
“Are you always this quiet? ”
“Are you always this talkative? ”
“Just Curious. ”
She thought for a while, turned her eyes sideways, as if to check it was a safe place, and said,
“A story. ”
That’s all I could know. We talked, dated, fell in love, made out, but she never told me what’s it about. Everytime I asked her about the notebook she had the same answer – a story.
I got into IITDelhi. She had 68.2% in XII board. For once in my life, just for a tiny moment, I didn’t want to get into IIT anymore. I wanted to stay around this girl, who did crazy things with my mind and wrote a secret story that nobody knew.
We kept talking and it was going okay. But studies kept me busy and the conversations started to become monotonous. Then one day, it stopped. The calls went unanswered and the messages didn’t come back. I didn’t try much either.
The notebook arrived this monsoon. Swathed in a turquoise wrapping paper whose shine had faded away with time, and the ribbons flanked by dust, it seemed like the old treasure you recover from your storehouse. It’d been 3 years of our separation, and I never went home (projects, internship, seminar, workshops) and all I remembered about her was her bag, her slow relaxed steps, and the way she said ‘electrolysis’. And the notebook.
The notebook it was.
Nothing romantic. No diary with details of her fetishes, no love letters to shiny armoured knights, no poems of tragedy or love.
It had one line accounts of her days. I flicked through the pages, looking for some letters stashed in between, but all I found was one sentence on every page, till the half.
I didn’t know what to do with it, and why she had sent it after all this time. I also wondered if she was okay. Oh! How I missed her after seeing the notebook!
I thought maybe she wanted to get back into a relationship. I had no problem, I just had to find her number.
I dialled her number and it said unavailable. I asked my schoolfriends and they asked theirs and nothing came out.
I started reading the notebook.
‘My mother died when I was 2. ‘The first page read. I never knew that. I knew she was dead but never knew it was so early. My heart shook all of a sudden. How much of her did I even know?
I started reading it. The sentences, and each of those, revealed something I didn’t know about her. It may have been a story, but it was so real.
I shall go to Paris once.
I wanted it to rain longer today.
His smile is infectious.
Life’s good. ☺
And that’s it. That’s the half of the notebook.
I look back at it, the smiley beside ‘Life’s Good’ and wonder what’s coming next.
The next page says
How are you?
And the rest of the notebook is blank…