Oh, Nana, do tell me about your childhood! I don’t know much about it.”
“Kiddo, are you trying to make a man on his deathbed, reminisce?”
“Maybe… I just want you to cheer up at the thought of your youthful days, that’s all… I hate seeing you so glum.”
“Ah, my darling. Well, alright. I won’t go too much into detail, though. You know where I was born and all of that; but I do feel the need to tell you this particular story.”
“Alright, I’m all buckled up!”
“I was a very, very talkative child. I-“
“Ha-ha, really Nana? That seems really hard to imagine.”
“ (Deep breath) Please don’t interrupt, my child. It’s tough to keep an ongoing chain of thought static, at this age.”
“Sorry, Nana. Do continue.”
“Where was I? See? You made me for- …. Ah, yes. I was talkative. You see, at that time, we didn’t have “groupies” shenanigans like you all have. We were one big and close-knit group and I used to be the life of it! I used to be the official narrator and spokesperson of our humble circle… till the time there were no girls in it.”
“Why is that?”
“I used to be… shy. I would see a girl and the opposite passage or corridor would become my chosen part if I could help it, and when my friends would interact with them, I would just go mum. Not a word would come out of me.
My friends would tell me that – in your lingo – they thought that I was under the impression of being too cool for them, or that I was a male chauvinist pig! But, I certainly wasn’t one, nor did I think of them as inferior beings. In fact, the truth is, I think I used to get intimidated by them! ‘Mean Girls’ had just released around that time, and my sister made me watch it… oh boy, what that did to my fear and apprehensions about interacting with the girls.”
“Wow, Nana… I don’t know if I should laugh or not.”
“See? This is exactly what I am saying! I used to not speak due to the fear of them, judging me or mocking me…”
“Did you regret it?”
“You seem to have a knack for asking the most appropriate questions. Well, a new girl had joined the school after the summer of 2004. She was not exactly beautiful, but she was beautiful! She did not have “doe-eyes”, but her eyes were always so captivating; they used to brim with passion. Her hair was lovely; it was like a waterfall of silk and satin. Her honey-coloured skin always looked baby-soft…”
“You sound so lyrical when you talk about her!”
“Well, maybe her memories bring out the poet in me, eh?
Anyway, so she was, amazing inside out.”
“But like I said, I was shy in front of girls. We were around 15 when I realised that I was madly in love with her. I had drowned in her consuming eyes, and I longed to run my fingers through her velvety auburn hair.”
“I was new to the feeling of butterflies in my stomach and the heart-flutters, but I was still the same shy boy. I never spoke to any girl; it was always with my boys. I was known as the “overactive guy who goes silent in front of girls”. Well, it was the truth, so I couldn’t refute it. Whenever she, or any other girl, asked me or spoke to me about something, they would only get monosyllabic words out of this man.
The point of me telling you this is that, I never got around to telling her. I never managed to summon up even a little bit of guts and courage, to tell her about my feelings for her. That is the biggest regret of my life. I should have just said it. I should have been gutsy, like your Rohan uncle, who is still happily married to his childhood sweetheart. Aryana was MY childhood sweetheart.
“Is that why you never married?”
“Yes, I didn’t want to be with anyone but her. It does sound funny, I admit, that I wanted to be with someone who I never had the guts to even speak to! You can laugh now, go ahead.”
“Oh, no Nana. I don’t know what to say. I wish I had been there, in some form, to put some sense into you. Where she is now?”
“I have no idea. She moved away in 2007 and we didn’t keep in touch after that. Facebook came, but no one could ever find her there too. She was never into social media and all of that, she liked to keep it real.”
“And you didn’t; at least not with her.”
“No, I didn’t. Pass me my wallet.”
She gives it to him. He puts his fingers in, searches around, and takes out a photo.
“She’s gorgeous, Nana. Where did you get this photo?”
“When she moved away, I used to cross her house quite often. I saw this lying out the window! I remember, my happiness knew no bounds that day.”
“Nana, oh, why didn’t you just tell her?”
“I couldn’t. Anyway, life moved on. College came and got over. I got a job and adopted your mummy, which was the best decision of my life. Your mother is the best daughter in this whole wide world.”
“She is! I agree, that was the best decision of your life. You wouldn’t have been privileged to meet an awesome person like me if you hadn’t taken mummy under your wings.
But, do you know what the worst decision of your life was? NOT TELLING ARYANA THAT YOU LOVED HER!”
“Kiddo, stop it! I chide myself for it every single day. Nothing can be done now. I know you won’t let me live that down; well, I don’t have many days left anyway, eh? So, good for me.
Also, its love, not loved. I still love her with all my heart and will continue to do so, till my last breath.”
“Oh, Nana! This isn’t fair.”
“Life isn’t fair.”
“It’s all your fault.”
“I KNOW! Now let me sleep, I am very t… oh… OH… Mishi, call the doc… oh… I can’t breathe… oh…”
“Nana? NANA? HANG ON! NANA!”
Mishika’s Nana passed away that day.
He woke up a few hours later, and found himself surrounded by fluffy clouds.
“So heaven really does exist! Wow…”
He turned around and couldn’t believe his eyes. It was Aryana. HIS Aryana. His childhood sweetheart.
“Welcome to Heaven.”
“When did you get here?”
“Oh, two years ago.”
“You know, for the first time, you’ve spoken to me in more than just a word.”
“Well, I decided that it was about high time we changed that, didn’t we?”
“So, how have you been?”
Their conversations resonated within and around Heaven, and they made up for all the lost time. When they were getting ready for their rebirth, he prayed for only one thing – to not be the “overactive boy who goes silent in front of girls”, so that he and Aryana could have endless conversations in their next life, along with humanly pleasures.
Sketch By: Divyank Sinha