Cry tough…(short story)

For Bishu,

Bishu , I don’t think we’ve met and though we can never meet, I feel I’ve known you forever. This write up is for you. I’m sure you would have liked it.

Love,

Anonymous.

CRY TOUGH

It was one dark phase in our lives; Ponkhi’s and mine. Disillusioned by love, we spent our days sharing “all men are dogs” anecdotes. And then, as in the fairy tales papa used to tell me, we were rescued by our respective knights in shining armour. We found solace in the arms of men who were hitherto our friends. Bishwadeep developed feelings for Ponkhi, and Justin’s music bailed me out of my Godforsaken love life. But this story is not about Justin and me or Ponkhi and me. In fact, I don’t know what it is about. What I know very well is that it’s a story which needs to be told.

I don’t remember who fell for whom first; it’s inconsequential anyway. Ponkhi and Bishu had a rocking relationship. He seemed just the right choice for her. I called her religiously to share who my current flame was! She, on the other hand, seemed only to contented with Mr. B. I really thought she was going to settle with him. Which also made things tough for me. I had to compose mushy lines (she knew I wrote sometimes) or poems for her, so that she could pass them over to him as her own. Blackmailing her about this did not work. It was not her Achilles’ heel, not writing. Ponkhi was proud she could not sweet talk. “I can’t!” Period.

Naturally, they fought too. On one particular instance, she called me up saying she wanted to come over to my place. Not a problem, of course. Save for the fact that I still hadn’t cooked my lunch, could she drop by a little later? Half an hour, perhaps? No, she can’t wait that long, she had had a row with Bishu a moment ago and staged a walk out. She had to go somewhere! Girls!

We girls do this all the time. We sulk, refuse to reply to messages, get indifferent or sometimes, get off the car abruptly. Which is what Madame had just done. But there’s a catch here. We always secretly look forward to our men cajoling us to go back to them. But we don’t want them to telephone us right away. Let us be in a mood for a day at least. And then leave a voice mail. Nine out of ten, you’ll have us drooling over you.

 That day, when an aghast Ponkhi got off Bishu’s car, he made no effort to stop her. It’s so easy to see why she loved him the way she did.

And then there were birthdays. And birthdays. The shameless female that she was, she would not gift Bishu anything and be amazingly candid about being broke. Not just that, she would go a step further by advising him to follow suit. You might find this weird but I daresay you can gauge the compatibility level of a college going couple by keeping an eye on their gifting habits. Not how often. How seldom. In my four years and eight months with Akhilesh, I gifted him one Nike cap!

Sometimes, though not always, a man does change. He reaches out. He has dreams. He disciplines himself, crops his hair short, updates his wardrobe and gives job interviews. When all he’s wanting to say is, “Hope you’re proud of me, girl”. Bishu must’ve felt fantastic doing these for his girl. She too must have felt worthwhile, complete. I sometimes think, none of the dozen odd men I’ve dated, ever tried to change me. Maybe they loved me for what I am. Recklless. Or maybe, none of them ever loved me at all. As for Ponkhi, she would go on and on about how Bishu was gradually growing into a responsible young man, how he’d come to terms with the fact that if he were to have a future with her, he would have to earn it. Otherwise, they’ll have to forget all about it. I told you, she’s er..rather candid!

But knowing her, I bet she would have stayed by him anyway.

He lived in bangalore. Sex, consequently, was infrequent. But whenever they met, they made up for it. Once Ponkhi checked into a Paharganj Inn with him. They did not walk out of the room for 3 days straight!

How do you measure love? How do you know who loved you more, that dumb brawny guy you dated in your teens and couldn’t stop talking to or the guy who you’re now seeing and only talk to once in two days? Or, that high school House captain who turned you into a Soccer fanatic?

And, how do you define love? Vicky tells me it starts off as an addiction. The level is given by how early in the morning you need your first hit. When you get it, all you can think of is your next hit. That’s when you discover that you’re well and truly hooked. Ponkhi and Bishu were bonded in a special way. Having begun as friends, they went on to become addicts and then, became friends again. I choose to call them lovers. No other word would suffice.

Last year, when my semester exams were around the corner, our professors wanted all of us to come up with a complete presentation of what we had learnt in our summer training. They expected us to know everything about the units in a chemical refinery. Why delayed cooking unit was “delayed”, why micro sieves were in vogue, how a rotary drill operates, so on and so forth. All these, when we could be at home preparing for our theory papers! But all engineering college Profs are bloody potheads anyway and they know how to get what they want. So there I was; scurrying about, sketching flow sheets, memorising from the prehistoric editions of chemical engineering reference books which we so proudly stock in our libraries, downloading and printing. And then downloading some more. Never had HP cartridge hurt more!

Finally, on the D day, I stood on the dais in the hall, red eyed and sleep deprived, in front of 40 odd people, including teachers. My monsters were the usual suspects – the teachers and the nerds. Oh what wouldn’t I give to swap positions! Before I started, I heard my phone beep. I furtively checked it. Amessage from Ponkhi. I smiled and murmured under my breath, “What timing, biaatch!”. Giving in to my temptation, I promptly pressed, “view”.

 It read, ” Bishu expired last night.”

The next few minutes were a haze. I pointed to the Isosiv unit and thought of my closest friend. I could not hear what the profs were asking me; if I heard them, I could not follow them; even if I did, I was past caring. I was misty eyed and could hardly see my own sketches. When I was done, I called Ponkhi. She was sobbing. I had never seen her in so much pain and I felt like a complete waste because nothing I said or did would assuage her. So, I chose to listen. To her muffled cries and her breaking voice. I could decipher only one sentence, “why him?” I had no answer.

True, Bishu had done nothing to merit this. His father is an honest law abiding citizen and a generous soul. The proud father of a son who had redeemed himself in the company of a woman. Until then, death was a thing you always talked about in the third person. Until then.

 For Ponkhi, Bishu shared a space between the first person and the second. A space by invitation only. Bishu’s elder brother gave her Bishu’s diary. She could not read it; it was almost entirely about her. I think every line cut through her.

To this day, Ponkhi has not unburdened it all to me. When she called me upon that fateful day, she was still in Delhi. After coming to Guwahati, she has only mentioned Bishu a couple of times to me, more as an allusion than anything else. I think she’s still so weak that she dreads talking about it. She sees him in her dreams. It pains me to see that she’s trying so hard to be ok all by herself; always cracking non funny jokes, believing Shabana when she says Ponkhi is the oracle of Spartan times, reading Debajyoti’s articles, counselling Anita on how much space she should allow Hrishikesh, bumping into roadside astrologers with crazy Angie along and creating a fuss about my single status on a forum. Someone once told me that sharing your grief takes a lot of the sting away. You weep and you feel lighter. You cry yourself tough. Maybe then I should ask her to talk to me. Over coffee, like women do. Maybe that would unburden her. Ask her a few questions and browse a few of the blood stained pages of Bishu’s diary.

Or, let her be.

I hope this doesn’t make me a lesser friend.

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6 Responses to “Cry tough…(short story)”

  1. Luitkashyap Says:

    The toughest part is trying not to remember someone whom you always want. Plain and straight piercing through the heart. Sob 😦

  2. life isn’t fair…first lesson we all learn when thrust headlong into the adult world…bad things happen to good people, dreams and worse lives cut short. Cliched but true…time is the best healer. And acceptance of the fact that skies might fall, but we’ve to go on.
    I like the flow of your narrative.

  3. Thanks Snata

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