‘If you don’t get here in next five minutes, I’ll simply leave.’ She said disconnecting the call as she curled her hair with the index finger, bored of waiting. Fidgeting with the cell phone and dangling her feet, she looked as far as she could over the waves that roared through the Arabian Sea. Beyond what seemed like a horizon to her, the city of dreams gleamed with elegance. The skyscrapers that stood at a faraway view seemed to touch the skyline, while the wide road behind her back witnessed a cluster of vehicles speeding through the way. Even amidst scurrying people and passing lives, there were few who stopped by to appreciate the falling dusk as they sat on the periphery of Marine drive, facing the sea.
Kashish looked toward her sides to see few couple holding hands and whispering love, and few young boys and girls laughing and giggling their intestines out. There were few others like her too – lonely and lost.
‘Manager gave a last minute priority task.’ She heard a husky voice from behind her, before feeling a pair of strong arms around her shoulder. ‘Couldn’t say no!’
‘But you could make me wait for 19 minutes and 27 seconds.’ She said looking at her wrist watch.
‘Feel lucky that you get to wait for me! Not everyone has that privilege!’ He adjusted his sling bag and sat by her side, breathing the salty air.
She narrowed her eyes at him, ‘You’re such an arrogant bastard, Aditya.’
‘I am aware.’ He nodded, ‘Have you been eating properly?’
‘Did Ayush call or text?’
‘Not even a single time?’
‘I just said no. Didn’t I?’
‘Someone sounds frustrated’
‘Yeah, right!’ He looked at her with squinted eyes. ‘You still expect his text and call. Don’t you?’
‘No, I don’t.’ She stammered.
‘You are a bad liar.’
‘Leave!’ She shrugged her shoulders.
‘Exactly. Leave. That’s what you need to learn.’
She looked at him, ‘What?’
‘I am just wondering that it has been nearly five years since we are friends and you still manage to be lame.’
‘I am not lame!’
‘Oh yeah, how can someone be a part of Vivek – The hooligan gang, and be lame?’
‘Don’t you dare go there, Aditya! It was way back in college and I was just eighteen and stupid!’
‘You still are.’
‘Shut up.’ She narrowed her eyes at him.
It was six years back when they first realized that the other exist in this universe as their human counterpart, in their graduation college – a prominent engineering college of Calcutta university. Aditya was one of the tallest guys of the batch with his 6 feet 4 inches of height. He was lean framed but well-built and whitish dark. With rimless spectacles on his nose, he looked exactly like a nerd that he was. He always occupied the first seat on the first bench, jotting down on his notes and not bothering if the world around him was bored to death. He often managed to stretch the lecture few minutes after they ended, with his jumbled doubts – which bagged him waves of abuse, few cuss words, and a curse of not being able to please her girlfriend ever – but well, he never bothered to stop annoying the class with his questions. He was a sincere nerd, but the first one to jump in the annual cultural festivals. He was a lunatic in his own way, but a friend to all. For the weird magnetic charm he possessed, girls drooled over him with the excuse of having doubts over assignments.
Kashish, on the other hand, belonged to Vivek’s gang – a hooligan soul trying to fit in the body of a cool dude. They ruled the last few benches, studying nothing but only mocking faculties and other students, and making plans for their next hangout. Kashish didn’t get into Vivek’s company by choice. Her school friend and college mate Shreya bumped into Vivek which lead Kashish to join the group too. Even though she was a part of them, she never was a part of notorious actions that other people of the group did. She was the white sheep amidst the flock of black. She was the perfect misfit, but there was nothing she could do, for she was too bad at making friends. Till date, the only friends she managed to make were the ones who sat on the same bench as hers – accidently.
Two years into their college, and one fine day Aditya found an alien invader in the otherwise empty computer lab. He slipped into the lab and getting to his desk, he turned his system on. From the corner of his eye, he looked at the row beside him. A tall, thin, ripped blue jeans and white tank topped girl dabbed the keyboard keys in frustration and turned the pages of a bulky textbook vigorously.
He cleared his throat and observed the girl for a while. Minutes later, she buried her face in her palms – tired and agitated. Aditya got off his chair and walked to the next row.
‘Hey!’ He had said.
She looked at him, getting her head up. ‘Hi.’
‘May I?’ He asked pointing at the chair by her side.
‘Thanks.’ He smiled as he took a seat. ‘I have seen you around but cannot recall from which batch you are. Mind telling?’
‘We’re in the same class, Aditya!’ She said with indifference.
‘Huh? What?’ He was left surprised. ‘I have never seen you in class.’
‘That is because I hardly ever attend lectures, and when I do, I am on the last bench band.’
‘Oh yeah!’ He gulped his discomfort down, ‘Vivek’s gang.’
‘Group sounds better.’
‘I’m sorry. So why are you here during extra practice sessions? I have never seen you here!’
‘Because, I want to learn and get through my exams. I don’t want to get a KT. Nobody else thinks that studying is a cool idea so I had to come here alone.’
‘And you’re unable to understand these lunatic words printed within.’ He swirled the textbook on the desk.
She nodded, truthfully.
‘I can help you with this.’
‘And why would you do that?’
‘Because you have the will to learn and not just get through the exams. Plus, programming is like having sex for me. It is always fun to teach the inexperienced.’
She bloated her eyes large, amused. ‘You talk like that? I thought you were a geek.’
He smiled, surprised. ‘For the record, geeks are normal humans.’
She smiled, ‘I’ll note that down.’
‘Note one more thing.’
‘And that is?’
‘You don’t belong there.’ He said pointing beyond the glass wall towards the lobby, where Vivek bashed an iron rod to break open the notice board.
And from that day on, there was no looking back. Aditya and Kashish were friends one of a kind. They shared such a bond that it was often difficult to explain and express. After their graduation, Aditya got an offer from an IT giant and hence moved to Mumbai. A year later, Kashish moved to Mumbai too. And here they were, with each other as their family.
Aditya snapped his fingers, ‘Where you lost?’
‘Was just thinking about college.’
He nodded, ‘By the way, I have something for you.’
He brought his sling to the front and fished out a paper-wrapped circular thing from within the bag.
‘What is this?’ She asked as she saw him unwrap the paper off the circular thing.
‘You’ll know.’ He took the paper off completely and there came out a beautiful flower crown studded with white Orchids over the brown fiber acting as a vine.
‘Oh my God!’ She said in awe, ‘Orchids are my favorite. You got this for me?’
He shook his head and placed the flower crown on her head. ‘You’re a princess. I just wanted to remind you.’
‘I am a princess? I can’t believe you are telling this. Pampering anyone is not you. You just bash people with your brutal honesty.’ She touched the edges of the crown.
He smirked, ‘A. I am not pampering you. I am reminding. B. You are a princess, of your own story. I read this somewhere – Life is like a movie. Don’t be an extra in your own Life story.’
‘Thank you.’ She said with her throat heavy with overwhelming emotions.
‘Oh come on, don’t give me any emotional shit now!’
‘I am not!’ She resisted, ‘Let’s take some selfies. Come.’
He laughed, ‘You’re unbelievable.’
‘I know. Smile now!’ She said tapping on her cellphone screen. ‘I am going to keep this flower crown safe in my cupboard. It’s the most beautiful thing you have ever given me.’
‘No. You are throwing it away.’
‘What? Why would I do that? You have given me this with so much, umm… compassion.’
‘It is beautiful today, but two days later it would be ugly and stale. This flower crown is like things we hold onto from our past. We cannot let go of it because it is beautiful and meant a lot when it was in present. That’s the mistake we humans do. If we don’t keep our hands empty off our past, how can we embrace the gifts present has in store for us?’
Kashish looked at flower crown, gathering the courage to throw it away.
‘Don’t think much. It’s been thirty minutes since I gave you this crown. It is a past now. You lived the moment of joy already. Throw it away now. Keep your hands empty. Let it go!’
‘But it’s so beautiful!’
‘That’s what the challenge is. How you let go of beautiful things once they served their purpose. Do you let go of them while they are still fresh or you wait for them to turn stale.’
She held the crown firmly. ‘I will let go of the stale thing so that my hands are free to grab the next fresh thing.’
She pulled her hand towards the back and held the crown like an arrow on the bow, and threw it far away in the sea with force. The crown spun on its axis and splashed into the sea, drowning and getting lost in the course of vigorous waves.
As she threw it away, she felt a sudden lightness cover her heart.
Surprised by her own feeling, she looked at Aditya. ‘Now I understand why you got this flower crown for me.’
He smiled, smugly.
And just that way, her life dairy got another entry.
Today I realized that past moments are like stale flowers. We cannot get the fresh ones until we let go of the stale ones. Even if we do, the stale ones would turn the fresh ones just like them. For anything too old is stale, we need to let them go. We need to keep our hands empty of past just so that we can embrace our present. Cherish the memories but never hold onto something that is gone and that has served its purpose – be it something beautiful or ugly. For life is meant to live in ‘now’ and not ‘then’.