I had lost her. And all due to my eccentricity. Never take anyone for granted, has been a golden rule of life. But when in love, one tends to forget and overlook details of relationship. And it happened with me.
Back in 2017, basking in glory of success and being appointed as the youngest CEO of a pharmaceutical Company, I had no time to fall in love but my destiny had something else stored for me. My work subjected me to long working hours and I enjoyed such schedule to every last second before hitting the bed. Life shuttled between New Jersey and Manhattan. I enjoyed every bit of my work and lifestyle.
And then one day I saw her. Just across my glass cabin, waving at me, wearing a saree. I called her in and the cupid struck me the moment our eyes met.
“Yes, how can I help you”…I asked.
“Well I am your new Secretary” she said. I had almost forgotten that replacement to Janice was coming. I tried to hide my embarrassment but she was smart enough to notice.
“For all such lapses which you shouldn’t make, I am here. I am Tina”. She said.
I couldn’t help myself noticing her. Tall and fair. Had she not been wearing saree, I could have passed her for Italian or Spanish.
“So which part of India are you from”.
“Delhi, same as yours”. She had done her homework.
It didn’t take me long to take fancy for her. First time in last two years while setting up the business for Fox Pharmaceuticals, in USA, I was thinking of something apart from medicines.
Soon we became friends. Coming from a country of same origin, the language and values, all brought us close. And before we knew, we started dating and then moved in together. And she was intelligent and worldly wise which impressed me the most. Now I would look forward for getting up late and reaching back early. It was a dream that came true. A partner with no commitments and all fun. With her around I realized that I was a fun loving guy, boozer and a dancer too. And the bliss in life continued….well for sometime atleast.
Though not required, but to make more money I accepted additional charge of a Project Director, which normally required a professional to handle. I thought I would be able to cope up with but struggled a lot initially. Me and Tina could get less time to spend together. Though she remained in office and communicated with me professionally but my travel grew and there were times I could not meet her for days. I started taking her for granted, assuming she would understand and would stay, realizing little that she was getting lost in that mad-mad world of strangers. Like all Indian girls, she wanted to start a family and I focused on work and money.
One late night she disclosed that she was pregnant. I was furious because I took it as a deliberate move to emotionally blackmail me to get married. We fought and fought bad. She stopped taking calls from me and after three days when I returned home I found a note attached on the shelf above the fireplace that she had gone. Gone back to India.
Like any other workaholic, I closed my mind on her and resumed what I was doing. Like a fool I didn’t even bother to ask her of her pregnancy assuming she was a matured enough to handle it.
I thought, I would come out of her but even after two years of rigorous work schedule, she would not go out of mind. I could feel her everywhere I went. Those eyes, that face, that smile and her intellect, kept haunting me. So much so that I became neurotic....talking to her all the time. I knew this has to end before I would end myself.
And then in Feb 2020, I did what I was most scared of. Resigned, packed my bags and took the first available flight to India. All I had was her address and phone number where I was lying blocked. Before leaving I sent her a mail that I was coming to her but received no response. In that one year of our relationship, because I took her for granted, never bothered to ask her of any alternative number.
Reaching Delhi on a February morning, with fierce cold wave blowing, I realized that I was sweating inside. The anxiety I supposed. It was an hour’s drive to Rajouri Garden. The slip carrying her address was getting wet with my sweat. Heart was pumping bullets. I refrained smoking as I wanted to smell fresh while meeting her parents for the first time.
I could hear music playing at the entrance of her street. The house was all illuminated. Light bulbs all over. Something inside me cramped. My already wet body, suddenly went cold.
“Is it her’s wedding”..the thought made me go paralyzed. With shaking hands I took money from the wallet to pay off the cabbie. Standing at the gate, I was perplexed whether to go inside or return. She was the only child and it had to be her marriage. My heart came in my mouth when I realized somebody tapped on my shoulder. I looked back and saw her father. I remember seen his picture in Tina’s phone. I wonder he had seen mine but once he smiled, I knew I was a stranger to him.
“I am Rohit, from Punjab, Tina’s friend”. I lied.
“Oh yes please come in. She will be thrilled to see you. After all its her big day tomorrow”. My heart sank.
Pulling my Luggage and with laptop bag on my shoulder, I followed him.
“Hello everybody” he said, “he is a friend of Tina. Please make him comfortable.”My eyes were searching for Tina. A strange fear gripped me. I was visualizing her in a bridal make up, with hands covered with ‘henna”. I was wondering why I was there. Why did I not check with somebody if she was still waiting for me or not. Who was the guy whom she was getting married to?. Is it a love marriage or arranged?. Filled with mixed emotions, I kept moving with bunch of kids till I was parked in a small cozy room.
“ This is Tina’s room.” One of them said. “But for today she has shifted in a bigger room till marriage is over”.
I never realized when a tear rolled down my cheeks. I quickly wiped it off and smiled. Sitting on the bed with head in my hands the complete trail of events between us flashed in my head.
“I knew you would eventually come” the same voice which followed me everywhere and every minute, rang in the room. I looked up and saw her standing there right in front of me, smiling, wearing a saree. Her face carried the same innocent expression which she bore when she met me for the first time, in my glass office in Manhattan. And before I knew I was holding her tight in my arms, throwing kisses all over her face. It became difficult to understand if her face got wet of my kisses or my tears.
“ I am sorry. I am sorry.”. I don’t know how many times I heard myself saying this to her. She kept standing there like a statue, without moving and with wide expressionless eyes. Once I was able to control my pent up emotions which were lying buried somewhere within myself for the last two years, I let her go but kept holding her hands.
“Don’t tell me you are getting married”. I kept repeating.
There was a strange silence from her end. She kept looking at me without moving her eyelids and then after a long gaze at me she said “I am sorry Rohit, but yes I am. I waited for you and waited long but you never came. I am getting old and I need to plan my future. Plus Shekhar is a nice guy”. The last line pierced through my heart and soul. And then I realized that I had let her hands slipped out of my hands. I froze. Just kept looking at her. There was a weird silence between us. The words which we never said but my heart could hear. The evening when I yelled at her and blamed her for being pregnant rolled in front of my eyes. I remembered that before I picked my bags to leave for Houston for work, the same silence pierced through us and I moved out of the apartment door without looking back at her. Now while in front of her, at that moment too, though not audible yet I heard her moving towards the door. I wanted to stop her but I couldn’t. I kept looking at her till she disappeared. I turned back and again sat down on the bed with eyes struck on the ground below.
“Hi! I am Rahul”. I heard a deep voice resonating in the room after some time. I looked up and saw a handsome man in Sherwani.
“So he is the groom”. I thought. He came walking firmly towards me extending his right hand, the hand I never wanted to hold. But I did. “I am Rohit”. I said
“I know. She keeps talking a lot about you”. That killed me. She still had not forgotten me but agreed to get married. There must be a lot of understanding between the two, I presumed.
“Yes we worked together in US”. I heard myself saying.
“Worked together or stayed together?. I know you both were a couple”. Rahul said. For a moment I forgot my pain and admired him. A large hearted man. Had I been at his place, I would have seen that he gets thrown out of the house in next few seconds.
“So tomorrow is the wedding”. I asked.
“Yes, finally we are getting married.”
“ Must have been arranged in hurry”. I asked.
“ No. We were going around since 2015 but then she had to go to US and some misunderstandings creped up and we got distant. But now that we realized that we can not stay apart, we are getting married”. His every word felt like lava, burning me to the core.
“Had Tina not been my strength, this marriage couldn’t have happened. She is God sent angel in my life”. He said.
I wanted to run away from that room, to a place where nobody could find me.
And I picked up my bag and started moving. I never wanted to see Tina at that moment. “ I wish you luck Shekhar and do wish Tina on my behalf. I have a flight to catch so thought to wish you guys on the way”.
“Shekhar….who Shekhar. I think you got my name wrong. I said I am Rahul. Tina’s cousin”.
My head started spinning. “ She said her groom’s name is Shekhar”. I was bewildered.
“Whose groom?. I am the only groom here and I am getting married to Parul, my girlfriend for 5 years. Tina made it happen for us”. Rahul said.
I don’t know when the bag slipped out of my hands and my laptop from my shoulders. Next I remembered that Tina was holding a glass of water over my face and asking me to drink it. There was another lady present in the room, who was introduced to me as Parul.
Confusion added fuel to my temper and like a caged tiger, I got up….ready to eat all alive. But Tina knew how to bring me down. She got up and hugged me. Wish she had done the same on that fateful evening when I left her in disgust. I held her tight and after a while lifted her chin with my hand.
“What’s all this? Who is Shekhar and who are Rahul and Parul.?. Is it your wedding? Are you already married?....infact the last question was the one which intrigued me the most and wanted her to answer me that first. She like old times, knowing me what could trouble me the most, she did that.
“No sweetheart I am not married. And I knew one day you would come looking for me. But yes I was terribly hurt” She said smilingly looking at me with the same fondness she always carried for me.
“Come sit down I will explain”. She said.
“ Shekhar is a friend but Rahul is my first Cousin. He and Parul love each other. In 2018, Parul got an assignment abroad which Rahul never wanted her to take. But she went because her employers depended on her. After six months of her leaving for US, Rahul decided to surprise her on her birthday. As it is because of time difference and her busy work schedule, they were not able to interact much. So he thought it would be a pleasant surprise for her and will bring them good. He travelled all the way to San Francisco to surprise her. Upon reaching her apartment there, which was late in the evening, he got a shock of his life when an American opened the door for him. He could hear Parul shouting from the wash room and asking that guy as to who was at the door. Rahul lost his cool and got so infuriated that he started kicking that man. But the American bashed him up, broke Rahul’s nose and left before Parul could explain anything. Rahul took his frustration out on Parul and accused her of infidelity. Parul tried her best to explain him that the American was a friend from office and had come to pick her up for a dinner meeting with a client. But Rahul did not believe and took a return flight back to India. He came to me about six months back and narrated all. He told me that he can not live without Parul and wanted her back in his life. But Parul was not giving him that “Second Chance”. Now that Parul was back in Chandigarh, he wanted my help to sort things between the two”. Tina took a pause and looked in my eyes. I could sense what question she wanted to ask me.
Tina continued “ So with Rahul, I went to Chandigarh. I asked him to book a hotel in the name of Mrs and Mr Mehta. He was confused but he did it. Upon reaching Chandigarh, I asked him to convey to Parul through her sister that he was in town and staying at Picaddily but would like to see her the next morning for breakfast. I told Rahul that if Parul still loves you she would come to the hotel the same evening and that’s what happened. Parul came at 9 and enquired for Rahul. Reception told her that he was there in a room booked under name of “Mrs and Mr Rahul Mehta”. Angry and infuriated she came rushing to our room and rang the bell. I asked Rahul to wait and then sent him to washroom before I moved to open the door. And as what I expected the same happened. Finding me there, she called him names, abused him, cried and accused him of infidelity even after she had called their relationship off about a year back. She tried to hit me too. Rahul too cried and tried to explain her that I was his cousin sister but Parul was not ready to listen. And then I had to intervene. I made her understand and explained my relation with Rahul. I told her it was a ploy to make her understand what Rahul went through and why that confusion happened there. It was wrong on his part to have abused her but then it was all in a heat of a moment. I asked her not to let this Second Chance go out of their lives. And finally she settled down and tomorrow they are getting married at Delhi because it is convenient for both the families”
Hearing all from Tina, I congratulated both of them. They both looked so happy. The moment they left, I bent down on my knees and proposed to Tina. Tina looked at me lovingly, held my hands and said. “ Listen Rohit, its very rare that people get a Second Chance in their lives to come together for good. I still love you but am scared of your workaholic attitude. It would never let us be at peace. And I think you have to ask yourself if you can change for me. I am ready to give us one more chance provided you give up your such trait. I want to live my whole life with you, not few hours everyday”.
“Tina, I have given up my job. And I am all yours. Just want to be with you all my life”. I held her close and whisphered.
She looked in my eyes and said “ Sweetheart that’s fine but we got to eat something and I love buying clothes and other stuff for myself and for that we need money. Have you thought how will you provide me that?”.
“Yes. Infact I just got an idea. We will act, direct and produce a TV Show”. I said.
“And what kind of TV show would that be honey?” She asked me with a naughty smile.
“Tina we will bring broken hearts together. We will provide them with a platform to give a “Second Chance” to their relationship. And this will not only serve couples but any other relations too. We will fill their lives with happiness.”.
Soon “Second Chances” was conceived and today it is one of the best TV shows of India. And we lived happily everafter. That’s another thing that I never asked Tina who Shekhar was. No “Shekhar” was important to spoil my Second Chance with Tina.