“The blue one compliments my eyes better……. the black one enhances my suaveness…….. blue……. black…… mmm…….”
I could be lost in your eyes forever.
“Blue it is!”
Kartik showed a teen-like excitement. He was all set with his shoes polished, beard trimmed, suit steam ironed and a little speech ready for the big day.
He had initially dismissed the invitation for the centenary celebration of his school. But then another notification popped up – NEW MAIL FROM KIRAN IYER
He skipped a beat. His breath stopped for a moment. His lips parted in awe. His pupils widened.
And then suddenly everything changed.
His heartbeat increased. His breath was heavier and faster. His lips curved in a smile. His eyes glistened with tears of joy.
He quickly clicked on the pop-up.
HEY KAR, YOU’RE COMING FOR THE REUNION RIGHT? DO COME. WOULD LOVE TO SEE YOU. LOVE, KIR.
He read the email again. And again. Then he flipped his head back to look up at the ceiling. And then looked at the email again. As if trying to read in between each word. As if each word and each sentence had much to say than what appeared.
Do come….. I will come Kiran. I have to now.
Kiran’s email had drowned Kartik in a sea of memories. Memories that were sweet. Memories that were made 50 years ago. Memories that were etched in his heart like engraved stone.
Yes, it was 50 years ago that Kartik and Kiran graduated from St, Teresa High School. Their batch, the class of 1970, was a favorite of all the teachers. And why wouldn’t they be, after all, they won almost all the inter-school competitions, be it dramatics and dance to football and tennis to science projects and general quizzes. Class of 1970 was a star batch in its true sense. And this year, on completing 100 years, St. Teresa had invited all the students they could. They also posted advertisements in the popular dailies and on social media.
As the school readied itself with freshly painted wall and pillars, sheared lawns, and ‘welcome back’ banners, Kartik pondered on how to look the best for his Kiran.
His face softened as he remembered those days. It had been a long time since. And though the memories did flash at times, especially when someone giggled or was too particular about avoiding getting wet in the rains, Kartik shook them off. But today, he felt life ticking back again.
Kartik and Kiran were good friends who competed with each other over project completion and test marks in a healthy fashion. It was while on their class picnic to the nearby caves when things turned for them. The caves were protected by the Archaeological Survey of India and the officer was guiding them about the history, the paintings that adorned the caves, and stories surrounding their livelihood, deity, and information systems.
Somewhere between awing at the inscriptions on the cave walls and assuming stories of how the cavemen perished, their eyes locked. The winds started to sing, cotton candies floated by and the sun became pink. Or not! Well, what would they know, they were lost in each others’ eyes.
Love happens when you least expect it.
High school romance in 1970 was as childish and innocent. And so was theirs. Their bond had long back left the friendship station and was sailing through the romance city. Eventually, love conquered their minds and hormones took over the childish innocence. They wouldn’t miss a moment of being with each other or holding hands.
It was the last day of their exams. They both, like all the other students, had plans for their future. Kartik was to study engineering and Kiran wanted to go for medicine. Fate was on their side and they both got admission to the same university; this meant they would be away from their homes, pursue the subjects they loved, and spend time with each other as much as they desired. Life couldn’t be better, or so they thought.
Kartik’s parents got to know about the brewing romance. And without wasting a minute, they arranged for his travel abroad. Kiran was devastated by the news and decided not to go ahead with that university. Living there without Kartik would have been too painful. Those were the times when communication wasn’t as click-e-ty as it is today. Neither of them could’ve texted or called or emailed. Time moved on and shrouded the pain of separation with exciting newness of young adulthood.
Kiran must’ve gone through the school mailing list to find me. You remembered me Kiran!
He looked at the mirror. Suddenly, his greying hair and crowfeet eyes took over his crisp jawline and masculine charm.
“50 years……. We were 15…….15!!!…….. I am 65 now…….so will Kiran be……..wow.......we’ll be a couple of 65-year olds…….well, I know I look handsome for a man that age…….hope Kiran feels the same when we meet.”
The day was here. Kartik was chirpy as usual. He quickly got ready and put on his finely tailored, navy blue suit that went well with his rare, deep sapphire eyes. He tied up his shoes and gave a final glance to his neatly trimmed beard. The light pink shirt and musty cologne worked like magic.
The school looked just like before, though the gates had been freshly painted; and cobblestones had replaced the gravel on the driveway, the school was the same that housed so many secrets. He walked past the huge red-brick administrative block on the left, the old chapel a little ahead on the right, then the junior block with swings and slides in the garden, then crossed the staff room on the right to reach the graveled walk-way to the senior block. It was the same red-brick, double-storied block lining the rectangular football field like it was back then. My school.
The grass on the field was crushed by the many feet that walked on it that morning. There was noise, laughter, chaos, and music. There were faces new and old. Some were busy sharing the photos of their grandchildren while others remembering the bygones. Most of them missed a tooth, some the entire set, and laughed through fake ones. Notwithstanding their receding hairlines and increasing belly lines, they were all smartly dressed and laughed freely at old jokes. Kartik got busy mingling with old friends and teachers, discussing their whereabouts, sharing their achievements, and mostly reminiscing the younger days. They had all laughed, fought, cheered, and cried in the premise.
A pat on his shoulder broke his conversation string and made him turn around.
There……flashing the same old mischievous smile, the gleaming jet black eyes, and looking every inch a practicing medico in a prim grey suit stood Kiran.
There you are, my gorgeous.
After initial greetings with everyone, they both walked a little away. There was hesitance, visible awkwardness, and coyness. Kartik couldn’t say a word despite having practiced a little speech. Kiran fumbled with words. They were both as nervous as two teens about to confess their emotions.
“Remember me?”, asked Kiran in a childlike tone.
“Rem…….you have forever stayed in my heart”, said Kartik as guilt, pain and joy covered his face all at once.
“Hey! I am just happy we met in this life. Today is the most beautiful day after many, many years. Don’t be upset”, said Kiran squeezing Kartik’s hand. “And, by the way, did anyone tell you, you look quite handsome for a man your age”, and they both laughed.
After exchanging some professional details, Kiran asked, “So, you stay alone?”
“Yes. My wife couldn’t continue living with me once she got to know about you”, replied Kartik.
“Oh! I am sorry. Didn’t know you had married?”
“Yeah, for a little less than two years before she realised my heart was elsewhere. She left and I didn’t stop her. I had no reason to. And how would you know anyway? What about you?”
“Nah! My parents had become desperate to get me married though. But I just couldn’t. Plus being a doctor is a 24-hour job. I started sleeping in the hospital to avoid the family dramas. Then one day they gave up”, said Kiran.
They continued talking about their parents and when they left the world, their siblings and what each of them was doing, and their common friends. Kartik wanted to say a lot, ask a lot, but didn’t quite feel it was the right time yet.
An announcement got everyone to shush up. They were all asked to move to the amphitheater where the current school principal would address them. Everyone started walking as guided. Kartik was in no mood to follow the instructions. He just wanted some time alone with Kiran. But he obliged his friends and went along.
As soon as the ‘talks’ got over, Kartik asked Kiran out.
“But…..they’ve organized lunch. It would be impolite to just leave midway.”
“I’ll treat you at an expensive restaurant. Please, let’s go.”
Kiran blushed at his eagerness, then laughed and said, “We have waited this long, a couple more hours shouldn’t matter.”
“But now that we’ve finally met, I don’t want to waste another minute!” Kiran couldn’t say no to Kartik’s genuine plea that flowed through his eyes.
They excused themselves and drove away to a fancy restaurant uptown. The place had a lovely décor and there weren’t many people around. Once they were settled and had ordered something to munch, they started talking.
A plethora of emotions filled the air around them. They relived 50 years of their lives with utter excitement, deep resentment, and matured calmness. But one thing was constant - the regret of not having had the life they dreamed of.
How I wish I could rewind the clock. How I wish I could've given you what I promised. How I wish I could've taken a stand and fought for us.
A long while and a lot of stories later, Kartik took Kiran’s hands in his. Suddenly, the winds started to sing, cotton candies floated by and the sun became pink. Or not! Well, what would they know, they were lost in each others’ eyes.
“I have waited so long to be lost in your eyes, Kar.”
Kartik squeezed his grip. A tear escaped Kiran’s jet black eyes and dropped on Kartik’s hand. His deep sapphire eyes also glistened. He knew this was the time.
“Kiran….. there was something I wanted to tell you……actually ask you……mmm……will…..will you…….”
“Yes, Kartik. I will! So glad you asked!”
Tears cascaded down their cheeks accompanied with loving smiles and small giggles of joy.
The few people sitting on other tables were amused to see them.
After all, it is quite a rarity to see two good looking, well dressed, old men, holding hands and crying as they giggled.
P.S. Kartik and Kiran are common names in India. While Kartik (name of Lord Shiva's son) is predominantly a boy's name, Kiran (meaning a ray of sun) is used for both boys and girls.