It was raining incessantly since evening and I was a bit apprehensive about my means of commute on such a scary night. No uber, no autos, no taxis were ready to take me and I was kind of freaking out. Suddenly a car stopped in front of me and I was truly vexed when an unknown man rolled down the window glass and told me to step in. He didn’t ask me, he simply told me. I was about to walk away when something made me stop. Well, was it Aviaan in the driver’s seat? It’s been nearly two decades since I knew him and was surprised to see how age has taken a toll on a man wh0 was once considered a hunk during his prime. He looked so different that I was barely able to recognise him.
The situation was so pandemonic that I was unable to ask any more questions and as a new gust of wind swept past me, I got inside the car. The usual formal exchanges ensued between us. How he has successfully climbed the corporate ladder over the years, how he changed 10 cities throughout the world in the last 15 years, how well-established a man he is in every sense of the word! He was also the proud father of two sons and husband of a pretty wife. There was not any kind of reticence from his part about his snug life. However, he seemed in immense hurry to proclaim the awesomeness of his wonderful life, his amazing life that he so desperately wanted to project.
A call from his office disturbed the flow of our conversation. I looked outside the window and saw the crazy scene outside as people waded across the water-logged streets in search of a means of commute. Selfish though it might sound, I was happy to be far away from the chaos outside. Slowly my thoughts drifted away to that rainy afternoon when Aviaan had given me a ride in his first car. He had bought a small second-hand car with his second salary itself and he was super excited to show it off. He had big plans in life and even bigger plans for us. That car ride in that beautiful rainy afternoon is etched in my mind as one of the most special memories of my life till date. It was hard to believe that the man beside me happened to be once dear companion.
Aviaan’s interest in poetry had impressed me initially after we had just met. He had a completely different take on the poems that were hard to be deciphered. Coleridge’s Kubla Khan and Christabel seemed so much more interesting when Aviaan analysed them for me. I remember how keen he was about James Joyce and T.S. Eliot and the way he read out portions from Portrait of An Artist As a Young Man had taken my breath away many summers back. We had cried together as we read out Katherine Mansfield’s The Fly.
Aviaan had proposed me with Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate and that summer evening I had the feeling of being the luckiest damsel around. Any kind of hiccups in our relationship were not even a possibility in the meadow of both our imaginations.
Quite unknowingly I realised I had dozed off. Aviaan patiently was asking me, (and I believe had been doing so for some time now) where to drop me. Without answering him, I asked him about his love for literature and if he still is a passionate reader. He said he hadn’t read a book in many many years now. I knew that this rat race had consumed Aviaan completely and so it was not possible to indulge in such preoccupations. When I told him that, his answer startled me. When a muse takes leave, a mere mortal is left with no other options but dwell in material obsessions, was his reply.
The honking of a car behind brought us to a sudden halt. I told him to drop me at my destination, while I looked away across the streets. The rain seemed to have lessened the vigour with which it was pouring. There was the shrill cry of the lightening outside, which uncannily reminded me of Aviaan’s first slap on my face. The issue was trivial, however, we had been fighting over it and that was when he hit me for the first time. I was so startled that I could not say anything for some time. Months passed and once more a fight resulted in another bout of physical abuse. Then it was a matter of time when we parted ways.
The shrill cry of my phone brought me back to the present. I started at the overweight, slightly balding middle-aged Aviaan and I just could not believe yet again that he was my very own agile, athletic and dashing mate from a different world, different time. He probably sensed what I just felt at the moment. Suddenly, he did something that made me realise that the same old Aviaan was sitting in front of me – he started singing a track which was our mutual favourite back in the days. Aviaan had a beautiful voice and the entire college used to drool over his remarkable singing talent. I was amazed to realise certain things in life at least do not change. His golden voice was still intact.
As we were sitting in the car stuck in the traffic jam, Aviaan vented out an array of emotions in the most vulnerable manner possible. How he is dealing with his anger issues, how lonely he feels at times in coping with office politics, how his younger son loves his wealth more than him, how his wife cheats on him for her gym instructor – he opened his heart out to me. He himself was enmeshed in multifarious affairs in many junctures of his life, but he never could seek an ideal partner in any one of them. He told me that in spite of his accomplishments, his success, he feels strangely lonely.
My destination arrived. But was I ready to get down? We didn’t know what to tell each other during those last few moments. I didn’t tell him about my life; neither did he ask me anything. What followed were the usual greetings that acquaintances usually exchange while they part, but here the difference was that I returned with beautiful memories of the heart.