The Reunion“I shall name him Ujjyal”, my grandfather declared soon after the birth of his first grandchild. “He shall bring glory to the family”, was his wish first time as he saw me. His dream, I learnt later was to see his grandson take charge of large construction projects. As a young boy, he was fascinated by a British Engineer in charge of constructing the long span rail bridge across the village river. He himself had done quite well considering the humble beginning and accumulated significant amount of wealth during his lifetime. Over the years he developed an uncanny habit of investing in the right business, right property and right people. If there was one thing that he missed was the genuine respect of people. The respect doctor, an engineer or a collector so easily commanded all the time. Since his children couldn’t fulfill his dream, it was passed down to his grandson. The family had moved to Lutyens’ Delhi from neighboring Haryana soon after I was born. My father inherited the business acumen and created a business empire no one in the village would dare to dream. He kept the doors open to new ideas, never ignoring the latest trends or buzzes. Wealth came with its natural privileges allowing us the passage to most sought after schools, clubs along with social acceptance among the New Delhi elites. Though I had two younger siblings, it was me who remained the chosen one to fulfill grandpa’s dream. I was engrossed in those thoughts when the alarm went off breaking my state of trance.It was still dawn when I stepped out of the cab and walked towards the entry gate of the Delhi airport. The early morning February air was pleasantly cold.I was travelling to Bengaluru to attend a college friend's wedding. It had been four years since we graduated from the same college. This wedding was also going to be a reunion of our batch-mates. But what I didn't know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time; right in the queue in front of the airline counter.
I was almost certain it was she. Same height! Same long hair! Same complexion! Curiosity had my eyes glued to her for about 60 endless seconds, and when she turned, she proved me right. My ex-girlfriend stood two places ahead of me in that queue. We had never met after the college farewell.I still remember the first time I saw Anna in our college campus with that rustic look so commonly visible on the streets of Delhi. But for her it came with a combination of tremendous self-confidence and a pair of very expressive dark eyes. The naughty smile in the left corner of her lips appeared to be carefully cultivated. She might not be a conventional beauty but was attractive enough for me to have her image engraved in my memory since the first sight. It is so much different from the person who is standing ahead of the queue today.The past five years I have reminded myself again and again that I had willfully and forcefully got myself removed from Anna’s life. I carefully nurtured an environment that would foster mistrust, anger and frustration. Eventually when I succeeded, I was more hurt than anyone else. If you have to elucidate your position, they say you need to break the ice spontaneously when you come across that person. If you hesitate, it will be even more daunting and that's precisely what had happened when our glances met. I hesitated and turned away not knowing what to do or say. She walked away after checking-in while I stood there with my adrenaline rushing up. First I wished for our seats to be next to each other and then I decided to request the lady at the counter for that.“Good morning sir! May I have your ticket please”, she said courteously.“Yes, off course,” I stretched my hand and then quickly supported it on the counter.“Only one bag?” she asked“and a handbag” and after a pause requested “may I have a seat by the window.”“Sure, sir” was the answer.
I despised moments like this for failing to put forward a simple request,while having no problems making business pitches or board presentations. I left it with destiny and I hated it.The flight was only half full. Neither Anna nor anyone else sat beside me. I closed my eyes and went back to my incomplete morning thoughts.“Marriages are made in heaven”, but no one has ever defined any specific place where boys would fall in love. It could happen anywhere but if a list was made, engineering college campuses will surely top it. There must be something in the air that makes boys so much more vulnerable. But when we look at the number of successful relationships evolving from those affairs, it's anyone’s guess how far are those places from heaven. Marriages are definitely not made in engineering colleges, I was convinced. There of course shall be exceptions like Aniket and Vanshika, whose wedding is turning out to be the first reunion of our batch mates with near 100% attendance. I remember the day was 28th of January. A day that was no special to the place or the country. Neither was it of any importance to all those who lived around us. I decided to make it very special for myself and Ana. I believed this decision was going to change our life forever. I had been close to her for more than a year by then and we were very comfortable in each other’s company. When I proposed to spend rest of our lives together, she did not have to think twice before accepting.“This is the second life changing incident of my life” was all that she told that day. She confided later that the first one was during her childhood days and gave such lucid description that I could still visualize it.The scene in a developed country or a large Indian metropolitan city would be very different, she said. There would be frenzy of activities with ambulance, sirens and men in white uniforms running with stretchers. She described the little girl of 4 years and 7 months, who stood by the door of their humble house of 3 and half rooms. The dilapidated white ambulance, a Second World War remnant too did not turn up at their door steps that day. They were simply not
important enough. She felt an aura of gloom around her though could not comprehend its gravity.Since that day everyone was worried about Mohit uncle, her father’s elder brother who lied on the bed helplessly. She was not allowed to enter his room as freely as before. She watched him and her family suffer for the next 5 years and a half. Each of those days made her more resolved to be a doctor to relieve others of their pain and agony. But going through a medical college was too much for her their limited means. Her good grades however got her into this engineering college of great repute.In the 1980s, Indians in smaller towns typically lived under conditions of near-pan-optical surveillance. Any purchase made at the neighborhood store registered not only in their register but also in the eyes and the memories of the shop keeper who knew the entire family. The young girls were more under scrutiny than anyone else. She couldn’t as much walk to the post office without her movement having tracked and analyzed. In the contrast the contemporary condominiums in the cities and the suburbs offered a striking degree of anonymity where it was no longer a rule that one has to know her neighbors.Coming to Bengaluru from a small town called Amarpur and adjust the complexities of a big city life was challenging for young Anasua. The most difficult of all was to handle the independence and anonymity, but it was only a matter of time before she would transform herself to the Anna I came to like, love and sometimes hated myself for doing so.“Hello stranger”. A familiar voice from the past woke me up. At first I thought I must be dreaming. Looking to my right I found Anna sitting next to me with her magnetic smile.“What a wonderful surprise”, I continued without stopping for a breath.“It is so good to see you! You know, I wanted to come and meet you. I even wanted to ask for a seat next to you. But I couldn't do it and you beat me once more. You were special and you continue to remain special.”