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As the taxi passed the innumerable neon signs and street lights, he glanced at his watch with a somewhat anxious but still pleasant look. 45 min to midnight, he was sure to miss the flight, unless Bangalore’s traffic was merciful on him. However, in the pit of his stomach he had the feeling that nothing could go wrong tonight. He had been planning this for quite a long time; it was an engagement that he had no intention of messing up.
Finally he reached the airport. With long and quick strides, that portrayed his enthusiasm and radiant happiness, he walked up to Terminal 3. In the next 15 mins, he was comfortable on seat 12 of Flight 567 ,with an air of nostalgia about him, smiling over perhaps a fragrant thought in the private chambers of his mind.
The young man, in his early twenties, gazed wistfully into the air and smirked, occasionally, as if to suggest that he was thinking of happier times and of people he loved and cared about.
He remembered it crystal clearly, as if it was just yesterday. Same day, 5 years ago, that day was also Diwali, he had made a promise that he realized at the instant he made it would make him go to very big lengths, however the hinted sweetness of the challenge aroused him, not out of self-esteem or ego but because he was wrought of an emotion, infectious and dangerously splendid, towards her.
It was her birthday, the most important day of the year for him as he considered it to be. It was almost this time that day too, about 11:45. He had many ideas for this day each succeeding the other like a dynasty of kings. Finally he came up with a simple yet worthy of a salute for a guy of his age (or the age he was then). He had walked up to her balcony, under the watchful eyes of stars and slipped up a small box laced with ribbons and with a yellow note on top that read “Not my first birthday gift, and neither do I presume it to be my Last”. Nothing else, not even a signature or name.
However he did ask her the next night, while the entire colony was amidst the frenzy of crackers,
“Did you like the watch?”
Even amongst the dogmas of the noise of firecrackers, that simple question left an awestruck but ethereal look on her face.
“That was you? But the watch is worth Rs. 3700. I mean….. How?” She left it at that, gaping confusedly at him.
“Let’s just say I have been saving for quite some time , say about……….10 months, Still you didn’t answer my question, Did you like the watch?”, he said it with astounding indifference, that left an equally astounding look on her face.
A solemn answer came out, “Yes”. She had always been enigmatic in her ways.
Few minutes later, with pursed lips she asked, “Why? And what does reunión que fue lo mejor que me ha pasado inscribed on the back of it mean?”
A smile spread on his face, radiant even in the dark, as he replied “I felt like, you can uh…….. expect it every year. And that inscribe is for you to figure out.”
“That’s not possible you are going next year, how about then huh? You forgot that didn’t you?”
“No, I still say you can expect it every year.”
“Yeah, really”, she said with a tint of sarcasm.
(That was perhaps the reason he was on that plane that very night.)
He replied,” Fine, I promise you every year I shall personally wish you on your birthday”.
Though it would sound fanatical to some, he did make sure he kept his promise. He glanced at his watch again, 10 to midnight. The thought flashed across his mind, that perhaps in 10 min she would hear the melodious chime of the watch he had given her, custom designed to chime only once a year, today . He had done it, with a cherished hope that every year on her birthday she would hear it and remember him.
He recollected the year previous to the one on which he had made the promise. That day too he had the same motions deep rooted in his heart, but with a little less maturity.
He remembered the T-shirt he had gotten made for her that year, with a portrait of her in front and a tagline at the back which read,” A girl who defines A Girl”. He had taken it up to her house with a strange feeling blossoming in his heart. She was there celebrating her birthday, which he didn’t know was happening and was neither invited to. With a feeling that was not of anger, or of broken-heartedness but a novelty to even him, he silently walked back. He had never mentioned this to her even till today.
Actually it was a mere mistake that he had not featured in her invitation list, but surprisingly these little things have a knack for taking things in near future a little too differently. After all, in life there are rarely any facts, mostly interpretations.
He came back to his senses, back to the flight where 200 people were snoring away, unaware of the fact that how long back he had traveled in the last 8 min.
Just then, he heard an exceptionally familiar chime, one perhaps by the look on his face he was expecting to hear, as someone just in the seat in front of him rustled up. As he tilted to his side, he realized, she had not changed at all. A faint, transient, wistful smile lightened her calm face, just as he remembered it. He pulled out a packet slowly, and slipped it to her side and whispered in her ears, “Happy Birthday Sums”.
As expected, she woke up with a start, her face struck with a mixture of surprise and glee, she exclaimed,” You? I…..I didn’t expect this year. How…….. how did you……? What’s in this?”
Laughing, he said “A promise is a promise. I didn’t break it till now, I won’t break it ever. Why would I ruin something I cherish?”
Hysterically, still half-awake, she asked, “Do you believe in destiny?”
Surprised by the question, yet giving an indignant answer: “If I do then you can say that I weave my own destiny.”
Still the fact not sunk in, she opened the packet to find that very T-shirt in there, “It’s nice, but don’t you think it’s a bit small for me?”
“Weren’t you too, 5 years ago when you hadn’t invited me to your party?”
“You haven’t changed at all have you? You still surprise people with the tricks you have up your sleeve!” she said, with a beautiful smile on her face that could make anyone smile on earth. It made him realize again why he was on that plane, why he had gotten that T-shirt printed and why he had made that promise.
She was undoubtedly worth it.
With a smile he replied,” Neither have you Sums, and nor should you. So did you figure out the meaning of the engraving?”
Giving an expected prismatic blush, her eyes fixed upon the floor, she said, “Yes, in Spanish it means meeting you was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
His lips loosened in a furtively exultant smile, as he said, “And it still is, perhaps that’s the why I am going to Delhi for no reason.”
He stared with misty eyes towards her, as if in a trance, enjoying every line, every curve on the perfectly painted face of hers.
She snapped her fingers in front of him, saying,” Hey, where are you lost? “
Looking straight into her hazel eyes, with a look that perhaps he had never given, he slowly took out a small velvet box, that made her look at him with gaping chasm and with a smile full of subtle charm on his face, he said, with every word resonating ecstasy “I just met a girl who I spent my entire childhood with and I realized that she was worth spending an entire lifetime……… Happy Birthday again”
Opening the box, she found a perfectly cut sparkling diamond ring inside it. With a closer look she found something intricate wrought on the inner surface of the ring.
“Veux-tu m’épouser?……….Another engraving?”
“Yep, and you have another year to figure it out.”
“I think I already have.” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
The words struck him like a blast of icy wind. The girl who he thought he had figured all out, just surprisingly surprised him!
But then as I had said, she had always been enigmatic in her ways.
There was a moment of silence as she wore the ring; neither of them were looking at each other, just as it was 5 years ago. Only this time he had no more cards left to play. He was all out, playing blind, leaving it all on destiny…….. pure destiny!
After what seemed ages for him but a moment for her, giving a glance at him, she slowly said, “Wait until your birthday”.
As the plane soared away, 900 feet above the very place where he had made that promise, he realized that though the shirt had remained small as it was, he as a person had grown up and so had she.