Abhi.... His name was Abhilash.
I don't know if I was in love with him or his voice. He had the most soulful voice I have ever heard in my life. And a very beautiful mind to go with it. He was handsome too. I met him when I was 16. So not sure the credibility of my eyes or my heart.
As I sat down to write about him, I have this ache in my chest. A very dull and painful longing that is throbbing and making me want to tear up so badly. Thinking about him always had that effect on me. I have not thought of him much till a year ago. He came back into my active memory when I have started seriously considering writing my book, this book. He is the one who gave me the name Anaamika. He is the one who called me a writer first.
I met him in college, I come from an era when 11th and 12th were part of college. I was in the second group - that has physics, chemistry and biology and most of my friends in the first group - mathematics instead of biology. My classroom was in one corner of the campus and friends were in the main building on the other end. Usually, we meet at the end of the day up front and walk back to bus stop. A month of two into the year, one day I waited a good few minutes for my friends and didn't see them. I had a very strict curfew home and I didn't want to break it. So I went up to the second floor to find their classroom and look for them. I was pretty mad at them for making me late. As I walked in I saw them sitting around a boy whose back was facing the door I was entering from. I walked in asking them why are they not downstairs, and he turned and said that no one can come in without permission. I was pretty irked by the situation already and his comment made me give one the worst look with an arrogant attitude a girl can give. I ignored him and asked others to join me and turned around. As they joined me, they were telling me that he sings very well and they were all caught up in listening to him. As I walked in I had heard a second of a song and his face as he turned, but I chose to ignore it at that moment. They insisted I join them for lunch in their class next day. I said ok, I had the perfect reply coined in my mind for him and really wanted to give it to him.
As I walk in through the door, he asked: "So you are the famous writer?"
I used to write poems at that time. I was not famous, I just wrote poems and my friends were my audiences to read.
I asked back instead of replying: " So you are the famous singer?"
All I wanted was to give a smartass answer back to him, who struck me as an arrogant prick.
He answered immediately without any hesitation, and with something I was not expecting:
"Yes, I am, Why don't you sit down and listen."
And he started singing immediately. I was struck so strongly by how beautiful his voice was. It was a sad love song. A song where the singer was calling out for the love of his life to come back to him. And it was the most beautiful, heartfelt song I have heard sung by a man. I could feel the pain and yearning in his voice, I could hear the song with my heart and not my ears.
I sat down opposite him on a bench. There were desk and benches. He was sitting on top of the desk with his feet on the bench below. His hands were interlocked and fingers tapping on each other taking turns to the tune. I sat down involuntarily staring at him. He had closed his eyes and everyone around was silent. My friends were right, he sang so much better than I have ever heard anyone sing with no background music. After a few lines, he opened his eyes and asked me how it was. I was speechless and the comments I came prepared to tell him were completely out of my mind. So I just smiled at him. By then I had noticed that he was a very handsome boy. He had long fingers and toes. He wore casual pants with a button down shirt and an old leather watch on his left wrist. He wore a sandal and his toes were perfectly aligned in a line tapering from big toe to a little one. He was against the normal look of a teenage boy and I made a note of that for some reason in my mind. The hour went by with usual tease and topics. As I got up to leave, he called out from behind:
"Ezhuthukari" - Meaning writer in my mother tongue.
"Write me a love letter and bring tomorrow. Let me see if you are as good as these girls say you are."
I smiled and probably blushed a little. No one has ever called me like that, challenged me like that before. With my usual self, I would have said something back that would have stunned the one who asked the question. But I only had a smile for this one.
The rest of the day I could not focus on anything but his face and his voice. I was smitten by his voice, the purity and the pain in it. The day turned into night and instead of studying, I ended up sitting scribbling on a paper in front of me. Before long I found myself starting to write a love letter. My first ever love letter to a boy who challenged me to write one.
Meaning "To my Abhi"
I wrote that letter in my mother tongue. Translating it takes away the beauty of it more than half. And yet, I find myself happy to write it again here.
" To my Abhi,
You have long, beautiful fingers. Fingers that of an artist. I wonder if you do draw, I wonder if you have ever drawn the face of that girl you are longing for. I wonder if she had existed or you are longing for her to come into life and into existence for you. I have never heard a song with my heart before, I have never sat in awe of a voice that touched my soul before... "
This is how it started. I went on to write a two-page letter for him. At the end I jut wrote:
I grew up reading Shakespeare and classics of my tongue. Oddball romantic tragedies were my favorites besides philosophy. I knew pain well. I lived and loved pain well.
Next day, as I meet all the members of the gang and before I sit down he came running asking if I have brought him his letter. He came and sat down on top of the desk again. I gave him the folder paper with neatly written letters on it. He opened and his friends asked him to read aloud. I was really praying for him to not to. I was so embarrassed about it as it is the first ever written words for me. He started with comments about how long it is and how small my handwriting is. But then he grew silent as he started reading. His face grew serious and he didn't say anything. Few minutes into it, he got up and folded the letter and put it in his shirt pocket and left. His friends called out and he said something and just left. Someone asked me jokingly what have I written in it. I just said that it was nothing.
He did not come to college the nest day. I kept looking for him during lunch hour and someone saw that and said: " Abhi did not come today." I was blushing as it was too obvious who I was looking for.
Next day, I didn't go to my friends class for lunch. I stayed in mine and stayed in my seat writing a lab record that was due soon. I heard a tap next to my head on the desk and I saw him standing there with a smile on his face. He asked me to come outside the classroom and I obliged immediately. I walked out with him. He stood leaning against a column and I stood next to him on the other side of it. He took a folded paper off of his pocket and gave it to me, it was my letter with a word addition.
He had added a name at the end of "Forever yours....Anaamika". He said when you become a writer use that name. And I laughed and said: "sure".
We stood there, next to each other with a column in between us for the rest of the break. He hummed some song and I stood there listening and wondering what was it that I feel for him. I liked being there at that moment, listening to his hum, holding a name he had given me. As the bell rang, he got ready to leave and gave me another folded paper and asked me to read after he has gone.
I opened it and felt a tremor go through my fingers to the pit of my stomach. He had written a letter back to me addressing to Devi. I read through it multiple times, he had written that I had shocked him with calling out his pain. That I had noticed it for the first time how he felt, and that he is in love with my letter. The next day I wrote back to him. He gave me a line or two every other day I wrote to him. We liked each others company very much. He loved my words and I loved his voice. He made me write to him about the pain I carried around with me. He made me realize that I can always fall back on written words for comfort. He showed me a way I can deal with pain without being insecure about it. And I loved him for that.
- to be contd