It was the last Saturday in the month of May. Shraddha was very restless and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Atul and his family for dinner. Shraddha and Atul’s parents were best friends and they had these meet ups on the last weekend of every month. Sometimes they would have lunch at Shraddha’s house, sometimes dinner at Atul’s. Or sometimes they would all meet just for tea and snacks. This was going on since many years and all of them enjoyed bonding with each other and spending time together.
Shraddha always had a crush on Atul, who was three years older to her. He had an elder sister but she was settled in a different country and would join them when she would be around. She never realised when her innocent crush transformed into something more. And since the last few years, she would always be thinking about him only. They were great friends and they would chat on and off, but she never got the courage to tell him about her true feelings.
“Enough is enough,” She thought. “Today I will tell him about what I feel for him, no matter what. It’s okay if he doesn’t reciprocate but I will still let him know.” And Atul was travelling abroad to study further. “It’s now or never”, she thought, “I may never get this chance again.”
Feeling more restless and worried that she might change her decision, she went out for a walk. She went to the park that was close to her house. As she walked, she thought about all those times she spent with Atul. How he would always make her laugh, how he would help her with her projects in college. Sometimes he would hold her hand unknowingly and her whole body would tingle with anticipation. Sometimes they wouldn’t meet or talk for days, but she would be eagerly awaiting their monthly get togethers. She knew she was risking their friendship with what she was going to tell him, but she couldn’t live not telling him how she felt. As she was lost in her thoughts, her phone started ringing and brought her back to reality. It was her mom telling her that Atul and his family had arrived.
Shraddha ran back the entire distance home and even took the stairs instead of waiting for the lift. She entered the house panting as if she had run a marathon. Everybody was amused looking at her state. Atul said, “So you are finally training to run the marathon, eh?” He winked at her and all the stress that she was experiencing vanished just like that. She was too deeply in love with him.
“Sorry, but I’ll just change and join you all,” She said not particularly looking at anyone.
Fresh and cleaned up, she wore her favourite dress that was peach in color and it made her wheatish complexion glow in the light. After adorning her favourite jewellery, she joined her family in the dining room. As she helped with laying the dishes, Atul joked, “So, why are you so dressed up Shraddha. It’s just our normal dinner.”
She blushed but failed to hide it and said, “I have a date later” and winked at his shocked expression. She thought she saw something flash in his eyes but it was gone as fast as it had come. Thinking she must have imagined it, she shrugged it of.
After a very enjoyable dinner, as their parents sat in the living room discussing politics and sports and TV serials; Shraddha and Atul went out to the balcony.
“You are unusually quiet today,” he asked and he kept his hand on her shoulder.
She jerked at that instant but covered it up with a cough. Yes, she was unusually quiet from the outside, but there was a war going on the inside. She was almost in tears when she turned to him and told him, “I’m sorry I can’t do this anymore..”
Atul did not understand where this was coming from. He was about to ask her when she raised her hand asking him to stop and let her speak. She continued, “I’m sorry, but I can’t live my life like this anymore. I can’t behave with you as if we are best friends because I want us to be more than that. I’m in love with you Atul. I don’t know how and where and when this happened, but this is the truth. I had to tell you this sooner or later. And now, after telling you I feel as if a burden has been lifted off my chest. I don’t know whether you feel about me that way, but it’s okay. I will always love you. I promise.”
Atul was speechless at this new revelation. He din’t know what to say. Seconds turned into minutes, and Shraddha was still sobbing, when he finally spoke.
“Relax Shraddha. Please stop crying.” He hugged her and as she calmed down he said, “Don’t be sorry for what you feel. I have always considered you as my very good friend but I don’t want to start a relationship with you now as I’m going abroad to study further. Had I been here, we would have given us a chance. But now being in different countries and in different time zones, it’s going to be difficult. Please understand.”
Shraddha was happy that atleast he had considered giving them a chance. And she had prepared herself for the worst which was losing his friendship entirely. She said, “But you are going after six months. That’s a long time. Let’s try this out. It’s okay if it doesn’t work. But let us try atleast. Please.”
Atul kept pacing in the balcony and running his hands through his hair. He din’t know what to do. Yes, he did like her as a friend but actually dating her?
“I need some time to think about this, Shraddha. Please. I will call you later.” And he left with that.
Shraddha had a sleepless night wondering what Atul would decide. She din’t want to lose their friendship. But she had taken a big risk by telling him what she felt, and she knew that. Now what was done was done. She had to brace herself for the consequences.
Similarly, even Atul had a very sleepless night wondering what to do. He really like Shraddha as a friend, but if their dating din’t work out? He din’t want to lose her friendship too. He was getting a headache thinking so much, so went to make himself some coffee. He was surprised to find his mother in the kitchen. “Ma, what are you doing here at this hour?” He asked.
“I can tell you the same thing son. If you don’t mind, can I ask you something?”
He nodded a yes and his mother continued, “I saw you and Shraddha in the balcony last night. She was crying. Is everything alright?”
Atul was in a fix whether he should tell his mom or no. He finally decided to tell her. After he was done, he was happy that he shared his feelings with his mom. Atleast his confusion was over.
The next morning, Shraddha was eagerly awaiting that phone call from Atul. The morning turned into evening and night fell, but that call never came. She went to college the next day, but she wasn’t in a good mood at all. As soon as she reached home and closed the door, doorbell rang. Irritated, she opened the door and found someone standing there hiding their face with a bouquet of red roses. Already in a foul temper, she was not in a mood to be messed with. As she was about to bang the door shut, the bouquet was moved aside revealing a very handsome and smiling Atul looking at her. She was shocked to see him. He asked her, “Will you be my date for the evening today and everyday?”
She squealed in joy and hugged him tight. Later that evening as they were enjoying the sunset, Atul told her what had transpired between him and his mom the previous night. How his mom had encouraged him to go ahead and pursue the relationship.
As months passed, Atul started falling for Shraddha and he considered himself the happiest man on earth. He loved every thing about her and every minute spent with her. He wanted to cherish every moment as he was going for two years for his further education.
Finally, the day of his departure arrived. As he left to board the plane, he told Shraddha, ” I will be back for you. I promise.”
Their time apart was painful for both of them. They spoke everyday through video calling and chats. Even though they were far apart, their bond grew stronger with each passing day. She graduated and started working. And just like that, it was time for him to come back.
Both of them got engaged in a close family function as soon as Atul returned. Both the families were very happy with their union. In less than two months time they would be getting married. Shraddha felt that she was the happiest and luckiest girl in the universe. Had she not taken that risk, she wouldn’t be here today with Atul by her side. As they both went to their respective homes after the ceremony, Atul told her, “Remember, I will always be there for you. I promise.”
“And I will be, too. I promise..” She said.
The next morning, they both met to plan for their birthdays. They both had their birthdays in the same month, September, only a few days apart. She was turning 23 and he, 26. So they both decided to host a common party for friends where they would also announce their marriage.
Both, Atul and Shraddha were enjoying the birthday party planning. They would take half days from work almost twice a week and do all the arrangements. It was one such day when Shraddha was waiting for Atul at their usual cafe. She was annoyed as he was half an hour late. His phone was going unanswered. Another thirty minutes passed. Now, Shraddha was getting restless and worried. He would never be so late, she thought. She was calling him like a maniac when finally she got a call from him. But it was not him on the line.
“I’m calling from the reception of City Hospital. Do you know Mr. Atul Joshi? “
“Y..y..yes.. he’s my fiance. What happened? Is he alright?”
The extremely polite voice said, “I’m sorry ma’am, but he has met with an accident and I request you to inform his other family members and come here.”
Shraddha almost dropped the phone on the table, but gathered her senses, informed her parents and rushed to the hospital. When they all reached there they found that his car was crushed by a speeding truck and he had multiple internal and external injuries. They all waited in anticipation for some news from the doctors. Finally, the doctor spoke to them and said, “He has multiple injuries. We are trying our best. Let’s see how he responds.”
After battling for 24 hours, he lost. Atul was no more. He succumbed to his injuries. Shraddha couldn’t accept it. She broke down near him and told him, “You had promised me you will always be there for me. Why? why did you break your promise?” She was sobbing hysterically.
She was in grief for a very long time. She simply could not get over him. How could she? She had promised to love him always and she would not break her promise. Her parents tried very hard to divert her attention, to get her to start working again. And she did start working, but she was like a robot. Just surviving. Not living her life.
Her mom would tell her that Atul would be very sad seeing her in this state. That would sometimes make her go out and try to live again.
Three years later, she finally agreed to get married. Rishabh was from a good family and he too had lost his girlfriend in a freak accident. They both understood each other. But Shraddha couldn’t love him, not the way she loved Atul. And Rishabh completely understood that. He never forced her for anything. It took another year for Shraddha to finally accept him as her husband and move on. She respected him a lot. She had started to like him. But she could never love him.
She had built such strong walls around her heart, so that no one could enter, make promises and break them.
But, one boy managed to do that. He entered her heart, broke all the walls but one thing he did not do was to promise anything. In fact she promised him that she would love him unconditionally all her life, no matter what. His name was Atul. He was her just born baby boy.
Author’s note: This post has first appeared on mycity4kids parenting platform.