The rich baritone, accompanied by the soft keys of the piano, filled the restaurant. The singer was singing each word with such feel that it seemed he was calling out to his lover; an all time Elvis Presley favourite,
“Love me tender, love me sweet,
Never let me go;
You have made my life complete,
And I love you so
Love me tender, love me true
All my dreams fulfill
For, my darling I love you
And I always will ….”
Jannat had just entered the restaurant and she stood still. What a beautiful voice and how soulfully it was being sung, she thought. She turned to see the singer and couldn’t believe her eyes. Wasn’t it John, her college friend? John always sang well but she had never thought that she’d meet him like this. As far as she remembered, John was in a corporate job and was doing very well. John, Jannat and Mihir were sort of inseparable in college. John had fallen in love with a junior, Twisha, a chirpy, pretty girl, who was an extremely talented dancer. They got married to each other soon after college and Jannat and Mihir too, as expected by everyone, became life partners and everyone got busy with their own lives. John got into the corporate world and Twisha pursued her career in dance. Jannat, with Mihir, shifted base to the United States and somehow the friends got disconnected from each other. And now Jannat was seeing John as a singer in a restaurant, where she had come for dinner with her friends.
The song got over and Jannat could not hold herself any longer from meeting John. She went and stood in front of the piano. John looked up and was speechless. They hugged each other and Jannat, realising she was disturbing the performance, went back to her table. Before leaving, she made plans with John to meet up the following afternoon. They had so much to catch up, Jannat thought, as they were meeting each other after a gap of almost ten years.
Came the afternoon and John and Jannat were sitting near a pool side in a restaurant, each immersed totally in their lives of ten years back.
“John, you sing so beautifully. Seems like Twisha has turned you into a complete romantic in all these years. Lucky you! By the way, why didn’t Twisha come along?” started Jannat.
“You are right Jannat. Twisha has turned me into a complete romantic,” smiled John. Why was she seeing the unmistakable tinge of sadness lurking in his eyes, thought Jannat.
“Wow, that’s real something John; but why did she not come with you? Was she busy?” Jannat enquired.
“Twisha left me for ever, almost a year back,” muttered John. Jannat could not believe if she had heard right.
“She left me and I am devastated. I love her and miss her terribly and do not know what to do as I hold myself responsible for this.”
“If you don’t mind, can we talk about this, John?” said a bewildered Jannat.
“Honestly, I don’t know what to talk.” But talk he did. “In the past one year I have done a lot of introspection, and I have realised the mistakes that I have committed..” sighed John. “Both of us loved each other so much and we were so sure of each other, that little did we realise that any relationship needed to be constantly worked upon. We can never take any relationship for granted. I did just that. I, unknowingly, expected the world from her. Maybe, deep down, my condition was pro-patriarchal and I started taking on the role of only a provider and a protector for her, believing that I was being dutiful. I was ambitious and I was climbing up the corporate ladder fast and, of course, by default, stress started making its presence felt, significantly. My parents were ageing and in my drive to reach the top, I mixed up responsibilities. My expectations from Twisha were increasing manifold. I expected her to understand me in and out, without even an explaination from my side. Probably, that was the test of love for me. Why did it never enter my head that in a good marriage, the partners are equal. They are there to understand each other, support and compliment each other, not to demand of one-sided understanding. I forgot that she would have expectations from me too, and, that should be addressed equally.” John stopped to have a sip of water and then started staring into nowhere in particular, somewhere far ahead of him.
“Jannat, in this last one year, I have realised that I actually expected her to be a psychologist, in dealing with me. Understanding me, supporting me, even when I was shrugging off her help, so much so that I started blaming her that she considered herself a know-all! She would try to give the right advice and help but I became short tempered and my frustrations were making me more offensive towards her. How long could she take all this, and why? She did not have the onus on her to love me, come what may, when I did not care a damn about her being hurt and helpless. Jannat, claiming to love her, I only thought of my wishes, my problems, and my expectations; I never ever allowed myself to even think as to what she would be going through. Life is a struggle, but it is so for each one of us. I committed the blunder of putting all my hopes and demands on her, alone. The hurtful things I would say to her Jannat, out of my own despair, justifying them by claiming not to have actually meant a single word of it, expecting her to take it all, in the name of love; she could not take it anymore and she left. She went to sleep one day and never woke up; the doctors said that she had a massive cardiac arrest. I love her so much Jannat, but I don’t deserve her, never did. I have ruined our lives Jannat, and now I pour my heart out in these songs that I sing, these are all for her, only for her.” John was weeping unabashedly.
He was not weeping alone. Jannat was unable to control her own tears. All this while she was visualising her own life; she as Twisha and Mihir as John. There was so much similarity in their lives. Mihir too, in the name of love, expected her to be the ideal one, being right all the time, while not being right seemed to be Mihir’s helplessness. He was the victim and the onus of understanding him, always was on Jannat. Having run out of patience, in the name of love, she had come to spend some time with her parents and clear her own thoughts. They sat there, silent for a while, then left. Jannat went to the restaurant the same evening and John was singing the evergreen song from Dr Zhivago…
“Somewhere my love,
There will be songs to sing
Although the snow,
covers the hopes of Spring
Somewhere a hill
Blossoms in green and gold
And there are dreams
All that our heart can hold
Some day we’ll meet again my love
Some day whenever the spring breaks through
You’ll come to me out of the long ago
Warm as the wind
Soft as the kiss of snow
Till then, my sweet, think of me now and then
God speed, my love, till you are mine again…”
Tears were rolling down Jannat’s eyes as she sat there, mesmerised, listening to John calling out to his love. The longing in his voice, tore Jannat’s heart. Was it reaching Twisha?