Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Crazy in Love [Part I]

It was hilarious that something that could be compared to silly superstition or even popular legend was receiving serious patronage. Nothing less could be expected when your regular old wives adage, ‘crazy in love’, gets actually backed by scientific evidence!

The article says that certain hormones are released in your body when you’re in love that somehow blocks the centers of logical thought in your brain, thus making you susceptible to all kinds of irrational behavior. It’s all down there in your DNA, in that deceptively simplistic genetic code that runs into a million lines, that makes people even somersault off sheer cliffs blithely christened ‘Lovers’ Point’.

On one of those lazy afternoons at work, this article kept floating in and out of my daydreams like a visual mantra. So I mused over it again and again, and I wondered if there really was something to it. That was when I thought of Rohit.

Rohit was my neighbour. I lived on the ground floor, while he lived on the second and I used to see a lot of him as he went in and out. We enjoyed long empty conversations, silly singsong sessions and even exchanged WWW cards. Although he was eighteen and I was eleven, we had a wonderful friendship. However, sometimes it pinched that Swati, not I, was his best friend.

Swati and he were next-door neighbors and it was well known that they had grown up together. Swati was born only a month after Rohit and their parents often joked that only after she entered the world did he imbibe some of her sense and stop crying. They did their entire childhood routine together: playschool, school and college. They had the same friends, worshipped the same childhood heroes, read the same books, and they even knew the same jokes. But that’s where the similarity ended.

It was not so evident when they were kids, but as they grew older, people’s perceptions of them as individuals changed drastically.

Rohit had grown up to be a strapping man, with smooth muscles bulging at his arms and thick veins running down to his fingers. He looked much older than his years and had lots of women, right from eleven (that would be me) to thirty-two, swooning over him. His swank was complete with a crooked mischievous grin, which amply portrayed his amicable nature. He was easy-going, made friends effortlessly and always had enough time for everyone. Whenever you needed help, you only had to call Rohit.

Sometimes, because of the intensity of his involvement with people his academics would threaten to suffer. That’s when Swati would bail him out.

Yes, Swati was a nerd and her looks could only confirm that. She had not bothered with changing her thick glasses; she was still teased “double soda” for them. It would take a great deal of scrubbing the surface to notice that she had pretty features. Her think oiled plait and her overall sense of dressing had left her a plain Jane, even an ugly Jane to some. But she had attitude. She was fiercely independent, didn’t care about people’s opinion of her, and held close to her heart her view that people should not judge her by her appearance. So, despite the encouragement from her family, she refused to get rid of her glasses and despite the gentle boosts from her female cousins, she refused to step into a beauty parlor.

Regardless of these differences that others could point out, for Swati and Rohit themselves, nothing had changed. So they remained best friends. It’s true that every now and then, Swati would pull Rohit’s leg about some girl who had the “hots” for him, and sometimes, Rohit would tease her “double soda”. They also had their own individual crushes, which they discussed and dissected with each other. Nothing could distort the canvas of their relationship. And it seemed inevitable that a friendship, nurtured and watered for so long, would someday blossom into love.

Someday came in the month of July, when it was pouring in Mumbai and Swati had forgotten to carry an umbrella. She was taking the stairs home, fully drenched. Rohit was just stepping out of his house and the two met on the stairs as they often did. But this time Rohit stopped.

He gave Swati a good look, longer than any other time before, and noticed, for the first time, her curvy body that was outlined by her wet clothes. The realization that his childhood friend, next-door pal, bosom buddy, was a girl, the complement to his sex, hit him like a bolt of lightening, and he wondered why it had never occurred to him before.

Swati distractedly shook the water from her hair and took off her glasses at the same time, keeping up her constant lively chatter. It was just like in the movies and this picture of Swati would remain with Rohit forever as the image of his first love. Yes, that’s right; Rohit fell in love with Swati that day.

However, when it came to confessing his feelings to Swati, it was a bit tougher than he had imagined. Suddenly, the sincere smiles, the casual body contact, had a much deeper connotation for Rohit. They only served to build up his thoughts, and consequently make him completely numb whenever he wanted to bring up the subject. For days together, the only thought on his mind was that he had to tell Swati.

Swati could anticipate a little of what Rohit was feeling because she was not entirely innocent. In her heart she had loved Rohit for as long as she knew him but her feelings had not yet matured despite the rage of her adolescent years. It was one thing to love Rohit as a “friend” and quite another to love him as a “boyfriend”. So when Rohit finally spilled his jar of sentiments on the table, Swati was stunned.

Yet, the chill running down her spine was memorable and never quite the same in the years after. However, after neatly filing that chill in one compartment of her brain, she pulled out her big book of logic and reasoning.

“Listen, Rohit”, she said, “I have feelings for you too. But I’m not sure what kind they are exactly. And I believe you don’t really know what your feelings are either. It’s probably just those adolescent hormones raging. Infatuation!”

Rohit’s heart was palpating so fast he could only hear a blur of what Swati was saying. His mind was confused about the shade of disappointment that was invading it quickly, but his smile remained plastered as he watched, admired even the tiniest flickers of Swati’s eyes. The rainbow of expressions that Swati could pull off with her eyebrows and the twitching of her nose fascinated him.

She was saying, “You and I have been best friends for so long that it just seems to follow that we should fall in love.”

Rohit thought to himself, “So at least I didn’t make any mistakes here.”

Then she added, “But what seems to follow may not necessarily be right. Maybe we just love each other because we’re eighteen and we’re friends.”

“Isn’t that good?” asked Rohit.

“Well, it depends”, she answered, “I think it’s important to love someone for who they are and not just because he or she is your friend.”

Rohit was clearly puzzled. “But you are my best friend,” he protested, “That’s who you are.”

Swati took his hand, “I am your best friend but I feel you need to have some other meaningful experiences before you’re sure that I’m the one for you. Lets just see less of each other for a while and more of other people and then afterwards if we still feel the same way about each other, then we’ll know that it’s real, not infatuation.”

Rohit blinked a few times as Swati slowly left their coffee table and headed for the door. He thought she looked gorgeous as she elegantly left him and then sensuously tilted her head back just before she could step out. Another picture was added to his mental album!

The days that followed were bleak and painful for both Swati and Rohit. What Rohit lacked in terms of willpower to keep away from her, she had three times in excess, and so every advance of his was met with a firm withdrawal and a reminder of her last lecture. But Swati suffered even more because even as she saw less of him, her feelings for Rohit only deepened and she could not deny anymore that she was also very much in love with him.

However as his advances were repeatedly brushed off, Rohit gave up and decided that if the only way to be with Swati were to stay away from her, he would do it. This was a test of his love, he told himself. So they stopped meeting and even when they incidentally passed each other owing to the fact that they were next-door neighbors, they painfully tore apart their gazes. In a couple of weeks, they even started avoiding each other.

By and by, it was December. Mrs. Malik, the gorgeous thirty-something woman who lived on the fourth floor was organizing a Christmas party for the little playschool that she ran in her flat. She was a gregarious woman, loved by most people, especially children. After her husband died, leaving her no children, she ran the playschool to support herself. Often, her neighbors who had plenty of time to spare would lend her a hand in her school activities. She had grown so accustomed to having help that nowadays she would simply ask for it. One day that she bumped into Rohit, she asked him too for some help with her Christmas party and Rohit, being the benevolent soul that he was, agreed.

A few days later, as decided, he dropped into Mrs. Malik’s place. She offered him coffee and some delicious chocolate brownies, which they both shared over her coffee table as they discussed her program. As the hour passed Rohit felt a heavenly sense of satisfaction in his stomach and couldn’t help gazing hypnotically at Mrs. Malik. She was gesturing vividly as she discussed this and that.

The woman was fat and round, but she had a huge reserve of energy. She also had cute dimples that deepened when she smiled even slightly. Her eyes were kind and years of dealing with children had taught her the fine art of using her hands to transmit comfort and sympathy.

Rohit didn’t know when exactly it happened, but the palloo of her sari, which had been sliding down her arm slowly and subtly, now rested in her lap, revealing her deep cleavage held up by a low-cut blouse. The most incredible thing was that she didn’t do anything about it except to carry on in the same train. When he began to notice, Rohit was struck by a profusion of thoughts, but the feeling that surpassed all was the tightening in his jeans. And then, from some black hole in his head, floated Swati’s voice: “… other meaningful experiences …”


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