“It was so hard not to see your smile all these years.” He whispered and Lipika could sense the same affection in his voice. What was it that had made forgetting so hard ? She looked at him with her dark hazel eyes. “You want to sit there ?” he pointed at the bench. She turned her gaze towards the bench. It was the same bench where they used to sit while returning from tution. She nodded. She was at the loss of words..She was still wondering why he wanted to meet her. All the thoughts kept her occupied and an awkward silence surrounded them. “Badam Kulfi?” Nihal broke the silence and questioned.Lipika just smiled , tucked her hair behind her ears and nodded.Within no time Nihal came back with two badam kulfi’s. Their favourite since school days. “So you are seeing someone ?” Nihal twirled the kulfi between his fingers.Lipika stared at him in disbelief.She didn’t reply.Instead looked away and jerked her head slightly.”Can’t believe you asked me that question” she smiled sarcastically. “Why ? Couldn’t bring yourself to love another guy?” Nihal locked her gaze.Lipika was stunned.Her heart skipped a beat and her hair fell loose on her face.She felt a lump in her throat. “Yeah after my ex and I broke up I kind of gave up on the concept of love” she firmly said. Nihal raised his hands in air in disbelief. Then he inched closer to Lipika and spoke under his breath “Lies and only lies Miss Sondhi.I guess you didn’t tell your so called boyfriend that he came between two best friends ?” to this lipika had no reply.She mustered her courage and spoke “You never told Alice either.” Nihal laughed “I did. And you won’t believe what she said.” Lipika looked at him , waiting for his answer. Nihal bent on the table and spoke in a firm affectionate tone “Love came between two best friends. Neither she nor your imaginary boyfriend”
“You knew ? You knew all the while Nihal “ Lipika’s voice broke as she spoke
“Yes I did.” He nodded.
“And still you never stopped me. Because you never felt anything for me.And yet again you are ridiculing my feelings.Who gave you the right, Mr. Singhwi?” Lipika grinned her teeth and sobbed bitterly. She got up to run away. Nihal grabbed her hands and pulled her closer.They were now dangerously close.Lipika looked away and everytime she did so Nihal turned her head towards him. “You listen to me Lipika Sondhi.I always tried to ask you.But you always lied.You never tried to come out. Did you even care to see that even I was falling for you.You called me your best friend , you couldn’t see the love beneath those eyes ? Humor me Lipika. You never fought for me. What stopped you after the farewell night ?What stopped you from telling me that you loved me ? You didn’t care to stop me either?” Nihal in his firm voice grabbed Lipika by her arms and shook her. One could see tears in his eyes too. “Nihal.I was afraid to loose you.I was afraid that if I tell you , you would hate me.” Lipika broke down and tears rolled down her face.Nihal looked at her innocent face and the truth in her eyes. In that moment he forgot the past.He embraced her in a bone crushing hug.He wipped away her tear and kissed her on the forehead.Lipika closed her eyes as their fingers entwined.
“I kept on wondering what was missing within me.And I realized it was you.Sad was the cold grey dawn that used to break upon my bed and the iridescent dreams of love used to escape my groggy head.I anxiously passed the dreamless nights enduring the piercing pain and wating for you to remember me once.And then i realized it was me who pushed you away.But today I want to tell you that...” his voice choked as he took in a cold breath .His eyes watered , Lipika immedietly wiped it away with her hands.Nihal took her hands in his and kissed it unaware of the fact that people were looking at them.But Nihal said he wanted to talk about his marriage with Alice ? Was all that just a prank ? Or is this some kind of prank he was playing to see if she was in love with him. “Lipika..” he pulled her closer , she flinched immedietly.She closed her eyes.”I love you Lipika.I always have,Always will” Lipika had been yearning to listen to this for no one knew how many years.Life had finally started to make sense again.”Marry me Lipika.”Nihal went on his knees as he continued to hold her hands. She was no longer a women waiting with no end in sight. She knew the answer ofcourse, but alice ? Keeping aside every thought she spoke “I love..” but the voice trailed off with the loud blaring sound.
She woke up.And there was blood everywhere,on everything.There was fire and charred pieces of vehicles and wood everywhere. Dead bodies on the wet ground and all that she could hear were loud vails and cries.She panicked as she struggled to get up “Nihaal!” She shouted. She shouted again. She limped and continued to shout.She felt warm liquid oozing out of her skin.And then she stumbled upon a body. Her bleeding face turned pale.She grabbed him and shook him” Nihal” he cried till she could not hear herself anymore.He didn’t wake up. His perfect face was now bleeding. His hands were broken.It was hard to recognise him.She shook him and laid her head on his chest to listen to his heart beat. She kissed his head , telling him how much she loved him.He didn’t move. But he was breathing.She shouted for help but before she could realize a burning wooden log fell on her head and everything around her went silent.
13th December 9:30 am
Bhagwan Das hospital
Alice is sitting next to me. “Where is your fiancé ?” I question. She keeps her hand on my head and replies “I got married a year ago to Surya..I had realized after the farewell night that he had always been in love with you.We had even started preparing for your wedding. We knew your answer.Nihaal’s family knew your answer.We were just waiting for his phone call. He was about to bring you home.But then we received information about this bomblast and” Alice breaks down. I breath heavily I look around,I realize I am not in the ICU anymore.A doctor is recording my blood pressure.A nurse barges in “Doctor,mr. Singhwi’s heartbeats are fading.You need to come”I cannot comprehend what I hear.The doctor rushes out of the room.Before Alice tries to stop me I open the sticky wires and pipes attach to me.I fall as soon as I rise from the bed , pushing aside alice. I struggle with my broken leg as I limp towards the ICU. The nurses try to stop me but I push them aside.I barge into the ICU and I feel pukish and shivers run down my spine when I see him wearing the oxygen mask.His head is wrapped in a bandange and it kills me to imagine the pain he must have undergone.I want to take away all his pain. What about our marriage ? Life had just started to make sense. Then Why is he there and I am here ? The doctors place a metal paddle on his bare chest. His body bounces as a result of the shock.I shout , begging them to stop. They are hurting my Nihal.I run towards Nihal but Alice hugs me tightly , not allowing me to move. “Alice , see what they are doing to Nihal. Alice no. My Nihal. I want him back” I cry out while the nurses and alice try to calm me down and take me out of the ICU.
I push them away one last time and rush towards Nihal and hold his hands.May be it was miracle but his cold grip on my hand tightens.The irregular beeping of the ECG machine turns into a loud monotonous beep.They remove the pipes and instruments attached to his body. And then I hear something that stops everything “He is no more” the doctors declare.I fall on the floor. I sit there taking it all in and it all comes out in form of a loud cry. I hysterically start calling his name,I get up and beg him , shake his lifeless body while it continues to hold my hand.“I will marry you Nihal.I love you. come back please ? Nihal.Pretty please ?”, I bury my head in his chest and continue to tell him how much i love him.Something within me shatters.I realize love isn’t enough to bring back my best friend,my soulmate,my Nihal.
6 months later.
Life and death are two sides of the same coin.Death doesn’t take someone , it misses someone too.And in that small difference between being taken and being missed lives are changed forever.
“I want you with me for the rest of my life. I love you Lipika and the deep eternal love i have for you soothes my trouble and that is all that i long for in this short life.If i were to die at this moment i would quietly accept death because I know your love will never fade and neither will mine. My true enduring love will never die.I always knew you would continue to love me no matter where I go.Trust me I knew your answer to my proposal.And here I am penning down this note to tell you that I know we’ve been together since ages, before life happened to us and we will be together if life happens to us again.You complete me Lipika. Do me the honor and become my beloved wife , so that I can spend my life growing old with you.And if there ever comes a day that I can’t be with you , just close your eyes and you will find me there,in your heart. Unconditionally yours
Your best friend
I read the letter again.I get up and start walking towards my car.”Excuse me” it is a small boy of around 9 years.”yes” i raise my sunglasses and I am shocked when I recognise him.He was the same kid who Nihal was talking to..”Nihal Bhaiya asked me to give you this.Around six months ago.You are Lipika di,right ?” he smiles at me.. “Yes. ?”He hands me a rectangular box..”Latika and I were fighting over our Badam Kulfi which as a rule of our friendship , we used to share everyday.He wanted me and Latika to give you this gift when he bends on his knees.He said, we reminded him of his childhood and his best friend” with trembling hands I take the box. “And who is Latika?”I bend down and look into his innocent eyes.”My best friend.”He smiles faintly “.Ever since that bomb blast ,my parents didn’t allow me to come here.But today I decided to come here and wait for Latika.May be she is angry at me,we haven’t spoken for six months.Good that even you are here.I could finally give you the box.Tell Nihal bhaiya I am sorry.We were standing near my cycle on the other side of the road when we saw him bend on his knees.Latika ran towards you without the gift.I was about to take out the box when i heard the blast.I am a big boy but I started to cry and went on searching for Latika ” he bends his head and smiles.As I open the gift,I go cold and tears begin to flow endlessly from my eyes “I want a Christian wedding.In that red bridal dress.” I run my fingers through the satin red bridal dress with laced velvet layers and a beautiful bow near the waist line.I then open the small silver box. “The wedding ring” it read , in Nihal’s handwriting.I break down into sobs as I see two solitaires.He must have thought we should have the same wedding ring.I fall on my knees and hug the dress , tears refuse to stop.Two hours later when my tears stop , the kid holds my fingers and questions “Are you alright?” I nod. “Where is Latika ?” I caress his head. He smiles“Mom says she is with the angels .I write a letter everyday and go to the post office next to my house.Postman uncle smiles and takes my letter but I never get a reply.She doesn’t come to school either.No one in school knows about her.” His innocent smile turns into a frown “If you meet her ,can you tell her I will never fight with her and will always share my Badam Kulfi?.” His eyes twinkle.I am at loss of words.I hug him tightly.. “Where is Nihal Bhaiya ?” he questions with innocence. My eyes water and I sniff. “With the angels.”. his eyes grow big with excitement “Did he reply to your letter ?” he looks at me with hope. “Yes” “What ?” I wrap my arms around his small shoulder “Angels are playing a game.We will soon meet them.But until that day comes we will have to smile.Or Angels will win and we will lose.”he looks at me and his eyes twinkle with hope. “We will win” he chuckles. “What is your name by the way” I question.. “Nihal” he replies.I look at him for few seconds. “What happened ,di?” he asks. “Nothing. Lets go.We will have a Badam Kulfi.” I smile , wear my wedding ring, keep the other in box and walk towards the renovated Kulfiwala’s.The place still smells of our memories.
Life is never fair.We never experienced togetherness.But death brought us closer and I fell in love with his absence.I dont need to close my eyes to feel his love.I can feel it in every breath. I believe marriage is a connection of souls and not something that society needs to approve of after couple of chants and offerings.I am his and he is mine.I can see him in that wedding ring which I wear and in that ring which should have been in his ring finger ;in that bridal dress which I always wanted to wear but I never will . A part of me aches at the thought of our incomplete dreams and I can’t wait to hold him in my arms, even though he is one lifetime away, I am glad that with every beat of my heart I , Lipika Nihal Singhwi is a lifetime closer to my best friend.