Old Love Stories
Her great-grandchildren visit her every weekend.
It’s their “me time” with her. They love the cookies she makes and the bedtime stories she narrates to them.
One night before being tucked in bed, they were flipping through the album and saw a picture of a man. His face was as charming as ever.
Great Grandma, who is he? Innocent little Qiara asked her.
Yes, who is he? Said the other five in unison. Odika smiled at her great-grandchildren. They were only 5, but, of course, they had the right to know.
Memories flashed in front of her—bittersweet memories.
Regaining her composure, Odika said – he wasn’t perfect, and that’s what made him special. She described him while tucking the children to bed. “he was someone who got me closer to myself,” her voice trailed off as she remembered him with fondness.
Odika looked at the kids. They were asleep now. She wondered how much about him they had heard. She kissed them on their forehead and went towards the window.
Odika looked at the stars and blew a kiss. Then, she closed her eyes and thought of Jihan. They were the thickest of friends, and as they graduated from one thing to another, they remained just that, always. Finally, they were about to get married and then suddenly he was gone. It’s been years, and even today, he is the first to know everything – when she has a conversation with the stars.
Standing by the window, She smiled to herself. The rose creepers adorning the wall of her house are testimony of their love. Odika glanced behind and saw that the kids were sleeping peacefully. Odika thought to herself – “Someday when they are old enough, I will tell them this story, but, for now, I hope the world will not rob them of their innocence.”
© Pallavi Lumba. June 17, 2021.
At her death bed, Odika, aged 105, had all her loved ones around her. Qiara looked at the picture of Jihan and Odika on the bedside table and had questions in her eyes, which her mother noticed.
After Odika’s funeral, Qiara asked her mother – Suhani, about the man in the picture frame. Suhani paused for a second and then, handing over a diary to Qiara, told her softly – she wanted you to have it. Qiara took the diary in her hands and began to open it when her mother told her: it’s time to sleep. Could you read it in the morning?
Sleep eluded Qiara and her cousins.
They were curious to know about this man they had never met
They tried not making a sound and pretended to be asleep.
Hours later, Qiara reached out for the diary under her pillow and switched on her mobile torch. Then, she began to read the diary under the covers of her blanket.
“Jihan and I were chaddi buddies. Although poles apart from each other, we somehow were inseparable. People say that those who have similar viewpoints bond and gel together. Jihan and I gelled in our differing views about society and the world. Despite our differences in opinion and dissimilarities in taste, we got along. I guess that’s what respect is, and if that’s what it is – then yes, we respected each other – for our thought process and the way we had on our individuality.
He was lean; I was plump.
He was tall; I was short.
He hated roses; I loved them.
Jihan loved Chinese food. I loved Indian home-cooked food.
He quenched his thirst with water. I would opt for canned beverages.
Jihan loved thrillers. I loved anything to do with romance.
We were as different as chalk was from cheese. Jihan could have got anyone, yet he chose me. Every day, after school and later college, he would walk me home first and then go to his. People thought we would end up together. Both of us knew somewhere it would be true. Life, though, is strange.
Neither of us were perfect. Both of us had qualities that neither liked in each other. We would fight only to make up later. We would get angry with each other, yet we always found a way back to each other. We would tear each other apart only to build each other up later.
The only hitch was we couldn’t get married even if we wanted to. We were of a different caste, sect, and community, which made our story difficult. He couldn’t take a stand. Frustration, anger, sadness got the better of us. We both were unhappy, and we both parted ways mutually.
Years later, we met again at a college reunion. Jihan had changed. I could no longer recognize him. He now had a raging temper, seeing which, I feared the same. I was a nervous wreck by now.
Our paths crossed one day late at night, and I felt safe with him, a thought that didn’t exist at the reunion. We both were honest with each other. He felt guilty of not being a man enough to take a stand. He felt inadequate, and his self-esteem had taken a beating. I was hurting too. My self-worth was nowhere in sight. But that day, as we spoke to each other, confiding in each other, talking about our fears and sorrows, we reminded each other of our strengths and what started as a meltdown soon turned into laughter.
We realized we were still in love with each other, but our families wouldn’t still accept. We wanted the blessing of the families, and so we decided to part ways again.
That night, while he was dropping me home, we met with an accident. I was unscathed, and he passed away on the spot.
Since that day, I was considered unlucky. His family never forgave me. I wouldn’t blame them, either. I couldn’t get myself to love anyone, and so I adopted kids.
I moved cities and started life afresh, but I could never get him out of my mind. He resides in all the corners of my heart.
I have come to realize that the world will always have an opinion. To some, I was unlucky.
To others, he wasn’t brave enough to take a stand.
To a few, I was the wrong one.
To the remaining, he came across as brash, rude, short-tempered.
The point being – there is good and evil in all. I remember Jihan for his goodness, and I want you to do the same.
I am writing about him because the world thought of him to be something else only, but to me, he was a hero, and will always be one. To me, he will always be your great-grandfather.”
Qiara finished reading and looked at the dried-up rose in the diary. Then, she thought to herself: someday, I hope I can get somebody like Jihan, my great-grandfather.
© Pallavi Lumba. June 17, 2021.
Ananya sat in the driver’s seat, not knowing where to go. She told herself to calm down. It looked as if she hadn’t slept well the night before. Those who knew her well knew that she had cried herself to sleep – AGAIN.
She had a nasty fight with Ekansh that night, post which he had walked away. Ekansh had told her not to call or get in touch with him again. Ananya had told Ekansh that she wanted nothing to do with him and was better off without him. Their temper and anger had got the better of them. This fight was six years back, and since then, they had not been in touch. She missed him – every single day. She had tried to get in touch, but he had changed his numbers.
Her girlfriends had advised her to move on, and Ananya did. She changed cities and thought she had gotten over him, but she realised she still cared for Ekansh and was worried for him when the pandemic hit the country. Ananya panicked, not knowing how Ekansh was or where he was. All she wanted was some assurance from someone who would tell her that Ekansh was safe and healthy. If someone could give her this assurance, it would be Rosanne.
Rosanne and Ekansh had been dating on and off. Both led busy and eventful lives and didn’t have time to spare or invest in their relationship. Whenever they would speak to each other, Ananya had occupied a significant part of their conversation. Rosanne felt she had no space in Ekansh life or heart and wondered why he was unwilling to speak to Ananya, especially since his eyes lit up at the mere mention of Anaya’s name. And so, Rosanne decided to get Ekansh and Ananya to converse with each other. Rosanne firmly believed that the resolution to any conflict lay in two people talking to each other. She had given a pep talk to Ekansh and had felt she was talking to a wall. Rosanne was exasperrated. She thought she was the cause of two friends going astray and now wanted to mend things between them, whether it was a fault of hers or not.
Unlocking was now underway. Rosanne called Ananya and requested that Ananya meet her for coffee. Ananya felt that Rosanne was not ok when she heard her voice.
Fearing the worst, Ananya ran out of the house. She didn’t care how she looked, but Ananya became fearful as soon as she sat in the car.
Ananya shut her eyes and told herself to breathe in and out. Her hands were still on the steering wheel, but her feet were on the mat. A missed call on her mobile from Rosanne pulled her out of her thoughts.
Ananya switched on the music in the car stereo. Their favourite music played, which got her nostalgic. She started to miss him and reminisced about the time she had spent with Ekansh. There was another missed call from Rosanne, which diverted her mind.
Trembling, she switched on the ignition.
Post her meeting with Rosanne, Ananya drove on with a troubled heart. Ananya’s mind was confused, and she was unsure if she should call Ekansh or not.
From Rosanne, Ananya learnt that Ekansh had become haggard and had lost confidence. The fact that he was stubborn in not returning from abroad didn’t help matters. He was stuck there now.
Ananya looked at the passenger seat with a crumbled piece of paper on it. She unfolded the paper, saw the number and folded it back, keeping it on the dashboard this time.
Ananya drove through the sun-soaked fields before climbing uphill. The curvy mountainous roads depicted her state of life and mind. After driving for a bit on the mountains, Ananya stopped near the stream and washed her face. The natural water refreshed her spirit. She began her journey onwards, not knowing where she was going.
Before sitting in the car, she looked at the number and had begun to dial it, only to stop herself as the words – DO NOT CALL ME had come back to her. She paused for a second and then had begun to write a text. After she had composed the text, she hit backspace and deleted the whole message. Damn you, heart. Ananya muttered to herself.
The sky changed its colour. The colours changed from blue to pink, pink to orange and then from orange to purple. Time passed by rather quickly. Soon, the sky was black. Ananya was now in the middle of a valley and lay on the grass. Her eyes set on the stars. Except for the sounds of cricket, she only had herself for company.
Ananya shut her eyes and was startled by the ringing of the alarm clock. The hello on the other end melted her heart. Ananya and Ekansh spoke for hours that day and since then have been in touch. During the pandemic, they have been each other’s support, listening and sounding board.
A year has passed since they have been in touch. In this one year, Ananya and Ekansh have had lunches and dinners over zoom and google meet. Both have got their smiles and laughter back.
Yesterday, Ananya was waiting at the airport. The glint in her eyes as she saw Ekansh coming out of the terminal spoke of her love for him.
Both had to let go of their ego’s. One had to make the first move. In Ananya and Ekansh’s case, it was Ekansh. In their lives, one had to sacrifice. It was Rosanne.
© Pallavi Lumba. June 14, 2021
Stories were born from the airport. Faces you saw, and the walk one walked, every aspect depicting a different emotion.
Both Aarush and Dhriti, hands clutched, walked towards the airport terminal entrance gate with a heavy heart. Both had a different perspective about airports. Dhriti found it depressing and viewed it as a place that took her away from her home and loved ones. Aarush, on the other hand, felt there many interesting things to notice. People for one and life for another. Airports reminded him of the pace, energy and speed needed to reach one’s target. Outside the terminal gate, difference aside, they were locked in an embrace. Time stood still.
At that moment, they knew – no matter where they are or after how long they would be meeting, their connection with each other’s soul would remain intact.
Indeed some things/moments in life are heartfelt and can’t be expressed. They couldn’t explain what they were feeling and going through right now, but the beauty of it all was that they understood each other’s silence.
In another part of the airport, Seher walked towards the aircraft, and her eyes gazed at the runway. The runway reminded her of the vastness and depth that existed – in life and everything around.
Airports were home to her. It was where she belonged. Watching the planes take off and land had a thrill of its own. Secretly she imagined herself soaring like a bird in the sky.
Dreams for her. Wishful thinking for another. The reality for some.
Nidra and Reyansh worked at the airport. For them, airports meant different expressions, varied footsteps. Nidra was a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. She thought it was a picturesque sight to see the aircraft tails or lines of aeroplanes on the tarmac from the frosty windows when it had just rained. But, on the other hand, Reyansh had music in his heart, and to him, it sounded like a melody when there raindrops on the roofs while flight announcements were blaring from the announcement system. However, both Nidra and Reyansh had one belief in common. The runway they felt was home. It was a stretch that seemed never-ending but where one always landed safely.
Aarav looked grim upon landing. Aarav was the first one to exit the aircraft, and before leaving, he glanced behind. Everyone stood at a distance from each other. FaceShields on, mask on. Stay Safe, Aarav muttered as he walked out. Aarav’s heart sank as he walked out of the airport. Except for the staff and a few passengers, the airport was empty. Was it the new normal? Aarav hoped not.
© Pallavi Lumba. June 16, 2021
They loved the stage. The theatre, they believed, was their temple, their place of worship. Hence, it was natural that they would protect, take care and love it with all their might – as if it were their own. Every chance they got to be on stage was their moment to bring to life – a form of art long forgotten. They felt that no one knew this feeling, and no one needed to know. They loved performing, even if it were empty seats.
After many years, they found themselves on stage again, staring in front of empty seats again. They were going through a range of emotions – anger, frustration, hopelessness. Was it that they were not good enough? They had now begun doubting their craft.
There is nothing wrong with your craft, and it’s a joy to see you all perform, a familiar voice called out. It was the caretaker of the auditorium. The caretaker continued talking; his eyes fixed on the performers who were now grown up.
The caretaker reminded the performers of something that day. That, they needed to keep the hope alive within and have patience if they wanted to restore the town’s glory and bring it back to life by restoring a form of art long forgotten. He also reiterated that the moments in the empty stage/stands when they felt alive were their foundation stone.
The performers now understood that it was all about a journey, a journey into seeking the unknown.
© Pallavi Lumba
A Love Story
Adrian was the typical college heartthrob – charming, suave and a ladies man. Mia was your girl next door, simple, docile, innocent, homely and sweet. He had intensity written on him, and she had simplicity and innocence written on her.
Unknown to Adrian, Mia would save all her pocket money just so that she could buy his favourite guitar. She was clueless that it was Adrian who would leave lilies and daisies at her doorsteps every morning. Lilies were her favourite flower.
It was their eyes that did the talking. It was the silence that said it all. They may never have expressed their feelings, but they were each other support through it all.
Mia and Adrian, along with friends, would spend time together, laughing and joking at the basketball courts. Their love was pure, timeless, one which only a handful of people knew and felt. Adrian and Mia didn’t have to say it loud, but knew what the other person was going through. They both wanted to grow old with each other, but fate and destiny had other plans. Get married to different people, they did, but never did they stop loving each other. Love each other, they did, in their separate ways.
Today, the stands are not empty. People still play at the courts; friends still come by the courts. Some in the stands and at the court feel a fragrance of love in the air. Others feel a void, for Adrian and Mia’s physical presence is no longer there.
Adrian and Mia lie beside each other – in their graves – a guitar on his, daisy and lilies on hers.
© Pallavi Lumba
Sweltering Heat. It was a furnace outside. Babita preferred being indoors in the comfort of her airconditioned room.
In the evening, when it was cooler, she stepped outside. Looking up, she saw the dark clouds hovering overhead. The winds had changed their direction. Was it a sign of something in store? Babita kept these thoughts to herself and kept on walking. It began to be windy, and the sky started to rumble. It seemed as if something was getting crushed and ripped into pieces.
Thunderstorm. There was something in that sound that always scared her. Babita couldn’t figure out what it was. “I hope it’s nothing to worry about”, she told herself as she made her way home, almost running to safety.
This uncanny feeling that she got always unnerved her. Her sixth sense told her something is majorly wrong. Was it to do with the people she loved? This was no ordinary change in weather. Kuch unhoni ka sanket? No, no, can’t be. Think positive. Babita told herself. Soon it started to rain.
The rain had a calming effect on her. She called up her loved ones and learnt they were safe. At night, She slept peacefully, but the morning had a different story to tell.
Babita woke up to a devasting piece of news that had occurred in some other country. It had everything to do with love, friendships, peace and humanity, which troubled her a lot. She now had questions – Will there ever be co-existence and harmony between people of different religion, caste or creed? How can I make a difference? The questions, for which she had no answer and sought the same.
© Pallavi Lumba
Satej wanted to sell off the dwindling business and invest that money in a startup. Maya, his wife and company’s co-founder, had not consented to the same. She was the sole property heir of the same. It was her stree-dhan and the only memory she had of her parents.
Frequent disagreements over the same led to a marital strain. Satej startup dream crashed, and he found an ally in alcohol. Lockdown took place. Stuck together in four walls of the house was claustrophobic for Satej and Maya. Financial loss and a slow economy only made matters worse for both of them.
Encouragements from her friends led Maya to become a baker. Everyone appreciated Maya’s baking. Maya couldn’t bear to see the brilliance of Satej going to waste. So, she came up with a proposition. Her baking project could be their new startup, of which Satej would be the business head. Satej realised this could be their dream startup if they would be a team. He agreed to Maya’s idea. It was a win-win for both
© Pallavi Lumba
Hues of orange, blue and white in the sky was a sharp contrast to the dull-looking clothes that Sahira was wearing. The smile on her face, though, spoke volumes of love that existed in her heart. How can she be happy, was the orthodox opinion of this sleepy town, where a tragedy had just occurred in Sahira’s life with the death of her husband – Vinayak.
But, Sahira believed: Happiness is within and is contagious. She knew that love and patience was the need of the hour in a town known for its riots and notorious gangsters.
Sahira dreamt of starting a school for the underprivileged and rebuilding the town. She wanted to fulfil Vinayak’s dream, which was to educate the children, for he believed that they are the hopes for tomorrow. But the land she wanted to build a school was the one where construction was not allowed.
It took years before construction was finally allowed. Sahira was then able to build the school and fulfil Vinayak’s dream. Laughter, Peace, Hope, Resilience, Patience, Strength, Love, Friendship are the colors now in the village.
© Pallavi Lumba
“Connections are from the heart”. Ryna was deep in thought in their favourite spot at the park as she recalled Darpan’s word when Jackie passed away.
A lick on her face stunned Ryna. Droopy eyes looked into her eyes and melted her heart. The two of them spent the next few hours in silence. He followed her as she got up to stroll, barked at anyone who came near. Jackie, she blurted out. He immediately looked up attentively. Ryana clutched her hand to her skirt, her heart skipping a beat as she wondered: “Was he reincarnated”? The warmth seemed familiar to Ryna as she hugged the furry ball of delight.
Ryna looked up at the skies. Had Darpan sent him? She desperately looked for a sign. Ryna wanted to take this furry ball back home with her but couldn’t. Back home, her ailing grandmother had become allergic to fur. Ryna’s heart sank as she walked back home.
Soon the skies began to grey. There was a thunderstorm and lighting. Then it began to rain. Ryna heard footsteps and stopped. She glanced behind, only to see – Jackie was following her back home.
Ryna sighed. There was no way she would let Jackie get wet and leave him like that. She then whistled the tune, the one Jackie liked. Jackie refused to let go of her. Ryna thought to herself: “I will figure something when I get home wherein I can get to keep Jackie and make sure that nothing happens to grandmother. For now, Jackie will come home. The family needs love back in their lives”.
© Pallavi Lumba
Falak stood by the college gate and looked at the tall buildings. The buildings seemed to be calling her, and she felt an urge to go inside. She hesitated for a moment and then removed her shades, post which she wiped the corner of her eyes and then stepped inside.
The playground was green. Falak sat on a rock, under the shade of a tree, where they would chill. The flowers were in full bloom. The playground, though, was empty. She saw her college years pass in front of her and remembered when the playground was their go-to place.
Hours later, she entered the canteen. The canteen staff were happy to see her. As soon as Falak sat down, they came with her favourite burger. She looked at them with tears in her eyes. It had been 12 years, but they still remembered what she ate.
She looked over to the corner where she used to sit, with her friends, chatting, patting each other backs or then simply humming. Now there was no one – to share her happiness or sadness.
She looked around and saw that the guitar was still hanging on the canteen wall. Once where there were sounds of chitter-chatter, silence remained. She walked over to where the guitar was and ran her hands over it. She smiled to herself, recalling when her boyfriend Yug tried teaching her how to play the guitar, his fingers over hers.
At that time, Falak had wondered what help it would do to her, and Yug’s reply was: “Someday, you will thank me for it”. It had been years since Falak played the guitar. She stopped playing it – the day Yug passed away.
“Please play”. Falak looked sideways in the direction of the voice. It was Raju who used to serve their table. Raju continued: “It’s been years since any one of us heard music here”. Raju pleading eyes softened Falak. She reached for the guitar and began strumming Yug’s favourite melody. Soon, people started to swarm in, and the place became buzzing with activity.
Falak looked at Yug’s picture hanging on the wall and thanked him.
© Pallavi Lumba