Fathima was curious enough. It seemed that she didn’t understand Sagar at all. They have been talking with each other for the past a few days. When Sagar first pinged her, she never expected that they would get along well. In fact, when they started talking, she felt that he is the very kind of guy she should never get involved with. Sagar never asked her out, but she always had a nagging feeling that he will do that sooner or later. He never insinuated it, yet, she decided to cut him out in case he did.
But that was not how it was meant to be. Within a fortnight between their first chat on Instagram, they met. The weather wasn’t particularly kind because they were still living under the pandemic. It was borderline comical, of how people reacted to it. Most of them grew up hearing stories about a pandemic that existed in some distant past. They had this deeply ingrained feeling that such pestilences were a thing of the past. Even when some of them were convinced that abilities of science paled in comparison to those of their gods, they had a false sense of security that science would help them heal. And when it didn’t, they responded to it with insouciance. The pandemic wasn’t as destructive as they expected it. It was like a grey dawn that hung over them, which wouldn’t let the sunlight through. Surprisingly, it had a cold comfort that some of them had come to enjoy. Even when it took lives, it was kind. The deaths were far removed from the public sight. Unlike the natural calamities or bold acts of states and demagogues, the pandemic was the kindest thing to have happened to them in a long time. It killed in silence, buried the bodies neatly and refused to leave. It was nice.
What surprised them though was that only when the pandemic arrived did they realise that it was the kind of calamity they were always yearning for. Not that they actively anticipated it, but humanity’s deep desire for calamities is well-known. It gave them an opportunity to bask themselves in schadenfreude. Living under the pandemic sharply resembled living inside a casino, gambling 24x7. The thick cloud of speculation that filled the air was sweet to those who could swoosh their hands through the smog, bending uncertainties at times. Escaping the clutches of death, all the while doing the forbidden things, gave them a kind of high that only an addict could understand - an addict of gambling, drugs, tobacco or other vagaries of life.
In this atmosphere, Fathima couldn’t afford to fall in love. Especially with someone as disoriented as Sagar. Deep down, she admired his intelligence, his ability to express himself, to empathize. She even valued his opinions, which never seemed to be in short supply. He had an opinion about everything. He wasn’t very much opinionated, and that meant that they could converse. Sometimes, she felt that his ambiguous positions weren’t stern enough. But when she learnt that it was the life that has softened him, cutting all the corners of his opinion space, she felt that she understood him. Yet, she always wondered how emotions flowed through the innards of his mind’s space.
She knew that he wasn’t immune to emotions, in fact it was quite the opposite. He was exceptionally vulnerable. Despite the outer aura of toughness and no nonsense air that he conjured up, deep inside was a child who was insecure to core. Even his never ending sojourns with different women were attempts to forget something, or so she felt. So she asked him - “Have you ever felt the light of love in your life, Sagar?”
Sagar didn’t expect this question from her. He couldn’t understand why Fathima would ask him this. He never felt that she was interested in him. In fact, he wasn’t romantically interested in her either. She was the kind of comforting presence that he desired, and he didn’t want to spook her away with neither the flame of lust nor the searing promise of love. When she asked about love, it was the first time he had given the question any serious consideration. He wasn’t prepared, so he decided to give her the Truth.
He told her.
Hearing it wasn’t easy for Fathima. It was like a new stage had been inaugurated in her life. Just a peep into Sagar’s life has changed hers forever. She always believed that the passage of an era would be a grand affair. That she will have to endure something substantial before it could happen. But when it came, it felt so inconspicuous, yet so much corporeal. Something moved inside her. She felt it hard to reconcile with the fact that her life has changed forever.
Such was the story of Sagar’s love. With someone who never existed. But more strangely, she knew that Sagar’s one true love could never be anything different. That night, she thought about it for a long time and she couldn’t sleep. So she sat down to write it down. Of what happened to Sagar three years ago. She thought if she should mail it to Ananya who currently lives in the US. But then, she should be sending copies to all those people around the globe. So she dropped the plan and concentrated on the copy instead.
It was dawn already by the time she finished. The manuscript was several pages long and laid scattered on her bed. As the morning struggled to penetrate the shroud of pandemic over humanity, she put on her reading glasses, arranged the pages in order and started to read.
[To be continued…]