The First Time I Met Her
“Wait a minute, are you telling me you had a crush on me since that day you saw me first in front of the Taj Mahal? Why didn’t you tell me, Varun? Why did you wait until our wedding day to confess this?”
“Because I was so worried that you would reject me, Sonali,” he said, his head bent.
“But if you had had told me on that day itself, it would have saved me so much trouble.” She ruffled his hair and laughed.
“What do you mean?” he asked nervously.
“Idiot. Twenty-third of January, 2014. That was the day I fell madly in love in love with you.”
He laughed, eyes brimming with joy and surprise. “But how could you love me, Sonali? You were beautiful and smart, with so many friends who never left your side. And I was the shy introvert, who had never talked to a girl in my life, with no skills to boast of, save my passable sketching.”
“Yes, but your warmth and genuineness were what swept me off my feet that day,” she said with a dreamy look in her eyes — as if her mind was already back in their college days. Varun found himself drifting off too, to that one day that shone like bright starlight in a year full of sepia-tinted memories.
He was only twenty, in his final year in college. All his life, he had been an introvert — more comfortable with his books and his paintbrushes than he was among people. He had nearly given the day-long excursion to Agra a skip too, but his best friend Nikhil had dragged him along, saying this was their last chance to travel with the rest of their classmates as a group.
A reluctant Varun had tagged along with the two hundred odd undergraduates to the city of love. They visited the ruins of Fatehpur Sikri and spent three hours watching birds at Bharatpur. It was five pm when their buses stopped in front of the Taj Mahal.
The class got down with a babble, and Varun followed suit, breathing in the fresh air of the countryside. Nikhil was ready to go inside, but Varun remembered he had left his sketching journal back on the bus. Urging Nikhil to go with the others, he stepped back to fetch his journal. He didn’t want to miss the opportunity of doodling the famed tribute to eternal love.
When he got down, the rest of his classmates had left. A pretty girl in a pink churidar was left behind, getting down from the bus opposite him. She smiled and hurried towards him.
“Hi, I’m Sonali from Sculpture,” she said. “I got left behind as my Dad had insisted on a video call, and I couldn’t find network outside the bus. What’s your excuse for being late, Mr…?”
“Varun,” he said, feeling the butterflies in his stomach fighting over each other in a mad competition to see which one of them could make him the most nervous. “I’m from Fine Arts. I got late because I had left my sketching journal behind.”
“Oh that’s so nice,” she said, leading the way to the ticket counter. “Do you mind showing me some of your sketches? I would show you my sculptures too.”
Varun was taken aback. This was the first time in his life a beautiful girl had been so kind to him and had actually wanted to look at his sketches. Feeling nervous and giddily happy at the same time, he followed her, a skip in his step. “Of course, I would love to show you.” He smiled.
And the two of them had spent a magical afternoon together in the premises of the Taj Mahal, away from the chatter of the group of their classmates.
After a blissful two hours, they sat together by the backside of the monument, watching the sun go down over a lazy Yamuna. Sonali was talking about her friends, life back at college and how much she loved sculpture and hoped to make a living out of it. Varun found himself smiling most of the time and nodding at her enthusiastic monologues.
“Your sketches are beautiful, I must say.” She looked him in the eye and smiled. “But you must have gotten tired of hearing that.”
Varun could merely nod. He was fiercely proud of his work, but no one had ever praised his sketches so much.
“Your sketches made me think, Varun. Some of them gave me goosebumps and filled in my soul the mad urge to recreate their magic in my sculptures. This isn’t mere talent, this is art. I am privileged to have seen them.”
He fumbled and muttered some words of gratitude, feeling with each passing second, that right here, it this moment, he was the luckiest man in the world.
When the professor called them back to the bus, Sonali walked with Varun, still talking, still laughing, still so breathtakingly beautiful.
They stopped at a streetside store to have lemonade. Sipping on the pink straw, she asked him casually, pointing at the opposite store. It had plastic replicas of the Taj Mahal held in a glass sphere filled with transparent liquid.
“Varun, would you like a miniature Taj?”
“I don’t usually buy mementos.” He laughed nervously. Was this beautiful girl offering to buy him a present?
“Idiot,” she said and giggled.
Varun was mesmerized. He loved the way her eyes danced with the light of a thousand stars when she laughed.
“You don’t buy souvenirs, but you draw sketches, right? You weren’t able to draw anything today because I was babbling all the time. Come on,” she said, tugging his shirt sleeve. “Let me get you one to remember this beautiful day.”
He could only grin like an idiot when she led him across the street and bought him the tiniest, most beautiful replica of Taj Mahal he had ever seen.
When Varun went back to his hostel room that night, his cheeks hurt from all the smiling that day.
He lay in bed, staring at the ceiling fan and thinking of Sonali’s ringing laugh, her beautiful black hair that fell to her shoulders, her dimpled smile that made him go weak at the knees, and her faint flowery fragrance that still lingered on his shirt, even though they had never once touched.
That was when he knew he liked Sonali a lot more than he had ever liked another person.
That was when he knew he was in trouble.
Sonali was way out of his league. Her radiant smile could make any bystander stop and stare in awe at such unadulterated beauty. If he even dared to approach her and confess his feelings, she would most certainly rebuff his advances and make him a laughing stock in front of the entire college.
He sighed and turned to his side.
This was not going to work. He needed to forget his dreams of a future with her and concentrate on committing every last detail of this beautiful day to his memory.
She was all but a memory now — his most precious — and he dared not forget even one single second, lest he lose a part of his heart.
“So that is why you never once talked to me after that day!” Sonali said. She had one elbow propped on the bed with her head resting on it. Her beautiful face wore an expression of mock anger.
“You can’t blame me, wifu,” he said, lying down on the mattress with a sigh. “You were too stunningly beautiful for me to fool myself to believe that you were within my reach.”
“Uh, that’s too much poetry in one sentence, husbando,” she said, grabbing him by the collar and turning around to straddle him, her thighs pressed tight around his chest.
As she bent down to kiss him, he couldn’t help but marvel at how glorious she looked in her bridal attire. She had one of her magical smiles on her face — the very kind that made Varun go weak at the knees.
He held her cheeks with both his palms and gently kissed her back.
Struggling not to disturb the magic of the moment, Varun reached out with his left hand to turn out the lights to the most precious night of his life — one that lit up the sky of his youth with more colours than the most wondrous Diwali fireworks.
I come from a country where Medium hasn’t introduced the Partner Program yet. So if you liked this post, you might consider buying me a beer.
I’m excited to share this with you — I recently published my first book Stolen Reflections: Some stories are told in verse. It is a collection of some of the best poems and short prose I have written. The book is available in both paperback and e-book formats worldwide. If you like what I write, go ahead and give this book a read. ❤