"Hold on. You said you love her, right? Why did you have to hurt her so, then? No, I just don't get it."
"Yeah I love her. I love her more than I would ever be able to love anyone."
The words were slow in coming.
"I love her more than she can imagine."
The fingers stopped fidgeting and the face of the 30 something man looked strikingly older. There was an eerie calm on his face. One, that by being utterly plastic, bespoke of the raging tumult inside.
"As to why I had to do what I did, well, precisely because she loves me as much as I love her."
As he said this, Deepak's dreamy eyes looked down and a painful smile appeared on his lips. Sonali was more bewildered this time, but she sensed Deepak was not done yet. She didn't ask him to clarify. She knew she had made an opening in the dam, and that soon enough, it would burst and bring forth all that it had so painstakingly kept from brimming over.
She wasn't wrong. That day the dam did burst. Finally.
"Her love for me was unconditional, in the truest sense of the term. Pristine love, unadulterated by expectations. Constant, never ebbing, never changing."
The light in Deepak's eyes while he spoke those words didn't go unnoticed by Sonali. She was glad Deepak looked happy after what seemed to be ages but at the same time, she couldn't help feeling scared. This happiness was ominous.
"You won't find a more undemanding woman on the face of earth. And I haven't come across a woman more confident about her relationship. That we were not married, that I had no plans to marry her, that she knew she could never change my decision……. never seemed to figure anywhere in her love for me. No matter how crazily I behaved, no matter how many reasons I gave her to doubt me, she was always secure in the knowledge that I was all hers. Only hers. The only person on earth who knew that this gritty businessman who controlled the fates of lakhs of people working for him, had no control over his own behavior, was her. She understood that with me, things just happened. She never allowed herself to feel offended or upset with me. Far from that. All patience, all kindness. That was my Ishika"
The light in the eyes was aglow even more now. Could excessive happiness kill a man? Sonali brushed aside the stupid thought and felt almost guilty.
"This made things easy. Handling me is no mean task, but she made it appear effortless. I would often get mad at her for silly reasons and she would do exactly as I would want her to. She would leave me alone for sometime and then coyly approach me the moment I needed her. And then she would apologise no matter who was responsible. She would apologise for what were clearly my mistakes. Apparently, she believed she should be able to help me keep my temper in check and that whenever I did blow up, she was equally responsible in not being able to prevent it."
Ah! The rare smile appeared again. This was surely an unusual evening. Sonali was swooning over her success.
"That was my Ishika. Strange do you say? So she was. All tenderness, all love."
The pace of the words tumbling out of the recluse businessman's mouth was steadily increasing. He was in a happy space and didn't need to be prodded this evening. The reluctant romantic was definitely enjoying what he was being made to recollect. Sonali wondered again about the rationale behind not being allowed to use a voice or a video recorder.
"The part that attracted me most to her was that she didn't know that she was this amazing. And she never thought that our love for each other was any different from that of her parents' love for each other. She never considered our story to be any different than that of any other couple around. She doesn't know of her greatness, neither does she know of the greatness of our love story. When you tell her what you are writing down she won't have a clue that it is she whose glory is being sung."
Deepak chuckled and his dreamy eyes drooped down again. Sonali had at least one of her questions answered now. She couldn't help being amused. The man knew that the woman didn't know about her and their greatness. The man knew about his greatness and of hers and of their story but didn't want the woman to know any of it. Wow!
Who said only Ishika was strange.
Sonali lifted her head up to see the tough business tycoon in tears. She was about to offer a tissue from the bowl on the bedside table when Deepak turned towards her and said smiling, " I'm going to tell you my story. All of it. You'll have to take it down really fast. If you blink, you miss." And he winked. The tears continued to flow but the mischievous glint in his eye, the playful smile on his lips and the glow in his face made her drop the tissue back into the bowl. This man was in a happy space, no doubt. He was in a different plane altogether.
The eyes scanned the horizons and some more tears rolled down his cheeks.
"I'm going to tell you my story. All of it. No ordinary love story."
Wow! Sonali couldn't wait to hear.
|Read Part II here|
Disclaimer: A work of fiction