It was yet another Valentine’s day. As he sat waiting for his Valentine to get back home, his memories started to come back again. It all had started more than two decades back.
By the time he was in 12th grade, he had fallen in love with as many girls! Few of these girls even knew about it and a couple of these who had come to know chose to pass him up. Knowing his future was at stake and that he couldn’t afford to risk it, he chose to put off his attempts at finding a soul partner and set all of his focus in gearing up for the Engineering degree he felt assured would put him on track in life. All through his college days, he would see his classmates going strong with their loves. His upbringing was that he should focus on what he needed to do and everything else was a distraction. Even love was a distraction for him at that time.
Seven years later, he had completed his graduation, but love was no longer on his mind. Now, getting a job was the priority. It wasn’t hard, within six weeks after his graduate exams he found the job he wanted and it was close to home – better than the on-campus job he had secured. He felt relieved now. He had accomplished his goal of securing a decent future.
The day was still crystal clear in his mind. It was an exciting first day when he reported to work. Many of his friends were already working. If not for his misfortune related to physical requirements, he would have already been in the work force in a plush government job in the defense ministry. But that was past. Now, though a bit late, he was ready to take on the excitements of a new job. Little did he know he would find what he wanted all these years right at his first job.
After filling up the HR paperwork, the Manager introduced him to the team among them three young girls who were also starting fresh. One of the girls caught his attention right away – the sparkle in her eyes specifically. Over the next month or so he got to know more of her, his attraction grew more and more. Both of them were working in different groups and there wasn’t much of an opportunity to meet except during lunch. He and his colleagues would all walk up to the cafeteria in the next building. And on the way back, sometimes there were those glimpses that would lighten up his heart. He hadn’t seen a girl so proper to the core; she wouldn’t even look at him directly and as he passed her, she would just look down and walk away. Those were not the days where liberation was strong on young girls’ minds. Family pride and respect was of utmost importance. Getting onto a relationship and that to an open one wasn’t the norm. Not your typical girl, he had thought. This had made him all the more eager to talk to her.
It was just a matter of a couple of months, he realized he was madly in love. It was as though all these years of deprivation had ignited a fire in him. It was as though she was a strong reason for him to wait all these years. There was no way of letting her know about it. He once invited the three to his home on a festive occasion. His father, who had a keen eye, would later express that he had thought he was after the same girl. Maybe these things are just evident to those who have trodden the path before.
Now the job offer was such that the new recruits were on probation for three months and needed to wait for a confirmation after that. Not surprisingly, all of the recruits got the confirmation and it was a cause for some celebration. The group had decided to go to a very popular restaurant – Sukh Sagar – in the heart of the Majestic area of the city. The restaurant was a much sought after place known for its chaats and fruit juices. With the abundance of such restaurants now-a-days in Bangalore, they don’t turn eyes, but nearly 24 years ago, there used to be a lot of excitement going to Sukh Sagar as it was just one of the two in the entire city. He remembered a great evening bordering on the romantic, but he was the only participant. Each such occasion he got to see her close, the more determined he became to not let go of the opportunity to spend the rest of his life with her.
He lived in one of the oldest parts of the town and work was at the other end. When he started, he had to catch the public transport to get to work. He remembered, bus – no. 14 – would take him from close to home to work. He had come to know she was staying somewhere near another established part of the city, which was mid-way to work on the route. He hoped to see her on the bus one of the days. He couldn’t remember exactly when and how, but his joy knew no bounds when he did see her get onto the bus one day. That day on, he knew exactly which bus he would take to work though it would take him half hour early. He then became a regular getting onto the same bus. From the moment he would be awake, time would pass so slowly until he would be on the bus and sit through the 40 minutes of commute to where she would get on. The buses used to be crowded with people literally hanging from the steps as was typical of cities in India. Men would board the bus at the back and women at the front. Very soon, he had mustered courage to inch up to the front of the bus and say hello to her surprise one day. Getting off at the last stop, it was a five minute walk to work. This became a routine and the only time he could see and talk to her. Once at work, they used to get walloped with things to do. It was the beginning of the IT boom and computer jobs were much sought after. Work would demand that he stay late at work regularly and thus never got to see much of her except for the occasional bump-into at lunch or in office. By now he was pretty sure she had realized that he was in love with her. But there was no direct proposal yet.
With paychecks coming in, he bought his first vehicle – a Kinetic Honda. This meant more freedom to move around. His love got him bolder and he would drive up to the bus-stand where she would get on and offered to drive her to work. After a few days of refusals, it became a routine to go to work together and in the process they became closer and closer. By this time, she had invited him to her home and he had got to know the family. The visits became more regular. After work he would end up visiting her on his way back home.
It was August of the same year, and he had to go on a business trip to a sister company setup in a neighboring state and the week was too much of a separation. Middle of the trip, one evening he went up to the STD/ISD booth where one could make non-local calls and called her home to speak with her. This more or less set in stone his intentions to her family. Rumors about an arranged marriage proposal got him to realize it was time to make a decision. After coming back from the trip, one day he mustered up the courage and walked up to her cubicle, caught her unawares and started a conversation. He was supposed to go on another trip and wanted to make her know his love. It was now or never, he had thought. He remembered asking her ‘Would you like our friendship turn into a relationship?’ and that was it.
She had said she needed some time to think about it. He couldn’t recall after how many days she agreed but that was his story of how he won over his Valentine. Sitting on the porch, looking at the setting sun in all its glory, he thought his love to his Valentine was no less glorious. He knew if he had made one right decision in his life, it was that proposal. Looking back, none of his accomplishments mattered as much to him. The date and time on his phone reminded him that in a month from then, March would see the 25th anniversary of his meeting his Valentine. Valentine’s day was just a few days away and his eagerness for the day was evident in his heart. He heard the car drive into the driveway. His Valentine was back home. It would be another one of those complete and happy evenings.