If you have been to Delhi’s T3 Terminal you will know it to be a grand and desperately humongous meeting ground of people across the world. Tens of thousands of people catch flights from there everyday to travel the world. With cafes, book shops, clothes and so many distractions the world can pass you by in those few hours of wait before you get transported; mind, body and soul. In this very congregation of the world, on this specific night, two people decided to bump into each other like people do across airports around the world. It isn’t a new premise, it isn’t a new story, it’s just a couple of lives getting changed forever or atleast for a while.
Varun and Madhavi were flying to London and Singapore respectively. Their jobs demanded a lot of flying and leaving behind their home at the whim of meetings and decisions taken nowhere near where they lived or worked. That should explain their job descriptions. Both of them had their own pre-flight rituals. Varun’s dictated by his fear of flying and Madhavi’s by her fear of airplane food. It required both of them to have a very specific set of food and beverages to be consumed before the flight at a very specific Cafe. Madhavi was right at the front of the line when Varun spotted her. He waited a second, took a breath, mentally pinched himself and walked up to her.
‘Madhavi! This is unbelievable.’ He stood with all his weight on his right leg and then quickly moved it to his left. He did that sometimes when his mind was confused between excitement and fear. It could never really decide with her. Madhavi turned hoping it wasn’t one of the many people she had decided not to meet while in Delhi. Upon seeing Varun she wasn’t sure which would have been better.
She got her coffee, muffin and sandwich and got out of the line and managed an awkward hug. Varun matched her awkwardness bit for bit. The meeting was weird, special and touching. After all they did break up three years ago and meeting after all those years sure causes some mishandled cups of coffee.
When Varun and Madhavi broke up, close to fifteen separate relationships were dissolved the same night. Between their siblings, closest friends, their dogs, watchmen and there was an unfortunate Auto driver who had to bear the brunt too. Nobody was spared and most of all the two of them. It ripped them apart from the soul and some would say that they never recovered. They knew each other better than anyone else and they knew they had messed up, but there was no returning. And there was no encore. Just a quiet surrender, followed by a storm and a hug that ended it all.
‘So how come you are here? Where are you headed hotshot app developer man?’ That was Madhavi trying to do something about the strange hug that had preceded the stranger question.
‘ On my way to London. Trying to convince another investor to spend a little of their money on me and guarantee me a square meal of Sambhar Rice and Chai every day.’ He hated both. She knew that. And that was the joke if you didn’t get it.
‘ On my way to Singapore myself to do the same for my company. I really can’t believe we had to meet like this, though for some reason it just feels like it was how it was always supposed to happen. What else is up?’
‘The usual Madhavi. Fighting the bad guys and saving the city by the day and building an app to help people find jobs they can fall in love with in the night. It’s what I have always wanted to do. How about you? I heard the pregnancy led to a human child. Congrats on that. Facebook had little else to say for about three full days.’
Madhavi paused for a bit and looked him in the eyes. She knew that talking about her baby boy wasn’t easy for him. She also knew his jokes was just a distraction. She decided to be gentle.
‘It was a piece of cake. I was pregnant one day, doing my thing and pop, he was out. Didn’t feel a thing. And yes he is human, a surprise that we are still coming to terms with.’
They both laughed a bit. Allowed the moment to pass. This was them accepting that time had passed, things had changed, life had taken over. And nobody likes that.
‘How is the husband, Madhavi?’
‘He is good. He dropped me today and must be waiting at the entrance till my plane takes off. He is a little crazy and adorable that way. But it has been a great ride.’
‘That’s great. The waiting part is a tad bit weird but I get it. Maybe I don’t. Moving on.’
‘So how is your love life? I heard rumblings about women from far corners of the world.’
‘All the same Madhavi. Not much has changed from the last time we met. Life and my 5 man company is all I have time to focus on for now. Changing gears requires patience and a desire to want someone. Doubt I have either in me now, so pretty happy waiting it out for now.’
Awkward smiles. Sips of coffee. Avoided glances. And then some courage.
‘ Varun I am not too sure why you have become like this but it does sound that it’s just that your priorities have shifted. There was a time when your relationship and friends and family were all that mattered. I just think that has changed with your company and maybe that’s why it may not be a big deal.’
Surprising how they both had already touched upon their uncomfortable past and present. The screen with the flight timings may have had something to do with it. Pent up feelings were on a clock and for some reason this boxing match had just started at Round 6.
‘ Yup I guess that’s how it sounds and feels from the outside. And how did you reach this conclusion Madhavi?’
‘ Well no Facebook posts about time spent with friends or family. No updates about any woman you are dating or even interested in but tons on the app you are building and the lives you are changing and the ecosystem and investors and pretentious ramblings about the institutions that define the country. Give me a break Varun, you sound so unbelievably fake.’
Varun was clearly stunned. It felt like they were right back, three years ago sitting across a coffee table in a city not far away.
‘I’m sorry my Social Media isn’t more illuminating about the intimate details of my life because I reserve that for conversations with people Madhavi. It just truly is a factor of the person I have become and I don’t see anything wrong with it.’
‘ Maybe not wrong. Not for me to decide. But then I knew the guy you were and nothing wrong with this version but I really hoped you would evolve into something closer to what you used to be. We have spoken, albeit on phone calls Varun and it’s like there was never any warmth between us. I find that unfair and hard to digest. it’s like I never knew you!’
Flight number LE 6756 to Singapore is on schedule. Boarding begins soon. Please ensure you have completed your Security Check.
They took a pause. Calm down.
‘Madhavi I am really sorry you feel that way. But I really didn’t know how to be any other way. We both messed up back then and we both dealt with it very differently. I had to get rid of my dog. He kept reminding me of you and would do these really whiny things when I would take him on a walk past your place. Like at that point, I felt that even my dog was letting me down.’
‘Are you implying that I let you down?’
‘You know most normal people would have found what my dog was doing, funny. But you had to turn it around as an accusation? How are you still an expert at this?’
Madhavi burst out laughing. She dropped some more of her coffee in the process and Varun had to let out a little smile.
‘Varun this is really stupid. I have a baby boy, you have something meaningful i’m hoping. Let’s not do this. We both hate flying and the last thing we need to do is to remember our first meeting in all this time, so bitterly while on the flight. Magazine game?’
Varun was surprised at the request but picked up his bag and walked with her to the magazine stand. The game basically involved both of them agreeing on a page number. They both picked up random magazines, opened that page number in it. One picked a question from that page and the other had to answer with an appropriate line from the other. Simple. Silly, yes. But memories are anchored in such silliness.
They both turned to it in their respective magazines.
‘So Varun, why do you think the recent flash sale of the latest XL 4 phone was such a disappointment?’
‘ Well Madhavi, it surely had to with the lack of eye contact between Salman and Shahrukh at the premier of the latest Aamir Khan movie. It seems it is irreconcilable at this point.’
‘But how do you think the economy of China will survive the lockdown of its factories in certain provinces as per new environmental regulations?’
‘Both Karan Johar and Alia Bhatt will have to find a way to work past their problems around the production of their latest project.’
‘Varun that didn’t make any sense. Unless you are really worried about their latest project becoming a problem. And knowing you, you might just be concerned about that.’
They laughed. Gave up on a game that turned out had its charm back when the chemistry was stronger and the will to make it interesting was still alive. But it had brought some peace, for now.
‘Madhavi. Can I ask you something? And answer without those flashing eyes of fury.’
‘Go ahead. At your own peril though.’
‘Was it that easy to move on soon after we broke up?’
She took her time but not too long. She knew this answer.
‘Easy. No. But nor was it hard Varun. We had something that was one of its kind. For me, atleast. We wanted it to desperately work and when I saw the levels of desperation we were operating at, it worried me. Our relationship was based on it being effortless. Every relationship requires hard work and all that jazz but ours didn’t. Ours was built to succeed and easily. Somewhere down the road we forgot the formula. It may sound like an oversimplification but think about it, were we ever built to struggle to make us work? I struggle many a day with Roshan. Our marriage isn’t built on comfort, it is built on maturity, understanding and the will to make it work. So with him I will fight till the very edge of the world to make things right. With us, it was never designed to be that way. By that I don’t mean we shared something shallow but it was clearly a different cut. Something that was special in so many ways that the moment it went, it was gone forever. I realised that very early and while I still try and fathom what exactly happened between us, I also knew that there was no return, no solace and absolutely no fight back.’
‘But I tried Madhavi. You tried too. We fought it for so long. Was that all pointless?’
‘ Every minute of every fight that we had was required. Every ill timed abuse and careless insult was required. Every time we walked away from each other or left the other stranded at a coffee table was required. Every call cut, every message ignored, every tear cried. Varun, you don’t see it yet because you are still stuck there but our greatest lessons about ourselves were back in those moments.’
Call for Boarding of flight LE 6756 has begun. Please move to Gate 35.
He held on to her coffee as she got her bags together. He was fumbling for the right words but he couldn’t wait to get them arranged right.
‘Madhavi. It hasn’t been easy. Not a single day of it has been easy. I have been stuck and I won’t disagree. Not with you or this whole set of lessons you talk about. I am stuck in specific moments that don’t allow me to connect with the world i’m surrounded by now. I cannot establish certain connections now because they are connected to moments that happened while we were together. They have their foundations there and I cannot build on them while they are there. You cannot get them back for me and I cannot create them again. My understanding of love and caring and even my inspiration and free spiritedness in whatever form it existed has gotten lost. It’s all because it is still there. I’m half the man I was and will always be unless I can go back there and repair it all. There are no lessons to be learned from there. They were only failures which must be avoided, they were desperate times because none of us were looking for solutions. Those moments weren’t lessons, they were moments that I have lost forever with an unfortunate link to my present.’
She held back her tears like she always did. He looked away. And she took her cup of coffee, got her bags and walked away. They were back there. He was looking away, she was walking away. Not much had changed as they both held back tears, reminding themselves to not remember the past, to not let it ruin them now. Not now, not again. There wasn’t going to be a moment that would repair it all. Varun sat down and tried desperately to get a grip of himself while he watched her walk away. She didn’t look at him, she didn’t want to because she may have found it hard to walk away then. She did what she did all those years ago. She walked away while he let her go.
His phone beeped as he saw her disappear past the gate.
You will not find your solution in settling scores with what happened, just the way I will never find peace in knowing what we have become. Remember your fear of flying, remember how it scares the shit out of you. But it gets you places to do great things with your awesome life. Maybe you just need to live with the fear, wink at a few air hostesses, have a couple of drinks and admire the view every once in a while. You will then hit cruising altitude away from all the turbulence. Then you will feel better and you will find yourself. Just let that be your new ‘moments’, your new strength and I promise you will find it all again.
He held on to his phone tight and finally let out a few tears.
Final Call for Flight HG 4123 to London. All passengers please head to Gate 20..