I Like Blue..

Beautiful things grow to a certain height and then they fall and fade off, breathing out memories as they decay…
-F Scott Fitzgerald

Of one of the saddest places in the world, must be Navya’s 17 years old heart. She looked into it every day, trying to go over each corner and crevice. It must be somewhere. She looked around forever. The tiny seconds merging into minutes turning into hours. She saw glimpses, pieces and bits. They were scattered, woven in lucid dreams and rude reminders. Yet she yearned the encounter, however unpleasant. And she met them in parts, relieving the pleasure and pain they brought about. The pain of how it all ended and the pleasure of how it grew on her, how it all began.

The cold and dull morning of 27th March, in New Delhi,
was embossed in her memory. It was her first day at her new school. It felt like an alien world, a stark contrast to her cosy and sheltered environment of her first school, Kendriya Vidayala in Ambala cantonment. She was born and brought up in that small town of Ambala. Her Dad served the Indian army till the year before when he lost his life valiantly fighting the Kargil war. He left behind his wife, his only child Navya and a lonely void. Post that, her mom had changed. The smiles and cheers gave way to a permanent sulk while she developed a seemingly irreversible victim syndrome. Her once cheerful mother hardly slept and spent her nights aimlessly sitting by the lone window in her bedroom. So when Navya’s grandparents visited and saw her circumstances they decided to bring them back home in Delhi. So, they moved. Bags, baggage and memories. Soon Navya came to realise that the city and school were not the only things that change when one moves.
For 4 years, as Navya battled a new curriculum, strange teachers and the pollution, she was up against a lot more than that. She was a misfit not only in her ill-fitted uniform but also in her new classroom. She struggled to belong to a big city mindset and to a culture which treated people based on appearances and wealth. Unlike her other classmates, she was carelessly dressed and paid little attention to her personal grooming. In addition to that, her obesity and awkward mannerisms had attracted the rowdy backbencher and bullies. They never got tired of mimicking & mocking her about the way she walked, talked and laughed. The others just watched either amused or in pity. Either way, she felt lonely, isolated and extremely self-conscious. She,  who was once full of confidence and vigour, the reigning monitor of her class back in Ambala was slowly stepping down in an isolated abyss. She had no one to talk to, to unburden her anger and sorrows. Her mother was fighting her own battle with depression and her grandparents were too ignorant to make any positive impact on her condition.
However, in that dark tunnel of aloof solitude, she had now started to see a bright spark of light. Aman had appeared in her horizon like a ray of hope. He wasn’t new to her. She was vaguely known to him from the time she got into the school. But had completely missed noticing or interacting with him in the first two years. Aman was in another class section and he was the kind of a boy who generally steered clear of any undue attention or spotlights. Like her, he preferred to keep to himself. All of 5’4 and athletic, he was reasonably studious. They had common classes of Art and History twice a week and it’s during those sessions that they occasionally sat next to each other. At the time, he hadn’t made much of an impression on her. Maybe she was too busy fighting her own battles coping with studies, bullying and a nagging mother at home.
Each morning as her alarm went off, she longed to cuddle back in her quilt and evaporate. How she wished that Newspapers will announce an unexpected bandth or a death of a popular politician. How she tried to linger on for those extra 5 minutes in the bath so she may miss the school bus. But she never got away. Her mother made sure she was well on her way to school every single day. The mammoth school gates reminded her of the gates to a jail she had recently seen in a documentary. The school building was a bright red and yellow but it always appeared grey, the colour of vomit. She walked through the corridors hoping to appear invisible. But those bullies never seemed to miss her. In the corners of the long aisles that led to the classrooms, they hid behind pillars, waiting for her. They made fun of everything, her awkward gait, speech, form, hair, uniform, bag, books, pencil and everything else. Everything that was hers was laughable. It was mocked upon, insulted and crushed till it lost all meaning. The Google had its own opinion of such bullies. It referred to them as people of grave inner insecurities. But how does that help? They still threw their rolled up ball of anger, frustration and hatred at her. However much she despised it, she had no means to stop their wrath.
Then, one cold November day, something seemingly trivial, but rather unexpected happened and caused the change she had been waiting for.
It was as if the universe finally grew ears for her.
It was a routine history class. Aman sat next to her intently listening to the history teacher blabbering about Mughal kings and their tediously named complicated clans. History rarely excited her. She was fighting the slumber and had barely noticed Aman’s quiet presence next to her. As she sat next to the wall,  she leaned on it so as to support herself while she strained to focus. It was then that she felt something strange beneath her on the chair. Suddenly she noticed that her skirt was stuck in a position. She tried to shake it loose but it stubbornly clung to the chair. It was as if it were glued on to it. She realised then with a shock, that it was precisely what had happened. She tried to pull it free but it was impossible. She then turned around to see Vivek smiling viciously at her. She understood instantly that it was his doing, his dirty prank. He certainly had put glue on her chair. “Such a jackass!” she had angrily mumbled to herself. It was then that she saw Aman looking at her as if he had noticed and understood it all. She didn’t have to ask for help and he didn’t utter a word. When the class ended, he quietly brought out a blade from his bag and tediously began cutting out the glued section of the skirt. Once done,  they walked out from the class, his blazer gently draped around her torn skirt, leaving a disappointed Vivek behind.
From then on, it gradually but surely became a regular routine to meet each other every day. They spoke very little but seemed to have found a sympathetic confidante in each other. She looked forward to seeing him but they seldom exchanged words. They seemed to have developed their silent language and pact. As if they both acknowledged a compulsive attraction that never sought admission. Maybe they were scared, that the inconsequential words may tarnish their quiet courtship. Their bond grew with each passing day. She took to him as fish to water, so in sync with his every passing gesture, subtle but sure. She came to understand his ways, his muted speech. The music he hummed along when they went about their voiceless walks around the school grounds. How her mornings gently slipped out of that horrible acrid zone and how the school building started to appear it’s natural bright red and yellow was a shift she barely noticed. She seemed to be floating on a cloud leaving Viveks and Jays of the world much in a haze. It was as if they mattered no more and their oppressive acts no longer bothered her. When her ignorance of them led them to cease their aggressive ways, she didn’t realise. Nothing seemed to matter to her now except for him. Aman became her very existence and she assumed almost sure that she meant the same to him. It was strange how she never asked him and how he never volunteered to admit his feelings for her. They did talk of course but of everything besides their muted mysterious relationship.
Love does strange things to people. What sometimes had felt like a long courtship, in other instances it felt like the time had just flown. Two years had gone by but the status quo remained. They were together now in the same class section of science stream in12 th standard, the final year of the school. It was evident that they both had blossomed due to their loyal and enriching companionship. While Navya had grown from a demure introverted self to her boisterous secure individual, Aman too had progressed well in academics and popularity. He had plans to pursue Architecture in Pune whereas Navya had made no concrete decisions but was sure to be in Delhi, to be around her mother. The thought of Aman moving away tugged at her every single day now. She made new plans every day to talk to him, to express her love. But somehow, failed miserably.” Maybe it was destined to stay unfulfilled. “ She found that thought haunting her but could never brave it up and express.
Whether it was because of its wordless, tongue-tied existence or the long slumber, it was during this final year in the school, that Aman started to drift away. He became reclusive and restrained. His brief time with Navya was now spent talking only about academics. Their eyes seldom met. The unexpressed but unquestionable love notes began to fade into the background.
Navya, on the other hand, was not able to shake him off from her mind. She tried to salvage their relationship but sometimes wondered whether it really existed. It languished her to see him slipping away. But, how could she hold on to someone she had never really held? How could she question him for something they only felt and never disclosed? Her frustration was turning into anger. But she was helpless. The words failed her and then slowly, she gradually started to shirk away from it all.
The dreaded boards were round the corner. She decided to focus on studies for now. In a way, it was a good excuse to pretend everything was fine while they studied sincerely towards their respective goals. The board exams got over very quickly and Aman was now busy preparing for his entrance exams. As expected they both did extremely well. She knew she owed her success to him. But she now found herself alone and almost handicapped without him. The school was ending and so did their encounters.
Navya now looked forward to the last day of their school, when they had to go to collect their certificates and documents. She had a tiny little hope in a remote corner of her heart that Aman may finally talk to her about their relationship. Maybe he was waiting for the exams to be over and then maybe the anxiety of results might have made him reclusive.
However, for some reason, that hope left her even before she gave herself the chance to meet him. On that sunny and bright day of April, as she neared the school gates, she felt the same anxiety as she used to feel way back when she was being bullied. She noticed that the gates were back to their unsightly monstrosity and the school building back to its lacklustre and unwelcome self. She feared the finality of cutting the cord and leaving the school without Aman besides her.
It was quite early so she found herself a corner seat in the swanky reception area just outside the administration block. As she sat there waiting for her turn to be called, she felt strangely alien in that familiar environment. She soon spotted a few familiar students waiting around her while catching up and chatting with each other. She was in no mood to talk to anyone. Her eyes waited just for him.
She didn’t have to wait long though. She heard his familiar laughter even before she saw him. He came through the opposite end of the reception area which led to the school canteen. He was animatedly chatting with Leena, their class monitor. They held hands as they walked towards her. She had already heard about both of them joining the same college in Pune. But she was unaware of this new turn of events. Their new found companionship seemed like a threat to her. They didn’t notice her at all. She decided to walk behind them keeping a safe distance. As she followed them, she felt like she was losing a lost battle. That he was gone and taken away from her was like a final blow. Probably she was mentally prepared for the rejection but was not expecting it this way. The revelation that he chose someone else had shattered her. The aisle leading to the admin office suddenly appeared filled with the demons of her past. She was lonely once again. Maybe she wasn’t worth anyone’s love. Maybe he had used her. She was just a pastime, a ploy to entertain himself while he fooled around with her and played with her emotions. He must have thought of her as “easy and available”. He was clever enough to lead her on and never really revealed anything to her. With a jolt, she got back to her old self, sad, bitter and depressed. She looked at herself with distaste. Maybe she was not worthy of him, maybe he never really liked her and just pretended. All of it was a hoax. But one thing kept ringing in her head. She loved him truly. She knew she will never have with anyone what she had with him. That bond of quiescent. No-one could take that away from her. It was a rare gift that came to her when she desperately needed it. So she won’t complain. She will suffer the bittersweet pain of abandon. She will go back to that dark space in her heart where she will hide all their memories. And, they will come out only when she visits. They are enough for the rest of her life. She would always cherish that soul connect. And she will suffer the heartache that he had left behind. She may never own him but will hold their memories. She painted them the “colour blue”.
That distasteful blue that she had come to love haunted her day and night. She never met him that day. She may never want to. As he had left her, so did her self-confidence, her pride and happiness. All was lost.
She confined herself to her room, her messy unkept space. The so-called friends of yesterday sometimes called but she was now in a state of social slumber. It seemed to her as if the whole world is closing in on her and laughing at her awkward self once again.
It was days, weeks or months, she couldn’t recall. But she stayed in that state for what seemed like forever. Her mother and grandparents tried very hard to pull her out but she chose to stay on.
Until one day, her Mom forcibly took her to see her friend who happened to be a counsellor. Navya was her hesitant best at first but gradually started to chat. Something about the counsellor was pleasant and sweet and that prompted Navya to share some of her thoughts with her. And then, there was the next reluctant meeting at Navya’s home and Divya, her counsellor was very interested in seeing her room. She stayed with her in her space for few hours going over her stuff and making small talk.Navya didn’t realise when she shed her veil and opened up the floodgates of her emotions. Amidst the recount of her awkward adjustments and bullying the narration of her first love for Aman was still filled with tears and smiles at the same time.
The undiscriminating and unbiased approach of the counsellor went a long way and helped Navya open up her Pandora’s box full of sadness. As Divya figured out gradually, Navya not only considered that box as precious but also protected it, not willing to leave it. So, it was a long painful journey of letting go. It was hard for Navya to cut the cord of her delicate and alluring calf love though unrequited. She had come to cherish the pain of abandon gifted to her by her so-called best friend and classmates. She had learned to live and indulge in her blues, scarring her promising youthful vigour. Cruel are the ways of the world which plays with emotions and lives of those they consider vulnerable.
Navya did come out of her blues but it took almost fifteen heartbreaking months of patient counselling and the relentless support of her family.
At the end of it all, she didn’t forget her bullies or her first love, she just learnt to forgive and unlearnt to love the blues.

Bharti Girdhar