“Roam on, my love, down life’s long road we will be lost and found a thousand times before we meet again.” – Atticus 

It was quarter to two and Ramana had just finished his last meeting for the day. His client meetings went well. He wasn’t sure he could address all their issues in just 2 days. He was hesitant to make this trip as he didn’t get enough time to prepare nor had enough time with clients. He had to leave that evening back to home and seeing his clients happy with the resolutions he provided, he was much relieved.

He knew this trip was crucial for his project and he needed at least a week but his work was done in just 2 days to his surprise. As he wrapped up at office, he bid good bye to the team and then rushed to his hotel.

It was a very hot and humid day. Even though he was used to that weather, today he felt little exhausted. He was constantly looking at the wristwatch as he had just 3 hours to board his flight back to Hyderabad. As soon as he reached his hotel, he glanced through his room and started packing. He picked up the clothes he had left on the bed from that morning and completed his packing.

He thought he would be late, but somehow he reached airport with plenty of time for check-in and finished his security clearance quickly. He had an hour to wait for the boarding to begin. After the security, he straight went to The Irish House bar and ordered a chilled beer. While waiting he was just glancing through the bar and he saw a lady working on her laptop in the next table. The perfume from her felt familiar. The scent made him wonder how and from where he knew it.

He couldn’t see her face and though was curious to know how she looked, he got a call and had to walk out of the bar. When he heard the boarding announcement, he cut his call and boarded his flight back home. It was a Friday so he could see a lot of happy faces in the line. Many may be going home or visiting friends or on short trips. Since his seats were at the back, he got to board first. He went and located his aisle seat that he always preferred. The flight started filling up, but the seats next to him were still empty.

He was happy that no one came so he could sit comfortably…just then a lady walked in managing her handbag and laptop bag. He immediately could make out that she was the one from the Irish House bar he saw earlier that evening. As she walked towards the end, he was hoping she would sit somewhere close to him so he can gaze at her. To his luck, she came to his seat and looked at him. He got up and left her the way to get inside…he was thanking the stars for making her sit next to him. The familiar scent kept his thoughts busy. She sat in the window seat and the middle one was still empty. For the very first time in many years, Ramana was cursing for choosing the aisle seat. He was hoping that no one occupies that seat so he gets to spend some time with the woman who had captured his thoughts that evening.

Boarding completed and the middle seat remained empty. The beauty in the window seat was busy doing something on her phone. When it came to initiate a conversation with a woman, he was always shy and out of words. As soon as the flight taxied and took off, he pretended to be busy doing some work on his laptop as he didn’t want to make her aware of him trying to catch a glimpse of her.

After few minutes, he was rehearsing in his mind a few statements on how he can get her to talk to him. He was out of topics….he never is out of topic normally. But today she had somehow made him go out of words. Her blue saree had wrapped her curvy body perfectly and the sleeveless blouse gave her a modern look. He hadn’t seen someone look so beautiful with a hint of sensuality in a saree. He was realizing that he was losing his heart to the beauty in the saree.

He turned to look at her and suddenly she looked at him too….by the time he could react, she smiled at him and asked “Do you have a power bank? Mine kind of drained out and I forgot to charge it before I left for my flight. I need to have my phone on once I land in Hyderabad to book a cab.”

Ramana immediately said “yes, of course” and looked inside his laptop bag and offered it to her.

“Thank you, I will return soon” she said again with that same smile.

“No worries madam”, told Ramana in his husky voice.

“Oh please, call me Rohini. Madam is my mom….not me. Are you returning home or visiting?” asked Rohini.

“I am returning home and I am Ramana by the way. Nice meeting you Rohini. What about you?” saying that he extended his hand to shake her hand.

Rohini shook his hand in return and said “well, I am returning home as well. I am a visiting professor here at Anna University. I guess you are a techie in some top notch company”.

Laughing at her words, and thinking about how soft her palm felt, Ramana answered “Yes, you guessed it right. I work as a Project Manager. But I wanted to be a lecturer immediately after my post-graduation. Somehow it didn’t last long and had to shift to IT world. Your face and name both seems very familiar. Do you think we have met before?”

Rohini told “I thought the same too…Did you anytime attend an interview at St. Mary’s college?”

“I wanted it to be you, I wanted it to be you so badly.” —Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

Ramana felt a jolt hearing that college name and all the memories that had haunted him for a long time came back gushing. He answered yes and went silent, lost in his thoughts. Looking at his blank face, she thought maybe he didn’t want to talk anymore and so she left him to his thoughts and got busy with her reading.

The day that was…

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Ramana had just finished his PG and unlike many of his classmates, he was going to follow his passion of teaching. He had an aim to become a professor and so he had applied for couple of colleges to be a lecturer.

His parents wanted him to join some big IT company and eventually move to US like many of his friends. So they were not very happy with his decision to join the college as a lecturer. However they had told him if things don’t work out here he has to choose an IT career. He was ready to try his luck. After all he was young and had no responsibilities. He had his time to take all the risks he wanted and give a chance to making his aspiration of being a Physics lecturer a reality.

Ramana remembered that day very well when he attended his first interview. He had it scheduled at 12:30 noon and he left in his bike early as the venue was quite far from his home in the outskirts of the city. When he reached there at noon, there were about 20 people attending the same interview. He quickly glanced the room to ascertain his competition. Only 2 ladies and rest all men and he found Satya, one of his senior. He went and sat next to him and was casually talking.

A girl was sitting next to Satya and as per the schedule she was to attend interview before Ramana and Satya was after Ramana. Ramana didn’t know her, so he was focusing only on his interview and was mentally preparing for it.

There was some delay and by the time they called his name, it was almost 1 PM. While everyone was taking more than 30 minutes, he finished in just 20 minutes. He walked out confidently hoping he had made the cut.

It was Satya’s turn, Ramana knew already that Satya had some other interview after this and there was no point waiting for him. So when he shook his hand and was bidding adieu, Satya asked him a favor. “Ramana, you are heading home only right? Do you have any other work?”

Ramana – “No work, plus in this hot summer afternoon who wants to roam around. I am hungry as well, so yes going home. Why?”

Calling the girl who attended interview before Ramana, Satya told “this is my friend Rohini. She lives in the same area as you. I cannot drop her as you know I have another interview to attend. Can you please drop her on the way?”

“Sure, no problem” told Ramana and they both left wishing Satya.

Though in that spur of the moment Ramana told yes without any hesitation, as he started walking with her to the parking, he was getting nervous and felt butterflies in his stomach. He had never taken any girl on his bike other than family. Even during his education he would run away from girls and his shy nature always made him be silent when in company of any girls.

As they both walked, she started thanking him and explaining how difficult it is to get back to the city area to be able to find any transportation mode. While he keenly listened to her soft voice, he noticed how her kohled eyes sparkled and a dimple that appeared when she smiled. He thought if he looked at her anymore, he would fall for that dimple itself.

“I knew I’d never be able to remember what Nina wore that day. But I also knew I’d never forget the way she looked.” —George Banks, The Father of the Bride

She had worn a pink saree with blue border that accentuated her color and fitted her curves perfectly. Her unruly curly hair were dancing on her forehead due to the wind. She looked beautiful as a painting. Once he kick started the bike, she sat behind him. The journey from the college to his home was about 40 mins ride. He was already thanking god for giving him an opportunity to take her home. She was smelling like a bouquet of roses and he was captivated by the fragrance.

She told him where she studied, her home, and her hobbies and everything else. Ramana got to know that she lived 2-3 kms away from his home. With her talk he knew she is an extrovert and doesn’t shy away like him with strangers. He liked her as a person, she was brilliant, just few months younger to him and beautiful.

Ramana didn’t want that ride to end. He was looking for reasons to spend few more minutes with her. He suggested they should eat something as it was very late and by the time they get home it would be past lunch time. Rohini agreed and they stopped on the way at a quick food joint. They had some noodles and fried rice with some gravy and the chit chatting continued. It was Ramana’s time to share his story to Rohini. Every time she would smile, he would look at her dimpled cheek and automatically he would smile. He was thinking to himself, that he had never behaved this way before and was trying to be normal and controlling his heart from racing.

After a short lunch, they started again. As Rohini climbed at the back of his bike, she held his shoulder and Ramana felt a lightening pass through him. He didn’t know if it was intentional or a casual hold but for few minutes he felt awkward yet wanted to feel her more. His mind was getting naughty and wished there were more speed bumps. Anyways, he couldn’t delve on it too much as in another 5 mins they would reach her area. As they entered the locality, she requested him to stop little away from her home. Rohini thanked him and he could notice she was trying to convey something too through her sparkling eyes. But Ramana back those days was dumb and couldn’t understand the message her eyes sent him. Now thinking back, he could realize she was hinting at something but he missed the opportunity.

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Rohini walked away from him turning her back and he for some unknown reason couldn’t leave from there. Ramana stood there just gazing at her walking away from him and he could feel something missing already. After few steps, like in movies, he was hoping she would turn back to see him and for his luck, Rohini turned back and said good bye and moved away.

Ramana went back home and for several weeks he was thinking about her and wanted to go near her area and see if he can catch a glimpse of her. But he couldn’t, he was not sure whether it was acceptable behavior or she would think of him as a stalker. And then one day he got his offer letter to be the physics lecturer and that’s how he had started his career. Soon into his job, he had forgotten about the dimple beauty, Rohini amidst all the work pressures and life had led him away from her.

It had been about 10 years since Ramana had first met Rohini and instantly had fallen in love with her. And she was sitting next to him now and his feelings for her attacked him all at once. He smiled at her wryly and thinking how cupid had been playing with him yet all over again. He was confused, shocked and unaware of her condition. He didn’t know if she had even any feelings for him or it was all in his mind. He feared her rejection or worst telling him that she was already married. But he was bracing his heart for all the heartbreaks he could face. He knew he had to go through this and  find out what it was between them that day in that short ride. Even if she was taken, he wanted to let her know how he felt and what happened all these years, how he had gone back after he came back from US couple of years ago in search of her. He just wanted to pour his heart out at her very well aware of the reactions he would receive in return. For once Ramana wanted to be that fool, conveying her the true feelings that would make him feel lighter as he couldn’t carry that burden anymore.

He turned to her and tried to talk normal through the flight but he couldn’t speak a word, just smiled at her and when she smiled back, he kept falling in love with her all over again. Those dimple cheeks, expression filled eyes and those pink lips that could turn anyone into a romantic in a jiffy. He just sat there unmoved.

Epilogue

“I will return. I will find you. Love you. Marry you. And live without shame.” —Robbie Turner, Atonement

It was almost December and tomorrow was his 10th wedding anniversary. Ramana didn’t know what special he could do. He knew his wife loved beaches as much as him and so he had booked a suite at his favorite resort in Mahabalipuram. They were in the city on work as usual and she was very sure that he probably had forgotten it was their special day. He didn’t want to reveal her anything so he had planned it all over a month and kept it as a surprise. He wanted to see her eyes glitter in happiness and give him that special smile realizing that he did after all remember the special day.

After they left the hotel room at Chennai, she looked very tired from week long hectic schedule and wanted to take a nap. As the car pulled at the entrance of the resort she woke up and was surprised to realize where she was. She smiled at him and hugged him tightly. She was so happy that even after all these years, not just he remembered, but he knew what she loved, what they both loved to do together.

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Ramana kissed her on the head and said “Happy 10th Anniversary my love”. After all the checking in and freshening up at their suite, he told her – “get ready for dinner, I have  planned something for you tonight”. She raised her brows and laughingly said “you have already scored honey, no more wooing needed.” Still when he insisted, she wore his favorite pink saree and got ready. Ramana had arranged for a special candle lit dinner near the shores. After the dinner, they sat there holding hands gazing at the moonlight reflecting on the waves. Ramana held her hand and told her “Rohini, thank you for waiting for me for 10 years, thank you for coming in to my life, thank you for bumping in to me that day at the Chennai airport. You fill my life with your sweet smile, you have made me a better man and given me a happy family. I can never thank you enough for choosing me and turning this rock into a sculpture” and kissed her hand.

Rohini smiled and her eyes were filled with happy tears. She told him that she did try to find him few times whenever her family pressured her to get married. But somehow she knew he was the one for her. Since he had moved to US on work soon after he met her, she had no way to contact him. But thanks to the stars that brought them back together.

Rohini just kissed him back and said, “you make me very happy Ramana. I knew I could spend the rest of my life in that 45 minutes short bike ride. I wish you were a little smarter then to read my signals and we could be celebrating our 20th anniversary instead of 10th. Anyways better late than never. I love you with all my heart.”

Ramana hugged her and held her face close to his and kissed her passionately as if he don’t want to let her go ever again. The moon shined and stars twinkled looking at the love birds.

“The only way you can beat my crazy was by doing something crazy yourself. Thank you. I love you. I knew it the minute I met you. I’m sorry it took so long for me to catch up. I just got stuck.” —Pat, The Silver Linings Playbook

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