I have always been ambitious. I tried my hand at everything. But writing, held a special place in my heart. My father encouraged me at every point possible. In the summer of 2006, I got an unpaid internship in a fashion magazine as an assistant of a senior journalist. Although fashion was the last thing I was ever interested in, it seemed like an amazing opportunity. My first day, I was much before time. As I walked through those long corridors of this office, I couldn’t stop looking at those huge modern art paintings hung along the walls with a very fancy ‘M’ scrawled at the left bottom corner. It was like the colours rebelled and changed hues every day, every moment, but they sparkled with an emotion I could barely understand.
Amidst this artistic and full of fashion drama, I remember feeling confident but clueless at the same time in first few weeks. As the days passed by, I learnt a great deal and made amazing friends. I didn’t think of him in last few weeks. My work was a best escape from all of my emotions and by now, I knew how to limit his presence. I knew he was doing ok in Pune. At least I was..
One of the days, I came in for work early. “Oh! Is this is the one?” I heard a laughter followed by these words, that annoyed me a little. I turned around to look. There he was, a tall dark haired guy sitting on the reception desk and surrounded with my friends wearing baggy low waist jeans and dirty looking sneakers. I realised they were discussing about the intern who didn’t know about Rituparna Sengupta, a famous Bengali Actress of that time. Yes, it was me.
As he walked towards me, my gaze was pinned to his widening eyes, curious as to how many tints of brown he could identify. “Hi. Welcome to this place. I am Mukul.” I smiled and introduced myself. “Aren’t you too young to work. Don’t you have a life, or friends!” He asked. “I like my life, I love to learn new things. What is so wrong about it”. For a long time he said nothing. He kept as still as a stone. When at last he began to speak, it sounded almost as though he were singing, “Ok. Lets go for chai”.
My friends and I went to this small newly renovated cafe across the road. The walls looked old inspite of the fresh coat of lilac paint. Every table, spoke of love, with all the scratches it had borne over the years. ‘Manju loves Rohit’, ‘Rana is the King’ were few I remember. The place had a very good vibe, just for the people happy in love. For me, it screamed of utter non sense.
The owner was sitting at one of the tables, with his tea and a newspaper. He could yell at his employees all the while reading the newspaper and also, complain about the flooding of Kolkata roads. I noticed his face, dirt seemed so worked into him, that the lines of his face were like some Chinese letters. A man of such bizarre appearance. A small head with a Nike cap, a skimpy little checked shirt with corduroy pants. This man was six feet tall, incredibly thin and had a jeering look on his face.
Suddenly Mukul grabbed my hand saying“ What are you waiting for?” and took me to one of the tables, the gang always sat on. They ordered their chai and ordered for me too. I don’t like chai . I never had. But when he handed me my cup and looked into my eyes while I tried it, it was the best thing I’d ever tasted. My hand still tingled where he grabbed it. We were a group of five on that table. Though I couldn’t follow most of the conversation, I now knew, Mukul was the interior decorator of the office and worked as a freelance photographer. I then realised it was him, the ‘M’ in all the paintings. But I was too proud to admit then, that I liked the paintings. He kept bragging about an exhibition that went really well in Hyderabad.
He had a smile of amused friendliness and pleasure which could arouse feelings of warmth, and something more, in many women. After the chai session got over, we were about to leave and suddenly the owner, whom everyone addressed as kaku, came and sat next to us. I was the unfamiliar face, so he kept his chit chat to a minimum, like there was so much I wasn’t supposed to know.
After that, was a series of long chai breaks, lunch in every Chinese restaurant on the street and lot of crappy chit chat. We five had become a happy gang. There was no sadness in my heart no memories to haunt me anymore. The evenings were particularly great. After work, we all would go for long walks till it was absolutely dark and time for us to return home. By now, we all knew each other’s past.
We usually refer to our exes as monsters, but Mukul had a very different point of view. “If a man, cant acknowledge your presence, better to let him go. But don’t call your relationship a mistake. You were part of it. You felt good then. You felt loved at least once.” His words made me think and calm my mind. He walked around with his thoughtful brown eyes and wisdom that could make everyone feel bad about themselves. I started feeling sorry when i was around him, even though I didn’t do anything wrong.
Two months had passed working here, I was involved in writing few good articles. I had started earning stipend too. The next big project was to cover an AIDS awareness programme. Mukul was assigned to cover the event and also some ground research for article to be published in the magazine. This was the first time I actually saw him working so closely. He was passionate about so many things. He would always say, “Passion can be about anything, music, God, art. But I feel sorry for people who didn’t feel strongly about anything.” It did make sense to me.
Who knows when a story begins or ends. You can look back into a moment and just realise that it wasn’t the beginning, but a result of what you did much before that. Because now, there was this moment when fate intersected with my daily happy life, setting in motion a sequence of events whose outcome I could never have foreseen. During a meeting, regarding the event, my boss handed me an envelope and left. I opened it with so much excitement. There I was holding an air ticket to go to Mumbai and Pune, for an event. This was the only way, my boss could find to reward me for my hard work. I had to leave in 10 days.
Mukul could read my face from across the room. He knew something wasn’t right. “I don’t want to go”, I said as he sat next to me. “Why?” He asked.
“I would want to meet him, and I don’t want to”. My throat began to tighten again. There was a calmness in his face. “You go, meet him. Clarify and leave the broken pieces there and come back for me.”
“For me?” I thought to myself as we silently walked out of the room. Mukul’s heart was where all his power resided. He was full of love and kindness. He would tease me till I wanted to leave and then suddenly, he would hold my hands and made me feel like the most beautiful woman there is. There was no chai that evening. He left early and I didn’t hear from him that weekend. His words didn’t make sense for a long time. As I recalled the moments, we spent in last two months in my mind, it all made sense.
Find Out More About him On 12th August.