It was a bright and sunny June morning in Chennai and it took a great deal of effort for Gautam to get off his cozy bed. He begged and pleaded with his mom, he faked a tummy ache too, but could not escape the wrath of his mother or from going to school. He just couldn't get over his summer holiday mood. He had so much of fun that the very thought of going back to his dull boring school made him feel sick. He thought to himself what he should look forward to, just like any 11 year old boy and then it came to him that at least his friends would still be there with him, they would have their sports session at school and thus it could be a fun day after all. What he didn't think of, was that there were going to be a few new students as well, which meant the start of new friendships, new experiences and for some, love at first sight!
With no other choice, Gautam left for school with his dad driving him and his elder sister Arthi, in their car. His school wasn't too far from home, in KK Nagar, because he usually walks back home with his neighboring kids and his father dropped him at school only in the mornings just to avoid him being late for the school prayer. Today was just like any other day except that his father saw someone at the school gate and decided to get off the car. Mr. Kumar, Gautam's dad was a bank manager in a renowned bank in the area and knew a lot of people, which was to Gautam's disadvantage. Today, he was walking towards the gate towards another middle aged man and introduced himself to him. Then they started talking as though they were good friends. Well, it so happened that they knew each other. Mr. Kishore, and his family had recently moved to KK Nagar from T.Nagar and apparently he opened his new bank account at Mr. Kumar's bank branch and today he had come to leave his daughter at school. Gautam let the two adults talk as he crept in through the side gate and joined the prayer assembly which was unusually long.
Once settled in the class room, they were all introduced to the new students and classes went on as usual. Gautam was just looking forward to the sports session when he would get to play Volleyball or cricket, with his friends but as luck would have it, it was in the very last hour that he got to see the play ground. He loved the smell of sand, the dirt, the dusty stench of the volleyball and everything about it. He had missed it. He served the last serve and the ball fell near a girl with really long hair plaited to perfection. Gautam, couldn't see her face, but tried shouting 'Hello, Excuse me..can you please pass the ball?' but to no avail. She wouldn't hear him. So he just walked up to her, angry and mad, and yelled 'Hey Rapunzel, can't you hear us shouting? Couldn't you just throw the ball to us?' and then he saw her face, lovely little face, golden brown eyes staring at him in bewilderment. She just mumbled a sorry and told him she was so glued to her story book that she never heard a sound. She told him 'I am sorry. I am new here and my name is Meera'. Gautam was too dumbstruck to say anything else and shook her hand back. She asked him what his name was and he just trotted back to his friends in a haste.
Never before had Gautam felt so shy, so speechless, that too in front of a girl and that was Gautam's and Meera's meet-cute, at least from his side. After that, he couldn't forget her face and that stunned expression that had come with it. He waited for his friends and they were bullying each other, as most friends do while walking home and there she was again, walking ahead of them. He did not bother to introduce himself or speak to her and she was too busy thinking to herself to be bothered to look back or see him and his friends walk behind her. It seemed to him to take ages to reach his house, only to see that she walked into the house two doors away from his. All he could think was 'Oh..oh no ...no no no...not so close' and walked into his house with a sour face.
The next morning was another thing. He was all set and ready, settled in the car, to go to school and his father was still waiting for someone. To his horror and embarrassment, there she was, the girl with the long hair and golden eyes, whose name he couldn't remember, walking with her father and before he knew it, she was sitting behind him in their car. His father made quick introductions and informed them all, that he would be dropping them both together at school everyday from now on and instructed Gautam that he was to walk Meera home every evening since she was new in the area and they were family friends now on. He was also told that she was in the same class as him but in a different section. Awkward was what it was for him but then Meera was no ordinary girl and she sensed it.
What he learned about Meera from their conversations both at school and walking back home came as no surprise to him. He knew she was studious, loved to read stories, believed in fairy tales, loved her dad like crazy, loved to draw and paint. It seemed strange that she didn't like to play with toys but preferred buying and reading books instead. She seemed talented. She showed off her shields and prizes she had won for her drawings and other quiz competitions which further embarrassed him since he probably had just one or two cups, that too in sports. That was how their friendship began. There was no awkwardness after those initial days and they grew up to be best friends. She even shifted to his same class. Gautam was never close to his sister because she was 7 years elder to him and she had her own circle of friends. So he had more time to play or spend with Meera.
Soon the two grew in to their teens. She had crushes on senior boys, fell in love with some one, had her heart broken and yet would always share it with Gautam. It was like he was her confidante. He never once thought twice about it. He had feelings for her but was always afraid that it would ruin their friendship. Although they lived two doors away, they spent hours talking to each other on the phone. Most importantly she helped him study and set his priorities straight.
10 years after that too, they were thick friends. It was time for Gautam to leave the house to pursue his Master's in Delhi just like his sister Arthi did years ago, while Meera wanted to study abroad either in Australia or London. They however managed to do their Under-graduation in the same state although in different Universities and spend time with each other. They had the most fun ever, and had seen each other through thick and thin. He was her pillar when she fought or had misunderstandings with her girl pals. He made her see sense and remembered that it used to be the other way round when their friendship had just blossomed. He made fun of her, picked on her and yet be there for her, while she always tried to set him up on dates with her friends, which almost always never worked. The subject of 'Love' never was discussed between them unless when, it had other people involved in it. She had, had her share of heart breaks and Gautam always managed to bring her out of that depression, at least until Rahul.
It was during her final year in Undergrad that she met Rahul and there was no looking back. One fight with Rahul and there would be 10 phone calls to Gautam. It was tough for Gautam to see her hurt. On one occasion when Gautam could no longer take it, he confessed that he had always loved her, he would take good care of her, she didn't deserve this and most importantly that he can't see her depressed like this. He argued and tried his best to make her see that Rahul was no good for her. But then, Meera had her own spirit, she loved challenges, she loved to earn things and believed that nothing comes without a price. According to her, if Rahul was jealous, it meant that he loved her too much and doesn't want to lose her, if he suspected her, it meant that he was insecure and if he hurt her, it was only because he loved her. To Gautam, it was nonsense; and that was their first major fight, a fight after which it was difficult to face eachother. They said harsh things that they never actually meant but that was it.
Gautam couldn't bear to stay in Chennai and look at her, and what stopped him before from leaving to Delhi did not stop him anymore. He knew that she would come back to him with a broken heart like before and he could be there for her then. Two years went by quick and there in his hands, was a bright red wedding invitation card. He had completed his Master's, already had a job offer at hand, and from his mother, came to know that Meera was returning from Australia after her Master's to get married to Rahul. That was the invitation he was holding in his hands. After he moved to Delhi, Meera stopped calling him after the initial apologetic calls, just so Rahul doesn't have to worry about losing her to Gautam and curb his jealousy. Gautam on the other hand, took it all as it came. He knew this day would come in their life, the day if Meera rejected his proposal, whenever that was, he was always prepared for it. Although it happened slightly different, he knew it was the end in a way, to their years of friendship. On a leaving note, he however made it clear to her that she could depend on him any time, any day, for any thing and that he would always be there for her....would wait for her. He didn't think she could understand how he felt then or would ever.
He had made sure he wasn't dragged by his family, to Meera's wedding, and today, 3 years after her wedding, he was in London, quite close to where he knew Meera lived. His mother kept him informed of Meera's whereabouts, her life with Rahul, misunderstandings with her parents, her divorce and even the baby. How he yearned to see her! It was his sister, who helped him find Meera. She had a few glimpses of Meera at her daughter's play school but did not bother to go forward and speak to her. She didn't want to make her uncomfortable but instead informed Gautam. She and her mother, had always known about Gautam's feelings for Meera, and their father did have a vague idea about it. It was his mother who kept him posted to-date about the happenings in Meera's life, perhaps because she still had some hopes for them.
There were many a times, when Gautam had almost dialed Meera's number and wanted to speak to her. In his mind, he had gone over and over as to what he'd say to her 'Hello, Meera, How are you? Really sorry about your divorce' or 'Hi Meera, Hope you are doing okay after the divorce', and it just didn't feel right to him to speak to her. He did not want to seem to rub it in her face. He did not want her to feel that he was pitying her or hurt her by even initiating the topic. He remembered those instances while in Delhi, after their big fight, he had typed so many messages to Meera but never actually sent them, for the fear that he'd end up ruining her relationship with Rahul. He only wanted her to be happy.
Today, he was in London, for a project, but he accepted it more so on the prospect of seeing Meera. He wanted to see her, know if she was doing alright, if she was managing alone with her child. He knew Anya was her adopted daughter but never thought twice about being a father to her if given a chance. If only! In pretext of helping his sister, he offered to pick up Preeti from her play school. His sister knew only too well not to object and smiled at him. She wished him luck.
He boarded the bus, sat next to the window, remembering that Meera hated sitting next to the window. He smiled to himself. He knew her routine by now, after following her or rather stalking her, for two days, he practically knew the door number to her flat. He had seen how happy she was, walking and playing with Anya.. He saw her glowing with happiness, although there was a tinge of sadness about her when she sat in the park bench, day dreaming or looking at happy couples. He didn't want to creep up on her or shock her and hence decided it was time for their meeting. He just wanted to know if she was ready yet, ready to let him be a part of her life or even as her old friend. He wasn't sure what he'd say to her if he met her. The bus came to a halt, and there she was, pretty as ever, getting into the same bus and just like their first meeting he wanted to run or disappear, but unfortunately all he could do was duck lower maintaining a low profile. He decided to get off one stop before her so he could be there at the play school before her and so he did.
He met his eagerly awaiting niece Preeti, who was full of energy and chatting away with her friend, Anya. He had seen Anya enough times now to know who she was. He couldn't contain his excitement. Anya could not stop talking as well and soon they made friends with each other. She couldn't stop talking about her mother and he loved it about her, for he knew how her mother was too. Anya turned around when she saw Meera and ran to her, and then they met. It was their first meeting in nearly 5 years and seemed as if nothing had changed and he didn't want to ruin the moment. They made small talk about Gautam, when Meera wondered if Preeti was his daughter. She seemed happy to know about his progress in life and was excited to know that Arthi and her family were in London too. He also hinted to her that he'd be in London for 6 months and that they should catch up. He didn't know what more to say, for she still had the same effect on him, rendering him speechless and stunned as ever. He managed to give an excuse of taking Preeti to a birthday party that evening, so they had to hurry back home but he promised Meera that he'd see her the next day.
He didn't know what Meera was thinking but he sure knew that he couldn't stop thinking of her and Anya, and before he knew it, it was the next day. He was sure of one thing, that he wouldn't want to hurt her in any way and make things awkward. He wasn't going to profess his love for her there or promise her the world. He was going to ask her one question, and the answer to that, would tell him what he wanted to know, if she was willing to share her sorrows or happiness with him, even as a friend, have him back in her life for better or for worse, for new beginnings or if she was ready at all. So here he was, early again, and felt nice talking to Anya, who was still bragging about her mom who is a doctor. He too was proud of his little golden eyed Rapunzel and knew how far she'd come in life on her own and he didn't want to destroy that pride in her. He was prepared for her answer, knowing only too well, what it would be.
As soon as he saw her, he grabbed her hands and congratulated her, for completing her doctorate, what she always wanted to do. He told her he was proud of her and she was just silent. He didn't want to miss the moment and asked her, " So, how is Rahul? Is he still jealous of me, eh? Did you tell him yet that you met me yesterday?". He knew it was selfish and rude of him to ask that but then he also knew that, that was the only way to know. He knew what was coming, because he knew her too well. He managed to hear her say, "Yes, Rahul is fine and he's still the same and always will be. We better get going now then and I have a lot of work to get done. See you some other time Gautam. Convey my regards to Arthi and your parents too".
That said it all. He knew then, that she wasn't ready, not even to have him as her friend. She was still broken and only time can heal her and he just didn't know how long it would take for that. And so, Gautam was ready as ever to wait for his little golden eyed Rapunzel to come back into his life, after all, there is nothing wrong in waiting, is there?