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Tuitions are a part and parcel of every student’s life in Srinagar and so were they a part of mine. Life was full of the same old things – tuitions, firings, crackdowns, exams, movies and more tuitions. It was during this monotonous schedule of going to tuitions that I first saw her…

Unlike most of the guys my age, my heart didn’t flutter for girls. No girls had place in my life. My friends thought of me as some oddball – but I liked my life as it was. Guys in my tuition group knew all the girls in the group who used to come after our tuition session. Many of them I had heard talk of being smitten by the love sickness. I laughed at them and knew that my life had no place for such things. I was happy with the way my life was – no love letters to write, no gifts to buy, no talking on phone for ever and ever. My life was certainly better without the pangs of love that my friends oft complained of. I couldn’t be bothered to stare at the faces of the girls who (to me it seemed so) came just to get attention from guys.

Well, I knew not what was in store for me.

* * * * *

One day my very close friend, Iqbal called me and sounded extremely excited. He said that he had been thinking for two days about this and today was sure it … there was this girl amongst the group who came after our math tuition session who was interested in me. “Tumhara deemaag kharaab hai! (You are crazy!)” I blasted at him. He pleaded with me to listen to him and told me how he had reached this conclusion. He told me of how he had noticed this pretty girl staring at me for past few days when she came to the tuition center. I was afraid that this was some stupid joke that my friends were playing on me and told him so. He asked me that if I didn’t believe him, I could see her the next tuition session and decide for myself. “I don’t care and I really have no time for your nonsensical ideas!” I exclaimed and banged the phone on him.

“Khurram beta, kyiamsundu phone ousi? (Khurram, who was calling?)” my mother asked as she entered the room and saw me banging the phone. Suddenly I could feel my blood rush to my face – I thought I was blushing — my ears felt hot and tremor gripped my heart. Why was this happening to me? I had not done anything! What was it? Somehow I managed to blurt out that it was Iqbal on the phone and left the room leaving my mother wondering why I was so angry with Iqbal.

Sitting in my room I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I tried to concentrate on finishing the diagram on my practical file, but just found it impossible. I reasoned with myself that this was just some practical joke Iqbal was playing on me since I had been making fun of him for so long – but what if it was true? …and even if it was true… why should I care? I tried to pacify myself but I could feel a wish enrooted in my heart – I wanted to know who she was?

The next day our Math’s teacher cancelled the tuition session, as he had to visit some relative of his who was admitted to the hospital after being injured in a cross-firing incident. As we started to leave homewards I could feel a pounding in my heart – I can’t see her today! But there was no way I was going to tell Iqbal about how I felt. I could wait. Tomorrow was not that far!

Her thoughts seemed to encompass my life – I kept wondering what she looks like, how she thinks, her hair, her smile … A thousand fantasies engulfed me and I could only sing songs of love for the one who is just a fantasy. There was many that I had seen on television. I couldn’t help but think of myself as a hero in a hindi movie who is wondering what his dream girl looks like. I caught myself smiling while alone – I was listening to love songs on my stereo. Everything else lost meaning – there was only her.

The next math’s tuition class I had no idea what the Professor was talking about. I was thinking of her, and waiting for the session to finish. My eyes were fixed at the wooden door which was open – she could be here any moment. It is then that I saw her – and she was looking at me! I looked back at her; I wanted to grasp her whole self in that one glance. She looked confused and turned back.

She was beautiful… the most beautiful thing God had created. She looked like a flower shrouded in her olive green kameez shalwar. Her face was pure innocence. Her duppata on her shoulder partly covered her silky hair beneath. She had moved away from where I could see her – yet her image seemed to surround me. There was nothing that I could envision except for her.

I was in love – and I knew she loved me too. Iqbal pointed her out to me as we were leaving from the tuition center, “Did you see her – she was practically staring at you man!” I shook my head and told him, “Goyi bakwaas agaadi (why are you stuck at this nonsensical talk!)” and both of us walked home wards.

* * * * *

She had changed my life. I didn’t know what wonders falling in love could bring to one. I enjoyed sitting alone and thinking of her. I often realized that that while alone I was talking to her and smiling by myself. However, I decided that the love we share will not become another love affair that I used to hear of every other day. She was pure and I promised myself that I would never reveal this secret association which had developed in that instance of her eyes meeting mine. It was our secret and that that mattered was the two of us knowing it.

Weeks passed like this. I told no one about her. I never caught her looking at me like that again – but I knew it was just because she was shy. And I knew in my heart that she knows that I love her… so what else mattered?

If she ever came early to the tuition center I knew it was for me.. if she ever looked prettier than usual I knew it was for me. I smiled at myself and thought of myself as very lucky. She was a good student – I promised myself that I won’t let her down and put my heart and soul in studies.

One whole month had passed – in this silence. I saw her everyday at the tuition center. We didn’t need to talk to each other to profess our love – it was spoken in the language that eyes speak. Ah! Now I knew what the poets meant by that.

I was never a religious boy. Born in a Muslim family I always went for Friday prayers and fasted during the month of Ramadan – but that was it. I had never given a though to religion – I was a born Muslim and that was it. Then one day she started wearing hijab. Something in my heart told met – ah! She is my inspiration!

Her wearing hijab opened new doors to my life. I always had the conviction that there is one God, but I started to understand what it really meant. This understanding added to my personality and helped me realize the purpose of my existence. My heart was so full of gratitude to her – she was the one who had shown me the way.

Life went on like this and nobody knew of my devotion for her – except for her – she knew – isn’t it? The flower of love had found a place in my heart and had bloomed to its fullest. My life was full of bliss.

* * * * *

Then once it so happened that she didn’t come for tuition for a few days consecutively. I grew restless and prayed that all be fine with her. She reappeared one whole week later – twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face.

Iqbal went to her and said something… I saw her smiling back. What was it that I didnt know? Iqbal came back and said, “Why don’t you go and congratulate her? She is engaged yaar! The guy is a computer programmer or something and …” Iqbal went on giving me the details – but I could hear no more. I could feel a lump raise in my throat – my eyes were moist and my vision was blurred.

It couldn’t be!

She had betrayed me! How could she do this to me? My misery knew no bounds – I felt like someone had plunged a knife through my heart. I couldn’t believe my eyes – she was happy! I made up my mind to go and ask her – what right did she have to break my heart like this?

Nothing could stop me now – with all determination I walked up to her. She and her friends were taken aback by my unexpected interference in their moments of cheer and laughter. I looked at her – there was stood looking just as pure and innocent as the first time I saw her. She looked happy – I opened my mouth to say something, I could feel my mouth dry and …”C…congratulations!” – That was the only thing I could say. She thanked me politely and I walked towards Iqbal feeling most dejected and lost.

Iqbal was in a very jovial mood. He looked at me and smiled, “Hey do you remember when I tried to fool you and told you that she was interested in you? Boy! You are smart I still don’t know how you knew that it was a joke. You didn’t speak about it.”

My heart felt a sharp pain– unable to speak, I just looked at him. He was going on and on, “You know what had happened is that I got to know that she had lost her notes and – it was easy I just spread the word that you had found them. The poor girl was hoping that you would return them, but I guess since she was not sure of it she never came to ask you for them….” I could feel an excruciating soreness inside myself… The only thing I was aware of was the pounding in my heart.

* * * * *

This was the end of my story of falling in love – love that never was there. Today when I look back – I can only smile. Yet, I am thankful to her for opening to me the doors of thinking about the reason of my existence. It is not betrayal that I feel – but gratitude.

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