The Same Old Fern Road

     It was in Fern Road where we had first met, on our way back from school. We both were toddlers then, studying in Nursery 1. Our mothers knew each other, and they had stopped to chat in front of a boutique shop…but we hadn’t even spared each other a glance at first. I was too preoccupied with the new toy car mom had bought me and she had devoted her entire attention to the lollipop in her hand.
“Ankita…won’t you say hi to Ananyo? He is in section E.” said her mom trying to divert her attention from the lollipop to me.
“Hello. My name is Ankita.” she said in a sweet voice, smiling slightly.
Not knowing that some 15 years later that smile would swallow up my entire consciousness…
I clutched the car tightly and moved it towards my chest, frowning at her. Somehow I had the premonition that she would take the car from me. I didn’t like the way she was eyeing the car.
Her mom noticed it and laughed…
“So sweet.” She said and pressed my cheeks, making the shy three year old me go scarlet. I took refuge behind my moms back, holding the lose end of her sari.
“Ananyo…talk to Ankita. She said hello.” my mom coaxed me. I shook my head fervently but continued to peer at her through the sari.
She was extremely pale with a round face, chubby cheeks and boys cut hair. Had she not been wearing a skirt, I would have mistaken her for a boy. But it was the lollipop in her mouth that caught my attention…It was strawberry flavored, my favorite. I had an irresistible desire for the sweet. Suddenly the car in my hand didn’t seem to be important anymore.
“Will you give me the lollipop if I give you the car? It’s brand new.” I squeaked in a small voice from behind my mom’s back.
“Nooo…girls play with dollies, not cars.” she replied and turned my face away from me with as much haughtiness a girl of her age could muster.
Her mom laughed again…she was a cheerful woman, I liked her. And she bought me a lollipop.
Soon after that we walked towards the auto stand, me feeling unimaginably happy because of having secured a lollipop without losing the car and my mom chiding me a bit for my manners. Nobody noticed the wrappers of the sweet which lay littered on the alleys of Fern Road, as the forgotten testimony of our first meeting.


It was in Fern Road where I used to see her every Wednesday, fourteen years down the line. I don’t know if she recognized me or not but for some unknown reason, I could always relate to her the small chubby girl I had met years back. We had never come across after that. Our school had so many students, that it was impossible to be friends with everyone.
 She was always accompanied by her boyfriend Rahul, also from our school. She seemed to have grown beautiful over the years…her face had lost its plumpness, and her hair had grown up to her shoulder. She wasn’t the best looking girl in school or anything, but there was a rangy aura of prettiness around her which was bound to hook up your attention. But I never stole glances at her…
Because most of the time I had another extremely beautiful girl accompanying me.
I was infatuated with Rajita from the very first day I had met her. She had come to our school in Class 11 and used to sit in front of me. We became friends in no time and thanks to the fact that we went to the same tuitions, the bond of friendship developed with time. Within a few months we became inseparable. Be it going to the tuitions or buying text books or even movies…we went together.
I nursed a special feeling for her which deepened with each passing day, but never had the guts to tell her. I tried to convey a lot through my eyes, without speaking…I assumed that she was aware of my feelings. Girls always know beforehand, don’t they?
Our friends always taunted the two of us…called us the steadiest couple in school.
We both laughed them away saying “We’re just friends.”
She mentioned in a testimonial in Orkut that I was her best friend, apart from Arja, who was her friend from the previous school.
“So he is your boyfriend, Arja?” I used to tease her every now and then…
She used to go red. She had an oval shaped face, complete with a small nose and thin lips…but it was her eyes, which stole the entire spotlight. Once you looked at them you couldn’t help feeling mesmerized by beauty in its purest form. She had long hair, with an unruly lock falling in her face every now and then.
“No silly, he is my best friend…like you.”
There was a kind of unspoken understanding between us. I was sure that she would accept me, when I would propose to her…I was just taking my time, shaping up my career to be worthy of her…
On Wednesday s we had a tuition at 6:30 pm. And we went there directly from school. Our school ended at 5:15. So we spent the hour roaming about in the Fern road…sharing several anecdotes of our life, joking and trying out the food joints.
It was the best one hour in the week for me…And invariably almost on every Wednesday we used to meet Ankita and Rahul.
“Do you think they are stalking us?” Rajita had asked me one day.
“Nope. They are too busy writing a thesis on the Fern Road, I think.” I winked.
Rajita punched me lightly…
“I think they are a cute couple. They always seem to be so lost in each other.”
Was there a longing in her voice? Was there a tiny bit of expectation in her eyes…?
I couldn’t make that out…it was the onset of dusk, and Rajita’s face was glowing with a golden fluorescence under the dimly lit lampposts of Fern Road.
I was too lost in her eyes to think rationally.
It was in a restaurant in Fern Road, where Rajita told me that she had got committed with Arja.
It was a few days before the Selection Tests. Although school had ended, we used to meet up an hour before the tuitions started for our usual excursion on the Fern Road. We both enjoyed our hour of freedom more than anything else. For that one hour I could have the girl I loved exclusively for myself. And she got an understanding friend who would listen patiently to her incessant chattering without any complaints. I still hadn’t proposed to her…I had decided to do that after the exams.
Rajita seemed unusually happy on that Wednesday. She took me to Rallis, the restaurant we frequently visited for having kulfi.
The shopkeeper smiled at us. He knew us very well.
“The same?”
“No. We are going to have a proper meal today.” said Rajita, surprising me a bit.
The shopkeeper gave a wider smile and ushered us to the first floor of the restaurant, where there were nice sitting arrangements.
“It’s my treat. Order anything you wish.”  She said as I scanned the menu chart.
“Won a lottery, have you?”
“Nope. There is something I want to tell you.” She said, flashing the most radiant one of her collection of smiles and tucking the unruly lock behind her ear.
Before she could answer we were interrupted by raised voices coming from the next table.
It was Ankita and Rahul again…and they were bickering, badly.
“I can’t attend your Birthday. It’s on the day before the exams. My parents would never allow me.” Ankita was saying as she struggled to hold back her tears.
Rahul gave a sneering smile.
“Don’t cry. I am habituated with your emotional blackmails…If you love me you will come.”
“Why don’t you listen to reason?”
“I am fed up of your excuses. Will you fail in your exams if you spend two hours with me?”
“I can’t. My parents…”
“We have been committed for a year, for God’s sake. And we meet only once a week. Whenever I plan a date you shy out citing one excuse or the other. This can’t fucking go on.”
Rahul stood up suddenly…he was quite well known in school for his mood swings. Rajita had also heard from someone that they were on the verge of breaking up and how it was all Ankita’s fault.
We never knew that we would stay witness to the break up.
“It ends here.” He hissed spitefully, threw a 100 rupee note on the table and stormed out.
Ankita sat there for sometime, stunned. Tear slithered down her cheeks along two symmetrical paths…the kajal on her eyes got all blotched. I felt sorry for her. But we weren’t her friends, so we didn’t go to comfort her. After sometime she got up on her own and left the restaurant on shaky legs, without mopping up her eyes…
“They were so sweet a couple. This Ankita has an attitude up her nose. You know what she told…” started Rajita.
I listened to what Rajita said…and nodded at places although I didn’t consent to her. It was Rahul who dumped her as it appeared to me. Who would go out on a date a day before the exams?
But I never challenged Rajita’s point of view…until that day.
“Okay. Leave them. They will patch it up. What’s on your mind? I am dying of curiosity.”
Rajita lowered her face…and started playing with the Papri Chat she had ordered.  The lock fell on her eyes again. She didn’t adjust it.
Rajita can be like MTV Roadies sometimes…you don’t know what to expect from her. So I didn’t bother to guess what was up in her mind. May be one of her pet cats had a kitten or something.
After a long pause, she began…
“I haven’t told anyone yet. You are my best friend and you get to know it first…some how I feel that I have taken a very fast decision. I could use your advice.”
“Ya. Sure…”
 “Arja had proposed to me last month…during the pujas. And I…I said yes to him yesterday.”

I searched the heavens for you…
But in vain.
I traversed to the deepest trenches of hell…
 There was no sign of you…
 But at last I found you…
Here in this isolated boulevard…
The last place I expected you to be in…
You were happy and contented…
And you were smiling…
That contagious smile…
It got me…
And I turned around with a smile…
While my heart cried bitterly…
At last I found you…
And you were happy and contented…
In destiny’s arm.
Later on, Rajita told me that my facial expression after hearing these words was exactly similar to the one Ankita was sporting minutes ago…
Did she ever understand why? I think not…she was too busy basking in the aroma of her new born love story.
There was no point of attending the class that day. I bunked it. I told Rajita that my mom was ill and I had to go home…
I walked towards the auto stand feeling strangely vacant, my tears mingling with Ankita’s as they splashed on the heart of Fern Road.
She didn’t give me the chance of telling her how much I cared for her. I had kept my feelings secret…locked up in a chest.
I couldn’t find the keys to it anymore.
It was winter. The cold wind jabbed hard at my chest…making me shiver, making me cry even more.
Fallen leaves were strewn everywhere on the road. The street had never appeared so dirty to me before…Fern Road had just witnessed the death of two young love stories…may be it was mourning.
It was in the same old Fern Road, where I met Ankita again one year later.
I had gone to a computer education centre to collect the certificate for a course I had completed.  I usually avoided the Fern Road after that incident…but that day I had decided to take the short cut to the auto-stand.
As I walked, I tried to block the old memories from infiltrating my consciousness…
Although one year had passed, I hadn’t yet fully recovered from the shock. May be I still had some feelings for Rajita. It always depressed me when I visited some place where the two of us had some sweet memories…
As I walked past the familiar old-fashioned houses, the girls school, the countless food-joints, the boutique shop, the graffiti in the wall about which we used to joke, I could feel the same old depression engulfing me.
There was an essence of her that still lingered in the surroundings…
Suddenly my chain of thoughts was interrupted by a shrill sound. I looked back and saw a girl running towards me, calling me at the top of her voice.
 It was Ankita.
“Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Wait…”
“You deaf or what?” she demanded, coming to a stop in front of me. There were silvery beads of sweat on her forehead. And to think it was mid-December.
“I had been for calling you for the last 5 minutes. You left your phone at the centre. I knew you…you are from South Point right? So I took the phone and ran after you halfway through Fern Road, yelling my vocal cords out. And you didn’t even slow your pace. Weirdo.” She stopped to breathe.
I stood there with my mouth slightly ajar. I was shocked to see Ankita running at me like that. And on the top of that her perennial flow of words and the realization that I had actually left my phone (which was my dearest possession)… I couldn’t figure out how to react.
1. I wanted to laugh because Ankita looked very comical the way she ran.
2. I wanted to thank her for bringing my phone back.
3. I wanted to say sorry for not hearing her.
4. I wanted to rebuke myself for leaving the phone behind.
I guessed thanking her and saying sorry would be the best option. It’s not everyday a beautiful girl runs after you.
“Hey. Sorry for that. I was in a kind of trance. And thanks for bringing my phone back.”
She gave me the phone back…and smiled at me, wiping her brows.
“Huh!! You’re welcome.”
I never knew that somebody’s smile could take my breath away like this…somebody other than Rajita’s. Somehow it had a soothing effect on my mind.
Didn’t she look mind-blowing in that green top?
“Hey you know…I used to see you and your girlfriend here when we in school. Your name is Ananyo, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. And you are Ankita right? From section D. And that wasn’t my girlfriend. Just a friend.”
“I see. Actually I had heard that from somewhere, never mind.” she smiled again…
Her smile always reached her beautiful eyes…and there was something in her that attracted me. May be it was the friendliness her attitude…she was talking to me as if we were friends for years. I desperately wanted to spend some more time with her.
“Hey. You brought back my phone…I guess I should treat you to some coffee. There is a CCD out there. Will you, um…”, I stammered.
“Fair enough. I have no flies to catch anyway.” she shrugged.
We chatted for an hour and a half.  We talked about school, discussed our favorite books, movies and songs…and we were utterly surprised to discover that our tastes were same to same. She was quite a jolly girl for someone who had suffered a lot in life. Most of her friends misunderstood her and talked behind her back.
I remembered how Rajita had done the same thing without even knowing her.
She told me the story of her break up. How Rahul had put the blame on her. And I told her about Rajita. It was eerie- the way she made me open up to her. I was didn’t usually share Rajita’s story with anyone. But something told me that I could trust her, share the details with her. There seemed to be no pretence in her, she spoke straight from the heart. And I liked that immensely.
We had stepped in at CCD as strangers, but we stepped out as friends…or may be something more. We exchanged mobile numbers and also promised each add other up in Orkut.
I noticed on my way back that Fern Road was littered with the fallen leaves just like that Wednesday one year earlier. But strangely it didn’t seem to be dirty any more.
It seemed that the old was making way for the new…a flower was in the process of blossoming along with the new foliage…
The flower of love.
It was in Fern Road, where we quarreled for the first time over the most trivial issue one can ever think of.
After our sudden rendezvous in November, We kept in touch with each other. That is an under-statement actually, because what we did was quite more than just keeping in touch. We Smsed each other constantly, chatted for hours over the net. The more I came closer to her, the more I got attracted to her.
I never realized when I had completely surrendered my heart to her…whether it was during our endless chat sessions or when she had continuously coaxed me after the death of a friend, I know not. All I remember that the feeling was something magical…sacred.
Within two months of our meeting, I had proposed to Ankita (desperate not to blow the chance this time)…and she had accepted instantly. The ghosts of the past were replaced by dreams of her innocent smile. All of a sudden, life was splashed by all the bright colours conceivable by human mind. It had never appeared so beautiful before.
There was a great understanding between the two of us. We often spoke each other’s mind. We hardly had any difference of opinions. We were, as the cliché goes…a happy couple.
We used to go out every week, me bunking up my classes to match her timings. She also bunked one or two classes, but she always sulked about that. She was way studious and detested bunking classes. She had a C++ tuition on Thursdays in the same computer centre which I used to attend. As a rule I bunked my last two periods every Thursday to spend some time with her. We were always at a loss about where to spend our time and often ended up roaming on and about the Fern Road.
The same old Fern Road…the venue remained unchanged, only the lovers were different. May be one day our love would get lost in the maze called life…but Fern road would remain as it is…bearing witness to several other love stories for the generations to come…and playing a small but significant part in each …
On that day, my mid semester exams had ended and I wanted to spend some more time with her. I wasn’t satiated with the usual one hour date. I asked her to bunk up the computer class.
“No. Ananyo…Today’s class is very important. I can’t bunk even if I want to.” she sounded genuinely sorry.
“Hey. Just one day. I am sure you can manage.” I pleaded. “Please please, Ankita…”
“Please. You know that I don’t like bunking up classes. And Ranajoy sir will teach file transfer today. I have to attend his class.”, she said in a matter-of-fact tone, not meeting my eyes.
I was kind of begging her, but she seemed to be nonchalant about it. That came as a hard blow on my ego. I lost my temper suddenly.
“Ranajoy sir? The flirt who sends you those ‘you-are-so-beautiful’ SMSes…No wonder you can’t afford to miss his class.” I used the tone which Rahul had used, while dumping her.
“What’s sir got to do with this?”
“Everything. I myself attended that tuitions and I know the standard of teaching in there. Nothing would happen if you bunk a single class. Now I gather…you have a different agenda altogether.”
“What agenda??” she narrowed her eyes, which were on the verge of bursting into tears. They didn’t seem to be so beautiful to me anymore.
“Staring at Mr. handsome, Ranajoy sir.” I spat.
“Ananyo. That’s sick. How can you…”her voice began to crack.
“SHUT UP”. I bellowed. People passing by turned their heads to see what was going on. I didn’t care.
“I am sick of your excuses.”
And I walked away from her…I left my love crying on the Fern Road…just like Rahul had done. I never looked back.
She was right. Everybody misunderstood her.
I was no exception.
It was in the same old Fern Road, where I decided to meet her for one last time to say sorry.
It was this fall-out that made me realize that she had secured an irreplaceable place for herself in my life. My anger cooled within the hour and I immediately called her to apologize.
She didn’t take my calls or replied to my SMSes for one whole week.
I missed her terribly. I rued for my foolishness. I never knew I had such a mean streak within me…
 How could I have done that to Ankita?? It places me in the same position as Rahul.
 It was breaking me from inside. The pain I endured after losing Rajita seemed insignificant now. I couldn’t eat, sleep, and study. I just sulked in my bedroom and thought of her and smsed her continuously.
Add to my mental pain was the heat of the season. It was the hottest summer in Bengal, and the temperature kept on reaching the forty degree Celsius mark. There was no sign of the Nor’westers. The frequency of power cuts increased manifold.
I spend the blistering afternoons on the roof trying in vain to call her up. That was my idea of redemption; getting charred by the sun...and within three days I was down with fever.
My insides felt scorched all the time. I knew for sure that had nothing to do with the heat or the fever. I felt as if a part of me was missing.
After one week…I decided to try for one last time. Life was getting intolerable day by day. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to put an end to it…
Either to my life or my sufferings.
I sent her an Email.
It was been seven days since we last talked, seven days since I whispered ‘I love you’ to your ears, seven days since I last savored the comfort I always feel when you whisper back ‘love you too.’ And these seven days were the worst phase of my life. I have spent 19 years without knowing you…but in this short period of 4 months, you have become an inseparable part of me. I can’t live without you anymore.
I am sorry for what I did to you. But words are not enough to convey my apologies. Can we meet? May be for one last time? I just want to say sorry. Nothing has pained me more in my life than this rift that has grown between us over the last week.
I never expected you to massage my ego, never expected you to sacrifice anything for me, I just expected you to keep my request.
I will be waiting tomorrow, at 2 P.M, in front of the girl’s school in Fern Road.
I love you.
As I had expected, she didn’t reply. But I had a hunch that she would come. How could she not?
 She loved me.
The weather changed overnight.  As I woke up I was surprised to see a dark cloudy sky greeting me with a rush of cold breeze, contrary to the dazzling sunlight and the gust of hot wind I had expected. The streets were water-logged. It had rained last night.
Was that the reason my pillows were wet?
I spent the entire morning rehearsing what I would tell her. This was my last chance and I couldn’t afford to blow it. But still, a thought continuously nagged my mind.
What if she didn’t turn up?
At about 1:45 P.M, I reached Fern Road, dressed in her favorite T shirt and jeans. I was unmindful all day long and had forgotten to bring an umbrella. People seemed to be much relieved by the soft drizzle after the scorching season…but I didn’t quite like it. I still had the fever.
I stood in front of the girl’s school waiting for her. Every passing minute seemed to be sticking a needle in me. The anticipation of seeing her after so many days was getting shrouded by the fear that she won’t come.
Within a few minutes the soft drizzle gave way to the heaviest downpour I had ever perceived in my life. I had never seen rain drops hit the streets with so much intensity. After the hot season, the weather seemed to be taking out its entire wrath on the city. And though I was under a shade, I was getting drenched to bone. It was 2:30 and still there was no sign of her. The rain was making it almost impossible to see beyond a certain distance.
A sudden ear splitting noise of lightning made me shiver. I realized that I was waiting in vain. There was no way she could come in this calamity, even if she wanted to. I suddenly felt vacant…
I decided to go back home. And I was shivering from top to bottom. If I waited any more I won’t be able to get any transportation.
I rounded the corner numb with grief. My worst fear had come true…I didn’t know what to do next. My love life always ended in a disaster. And I found myself hating my life more than ever.
“Ever heard of an umbrella?”
The same sweet sound. It was music to my ears. I whirled round.
There she stood there in front of me, her face broken into half a smile. Was there pity in her beautiful eyes?
“Ankita..I ..I”. I was tongue tied. My grief stricken mind suddenly was overflowed with a tidal wave of bliss.
She had come…even in these rain…she had come.
“Shhh..” She came closer and placed her finger on my lips…
She looked around to check if anybody was nearby. The street was isolated. And the rain shrouded us…gave us privacy.
Perhaps this is how you feel when you get to quench your thirst after seven days…I stared and stared at the personification of my love. I couldn’t have enough of her.
She held my hands…and gave me her neatly folded hanky.
“I have one.” I said weakly.
“Open it.”
I did…and saw a beautiful red rose in it, along with a note. The ink had faded in the rain. But still it was legible…
I am sorry for not keeping your request.
“I am sorry.” She whispered in my ear. For a single moment, the entire world went silent; my entire perception went numb, comfortably numb; I couldn’t feel the rain any more…and then soul met soul on lovers' lips.
There standing in the open street, we kissed for the first time…we didn’t care that it was India and kissing in public wasn’t allowed, we didn’t care that someone might see us…for that single instant, the surrounding world seemed to insignificant. It was just us, me and Ankita.
The sufferings of the previous week melted with the passion as we ventured into an area of love hitherto unknown to us.

And we kissed.

Ps: Now this one is my 1st story...and its pure fiction.no reason to think its autobiographical. enjoy :)