Soulmate! There is a nice ring to the word. Right? Words have more power than we give them credit for. With just one right string of words, we can change the course of events — important events. Once upon a time, around seventeen years ago from now, a person introduced me to the word soulmate. I didn’t know at the time, but my life changed dramatically after that. For one, the idea of somebody, whom my soul knew even before I was born, lit up my whole world. No longer did I feel alone. With a soulmate by your side, you could be invincible. If you already have found your soulmate, you are nodding with me. Nonetheless, if you haven’t, you’re laughing at my naivety. Regardless of your reaction, I found my soulmate, and I love my life for it.
I was always a coffee person. From the smell of coffee beans to that first foamy sip, I loved everything about it. Lately, I had been making changes to my daily routine. One of those small but significant changes was tea. Yes, now my day begins with a steaming cup of tea. In the past, I would sleep until I could sleep no more. Recently, though, I wake up early and go for a walk around the block. I want to soak up the lukewarm rays of the sun, the quiet, and the chirping of the birds. After the walk, I prepare the tea. During these early hours, I relish a walk down the memory lane. Care to join me, this morning? Yes? Well, then let’s go.
Each morning, my thoughts drift to Mishty. I know what you’re thinking. There can’t be a bigger cliché than a guy thinking about a girl? Despite your thoughts on the matter, I would appreciate if you’ll lend an ear to this forty-year-old man. I met Mishty when I was fresh out of college and working as a software engineer in an MNC. She was leading the project that I was to be a part of. Her beautiful smile as she welcomed me to the team was the warmest one I ever received. The way her eyes twinkled and cheeks lifted rejuvenated me. Her unrivaled energy was a source of inspiration to many.
Considering her designation, I was confident that she was at least five years older than me. Yet, I wanted to be her friend. It may sound ridiculous, but I just had to have her in my life. Her age could not discourage me, but one fact did put the brakes on my reckless dreams. Mishty was happily married. Ergo romance was not an option. There was still hope for a beautiful friendship. So, all was not lost. The more I got to know her, the more I wanted to spend time with her. I would suggest team outings with the hope of achieving just that.
A free spirit, she was. Always laughing that infectious laugh of hers, leaving others speechless with her sarcastic comments, and always winning an argument with her quick wit, she stole more hearts than one could count or remember. Every day, the stomping of her heels on the corridor indicated her arrival way before she entered the door of our assigned work area. After endless coffee sessions, we connected over our love for travel and fun. Eventually, she asked if I wanted to join her on her upcoming Goa trip? And no, it was not just the two of us. In the excitement, I didn’t even ask her about the details.
So, I ended up joining Mishty, her husband (Aniket), and his friends. It was during this trip that I realized that I couldn’t be just her friend. I wanted her all to myself. The sight of her snuggling and dancing with her husband on the Baga Beach raised the ugly head of jealousy inside of me. She was more perceptive than I had expected her to be. Once we returned from the trip, she asked if everything was ok. Naturally, the answer was that nothing was fine. However, I could not share with her my honest answer. So, I nodded and remained tight-lipped on the matter. It hurt like hell, but I decided to put some distance between us. Of course, the distance had to be the emotional one. Since we were working on the same project, I did not have the luxury of a physical distance.
Following a few days of silence, she had enough. She set up a one on one meeting with me after our daily client call. The moment I walked into the conference room, she bombarded me with questions. She urged me to tell her what was bothering me. “Did I say something to hurt you?” she asked. I could not handle her worried expressions and hated that I was the reason for her distress. Without giving it another thought, I spilled the beans.
“I can’t be your friend. Okay! I am jealous of your husband. Obviously, I know how stupid I sound right now. But, that’s the truth.” I had raised my voice to an alarming range. Mishty was visibly shaken at my outburst. Never had I ever seen her this nervous. She looked just like a rag doll. I noticed that suddenly she didn’t know what to do with her hands. She folded her arms, then unfolded them. She picked up the pen lying in front of her and just placed it right back. Her nervous energy was putting me on edge. After what seemed like hours, she cleared her throat,
“Aarav, you have become my most treasured friend in a matter of just a few months.”
The word friend left a bad taste in my mouth. I slammed the table — a little dramatically, I must admit — and yelled,” As I said, I don’t want to be just a friend.”
I could see that my reaction surprised her. Hurt her, even! She squinched her face up and pressed her fingers on the side of her forehead. “Aarav, friendship is all that I can offer you. If things were different…. well, there is no use in going down the coulda-woulda-shoulda lane. But, you should know that you are my soulmate.” She paused as if searching for the right words. Then, she walked to my side of the table. I raised my head to meet her eyes. She squeezed my shoulder and said,” There is more than just one way to love somebody. I love you like a soulmate. Given that I cannot give you everything that you may desire. But, I can tell you one thing. There is nobody I love more than you. Nobody!”
“What does it even mean? We can’t be together. How does it make us soulmates?”
“In my opinion, a soulmate is somebody your soul was searching for. Anybody who makes you feel complete, regardless of the relationship, could be your soulmate. I like to believe that souls are bound by the same rules as humans. While society would frown at the idea, I trust that one soul can have many soulmates. Similarly, one person can love more than just one human being,” Mishty said with a gentle smile on her face. “If it’s tough for you, I would not stop you from ending our friendship. I just hope you would stay.”
I needed some time to think. So emotionally drained I was that I decided to just get up and leave. I didn’t look back at her. The days that followed were a nightmare. Since I wasn’t ready to see her, I decided to take a few days off work. During these days, when I searched for peace, my mom had different ideas. As soon as she knew I was on leave for a couple of days, she made a list of chores for me. In addition to this torture, she gave an impromptu lecture on the benefits of an arranged marriage four times a day. I could not think about marriage, unless, of course, she could magically find another Mishty.
Mom must have been conspiring for long because just before Holi, I found myself sitting across a family. She had invited a prospect girl and her family to our house in hopes that I would like the girl, Natasha. She was a stunning girl. Any guy would have jumped at the chance of marrying her. Her hair framed her heart-shaped face beautifully. She had applied makeup, which she didn’t need at all. Her sharp features required no enhancement. We were sent to the other room to “get acquainted.” Clearly, the bizarreness of the situation was lost on them. Natasha’s voice was a melody to my ears. She almost stole my heart when she mentioned the awkwardness of the meeting. The reality of the situation was that my thoughts were drifting toward Mishty. Apparently, I treasured my imperfectly perfect soulmate above everything else.
The next day, it was Holi. Mom was bugging me to give a genuine reason for rejecting Natasha. I had none that I could offer her. So, I picked up the car keys, grabbed some gulal, and, before I knew it, knocked on Mishty’s door. Huffing and puffing, she opened the door and invited me in. “Why are you so out of breath?” I asked as my lips curled into a smile. If I had loved her before, I loved her disheveled state even more.
“Oh, I was just dusting the shelves. Plus, I wasn’t expecting any company.” She rubbed her palm over her orange knee-length dress as if to smooth out its wrinkles.
“Where did your husband go?”
“You know his name, Aarav,” she answered with a raised eyebrow. Then, with a wave of her hand, she said,” He has gone on another one of his business trips. I have the house to myself.” Before I could react, she gave me one of her signature heart-melting smiles.
Just like that, we were friends, erm..soulmates, again. With one quick move, I rubbed some gulal across her cheek, and wished her a very happy Holi. The rest of the day passed in the company of music and beers. We giggled at nothing and everything. Our laughter filled her apartment with life. At that moment, I believed with all my heart that she was right about us being soulmates. We didn’t revisit my feelings for her and just enjoyed the moment. As I left her apartment in the evening, I knew what I had to do.
“Mom, I don’t wanna get married,” instantly after reaching home, I exclaimed.
“What’s wrong with Natasha? She would make an amazing wife. Better than even me! And I am an excellent wife. Well, I was until your dad passed away.”
“Mom, you didn’t hear me. I don’t wanna get married. Not to Natasha. Not to anybody else. No marriage. Period.”
“You wouldn’t understand. Just know that if you pushed the topic, you would lose me.”
Needless to say, my threat fell on deaf ears. Neither she gave up the hope nor I surrendered. What I had with Mishty would appear hopeless to you, but it was everything that I wanted in life. We traveled together to many exotic places. While Turkey’s beauty entranced her, Mishty’s careless laughter bewitched me to no end. Say what you will, ours was the most heavenly love story.
Getting back to the present, I must get on with making the tea. It has already been an hour since I started reminiscing those complicated, yet my most cherished, days. If you’re still with me, let me share with you something that I have learned in my life. Whether you believe in the concept or not, your soul knows when it finds its mate. You can have more than one soulmate, and that’s okay. Not everyone would agree with my choices and thoughts, but I don’t live to please everybody. Many people used to ask me if I ever regretted the decision of remaining unmarried. I noticed pity in their gaze, but that didn’t bother me.
I could only offer them one answer. If I had to do it all over again, I would make the same choice. I wonder how many of them could say the same. My love is true and pure. I have lived a life that many would envy. If I had married a girl, I never would have loved her like I loved Mishty. There may have been more than one soulmates for her, but, for me, there would never be a space for any other. Oh, look at that! You’re such a terrific listener that I didn’t notice my tea was ready. I hate straining the tea. It always spills on the kitchen platform, and I end up cleaning it. A shuffling of feet from the other room is an indication that Mishty is ready for her bed tea.
“I see somebody hasn’t come back from his beloved dreamland yet again?” I turn around to see the same twinkle in her eyes. Like every other morning, I fall in love with her breathtaking smile all over again.
“I have only one beloved, and I’m looking at her.” I winked at her. In four long strides, I covered the distance between us and wrapped her in my arms. With a kiss, I handed her the tea that I had poured just now.
“Good morning, my sun and stars!” she gave me her favorite mischievous grin.
“Oh, I see! Somebody is reflecting her inner Khaleesi this morning. Do you want me to win the throne for you, the moon of my life?”
While we would go on and on with our cute banter that might annoy some of you, I guess I owe you an explanation. Two years back, Aniket and Mishty went through a divorce. As it turned out, his business trips were more pleasure than business. When Mishty found out, they decided to part ways. After their divorce, Mishty was heartbroken. She had terrible trust issues. Sweeping such a woman off her feet is no easy task, my friend. I had my work cut out for me. Nevertheless, I was in no rush. After all, I had years of practice. Marrying my soulmate was an enticing idea, but I would never have done anything to ruin what we had.
Just last year, I recreated her favorite trip. It took a lot of convincing, but she finally surrendered. We left for Turkey and spent four days enjoying Istanbul. In Cappadocia, as our hot air balloon lifted high in the air, I went down on my knee and proposed. I don’t know if it was the thrill of being so many feet above the ground or the alluring sights of Cappadocia from our vantage point, but she said yes! And two soulmates lived happily ever after! Unrequited love was my strength and patience my virtue. But, trust me, the reward of spending the rest of my life with my soulmate was nothing less than a never-ending treasure. My cup runneth over!
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