Sijo and Sharmin

The Thermodynamics lab was called Khandar (The Relics) as it was housed in the first stone structure that the university had come up with in its initial days. The building was now used by Department of Mechanics and was a good kilometer away from the main campus building, almost towards the western end of the campus. One could see the sun setting behind the magnificent Rairi Mountain, a mountain range on which stood the old Raigad fort. The October air was damp with receding monsoon and it was dense green everywhere. That year the rains were romantic, neither too less nor too strong. No one except Sijo and Sharmin had come to the lab, not even the professor. They sat on a canal bridge and were looking at the pink sky in the distance.

“So how come this far?” Sijo was trying to keep up the conversation. He simply didn’t want her to go.

“Life’s pretty different out there. In Tura you are not expected to do anything worthwhile. All your life you’re taught to listen to others. Sacrifice your wishes for your brothers and get married to give your in-laws something to play with. After that, it’s the same routine of household chores. You live a compromised life and die a miserable low esteem death.” It looked as if Sijo had touched a tender nerve this time around.

“I want to be free, I want to be me and above all I want life – limitless and unconfined. If I had not run to this place, then by now I would have been up in the marriage market.” Anger was showing up in her voice.

“But it’s simply not about running away as well" her expression turned to that of a proud child. “I actually love machines and want to carve a career in automobile engineering.”

Sharmin’s face was glowing with passion now. There was a glint of hope in her dark black eyes and she looked more beautiful as one of the strands of hair brushed her cheeks. Sijo could not help stare at her beautiful childlike innocent face and wished if he was that stand of hair.

All about her was riveting – her slender face, her almond complexion, and her red thin lips that curved into an infectious smile and her expressive kohl lined eyes. Sharmin suddenly turned to look at Sijo and left him fumbling for an appropriate reaction to come up with. It was not the first time she had caught him staring at her, but he felt equally embarrassed each time.

“Can I ask you a question, if it’s ok?” she probed.

“Yeah sure da!!” Sijo in that split second prepared a long affirmative answer just in case she proposed. - Boys I tell you.

“How come you got this fancy name?” she still had that childlike innocence on her face.

“Oh!” disappointed he was. “That’s actually a derivative of my parent’s names. It’s Si from Lesi and Jo from Joseph. My brother’s name is Lejo” Sijo explained as a matter of fact.

“Wow! How romantic” she said covering her mouth. -  Girls I tell you. 

It had been just 2 months since the session has opened and Sijo and Sharmin were already talked about in the university campus. But Sharmin couldn’t have helped it, because had it not been Sijo then there would have been someone else. Not that the damsel was drawn toward boys but because she was not left with any other choice. The only other girl that year in Department of Mechanics had already returned home. Partly because 2: 58 ratio was too hard for half the boys to handle and half used explicit as adjectives.

But Sharmin had not traveled all the way from hills of Guwahati to return back. She had taken a boat to cross the Bramhaputra, then a tanga to the Guwahati station, a train then to Mumbai and finally a bus to Lonere. She definitely knew better than to repeat that “all transport” journey to her feared prison. Her determination was stronger and her dreams bigger. Sijo’s was the only bench she found safe. Moreover the scientist’s son too shared her passion of engines and technology.

“Would you come with me to Veer Station tomorrow?” she asked. “My RX 100 is coming by Matsya Gandha Express”.

Lejo - “Your what?”

Sharmin’s wings were coming the next day. Her cousin had smuggled her a bike from Mumbai and with it their togetherness also found wings.

They were together everywhere - classes, labs, workshops, canteen, football field, restaurants, Raigad fort, cinema hall and rumored to be seen in the terrace corners after college hours. Some called them the love birds and some obnoxious deewanas, but Sri equated them to the Boobs and Bra. According to him there were too many similarities –

1) They were always close together except at nights.
2) Sijo always supported Sharmin.
3) Sijo always protected Sharmin from other's watchful eyes.
4) And Sri was very confident that someday Sharmin will change her choice.

But they were deeply in love and as opposed to what other’s said, their love grew. They planned marriage and family and home and even life. They planned and they wrote, they composed and they sang.

It’s been quite some time since I held this guitar.
How many years have passed since my last song!!!
A time a feared no music was for me
when every light seemed so dark to me.
But let me believe again,
Let the words come to me.
So with you on my mind
and love in my heart,
Here is a song, a song for you,
Of me and you and we are making it through.
It’s a song so strong and true,
To keep the love alive
our whole life through.

A song for you!!!!

This performance of theirs’s won many hearts and after that for many they were the perfect couple. They were good in studies, sports, music and love. They were happy and their happiness was contagious. It seemed life was made for them and they’ll always win. And so the year went by and the summer vacations came.  When they were saying good bye to each other the pain was so palpable that even their sadness became contagious. Nothing looked happy on that day in BATU.
That summer they wrote to each other. From her home in Tura she wrote.

Feeling so lonely, so very alone....
Wish you were here with me and I would have someone to call my own….
Missing you a lot like I’ve never missed you….
Feels like a glimpse of you would be enough forever!!! 
Staring out of the window, looking at the farms….
I hope each way would lead me to your arms….
But miss you and think of you is all I can do….
I just want you to know how much I LOVE YOU”….

Sharmin wrote from her home in the hills and he sung it with his guitar. It all seemed like the 70’s Bollywood love - mushy but subtle, and it had a similar fate as well.

Second year’s session started and Sijo waited for Sharmin to come back and the wait grew long. He wrote to her but replies never came. He grew sad and nothing seemed right. And one day they said someone from Tura had come to cancel her admission. The person said that Sharmin was married a week back. Sharmin’s fear had come true. She no longer was the bird she wanted to be. She was the victim of her male chauvinist society that she wanted to break free from. Sijo’s heart was devastated. He felt sad for both his love and his friend who could not write her own destiny, but he never doubted her love for him. He thought of all the days they had spent together and cried in his hearts and he wrote songs but they were of pain. Pain that was there to stay……………

I can see the lonely sky
Cry for me, cry for you.
I can see us both together again,
It’s a dream seem so true.
Though it’s hard to believe
That you are so far away.
Wherever you go,
Whatever you do,
Oh! My darling I’ll always love you.
I’d die in your arms,
But I’ll never say goodbye!!!
Let me love you
is all I’m asking from you.

All you have is to only try
And love will show the way.
There’ll be no more rain of tears again,
We shall see a brighter day.
Though it’s hard to believe
That you’re so far away.
Wherever you go,
Whatever you do,
Oh! My darling I’ll always love you.
I would die in your arms,
But I’ll never say goodbye!!!
Let me love you, is all I’m asking from you.

That year it rained heavily, almost ferociously. The rains washed away their signs from the air of BATU. The moss would cover the canal bridge making is too sloppy for anyone to sit on and finally the bridge got washed away in a storm one day. Monsoon in Konkan can be ruthless…….some know it; while others feel it. But for you to feel it there is a condition to live in past. A past that is serene as you look at it from today. A past without today’s omnipresent technology. Where once you were with someone, you left a trace of yourself on those grass covered mountains of Shayadri. Where you were one with serpents and sparrows. Where evenings were slowly swallowed by the rising dust from the feet of returning cattle, and you could hear the jingle of the bells tied around their neck. And as the night crept in, you were left with the playful sound of streams of running water that washed the evening away.

The university has now a new building and, if now you visit the place, you in all probability will not visit the Khandar. The Khandar is more dilapidated as it has gone out of use, but to Sijo it is still with him as it stood that day when he and Sharmin were alone looking at the pink western sky. But I must warn him – it has been raining too much here and everything is now covered in moss, and if he’d live too much in past; he could slip off one of those moss covered rock and fall.

"A song for you" and "Let me love you.." are written by Somar Mazumdar while "I love you" was penned by Ratnabhargavi A. R. 


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