Syed and GayatrI didn’t mean to fall in love. But love happens when you least expect It. It creeps up suddenly. When someone needs attention, care, conversation, laughter and maybe even Intimacy. Love doesn’t look at logic, or at backgrounds and least of all, religion.
Gayatri was from a very conservative South Indian family that went to a temple every Saturday. Syed bought goats for his family every EId. That saId it all. Their paths would never have crossed If It hadn’t been for that fateful day. That day when he walked into the coffee shop. GayatrI wondered if destiny chose our loved ones for us. Did we have any role to play at all?
She looked at her watch. Syed was late. They met every Thursday at five pm to catch up. Their conversation lasted for hours. Sometimes at the cafe, sometimes in his car, sometimes in places that she could never tell her friends about. They would never understand. And yet Syed made her happy.
Suddenly her phone beeped. He had sent a message. “On my way. Have somethIng Important to tell you.”
GayatrI stared at It and realIsed she had knots In her stomach. Thoughts flooded her mInd. What dId he want to tell her?
Syed the geek whose company no one wanted to have in school for he was just goofy messed up and weird. And here she was having these crazy rendezvous with the same person the one she most looked forward to more than meeting Anshuman – her steady date and more than her girl gang. He was her little dirty secret one that she wasn’t willing to share with any one not as yet.
So a few months back on a chilly January morning nursing her latest break up and seeking solace in an empty CCD at NarIman Point a young man came and stood next to her.
“GayatrI It Is, right?? I am Syed well wouldn’t be surprised If you don’t recollect, we were in school together till the 8th Standard.”
GayatrI had a proper look at him and she still wasn’t sure, The Syed she knew was no where remotely close to this well groomed boy standing In front of her. Well that is what age does to people either It turns them into a better versions or the versions that had seen better times. He definitely belonged to the former category.
“Oh yes Syed, I do remember you, but definitely not the way you look like now, and please take that as a compliment!! Have a seat, I was just here for a coffee and whiling away my time, didn’t want to go to college today, so where have you been all these years??”
“Thank you, I had to move out of Mumbai then as my father made our family move In with him to Jeddah where he had taken up a job, so finished my schooling there and now In college In Mumbai and working. That is the long and short of my life story.”
So over a cup of coffee they exchanged the latest notes on each other’s lives and on their long lost acquaintances and bid each other good bye. Till GayatrI received a Friend Request from Syed that was promptly accepted and the journey started from liking and commenting on each other’s post to general conversation on FB Messenger. He was witty, polite and polished and she enjoyed what they had on FB!!
“GayatrI, lets meet up for coffee, I will get free after 5 pm from office and Friday Is my weekly off ,that Is of you don’t have any plans.”
“Sure lets meet up, after all we haven’t interacted other than thru our phones. So let’s meet at the same place where we met the first time” said Gayatri.
So the CCD became a witness to their friendship, oblivious to the people around them they continued to meet once a week. The acquaintance grew to friendship and then to something more. They both didn’t want to give their relationship a name but it was something that was palpable and could ignore for long. With the growing friendship with Syed her affair with Anshuman had receded to the background and the sparks had fizzled out. They were close physically but the emotional connect was missing.
The monsoons hit Mumbai like crazy and besides the other things she shared with Syed; it was their love for rains. After one of their weekly coffee dates they walked up to Marine Drive and started walking towards the Churchgate station. The drizzle, the weather, the company and their conversations was such a heady a mix that had intoxicated them both, so before they realised they had crossed the turn for the station and were way beyond the gymkhanas lost in each other.
They reached Charni Road station and here GayatrI boarded her train for her home, but she couldn’t let go of Syed and kept looking till the he was no longer visible. She knew she was in love with this man and wasn’t sure what he thought of her. She knew there was something but was she misreading a genuine friendship as love??
Ironically the very next day Syed had to go for leave town for medical emergency to his native place of Raigad. The distance and lack of communication was taking its toll on her. Every beep and ring on her phone was looked forward to in the hope it was him, he did keep in touch but not as much as she had hoped for.
So here she was waiting for him and filled with anxiety about was that he wanted to tell her.
As he walked In the Cafe she was weak kneed, he came forward and enveloped her in his warmth, “God, I missed you, missed seeing your face, missed our conversations, missed us” saId Syed. Gayatri, I had to go as my Granny suffered an attack and had to be there for her. While I was there waiting and attending to her, I couldn’t help but think about us. Look I may be Imagining things and know about you and Anshuman but I feel too strongly for you and It Is beyond friendship for me it’s nothing but absolute, crazy love. I didn’t expect you to love me In return or to even continue to meet me after this. We are religiously, culturally and socially poles apart, but I had to get this out of my system, I can’t live in denial and not accept that I Love You Gayatri!!”
She looked up at him and got up from her seat and hugged and kissed him, “Syed, I have been dying to hear those magical words and I do love you too, don’t care how different we are but I want to shout out to the world and tell them about US. I want to update my relationship status” She was jumping with joy for she was happy to be with her man.
She broke up with Anshuman soon after and was glad to be seen with Syed at her college socials, hangouts irrespective of the snares warnings from her close friends. Syed was still a pariah as far they were concerned, they had given up on her, and she would not hear anything against her man. Syed on his apart remained aloof, he could not fit in and the cold vibes from her friends didn’t make matter any easier for him. They continued their emotional and physical relationships in getaways, hotels: places that Mumbai offered in abundance with the advantage of anonymity.
“GayatrI, I have to go to Dubai for some office work and may take a week, will try being in touch but ply don’t get worked up if I am not able to, and network is going to be an Issue In that area. I will call on my own and do take care of you and miss me” saying this Syed hugged her and planted a kiss on her forehead.
Since he left the calls had been sporadic and that too with too much background noise, she missed him and made It a point to visit their favourite coffee shop just to soak with whatever remissness of him were there at the place.
GayatrI got up from her slumber by the Incessant ringing of her phone, she was hoping it was him but it was Anshuman she checked her watch and it was 5 AM. She was all set to blast him off “what Is It?? Anshuman It Is 5 AM and that also Sunday!!”
“I know all that and I had no Intention of calling you up after the way you left me, but you need to switch on the TV as your latest fling Is all over the news” and he slammed down the phone.
She was blank and didn’t know what to except, she checked her phone for any unread messages / notification or missed calls, there were none. Switching on the TV and flipped through the News Channels and then she saw him, her man, the love of her life SYED!! He was killed while trying to enter Syria to join In the ISIS and his Identity was established from his passport.
Things became clear in some days when the police came knocking on her door. The police Informed her that she wasn’t the only one who he was Involved with. They had verifiable Information that he had been radicalised when he was living In Jeddah and was sent to India to recruit members and also explore opportunity recruit women not belonging to his faith. He had no family and none whatsoever In Raigad; they had abandoned him for his radical views.
Police made a little headway as far as GayatrI was concerned for whatever she knew about him has now proving to be blatant lies and stories that were nowhere close to the truth. On hindsight she now realised she had never visited his office, now had ever been to his college. She couldn’t find out on her own either for she was grounded at home by her conservative family that had now got the whiff of her affair and its aftermath.
She was left without friends who had forewarned her, family who until now were in the dark and Syed: the man she was kind to her, who made her laugh, who listened to her and the one who was in love with her or she thought was in love with her.
Only time will tell the real story and till that time she will continue to feel for him for he was her SYED!!