2 years ago
Kushal recently completed Grade XII from Golden Gate International College, Kathmandu.
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Anirodal and his hug
“You have them, right?” I asked Anirodal in a call.
“Yes, but we need to buy new ones,” he replied. “Meet me at Royal Kitchen, Sinamangal at 5 pm sharp.”
And then he dropped the call.
The day was not like other normal days, at least for him, I believe. So I left my office at New Baneshwar earlier that day and reached Sinamangal on time, thanks to the pause in the September downpour. As soon as we met, we set out in search of khada—a special kind of scarf used mostly by Hindus and Buddhists to felicitate people. That is what the phone conversation was about. Anirodal had a bagful of surplus khada from his brother’s marriage, which we would often utilize in need, but this time he chose to buy new ones.
After buying a pair of fine khadas, we left on foot for Tribhuvan International Airport. Anirodal knew shortcuts from Sinamangal to the airport, but he chose a rather lengthy path along the bank of Bagmati River that day.
“So, when is your turn to leave the country?” I asked.
“No. Never,” he replied.
On our way to the airport, the noisiest man I know was quieter than ever. The person who often used long sentences was replying in words. The only prominent sound was the outcry of speeding water in the narrow Bagmati after the downpour.
I didn’t ask him why he wanted to buy new khadas. Neither did I ask about why he chose the roundabout path to the airport. And I was wise enough not to ask him such questions—he always has an answer. Anirodal was a man of reasons. He could reason basically anything, even the most bizarre, unethical, and irrelevant deeds of his.
At the airport gate half a dozen of our high school friends were waiting for us to join. We entered the airport premises. She wasn’t there yet. Yeah, she was the one behind all the outlandish scenario earlier. Her name is Monika.
Monika was leaving the country for higher studies in the UK like most of our friends are doing. Abroad study is a trend in the town. And everyday many Anirodals are seeing Monikas off.
Anirodal never admitted that he loved Monika. Even when asked whether he loved her or not, he asked back what ‘love’ meant. It appeared that he despised love. Anirodal had a different level of hypocrisy, but not a perfect one. He failed to relate his words and actions. In the high school days, when we were roommates, I have felt the energy he had in himself in the evening if he talked to her in the day. The way he behaved in the case of buying khadas and while taking a way to the airport reveal a different story than his stance for those two years.
Eventually Monika arrived at the airport while we were discussing about our undergraduate studies. Her family had come along with her. Beautiful, as always, she looked that day. Anirodal wasn’t a fit for her if I imagine the two standing as a couple.
“Hey,” Monika greeted everyone.
“So where’s the transit?” Anirodal asked looking at Monika’s face.
“Korea,” Monika replied.
“North?” Anirodal attempted cracking a joke.
Everybody laughed. Anirodal too faked a smile. He didn’t seem that delighted on our way to the airport. We offered her the khadas. Other friends gave her the presents that they had brought for her. All friends tried chaffing Anirodal and Monika, but just to receive no response from both of them. After a short talk and a few fun moments, there came a time of silence. It was 7 pm already and she had to go for a check-in.
“Eight more people and then Anirodal’s turn,” I was counting in my mind.
I had finished counting all the eight people to Anirodal’s right whom Monika was hugging serially.
“It’s Anirodal’s turn now,” I was thinking, but she skipped Anirodal and hugged us all.
Anirodal laughed, but just to rhyme with others. His laughter didn’t last. I could notice the watering of his eyes which he was controlling with a great effort. He didn’t speak much after that. We waved a goodbye to her while he was silent again with a smile. I don’t think it was fake this time. Eyes fixed towards the gate where she was approaching, he seemed to be lost in memories. Maybe he was recalling his moments with her—beautiful, awkward, and all other.
Anirodal didn’t say goodbye to ‘something’ that he never called love, or he couldn’t. His smile depicted his hope and confidence that they would meet again. Monika didn’t love him for sure. But, it wasn’t that she had no feelings for him. He had confused her. More than that he had confused himself in all the years of acquaintance with her.
As soon as she disappeared from our sights into the building, a friend dared and asked Anirodal a question. A question I wish he didn’t ask. Anirodal had a mouthful of reasons to give one to him.
“Why do you think she didn’t hug you?”
“It’s because of you. You were chaffing me and Monika,” Anirodal reasoned. “She might have felt awkward.”
Anirodal laughed. Following him, everyone else did. We returned back to the airport’s main gate to leave for home. The six friends took their buses from the nearby bus stop. I and Anirodal were remaining. Breaking the silence, I asked Anirodal if we took a bus to Gaushala.
“Why do you worry when I know the shortcuts?”Anirodal opened up. “Taking a bus will waste our time and money.”
Anirodal geared up towards his shortcut paths to my hostel in Old Baneshwar via Sinamangal. I followed. He started sharing his chaotic plans for the approaching Saturday. I couldn’t deny. While he was explaining about the hiking route he recently discovered, I was lost in thoughts about the hug. Some hugs are memorable because they are either the first or the last. Still, Anirodal's hug couldn’t be forgotten for the unknown reason behind why it didn’t happen.