Love always comes with a dressing of optimism. Pile of doubts and looming dreadful confrontations do not mar the optimistic fluttering hearts of lovers. The gang of ten was two concentric circles – eight of us as a surreptitious circumference around Saahil and Neelam. We savored their melting. We were elated when their meetings multiplied, when their eyes oozed their enviable blissful future. I raised doubts at times in various octaves, sometimes guilty of vehemence because I was scared for them. The gang agreed that the gap was too wide to be filled up in our lifetime. Saahil belonged to a well-to-do scheduled caste family. Neelam’s parents were influential Jaat businessmen from Haryana. But Saahil and Neelam were sanguine, with a thick veil of love settled on their existence.
And then in the summer of 2007, a few weeks before the final examinations of our graduation, we witnessed something that shook our core. The violence with which reality hit us left all of us numb. Optimism was now an unrecognizable corpse buried deep within the soil of practicalities; the practicalities of staying alive. I had never thought that I would wait for Saahil in our hostel room with my heart ramming into my ribcage with a deafening ferocity. I imagined reporting him missing to the police and then identifying the pieces of his body. I imagined Neelam hanging from a ceiling fan, her battered body swinging slowly.
That year I understood that love has shades far darker than the ones our hearts allow us to comprehend. I saw it in Saahil’s watery eyes staring at nothingness. I saw it in Neelam’s bruised face when she came to write her exams.
This is their story without the proverbial The End and about how life went on.
The story of Saahil and Neelam has always stayed with me. I will not call it inspirational in a true Bollywood sense because it does not follow that trajectory. But it is inspirational because of the way it shaped up after the curtains fell and the ten of us went our ways. It is inspirational because life gave us a thousand reasons to smile after giving us a thousand reasons to cry.
The way we look at it, our definition of love is quite monochromatic. But when you go through the layers of your life, you begin to realize that our understanding of love is very similar to our understanding of the universe. Unimaginable dimensions of it will always remain unexplored and that is why our characterization of love being the warmth that spreads through our heart will always remain elementary. We forget what an important role the swinging pendulum and the change of seasons play in defining love. And this story always reminds me of that.
[image from here]