In Time

Present Day

I’m Rashmi a regular 38 year old boring and bespectacled cardiologist living life through 36 hour shifts. No complaints! Being a doctor was all I ever wanted from life. Ofcourse I got to that point after the ‘I want to be a princess’ phase. The thought of being the saviour of lives in scrubs gave me Goosebumps. I could give you hundreds of reasons why I wanted to be a heart surgeon. Perhaps I was always fascinated by this mass of flesh that beats to make life possible. And here I am today, a full-fledged cardiac surgeon in the city of Lucknow.

A fairytale existence with my dream transformed to reality. Elated should be my state of mind. But hold on. Nobody told me that along this journey I would also have to go through the other banalities of life related to the heart. Falling in love for one! They don’t teach that in medical school or in any school for that matter. So that turned out to be even harder to master than dissecting one! I’d say give me a by-pass surgery any day over a heart that has fallen in love.

You don’t decide who you fall in love with. Apparently, it just happens. I wish I had known that a tad bit earlier. So I’m Rashmi and this is my story.

23 years back

“Rashmi! Why do you need my hat?” Sanjay asked.

“For the hundredth time Sanjay! I’m playing the role of a boy in my school play. Now are you giving me your hat or not?”

Sanjay and I had been friends for ever. I don’t even remember the first time we met, that’s how far way back our friendship went. Sanjay was the first boy I had spoken to. Everyone in our small town of Dehradun knew that Rashmi and Sanjay were best friends. We were practically two peas in a pod. And even at the age of 15 we knew that our bond was for the long haul.

“You, a boy, Rashmi! Are you kidding me? Why? Don’t they have someone better to play the part?”

“Stop it Sanjay. Just give me the hat!”

“Well, come and get it!” saying that he ran out of his room. I ran after him and we kept moving from one room to the other throughout his house. He was really making me work hard for the hat. But I wasn’t about to give up. So we ran and ran till we both were exhausted. And finally we stood near the beautiful bow-window in his room overlooking the picket fences of their beautifully manicured garden. It was late, the sun was coming down and there we were standing near each other panting and laughing. And then suddenly out of nowhere, the laughing stopped.

“Rashmi” he whispered.

“Yes” I uttered as I looked towards him. There was something in the way he looked at me. Different, very different. Before I could make any sense of what it was he came close to me, really close. I could feel his breathe on my skin. I could feel the water in my mouth dry up. What was this sensation I thought? For some reason, I closed my eyes. I’d seen enough movies to know what was about to follow next. Up until that moment I had never thought of kissing Sanjay. It was strange but I didn’t flinch. My lips felt dry and my heart skipped beats. They said being a teenager would be exciting but up until that moment I didn’t know what they were talking about. So I waited for his lips to touch mine. I waited with baited breath for my first kiss and then it happened.

Sanjay slowly placed his hat on my head, touched my cheek and moved away. I stood there; eyes still closed. Every beat of my heart screamed ‘Kiss me Sanjay, Kiss me!”. By the time I realised what had happened, it was too late. My heart had irrevocably fallen in love with this crazy and stupid friend of mine. The damage was done.

After that day, I’d look at him with hopeful eyes. I’d wait for him to say something. But he was too shy. I’d dress up especially to meet him; stand beside him and tell stories of best friends falling in love. I’d even touch his shoulders pretending to wipe something off it or purposely sit too close to him. I did these little things like a young girl in love; all hints for him to do something. Every time we would be left alone in the same room my heart beats would race. Every time I’d see him on the streets my palms would sweat. I was head over heels in love. He was too. We’d visit each other’s houses under false pretence but neither of us found the courage to say anything. I really wanted to be his girl friend. Infact I was already in my heart. He just had to ask.

But he was taking too much time and I’d gotten tired of waiting. It was also the time to concentrate on my studies if I ever wanted to be a doctor so I decided to let him go. I decided to stop wanting him anymore. But life had other plans for sure.

19 years back

“Rashmi. Someone’s here for you” yelled Mom as she hurried back to the kitchen.

“Who?”

I was at home for vacations. Most of my friends had moved out of town. I’d grown used to spending my holidays as a couch potato. None of my friends could drop in at home I thought. I got up reluctantly and walked to the living room. He was seated with his back turned towards me. Broad shouldered, slightly hunched and tall. As I came closer, he slowly turned. There he was, Sanjay, smiling at me. It had been three years since I had seen him last. He was well on his way to become an Engineer. We had been in touch through letters and calls though but it had been so very long since we had been in the same space together. Now he was in my house looking exceedingly gorgeous, smiling away at me.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I thought I’d come and meet you. Hat-boy!” he teased. “Can we talk?”

“Yeah sure” I said and we walked upstairs to my room.

“So how have you been Rashmi?”

“Good. Good. What ‘bout you?”

“Not bad! So till when are you going to be here?”

“Another week and then my school’s opening. You?”

“Tomorrow”

“Okay”

He looked nervous. It wouldn’t take a genius to read his body language. And I was more or less one. He was about to say something or atleast was trying to say something which some years back I’d have given anything to hear. But I’d moved on and the last thing I wanted was to wreck whatever little friendship we had left. I no longer felt what I felt for him few years back or atleast I thought so at that time. So I hoped he wouldn’t be able to muster up the courage to do what he was trying to. But then did he ever do what I wanted him to?

“Rashmi. I wanted to say something” he said as he fidgeted with his pen absentmindedly.

“Hmmm” I wanted to stop him but then how would I do that I thought!

“Rashmi I...” he began.

“Sanjay. Want to see my boy friend’s picture? This is Joe” I abruptly cut him short as he started to speak and showed him the picture of my lab partner. I had no idea why I did that. I just didn’t want him to tell me that he loved me. I wasn’t ready at that time or atleast I thought I wasn’t.

“I didn’t know you were dating” He stopped, fumbled a little and then managed to bring a fake smile on his face.

Shrug. “I am and I’d like you to meet him the next time he’s here” I lied but atleast I saved him from embarrassment I thought.

“ Sure” he said as he looked at his watch and pretended to remember something important. “Hey, I got to go now. It was nice to see you Rashmi. Stay happy!”

“You too!”

He left without saying what he was there to say. Timing is everything and his was so wrong. When I wanted him to say, he didn’t and when he wanted to say, I didn’t want him to. I thought that was the end of it. But life had other plans altogether.

I wish there was some kind of a rule book to guide us in relationships. Something that could tell us what was right and what was not. Or a mirror to the future which would tell us if the person sipping coffee at the next table was our soul mate. Something that could tell me whether Sanjay was my one and only soul mate!

10 years back

“Rashmi call for you” yelled the nurse at the desk. I was at my night shift. It had been a long day at work with trauma cases flowing in like bees on honey. It was almost 2 am. Who could it be I wondered? Wouldn’t be my family for they had my cell no, so who could it be?

“Hello?” I yawned.

“Rashmi?” was the sound from the other end and I knew instantly who that was.

“Sanjay?”

“Can we meet Rashmi? Please” he sounded as though he was pleading. It has been a few months since we had spoken last. There were the occasional greetings on social networking sites but that was just about it. I was in Delhi at that point of time and he was in Hyderabad.

“Okay? But wait. Where are you?”

“Right outside. I’m waiting for you outside Rashmi. I need to see you right now.”

“You are here?!”

I dropped the phone and ran outside. There was a spring in my step and an excitement I last remember having felt at his bow window. I ran through the halls. I ran as if my life depended on it but I ran for sure.

Panting I stood outside searching him in the dark of the night. And then suddenly I heard the familiar voice from behind.

“Rashmi” He was there wearing a jacket leaning against the hospital wall. He hadn’t changed much, still slightly hunched but this time with spectacles. He looked good, handsome would be an understatement. I stood there. I didn’t know why he was there. I hoped to God he wasn’t there to put another hat on my head. I felt the same emotions I felt years ago when his breathe touched my skin for the first time.

“Sanjay?” was all I managed to say when he stared to walk towards me. He came close, really close. I had a feeling of déjà vu. It was as if I was magically transported to the time I was just 15.

“Rashmi. I should have told you this years ago. I should have but I didn’t. But I will now.”

“Sanjay?”

“Shhhhhh” he said as he placed his finger on my lips. I could have melted in his arms right at that moment. His touch was magical.

“Every time I think of you my hands go numb. Everything around me freezes. All I can think about then is that moment at my window. That perfect moment when even the heavens seemed to have been conspiring to bring us together. But I messed up. I messed up big time and that lost us so many precious years of our lives. Rashmi, ever since I have understood the meaning of love you have been the only one for me. If you are willing to take a chance with this crazy, stupid and hat lending friend of yours then I promise you one thing, I’ll love you like crazy. Now there will be fights no doubt and there will be the occasional yelling too. But Rashmi Gupta, I’ll love you and I’ll worship you. Now are you willing to invest some of your time with me? Will you give our moment on that window a chance?”

“Un huh!”  I nodded. I had tears in my eyes. This funny friend of mine had swept me off my feet. I don’t know what made him do that after so many years but he did. The moment I yearned for when I was just a 15 year old girl came true. I was in Sanjay’s arms now. He held me and I felt safe. Slowly he removed a strand of hair from my face and kissed me. I could feel the warmth of his body swim against mine as our lips touched. His touch made me go weak on my knees. That day, we began our life as a couple together. We were hopeful, infact sure that we would be together for eternity, atleast the kiss seemed to suggest so.

Present Day

There was a case that was brought in this morning. It was my case. I was the heart surgeon on call. It was a case of aortic rupture with the patient profusely bleeding. Let me tell you this that mortality rates for surgical repair of the aorta are among the highest of any cardiovascular surgery. The patient could die or even worse nerve tissue could be damaged leading to other complications. And most importantly the patient has to be taken to surgery immediately.

So I rushed to the OR the moment I was paged. I scrubbed in and took the chart to glance through the patient’s history and statistics. And there it was written in bold letters Sanjay K, the patient’s name. It couldn’t be I thought. I looked towards the man that lay on the operating table and it was indeed him. I felt air rush out of my lungs. I was seeing him after 6 years and he was lying there with his life hanging in balance.

We’d been happy. We’d been together and even wanted to get married. But his parents were against it. They didn’t want me for their son. I wasn’t good enough. We fought hard for years. But they didn’t relent. And then his father fell sick. I always thought he pretended to. But that doesn’t matter now. He fell sick and that was the end of the road for us. Being together at the expense of his family was not something that I could live with. And neither could he. So as much as we hated it, we broke up. I left Delhi and my job there and moved miles away to Lucknow. Since then I fought the pressure of relatives and friends to start a new relationship for I just couldn’t. After all, he was the only one I ever loved.

He married though. He had to with his father being sick. Indian parents tend to do that. Blackmail their children to get their way. I remember sitting alone on his wedding night drinking throughout. I cried like I had never before. I felt peculiar sensations in my heart that even as a heart surgeon I failed to recognise. And it was the same when his wife gave birth to a baby girl. I hated all of them except him. Infact at times I hated him too. I abhorred life for taking him away from me. I never wanted to see him again but there he was lying infront of me. And all I wanted to do was kiss his forehead and tell him he was going to be fine. But there was no way I could be sure about that.

“Doctor?” called the nurse and I woke from my momentary slumber. There was no time to think or reminisce. I had to operate on him if I wanted him to live.

I closed my eyes and prayed for a moment. I wanted strength to cut through the chest of the man and operate on the heart that once upon a time I thought was just mine. I had to save him and give him to another woman who must now be waiting outside. I had to. So I began and hoped I’d be able to save the heart of the man for whom my heart had for the first time throbbed.

Two days later

It’s hard to see the person you love walk away from you. It’s harder if that happens more than once. Being an adult is not fun. It stops you from screaming your heart out when you think something unfair is happening to you. It’s hard to let go but that doesn’t stop it from happening. I had to let Sanjay go once before. And today history was about to repeat itself again.

“Thanks Doctor” said his wife as she hugged me while Sanjay lay on the bed.

I nodded and our eyes met. There was emptiness in both our eyes. All our memories flashed right infront of us. From that bow-window to the moment we had parted forever, we relived those within a few seconds.

And then I heard his voice, weak and feeble “Thank You Doctor Rashmi”

Hearing his voice made me shiver and just for that moment I wanted to hug him one last time; touch him. But I couldn’t.

Clichéd as it sounds, that’s love for you. Perhaps, in another life he’d be mine. For now though, I’d have to let him go. For now, I’d have to walk away hoping against hope that life would show me the way.

“Goodbye Sanjay. Have a great life!”

I turned away as my nurse came in saying “Doctor, your patient’s waiting.”

Sigh.

“Coming!”

As a doctor, there’s never a stoppage time. For aches of the heart though, perhaps there is and I hope I find mine.




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