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The Love Letter
“This is Neethu, my cousin and she’s here for the summer holidays!” announced Leela holding tightly the arms of an incredibly pretty girl. I was dumbstruck, lost for words. I couldn’t even wave a “Hi”. For the record, I have never been infatuated just after one glance at a girl, but I guess I had to run into one such girl in my life- that after all abides by the rule of probability and the law of averages.
“This is Veeru and you be good to him,” Leela said to Neethu, “coz he’s my boy friend!”
Veeru laughed nervously. He didn’t like the term “boy friend”. Even after a year of hearing that dreaded word in the high-pitched voice of Leela, he shriveled like a baby mouse who had just heard a menacing “Meow” from a ferocious cat for the first time in its life.
“And this is Guru…” she said, pointing at me, “He’s quite harmless!”
Leela started laughing hysterically. Unfortunately so did Veeru. I had to join them in their laughter- my laugh was much worse than Veeru’s when he hears “boy friend” from Leela.
“I’m just teasing,” continued Leela, “Guru’s an incredibly smart guy and he has many weird theories and has quite a different take on life! He is a writer too!”
“Really?” asked Neethu looking at me, as if she didn’t believe what Leela had just said.
“Well Guru, now you can bore this incredibly pretty girl over here with your theories, me and Veeru have things to talk about on that rock over there,” Leela said, pointing far away from the tree where we were sitting under, “So behave! If Neethu cries or shouts for help, we’ll come running over here and will never introduce you to “any other” girls, even the uglier ones!”
I smiled awkwardly. Here I was given a chance to sit alone atop the beautiful Chamundi Hills with an even more beautiful girl, and I was feeling miserable! Why was that?
Soon the happy couple left us giving me only her name to start a conversation. How I wish I knew more about her!
“They really left us alone here with each other, huh?” I started. I was not going get tongue-tied! I am not that weak to get hopelessly lost and act stupid in the company of a pretty girl, even if this girl could be the prettiest girl I’d ever been alone with or ever will in the future!
“Leela has changed quite a lot from the last time I saw her,” said Neethu slowly, “She left me here alone with a boy who might make me cry or make me shout for help… She said so herself and yet, she left…”
I looked at her for a while, trying to figure out what exactly was going through her head. I realized soon that she was genuinely worried about being alone with me.
“Oh probably she was thinking about my welfare, for my Osmosis” I said smiling.
“What? For your osmosis?” she asked with a puzzled look on her pretty face. Oh she was pretty. Now I knew why Keats said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”
“Yes Osmosis!” I declared.
She still didn’t understand. I expected that she wouldn’t understand, but I pretended otherwise. You see, Osmosis is my trademark icebreaker with girls. No matter who that girl is, Osmosis always, I mean, always worked- and that girl would always smile after the explanation.
“You see this picture of mine?” I said showing her a baby picture of mine where I looked hideous, I was one of those ugly babies, you hear about now and then, “You see I am ugly, but now that you have been here for a while with me, I look handsome coz of Osmosis!”
“Huh? I still don’t get it… I know that Osmosis is a process where things in the region of higher concentration move to the region of lower concentration… Like in that potato and sugar-water experiment”
“Exactly! And beauty is flowing from you to me” I said beaming like an idiot.
She looked at me for a few seconds and started laughing.
“That’s a good one” she said.
“Ah it’ not a joke, this is a natural process that’s been proven beyond doubt…”
“So you mean to say, while you are getting more handsome, I am getting uglier, right now as we speak?” She said accusingly.
“But what are a few drops for an ocean, huh?” I said.
“Then your stupidity is flowing into me as well?” she said with a smarty-pants look.
“It doesn’t work like that- you see, you are filled with so much high quality beauty, stupidity has no place to flow to, you know…”
“Oh my God! You are such a big flirt!” she said, with a smile, “Is this how you talk with all girls? Do you always talk about Osmosis with them?”
“I’m not a flirt” I said. I lied. I was the biggest flirt I knew. “Osmosis is something I made up just now, to cheer you up; you inspired me to invent Osmosis!”
She looked at me with the most amazing look she had given me so far.
“Oh you are good!” she said, “You’re a flirt AND a liar!”
I acted as if I was hurt. I do have a good number of expressions in my armor- I was a natural trickster.
“Let’s ASSUME that I’m a flirt, who I’m not,” I said, “I flirted to make you smile, to make you feel better, but you, on the other hand are calling me a liar, to my face. I mean, we just met!”
“You Drama Queen, Leela told me about Osmosis,” she said laughing, “but she didn’t tell me what it was, she said I’d find out from you within 3 minutes of being with you!”
“Guilty as charged! I’m a flirt, hang me!” said I. I too joined in her laughter.
“You blackmail poor girls with such lines, no wonder Leela warned you about not to make me cry or make me shout for help!”
“Leela was just telling that to scare you.” I said, “I never made any girl cry- oh wait, except for that one girl back in high school, oh and that girl from movies, even her friends, they cried too, then there was this lecturer, then I guess you can also count that 4-year-old girl whose cheeks I pinched, then…”
“Oh stop it, please, you are gonna make me cry!” Neethu said getting irritated.
I could feel it in my nerves; she was different from the rest of the girls.
“How can you flirt with girls using something like Osmosis, I mean does it work? Do they like go nuts and want to date you or something after that stupid Osmosis line?”
“Has it worked on you, Neethu?” I asked, like a seasoned criminal lawyer.
“Don’t be silly, Guru!” she blushed, “I was just curious if some poor girl had fallen for you or dreaming of marrying you or something…”
“Ah I don’t believe in marriages,” I said, looking all wisely, “so why would I fool a girl into marrying me?”
“Oh come on! You don’t believe in marriages? You want to be alone for the rest of your life?”
“Who said I was going to be alone for the rest of my life?”
She hit me on my arm. It usually takes 3 hours of talk-time at least for a girl to start hitting me. It took Neethu only 15 minutes, a new record. She was going to change my life, in top gear, I could feel it.
“So when you are old and dying, and when you can’t flirt with any girls anymore, won’t you be alone then?”
“Won’t the pretty nurses be around me when I’m dying?” I said with a wink.
She hit me again. It hurt, damn it! But a man is not supposed to show pain, especially when hit by a pretty girl.
“What’s so horribly wrong in marrying someone you love?” she asked.
“Well all marriages are compromises and I don’t like compromises…”
“Not all marriages are compromises!”
“They are honey, even if you take the perfect scenario where there’s no apparent compromise, there are many hidden compromises…”
“Like for the guy, when he decides to settle down with a girl, he’s making a compromise because there is always a hypothetical better girl, who’s out there somewhere, but the guy is not looking for her…” (a variant of an idea from HIMYM)
“Do you really believe that? That’s just sad you know?”
“Ah the hypothetical pretty and better girl!” I said slowly and started drooling.
“Stop that! That’s disgusting!” She started to laugh again. I was beginning to get addicted to that laughter. It was so bubbly…
“Do you want to know a really funny secret about Leela’s wooden frog?” I asked her.
“The wooden frog that she always carries in her purse? Yes!”
“I won’t tell you now, but ask me again sometime in future, maybe when I’m a famous writer or something…”
“What? Don’t make me hit you again! Tell me what the secret is!”
“This secret is one of the many threads that will keep you attached to me, if life takes us on different roads and if we ever meet again, like somewhere nice or on facebook, I’ll reveal the secret of that frog to you and it’ll bring you back to this moment, now, when you are happy and laughing with me…”
“I don’t get it! You are one weirdo, you know that! Reveal me that secret, please…”
“Have you ever experienced this feeling- you are working in your cubicle and you are chatting with your school friend via Facebook and that school friend reveals a secret about some nickname for a teacher or some guy in the classroom and you laugh out loud and you are amused for hours? That secret takes you back to your school days when you were truly happy and live the same happy moments again. Had you known that secret while in the school, the effect wouldn’t be the same as it was 10 years later, right?”
“Hmmmm” is all that she said and hit me again.
Thus began a new chapter in my life. It was the chapter I was dying to read- one of happiness and guilty pleasure. It was one of effortless flirting with the girl I began to get so attached to, that I had stopped being a flirt with other girls. No other girl seemed as pretty as her. I was feeling that I was becoming more romantic at heart and enjoy little things like Sunrise with her; she was guiding me to learn the osmosis of nature’s beauty. There was osmosis everywhere. My soul was brimming with feelings of happiness, pleasure and osmosis. I always used to think about how to make her laugh. I was so addicted to it- I just couldn’t get enough of it. How she’d hold my hand and take me to my new state of euphoria which I had never felt- not even during Ingrid’s movies or Keats’ poems. I was becoming something like a romantic fool. I had found the girl of my dreams- and I had told her that I didn’t believe in love or marriage. I am the biggest jackass ever to walk the earth and I was my own worst enemy.
And to make matters a bit more complicated, Leela had the audacity to talk about my stupid ways during one of the outings on the Chamundi Hill.
“Manasa had called me today to ask me if she could join us during our trips to Chamundi Hills,” Leela said, “I said no to her…”
“Who’s Manasa?” asked Neethu.
“Oh you don’t know her, but she’s one of the many girls our dear Guru flirted with, for fun only, and the poor girl fell for him…”
Neethu was looking at me in a way that made my soul stir. I had to defend myself.
“Like all girls, I had told Manasa during the first meeting itself about my intentions- I wasn’t serious. I was just trying to have fun and make her feel better too…” I said.
“You call what you did with Manasa, ‘making her feel better’?” accused Leela.
“What did I do wrong? She knew I was a flirt from the beginning… I never hurt on purpose. It was her fault that she started to like me- I never encouraged her…”
“Oh you are taking the moral high ground over here? You always do the same thing with these stupid girls. You talk to them. Make them feel better. Make them happy. Make them dream. Make them hope and then you tell them that you are never serious- for your pleasure,” Leela continued, “Guru, I know you didn’t want to hurt these girls, but you have this way with the girls, especially the stupid ones- you mix so many fantastic entertaining lies and weird truths together that you confuse everybody. Sometimes even I’m confused. I don’t know when you are making one of your stupid jokes and when you are serious. But you, you do something to these girls, I don’t understand myself…”
This was news to me. I just didn’t know why Leela had to be this callous to me in front of Neethu. She may be telling the truth- maybe I might have hurt a few girls. But it’s not my fault. Those girls knew from the beginning the kind of guy I was- they willfully let their hearts fall for me and I am to blame for it? Should I stop being me? That’s just ridiculous.
“Well now I know that Osmosis works!” smiled Neethu.
I looked at Neethu, her eyes. What did she mean by that? Hadn’t Osmosis worked on her before? Didn’t she like me and my Osmosis and other theories? Hadn’t she fallen for me like I had fallen for her? It hurt. It started hurting really bad in my chest.
“It works Neethu,” said Leela, “but I was confident that it won’t work on a traditional and family oriented girl like you. So I let you hang out with Guru, when I had to be with Veeru, couldn’t leave you alone at home now, could I? You know Guru, so many guys have proposed to her, not all of them bad either. I would have said ‘Yes’ to a few of them myself. But Neethu said no them coz she loves her family and doesn’t want to hurt them with a stupid thing like Love, let alone a Love marriage…”
“Yes, I believe that both Love & Arranged marriages are equal in some ways” agreed Neethu, “Both have their pros and cons. Sometimes love can go sour and so can an arranged marriage. But I feel that there’s unequal amount of effort required to make things work. With arranged marriages, the families of both the boy and the girl are already happy- so the boy and the girl have to just find ways to love each other and live with each other happily. I am confident that even if the boy has a few different and odd ways, the boy and the girl can engage in a healthy talk and understand each other better. But with Love Marriages, not only do you have to convince your parents to agree, and be comfortable with what society has to nag about, the boy and the girl still have to work at the marriage to make it work…”
“I didn’t know you thought so much about life…” I interrupted her, I couldn’t hear anymore of this nonsense.
“Well thinking is good, you should try it sometimes!” she said nastily.
Leela started laughing like Raavan; it felt as if she did have ten heads like Raavan too.
With Leela’s evil laugh in my head that night, I started to think about things- for the first time in my life. I was thinking of the things I had done and what I shouldn’t have done. I was careless. For a few minutes of fun, I had potentially ruined the rest of my life. I knew I couldn’t be happy without Neethu. No, I couldn’t imagine a second of my life without her. I had to tell her how I feel. But I was weak. Really weak. If I tell her to her face that I like her, she might reject me outright and it would hurt a lot. Just one look of disapproval from her today had made my soul twitch and turn into a million knots. I couldn’t bear a direct refusal from her. No. I should indirectly tell her- even if she says, no, I could still hang around with her- at least I’ll have her in my life and I still could flirt with her coz, hey, I flirt with everybody right? Things won’t be too bad if I could have her at least as a friend in my life. And flirting is the most amazing socially acceptable pleasure I know, and if I could keep flirting with the girl I like, then what more could I ask for, huh?
So I set out to write her a Love Letter. If she knew me well enough and liked me too, then she’ll know that I wrote the Love Letter. Subconsciously I really did want her to know that it was me who wrote the letter.
The day after I sent her my Love Letter, Leela had called me to her house. I knew I was in deep shit now. Leela would eat me alive for writing a Love Letter to her cousin. But I was a man of my words- I would stick by them, no matter what lay ahead. I went to her home.
I found Leela crying and shouting in her bed.
“What happened Leela?” I asked her.
“My aunt, Neethu’s mom, she died in an accident” she was sobbing hysterically, “And I can’t find Neethu…”
“What? You don’t know where she is? Does she know that her mom…”
“Ya, she knows… please find her Guru, please…”
I was going crazy and all negative thoughts were running through my nerves. I can’t let this negativity bring me down- I had to find Neethu. She was really close to her mom. I knew that. She already had lost her dad, now she lost her mom as well. I couldn’t imagine what was going through her head- I had to find her before she did anything stupid. I called my uncle to tell the Police and got hold of many mutual friends and sent them off looking for her all over Mysore.
I went to betta- Chamundi Hills hoping she was there…
I found her under the tree- our tree. She was holding my Love Letter. And she was crying.
I felt like running away from her. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Writing a love letter to a girl when her mom had died. I thought that I was prepared for the worst when I had written that letter. I knew nothing good will come of me talking to her, but she was my friend as well. I was going to try and comfort her or at least take her to the hospital. People were getting worried and perhaps, rightly so. I called Leela to tell her that Neethu was with me.
I sat next to Neethu. I didn’t dare to touch her- let alone hold her hand. I was too ashamed or too scared, I don’t know which. I didn’t know how to comfort her- coz I was too scared that I might end up hurting her even more than she already is. I was hurting. Perhaps not as much as her.
She was looking intensely at the setting Sun.
“I am cursed.” She said.
“What?” I said.
“This Love Letter killed my mom…” she said.
“I don’t understand…”
“My mom read this letter, got freaked out and drove in a hurry to come and meet me, but instead she met with that accident with that truck…”
My heart had just refused to beat anymore. I was feeling numb and I was feeling cold. I was shivering. How could life be so cruel- the one time I was honest to myself, to somebody else and wrote what was in my heart and this… This happens! Is it even fair? Do I deserve this sort of a reply from God for my Love Letter? God! Does a boy deserve this kind of a torture? Are You a sadist, God? What’s happening here… I wanted to die, then and there…
No. I am not weak. I am better than what I was a second ago. I was motivating myself to rise to the occasion. Because I am not weak. I couldn’t let this kind of negativity bring me down. Neethu needed a friend now. Somebody had to make her laugh. Yes. That’s what I should try to do now…
“You know you should be feeling a bit happy by now…” I said with a faint smile.
“Osmosis you know, it always works. Happiness is flowing from me into you. So you should show that happiness a little, you know, by smiling,” I said, “Your mom maybe looking at you right now, worried that you will miss her a lot. Show her that you are a big girl now and you can smile through anything. Make her feel relieved, make her feel proud and let her go, give her a proper farewell… Show her the best of your smiles- the one that makes my heart forget the rhythm of life…”
She took a few seconds to respond.
“You never miss an opportunity to flirt, do you?” she smiled, “I know that you don’t believe in ghosts!”
“You know me! I’m a big flirt!” I said lightly, “It’s true that I don’t believe in ghosts, but you do, right?”
“Yes, I believe in souls. Maybe my mom is looking at me right now. But why can’t I feel her?”
“You have surrounded yourself in sadness; free yourself from this pain a little…” I said slowly, “Let Osmosis do its work and let all your sadness flow into me…”
Neethu was looking at the setting sun and we remained silent for an hour or so.
“Thank you, Guru,” she finally said, “Let’s go home…”
With that my chapter with Neethu had ended. All I was ever going be now was just be a friend to her. She really seemed like she needed one. Each day I tried to hang out with her as much as possible and try to cheer her up. Though with me she did seem normal, Leela had quite a different story about Neethu. It seemed Neethu had increasingly become obsessed with idea of the Love Letter and she had started a small investigation of her own. Leela didn’t like the way Neethu was handling all this. This in particular was worrying news for me. Each night I was having nightmares of Neethu finding out the truth about the Love Letter and I woke up drenched in my own sweat.
Two months later, out of nowhere, Neethu had asked me to meet her atop Chamundi Hills. I hadn’t been to Chamundi Hills since the day I brought Neethu back after her mom had died.
She was sitting under the tree, with the same vacant expression I had seen on her two months ago. When I said “Hi” to her, she brightened up.
“I want to break one of our threads now,” she said, “I want you to reveal a secret for me…”
“Leela’s wooden frog?” I asked her, with a silent prayer in my heart.
“No don’t be silly;” she said with a faint smile, “I want to know a bit more about the Love Letter…”
I knew now that she knew the truth about the Love Letter. So there was no point in hiding the facts from her. I was finally going to man up and take the responsibility for the Love Letter.
“I wrote it,” I said solemnly, “I am sorry that it led to…”
“My mom’s death!” she said coldly. My head had bowed in shame and remorse.
“I really liked you and after what Leela told I thought I might lose you, so I wrote that letter,” I continued earnestly, “It was only a gut feeling at the time when I wrote you that Love Letter that I liked you, but now it’s been two months, and I know for sure, that I really like you. Even though I tried hard to ignore my feelings and just be mature about this whole thing, but I can’t. I really like you and I’m really sorry that it has caused you so much pain. I sincerely apologize, Neethu, I’m really sorry…”
“Are you sure that you liking me is not your guilt? It’s not your pity love for a girl you orphaned?”
“Neethu, don’t be so harsh on me! I haven’t flirted with anybody else since I met you. I genuinely care about you- I have liked you since the day I met you. You might think that it’s just an infatuation, but it is not. I love you, Neethu…”
“That’s just what I wanted to hear from you, you idiot!” saying this, she burst into tears and hugged me so tightly that I could barely breathe.
“Our destiny is linked together by that intense Love Letter of yours; it’s not a thread we can break. It has brought me pain- so much pain, it has brought me loss, but it also has brought me hope, it has brought me love, it has brought me you…” she was sobbing, “I really need you now. I don’t know what magic you have done on me, I always think about you, I don’t miss my mom as much as I miss you, even though you are always near, yet not near enough damn it, I have fallen for you, like all those stupid girls… I feel so stupid…. I feel so unloved…”
“I love you Neethu and you’re not stupid. You are just a girl in love, Neethu…”
With that a new chapter got added to my love story. I was in love. I was happy. Neethu was a much more mature human being than I was. She could overlook the silly facts for love. I still had an enormous guilt and felt like a kid around her sometimes. Neethu was my inspiration to be a better human being. I was striving hard to be a better man- a better son, a better brother, a better employee, a better friend, a better lover and a better writer. I had started working on a novel. It was coming out very nicely and ironically it was titled “The Love Letter”. Finally my dream to become a writer of world fame seemed quite possible. I was finally happy after going through all that hell.
I had made sure that this book wouldn’t hurt Neethu; I made sure that she was the first person to read it and see for herself that I had not written anything about us or her mom. She had to go on a trip to Mumbai at the time, so she took the book along with her. She’d periodically send me notes on my book, chapter by chapter, as to how to improve it and make it better. She was quite talented and had quite a good insight into my work. Thus I spent more and more time on my book, improving it, polishing it and sometimes I’d forget all about Neethu and on those days, she’d call me and give me kisses over the phone. She loved me so much, probably more than I loved her…
One day I went to Sapna Book House to do some book shopping and I was surprised to see a novel with the title “The Love Letter” on the main stand. I jumped towards the stand and took a copy. It was written by Neethu. It was my book! Quickly I turned the pages. The story, the contents, the preface- everything was mine! I couldn’t believe my eyes! She had fooled me!!! She pretended to be still reading the book while she had gone to Mumbai to get it published under her name! That bitch!
Was this her way of way of revenge? That Sweet Neethu did this to me? I didn’t care; I was going to get back at her for this…She was going to pay…
The following lines were written by Neethu:
Don’t worry dear girls; Guru was not able to do anything to me. All the pain he caused to so many girls out there, he won’t be able to do it again- coz of Osmosis. In nature there’s so much death and he was so full of life. Death just moved from a region of higher concentration to a region of lower concentration- I made sure of it-
I killed him.
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