I rested my head back on the bus seat feeling nervous. I fidgeted with my wedding ring, trying to calm my nerves. I shook my head in exasperation. Jeez! What was wrong with me? I am married to this lovely woman for twelve years, but today I felt like I was sixteen. I don't remember much of what happened in my Sixteen. How would I? It was a long time back. Nithya came into my life twelve years back and turned my life upside down. I closed my eyes still fidgeting my ring thinking back on that beautiful day when I met her.
She sat there with rigid formality reflecting my stance. We were apprehensive, uncomfortable and filled with self-doubts and second thoughts.
"Am not sure how this would work out!" she said looking at me over her cup of coffee. Surprisingly both of us ordered Latte.
"I don't know what our kids were thinking!" I murmured. I mentally chided Varun for this mess up. He had signed me up to some forum, and that's how I came to Nithya. Am pretty sure, she was in the same situation and that kindred a warm friendship.
"Adolescent kids, they tend to romanticise everything" She smiled.
"I know!" I sighed. "You should see Aarika's room. She just twelve and her bedroom is already a shrine for Surya. She laughed, and I must admit it was beautiful. It started from her full lips, created a cute little dimple on her cheek and spread to its magnificence in her eyes that crinkled ever so gently. That moment the cozy café we turned on their music. The lilting tones of Harris Jayaraj's "She is a mystery...." sprung to life and it was perfect.
"I quite like this song" she mused. "Riju plays this in his stereo everyday."
"Either love or he's covering up some other noise" I smirked.
"What?" she chuckled with shock "Should I be snooping?"
"I could you help you in that line. I have... ah, let's say experience in that area" we laughed.
"Aarika is on the cusp. Should I be getting, you know... sanitary napkins now?" I asked her hesitantly. Somehow asking that question to Nithya felt very natural.
"Maybe I could talk to her!" she offered, instantly abating all my apprehension.
"That would be great!" I smiled the conversation then flowed into a comfortable silence as the song switched to "Kaadhalai yaaradi mudhalil solvadhu..." and it sent a jolt of shock into my system. How could Songs of the present still evoke these sensations in me? Or is it because of the woman sitting in front of me? There was no answer. The emotions that I thought were dead or dormant stirred awake inside me ever so gently.
The next time we decided to meet with our kids. We said it was to embarrass and mock them, but I knew we were assessing each other for the next step. We met in the next two weeks, by then we made sure both of us knew everything about the four kids. The conversations lasted to wee hours of the night, and we texted each other concerns, past and recipes on how to make cookies.
The meeting that we dreaded turned out to be one of the most beautiful days of our lives. The kids took to each other instantly, and I fell instantly in love with Riju and Roshni. Varun immediately took to Riju as his cool bro and off they went talking whatever guys talk when they are together. I know its games and girls, coz, unlike women we men like to stick to the same topic for centuries. I could see Aarika slowly bubbling and blossoming in the warmth of the two women who spoke to her. Later while Roshni joined the guys, I saw Nithya gently touching my daughter's head while she ardently listened to whatever Aarika spoke. She listened and murmured something back to my little girl. I was stunned to see my ever so rigid daughter get back hug Nithya and shed silent tears. I knew it was the moment I fell completely in love with Nithya.It felt like a dream. As if on cue the café filled with the tunes of "Kanave kalaiyadhe" I watched her with content, hoping the lyrics told her what I wanted to tell her.
We exchanged rings in a quiet ceremony after a month. Life was a magic of quiet joy and comfort after that. We had four kids who needed their parents more than ever. We watched them grow together. Aarika's first period did not turn out to be a major disaster as I had dreaded it would be and Riju's first ever heart-break did not get as dramatic as Nithya feared it would be. We were a happy family, filled with laughter and slowly our kids turned into adults, things became a blur after Roshni got married and Aarika stepped out for her masters to the US. I realised it was just Nithya and me after this.
Thinking back, I realised I've never really told her any of the emotions I've felt for her. We made us available all the time for our kids, and there was not much time left for us. There were some fleeting moments of passion, few stolen kisses, but mostly it was a warm friendship founded on mutual respect and love for our kids. It felt like the right time to notch things up a bit. And that's how I fell into the grasp of Valentine's Day drama. I cooked up a plan with my ever romantic sons and came up with the official theme of rose, wine and cake. My daughters sighed with exasperation.
"Make a gift for her daddy" Roshni suggested.
"Make as in, buy my glitter paper and wrap things up?" I asked her
"No dad!" piped in Aarika, "Make as in, sit whole day in front of a pottery wheel, make a vase and then wrap it in glitter paper."
"Don't create a ruckus!" I said, partly to escape from that dreaded plan "Your mom might hear!"
"We are in a conference call, and there's no way she'll hear us" Varun added quietly.
"Daddy make a gift" they started chorusing in the phone, I slammed it shut as they laughed, but making Nithya a gift made absolute sense and my mind fixated on an idea.
"Sir! Your stop." The conductor gently nudged me; I woke up from my rewind wheel and picked up my heavy shopping bag.
"Where did you go?" Nithya asked as I entered my home.
"Some shopping" I replied.
"I'll be back in a couple of hours!" Nithya said as she left, "Need to pick up some reports from my assistant... and" she hesitated. I looked up at her. "Can we go for dinner somewhere? I know it's sappy but it Valentine's day and I realised that we've never actually celebrated one" she blurted.
"Yeah, sure!" I grinned at her.
I had everything ready by the time Nithya came back home. The Chardonnay filled our glasses, the dinner I cooked perfectly in place, lights down and me in my wedding tux.
She opened the doors and stood stunned. She slowly absorbed her surroundings as a slow smile of surprise and disbelief worked her face.
"Whoa!" she breathed. I walked towards her and handed her a bouquet of pale pink roses.
"Are you ready for our date?" I asked as I led her to the dining room.
"I... I have a gift for you" she said as I pulled her chair for her.
"Oh!" I was surprised. She took out a beautiful Tissot box from her handbag.
"I have a gift for you too!" I whispered. She gave me a radiant smile. I handed her the Pen drive
"I made a mixtape for you!" I grinned. She burst out laughing.
"Oh! Raghu I love you" she said through her smile.
"Let me see if it still says the same way after you've heard the songs," I said as I led her to our Hall for a cozy dance on our first ever valentine's day.
To know what was on the mix tape Please read Sylvian's blog here ;)