They say Purple is the color of magic
the color of mystery
But to me Purple
will always be “Vrinda”
The color of vivaciousness and kindness……..
The day I met Vrinda was the best day of my life. every detail of that day is etched in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I was sitting in the college canteen by myself. When this girl in jeans and a purple top walked by. I had seen her around, she was a junior not particularly beautiful, but charming. I saw her observing me as she passed by. I am used to curious looks. I don’t blend in here.
But instead of passing me by as most do. Unexpectedly, she slid in the chair next to me. I was in no mood for a chat. After that disgusting argument with Akash. Akash is from my batch and he is the president of the student union. The past six months since I have been here its no secret that we don’t get along. We don’t agree on anything. Like the last tiff, this morning. About four boys who were caught cheating. The principal decided to rusticate them. Akash wants the student council to oppose the decision. keep all students out of classes till the decision is reversed. During the heated discussion in the assembly hall half an hour back I was the only one who stood against the decision. What kind of precedence are we laying? Are we saying that any student can break any rule and we will use our might to ensure they do not bear the brunt of it. As expected I was vetoed and hooted down. Akash plays to the crowd. Who wants to speak the truth and be unpopular, much easier to say things that please. “Student union is for the students. We support our brothers”. Brothers my foot! scoundrels and losers all of them.
“Hello!” Vrinda interrupted my thoughts.
“Hi!” I said a bit absentmindedly.
“Why are you sitting alone? Mind if I join you?”
“No, Go ahead” I said not completely sure of what she wanted.
“It’s not a nice feeling being lonely” she said softly. “Many times being lonely doesn’t mean we are wrong just that no one else understands the language we speak”
I looked up at her. As if for the first time. The purple top she wore fell off her right shoulder somewhat to reveal a beautiful collar bone and delicate petite shoulders. Her eyes were looking at me intently, as if she could read something in mine that I wasn’t aware of myself.
“Why do you say this?” I asked a bit bewildered.
“I have been observing, whats happening with you “. “You are new here!”
Yes, I was new . A rare case of transfer in the senior years. The part of the country I came from was very different. Language, food, ideals, beliefs – I just didn’t mix in here!
“You won’t believe it, I was very popular back in Trivandrum” I found myself saying, completely out of context.
No sooner had I said it, I was embarrassed! That was so childish, boasting about one’s own popularity.
“I am sure you were” Vrinda said and smiled at me tenderly.
The words just rolled off then. Conversation flowed and when the bell rang for my class, I looked at my watch but ignored it. She too just sat there and rattled off her stories. That girl could talk! In an hour I knew almost everything about her. Her family, her dog, her friends, her love for books. I felt myself relaxing and smiling for the first time in weeks. I took out my cigarettes from my pocket, looked in askance at Vrinda. she nodded a yes and I lit one. Completely relaxed now! She asked me why I smoked. I said, a bit cheekily, to keep my hands busy! Why not write/ or text to keep your hands busy? Much better for your lungs. she shot back. “There is no one to write to” I said. “Try me”, she said and burst into laughter. The tension just ebbed out of me. When we did separate, with a cheery “see you around” from Vrinda, I found myself humming on my way to class.
The next morning my phone rang me awake. “God who could be calling at this hour, I looked at the phone with bleary eyes” “Vrinda” it said , I picked it up. “No one said anything. Hello! Hello! “give me that phone Kia” . I heard vrinda shout. and then what sounded like a child’s laughter. The whoosh of the air as the phone seemed to change hands and then Vrinda’s voice. Every bit as bright as it was yesterday! “so sorry about that, my niece dialed the last number. hope you were not sleeping. sorry!” Vrinda had taken my number yesterday and given me a missed call so I could get hers. “Its OK! I said no problem”
After putting down the phone I wondered if I had been too brusque with her. I didn’t see Vrinda the next two days. I texted her a joke. She wrote back asking why I was texting during a class. “To keep my hands busy” I wrote. she replied to that with a smile. The next day I found her sitting in the canteen with a group of girls. She and her friends were chattering non stop. Her friends seemed to be just like her, talkative brats!
She wore a long white block printed skirt and a brown simple t shirt, with long ear rings. The ear rings caught my eye . The way they shook each time Vrinda said something. When she noticed me she waved , mouthing a “Hi!” and then beckoned me to join them. I am not shy. Far from it actually. I was always surrounded by at least a dozen boys / girls at any time back in my college in Trivandrum. Only here I was alone. Seeing my reluctance, Vrinda walked up to me caught my hand and took me to her table. She placed me on a chair next to her and then continued the conversation as if nothing had happened.
I soon got used to the idea that Vrinda had made it her job to make me at home in the college. Realizing I was alone in my PG she started to bring me food in her tiffin. Saturday nights she would include me in her plans of a movie or whatever her friends and she were doing. When Holi came. She insisted I came to her place. There were other college friends too. Two boys and five girls who also didn’t have family in town. Vrinda seemed to collect waifs. People lost and alone like me.
Over time we developed a ritual. Once in a couple of days we would share a coffee in the canteen and talk. She had a sixth sense about me. Guessing things I had never told her. Like the time she asked me “Are you not talking to your parents?” . How did she know I wasn’t? Or the time she suddenly said “I have a feeling you sing. Do you?” I did in fact sing. But had given it up after Prabha. Prabha was the reason I was here. So far away from home in exile. Prabha, the girl of my dreams. The girl my parents just wouldn’t accept. The reason I went into drugs. Watched two years of my life slip by. Changed the course of my dreams. The reason I didn’t speak to my parents. The reason I no longer fitted in, anywhere!
I told her everything. How Prabha and I had discovered each other only after finishing school even though we had been in the same school forever. The two years we had spent every evening together while preparing for entrance examinations in a city away from home. My parents refusal. My cowardice in not standing up for what I wanted. Her marriage to someone else. My Drug habit. The dark hole into which I plunged myself and then the jolt that brought me out again. Determined to make a fresh start.
Vrinda understood. She had this infinite patience and wisdom much beyond her years. Her words managed to calm me, though I never let that be known to her. I got to know even more about her. We gave our own names to each other. She called me ‘mad’ and I called her “Miss purple” – her favorite color. Not particularly creative, but they were special. Being in the final year I was always very busy. Even so, on weekends Vrinda managed to drag me somewhere or the other with her friends. We went to the sea-side, Haji Ali – the mosque in the middle of the sea , all kinds of cafes and restaurants that only Vrinda knew, and theatre! Everywhere we went, she inundated me with stories telling me why the place was special to her. I always pretended to be a bit aloof, serious, unconcerned. But the truth was Vrinda had sucked me into her world. She had managed to give me a ground in this strange city and the stories and places she shared had made me start forming ties with this alien land. She had also coaxed me into getting back in conversation with my family.
She hated my smoking and constantly nagged me to give it up. She loved my voice and I was constantly inundated with requests for songs. She and her friends would double up with laughter with the way I pronounced the words and teased me mercilessly! I pretended to be angry, and refused to sing. But in truth, I enjoyed it all, it reminded me of my sisters and family back home.
Vrinda often spoke about her fiance, Amar. He was Vrinda’s next door neighbor and their families were close. When Amar was leaving for the US, for his PHD. His mother had suggested they get engaged to each other. Vrinda’s family had accepted and Vrinda was happy too. She knew him well and they had shared a close friendship since childhood. They would be married after Vrinda’s medical college. All of us teased her mercilessly about him. She always took it in good humor.
Ananya, was Vrinda’s closest friend. Gorgeous with long wavy beautiful hair and eyes that sparkled. Every warm-blooded boy in college was hot for her. She was enchanting and she knew it and enjoyed the attention. I often asked Vrinda to tell me more about her. She did, but it was evident that she never really liked it. One evening when we all hung out together, I spent a long time chatting with Ananya . I could make out Vrinda wasn’t too pleased with that. She told me that though Ananya was a nice girl and her best friend. It is best if I keep away from her. That spiked my curiosity. I cajoled Ananya’s story out of Vrinda. She told me about Ananya’s long-term relationship with Arvind. A politician’s son, who besides being rich and powerful was very jealous. If he found anyone getting close to Ananya he got violent and abusive. Vrinda said, she didn’t want me to get in any mess.
I met Arvind at the college festival. I was walking down the path with Vrinda. When suddenly he came face to face with us. She jumped a bit at the unexpectedness of it. They exchanged a formal hello, and she moved on. I followed, looking back to size up the guy. After that I would often ask about Arvind. The normally talkative Vrinda, never spoke much about Arvind. Saying she didn’t know him well. He traveled a lot and they didn’t really hang out together much. One day when we were having coffee together she got a call. It was from Arvind. They had a long conversation. From Vrinda’s end I could make out that he was angry about something and she was trying to placate him. “No Arvind that’s not true” she said. “”There is no one else “. When the call ended she seemed low.
On asking she told me, sometimes Arvind called her up to talk about Ananya. Like today he heard Ananya had gone for a movie with someone. He was very suspicious and jealous. Vrinda told me, Ananya may not be happy to know Arvind had called her. Ananya hates it that Arvind is so suspicious about her. She explained and asked me to not tell Ananya about the call.
I found that odd. After that I started noticing that Arvind called Vrinda quite often. Whenever he would call, she would be upset. The conversations would be long. And after them Vrinda seemed a bit per-occupied and distant. She used to stonewall all my inquiries about Arvind. So I started doing my own snooping around. From a reference here or there by Vrinda’s friends I gathered that Arvind, had in the past hung around with the group. Till something had happened and he stopped. What that something was I did not know. I tried . I cajoled, I asked! I confronted! I threatened. But each time Vrinda said the same thing. That there was nothing. Arvind just called her when he was very angry with Ananya and she placated him. Ananya could not be told about this because she would confront Arvind and then there would be major fights. Besides she had made a promise to Arvind that she would not tell anyone, and wanted to keep it.
Vrinda started keeping away from me. A bit aloof. She no longer texted me twenty times a day. Or pestered me to come out with her friends and her on weekends. The more distant Vrinda grew the more I realized how close I had come to her. I wanted to be privy to her every thought and deed. I was convinced there was something that Vrinda was not telling me.
One day I took matters in my own hands. I got Arvind’s number and called him up. Admonishing him to not call Vrinda again. Arvind was livid. We had a mad session hurtling abuses at each other. Half an hour later Vrinda called me up. I had never heard Vrinda so angry before.
“Vijay, How dare you call up Arvind. You betrayed my trust. Who gave you the right? Why won’t you believe me? And Why are Ananya and Arvind so important to you anyway? Why won’t you understand me?”
I didn’t understand her! I was hurt and angry. This Arvind was ruining Vrinda’s life, He was making her upset and lie to her closest friend and yet she was siding with him. Then it struck me. Maybe Ananya’s suspicion was right. Maybe there was something between Arvind and Vrinda. But she could tell me that. I was her friend. Hadn’t I told her everything about Prabha and even my drug habit. Surely she could trust me with a little secret.
I went to her home. I could see she had been crying. I told her I had figured it out. What she was keeping from me. Why she was trying to put a distance between herself and me. “You have!” she looked at me, hesitantly. Yes, I said I have figured out that you and Arvind got involved. Ananya had found out and that is what is making you upset. “You can trust me” I said. I can help you. You should have seen the anger in her eyes when she heard that. She walked away and said she would never see me again.
Now I was mad. Did she take me for a fool. I had seen the world more than I her. This was not like the Vrinda I knew at all. This anger, these words, they had to be someone Else’s – Arvind’s! But why was she playing in his hands? Why was she not trusting me or Ananya. The answer came to me in a flash. He was blackmailing her! Holding her to ransom over something. I tried to contact Vrinda. But she would not hear me. I wrote messages telling her I knew he was blackmailing her. Maybe he had some letters of hers or a picture. These things happen! She called me a fool with baseless ideas.
Seeing no other way I got hold of Amar’s e-mail address and wrote him a mail. I explained to him what I suspected. That Vrinda and Arvind may have had a relationship and now he was blackmailing her and holding her ransom. I urged him to do something to help Vrinda. The next day I got a message saying he didn’t care. She is a free girl to have a relationship with anyone. That he is no longer involved. That was strange! I went to Vrinda’s home again that day. She opened the door but didn’t invite me in. “Vrinda, listen to me. Don’t talk to Arvind. Whatever it is you have with him. Stop it. Even Amar seems to be angry with you because of Arvind” . She just said. “you have no idea why Amar is angry so shut up” . I will speak to Ananya and tell her everything, I warned. “Go ahead” she said resignedly. You won’t believe anything I tell you anyways.
I called up Ananya and told her everything. How Arvind called up Vrinda and how it always made Vrinda upset. And that Amar too had left Vrinda because of this. Ananya, didn’t say much. Just thanked me and put down the phone. The next day in college during break time when everyone was milling around the canteen. Ananya came up to Vrinda and slapped her. I was too far to hear what she said. But everyone froze and stared at Vrinda. Vrinda just stood there crying. After that day I never saw Vrinda in college again. She stopped coming. She didn’t answer my messages or take my calls.
That was the last thing I did. I went home for ten days. Trying to forget it all. When I returned final exams were upon us. I didn’t see Vrinda again or hear from her till today. Today when I found her in the room on my rounds. She was sleeping when I went in. Straight black hair, tiny face, that beautiful collar-bone. Vrinda! What was Vrinda doing here? I listened as the interns read out her case to me. Last stage leukemia. My Vrinda. The lively, vivacious, girl. I went through the day on auto pilot. After my shift I went back to her room. This time her mother was there. She recognized me, immediately. “Beta! You are Dr. Rao? ” We never realised. Yes aunty! That’s my dad’s surname I never used it back in college. How is she? “What can I say beta. you are the doctor” she started sobbing. I too couldn’t hold back my tears.
Just then Vrinda murmured something and woke up. “Mad”! I looked down. I just couldn’t look up in her eyes. Afraid of the anger I may see there. “Mr. Mad” she said again happily! I looked up. She was smiling at me. Correct that, she was beaming. I went up to her. “Miss Purple ” I said. It may have sounded silly, but we didn’t care. She held my hand. “How are you?” She said. So like Vrinda. She was on the hospital bed and she wanted to know How I was? I am fine , I wanted to say but I just nodded, not trusting my voice.
“How is your mom? your sisters? and nieces? Did you become an oncologist? Where did you disappear? Didn’t you get to know about my wedding from anyone? Are you married? Do you have kids? I have one! ” She started blabbering. I started laughing! This was the Vrinda I knew. My Vrinda. The talkative brat!
I sat down next to her and we shared stories. 13 years flew past. Vrinda didn’t marry Amar. After the incident with Ananya, She never went back to medical college. She skipped the year and then got married to a businessman in Delhi. I was sorry, I changed her life. She said I did but it was Ok. She had no regrets. God had been kind to her. Her husband was nice and they had a beautiful 10-year-old daughter.
Vrinda had refused chemotherapy. She wanted to enjoy whatever time she had left in sanity, surrounded by hr family. I saw her everyday. I told her several times that I was sorry! for her break up with Amar. I supposed, the call that I had made had ruined their relationship. Vrinda never replied to that. Always choosing to keep quiet.
The last day I saw her. It was Sunday night. I got a call at 1 a:m from the nurse. Vrinda was in great pain. I hurried back to the hospital. Her husband and mom were there. When the nurse and I walked in. They went to the corridor. I checked her vital stats. She was in a bad shape. there was nothing I could do except give her a stronger dose of pain killers. I injected them myself. Relax I told her. Patting her on her forehead as I made to leave. “Wait” she said weakly. I motioned for the nurse to leave. Sitting by her side.
“You know Vijay. I told you the truth. All along. There was nothing ever between Arvind and me” .
I am sorry I said. Because of me you lost your career and Amar – your love.
“Amar wasn’t my love.”
“He wasn’t? ” I asked
“No,! The week before you wrote to Amar, I had called up Amar and told him that I was in love with someone.”
With who I asked, puzzled
“Why didn’t you ever tell me” I asked, barely whispering
I tried, but you weren’t listening!
Her family walked in just then. And I had to leave.
I didn’t go back home though. I sat in my room at the hospital all night long. At 7 in the morning the nurse called, to say that Vrinda had passed away!
I gathered my coat, told the nurse I would be on leave that day and walked away.
They say Purple is the color of magic
the color of mystery
But to me Purple
will always be “Vrinda”
The color of vivaciousness and kindness
and the color of a mistake
the biggest mistake
of my life.
I don’t usually write stories. the credit for inspiring this one goes to Mukesh Rijhwani of My words, My world.
He threw me a challenge that I had to accept! :) On his suggestion I have sent the story to Grapevine publishers
They are having a contest for sad love stories. Check it out!