Abhishek: "I have to go now, Sonia."
Abhishek: "I love you, Sonia. I always will."
Sonia: “I know. I love you too sweetheart.”
That was the bittersweet irony of their situation. They still loved each other so much. All their friends would always tell them that both of them would have an ideal married life because they were an ideal couple.
What had gone wrong?
Captain Abhishek got out of bed and walked around his quiet room. It screamed in Sonia's absence. Memories of Sonia spending time with him haunted his thoughts. He remembered those lovely moments that they had shared together.
Both of them had been wildly in love with each other. They had smiled and hugged each other.
He studied himself in the bathroom mirror now. A man in his early thirties looked back at him. He was tall, lean and physically fit with a handsome face, a strong chin, black hair and intelligent probing eyes. There was a long deep scar on his chest. It was a souvenir from the war that had shaken the nation.
But that was yesterday. That was Sonia. This was today. Without Sonia.
He shaved, showered and walked over to his closet. He found his uniform which was studded with badges. It looked like a Christmas tree. It reflected his acts of valour and the service that he had rendered to the nation.
He was married to the nation now.
He was posted at a premier training institute now. He moulded the young officers at the commando school. It was an elite institute of the armed forces. The officers undergoing training here had tough days in store for them. Only a few would be selected as instructors.
He remembered those days when he was receiving training here. Sonia had motivated him and kept him going. Pain, agony and hardship were a part of this training.
He had to prove that he was the best here because Sonia deserved the best.
He was on the firing range now. It was time to train the boys in battle craft, shooting skills and casualty evacuation. Live bullets flew past him. He remembered the last time he had encountered the familiar scenario. It had been during that ugly war. It had been ugly even though they had been victorious.
The enemy was real. The pride of the unit, the regiment and ‘THE NATION’ was at stake. They knew victory was theirs for sure. During the final assault on the enemy bunker, Captain Abhishek felt a sudden agonizing blow on his chest. The red-hot lead had ripped him apart and his gear was soaked in blood. ‘How did I join the troops again? They said I wouldn't live!' Abhishek thought to himself.
It had been a miracle. No, it was Sonia.
It was night now and the students had assembled for their indoor classes. They were exhausted. They were drained of energy after their long rigorous day of 16 hours. All of them were half asleep. But they managed to get back some energy. Captain Abhishek walked in. Everybody was wide awake now. His stature, his ever agile looks and his determination had always had an inspiring effect on the students.
‘Sir, you were shot down. They didn’t expect you to pull through.’ said a young student officer at the end of the case study. Even the doctor had said, ‘Forget about him. He won’t make it.’
He too had wanted to die. The pain had been unbearable.
He had first been operated upon at the base hospital. They had then shifted him to R & R, Delhi. And then Sonia was leaning over him. “Open your eyes, dear. My sweetheart. You don’t want to die, do you?” He had forced his eyes open.
And through the haze of pain, he stared at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She had a soft oval face, thick black hair, sparkling brown eyes and a smile that was like a blessing.
He had tried to speak to her but it was too much of an effort. The hand that held his inspired him. Sonia had held his hand, stroked his forehead, ministered to him and willed him to live. He had been delirious most of the time.
But Sonia sat quietly next to him in the dark ward in the middle of the lonely night and listened to his ravings.
The student was asking him something. Captain Abhishek brought his mind back to the present. The class got over. “We meet again tomorrow at 0200 hours sharp. Carry your weapons and your Bergen along with you. We are going out on an escape and evasion exercise.” The students left but yet again wondered about the guts and determination of the man who stood in front of them. He was their mentor.
Even as he was recuperating, he was walking on the thin line between death and life.
Sonia had whispered to him, “Come on, Fauji. I am waiting for you.”
Probably those were the lines that he had heard when he was falling in and out of consciousness. Maybe those words had given him the strength to get back on his feet again.
Maybe he had become fit enough to get posted as a commando instructor only after hearing those words.
Captain Abhishek was not sure about when exactly he had fallen in love with Sonia. It had probably been 12 years back when they had met for the first time. They met again the second time in 6 years. He was wearing the army uniform now. But they had stayed in touch through letters. Their love had grown over the years and they both had waited for this day eagerly. They had never ever expressed their feelings to each other verbally. But both of them knew that they were made for each other.
They shared something more than love. They genuinely liked and respected each other. They were compatible in every way. They were complete soul mates.
It was only after he got the commando training that he decided to put forward the proposal. He did not propose to her. He knew what her answer would be. He sent a proposal to her parents. His father had met her parents on the appointed day. And when he got back, Captain Abhishek could read his mind and the lines on his face. He picked up the phone and called Sonia.
Sonia picked up the phone immediately and said, "Dear, Can we meet?" They met for dinner that evening at their favourite joint. Everything was the same as before. The ambience, the staff, the music, the cutlery and the rose which he presented her every time they were about to leave.
Sonia said, “Abhishek, I have something to say to you." It was as though he had been struck in the pit of his stomach. He could not bear to hear her say it. He did not want to know what had happened.
“Sonia. You know I love you. I will always love you.” Said Abhishek.
“You’re the dearest, most wonderful man I have ever known.” Said Sonia.
“Please….” Said Abhishek.
“No, let me finish. This is very hard for me. My grandma doesn’t agree to our match because she does not want me to get married to an army man.” Said Sonia.
Every word felt like as if a knife was stabbing him.
“You are right. I’ll change. I’ll quit the army. Now. Today.” Said Abhishek desperately.
She shook her head.
“No Abhishek. We both know that is not possible for you.”
And yes, how true she was when she said those words. He could not give it up even if he wanted to. He was tied down.
“This isn’t anybody’s fault. But understand me and my scenario. We’ll have to part ways.” Said Sonia. It was as though the world had caved in on him. He suddenly felt sick to his stomach.
“You don’t mean that Sonia. We’ll find a way to….” Said Abhishek.
He stood there fighting to control his emotions. He could feel his bowels turning to water. It was some kind of a crazy nightmare. He could not imagine this happening to him. It couldn’t be happening to him.
Sonia put her arms around him, held him close and said, “I will never again have the same feelings for any other man. I loved you with all my heart and soul. I will always love you. You are my dearest friend.” She pulled back and looked into his eyes.
“But then I am bound by…….I hope you understand.” Said Sonia.
All he could understand was that she was tearing herself apart from him.
“We could try something out….” Said Abhishek.
“I am sorry Abhishek. I am so sorry. But it is finished.” Sonia continued to talk to him in a choked voice.
“Abhishek – just remember these lines for my sake and carry on with your life. Let’s live our life for others. Let’s live it with complete dignity and be loyal to every relationship that we have. Let’s be happy and pledge to make a sincere effort to make the people around us happy and prosperous. Then God will have no reason to separate us in our next birth.”
Sonia left and he was left holding the rose in his hand. A tide of despair swept over him without warning. He wept in solitude.
He wept for himself and for Sonia and for everything that they had lost.
Sonia’s presence was everywhere. The room was alive with her memories. Abhishek was cursed with the ability of total recall. Each and every moment that he had spent with Sonia tormented him. His friends were concerned. His father was perturbed. "You shouldn't be alone Abhishek.” Said a loved one. But Abhishek had no desire left in him. He wanted to be alone. He wanted to rewind the film of his life back to the beginning and rewrite the script.
“Son, it’s your decision. If you want to join the armed forces, I am with you.” These were the words that his father had told him when he got selected in the NDA.
“Dad, I will not join the armed forces. I will be with you and help you out.”
He wanted to edit and re-edit his life so that he could give it a happy ending. But it was too late now. Life did not give anyone second chances. He was alone.
Sonia called him at least once in a month. Each call made the loneliness even more intolerable. She had called him the night before she got engaged.
“Abhishek, I want you to know that I am getting married.” She said.
He found it difficult to breathe. He began hyperventilating.
“I love you Abhishek. I will love you until the day I die. I don’t want you to ever forget that.”
What could he say to that?
“Abhishek. Are you alright?”
“Sure. I’m great. I am a hero for the nation and for my men. I am a victor in their eyes. But I am a vanquished man in my own eyes. I have lost the battle.” He thought to himself. He couldn’t bear to punish her with his problem.
“I am fine. Just do me a favour will you, my dear?” he said.
"Anything I can..." she said.
“Don’t ….Don’t let anyone know about our love. Because then very few people will join the armed forces and serve our country.” He hung up and went out. He immersed himself in his life again. All this had happened four years back. It was all in the past. He had been forced to face the reality that Sonia now belonged to someone else. He had to live in the present now. He had work to do. He had to repay the faith that the people of his motherland had on him. He had to do justice to the awards that he had received.
He was now married to THE NATION.
This was the outcome of Captain Abhishek's love.