The initial plan involved nine of us. Tired and weary after an all-nighter, most of us had dozed off as soon as we had reached our homes with the promise of meeting up for the new 3-D blockbuster release later that night. Of the gang, three backed off before I even woke up around lunch time. Another two developed sudden family commitments. By the time Sheila called me to see if at least I would be there, our colossal army was down to a tiny herd of three: Sheila, Nitu and myself. 

Nitu was our resident gynecologist: a stickler for time, she had a strong attention to detail, loved Hindi maa-bahu serials for some reason and was betrothed to one of the city's up-and-coming surgeons. 
Sheila... now she was a different cup of tea. A couple of years younger than Nitu, she had joined the hospital for a one year fellowship in emergency medicine. Blessed with soft features and a warm smile, she had quickly disposed of the 'introvert' tag we had mistakenly labeled her with and was the life of the party. 

She and I got along famously within the gang, owing to our shared love for 'the good things in life' - English comedy sitcoms, retro rock, road side food stalls and murder mystery novels. It was always a pleasure having her around because like me, she too never indulged in 'medical talk' once we stepped out of the hospital. 

As you can guess, I was sweet on her. I had convinced myself that it was just a crush but as the months wore on and the feelings refused to wane, I knew my heart had betrayed me again by falling hard. I could never approach her though - the secret I held within me pretty much ensured that I had no right to. 
For her part, if she had guessed my feelings earlier, she was kind enough not to make a spectacle of it or take advantage of it. That's just the kind of girl she was.

When I arrived at the cinema hall, I was greeted with contrasting expressions from my two 'dates'. Nitu wore her 'Hulk-mad' look while Sheila stared at me with a mock frustrated pout before grinning widely. We had underestimated the rush for the first day of the movie apparently. The theater never took online bookings on day one and so the crowd had queued up the moment the counter had opened. The two women were pretty much near the end of the line and were rightly annoyed at me. Well, Nitu was anyway.

As we waited in the queue, I watched the surrounding stores in the mall and my gaze came to rest upon a young couple at the ice cream parlour nearby. Obviously in love, they had eyes only for each other. I watched with a smile and yes, even a twinge of envy, as the woman took a tiny scoop of ice cream from her cup and playfully fed her guy. When I turned back, Sheila was watching me and shaking her head.

"I take it you really like that ice-cream then?" she said, a mischievous grin washing over her cherubic face.
Lost in a personal memory, I didn't have a ready repartee for that and just shrugged. Sheila stared at me for a few moments, turned and looked at Nitu standing in front of her in the queue and then turned back to me. There was a curious expression on her face.

"Do you know what I love about Castle?" she said, referring to a show we both loved.
"The lead actor Nathan Fillion?" I ventured.
"Obviously, but besides that. I love the chemistry between the two of them. It's not like in our Hindi films where boy accosts girl, then helps her once and she falls in love and dances with him. No, here we get to see the full spectrum of emotions between the two over a long period of time - the initial infatuation, the protective feeling for the other, the heartbreak, the inner dilemmas and insecurities, the silent realization that yes, this is more than a crush or lust... this is love. It's like a rainbow of all the colours that love has."

I nodded. "I like that it's two people secure in the outer facade they portray yet so insecure in the feelings they have for each other. So many of us have that issue yet we rarely see it showcased in our own movies."
She arched an eyebrow at me. "Yes. We all feel that way at some level, don't we?" Her expression had changed to something I could not read even as her eyes remained fixed on mine. I could feel my heart beating rapidly. What was she alluding to? 

She continued, her eyes now fixed upon the couple at the ice-cream parlour. "The thing is that sometimes we see them so scared of their feelings for each other that they deliberately choose not to be alone with the other. They are scared, I guess, of making the wrong move and losing the one they love. What they don't realize is that by not letting the other person know directly, they may leave it for too late."
I looked down at my own shoes as I replied. "Well, if they feel they are not worthy of the other..."
'Who decides that?" she asked, her eyes on me.

"The script writers, of course." a voice butted in and we both turned to Nitu beside us. She stared at us with a bland expression as she continued. "Obviously, they decide what's best for the show. Come on, let's get out of here. The show is sold out, all thanks to you, Mr Late-arrival!. Let's atleast hit the food court and get a seat before the rest of this crowd reaches there." 

I stared at her, open mouthed and Sheila too nodded and grinned. When she turned to me, the smile faltered as she spoke. "True. But that's the thing... in the show, Castle fears so many things - whether he is worthy of her, whether she likes his goofy clumsy ways, whether he and she would make a good match. That's common in any relationship, I guess. But you know something else I noticed?"
"What?" I asked.
"The fact that he's a divorcee and she's a 'never married' is never an issue. It's never even addressed on the show which is pure awesome-sauce for me. Because it shows the priorities that should matter - your feelings for the person - not tags like his caste, family tree or previous failed marriages. Those don't determine the success of a relationship, compatibility does. And I just think it's sad that a good person would have to feel that even though he likes a woman, he is not worthy of her because of any such tag."

I felt my vocal cords constrict but didn't look away. She shrugged and smiled as we walked behind Nitu who had rushed ahead to get a seat. The whole time we were together that night having dinner at the food court, I kept stealing glances at her as Nitu droned on in the corner about the cases she had done the previous night. Every time I caught her eye, Sheila would hold my gaze and there was a twinkle there that I had not seen before. I didn't have the right words to say even as I dropped them off at their apartment complex. When I turned back at the gate, Nitu had already entered the building but Sheila was still there at the ground floor, watching me leave.

I messaged her after midnight when I had finally worked up the courage.
"How long have you known?"
Her reply arrived instantaneously. "I met a college friend of yours at Sandhya's wedding last month. She told me."
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
"I'm not offended. No one wants to publicize the fact that they are a divorcee. I get that."
"Thanks. It's not like our sitcoms. In India, it is a big deal."
"Now that I don't get. So many people have dozens of relationships and are real jerks but then have a happy marriage against all odds. And so many people just remain kindred souls the whole time and then choose wrong when the time comes for marriage. Yet they are the ones society looks down upon?"
"That's the way it works, Sheila. As far as society goes, I have to swim in the 'divorcee' end of the swimming pool. It's as though we are branded for life."
"But that's just it, you dimwit. Why do you care what the public thinks? They don't pay your bills or put a roof over your head. So why do you let them decide where that balloon you call your heart chooses to float?"
"It's not just society or the girl's parents. Most women would reject me outright the moment they hear that 'D' word, you know. After awhile, it kind of becomes ingrained in your psyche that you should not consider yourself worthy of anyone other than a divorcee."

A few minutes passed and I wondered if she had dozed off. Just as I had given up for the night and turned away, I heard the mobile buzz and the sms tone ring once more. I stared at the eight words and the winking smiley face that followed them and embarrassing as it is to admit, I smiled and winked back at the inanimate screen. 

"I'm not most women, Roshan. Just remember that. ;) "

For the first time in years, I felt that long-lost sensation again - of happiness and queasiness intermingled, of butterflies in the tummy and violin strings within my heart. And it was the most exquisite feeling indeed. A feeling of acceptance. A feeling of a dream starting to come true.

It's been three years since that night where the majority of our gang was too lazy to go for a movie. I've changed my mobile twice since then but I always make sure I copy this conversation onto the next mobile I have. Sheila winces every time I mention that fact while retelling the story, calling me an old-school sentimental fool. Well, she would know. After all, we're celebrating our first wedding anniversary this Christmas. 

And yes, whenever we have an ice-cream, we still do feed each other a scoop from our own cups even today.

Author's note: This story is part of the Indiblogger contest celebrating our Platinum Day of Love. Platinum, to me, is unlike other jewellery for a simple reason. It signifies change. After watching generations hanker after gold and diamonds, to see people finally acknowledging the ever lasting nature and beauty of platinum is heartening. It also reminds me that yes, change is possible in people's mindsets if you know what truly matters to you.


Nisha said…
Lovely! There is love is oozing out of every word :)
Anonymous said…
OMG, this is a true story!!! Wow, this post is surely going to win the Platinum Day of Love contest hands down, no doubt about that at all :D
Swarnali said…
That is really a heart warming story and very poignantly told :) Good wishes to the two of you <3 I really wanted to write a post for the same contest but didn't have a story of my own but now that I read your's, it reminds me of somebody else's which is somewhat similar. :D
Thanks Nisha... I'm awaiting your entry which will steal the 'Indiblogger' prize from me again :D
Haha... I think there is no better compliment for an author than to hear people think that the story he penned is based on facts.
So thanks for the compliment :)
Swarnali, the contest clearly states that you can write of the love story you yearn for/imagine too... which is 'pretty much what this is' :)
Sreeja Praveen said…
Superb, Roshan :) Loved the honesty, and the flow of the words that built up the story :) All the best for the contest !! I hope you win it !
Thanks Sreeja... its honestly been over a year since I penned down a romantic story.. didnt feel I had anything to write in that genre, frankly.
Anonymous said…
Wow! Loved your love story Doctor... Lovelier than any fiction... Congratulations on finding your soul mate and wish you both be happy together forever :)
Anonymous said…
Don't tell me this was fiction! I just read the comments! Really? Is this fiction? OMG!!!
beingFab said…
Beautiful!!!! Wow, I just kept reading and was sorry it ended!!! Especially loved the reference to Castle, one of my fav shows :-). Last saw them getting together after all the drama, wonder what's going to happen next! Hope you win the contest, doc!
Michelle Liew said…
Beautiful indeed. It is a shame how society places judgement on divorcees! Thanks for sharing!
maithili said…
Damn, I m not writing for this contest at all !! You will win it I know already :P How can you always write so well :O
Priya K said…
Oh.. Such a sweet,mushy and heartwarming story.. Literally love was oozing out in every word.. Beautifully written..! Loved the last line " whenever we have an ice-cream, we still do feed each other a scoop from our own cups even today" . Keep writing..!
You have a special touch with love stories, Roshan. I loved how real this one is.
PS: Enjoying the confusion you and Jairam are creating! ;)
Rohan said…
Really good one doc!! Really missed your fiction!
And all the best for the competition. .
Hi Seena.. glad you enjoyed the story. Sufficed to say, there are elements of truth intertwined with fiction in here.. which is which, I leave to you to decipher ;)
Wow... now thats an awesome compliment... that you were sorry it ended. I was worried I had written too much and was looking to cut it down further!
And yes, I do enjoy Castle for all the reasons mentioned above...
That Michelle is a wonderful statement you've made, especially in light of the increasing number in recent times. They are being unfairly ostracized for failed relationships while philanderers still get considered 'happily married' !
Thanks Maithili.. from your mouth to the contest judges ears :D
Thanks Priya... happy that you liked it. Means a lot to hear such words of praise for a simple story...
Thanks Corinne.. I frankly have not written a new romance story in more than a year and a half, I think... I'v been so wrapped up in "slice of life" and "thriller" genre stories... I frankly didnt think I had it in me to write one even when I started this.
Having said that, I did like presenting this story to the public and the response has been kind so "yeeeah" for that.
I guess I've been so busy writing for contests that I totally neglected fiction within the blog itself, havent I, Rohan ? Hopefully things will change in coming days.
Anonymous said…
If these were the first two pages of a novel, I had read the whole novel cover to cover Roshan !

(I am not joking, write a manuscript and send it to me ASAP :| )
Kathy said…
Beautiful love story and so romantic especially feeding each other ice cream! ♥
Pavan Gn said…
OMG...i fell for it hook line and i was thinking why didn't this guy invite me to his marriage :P
a novel ! way out of my comfort zone :) I'm happy with the itsy bitsy short stories!
Thanks Kathy.. glad u liked it.
Thanks Pavan... :) Good to see such varied reactions out here!
Anonymous said…
Love love love this piece! totally! :D
Deepa said…
Wow, that is such a beautiful story, Roshan! And what a way to weave in a message! All the best for the contest!
wanderlust said…
I was sure this was a real life story and then read your comments , a mix, ha? The love part sure is not :)
Red Handed said…
YOU DESERVE TO WIN!!! This was the best post among all the rest!!
Ceee... said…
Wow! loved this! good luck - if i were the judge ,you would have the prize my friend!
What a story ! And honesty and love in each and every word ! I wish you success in the competition!
Sumana said…
:) :).Sweet
Thank thank thank you so much :)
Thank you Deepa... I'm glad you liked it. And yes, I was aiming to send a subtle message as well..
Definitely there is some truth in there... just a matter of which is which..
Thanks.. thats high praise coming from you, Red Handed.. thanks :D
Okay... I'm really quite overwhelmed by some of the comments here. Thanks. It means a lot to see such a positive response.
Thanks Anita... touchwood.
Glad you felt so, Sumana :)
Sween Rajan said…
Mr. Doctor!!! hats off to you da... my suggestion is to give up your operating room attendance for a few months and give Chetan a run for his money. No matter what you write,all of us here have faith that you will do nothing less than a brilliant and exciting job - be it columns, short stories or even novels. Success in life is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and proving to yourself that you can do it. Give it a shot and you'll love what follows. Best of luck!
Hi Sween. Awesome too hear from you :) Hope the family is fine and hearty!
Regarding what you said, I guess it comes down to having faith in your abilities... that and taking a big leap of faith. As you rightly mentioned, it would involve stepping out of my comfort zone in a reeeeeally big way and I just am not there yet. Short stories and the odd monthly column work fine because they can be squeezed into small gaps in between work. But a full blown novel would definitely involve taking time off from work. And yes, while it is there at the back of my mind, I just don't know if I am ready/good enough to take that leap.
Thanks man...
This is very mushy and fuzzy. But also comes with a message not to stereotype divorcees. If only all of India is such broad-minded, as this girl to accept divorcees as normal humans with emotions rather than those with dark past who failed previously!

Nicely penned! Your ideas flow breezily onto paper/webpage :)
Meety said…
Awww... is all I can say!
Renuka said…
Lovely, Roshan. Short (your speciality) and sweet. Only its "saas-bahu"....Sure you'll win!
Aparna... personal reasons aside, I do find it weird that people just see the label there. We all know so many guys who fool around with girls throughout college and then settle down and are pretty bad husbands even then, yet they are not judged simply because 'the marriage exists'.
It seems like such a bad stereotype, especially in today's world where relationships tend to fail for reasons beyond what we can help.
I just figured that needed to be portrayed somehow.
Belated Happy Birthday.. I wants the cakes!! :)
And thanks... glad u enjoyed it.
Nirvana said…
Looks like the contest results are out already..... Absolutely loved it....ofcourse the social message rocks... But i could hug you for the Castle analogy.....fantastic post Rosh!
Coming from the Queen of short stories, that's high praise. :D
Now if I can get our God of short romantic stories "Sri R.T. Bhagwan" to also compliment me, then I will have attained moksha!
Great Aquarian minds think alike :) I'm referring to the Castle bit!
Anonymous said…
I like the fact that things are changing in our country. It is high time we come out of the shackles created by the previous generations and do the right things.
I liked your story because it carried a very important message and of course because of the romance. :)
Thanks Amit... things are definitely changing in many ways.. but we are still held back by the purists and nay-sayers,,, two steps forward, one and a half steps back..
Still we move forward slowly and thats the important thing I guess :)
Nisha said…
Haha! These days there are many thieves doing the rounds. Lets wait and watch :)
ME said…
Now that is Love. And here I thought doctors were always those unromantic nerds :P sorry no offense ... but you and your wife just proved me wrong. God bless you both always :)

And all the best for the contest!
Pankti Mehta said…
It's true Indian society does have a stigma when it comes to divorcees. Unfortunately we have to mature a lot when it comes to marital relationships. Beautiful story. Best of luck!
Anonymous said…
If this is a real story, I'm so so happy for the two of you. If it is just a story, hats off to the mind from where it emerged.

"Why do you care what the public thinks? They don't pay your bills or put a roof over your head. So why do you let them decide where that balloon you call your heart chooses to float?"
If only most of us accepted this very fact and moved on in life, it would have been so much more beautiful and with lesser regrets.

All the Best for the Contest! This sure is a winner for me. :-)
Thanks ME :) Glad you enjoyed it..
Indian society needs to break free of unwanted stereotypes and chains... that I totally believe in. Yes, there is a lot of maturity left to be attained.
I always feel its hypocritical... that people who have a bakers dozen of gfs is still considered a better catch than an innocent divorcee,, just because of the title of "married/not married"... compatibility and character still aren't given the importance they should be over labels..
Anonymous said…
Brilliantly written and yes, like everyone else said - a sure-fire winner:) And yes, to "hell with" the stigma (Sorry for the H word, but I think it's deserved). And finally:
"And yes, whenever we have an ice-cream, we still do feed each other a scoop from our own cups even today." - Beautiful. Good luck for the contest Roshan, though I don't think you're going to need it. Probably as good as won
im usually very unlucky when it comes to contests so not gonna keep any hopes up... would i love a pair of platinum rings though? hell yeah ;)
Deepa said…
Very beautifully written..good luck
Pooja Abhay said…
I love the way this story has twists and turns. Beautifully penned! When I started reading the story, I thought it will have the usual ending. But, then there was a twist and a message. Wow..loved it!
Life does give us all unexpected twists and turns, doesn't it ? :)
And I'm happy you liked it..
Came for a visit after many months for therapy and got what I was looking for - Peace and a smile :) This post is straight from the heart and so pure. Loved it!
It is very much from the heart, I agree... I wasnt sure I could write romance anymore.. this post and people's reactions to it gave me some satisfaction on that aspect.