I CAN ALWAYS TAKE HER FOR GRANTED
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
Short Fiction - A Love Story
From my creative writing archives - A Simple Love Story
“You shouldn’t take anyone for granted,” my mother said.
“Of course I can take Anju for granted...!” I said while picking up the phone.
I dialled Anju’s office number and told her almost peremptorily to book my tickets to Mumbai on the Deccan Queen. Then I rattled off a couple of odd jobs and errands I wanted done before I left for the Chief Mate’s course at Mumbai.
I must have felt a bit guilty for having taken her for granted, so I suddenly said, “Hey, Anju, put on your dancing shoes. We’ll go out in the evening.”
With those words I abruptly put down the phone without even giving Anju a chance to reply.
I knew I could take Anju for granted.
After all, she was the girl next door. My best friend, confidant, alter ego, call it what you want, Anju was almost a part of me.
Anju and I. We grew up together in Pune. She followed me to school, and then to college. All our living moments we spent together. She wanted to follow me to sea too, but then, long back, at that time they didn’t take girl-cadets.
The first time we really separated was when I went to sea for my sea-training to the merchant marine as a Deck Cadet.
While I was busy becoming an officer in the Merchant Navy, Anju finished her Masters in Computer Science and was now working in a leading IT company.
Luckily my ship visited Mumbai often and we kept on meeting whenever possible as I would rush off to Pune the moment I got shore leave.
Years passed but nothing much changed between us.
Anju was still the girl next door.
I knew I could take her for granted.
When I returned late that night after a delightful evening with Anju, I found my mother still awake.
“How was the evening...?” my mother asked me.
“Good,” I said. “You should have slept by now. It’s past midnight.”
“I wanted to talk to you before you go to Mumbai for your course tomorrow morning,” she said.
“What...?” I asked.
My mother paused for a moment, looked me in the eyes and said softly but firmly, “You two. Anju and you. When have you decided to get married...?”
“When...? Did you say 'When'...” I remarked with a smile. “Now it is you who is taking things for granted...”
“Is there some other girl...? In Mumbai...? Or somewhere else...?” my mother asked with undisguised apprehension on her face.
“No,” I laughed. “You know I am not that sort who has a girl in every port.”
“Anju is almost 23,” she said.
“And me. I’m only 26. Let me at least qualify my chief mate’s,” I paused and looked at my mother.
I took her hands in mine and said, “You know Anju and me. We don’t have to talk these things. Who else will she marry...? It’s bound to happen, isn’t it...? Just wait and watch. It will happen naturally. It is just a matter of time.”
My mother remained silent but her eyes said it all.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll ask Anju tomorrow morning when she drops me on the Deccan Queen.”
That night I could not sleep. Nagging doubts filled my brain. I wondered what was bothering my mother. She seemed genuinely worried. It was the first time she had spoken like this, about Anju and me.
I thought about the delightful evening I had enjoyed with Anju. She had been her usual bubbly and vivacious self.
Anju and I.
We both knew it.
Marriage was the natural culmination of our friendship.
Or was it...?
For the first time I felt the pain of being in love.
It was 7:10 in the morning by the time we reached Pune railway station. Just five minutes for the Deccan Queen to begin its journey to Mumbai.
“Anju,” I said. “I want to ask you something.”
“Ladies first...” she said. “I have a surprise for you.”
“Surprise...?” I asked. “I thought we kept no secrets from each other.”
“That’s why I am telling you first. No one knows yet. Not even my parents. I wanted you to be the first one to know. The e-mail came in late last night. After you dropped me home from the party.”
“E-mail...? What e-mail...?” I asked.
“I am going to the states.
. Stanford. On a three-year fully paid-up scholarship. For my Ph.D. in Computer Science” USA
“Three years...! Ph.D...! You never told me...!” I said surprised and a bit miffed.
“I’m sorry, but everything happened so suddenly,” she said apologetically.
I just stood there dumbfounded.
“I’m so confused, Sanjiv. You’ll really have to help me out,” Anju said.
“Help you out...?” I asked confused.
“I know I can depend on you Sanjiv,” Anju said. “There is so much spadework to be done in Mumbai. Passport. Visa. Air tickets. Running around to the consulate, the banks. I am leaving everything to you, Sanjiv. You are the one person in this world I can take for granted.”
Deep down my heart ached. Three years...! I could not bear the thought that we would be separated – for three years... maybe forever.
But the moment I looked into her large dancing eyes I realized that true love meant letting go. I must happily let her go on to realize her aspirations. I can’t begin to describe my emotions as I said, “Come on, Anju. Of course you can count on me. You know that you can always take me for granted.”
She pressed the palm of my hand. I pressed back and gave her a warm smile.
The engine whistled. The train started moving. The distance between us started increasing. I looked at her wistfully and wondered if ithe distance between us would ever be bridged or would it keep on increasing more and more.
It’s been ten years since. Yes, ten long years have passed, and as I manoeuvre my ship into the
port of Galveston, near Houston, my Chief Officer asks me, “Captain, are you sure she’ll come all the way from ?” Seattle...
“Of course she will come. I know Anju will come. I can always take her for granted...!”