It was a great surprise for Ashwin to meet Vinay his school buddy after almost a decade at the marketing conference in Bangalore. They had studied together in Chennai for six years and were close to each other Vinay went to another city while Ashwin remained at Chennai. They had lost touch with each other until luck brought them together again. The conference was over with the morning session and they were breaking up after the lunch. Both of them sat in a corner table to exchange news
"Hey Ashwin, you haven't changed much though you look chubbier. You were always a fat boy(chuckle)You look good and cheerful. You must be happily married with kids too. From your card I could see you are in a good position. Tell me all that happened since left each other" Vinay said
"Yes, Vinay I am fine by god's grace. I have a good and charming wife, two kids, a boy and a girl, a nice job and an apartment. Life is smooth and my parents are in village. You must be aware I did M Tech.But you were always smarter than me in every area. Now it is your turn to tell me about you."Ashwin said with a laugh.
"Don't pull my legs saying smarter and such things. I did my management diploma at IIM and have a good position and draw fat salary. I live in Mumbai but tour a lot.My parents are here in Bangalore. There is nothing much to say. Life is a sort of routine for me“ Vinay replied.
"You haven't said anything about your family. What is your wife doing and how many kids do you have? You said you tour a lot and you must visit me next time you visit Chennai"
"No, I am not married" he said as the color in his face changed.
"Why, you are 32 or 33 like me? Any special reason for putting it off. If I remember right, you have only one elder brother."
"That is a long story. When is your flight? Do you have an hour to spare?" he asked
"Surely, I came by my vehicle. I can spare you even two hours. Tell me why you continue to remain single. Do you have anyone in view?" I asked.
"It is noisy here. Let us move to the garden. It is cool there" he said
As they settled down with two bottles of beer, he sipped some and slowly started.
"Ashwin,I am a pretty unlucky chap. loved a girl who studied with me in the same college at Mumbai. She too loved me. An extraordinarily beautiful girl, she was very intelligent and stood high in the class. We used to compete for the first place. a more well behaved person I haven't seen. I doted on her. Though she loved me equally, she kept her boundaries. We decided to marry after we settled down." he paused as he pulled up his shirt sleeve of his left hand to show a tattoo with the initial V in red color.
"Her name starts with V and mine too. We decided to tattoo the initial as part of a deal that we would wait for each other. She was initially hesitant to have it in her arm as it would raise unnecessary questions and instead she had a small V etched in her calf muscle."
"That sounds sweet and romantic. What happened then? Why did you not marry her?" I asked
"Be patient, I am coming to that. When she broached the subject after two years, her dad hit the roof objecting to her choice from different caste. She tried all the tantrums but the old man did not relent. I suggested that she walk out of the house but she refused saying she will not marry against her parent's wishes. She sought my forgiveness and released me from the deal. "
"What happened to her? Is she in touch with you?" Ashwin asked.
"No, that was the last she spoke to me. She severed all contact with me and requested me not to get in touch with her. I can still remember her face in tears as she left sobbing. I learnt later from some common friend that she is married to someone of her parent's choice" he said
"Yes, I agree you are a very unlucky chap. That girl should have had the nerve to walk out but then some are born timid. I think there is little point in pining for her. She must have forgotten you by now. You must find someone, Vinay" Ashwin said
Ashwin forgot Vinay once he returned to Chennai and was lost in the routine. During a weekend he went with his family to Mahabalipuram and walked a lot in the beach and seeing places of interest..It was a very tiresome trip.
As they lay in the bed his wife Visalakshi asked "Ashwin, my legs are paining a lot. Would you mind applying Relief spray? The pain is unbearable"
"Why not, my dear?" he said as he fetched the Relief spray. He pulled up her night gown and applied the medicine. Inexplicably he lingered longer with the spray at the spot where he found a small V in tattoo.