Dusk had fallen when Amardeep walked out of the exit gate of the busy Chandigarh airport. A chilly winter welcomed him for the very first time to ‘The City Beautiful’. The evening was even more beautiful for it was Valentine’s Day. Love was in the air and red was the colour everywhere. The temperature must have been close to 4 degrees. Adding to the winter chill was the cool breeze which was blowing that evening, compelling the just-arrived passengers to pull out their jackets.
Enjoying the initial few moments, Amardeep let his body feel and embrace the cold surrounding him, but he could not bear it for long. Soon he pulled out his jacket and zipped it up till his neck. The foggy breath that he exhaled was visible. It was that cold.
At the exit door, the constant announcements, the honking taxis, the crazy relatives and the masses of passengers all made the place chaotically noisy. A few taxi drivers had besieged Amardeep, offering him a paid ride. Amid the hustle-bustle of getting a passenger one of the drivers almost lifted his bag and asked,
‘Kithey jaana hai, paaji?’
Amardeep quickly retaliated by snatching his luggage back from him. With this gesture he signalled his disagreement to take a cab.
He then made his way out of the gathering. In one hand he had his favourite Economic Times and a half-filled water bottle while in the other he held the handle of his wheeled bag which he rolled in tandem with his walk. He walked up till the parking lot where there was not much of a crowd. The place was calm. Underneath a row of tall lamp posts, there stood scores of cars. Amardeep perched his back against the bonnet of the first car in the series. By then the exposed parts of his body had turned cold. He placed the newspaper on the bonnet and put the water bottle over it to prevent it from flying off with the wind. Looking here and there in search of someone, he rubbed his cold palms against each other and breathed out a puff of warm air to warm them up.
Seconds later, he pulled out his cellphone from the pocket of his jeans and switched it on to make a call.
‘Yes, I am at the parking lot,’ he said and kept describing the whereabouts of the place he was at, until a black Santro stopped right in front of him.
‘Raam j-i-i-i-i-i-i!’ shouted someone as the door of the car opened.
It was the nickname with which Amardeep had been baptized during his college days, and it still hadn’t left him. His friends Happy and Manpreet had come out of the car to embrace Amardeep. A round of warm greetings and smiles occupied the next few minutes. It was nostalgic for them to meet each other after so long. The last time they had been together was during their first reunion which had happened almost five years back. Maybe that’s why they couldn’t help themselves from celebrating this moment with a long, melodramatic hug. It might have been bizarre for others to watch the three guys hugging each other on a Valentine’s Day evening!
The headline on the fluttering Economic Times under the half-filled bottle over the bonnet of the car behind them read, ‘Supreme Court finally does away with Section 377; Homosexuality now legal in India.’
Moments later, while Happy dumped Amardeep’s luggage in the rear of the car, Amardeep took the back seat and relaxed. Happy started the vehicle and Manpreet turned off the music system to enable further conversation. They talked to each other for a while as Happy drove the car out of the airport towards the city.
After a drive of some fifteen kilometres, Happy stopped the car in front of a local Internet cafe.
‘What happened, dude?’ probed Manpreet.
‘Nothing much—just a quick email!’ Happy answered undoing his seat belt. ‘Give me ten minutes and I will be back.’
Amardeep tried to understand the criticality but then stepped back from asking any question. He knew Happy’s strange nature of giving preference to little things.
In Happy’s absence, Manpreet and Amardeep chatted for a while.
Happy returned quickly. He didn’t even take ten full minutes.
‘That was fast,’ Amardeep acknowledged.
‘I told you it’s going to be quick.’ Happy chuckled.
Without revealing much detail, he started the engine again. Some time passed and gradually they became silent. Happy kept driving. Each of them had the same thought running in his mind. But Happy was first to speak.
‘I am missing him.’
No one said anything for a few moments.
Then Amardeep put his hand on Happy’s shoulder. ‘We all are missing him. And this reunion is for Ravin,’ said Amardeep.
‘He is right,’ said Manpreet in response. ‘We are here for good. We are here for Ravin. Let us cheer for this reason instead of being sad.’
A ray of hope passed across their faces, giving way to a euphoric smile in addition to a steely resolve that they would help their friend.
Happy pressed the accelerator, signalling that he was doing well. Manpreet increased the volume of the music system in the car.
A little later Happy shouted against the volume of the song being played, encouraging everyone’s mood.
‘Has anyone of us been on a radio channel ever?’
‘No!’ came the responses in unison.
‘Has anyone ever seen what a radio station looks like from inside?’ Happy’s voice roared further.
‘Hahaha . . . No . . . no . . .’ followed the answers again in unison, this time accompanied with laughter.
‘Doesn’t matter, as long as we are clear about what we are going to do. This one is for Ravin hu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u . . . hu-u-u-u-u-u!’ completed Raamji.
Happy then pointed his finger towards the glove compartment beneath the dashboard of the car and asked Manpreet to open it and look for an envelope. Manpreet found it and picked it up. It was a nicely packed white envelope with the logo of a prominent radio station embossed on the top left corner: Superhits 93.5 RED FM . . . Bajaate Raho! Inside was an invitation letter which Manpreet opened with twinkling eyes. He lit the roof light of the car and began reading the letter out loud for everyone’s sake.
‘This Valentine’s Day evening Superhits 93.5 RED FM is delighted to host the talk show with the real-life characters of the bestselling and heart-touching true romantic tale of this decade—I Too Had a Love Story. We at Superhits 93.5 RED FM truly consider this love story to be the equivalent of a modern-day Taj Mahal, written by a lover in the memory of his beloved. On this Valentine’s Day we are proud to have on our show Ravin, who wrote and shared his love story with us, along with his good friends Happy, Amardeep and Manpreet who are again the real-life characters in the book as our guests. So tune into this Valentine’s Day’s special show Raat Baaki, Baat Baaki, only on Superhits 93.5 RED FM, the number-one FM station, at 9 p.m., to talk to Ravin and his friends, to listen to the unsaid stories behind the making of I Too Had a Love Story and to know what more happened in Ravin’s and his friends’ lives after this book got launched.’Download the Cover