During his vacation, Satish’s parents took him to Nashik to renovate their property where Satish’s father wanted to spend his post-retirement life. After a gap of 6-7 years, Satish was in Nashik.
While clearing all the junk in the old house, a box so well saved by Satish took the attention of everyone. Satish opened the box. That was the small mechano gifted by Latika.
He got nostalgic about his childhood. He remembered his 5th birthday bash. His parents used to make it repeatedly clear that that was the final birthday that would be celebrated. Later on, no gatherings for birthdays. So, this birthday was a special day. Father got a tricycle for him. Many invitees attended the function. Satish was dressed as Chacha Nehru and he moved around with pride having a rose flower put in his shirt pocket. A photo session was arranged. His parents posed with Satish lifted by his father. His teenaged sister posed training him on the tricycle. All through, Satish was at the centre of every action.
But Satish had a special remembrance of this day due to Latika, the girl from neighbourhood.. Satish was especially pleased with her sweet smiles and her elegance in moving about. Her gift of small mechano, Satish had treasured and kept it separately where nobody else would find it.
After a strong friendship between them for four years, Latika’s father got transferred. They moved to Kolkata, retaining their present property. During summer vacation, Latika used to come back to Nashik and used to have a great time with Satish. Satish used to show Latika, what different artifacts he used to make using the mechano given by her, But later on, Satish’s family itself moved to Chennai. Satish made it a point to visit Nashik during summer vacation. His meeting up with Latika used to rekindle their relationship which otherwise was kept going through letters.
But later his classmate in Chennai, Nilima attracted Satish’s attention. Satish used to feel very happy whenever he interacted with Nilima related to studies. Any day, whenever she was absent, he used to feel dispirited. The sight of her in the class usually put Satish in a great mood. This made him rank first in the class till he entered high school.
Slowly, Satish’s correspondence with Latika started getting reduced. Their meeting during summer vacation in Nashik was very rare. Satish’s academic performance was getting more and more impressive. He concentrated on his studies.
Years passed by. Satish had a group of friends, interested in hiking, trekking, mountaineering, etc. Along with his studies, he followed these activities. Satish initially covered nearby areas but later he covered the hills of entire India and he had the thrills of having trysts with nature.
After his Engineering, he got placement in the Indian Navy. He went through rigorous training. Later, he got a position on India’s first aircraft carrier ship Vikrant.
Repacking the mechano, Satish was lost in thoughts. ‘Where must Latika be now? What she must have studied?’ He longed to see her. He was uneasy over his mental state. But the next thought made him uncomfortable. How could he get so much anxious about her? Would she remember him still? What if she was already married?
In a few days in Nashik, one of their neighbors extended an invitation for the function of marriage in their family. He also mentioned that Latika’s entire family had promised them that they would attend the marriage. Satish’s hopes of meeting with Latika got revived. The function was just four days away.
And that day Latika arrived with her parents. Satish was anxious to meet her. At 4 in the evening, the previous day of the actual function of marriage, Satish spotted Latika. He approached her. Yes. She had the same elegance and had the same sweet smile as Satish had remembered her since childhood. He was happy to find her unchanged in her appearance though she had grown into a mature lady. Due to a lot of crowd around her, Satish did not get a chance to speak to her and know about her present status. That there was no mangal-sutra around her neck, gave some solace to Satish. But nothing further. On the marriage day, Latika could not be spotted in the large crowd around the bride. Satish could not open out to anyone else to enquire about her. After the ceremony of marriage was over, in the evening there was a gala reception. He could find an opportune time to talk to Latika alone in spite of a big gathering.
Gracefully dressed Latika was in one corner. Satish approached her.
“Very busy?” he started the conversation.
“Who? I? Not at all. It’s not my marriage. I attended this function to meet all my childhood friends.” Latika responded.
“Have you met them whoever you wanted to meet?” Satish.
“Just seen them. Have not got time to talk,” Latika.
“Yes. These crowded functions everyone attends to renew the old ties. But one hardly gets a chance to talk to each other.” Satish.
“Anyway, how are you Satish?”
“I am good. How about you?”
“I am also fine. What do you do these days?”
“I am in the Indian Navy. Currently, posted on Vikrant. It is in Mumbai docks recently. That means I am in Mumbai these days,”
“Oh! Great. But you forgot to invite us for your marriage.”
“Ay, come on. Who got married?”
“ Ramesh told me you got married last year.”
Satish realized Ramesh had pulled a fast one.
“And you believed him? Have you forgotten how he used to tell bluffs in our childhood only? He has not changed at all.”
“But you have changed. How could you be out of contact for so many years?”
“Latika, honestly, I was so much occupied with my career that I lost all my contacts,”
“And do you think, there were others who were free to remember you all through?”
“I did not say so. But you also did not write to me. And tell me honestly, did you remember me?”
“There are many things in life which can not be proved.”
“Anyway, Are we going to keep on arguing only? What is your plan?”
“We will leave Nashik tomorrow evening.”
“That is fine. But tell me about yourself. I do not know anything about you.” Satish.
“Have not Ramesh told you anything?”
“I told you, I do not trust him. So no asking him any information.”
“Ok. What do you want to know about me?”
“Your marital status.”
“I am unmarried till now. But would like to settle down soon. My baba is after me.”
“That is nice. So, we should expect an invitation from you very soon.” Satish said unhappily.
“Happy to attend other’s marriages? What about your own?” Latika said.
Satish’s heartbeat increased.
“I have been longing to propose to someone. But I don’t know how to start the topic.” Satish said hurriedly.
“That is great. What has she studied?”
“Don’t know. But I like her as she is. Since childhood, I admired her. Was missing her.”
“Then what is the problem? Tell her you would like her to be your life partner.”
“But what if she has chosen someone else as her life partner?”
“Ask her if she has. If she answers affirmative, wish her best and forget about her. But if she is still waiting for you to propose, then do not waste even a single moment.”
“Ay, Latika. You are wanted there urgently. Please come with me.” Ragini pulled Latika with her and Satish’s words did not come out.
“Wait here only. We will continue after I finish with them.” Latika said before leaving.
Satish was confused. He was not still sure about Latika’s thinking. He was eager to hear her willingness in simple, plain words. Half an hour passed. He was getting impatient. He saw Latika coming his way. His face brightened up.
“So, when are you proposing the girl?” Latika put the direct question to him.
“Right now,” Satish said. He gathered words and spoke after a pause.
”Latika, are you ready to be my life partner?”
“How long did you take to utter those words? Yes Satish, I am waiting for you to say this to me for many a year. I am ready to spend my entire future with you, in thick and thin.”
Satish was overjoyed hearing those words.
“Satish, you did not bother to know what I have been doing these many years. This is the outcome of our childhood liking. Is the mechano given by me on your 5th birthday, still with you?”
“Yes, Latika. It is still with me, intact. I can’t believe my ears that Latika has agreed to be my life partner.”
“Yes. Satish. I will be with you like a pair of dolphins.
I must tell you. I finished my M.D. in gynaecology last year. I got appointed to City Government Hospital, Mumbai, immediately. I had offers from private hospitals with a much bigger pay packet. But I preferred Government Hospital where I can serve the society much better.”
“Oh, great Latika. I am thrilled all the more. Our wavelengths still match each other.”
Both of them were ecstatic.
Latika took Satish to her father and disclosed her decision. After immediate approval from her parents, the four of them talked to Satish’s parents. They too were happy over the matter.
The engagement was announced the next day.