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La Douleur Exquise

At around 3 a.m, Ananya woke up, startled and panting. There was no immediate end to these nightmares. The flashbacks of that car accident which happened a few days ago still chilled her spine. The moment she closed her eyes, she could see that very image of the car she was in, about to collide with the car in front, and she could do nothing about it. She reached for the water on the table beside her bed and tried shutting those thoughts out of her mind. Her life in its own way has been a series of unfortunate events, but this one takes the cake.  She has always been a bit of an over-thinker and earlier as well, she had spent nights thinking about life and various other philosophical questions, which obviously had no answers. But this night was different. The reasons why sleep was eluding her, were different. This time, she wasn’t interested in “how’s” and “why’s” of that incident; only just in the fact that, “what now”? She went to the balcony and saw the sun rise. Another sunrise, another day, another beginning? She wondered whether she was even ready to face the world as of yet?

She reached for the water on the table beside her bed and tried shutting those thoughts out of her mind. Her life in its own way had been a series of unfortunate events, but this one took the cake.  She has always been a bit of an over-thinker and earlier as well, she had spent nights thinking about life and various other philosophical questions, which obviously had no answers. But that night was different.

The reasons why sleep was eluding her, were different. This time, she wasn’t interested in “how’s” and “why’s” of that incident; only just in the fact that, “what now”? She went to the balcony and saw the sun rising from the horizon. Another sunrise, another day, another beginning? She wondered whether she was even ready to face the world as of yet?Humans are always in flux and ever changing. She wasn’t always like this. Perhaps, the circumstances changed her or maybe she

Humans are always in flux and ever changing. She wasn’t always like this. Perhaps, the circumstances changed her or maybe she realised the transitory nature of everything that life gives us, and that made her the way she is at present. That day, while sipping her morning coffee, she realised that her college would reopen tomorrow. She wasn’t just as of yet ready to snap out of her mental state and go into work and study mode.

This time she wanted answers to her questions, “why am I even alive?”, “Do I even want to live?” Outwardly, her life may seem a happy and comfortable one to people; but inwardly, she had to fight with her inner demons every day. Getting out of bed every morning was a struggle to her. She used to wonder, how many people just like her, put on a fake smile and step out into the world of never ending battle, both with their own selves and with the people of this world. She kept a lot to herself; as she never found someone who would understand or would be willing to understand her pain.

People just want to believe in the illusion of “happiness” and sweep the painful thoughts under the carpet. She always yearned for that happy escape; for that understanding friend. That happy escape or that friend for her turned out to be literature and the world of books.

Ananya’s life would not have been so bearable, had she not been friends with Sanjana, Sryeemoyi, and Akarsh. She met them in her previous college, during her graduation days and since then they have been her constant companions. There is a small part of her soul in each one of them and thus they were her “Horcruxes“. Friends do help you in dealing with the sorrows of life better. They were the friends who had become her family. She used to forget her sense of time while being with them. It’s not like those three did not have to struggle in life; they all had to in their own ways, but being together made them stronger. No life is without battles and you just have to choose yours carefully. Although they all went their separate ways after graduation, they promised to stay in touch. Ananya took admission in a new college for her post-graduation. She used to miss the familiar atmosphere in her new college and as it is, it’s hard for her to open her heart out to people. She believed in the concept of homoeostasis, even though change is the only constant in life. Change for good or worse is important for the growth of the individual.

Friends do help you in dealing with the sorrows of life better. They were the friends who had become her family. She used to forget her sense of time while being with them. It’s not like those three did not have to struggle in life; they all had to in their own ways, but being together made them stronger. No life is without battles and you just have to choose yours carefully. Although they all went their separate ways after graduation, they promised to stay in touch. Ananya took admission in a new college for her post-graduation. She used to miss the familiar atmosphere in her new college and as it is, it’s hard for her to open her heart out to people. She believed in the concept of homoeostasis, even though change is the only constant in life. Change for good or worse is important for the growth of the individual.

She used to miss the familiar atmosphere in her new college and as it is, it was hard for her to open her heart out to people. She believed in the concept of homoeostasis, even though change is the only constant in life. Change for good or worse is important for the growth of an individual.

Nonetheless, the day she was dreading for a while came. It was the day that her college was to reopen. Ananya, as usual, was procrastinating. This unwillingness to not go to college is not new to her. She has been doing the same for like the past three semesters. She boarded the college bus from the metro and came across a few of her friends and they all began discussing excitedly everything new that’s going to happen, and somebody mentioned about a few new students joining their one subject class for a temporary discussion-oriented course to be compulsorily undertaken by every student. Ananya didn’t pay much heed to the new information. That’s how she was; civil but selectively social. She would be sweet and polite to all but only selective people were allowed a peep into her heart and mind. Little did she know that this course would change her life. It’s so hard to decipher or decode the plan universe and God has in store for you. When you feel like you are all lost and you are in the mental state of eternal abysses with no escape from it, suddenly there would be a miracle to save you just in time that even though the hardship was testing and pushing your limits, but God did not let your spirit break down completely. Something similar happened with Ananya. Lately, she had given up on her life and her will to live and survive. Everything seemed drab to her. The burden of her failures, family issues, and huge betrayal from a trusted and beloved friend, all in a way contributed to her disenchantment from life and even from literature. She felt hollow from inside; as if nothing could fill the hole she felt her soul or nothing could heal her wounds.

She would be sweet and polite to all but only selective people were allowed a peep into her heart and mind. Little did she know that this course would change her life. It’s so hard to decipher or decode the plan universe and God has in store for you. When you feel like you are all lost and you are in the mental state of eternal abysses with no escape from it, suddenly there would be a miracle to save you just in time that even though the hardship was testing and pushing your limits, but God did not let your spirit break down completely. Something similar happened with Ananya. Lately, she had given up on her life and her will to live and survive. Everything seemed drab to her. The burden of her failures, family issues, and huge betrayal from a trusted and beloved friend, all in a way contributed to her disenchantment from life and even from literature. She felt hollow from inside; as if nothing could fill the hole she felt her soul or nothing could heal her wounds.

On the first day itself, she was in her class and just casually chatting with her classmates when a guy came to the class and enquired about some students who were her juniors. He came to her class by mistake and one of her classmates directed him to the right class. That was the first time Ananya saw Samarth and her first reaction was that not only this guy is handsome, but he also has this melodious voice. That was the first time in her life that she immediately liked a person and felt a warm feeling towards him. It wasn’t just about his looks, it was something more, although she could not exactly put that into words in her mind. Later on, she got to know that Samarth is one of the three students selected for the course and he is to attend lectures with them on “Popular fiction”. “Popular fiction” was not a proper course for the final year students as such, but it was compulsory for all students as a discussion based subject. The very first lecture itself was a surprise to her. Since it was a more of a discussion, so all students had to actively participate in it. Samarth was in the class too and as he began to speak over the subject, Ananya’s interest suddenly heightened. Samarth is not only a good speaker, but he also has vast knowledge and command over the subject. She attentively listened to the discussion and even willingly took part. The moment the lecture ended, she turned to Amaira to inform her about this unforeseen event, but Amaira herself commented on this change in Ananya’s

That was the first time in her life that she immediately liked a person and felt a warm feeling towards him. It wasn’t just about his looks, it was something more, although she could not exactly put that into words in her mind. Later on, she got to know that Samarth is one of the three students selected for the course and he is to attend lectures with them on “Popular fiction”. “Popular fiction” was not a proper course for the final year students as such, but it was compulsory for all students as a discussion based subject. The very first lecture itself was a surprise to her. Since it was a more of a discussion, so all students had to actively participate in it. Samarth was in the class too and as he began to speak over the subject, Ananya’s interest suddenly heightened. Samarth is not only a good speaker, but he also has vast knowledge and command over the subject. She attentively listened to the discussion and even willingly took part. The moment the lecture ended, she turned to Amaira to inform her about this unforeseen event, but Amaira herself commented on this change in Ananya’s

‘Popular fiction’ was not a proper course for the final year students as such, but it was compulsory for all students as a discussion based subject. The very first lecture itself was a surprise to her. Since it was a more of a discussion, so all students had to actively participate in it. Samarth was in the class too and as he began to speak over the subject, Ananya’s interest suddenly heightened. Samarth is not only a good speaker, but he also has vast knowledge and command over the subject. She attentively listened to the discussion and even willingly took part. The moment the lecture ended, she turned to Amaira to inform her about this unforeseen event, but Amaira herself commented on this change in Ananya’s

Samarth was in the class too and as he began to speak over the subject, Ananya’s interest suddenly reached its peak. Samarth was not only a good speaker, but he also had vast knowledge and command over the subject. She attentively listened to the discussion and even willingly took part. The moment the lecture ended, she turned to Amaira to inform her about this unforeseen event, but Amaira herself commented on this change in Ananya’s behaviour. Ananya had no explanation for this change, but she smiled to herself. She could sense a wave of change that has begun to take hold of her.

She was afraid, but then all she could think of was Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s words,

” Gar baazi agar ishq ki baazi hai

jo chahe laga do darr kaisa

 gar jeet gaye toh kya kehna

 haare bhi toh baazi maat nahi.”

      Amaira was the only close friend Ananya had in the college. Earlier, they could not gel so well, but with time they have come to realise that they are obviously distinct but yet similar in some ways. Time had strengthened their bond and perhaps their distinctiveness and being comfortable in their own skin, helped them to be comfortable with each other too. Over time, their love for each other became strong and they started exploring the city together. That’s how most human relationships are. You need patience to fully or maybe partially unravel the psychology and nature of a person and only then the foundation of that relationship lasts. Superficial relationships and feelings don’t pass the test of time and they are not even worth your time and emotional investment. In this artificial world, human relationships at least should be real.

That’s how most human relationships are. You need patience to fully or maybe partially unravel the psychology and nature of a person and only then the foundation of that relationship lasts. Superficial relationships and feelings don’t pass the test of time and they are not even worth your time and emotional investment. In this artificial world, human relationships at least should be real.

That was the first time Ananya started gushing over Samarth and she hasn’t stopped since. She discussed that class in detail with Amaira and since that instant, she knew that Ananya is smitten. But, it was not that simple. Over time, Ananya realised that what she feels for Samarth is not mere infatuation, but it was deep-rooted admiration and adoration and Ananya admitted to herself that she wanted to be like him and emulate him in whichever ways she can.  Finally, she has found her ideal. Samarth is the human form of all her dreams and aspirations combined together. Ananya can’t help but admire his high intellect, yet a casual, cool and composed mannerism. She used to wonder how come he is like that.  How can a human be so close to her idea of an ideal or her idea of what she wants to be as an academician?

Finally, she had found her ideal. Samarth was the human form of all her dreams and aspirations combined together. Ananya couldn’t help but admire his high intellect, yet a casual, cool and composed mannerism. She used to wonder how come he is like that.  How can a human be so close to her idea of an ideal or her idea of what she wants to be as an academician?

Ananya’s life changed completely. Instead of running away from lectures and college, she began looking forward to it.  She decided to not skip even a single “Popular- fiction” discussion class. With time, she started enjoying going to the college regularly. She had earlier distanced herself from everything she loved; she had stopped reading completely. She tried time and again to resume but could not find it in her heart to read beyond ten pages of any book for that matter. But, now she wanted to read again. She wanted to embrace literature again.  She started putting her heart and brain into the course books of “Popular-fiction”. She began paying more attention in classes so that she can raise a point and grab Samarth’s attention. She wanted to be worthy enough to be able to talk to him about books and also discuss further on what they learn in class. But, approaching him was a struggle in its own way. He was always surrounded by people who wanted to talk to him or learn from him or just be around him. He has this quality that he is always ready to help people in studies and thus he was always busy with helping someone or the other.

He was always surrounded by people who wanted to talk to him or learn from him or just be around him. He has this quality that he is always ready to help people in studies and thus he was always busy with helping someone or the other.

One day, Ananya gathered enough courage and went up to him while he was sitting with his friend in an empty classroom and asked for his help in her project work. He smiled and agreed to help. It is a bit hard to focus when he is around; he was slightly distracting for Ananya. But as usual, Ananya was impressed with his intellect and she found his insight on her project very helpful. Ananya started enjoying and even looking forward to these interactive sessions with him. He always had new insights to offer to her and it really helped in broadening her sense of the subject and she realized that how important it is to think of your own over the primary texts and how to go beyond the binaries and even question them. She was in awe of his “Phrase-1” concept and ever since then she maintains this diary which she has named the same, and she documents every new idea or word that she learns or comes across. She could

She was in awe of his “Phrase-1” concept and ever since then she maintained this diary which she named the same, and she documented every new idea or word that she learnt or came across. She could realise her mental growth over time and she wished she could thank the person responsible for it.

She was happy; an emotion that over time she had forgotten exists. It was not a fake smile that you put on for your family and society so that they don’t question you unnecessarily about what is wrong, but an actual grin that you could feel your heart and soul warming up at the sight or thought of someone or something. It was not something Samarth did intentionally; he was unaware of this storm inside her. He was unaware of everything. He did not know how much Ananya respected him or how much his mere presence in her life had turn it upside down and in a good way.

He did not have to know everything as it is. If she could only tell him that she respected him so much and he had done a lot for her unknowingly, it would be enough. But saying it out loud won’t make any sense and she wanted to thank him properly for what he has done for her can’t be defined or contained in mere two words. She bought two books for him, as a gesture and token of “thank you” for what all he had done for her. She wrote a small note inside of it to thank him and to say that she appreciates all of it and that it means a lot to her.

If she could only tell him that she respected him so much and he had done a lot for her unknowingly, it would be enough. But saying it out loud won’t make any sense and she wanted to thank him properly for what he had done for her can’t be defined or contained in mere two words. She bought two books for him, as a gesture and token of “thank you” for what all he had done for her. She wrote a small note inside of it to thank him and to say that she appreciated all of it and that it meant a lot to her.

Giving those books to him was by no means an easy task. When she went up to him, her legs were shaking and her mind was a bit dizzy with all the nervousness. No matter how many times you rehearse in your mind as to what you have to say, but when the time comes to actually say all that, you go blank and fumble. She was no different. She fumbled in her speech and does not even properly remember as to what exactly did she even say to him. But. She was relieved that she could at least confess a bit of what she feels for him.

As the time passed, her admiration for him increased manifolds and her heart began to grow impatient to have a glimpse of him every now and then. She hated the holidays. She could not just wait for the Sunday to end so that she could go to college on Monday and catch a glimpse of him somewhere in the corridors. Well, it’s very hard to try and catch a glimpse of someone or to try and find excuses to talk to that person and all the while pretending it’s all natural, nothing fishy and you have no other ulterior motive. All this requires a lot of hard work.

She had to act naturally around the person and not let it show on her face that inside her mind she does “happy dance moves with pompoms” whenever she got a chance to talk to him. Samarth did not have that “butterflies inside my stomach” effect on Ananya, rather he had that “I can’t think straight when I am near you” effect on her and it’s hard for her to not just leer at him and forget everything else in this world.

Ananya always felt that time runs faster when one doesn’ want it to. The semester was moving towards its end and for the first time, Ananya felt that four months is too short a time for one semester. She wanted more time. She needed some more time to be around Samarth.

She hated “goodbyes” and this inevitable one would be the toughest. She was not just ready to say goodbye to this chapter of her life.

Humans are so fragile. Once they are out of the darkness, psychologically and emotionally, they never want to go back in.

Ananya was also in that dark tunnel from which Samarth brought her out. No, they were not friends and they cannot be. They will always remain acquaintances. Samarth had no clue that he was the light of Ananya’s dark life.

“Sometimes you touch other people’s life in ways unknown to you yourself.”

Samarth revived in her something that she had almost made up her mind to bury deep underneath her mind and heart forever. It was the love for literature and life and the courage to chase dreams.

Ananya had decided to give up on literature and choose some other field as the love and passion she used to feel for it was long gone. Samarth revived her dead love and passion for it; he did for her what she could not do for herself. He was that one person she wanted to see and learn from for the rest of the days of her life, and sadly she might not even see him in person ever again. Ananya looked up to him and he was this guiding force in her life, which she did not want to let go. She was scared of being lost in that darkness again. Obviously, she was realistic enough to realize that nothing could happen between the two of them and that he would always be that distant star she could gaze at, admire, yet can’t have. Sidney’s poetry’s famous characters reversed in Ananya’s life as she was “Astrophel” and Samarth was “Stella”. But, the heart has a mind of its own with a very vivid imagination. Ananya had to learn to not break down at this separation. She used to tell Amaira sometime ago, that she is looking for something and yet she does not know what it is. She stopped saying that; Samarth was the answer to her search for the unknown. The hole inside her soul was not filled completely, nor her wounds healed, it just pained and bothered her less.

Sidney’s poetry’s famous characters reversed in Ananya’s life as she was “Astrophel” and Samarth was “Stella”. But, the heart has a mind of its own with a very vivid imagination. Ananya had to learn to not break down at this separation. She used to tell Amaira sometime ago, that she is looking for something and yet she does not know what it is. She stopped saying that; Samarth was the answer to her search for the unknown. The hole inside her soul was not filled completely, nor her wounds healed, it just pained and bothered her less.

But, the heart has a mind of its own with a very vivid imagination. Ananya had to learn to not break down at this separation. She used to tell Amaira sometime ago, that she is looking for something and yet she does not know what it is. She stopped saying that; Samarth was the answer to her search for the unknown. The hole inside her soul was not filled completely, nor her wounds healed, it just pained and bothered her less.

On the last day, she just could not gather up enough courage to say “goodbye”. She meant nothing to him, and yet for her, at the moment this almost “stranger” meant everything. She could not take her eyes off him. Her eyes wanted to capture the moment forever. “The moments that hold importance are captured by eyes and not by a camera”, this is what Samarth said once in class and today she couldn’t agree more. She wanted to reverse the laws of physics and somehow wanted time to not run so fast. She could feel the time slipping away from her fingers like sand. For Samarth, she was just another face in the crowd and her “goodbye” would have been just another “goodbye” and deep inside her heart, she did not want that. She left the college without meeting him. That perhaps was the right thing to do. She was fighting the urge to cry. This was the toughest separation she had to undergo in her whole life. That one person who was almost an angel to her, an answer to her prayers, is unaware of everything that she feels for him and not only she can’t tell him all this, but also that it won’t make a difference at all. The paradigms of their relationship would always be unaltered.

She wanted to reverse the laws of physics and somehow wanted time to not run so fast. She could feel the time slipping away from her fingers like sand. For Samarth, she was just another face in the crowd and her “goodbye” would have been just another “goodbye” and deep inside her heart, she did not want that. She left the college without meeting him. That perhaps was the right thing to do. She was fighting the urge to cry. This was the toughest separation she had to undergo in her whole life. That one person who was almost an angel to her, an answer to her prayers, is unaware of everything that she felt for him and not only she couldn’t tell him all this, but also that it won’t make a difference at all. The paradigms of their relationship would always be unaltered.

While going back home in the metro, she replayed in her mind all the incidences she remembered of observing him in class while discussing “Popular-fiction”; how he smiled vividly when he talked about “Game of Thrones” or “Star Wars” or “Cheese pizza”. She smiled to herself.

Life is unfair. The worst part is, she did not know him as a person. Her admiration for him knew no bounds, and yet she could not know him as a person and be his friend. Maybe in a galaxy far far away, they could be friends or something more. Although, it’s a possibility in just an alternative universe.

Out of everything she has learned from him, one quote that he said in class and Ananya happened to love the most is, “Grief, when aestheticized is a beautiful thing” and she planned to do the same. She planned to pen down her feelings and grief because that’s how she could go back and revisit those days again in her mind. She has nothing more

She planned to pen down her feelings and grief because that’s how she could go back and revisit those days again in her mind. She had nothing more of him with her; nothing more than her own memories and feelings. That is the last transformation that happened to her because of him; he turned a reader into an amateur writer. Maybe that’s why one-sided admiration or love is dangerous and scary. It changes the entire universe of one person, while the other person is totally unperturbed. This love is self-damaging but the question is, why does our heart at least once in everyone’s life, follow that one person who can never be ours? Why does universe let two people meet who don’t belong in each other’s life or won’t stay long? Why do we have to go through the pang of separation and

Maybe that’s why one-sided admiration or love is dangerous and scary. It changes the entire universe of one person, while the other person is totally unperturbed. This love is self-damaging but the question is, why does our heart at least once in everyone’s life, follow that one person who can never be ours? Why does universe let two people meet who don’t belong in each other’s life or won’t stay long? Why do we have to go through the pang of separation and heartbreak to realise the worth of love? If only these questions had any answers…

       “Ye aarzoo bhi badi cheez hai magar humdum

visal-e-yaar faqat aarzoo ki baat nahi.”

– Faiz Ahmad Faiz

Aishwarya is currently pursuing MA in English Literature from IP university. Her favourite hobby is shutting the world out and getting lost in the world of books. If not that, then she likes to binge a TV series of her choice. She also likes to visit monuments or new places of historical significance and soak in the aesthetical pleasure she gets out of it.

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