Sumiran - The Girl Who Loved My Girl...

I was returning to Mumbai after having lived in Singapore for nearly seven years. The connecting flight through Chennai was late by two hours, so I was listlessly wandering around the airport, browsing through the plethora of overpriced food and merchandise at the outlets, when I noticed her, a blast from my past. A vaguely familiar face, bright and shimmery, crimson lips so full of life. The years had no effect on her appearance, Sumiran looked just like she had the day I first set eyes on her. You know the kind of beauty that renders you breathless? That’s what Sumiran was like. And it wasn’t just the flawless skin or the golden complexion, it was her eyes and the way they nestled on that elusive form. I took a deep breath and changed my course to avoid bumping into her, praying she didn’t notice me.

I know what you’re thinking. No, she wasn’t an ex. But we did go way back. And the history we shared wasn’t the most savory one. Back in 2006, Shreya, my girlfriend had complained to me that this girl in her coaching class had been coming on to her, too strong. At first, I had laughed at the whole thing. Then, Shreya had chided me at my ignorance and explained to me that this girl was openly gay and that she’d taken a shine on her and was being overtly flirty and that while it had been kinda cute in the beginning, it was starting to get annoying, bordering on creepy. So, like a good boyfriend, I had decided to have a word with the girl and ask her to lay off my girlfriend. That’s how I first met Sumiran. She was that girl. And I had been visibly taken aback when I set my eyes on her, even then. 

I had joked with Shreya that I didn’t mind her having a fling with Sumiran. “I’ll understand”, I’d said, with a goofy smile, almost meaning it. Because this was, by far, the most exquisitely beautiful creature I’d ever set eyes upon. There was something about her, a certain flair of unadulterated confidence that managed to dazzle anyone who set eyes on her. And you could see that she was affecting everyone around her in a similar fashion, because people stared at her, turned around to catch a glimpse of her and looked in awe. I had then gone up to her and introduced myself. I had told her that Shreya was uncomfortable with her advances and she better cool it. She had looked at me with a strange expression and then said this – “Scared of competition, are we? Fine, I will step back. But you know I’d win if I didn’t.” Then she’d walked away.

And now, more than a decade later, here I was, hiding from her, in the pharmacy section. She suddenly took a turn and walked over to my side of the aisle. I didn’t know how to react and to look innocuous, I started looking at the medicines right in front of me. As luck would have it, I was standing in the condoms section. I rued my luck, but committing to the deception, picked up two packets of condoms and started looking at the labels, pretending to draw a comparison. In my peripheral vision, I could sense that she had stopped in her track and was looking at me. “Still the stud, I see!” she exclaimed, amused, “Hi, Nitin.” I had mistakenly picked up one XXL variant and another Mutual Pleasure variant of the condoms, so when I turned towards Sumiran, she took a quick glance at those and chuckled, “Lucky girl, Shreya.” Her comment took a moment to sink in. 

I awkwardly put the condom packets back on the shelf and faced Sumiran. “Shreya and I broke up ages ago,” I said, in a matter-of-fact way, “How are you, Sumiran?” Time slowed down when she smiled. I swear I could see her lips curl up to a gorgeous grin in slow motion, the contours of her lips, twisting slowly and settling over each other, to expose her pearly teeth. “So, I should look her up then?” she laughed, and then laughed some more, sensing my discomfort over the topic. “Relax, I am pulling your leg,” Sumiran continued, “That was ages ago. So how have you been?”

Turned out she too was on the same flight as I was, so we settled down in the waiting area and began talking. There was a lot of catching up to do because we never really knew each other, other than that one time I’d “threatened” her to stay away from my girl. I took offense at the word and told her, I was just enforcing Shreya’s choice. Sumiran laughed. “You’re so na├»ve, Nitin,” she shrieked, “You think Shreya wanted me to stop?” I looked at her bewildered. She went on to explain that whatever she had with Shreya, had been initiated by her and she’d involved me in it, just for the added attention. While I was surprised, I didn’t find it hard to believe. Because over the years, a lot of information about Shreya had surfaced, making it easy to believe any outlandish thing that she was accused of doing. 

I shook my head in amused bewilderment. “Who was I dating?” I laughed. “Yeah, Shreya was one of a kind,” Sumiran sighed, “the only girl I ever felt drawn towards.” 

“Wait a minute,” I exclaimed, “You aren’t a lesbian?” 

Sumiran burst out laughing. “Is that what she told you? My God, that girl was a piece of work.”

So apparently, Shreya had told Sumiran that she was a closeted lesbian (a lie, obviously) and that she was attracted to Sumiran. Sumiran, having identified as straight for most of her life, had resisted but eventually had developed an attraction towards Shreya, only to find Shreya becoming distant. That’s when I had asked her to stay away. And being indignant and repulsed at Shreya’s games, Sumiran had talked to me with defiance instead of calling out the bullshit. Both of us had our heads in our hands, wondering at the enigma that was Shreya. 

When we recovered from the shock, we started talking about our lives other than Shreya. We realized that we were very similar people, with an almost identical set of likes and interests. We worked in the same field and frequented the same restaurants and even liked the same cuisines. It was uncanny. By the time, the flight started boarding, we had become very comfortable with each other. In fact, I found myself a little dejected that the conversation was cut short when we boarded the flight and she was seated several rows away. I was beginning to settle down with music in my ears when I felt a bit of a scuffle near me. When I opened my eyes, I realized that Sumiran had asked the guy sitting next to me in the aisle seat to exchange with her window seat. The guy had happily obliged. She gave me a big toothy smile.

The conversation continued.

I soon realized that this beautiful woman could read me, could understand me. She could so effortless put her finger on my deepest insecurity and with a slight nod of her head, make my fears go away. Our conversation moved seamlessly from one topic to another and the flight had landed in no time. We kept talking as we collected our luggage and then we exchanged numbers as we got into our respective cabs. I have always wondered at life’s coincidences, especially about how people met and connected. It seemed so random and yet, a connection formed was a thing of beauty. Three days later, I got a call from her. “What are you doing this evening?” she asked hurriedly. I wasn’t doing anything. “You have got to rescue me from this art exhibition I am being dragged to,” she said. It seemed like a ruse, but it wasn’t. 

When I reached the venue, a full-blown art exhibition was actually on. I had to feign an emergency and get her out of there. She was dressed in an evening gown and I was in casuals. We looked very uncoordinated as we walked down the marine drive, but in the cool evening breeze, the sound of gushing water hitting the shore and the intimate conversation, the inhibition and care for optics got lost somewhere. We laughed and talked through the night. And she dropped me home in the morning. It was a Saturday and I invited her in. But she didn’t come in. 

We met again the following evening, this time at a pub. We danced, drank and reveled through the night, at the end of which, I was convinced that I was beginning to fall in love with Sumiran, the girl I had once asked to stay away from my girlfriend. In the effect of alcohol, with the diminished inhibition, I pulled her close on the dance floor and pressed a kiss on her cheek and whispered in her ears, “I think we should be together.” She kissed me on the lips and smiled. “Hold that thought till the morning, will you?” she cooed in my ears.

We got into two separate cabs that night because I was supposed to sober up and meet Sumiran in the morning for breakfast. I slept for a few hours and then woke up, happy to the core. I cleaned up, shaved and got ready to go to Sumiran’s place. I popped a few mints because last night’s whiskey was still in my breath. I was still a little buzzed when I rang at her apartment door. What happened next made me sober up instantly. Because the door was answered by a very pregnant Shreya. Yeah, you read it right, Shreya, my ex-girlfriend. And she was knocked up, maybe in the last trimester of her pregnancy.

She was as surprised as I was. “Nitin,” she exclaimed, “What are you doing here?” I had the same question for her. That’s when I noticed Sumiran seated inside at the breakfast table, wearing a floral printed pajama with a crazy grin on her face. Shreya and I turned towards Sumiran with utterly confused eyes. “I win,” she shouted, “Shreya and I have been together for the last three years and we are having a kid. Surprised?”

Sumiran went on to explain, with a smug expression, how she’d noticed me at Chennai airport and had taken the opportunity to play with me, to teach me a lesson for the way I had enforced my “hetero-normative” point of view on her back in ’06, especially because over the years, she had managed to win over Shreya and they’d made a life together. It all seemed a little, for the lack of a better word, bonkers. And Shreya’s dazed expression said as much. “What the fucking fuck!!!” Shreya shrieked, taking both Sumiran and me by surprise. She went on to shout a series of most clever profanities while Sumiran tried to stop her, stating it couldn’t be good for the baby. This seemed to enrage Shreya further. I quietly excused myself from the scene and left their apartment. On my way out, I hurled on their asparagus plant and left in a hurry. 

“My life sure reads like a bloody novel,” I said to myself as I got into a cab and rode away. Over the course of the next few days, I got several calls from Sumiran and another number, which I am assuming belonged to Shreya. I didn’t receive any of them. I like to believe that I have a very decent appetite for crazy stuff but this was too much even for me. All I could do was laugh at the outlandish deception and the surrealistic reality of what had happened. But isn’t the joke on Sumiran? Her lesson was so bizarre that it never registered. I didn’t feel beaten, I felt confused and kinda amused, relieved even but not dejected. I moved out of Mumbai soon after, wishing Shreya, Sumiran and their child the best from the bottom of my heart. I never returned.

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