Love and nostalgia in Nagaland

Andy was a third-year B.Com student in Kohima, the state capital of Nagaland. It originally belonged to the district of Peren. One afternoon, after returning from college, he stood on the balcony of the college hostel, feeling the fresh spring air in Kohima; fresh and airy. Just two blocks from the hostel, he saw a girl leaning against the wooden wall of their porch. His eyes were on the beautiful bayou, the likes of which he had never seen before; he could immediately feel himself falling in love with this girl. Andy was no longer tired but pumped with a zest of lightning. His heart was filled with inexplicable joy. It was as if her entire three years of existence in Kohima were meant for that special day and encountering the mysterious beauty. Andy smiled and waved, and the girl waved back. They both looked at each other until it was invisibly dark.

The next day, after class, Andy rushed to the balcony of his hostel and glanced excitedly over the porch of the adjacent house, only to find there was no view of his new beauty. He paused for a moment, looked at his watch dejectedly, and said to himself, “But it was exactly at this time, yesterday.” As he was about to leave, he noticed the girl, walking slowly towards the exact spot where she had been standing the night before. Andy shivered with joy and smiled; no words were needed for the girl to know his feelings. They looked at each other and both smiled shyly. It went on for a week before it turned into a morning and evening affair. Getting up in the morning, which Andy had hitherto hated, became his long-awaited moment of the day, so much so that there were nights when he lay awake so as not to miss his love’s morning gaze.

One afternoon, just a moment before the sun set, Andy waved at the girl and asked for her phone number by pointing to a phone with his hand and placing it in her ear. Then the girl smiled and nodded, perhaps indicating that she understood the signs. She gave her number, writing in the blank. It was difficult but Andy was able to get the number after a lot of effort. Soon they started messaging and chatting. The girl’s name was Ruby and she only lived with her mother. The conversations and calls became so regular that Ruby’s mom caught her texting “I miss you.”

“Ruby, you’re only eighteen and your upper secondary exam is knocking at the door. I can’t let anyone and for that matter even spoil your future for you,” the mother said. For weeks, the duo had to make do with the distant smile and loving gestures. One afternoon, Ruby grabbed her mother’s phone while she was napping and asked Andy to meet her. It was getting dark and Andy kissed Ruby without saying a word. It was the first time they had met. For Andy, the girl he had thought about and smiled at for months is now in his arms, nothing else matters. He kissed her on the forehead and said, “I love you, Ruby.” She kissed him on the lips and as she moved her fingers over his chest and abs, she remarked in a low voice, “You have such a smooth yet hard physique.” I love her.” Andy kissed her back and said, “I love everything about you.” Just as they started to share their feelings, a voice broke out, “Ruby! Ruby! Where are you? you, dammit?” She was shaking with fear as she ran quickly towards her house. “You’re going to pay for this” was the last word Andy heard before returning to his inn.

Andy didn’t sleep that night. The next morning he stayed on the balcony of the inn for five hours, but Ruby never came back. For the next few days and weeks, Andy stared at the empty porch, only to get lost in his own world. Soon it was time for Andy’s final exam. After completing his exams, he returned to his native village. Ten years later, Andy is now working in Kohima and is happily married. He has a daughter and he named her Ruby. As for Ruby, the Kohima beauty who once stole Andy’s heart, no one ever heard of her again after that first encounter. Some said she left her house after an argument with her mother that fateful night. Although there are stories that she committed suicide, a few believe that she lives alone somewhere far away. Either way, Andy and Ruby will never see each other again after their first kisses. Sometimes, especially at night, under the fading moonlight, when the cold Kohima breeze blows over the hills, Andy can’t help but secretly remember Ruby.

(TS Haokip is the author of ‘Hilly Dreams’. The opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Outlook Magazine)

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