The 1998 academic sessions had just begun and the classes were going in full swing. There was a glow of excitement on everybody’s face as we sat in new classrooms with new syllabus to study. I was in 10th grade and as usual, everything was moving on smoothly for me. We the visually impaired students of grade 9 and above were studying in Khaling Jigme Sherubling Higher Secondary School as day-scholars and we had to walk about a kilometer or so from Muenselling Institute to attend classes everyday. We used to walk in groups to and from our school often teasing and greeting the students of Khaling Primary School as we passed through their campus on the way.
One day, a female friend of mine studying in Khaling Primary School came to me and handed me a letter saying it was sent by someone I had admired for years. I did not have to think for too long before I could figure out who was the sender. Sonam and I had studied together in grade 3 when we the students of Muenselling Institute were required to attend classes in regular schools a couple of days in a week as part of the integrated education policy introduced in early 1990s. But I got double-promotion from grade 3 to 5 and she failed twice in grade 4. So by the time I had reached 10th grade, she had become 3 years junior to me. Almost convinced that the letter could have come from her, I opened it and let a sighted friend read it for me. But as my friend began to read the letter, I began to feel funny. It was basically the response to the letter I had sent her three years ago. I began to wonder why did she take so long to reply to my letter. It was really funny.
When I was in 7th grade, she was in 5th grade. I had loved her since we were in 3rd grade although it could have been an infatuation. One day a female classmate of mine asked me if I ever had a girl-friend and I said I have one. Then she began to dig deeper into my love story and when I narrated whatever I thought was worth sharing, she asked me if I had ever written a love letter to her. I had no answer. I said I have not even considered writing one. Then she began to even question if the girl really loved me as I had thought. So it was she who encouraged me to write a love letter to her and confirm if she really loved me. Since she used to come to see me frequently at the beginning of the year, I had thought that she would readily accept my proposal because I was of view that she loved me as much as I loved her. Whenever she saw me at a distance, she used to call my name, but somehow I was so shy at that time and never dared to face her because she was never alone. A couple of months had passed since she had stopped coming to see me but I was still optimistic that she would accept me. So, I took out a typewriter and typed my first ever love letter to her. After packing it nicely and neatly, I sent it to her through a friend of mine studying in the same school, and that was it. I never got her reply. Later, I learned that she had got a new boy-friend and I backed out for the good of both of us. But three years later, the response came and that too after her relationship broke with her boy-friend.
I was confused whether to accept her or continue to ignore her. Her letter was filled with her apologies and excuses for not being able to keep in touch with me for so long. I consulted my senior friend for advice and he advised me to respond once and wait to see how serious her words meant. So I decided to reply to her letter and our relationship began to bloom. We became close friends thereafter. She used to often come to see me and I used to frequently go to her house during weekends. Her parents were very gentle and hospitable.
The time was moving fast and the year was drawing to a close. Our love story continued without any obstacle until one Sunday afternoon when one of my friends found her walking with a guy on the highway. I would not have doubted her if she had not requested my friend repeatedly not to tell me that she was with another guy. My friend told me that from the way they had dressed up, they looked as though they had just come out of a bush. It could have been his own perception but that threw the first stone onto our path, between her and me. However, I never questioned her and life continued as though I was ignorant. Then winter swept in and since we were the last batch appearing for ICSC exams in March, we had started our winter coaching camp to prepare for the exams. The Principal of Muenselling Institute had granted us a quarter to stay within the school campus. A few days into the coaching camp, a guy came in requesting one of our friends to record a song for his girl-friend. We had a tape-recorder and my friend recorded the song for him. In the lyrics was the name of my girl-friend mentioned and I once again began to doubt. Soon my doubt turned into a reality when one of her friends told me that the guy had gifted that cassette to my girl-friend and that she was worried if I have come to know about it. So, I began to get more and more convinced that she was cheating on me.
Our story however reached its climax during one of the evening walks we had taken along the highway towards Samdrup Jongkhar after a tedious day with books. After about two kilometers of casual walk, we stopped at a row of parapets and took some rest. A small group of sighted friends soon joined us and we spent sometime talking about the progress of our exam preparations and other casual affairs. As it’s usually common for boys to talk about sex and girl-friends when they meet, we were soon caught up in a conversation about girls and casual sex experiences. We asked our sighted friends if they were getting any girl at their place, and one of them told us that he would have at least one or two girls in his house everyday and they won’t let him study. In a soft voice, he said that he had tried to offer them tea, lunch and even dinner with a hope that they would go back and leave him alone, but he was never able to peacefully send them away. So, he said he finally realized that they had come for sex and he started giving it. When he said that, we all became more excited and started asking more about the girls he had sex with. But what came in response almost blasted my heart into a thousand pieces. On the top of the list of girls he had sex with was the name of my girl-friend. While I was struggling to hide my emotional reactions and facial expressions at the news, my other friends who knew my story were dying to control their laughter. Soon our groups separated and we walked back to our place. As I walked down from Khaling market with a heavy heart, I realized that I cracked the nut. Now I had enough reasons to break my relationship with my girl-friend. I knew we had got into the crossroad from where we would have to walk our own paths. Although she continued to come to see me and made efforts to talk to me, I could never reopen my heart to accommodate her. I would usually study during the night and wake up late during the day, and when I woke up, I would often find her sitting on the edge of my bed teasing me and trying to comfort me, but I could never forgive her for what she had done to me. I didn’t even let her know why I was hurt and she must still be wondering why I ignored her completely. On the eve of 1999 New Year’s Day, she had sent me a New Year greeting card but I didn’t even bother to return her wishes. Looking back, I feel I was too rude. Sometimes I feel sorry for how I behaved at that time. That was another funny, yet painful episode of my student life.