Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Love Letter

Dear Madam Editor,
I was astounded when I was told by your assistant who paid me a visit the other day, that you were interested in doing an article on my love story. By the way, thanks for all the wishes after the good reviews following the nice articles you published on me. You always have something nice to say about me, my law firm and the charity bodies I run. Thanks in advance.
Should I say madam that I am not a very romantic type of person. Even though I very much believe in love. Contrary to what many youngsters today might believe in, I personally don't believe in love at first sight. I suppose they are simple what they call a crush, or infatuation. Maybe even lust, thanks to the ever evolving hormone levels of these young people. 
I personally feel that love is something that develops gradually. It can only happen after you get to know someone in person and judge them for who they are. Then you consider yourself being with that person. You ponder on how you two get along with each other. Do you treat each other with respect? Can you tolerate each other's differences? With the similarities and differences you both share, is it possible to live under one roof and start a family together? Will there be conflicts? If so, how bad? 
Yes. This is what I would think about before getting into an official relationship. Quite a handful isn't it? You might see me as a choosy little perfectionist. But I can assure you I am not. I have had my own share of disastrous relationships as well that have taken their toll on my life. But to put things bluntly, here it goes:
I have always been in love with my best friend. I really have. But I could not see that. Till today, though I finally, after decades of loving her in secret, I can finally confess it out loud to the world, but I can never tell it to her. Why, you may ask? Because I suppose it is all too late.
But enough of my ranting. You want to know my love story for your article right? Well, so here it goes...
It was during my first day at Oxford University that I met her. My special one, Evangeline. Evangeline Swettenham. At that time, I was enrolled into university with my original name, Gangga Senthilnathan. It was only after I returned home to Malaysia did I change my name, for reasons I will explain later. 
I was a top scorer back at school, for which I earned myself a full scholarship. Evangeline was an Anglo-Indian girl from Pondicherry, India. Her education was financed by her estranged British father. I suppose since we were the only Tamilians in our class, we instantly connected and became good friends ever since. Sorry, madam. No hate-at-first-sight-that-eventually -develops-into-love type of romance in my story. Don't say I did not warn you if it gets too dull for your taste. There is basically nothing much going on here. Trust me. 



One day, I think it was somewhere in our sophomore year, Evangeline’s father, Lord Swettenham and her half-sister, Clementine, visited Oxford. Lord Swettenham instantly senses that his daughter had feelings for me despite her not acknowledging it herself. Spoilt brat Clementine had a crush for me and always annoyed me with her constant flirting. Lord Swettenham warned Evangeline from befriending me, telling her that he had bigger plans for her, including having her meet the grandson of a long established, equally wealthy and influential aristocratic family friend. Already estranged from her father, Evangeline was offended by his materialistic behaviour and simply told him off. I still remember the look her gave me before he left campus. It was pure hatred. 
However, Evangeline started to realize that she indeed had fallen in love with me. I found out about this from a letter Clementine wrote to me. I did not believe that little brat back then. But I suppose there was some truth to it when Evangeline asked me one night if I had ever dated anyone, to which I replied no since I had been engaged since childhood to my elder sister’s stepdaughter. We had grown up together knowing that one day we would be married and had been deeply in love with each other for years. 



That look on Evangeline's face when I told her this for the first time ever since knowing her; it was as if she was annoyed that such an urban, modernized lad like myself would settle down for a traditional Indian arranged marriage. But now I know, Evangeline was actually heartbroken.
After graduation and a heartwarming parting, we both returned to our respective homelands. I returned to Penang only to realize that my family had a long standing feud with the local mafia ever since they testified against the latter at court. They fled Penang and moved to Kuala Lumpur, where my elder sister lived with her family. This is when we all had to change our names in order to protect ourselves. I changed mine to Karthik Sukumaran, a combination of two of deceased grandfathers' names.
A week later, I followed my brother-in-law to pick up my fiancee from her college in Singapore for the Deepavali break. When I saw my fiancee, Deepika, for the first time in years, I fell in love with her all over again. I even wrote to Evangeline about her.


Meanwhile, Evangeline returned to Pondicherry to her Indian mother, only to find out that the old woman had been hiding her terminal cancer from her only daughter for years. Evangeline received my letter, but had no time to reply as she decided to spend every single second she had left with her ailing mother. 
Evangeline’s mother was Lord Swettenham’s first love and she is their love child. He was a hippie during his youth and had travelled to Pondicherry only to fall in love with Evangeline’s mother, made her pregnant and returned to London to his family, who turned out to disapprove of their relationship. Evangeline had never completely forgiven her father, though she eventually allowed him to be the benefactor for her studies. He was the one who had named her after his favourite aunt. After Evangeline’s mother passed away, Lord Swettenham came to Pondicherry and took his eldest daughter with him back to London. She finally replied my long written letter, telling me all about her sorrows.
I was saddened by my best friend’s lost. I shared her stories with Deepika, who who seemed jealous of our friendship. Oh, hell. When you are in love, it is only natural to feel jealous every now and then, right. As I spent more time with Deepika, I soon realized that this is not the homely, innocent Deepika I knew from my childhood. She was now a rebellious young lady, always getting into trouble. Our families then made plans for our wedding. By then, I managed to secure myself a position at a humble law firm in Kuala Lumpur. There was not much work, and the pay was bad. But everyone has to start somewhere, right?



In London, Evangeline met the suitor her father had chosen for her. Though this suitor was very nice, she did not feel the same way towards him as she felt towards me. Within days of knowing each other, the guy proposed to Evangeline, who halfheartedly accepted. As their wedding was being arranged, Evangeline received my invitation to my own wedding in Kuala Lumpur, but she could not attend as her own big day is not too far away. I, too, wished I could have seen her get married. 
On the morning of her wedding, Evangeline could not control herself as she still could not bring herself to marry Richard while she was still in love with me. Mischievousness little Clementine had been spying on her sister all along, and she told me she had seen Evangeline sob like a child and throw up multiple times but later denied it. 
Just as she managed to bring herself together again, Clementine did something she should not have. She revealed to Evangeline that she and the groom were once very much in love but it was their father who disallowed them for ever seeing each other again, claiming Clementine was too young and immature for a stable relationship. She threatened Evangeline to stop the wedding or else, she would end her own life. 
Finally at the altar of the cathedral, before saying I do, Evangeline admited she could not get married as she is in love with someone else. I suppose it must have been a big spank on Lord Swettenham's face and I hope he guessed that someone was me. After apologizing to the groom and his family, she left the cathedral. Later that day, it became public knowledge that this was all a sick prank by Clementine. Nevertheless, Evangeline was happy the wedding never went on. She boarded the next flight to Kuala Lumpur to attend my wedding. I am quite sure she was secretly hoping I would do the same thing to be with her too.
But that was not my case. I was very much in love with Deepika, as I had been sicne I was a kid. After I had tied the thali around my new bride's neck, and we were pronounced man and wife, I thought I caught a glimpse of Evangeline... in tears... but she disappered before I could get someone to bring her to me. But wasn't her wedding yesterday? She could not be here now. No, it was just impossible. 
But Evangeline was there alright. She would later tell me this herself. She boarded the next flight to Chennai, from where she would then travel home to Pondicherry and run her mother’s lodge until she decides what to do with her life.
Deepika and I enjoyed our honeymoon in Venice. But we had a small fight when I lectured her to give up smoking. We returned to Kuala Lumpur, not on talking terms, only reconciling once back home. But I soon became busy at work as I continued to handle various high profile cases. A first class Oxford degree can be curse in some ways. 
I was never fully aware that Deepika lacked my attention. But as soon as she received an offer to further her studies in Melbourne, she decided to go. I was reluctant to let her go for I do not believe long distance relationships would work. But Deepika wanted to become a successful career woman and how could I stop her dream from coming true. So I finally lets her go, promising to come visit her as often as possible. We both spent most of the early stages of our marriage leading separate lives.
In Pondicherry, Evangeline’s lodge became more successful when the local government began promoting tourism in the city with high profile campaigns in collaboration with the French government. But Evangeline was soon visited by a wealthy billionaire from Chennai, Jayram, who offered to buy her lodge for a fair price as he planed to develop a huge theme park resort at the site. Evangeline refused to sell it no matter how much money was offered as the place was full of memories with her mother that she would never let go for the world. Jayram’s ambitious and greedy elder brother, Balram went to the extent of terrorizing the lodge with gangsters and bribing the authorities to let them purchase the site. But being a lawyer herself, Evangeline managed to brilliantly overcome all these nuisance.
But Jayram was nothing like Balram, as Evangeline would eventually realize and repeat to me over and over again whenever she wrote to me. He constantly apologized on his brother’s behalf and agreed to leave her lodge alone, along with compensations for her lost. He also offered his friendship, to which Evangeline bluntly rejected as she was not about to forgive his family that easily for what they had done to her. 
But Jayram was not the giving up type too and continued to pursue her. He even saved her from a group of petty criminals who pretended to be clients at her lodge. I would assume this really impressed Evangeline to the extend she finally accepted his friendship. Under Jayram’s advice, Evangeline finally wrote to Gangga after years, explaining her long confined love for him.



I remember reading that letter. For some reason, it did not come like a big shock to me. Funnily, when I replied her letter, I did not seem to acknowledge the fact that my own best friend was once madly in love with me. As if I was traumatized by that thought and I wanted to pretend like it never happened. Or maybe I was just feeling lonely with Deepika not being around much anymore.
Deepika soon returned to Kuala Lumpur. Though we were initially happy to be reunited, we soon realized we were now two very different people, not the little children were once were, who were crazy about each other. Like for instance, we wanted different things in life. Very different things. I was longing to become a father. But I never knew that as a child, Gangga had witnessed her biological mother die during childbirth while giving birth to her younger brother. Ever since then, she was so traumatized that she promised herself she would never have a child of her own. I flipped and took my anger out on my sister and brother-in-law for not telling me about Deepika's condition. We further drawn apart from each other.
Deepika did nothing to change. She refused therapy and counselling. Things got worse when she read Evangeline’s letter. She finally moved out and back into her father’s house, only to discover she was pregnant. The pressure of having to go into labour nine months from now took its toll on her. She becomes depressed and avoided contact with others, almost becoming a recluse. She pestered her parents to allow her to go abroad to get an abortion. Fearing that Deepika might kill our unborn child, I had a court order arrange that would prosecute her if she did an abortion, as medical tests had proven she was in no physical or mental harm while being pregnant. Once our twins were born, Deepika left me forever, refusing to even see her new born sons, as if they mere parasites living in her womb all along. That was the last blow. I could no longer in my heart find it the strength to be with her anymore. 



While my marriage was falling apart beyond repair, love began blossoming between Evangeline and Jayram. With his charm and demure, he had managed to sweep her off her feet. She finally wrote to me, saying that she was finally gotten over me and was ready to move on. I took my sons on their first trip abroad when we attended Evangeline's wedding in Pondicherry. This was the first time we were meeting after years. I got to know Jayram and he was nothing short of a true gentleman. Evangeline was truly one lucky girl. 
Also present at the grand function was little Clementine, who had not changed one bit. She was still the flirt she was, and her crush on me never left. I think it was then, as I saw Jayram tie the thali around Evangeline's neck, and officially making her his lawfully wedded wife, I suddenly realized I too has feelings for Evangeline. Swettenham, Clementine and I saw Evangeline and Jayram off for their honeymoon. Later, she would write to me saying that in Venice, she came across an inscription of mine and Deepika’s name that we had left on an old wall during our honeymoon there.



Soon I found out that Deepika had was back in town but in rehab. Though I once loved her with all my heart, I could not find it in that same heart of mine to feel any pity for her. After all, as she had been selfish enough to kill her own children. I then decided to raise my sons, Raman and Lakshman alone. It was during this time that I paid full attention to my work, winning several high profile cases. I was blessed enough to be named several times as of the most reputable lawyers in Kuala Lumpur. 
This was when I finally started my own law firm alongside some friends. I continued to stay in touch with Evangeline, especially with the internet which was starting to gain much worldwide recognition at the time. Instead of letter, we started sending e-mails to one another. Evangeline had become Jayram’s business partner, and together they had transformed her late mother’s humble lodge into a world class theme park resort, attracting more tourists to Pondicherry. The resort still retained the same name as her mother's old lodge, in her loving memory. It was the sweetest thing ever. 
It was high time Evangeline also had children of her own. Some might find it hard to believe, but she too gave birth to a pair of twin boys, Vinayagam and Subramanian.
Years passed by and we still remained friends, though many things had happened.  All four of our teenage sons had grown to be the best of friends. Lord Swettenham died leaving his fortune to his two daughters. Clementine had married Richard, much to everyone’s surprise. My law firm was enjoying success as much as Evangeline’s resort.  But tragedy striked when Jayram died in a freak accident one faithful night on his way home after a business meeting in Chennai.
I tried to call Evangeline after my twins told me that her sons had told them this over the internet . It turned out she was not even there at the funeral as she was so depressed she was unconscious the entire day. She went into a high fever for days. I was too preoccupied with work but I could hardly concentrate as I became worried of my best friend’s condition. Having dealt with most of his high profile cases, I finally left my minor projects to my cliques to handle while I left for Pondicherry to be with Evangeline.



Finally seeing me, her best friend after many years, the bedridden Evangeline got well day by day. I took her to a therapist to help solve her problem. She finally openly talked about her lost, and made attempts to accept the death of her husband. To help keep her busy, I took her to shelters across Pondicherry to care for the sick and homeless. By divulging herself into charity work, Evangeline managed to distract herself from always thinking about her lost. When her sons were finally old enough to attend college, Evangeline left her resort and all her husband's other business companies under the care of my law firm, until her sons were old enough to run it all themselves. She decided to travel across the world doing charity work with nuns. She never forgot to send e-mails to me and her sons every time she could. 
About a year later, I had retired and handed down my law firm to my sons to run. I decided to start writing my memoirs, though I was never much a writer. I was in Rome one day finding inspiration to write when I was told by my sons that their Aunt Evangeline was in Malta attending a UNICEF conference to help impoverish children. What else? I took the next flight there!
As she was on her way back to her hotel, I gave her a big surprise. She literally yelped so loudly that many people turned to look at the two middle-aged clowns playing around like the naughty youngsters from Oxford we once were. As they tour around the city of Valetta, Evangeline revealed that she planed to become a nun and dedicate her life fulltime to serving God and the needy. Though shock at this revelation, I was supportive of her decision and told her I was proud to have such an angel as my best friend.
Evangeline’s sons came over as they were equally surprised to discover their mother’s sudden decision. But she was content with God’s plan for her. My heart was never at ease after being told of this. I could hardly think straight and had lost any inspiration I had to write my memoirs. As I somberly walked back to my hotel, my two sons too showed up . They had heard about Evangeline’s plans too and were surprised that their father supported her in this. They were heavily implying that they had assumed all along that I was in love with their Aunt Evangeline. Well, guess what? Their assumption was right.
One night before Evangeline’s christening and her eventual entry into the local monastery, she meets me at a small local cafĂ© outside town to discuss our lives so far in the last one year. Evangeline told me that her sons were hoping we would start being together. Similarly, I told her my sons also were hoping that their father would take his relationship with their Aunt Evangeline to a whole new level. 
After some awkward moments, Evangeline reminded me again that she had loved me all her life, and that when he got married she was most devastated, that was until she met her late husband. I too simply had to admit that ever since I was separated from my wife, I was almost going to propose to Evangeline, but then she married someone else. Having had that talk that evening, it changed the way both friends viewed each other completely. Evangeline started contemplating her plans, but she knew it is too late as she had made a promise to God and she will never turn back now.
So, Madam Editor, there you go. Nothing going much here, really. It's just that rather than telling someone else's story, I was telling my own; which explains the long, lengthy descriptions you come across at time. 

But, let's be frank.

You know all about my love life, just as much as I know about yours. For heaven's sake, Evangeline. You really thought I wouldn't know? Well, here you go. I have been in love. I have been in love with you, I don't know... because I'm a fool, from maybe, I don't know, the first time I laid eyes on you? 


But what was it in me that never allowed me to express myself? Was I still blinded by my puppy love for Deepika? Or was it every time either of us wanted to confess our feelings, the other would fall heads over hills for someone else? Is it the work of fate? Was God testing us all these years? 


It's been almost 30 years. Three decades! Since we last met and became the best of friends at Oxford. Part of me was relieved you did not take up life at the abbey. But another part of me got me thinking? Was this right? Should I confess? Is this the right time? Or would she say no and I'd have to live with that embarrassment all my life? 


See? Once again, lots of contemplating. But no. No more of all that. Your boys, or as I would rather call them my boys now as mine are yours just the same, had told me you had come back to Pondicherry not to long ago. Well, I will be there. Hell, by the time you read this letter, I might already be at your doorstep in a few hours time with a ring ready to propose. 


I hope you would accept.


Your ever one true love,
-Your best friend since Oxford-