Ravinder Singh lifted an eyebrow as he noticed the story started with his name. With a little
more interest he checked the name of the story and the author again. The name was
‘Chance’, and it was written by Rudra Sengupta. There was even a short note before the
story, which was to set the motion of the tale that followed:
My name is Rudra Sengupta, and this story is the truth that I cannot live hiding any more.
This story is not about a contest, or getting printed in a book, or to even reach thousands of
people. It should reach only one person at least, the one who matters the most, the one I am
writing this for, and, most importantly, the one I love. This is the story of my life—not the
life that others see, but the one I live within.
Ravinder started to read ‘Chance’, by Rudra Sengupta, knowing it will be nothing but a
pile of messed up feelings …
‘Ravinder Singh gave an interesting treatment to the book. Not that you will agree to
everything, but give it a read,’ Ree said with a smile as she put Can Love Happen Twice?
on the table.
Rudra picked it up and said, ‘I won’t? But I thought I will agree to it. At least the title
says so. Love can happen hundred times if you are ready.’
‘It’s not that. Just read it, will you?’
‘Sure, I will,’ said Rudra, as he pushed his coffee to Ree and went to get another one
from the counter.
It was another typical Sunday and, just like any other one, Rudra and Riyanka were sitting
on their favourite table of the café near Rudra’s apartment. They had never missed a Sunday
for last four years, not when they were in college, dating other people, busy with interview
preparations or busy on weekdays with the new jobs. Everything has changed since they
first came here, but not the ritual of their meeting—talking about life, getting older and
everything else that happens to them.
‘So, tell me about the new one,’ Rudra said as he came back, ‘He is real, right? I sure
hope he isn’t another one of your soap opera stars.’
‘It’s not that all the time, you know that. Ujaan is a colleague, HR department.’
‘Oh! So this one has a name, and belongs to a department too. Good girl, you are
‘I am. Am not I? And the crush is stronger too.’
Rudra looked at Ree’s eyes. They were wide with excitement, even her cheeks were
getting all red, but she had that crooked smile of hers, which, Rudra knew by then, was a
sign of anticipation. She was expecting it to be something real. She had been single for
almost an entire year, and for her it was more than she could take. Rudra took a sip from his
coffee mug, choosing his words carefully, and said, ‘You know what you are doing, right?’
‘When did I ever? Come on! Tell me what I want.’ Ree threw herself back on the chair.
‘What’s that now? It’s your crush and I am done telling you what you need. It never works
‘It works just fine, you dumbo, but any boy I like turns out to be just the same, every time.
I don’t expect you to be spot on all the time, but you often know better than me what I need.’
‘What you need now is a fling. You are not ready for a relationship. You are just lonely
and living alone makes it harder.’
‘I suppose it’s true. I am not ready, but the boys I know are not good enough for flings.
They are a little too simple for that.’
‘Then you need a man,’ Rudra said standing up, ‘and I have to leave now. The apartment
is a mess. I need to unpack.’
They came out of the café and it was raining heavily. Ree took her umbrella out and
asked, ‘Can I offer you a lift, mister?’
Rudra took the umbrella from her hand and they walked in silence towards his apartment
building, which was about a five-minutes’ walk away. Ree returned from the doorstep,
denying Rudra’s proposal of coming in, ‘I don’t want you to trap me with all the unpacking
crap,’she reasoned, with a wink.
Rudra’s apartment was only few kilometres from his home, where he lived with his
parents and young sister till a few days ago. He moved in here because it was closer to his
office, which gave him a lot of time to spend with his own self, which was, as Rudra
always put it, ‘fundamental for writers’.
It was a small apartment with two tiny rooms. What made him take it up was the large,
open terrace attached to it. He stood at the door of the terrace, watching the rain slowing
down. He used to get wet every time it rained even till few years ago, but now he felt
satisfied just watching. Rudra was a tall, well-built man, with dreamy eyes. He was among
the witty ones who could cast a spell over people instantly. His charming smile attracted
everyone, especially the girls, but what made him a real charmer was his understanding of
women’s minds. He was as close as a man can ever be to knowing what women wanted,
and he loved that about himself.
The more he undid the layers of women’s minds, the more he fell in love with them. He
loved everything about them, right from the complexities to the confusions of their minds,
and he never failed to let them know that. Rudra knew girls were attracted to him and he
enjoyed that. He never left a chance to make them fall for him, but he kept himself from
committing. He found himself falling in love with most girls and so a relationship with only
one girl seemed a waste of a beautiful life to him. There were a few women who moved
him more than the others, but despite trying honestly, he was unable to continue with the
ones he dated. Sooner or later, he figured out all of them, and that ended the chance of any
All he needed, always, was a woman who would make him work, who would not be
charmed by him and who would never be easy enough for Rudra to understand. The only
girl who had ever made him feel this incapable was Ree. The very first day he tried to make
a move on Ree in college, she looked back on him with a playful smile, and said, ‘I am
happily stable with a boy, but I sure wish I wasn’t, so I could just reject you for no reason.’
He was shaken by her forwardness, but he managed to say, ‘I wish that too, so I could
finally meet a challenge worth running for.’
For some strange reason, Ree kept him close. They were fast friends, and it didn’t take
Rudra much time to realize that she was off limits. She was smart, strong and funny, and she
carried a certain weight that he’d never felt in any woman before. He was fascinated by her
beauty. Her deep brown eyes, soft and everlasting smile, voice, glowing skin and her
playful yet controlling way of treating him made Rudra go weak in his knees, but he knew
too well where his limits were. Ree loved to make him envious of the man she dated, or the
men who showed interest in her. They shared a strange bond. They were friends with
potential. They stood on the transition line of friendship and devotion. They both enjoyed
their strange friendship, but never crossed the line even for a weak moment.
Rudra kept himself busy with the attentions he got from the other girls. Even when Ree
broke up with her long-time boyfriend, Rudra didn’t try to woo her. He helped her to get
over the man and move on quickly. He even fixed her dates with his friends, and it was not
long before she was in another relationship. He was comfortably happy with the way
everything was; and apart from the playful flirting and occasional affectionate poems, he
never tried to disturb the order.
Just in the middle of Mass Comm and Journalism, final year, Ree decided to be on her
own for some time. Rudra was supportive again, but it all changed on the final day of
college. The farewell party of their college was the wake-up call for him. Standing in
middle of the hall room, watching her dancing with other students, moving her body with the
music, Rudra realized that life, the way he knew it, would never be the same again. He
knew he couldn’t trick himself any more. He had been in love with Ree for years, but he
was afraid—afraid of the girl he could never really figure out, the girl who was better than
him in every possible way. On the way back home that evening, Ree gave him a hug and
said, ‘It will be weird not seeing you every day.’ And all he could do in response was to
Sitting there, watching the last few drops of rain—like the silent tears at the end of a
tragic love story—Rudra realized how helpless he was. The empty terrace was crashing
into him from all around, and all he could think about was how his life, journalism and
dreams of being a writer would all be meaningless without Ree being a part of all that. She
was the kind of woman who had inspired great creations since the very beginning of
mankind. It was women like her who always forced great paintings, songs and poems out of
men. All these feelings were kept inside him for a long time, trying to find a way out. And
when Ree talked about her screwed-up relationships to him, all he did was to tell her that
the right man was just on his way.
His thoughts were broken by the sound of his phone. He read the message from Ree:
Check ur facebook. I hv sent u ujaan’s pic.
Rudra wanted to reply with a lot of things, but when he typed, all that he wrote was: Sure.
A message came again: He will like me, rite?
Rudra: Of course he will.
Ree: Hw can u be so sure?
Rudra: When was I wrong ever?
Ree: I knw! Bt hw?
Rudra: I know because you are the most beautiful person, inside out. You are smart and
messed up in the most beautiful way possible. You are challenging, and you are like a
glacier that stays a feet over the ocean and goes a mile within it, existing but invisible.
Making Rudra wait for few heart-stopping minutes, Ree finally replied: Oh! I almost fell
in love again 😉
‘Almost it is!’ Rudra thought in his mind, and just replied with a wink. He started his
laptop and signed in to Facebook. There was a message from Ree, with a picture of a boy,
whom Rudra found extremely flat. His cute smile seemed immature to Rudra, and his bright
eyes looked blank. Rudra was jealous and he hated that more than he hated Ujaan, but, like
always, he replied, ‘Not bad … not bad at all.’ He turned the laptop off, and started
unpacking. He had an apartment to decorate, to live by himself only.
That night, Rudra was chatting with Ree on Facebook, hearing about how great Ujaan
was, when an update from Penguin India caught his eyes. They were arranging a love-story
writing contest, and Rudra, right at that moment, knew what he needed to do. He could not
speak his mind, but he could always write it out. He knew that if it failed then he could
always escape with the ‘it-was-just-a-story’ excuse, but if it worked then he would have
everything he needed. For some strange reason, the idea of his story not getting published at
all never hit his mind.
He took his laptop and sat on the terrace later that night. Before doing this, he wanted to
be sure that it was what he actually wanted. He knew life with Ree would be challenging,
and there would be a constant struggle to keep up the peace, but that excited him the most.
Words were everything Rudra needed. He felt most comfortable with them, as long as he got
to write them but not speak. He knew what he needed was a way to make Ree understand
what he felt, and there was nothing better than telling their own story, with his true feelings.
Even a little bit of love could give birth to unreasonable hope and courage. For him, there
was desperation with love, and that made logic obsolete. He knew all too well that only
irrational truth could get through to Ree, the girl who had always believed in reasoning. He
emptied his heart out with each of his words and wrote the story, which he believed to be
his only chance to reach the one he loved.
Ravinder Singh scrolled down to check if the story, if he could call it that, had actually
ended. He immediately fell sorry for Rudra. He thought Rudra Sengupta neither knew the art
of storytelling nor did he understand women, which he thought he was good at. If he had,
then he would know that all Ree wanted was for him to act like a man, and speak up.
Ravinder Singh knew what he had to do …
By the time of the final announcements from Penguin India, Ujaan was already history and
Ree was constantly pushing Rudra to find her a real man. All he was doing was waiting for
the day to come when his story was published—so that she would realize that the man who
loved her had always been there in front of her!
On the day the contest’s results were to be declared, he logged into his email, and the
obvious results were in front of him. His story had not been selected and, for the first time,
he realized that he’d never even considered this possibility, which was the only one all
along. He felt numb and stupid. He wished he had never written the story, and he thought he
had a snowball’s chance in hell to do anything about it any more. Just when he was about to
get up, a second email entered his inbox. It was from Ravinder Singh, who had asked Rudra
to check Ravinder’s official Facebook page. Rudra didn’t have any idea what he was doing.
His hands took over as he logged in to the page. To his absolute surprise, his story was
posted on the page. For a moment he though it was all a dream, but he sure wished it was
not. Ree was a member of the page, and that kept Rudra’s hopes alive, which grew faint
with every passing moment, as Ree didn’t try to reach him.
He was standing on the terrace that evening, watching the busy street below him, full of
people walking together. He felt even lonelier, and the street lights were becoming blurry
slowly. Rudra closed his eyes, clutching the railing. He almost felt like throwing his phone
away as far as he could, when it suddenly rang. It was Ree. He had heard about the feeling
of fluttereing butterflies in the stomach, but what he felt were not butterflies. They were
angry eagles. He gathered all his strength to pick the phone up, and said, ‘Hey!’
Ree replied with a clear and strong voice, ‘Why me? Choose your answer wisely,
For a moment Rudra’s heart stopped. He took a long, deep breath and said, ‘I have no
‘You know,’she said with her playful voice, ‘for a man who wants to make money by
writing, you are awful with words.’
Rudra felt too weak to stand. He sat down, with his back on the railing, and said with a
trembling voice, ‘Because I don’t understand you, and I want to spend my life trying to do
that. Is there a better way to spend your life with someone than to discover that person little
by little every day? I know every day with you will be a new adventure and that is all I need
with you. I can’t promise you eternal happiness but I can assure you that our life will be a
carnival. Just give me a chance, for once …’
‘Okay! You are not that bad. Now tell me the magic words, and I will think about it,’she
said with a laugh.
All Rudra could say was, ‘I … umm … Can I message you that, maybe?’
Faking a disappointed voice, Ree replied, ‘Oh dear lord! I have a hell of a lot of work to
do with you, Rudra!’ And there was nothing but silence from his side.
Three years had passed since that phone call and Rudra was sitting beside Ree’s bed,
watching their newborn baby sleep.
Ree took his hand in hers and said, ‘Sorry I kicked you! I was in pain and you were the
one to blame.’
Rudra looked at her, and said with mock anger, ‘Ya right! It’s my baby only, right?’
Ree pressed Rudra’s hand and he said, ‘She has your eyes, deep and brown.’
‘Ahh! Thank God for that,’said Ree, as she laughed out loud.
He took a notepad out of his bag, wrote ‘I Love You’ and gave it to Ree. She read it with
a smile and looked at him as she said ‘Oh dear lord! I still have a hell of a lot of work to do
with you, Rudra!’