Yeh ILU ILU Kya Hai?

Shantanu Adhicary

Ever since I can remember, I was a true believer in love. Pyaar. Ishq. Mohabbat. Ishq wala love. Love wala ishq. Pyaar wala Mohabbat. All of them. And more.

One of my earliest memories of school is sharing a pack of Poppins with a beautiful girl. That, and cursing a girl in a furious mix of bengali and hindi – that even though she is fair, she looks like shit. (In my defense, she had challenged my complexion publicly.)

As I grew up, I went from one school to another, falling in love over and over again. Not that I had any beautiful stories or encounters worth remembering. That I wasn’t adventurous, wasn’t a bad boy, and was mostly the teacher’s favorite – didn’t help my cause.

As I grew up, I went from one school to another, falling in love over and over again.

That was the phase when any movie with any reference to bachpan ka pyaar would become an instant favorite. Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja. Muqaddar Ka Sikandar. Having a childhood sweetheart was, somehow, really very important to me.

A significant percentage of summer vacation afternoons during the 90s were spent dreaming up tales of kiddy love (apart from the occasional Mario Bros from the 999999 games cassette).

Durga Puja was spent trying to be less awkward in shiny new clothes while listening to cousins gossip about other families and their kids. The rest of next year was spent trying to find more about ‘that girl who looked so beautiful on Navami’. That red shirt became the ‘favorite’ red shirt for the next 10 years because the ‘most beautiful girl on Navami’ smiled at me when I was wearing it.

That red shirt became the ‘favorite’ red shirt for the next 10 years because the ‘most beautiful girl on Navami’ smiled at me when I was wearing it.

I put the ‘hopeless’ in ‘hopeless romantic’.

I was always one girl away from the perfect childhood love story.

I remember this one girl in class 5th. I had moved to a new school and in the first quarterly exams, toppled her from the first position in class. But she was better and consistent, and I was – well – a waste of my parents’ money, to be frank. However, in the words of Ravi Shastri, ‘a keen contest was on the cards’.

It was all very exciting till one fine day our English teacher asked us to write a poem in our Grammar class. I, with all my Secret Seven reading prowess, could barely manage to write four comprehensible lines of disastrous prose. She had written three stanzas. Three beautiful stanzas that rhymed. The whole class applauded – boys more enthusiastically than girls, and I, rather reluctantly. The teacher went ballistic with praise.

I had a new life mission.

Poetry.

I spent a large part of that year writing poems (in retrospect, I should have been reading them). I wrote furiously, I rhymed furiously. Each line was more cringe-worthy than its predecessor. The more I wrote, the more I fell in love with her. Like proper love. ‘Write her name in soap foam on my arm while taking a shower’ love.

I wrote furiously, I rhymed furiously. Each line was more cringe-worthy than its predecessor.

She left school later that year, and the city too. At the end of the year though, we both had our poems published in the School Magazine. She had two, I had three.

To paraphrase the great Ravi Shastri again –  In the end, the school magazine was the winner.

Or not.

Towards the end of the 90s, DDLJ had finished five years, love stories were no longer happening in India, and a foreign location was required. I had discovered dialup internet and Sonali Bendre’s videos from Major Saab. Love had taken a back seat, and finishing Tomb Raider was more important.

Towards the end of the 90s, DDLJ had finished five years, love stories were no longer happening in India, and a foreign location was required.

Till one day, when I couldn’t go to school because I was unwell. (Mom had tried to feed me a few extra egg rolls and my bengali stomach called for a bandh). One day turned into six blissful days of food poisoning induced joyous homework-less recovery.

On Sunday, a friend from school hopped over and after a couple of rounds of carrom, secretly handed me a note.

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On Sunday, a friend from school hopped over and after a couple of rounds of carrom, secretly handed me a note.

I, like any boy of decent upbringing and good culture, asked him to get lost and leave me alone with my very own personal note.

In that quiet moment with that note, a lot was going through my head.

Was this going to be my first love letter?

Was this it? THE THREE MAGICAL WORDS?

All those years of planning and dreaming and all it took for me to get a love letter was… food poisoning?

Brushing everything aside, very carefully, as to not damage the precious contents and emotions within, I opened the note.

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Positive start. I did as I was told. ­­­­­­

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A FLOWER!

This was it.

Flower.

Only one thing could follow flowers.

Three magical words.

I turned the page.

And there were three words there.

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———————————————–

It has been more than a decade since then. But I still carry this piece of paper around with me wherever I go. I had it with me in Nagpur, in the Boys hostel in Jaipur, in the dingy apartment with green walls in Chennai, and I have it with me here, in Lousiana.

I eventually found out who sent me this note.

We met after school and I narrated this story to her and we laughed. We laughed at how dumb I was and how nice she was and how young and naïve we were. Naïve to believe that there are only three magical words in this world. While there are so many more.

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