Aasim and Pallavi were schoolmates and lived in the same, affluent part of the town. They used to play together as little kids along with the other children.. Like most of the middle class residents of that locality, their parents sent them to the best school in town which had two sections one each for girls and boys.
In due course, Aasim the older of the two was the first to go off to college in Bombay about 500 Kms away from the town where they lived. Two years later, Pallavi too did the same but went to a College for girls and stayed in the hostel attached to the college whereas Aasim was in a co-ed college and stayed in a boys hostel attached to that college.
Nature did its job and the two used to meet whenever possible in the big city and the childhood relationship blossomed into a great romance without either family back home knowing anything about it.
I came into the picture in the early seventies of the last century when I was a junior sales manager for my then employer. Pallavi’s father, Purushottam was a customer who used to visit my office often in those days when merchants had to visit the main cities to keep their supply lines open as a lot of cash deals used to take place in those glorious high taxation socialist government days of my great country. He would settle all his matters in the wholesale market and then come over to our office to keep us in good humour and to place orders or to complain about something having gone in earlier supplies. He was always a welcome visitor from who I used to gather a lot of market intelligence. On a few occasions, he had brought Pallavi to our office and I met her under those circumstances and would oblige the proud father by speaking in English with that smart girl and ask her about her studies and progress. As part of my market visits, I also had to visit Purushottam in his shop and we developed a good working relationship.
Aasim’s father too was a merchant but in a different line of business altogether and I had no occasion to meet him. I accidentally happened to meet the love birds once in a restaurant when the background to this story came out from the two of them. Aasim was about to graduate from the university and was planning to seek employment in the city after that. Pallavi requested me not to mention meeting her and about Aasim to her father and I obliged.
I was transferred out of the city in 1973 and returned in 1977 to a different role. Visits to our office by Purushottam had stopped by then as a branch office had been opened in the smaller market and he had no reason to visit the main city. Despite that however, Purushottam visited me once while he was on some other errand and informed me that he had lost touch with Pallavi in 1974 as she had, to quote his words, run away with Aasim without any forwarding address and neither set of parents had a clue as to what had happened to the couple. He further informed me that he would have nothing further to do with his daughter for having brought disgrace to him and his family.
A small piece of information that would be necessary to proceed with this story further. Asim was a Muslim and Pallavi a Hindu. Purushottam was a Sindhi who came to India during the great partition when he was a young teenager and like most such refugees had a total aversion to Muslims. It was galling for him that his daughter had run away with a Muslim and predicted that she would come to a miserable end.
I wish that I could end the story to prove that his prediction was wrong, but it turned out exactly like he had predicted. I met Pallavi in 1985 when she came to seek employment with us as she was in dire need. Aasim and she had run away to Bangalore before she could graduate and on the assurance of a friend of Aasim to get him a job in Bangalore. She converted to Islam and got married and in due course produced two children as well. While Aasim’s family readily accepted her, her life had become like other Muslim women, one of high domestication and confinement. Aasim could not keep a job and went back to join his father in his business and it did not help matters that Pallavi’s family would not accept her back. After seeing the marriage collapsing with no other recourse, Pallavi left behind her children with Aasim’s family and ran away back to Bombay and that is how she landed up at my office one day seeking my help.
I wish now that I could have helped. I could not then and had to advise her to go back to her husband instead of living precariously in the big bad city. Quite whether she took my advise or not, I do not know. I lost track of her and when I spoke to Purushottam on another matter six years ago, he too had no clue about what had happened to her.
I hope that she had successfully survived and even flourished. She deserved better than what she got for falling in love.