You are so much stronger than you think.

Karuna smiled wryly as she wrapped the motivational poster with these words, to give to her friend, Nisha, who was going through heartbreak. “The time has come to let this poster go to someone who needs it more than I do,” Karuna said to herself. She couldn’t help but recall the story behind the poster.

She was in her late twenties, had just quit a boring job and was following her heart working with troubled young people. As part of her new mission she and a group of other social workers had travelled to Chennai for a field trip. Staying for a week, they were put up in the home of a wealthy old lady who had loads of time on her hands and kept wanting to talk to them much to their amusement. On their first evening there, a group of young people came to practise music. Leading them was someone who appeared to be in his early thirties. Very absorbed in his music and the practice, he didn’t spare Karuna and her friends a second glance.

The old lady kept talking to Karuna and asking her about her job, her parents, where she was from. Karuna and her friends decided that the old lady was a match-maker. Later that week, Karuna was asked to deliver to someone in a house down the road. Looking for an opportunity to escape the old lady, the whole gang trooped along. They knocked on the door and were surprised when it was opened by the leader of the band, Venkat. They delivered the message at the door, but he insisted they come in. He ran about getting them refreshments and seemed all flustered. Also, he kept singling out Karuna to talk to. Karuna was amused when her friends teased her about him.

Their work in Chennai got over and they headed back to Delhi. Two days later, Karuna got a call from the old lady saying someone wanted to talk to her. Before she knew what was happening, Venkat came on the line and told her that he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. Taken by surprise and not wanting to give an answer immediately she promised to respond to him soon.

A week later she called him and told him she was not ready for marriage and that he should not wait for her. To her shock, he broke down and said he couldn’t cope with the rejection. Karuna thought he was quite mad – after all they hardly knew each other. Not knowing what to say she quickly disconnected. A few days later, she saw the poster in a shop, bought it and mailed it to him with a note: Dear Venkat – I thought of you when I read this and I do believe it’s true. Stay strong ~ Karuna.

Ten years later, still single and looking, Karuna decided to sign on to a martimonial portal. Then she saw the profile. The guy seemed to have all the qualities she was looking for, except he was married before. Deciding to be open-minded she contacted him and got a long mail telling her all about himself. When she saw his name, she wondered if it could really be the same Venkat.

It turned out that he was the same guy and soon they were calling each other every day. He told her how he had got married a few years after she had turned him down. His father was dying of cancer, and wanted to see him ‘settled’ down. So he got talked into marrying a girl from a very wealthy family and much younger than he was. To keep up with her family he decided not to pursue his dream of taking up music full-time. Instead he plunged himself in to his career and kept taking up more responsibility at work, as that meant a better position and more money. He thought she’d be happy with that, but she thought he had no time for her. As much as he tried to please her, she was unhappy and restless. One day she announced that she was leaving him and took off with a much younger guy.

Hearing this, Karuna felt a twinge of guilt for all he had been through. Some part of her mind told her that she was indirectly responsible for his pain. She would make it up to him. “How did you cope?” she asked. “Remember the poster you gave me? I had framed it in my room and read it often. I realized you were right. I was much stronger than I thought I was.”

They decided to meet. Karuna found that he had matured over the years and seemed much more easy to talk to. They seemed to have a lot in common too. Before long they were discussing marriage and their parents met too. Their meeting again and marriage seemed predestined.

Venkat also began to talk about his dream of pursuing a career in music. Karuna encouraged him. She surfed the internet for Universities for his music studies. She wrote his essays to accompany his application for admission and scholarship. How happy he was when he got admission to a University in the US! Karuna helped him to write out his resignation letter and get all his paper work in order. Soon it would be time for him to leave for a year of study.

A few days before he left, he came in to Delhi to meet her. They went out for a meal and she could see something all wrapped up and sticking out of his bag. She was thrilled that he had brought her a present. “Perhaps, he’ll propose today”, she thought. She could hardly eat.

After lunch, without a preamble, he said, “I’m not ready for marriage and don’t want you to wait for me.” Her head reeled. She hadn’t seen that coming. He pulled out the parcel and asked her to open it. It was the poster. “You are so much stronger than you think.” she read. “Turn it over,” he urged. She saw her note stuck there. “Dear Venkat – I thought of you when I ………Stay strong ~ Karuna” Now he had interchanged the names. She couldn’t help smiling through her tears.

Today, 5 years after their last meeting she realized that Venkat had been right. She had survived the heartbreak. She was ready to move on and so was the poster.

As you know, I don’t normally do fiction, but I’m trying to be adventurous with my writing. It’s obvious I have miles to go, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. I would appreciate some real honest feedback – don’t worry I’ll survive – I’m so much stronger than you think 😉

May you be inspired – every day!