"Life...is not simply a series of exciting new ventures. The future is not always a whole new ball game. There tends to be unfinished business. One trails all sorts of things around with one, things that simply won't be got rid of" - Anita Brookner

1 August 2003
Said School of Business, Oxford University, UK


It is Sameer's first day at the University. It is a warm and pleasant day at Oxford but Sameer is feeling extremely homesick. He feels butterflies in the pit of his stomach. He has been finding it difficult adjusting to the food and doing his own laundry. For the past six days while settling into his room and campus life he has been talking to Tania and his Mum three times a day. His Dad had called him to wish him luck last night asked him to keep faith, he would get used to it. One saving grace was his roommate Samar, who has come to study from Australia. He is an Indian but was born and raised in Australia. Samar and he walk towards the cafeteria.

"So how did you like the first day? What do you think of the professors and our batch mates?" Samar asks.

Reflecting on his day so far, Sameer says, "Well the professors seem good, I look forward to class. With the batch mates, I don't know. Most of them are so many years older than us and with such different backgrounds. I guess it will take time for people to open up. I look forward to networking though. We have two years to make friends and build a network don't we?"
"You're right on that mate! Many of these people are over thirty years old. We've got make an effort. Well there is Kim, the girl from our class," Samar replies waving out to her.

Kim and Simone who is her roommate and is doing a communications course at Oxford walk up to them exchange introductions with Samar and Sameer. "Why don't you girls join us for a beer? We'll walk you back to your dorm after that. I could really use a drink," Samar asks. The girls agree and the four of them head to a pub nearby for a drink. Sameer gets a call, it is Tania at the other end, "Hey Sammy, how was your first day at school? Hope you had a good one."

"Well not bad, just going down for a drink with my roommate and a few others from class. It's a mixed bunch, people from different places who have done different things. Most of them are older than us. But I will get used to it. It's a matter of time. We have assignments already, do you believe that?" Sameer replies and asks, "How was your day? Did you get started on your first project?"

They speak for a while before hanging up as the four of them enter a pub, "You have a good start at work. I won't be able to come online for a couple of days. We have these assignments already and my team want to meet every evening to get them done. By the time I get done it will be midnight for you. I'll give you a buzz after class tomorrow though. Goodnight," Sameer says.

"It's ok, we'll manage. We'll talk tomorrow, good night," Tania says and hangs up. She thinks, it's not ok, I don't know how we are going to make this work. She tells herself, I need to relax. I'm just too used to having him around all the time. We'll get used to it.

"Was that your girlfriend mate?" Samar asks him to which Sameer nods. Samar continues, "Good luck managing the long distance. It won't be easy mate. Cheers to your long distance relationship."

"Well, it is difficult. I broke up before I came here. It gets difficult managing expectations. Being in different places can drive you apart, but hope it works for you," Simone adds.

"Thanks, Tania is a sweetheart. We've been through a lot in our relationship. It's been three years. I'll do what I can to make it work. She is very understanding too," Sameer says with hope.

After a two beers with his new acquaintances he decides to leave and go back to his room. "I'll see you later people, it was nice catching up. I need to go and rest it's been a long day," he says walking out of the pub after hearing, "cheers, take care mate!" from the girls and "I'll be back in an hour," from Samar. He walks towards their residence accommodations with a desolate look on his face battling the piercing cold breeze. He looks at the purplish glow in the sky and watches a stream of people walk towards and from the lane leading to the underground station realising the English summer was cooler than the winter back home in Bombay. Alone for the first time he remembers the night before he left Bombay to embark upon his new journey in life.

*******
Seven days earlier...
24 July 2003
Tania's home, Cuffe Parade


Sameer and Tania walk into Tania's room and he pulls her close with a mischievous grin while his gaze meets hers. He takes off his shoes and his sweat shirt while Tania looks at him invitingly. He puts his arms around her and helps her undress before he takes her in for a warm shower together. "I love you so much, this feels so good," he tells her. He moves her hair to one side and kisses her at the nape of her neck and her warm bare back to which she exclaims 'Mmm…' ecstatically. Sameer realises how long it could be till they make love again.

Tania smiles coyly at him and splashes water in his face. Her initial shyness about being in this situation with Sameer has almost gone. They wipe each other dry after the warm bath and Sameer carries her to the bed where he makes love to her passionately. "I have waited so long to let you make me feel this," she tells him softly while he kisses her again.

"It's been worth wait the sweetheart," he says with an intense gaze and continues, "after this I'm only going to miss you more. It's going to make it harder for us being apart." Tania sighs and clings on to him realizing that he will be thousands of miles away from her at the same time tomorrow. She feels pangs of loss and sadness. The person who has grown to be closest to her and with whom she is waiting to spend the rest of her life with is moving so far away from her. A world beyond him for her does not exist.

They have managed to spend the past three hours together without anyone disturbing them. They made up after the argument they had earlier because Sameer was too busy to spend time with Tania till this evening as he was busy meeting relatives and winding up his shopping. He met her at the Louis Pierre store in Crawford Market and they had come to Tania's place together. Tania's parents are out for a movie, one which she had planned for and had persuaded them to go to.

Sameer meanwhile playfully runs his fingers through her beautiful tresses and has mixed feelings about flying out the next evening. On one side he is sad and worried about a life away from his parents, his younger brother Rajveer whom he adores, Vikram and the gang and most importantly Tania. Tania is his first love. He remembers the intimacy they shared four nights ago after they spent time with friends at Athena and the dip in the sea and the long walk with her on the beach in Alibaug two days back after his farewell party.
Sameer and Tania lie in a tiny bed ideally suited to Tania's small frame with their thoughts far away oblivious to the world outside them. He wonders how he would make the long distance work and about other guys being attracted to Tania. He will miss the way he felt when she smiles at him, when she kisses him softly on his lips while putting her arms around him, her voice, her soft skin and the look in her eyes when she speaks to him. At the same time Sameer is excited and is looking forward to his life in Oxford and the MBA Program he is enrolled in. He looks forward to meeting and interacting with people from over forty different nationalities, attending seminars and conclaves where business leaders would speak and the opportunity to acquire knowledge and hone his skills.

Sameer and Tania's thoughts are interrupted by Sameer's phone ringing. It is ten minutes past eight and Vikram has called to say that Naina and he will be picking them up in twenty minutes for a quick dinner. Tanveer has decided not to join them and would instead come to Sameer's place early the next day to help him pack. They get dressed slowly and go down together with Tania's hand in his and a smile on their face.

The four of them leave for a relaxed dinner at Blue Sea, a popular restaurant near the beach known for its sea food and great ambience. Tonight is exceptionally good as they are fortunate to have a clear sky and some gentle breeze which isn't a frequent occurrence in the month of July. The rain Gods spare Sameer on his last night for a long time to come in Bombay. The two couples spend some intimate moments and share a few laughs about the old times gone by. They sip wine and converse about the life ahead of them, their plans, things people they know are doing and how life after college is so different.

After dinner Vikram drops Tania off at her place. The four of them speak little during the drive back being a little drunk and sleepy. Sameer walks her to her porch and gives her a long good night kiss while Vikram uses the time to flirt with Naina in the car. Tania has tears in her eyes, "I'll see you tomorrow morning. Please get some sleep," she says and she gives him a tight squeeze.

"Hey, take it easy on yourself, I'll call you when I get home, ok?" Sameer says running his fingers through her long tresses. Tania nods and walks towards the door turning around to look at him again while he stands there and smiling at her and waves goodnight.

A few minutes later Vicky drops Sameer outside his building and with a yawn, "Sam I'll see you tomorrow morning…oops tomorrow afternoon, I can't wake up that early, I will come with you to the airport. What time do we leave tomorrow?"

Sameer leans against the rear window, "Come as early as you can, Tanveer and Tania should be there by ten, try and come by lunch time at least, we leave at four for the airport, flight is at six-thirty. I'll give you a wakeup call," he says and pulls away from the window with weary smile.

Naina gets out of the car, she is dolled up as usual wearing a tight red dress and an intoxicating fragrance. She gives Sameer a hug and stands on her toes to give him a peck on his cheek. "Goodbye wise guy will miss hanging out with you. Let's chat online whenever you can. Sorry I have my shoot and can't make it tomorrow but good luck with Oxford and living in the UK. Stay the same," she adds sweetly.

Sameer gives her a hug thanking her, and walks away saying a difficult goodbye to Naina after which Vicky and she drive away. Sameer isn't really close to Naina but her words now and Tania's tears a while back strike him that he really is going away. Come tomorrow, his life would be completely different from what it has been for twenty two years.
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