With or Without You

Lyric- With a word she can get what she came for.

Agastya was sitting on a steel bench at Platform Number 4 of the CP station, which lies along the Blue line of the Delhi Metro. It is the best thing that has ever happened to Delhi, he thought. He looked at the numerous people that dizzied around the circular area of the station. He saw a young boy burdened with a school bag coming out of the train. Next to him was a lady yelling at the top of her voice, “Give me the way. Hatiye Hatiye” Behind her was an old man, who was following her, hoping that she’d lead him out of the crowd.

It had been exactly a year since his life had metamorphosed due to the Metro. Same place, same time and very soon the same people would meet again to change their lives once again. Agastya was in deep thought. He was reflecting on how he had spent the last 365 days, 8760 hours and the infinite minutes with someone who was so dear to him. There was no singing and dancing, but only the love, nay want for each other. We wanted each other too much, he wondered.

By now, 3 trains had left from the platform. His company was late. As unusual was the meeting spot was the way in which these two had first met. Platform number four has a bookshop towards one of its end. People buy books for two reasons; one that they want to build up a library to show off or they want to read the book and then show it off. Well Agastya belonged to the first category and Maya to the second. Oh, Maya is the female protagonist, if I missed out. Well, on 17 October a year earlier, they bumped into each other at the platform bookshop. Both of them remembered it very well…

“Is there any book by Sidney Sheldon?” Maya asked the counter in charge

“I bet you want to know the other side of me. Sidney Sheldon is a great author. You have a great taste for books,” exclaimed Agastya.

“I see you have recognized his autobiography. Have you read Tell Me Your Dreams?” questioned a suspicious Maya.

“The one on MPD. ‘Course I have. She conveys her character so beautifully,” boasted Agastya.


“Yes. Sidney…” said Mr. Dumb-ster.

Maya was less amused and more disappointed. She picked up a book from the pile of Sidney’s works, which the employee had just kept. She showed him the back cover. It had a picture of a handsome old person.

Maya said, “Sidney Sheldon is Male.”

She left the book in his hand, with a smiling Sidney looking at him.

Soon after, both of them reached the counter. Maya had chosen some Fiction whereas Agastya bought just one book – “The Greatest Authors of All Times.”

“I hope they tell genders in there,” cracked Maya.

“Well, I hope they do because I don’t want to look dumb again in front of some one so smart,” flirted Agastya.

“You might not know your books, but you sure do know your words,” replied Maya.

“Agastya…” he introduced himself with a shake hand and smile.


Agastya smirked.

“What?” asked Maya.

“Well. Agastya was a saint and Maya is illusion of the world, something all saints run away from,” replied Agastya.

“You can’t blame her, anyone would like to be in the company of such great saints,” said Maya playing along this teen-ish game of words.

The Billing Boy interrupted them with the receipts of their transactions. It wasn’t the money on the bill that brought them back to their senses but the fact they were romancing in of the most boring places ever. Agastya took out his Maroon Parker and scribbled his phone number across her bill. She did the same with her Mont Blanc….

Agastya was still waiting for her. She’d never been this late. Suddenly something fell on the floor that awoke him from his introspection. He bent down to pick up whatever had been separated from him. It was his Maroon Parker.

Agastya had been expecting her for almost an hour. He took out his cell phone and opened his phone book. He could see Maya’s name. He thought it was best to wait a while and then hit the key. He then recollected the time when they were together and happy.

“Honey, do you think we should get married?” asked Maya.

“I’ve been thinking about that too,” replied Agastya.

“It’s been about 6 months that we have been living together. I think it’s time we…”

Agastya smiled. He picked her up from the sofa she was sitting on and carried her to the bedroom.

“Hey! Naughty little you!” exclaimed Maya.

They were to get married the following December, but something snapped the bond between the two; like the time when you carefully carry a glass of water, yet some falls out.

Agastya gathered the courage and dialed the number. The number that you are trying to call is currently busy. Please, try again later. Its ok if she doesn’t want to pick up my phone, thought Agastya.

But he never understood what went wrong in their relationship. She didn’t get pregnant like it always happens in soap operas that try to imitate real life. They weren’t bored of each other, given a chance they would still talk endlessly about the wonderful wanderings they did together. They trusted each other and neither of them did anything to break it. What then was so powerful that split the lovely villa they shared? It was the dreadful test of expectation, which every relationship has to go through-they apparently failed. He remembered how carefully drafted their separation was. Their first fight.

“Hey this is my story for the column. Be the first reader and tell me how it is?” asked Maya.

“Ok,” said Agastya.

He read it silently. He tried to comprehend the symphony of words, the magic of letters and the secrecy of metaphors.

“It’s fabulous!” exclaimed Agastya.

“What do you think happens in the end?” asked Maya.

“Well, to be frank, I don’t think she comes back. You leave it quite mysterious over there,” replied Agastya.

“And what about the Latin titles I give in between?”

“There are nice too….”

“And the references to the authors?”

“Oh…I hope they don’t accuse you of plagiarism.”

“And…the bus ride?” asked Maya.

“Very well described,” responded Agastya.

“Well. Bull Shit. There was no bus ride.”

She threw the papers on his face and walked away. When you stomp out, you are not free you are like the cockroach who knows that it’ll be killed, but still keeps on returning to the kitchen.

Agastya returned from the retrospective. He saw people rushing from the trains to the exit gates, someone had moved out of his life too. He kept pondering. Agastya looked at the bookshop. He got up and made his way through the crowd.

The Bookshop hadn’t changed. It was the same brightly lit small area that boasted a collection of the finest books. It was truly, a place meant for the intellectual. Agastya moved in. He went straight to the Drama section. He stared motionlessly for a long time. He simpered.

“William Shakespeare, you think you know us? You think true love exists? You think with your words, you can change the world? Well you can. You’re amazing. You’re the best,” spoke Agastya to himself.

He grabbed Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. One of the most famous lovers of the world. Even if they were just 1% of them…

He opened it on a random page. Agastya glanced through it. He heard someone say something.

“ And Juliet said ‘O, think’st thou we shall ever meet again?’”

Without bothering whom it was, Agastya said: “I doubt it not; and all these woes shall serve for sweet discourses in our time to come.”

( In the12 Red Herrings, Jeffery Archer did a strange thing in the last story of the book. He gave the story 4 different endings and asked the readers to read all of them or choose any one of them as their ending. When I read that story, I thought it was weird that he did that. Today, when I write this, I understand why he did that, as I too feel the requirement of alternative endings. Listed below you are the four endings that struck me when I thought how to end this story. Rather than taking the guilt and burden of choosing the appropriate one myself, I choose you to make the choice.)


He turned around to see the ever so beautiful Maya standing.

“How are you?” she asked.

“You came…”

“I did and I will stay with you forever.”

“You will…”

“I will…”

Both of them hugged each other. It was a moment of joy, one that the heavens bless, and one that comes rarely in life. It was the feeling of achieving the impossible. Their differences melted in the warmth that they shared and what blossomed from the tears they shed, was the beautiful bud of love that was hidden somewhere in them.

She came. She had a word and she got what she wanted. Maya and Agastya remained happy ever after.


He turned around but saw no one. He had hoped and day dreamt that it was Maya. She had not come and she wouldn’t either. Agastya was now a wreck. Somewhere deep down he had wanted that she would turn up and that everything would be fine. Unfortunately it wasn’t so. It was as if in that moment he had lost everything. He was devastated.

Mindless and confused he made his way out of the bookshop. He felt numb, oblivious of all that was around him. He kept walking. The bookshop was on a platform and every platform has a track and every track has its first attempt to suicide. Agastya just kept heading towards the tracks without the intention of ending himself; he was just blank. He fell from the platform onto the tracks, metaphoric of his falling into the ditch of misery. He got up but did not understand anything. All he could hear was the noises of the people asking him to come out, the fights that Maya and he had fought and the last thing he heard was the blaring noise of the Metro coming towards him, announcing the arrival of the chariot of the God of Death.

She did not come. She did not have a word and neither of them got what they wanted. The Metro was the best thing that had ever happened to Delhi and the worse thing that had happened to Agastya. The worst always remained Maya.


He turned around and saw someone who was extremely pretty. Prettier than anyone he had ever seen. She spoke, “ You do know your words.”

Sometimes in life all we need is a hit on the head to make us realize that there is so much ahead of us. Agastya’s mind forgot all about Maya and the past and the love. It now ventured into new territory. It wasn’t hungry; it was just insecure and worried. It wanted someone to be with it, to stand by it and most importantly– to replace Maya in her long absence.

“Thanks. I am Agastya.”

“Ria. Hi. So you like Shakespeare?”

“Better than Sidney Sheldon…” replied Agastya.

She didn’t come. They didn’t have a word. But he got what he wanted-the filling of the gross emptiness


He turned around and he saw her. She was as simple and as beautiful as always. Maya the illusion, was casting her magic in that shop like she had some time ago.

“You came…” said Agastya.

“I did. How are you?”

“A wreck without you,” he laughed.

“You were a wreck with me, you look much better now,” she said.

“So how is life?” Agastya asked.

“Going to Germany tonight. Cracked a job with the Benz guys, came here to say goodbye.”

“Ok. I guess we wanted each other too much to let go. I think once you go, we’ll learn to move on and hopefully understand that we don’t need each other to face the world. We are brave enough to do it ourselves,” replied Agastya. Even if he didn’t understand what he had just said about the complex strands of love, emotion and parting, he pretended he did; it is always easier that way.

“So one last cup of coffee?” asked Maya.

“Just one?” laughed Agastya.

“You don’t know your books. You don’t know me. But you sure do know how to flirt,” said a clever Maya.

They went to the coffee house and sat there and talked endlessly. She came; they had more than a word and both of them got what they wanted, a goodbye and a last glimpse.

* Latin for fable, tale or play

^ Latin for a traitor, betrayer.

” Latin for change, alteration, transformation.

# Latin for a good deal

Rohan Chawla