"You said you had killed your girlfriend. For some reason, I just cannot bring myself to believe it."

 Forever is a Lie!

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Prisha took a deep breath as she found herself standing outside the G-Punch office. Then she walked right in. Ignoring the receptionist, she pushed open the glass door and stepped into the area where people were busy working on their desktops. She turned right and barged into Saveer's cabin. He was typing something on his laptop. The receptionist came running after her.

'I need five minutes. That's all,' Prisha pleaded. Saveer studied her and then gestured to the receptionist to leave.

'What is it?' he asked.

Prisha handed him a note. 'I'm more coherent when I write down anything. I just want you to read it in front of me. I'll leave right after.'

Saveer took the note, opened it, peered at her over his spectacles, and started reading.

Saveer took the note, opened it, peered at her over his spectacles, and started reading.

From the time you told me about Complete Love, I got lost in its concept. I couldn't help but think, not only about it, but also about you. What made you discover it? Most importantly, I too wanted to experience it. It felt as if I was imploring you to teach me a skill, like swimming, that I didn't have. It was after days of mulling over the feeling that you had brewed inside me that I finally understood what it was that you had done that made me fall head over heels for you. You made me unlearn, Saveer. Love is so tricky. I know you may already know this but take for instance these two words: coronation and corrosion. They might sound similar but have very different meanings. I thought my last relationship was an emotional coronation of sorts . . . but guess what? I realized with bitter experience that it was actually a corrosion . . . of my naivety. The realization was so scary. You invest your time in a relationship, nurturing it, only to witness it withering, rotting. Then where do you go? How do you even restart? Emotional injuries are the worst, aren't they? They have a mind of their own and simply refuse to listen to you. Anyway, enough with the blabber.

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The point is, it was you and your words which helped me heal. You helped me unlearn my past, helped me stop wallowing and get over and past Utkarsh, my ex. You prevented me from regretting mourning the death of such a relationship at a later stage of my life. I truly feel free now and am ready for fresh imprints. The next time may or may not be forever, but I want to thank you for helping me get over Utkarsh. He had made me feel terrible at the end of our relationship. Although I don't know much about life, I think very few men can make a girl feel like that.

You said you had killed your girlfriend. For some reason, I just cannot bring myself to believe it.

Saveer sighed, folded the letter and looked up at her.

'Goodbye, Mr Rathod. It was a pleasure knowing you and not knowing you at the same time,' Prisha said in a choked voice. She didn't wait for him to respond.

Once outside, she couldn't help but break down. Prisha had witnessed a different facet of-for the lack of a better word-love, where one yearns for another person but knows he or she can't be had. Two roads branched out in front of her: the road to acceptance and the road to self-destruction.

Saveer reread the letter in the privacy of his cabin. Suddenly, a business mail popped up on his screen. He folded Prisha's letter and kept it inside his pocket before clicking on it. The rest of the day went by with Saveer somehow feeling stifled. He skipped lunch.

In the evening when he reached home, he switched on Mean Monster's number. He generally maintained a decent time gap between his hook-ups, but this time he hardly let a day pass. He tried not to think much. There were several messages from women. Mostly old, but some new. He randomly messaged a few. Couple of them responded saying they were free and interested. Saveer zeroed in on one. She wanted to meet at the Sky Lounge.

While riding his bike to the lounge, Saveer wondered how lonely a life he was used to. It would sound unbelievable to people: no parents, no siblings, no cousins, no friends, no bestie, no pet and certainly no love interest. Yet, he had had all of them once upon a time. Everyone, including his dog Piano, was dead now. Every time he lost a loved one, he felt wary of starting a new relationship. It had been nine years since Piano had died but Saveer had never had the courage to adopt another dog. Saveer as Mean Monster was an example of how good he was at creating a bubble around himself, where he led a sequestered, shadowy life. The Monster's exploits were Saveer's attempts at emotional self-flagellation. The means were different for different people but that's how one moved on after a heartbreak. If Saveer had not convinced himself that he was a bad person by randomly hooking up with women he didn't know, he wouldn't have been able to move on after Isha's death. This was darker than mere guilt because it involved a deliberate and painful attempt at manipulating one's own existence.

Saveer reached Sky Lounge on time. Compared to other nights, he was more aggressive and impatient to have sex. However, he wasn't seeking to satiate his hunger for sex but an opportunity to punish himself for Isha's death.

It took him twenty minutes to get over the hi-hello and get to the point. He had booked a room in the Hyatt. Once inside the room, the girl wanted to talk to him but he told her he was on a deadline. So, they got into bed and stripped. He pushed himself into her. Twenty minutes later, he was out. While the girl lay in bed, waiting for her breath to steady, Saveer went to the washroom. This had been the Mean Monster's shortest performance to date.

Prisha's words kept coming back to him especially the part where she had said that he had helped her unlearn. He stood in front of the mirror, without looking at his reflection. He turned on the tap, blocked the sink and let the water accumulate. When the wash basin was full, he dunked his head in it.

Saveer understood that perhaps Prisha was nursing a similar wound, although the intensity was different. She could heal but he couldn't. Or maybe he didn't want to. He loved Isha and possibly didn't want to part with her memories yet. He wasn't ready to be with anyone else.

How could he unlearn what life had taught him? That everything had an expiry date, that no form of love was permanent. That no matter how many promises you made to your loved ones, forever is a lie. Saveer lifted up his head and took a few short breaths. He ran his fingers through his hair and then impulsively smashed the mirror in front of him.

'What happened, baby?' the girl called out from the bedroom.

Saveer didn't respond. He washed his hand, which was bloodied and got dressed.

'Are you leaving already?' the girl asked.

'Everything will be paid. You can leave in the morning if you want to.'

'Thanks, baby.'

Saveer turned to look at her. 'Don't call me baby.' He banged the door shut after him.

He drove his bike faster than usual, tears blinding him. He stopped at Nandi Hills and parked his bike at the edge of a cliff. He yelled out Isha's name as if she would hear him and come hug him tight and tell him he'd been having a nightmare. Saveer knelt down. Prisha's letter had pushed him to the edge.

How do I unlearn you, Isha? Saveer mumbled and started sobbing loudly.

He sat in silence till his tears dried up. It was slightly chilly but he was oblivious to it.

Suddenly, there was a loud noise. He turned around to find his bike on the road. He frowned. In the upturned bike's headlight, he saw a silhouette . . . of a woman in a salwar kameez. He stood up and rubbed his eyes. The woman stepped back. Saveer rushed to his bike. There was nobody. Did he imagine the woman? Was he hallucinating?

This excerpt is reproduced from 'Forever is a Lie' by Novoneel Chakraborty, published by Penguin Random House.

This excerpt is reproduced from 'Forever is a Lie' by Novoneel Chakraborty, published by Penguin Random House.

(Images used in the article except book cover are for illustration purpose only)