Last year when Zin went to Clock Inn Colombo just to watch a few Pakistani cricket matches and meet the oh-so-charming Virat Kohli in a somewhat isolated cricket ground, she never thought she’d fall in love with a Sri Lankan who never lived his life in the island. Zin first heard of Nathan as an Indian. Your typical Indian with two PhDs and three MPhils. Kidding, people! Although Nathan never went that far in the lunatic mess that’s education for South Asian kids, he sure had two masters and a bachelors in engineering to himself. When Z first saw Nathan, it was because he increased the volume of the highlights of that one India match two decades ago as if he owned Clock Inn Colombo. Later Nathan said it was because Zin was too loud in the corner table talking about the love of her life: Younis Khan. Nat now also agrees that despite being noisy and loud, Z’s voice was too sweet. Heh!
So that’s how we met. Being a shy person in nature, Zin often struggled talking to N. There were a number of times he tried talking to Zin about cricket, TV shows and whatnot but it miserably failed and made Z a person with attitude in Nathan’s eyes. But with time, we bonded. Thanks to maamu, the old Pakistani guy Zin now terribly misses and Adnan who Z easily mingled with. Two weeks later when Zin came back to Clock Inn, we easily made friends with each other.
Our first three weeks of whatsapp chats were unsurprisingly but only about cricket and Ajinkya Rahane being a sweetheart. Then Zin took another step. A step she had no idea why she took. As a kid reading for a pharmacy diploma, she applied for an intern in a pharmacy. Let’s make it clear. She loved her work in the pharmacy but she loved being in Colombo more. People, there are pharmacies in Kandy but not Nathan. Get it? So each and every weekend we met and slept in the same dorm room of Clock Inn Colombo. Went walking 6km in the hot midday sun to eat a scoop of caramel ice cream and took strolls along the beach at midnight. Nat never let Z sip the first of her coffee and often gulped down his food, fast, sat back and enjoyed how slowly Z ate. We together were awoke till 6 in the morning watching how Russell Peters realistically mocked Asians. Some days we never slept. Talked about his cricket life and the little dream of his that never really became more than a dream. In simple words, to be a cricketer.
One day we ditched all the tuks and walked 13km from Diyatha Uyana Park to Clock Inn Colombo. Tired, exhausted, around 8pm, we sat on a bench near the meteorological department in Colombo 07. And it’s when Nathan says he’s leaving in two weeks. Leaving for good. We were still friends. And our friendship was only one month old. But it made Zin shatter into pieces and her sadness saddened her. She knew she liked Nat. For the first time in her life, she’s falling for a boy.
As much it made Z stress out in her daily life, she made sure she never really showed it. In fact, we both cherished every moment we had. We might have gone to seventy something cafes and restaurants but never sat facing each other. Nat made sure he always sat next to Z so he could always, always and always annoy her. Pat her head and tickle her even in public. Play with her hair and mock her nails so he gets a chance to paint her nails in hues so vivid. And nude. Nat never left in two weeks. Much to Z’s delight, he postponed his plans. One Monday where the sun was too bright, we sat in Paan Paan sharing a tandoori chicken sandwich. Suddenly Nat’s eyes watered and tears started brimming. It’s when Z knew why Nat didn’t leave back in September.
A week later, we together celebrated Z’s birthday. Nat got her a cake with a cake cutting event of the most unprintable team on Earth and Zin’s favorite, Pakistan. Later, on Z’s birthday, we went to Galle to watch a cricket match we never really watched. And then in Clock Inn, albeit it was just another night we had pizzas and margaritas and talked about each other and sometimes spent hours in comfortable silence, it was not. And we kissed. All these months, we reveled in the sweet tension built-up between us, and goofing around being friends, all until we finally, kissed.
The first I-love-you-s were sweet. We were in love. And everything in the ordinary everyday world seemed so much beautiful. It was the kind of love that was always too much. The kind of love when you see two deer watching you. When you suddenly see the sky and gaze at it as if nothing ever existed. It was like that. We fell for each other. And fell hard.
It was the kind of love that’s always too much. It made Z anxious. Saddened her. The what-ifs and buts. The uncertain future. We had barriers. Differences. But despite the many oceans, seas, the races, the religions and the languages, despite the many cultures and different norms, we loved each other. Z was born to a Sinhala family. A Buddhist one. Grew up in the central highlands where the cascades sang songs of happy. Her tongue always mixed v’s and w’s and struggled in long conversations. She was a small town girl in a big big world. Nat, the other way, was born in Mid East to Lankan parents. A Tamil-Hindu family. Went onto do his higher studies in India and Australia and ate his way through the world. This many borders never really mattered to us. But we were sure it would to our parents. More than all, being in two three oceans away stressed us. Worried us and bled us dry until…
Until, Nat took the biggest step in his life, canceled all his career plans, his family’s dreams and settled in this teardrop island. He knew he would never be happy without Z and if he flew away to down under or thousand miles away, later in life he would regret it.
And here we are today, goofing around as we were one year ago, snapping old uncles in street side cart shops and trying to pen down the experiences on road. It’s been one year and a little more, and we just made friends with a hefty dog called Bob in the quirkiest hotel in the island: Kikili House.
This is us. Our story. Yours will be different. But never lose hope. Just because you met in a backpackers’ hostel, or in a dodgy bar or on the roads, it doesn’t mean your love is hopeless. After all, hostels are one of the hopeful places in world. And that’s why we love them.