Contd from “The Ideal?”…
He re-read the letter again in the dimness of the street light streaming in through the window. There was no mention of what really was going on at their place. He liked it that way. Folding the letter inside the envelope, he put it back in the diary where it belonged. He treaded lightly towards the cupboard and kept the diary on top of it. Looking at the woman sleeping on his bed, face towards him, the light unable to flit across her face, he smiled at her lovingly. He rubbed the gashes on the knuckles of his left hand. The gashes were so old, he now referred to them as birth marks. They were signs of his father’s love.
The naive woman thought he didn’t know she wrote to her mother. He loved her for how she covered for him. She really did love him. Was that how his mother was too? Nah, she was better. She never fought back, never talked back. She was always the loving mother, dutiful wife. She didn’t even show her tears to his father ever. His wife had a lot to learn. But she would – with time. He was sure. Maybe it was time for a lesson soon.
He loved his wife a lot. The marks on her body showed that bright and loud. That was the only love he knew. That was the only love he’d ever known.
Picture Courtesy : Pinterest.
Her eyes teared up as she wrote another long, lying letter to her mother. A letter which would give away nothing of what was happening to her, which killed her bit by bit from guilt every time she thought of her mother.
Her mother had always been her best friend. She still was. But this time she couldn’t share her happiness with her mother. Or her pain. She looked at herself in the mirror across the bed. She saw her blurred self lying on the bed, papers piled up neatly on a hard bound dictionary. She covered her bosom with her saree. The red marks around her neck didn’t need a mirror as a reminder.
She was in love. With a man not her husband. She was in pain. With a man her husband.
Picture Courtesy : Pinterest.
“Oh come on, love. You know I like my freedom. But that doesn’t mean it’ll change my love for you. Well, as long as you believe in me, I know I can make it,” Brandon said, smiling at her. He wished she’d look her in the eyes. He needed her right now and he needed her fast and close.
“Oh, someone is being charming!” she said suddenly, angry that he took her for granted.
“Someone is being cocky,” he said, surprised at her sudden change in body language.
5 years, 2 months and 19 days ago – 7:30 PM.
Pankaj was trying to close shop as fast as possible. The skies were overcast. He’d decided to leave this town too. He wasn’t sure how safe it was for Tara now. The residents were getting suspicious. Tara was his daughter. He’d lost her mother to a witch hunt three years ago. He was afraid of Tara’s fate too. She was nine but her thoughts hadn’t progressed accordingly. Just like her mother’s. The ‘doctors’ said she was mad. He didn’t believe them. But he didn’t tell anyone about his daughter either.
He made the last sale of the day and hurriedly cycled down to his place. He couldn’t figure out why he was a nervous wreck. He felt something ominous would happen. He shut the door behind him.
Tara’s voice was drifting from the floor above. She often spoke to her toys. “Tara, I am home,” he called out.
She didn’t answer. He walked into the bedroom, onto her toys strewn all over the place.
He could see his daughter hiding behind the bedpost. Walking towards her, he kept asking, “Where is Tara today?” She giggled. He happened to glance outside the window to see a group of people walking towards his house.
Picking her up gently, tickling her so she didn’t protest, he explained to her slowly, “Daddy and you will play a little game now. I’ll hide you and you will keep quiet for five minutes. Okay?”
The bell rang.
“Did Tara understand?” he asked hurriedly.
“Yes, Daddy,” she answered softly.
The bell rang again.
Hoping she had actually understood, he put her down behind the bed again.
Now they were banging on the door.
He hurried down.
There were some kids hiding behind the men. Questions rained down on him. “What have you done to the house? The children say they hear voices from the house. The house throws stones at us, they say. Our children are afraid to come to this part of the town.”
“No, there’s no one in here except me. I am sure your kids must be mistaken!” He sounded confident but didn’t look the least.
Just then, he faintly heard Tara’s voice. He hoped the others hadn’t! To douse it out, he began, “Now if you’re done, excuse me, I have to make my dinner.”
But they had. “Wait. What’s that?” He prayed, she would remember he’d asked her to be quiet! But as fate would have it, she spoke again. This time louder. It spooked out the men. The children ran away to a distance.
“That’s nothing. Just the skies perhaps.” He tried shutting the door, but they were quicker. They barged in. Two men pinned him to the door.
“There’s nothing to fear. Please leave me alone,” he pleaded. He looked at the children standing a few feet away. They looked frightened – of the house or the brutality, he wouldn’t know.
The men split up to search the house. Some took out knives, some had hand-held pistols. Hearing all the commotion downstairs, Tara peeked out of the room. The little child thought they were playing hide and seek with her! She ran to another room laughing!
The laughter spooked them. The men rushed upstairs, each scared but none admitting. The peals of thunder and flashes of lightning were not helping!
“If only Tara would sit quietly in one place,” Pankaj thought. But as soon as she saw a pair of feet coming up the stairs, she braced herself to scare her father. Giggling, blissfully unaware of the danger looming on her and her father, she jumped out of her hiding place, peals of her joyous laughter pulsating through the house! She wanted to scare the man whose feet she’d seen, but death scared her instead.
Screams were followed by thunders outside and cocked guns inside! One of those bullets hit the child and it was the last time laughter was heard in that house.
Until… 5 years, 2 months and 19 days later when…
The last piece of cake was smeared on his face!
“Twenty years of marriage! What’s the secret?” asked a colleague in jest!
“You agree more than you disagree. And you learn to shut up!” Sameer replied at once.
“At least there’s someone who can shut Sameer up,” they joked!
Only they didn’t know it was a joke.
Like every night, that night too he went back from office to find his dinner laid at the table. Hers was however missing. He checked his text messages. An unread message from her said she’d return late after dinner.
Post dinner, he returned to his room – his part of the house.
Normally, he’d have slept after reading a book for an hour or so but he’d expected today to be different. He’d wanted it to be different. Probably he should have made it different. By his bedside was their picture. From one of the early vacations in their marriage, when they were still young and so much in love! Time and tide waits for no man and didn’t wait for them either. They both took each other and time for granted. Constant fights and tiffs led to so much disagreement that they found it easier to live in separate rooms. Yet, surprisingly either didn’t want to leave because they still enjoyed each other’s company. It was a strange situation. And had been for more than a couple of years now.
For some reason unknown to him altogether, he walked over to his wife’s room today. Her room was so much neater than his. He could smell her in there. Nandini’s bedside had a picture of theirs too. A more recent one. In front of it, lay a slightly wilted rose. Surprised, he went and picked it up. A note lay beneath, “Wait up for me today, will you? Happy anniversary!”
She came home an hour later. He was barely managing to keep his eyes open, but the minute she walked into the hall, sleep left him for the night. And for good! Her tired eyes smiled on seeing her husband waiting.
“How did you know?” he asked, as she came and sat beside him.
“I was hopeful,” she said, barely meeting his gaze.
She nestled herself in his arms and every single fight that they’d had over the years seemed to melt away in that moment.
Probably, this was their second chance.
Night smiled as it fell upon the two souls. It pushed them to a closeness that not even dawn could penetrate!
Picture Courtesy : Pinterest
Your eyes. Your eyes always saw the good in me. Your eyes reminded me of how much I should love myself. Your eyes were not scared to see my darkness. Your eyes took me in from bottom to top, within to without. Your eyes wanted to know me to the core, not just the crust.
Your eyes smiled each time I did. Your eyes scanned the crowd to catch just a glimpse of me. Your eyes didn’t waste a moment, not admiring me. Your eyes made me blush.
The fire destroyed it all! Your eyes were the last thing I saw before losing consciousness. Your eyes were also the first thing I saw after gaining consciousness.
That day it was to be either both of us or none. But you went away leaving me alone in this big, wide world. Or so I thought. Your eyes are now mine. And they still make me blush.
Vinita left her office late tonight. There was work to do and her husband was not in town also. She was just going home for dinner and sleep. What she did not account for was the weather! She’d barely walked five minutes from her office that winds started blowing the dust and grime from the road into her eyes, hair, everywhere! The weather turned nasty within seconds and she knew if she didn’t find a cab immediately she would be stuck for a while in the rain. But as usual, taxis weren’t available just when she needed it the most. She walked to the nearest taxi assistance bay and stood in the shade provided hoping like everything else in this city, this wouldn’t be shoddy enough to fly away with the winds.
A young couple came and stood near her in just a while. It had started raining by then. She was struggling to make her umbrella keep the windy rains at bay. So was the guy standing beside her. His girlfriend (Vinita assumed) started laughing and told him, “You know it’s really okay if we get wet once in a while. And as it is I don’t think the umbrella is going to be any good against these winds.” Laughing in agreement, he snuggled her closer.
She smiled at her own naivety and closed the umbrella for good. She didn’t want to stare at them but they reminded her of her younger self and Shashank. Shashank used to love those long walks after the rain, the dinners at the dhaba, and those little surprises he used to spring at her every now and then, she reminisced! Her brother used to say he could see the love in their eyes. They were inseparable. Still are. Work made them too busy for each other. Not that it reduced their love in any manner, but still. It made her sad at times. She missed those times when their time together was entirely theirs. She missed those courtship and early marriage days when they were still discovering each other. She missed those times when she used to gasp at tickets for sudden weekend getaways or a Sunday brunch in bed.
But the signs of love were unmissable. The routine peck before dropping her to office, the occasional Sunday dinners at her favourite diner, sitting with her in the balcony in silence just looking at her while she stared out at the celestial bodies, the cute way in which he still held her hand when they were at social gatherings or the firm grip when in crowds.
Her phone’s vibrations startled her! ‘Shashank calling’ it flashed. So looks like hubby’s day is over, she thought smiling at the phone. Wiping her wet hand on her already wet trousers, she swiped the answer icon.
“Hi,” she answered.
“Hi, Vini! Where are you?”, he asked.
“Oh don’t ask. I still haven’t reached home.I left office late today.”
“Oh! You’re stuck in the rain?” he asked and then cursed himself! She heard both!
“Yes. Wait. How do you know?” she immediately asked.
“Baby, I am waiting at the door for you. I thought I’ll surprise you by flying in a day early! But guess who’s surprised?,” he asked mockingly. “Oh and I should tell you I don’t have the keys. My set is lying inside the house.”
Laughing aloud, barely able to contain her happiness, hand out stretched in the rain, she looked up towards the sky closing her eyes to send a silent ‘Thank You’ to the one above, while she said to her love, “Serves you right! Now wait for me, while I wade through these waters to get to you!”
“Like I had any other option! I am really hungry. Come soon!,” he said keeping the line, not before saying, “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I’d seen her often. Sitting idly. By the side of the road. She had a mysterious aura. She wasn’t dressed poshly but neither was she a beggar. She never said a word. Her eyes spoke of her pain. The neighbours had advised me to stay away. No one told me why. No one seemed to know why.
I felt for her, compassion I like to think. I approached her one night, asked her where her home was, where her family was, where her husband was. She looked up at ‘husband’. I knew I’d struck a chord.
I was so wrong.
The smoulder in her eyes made me back away. She picked up a rock. She bared her teeth at me. Her forehead wrinkled. Her stance became offensive. My hands raised, palms facing her, I assured her I was just trying to help. An incoming car, headlights on, honked loudly. Distracted, I looked at it, only to hear her running away in the dark alley behind.
The rock lay on the road. She never meant to hurt me. She only wanted to save herself.
From what, I wonder. From whom, I wonder. Why, I wonder.