Air, water, earth -three elements of nature- How naturally they coexist. Each in perfect harmony with the other. If only it would have been this easy among us humans…to coexist…. without complications…without threatening the essence of each other…
Why am I saying these… Simply for the reason that it has just struck my mind following a predicament I am in….
Why ? Thats quite a story… No ! I won’t give you the cliched reply of – Another day Another story. Maybe sitting here at the dead of the night I do want to let out my heart. Unburden myself..
I am Maya…an only child. Spoiled ? No! Pampered? Yes. I was brought up with lots of love and happy thoughts…so much that like the Happy Prince of Oscar Wilde I knew no sorrow in the real sense. Being an only child I never knew the meaning of choices. Being protected and sheltered throughout.. I never Knew…. Wait a minute. Let me cut the crap. Sorry. This is going all wrong. I got carried away..I love weaving fantasy yarns and the night air makes me a bit loony…The truth is I was a perfectly ordinary kid from a perfectly ordinary family, who now have strangely found myself in an extraordinary situation or is it????
I was a very ordinary kid with extraordinary dreams about love and life. Growing up in the make believe world of fantasy and fiction in the beautiful surroundings of Sundernagar, HP , I used to think myself as no less a princess waiting for her prince charming. Prince charming did come but not in a manner that I dreamt of. He simply slipped in unnoticed , unannounced and made himself comfortable in my heart. Shubham-He was the gawky boy that I had seen quite a number of times and who stayed across the other hill. My father used to know his father and thats the reason I remembered him, otherwise he had a very ordinary normal persona, a face that blended in the background. My board exam was just around the corner and my father to do something about the stunted progress of my session marks had requested him to help me with my lessons.Playful and fun loving that I was, I was irritated with the additional burden of studies and was barely civil to him. He tried his best in his shy demeanor to try to drum into me some numerical sense but it was hopeless! Even after three months he failed to make an impression in my life and I failed to make a passing impression in maths in my board exam..It was such an irony . His grad results were just out too and he had come out in flying colors and here his illustrious student- was languishing away with shame and condemnation.
I remember I was moping around when he came to visit. Ma was all over him as if her own child had done the honors and was clucking away like a mother hen, but thankfully she left us alone in the study room when I came out reluctantly to meet him. We sat down in that small room for quite a while in silence .
Finally I snapped at him, “So lecture me like the others. Why are you wasting your time saying nothing.”He still said nothing.
I started weeping in frustration.
“Hey! Pease don’t cry! Please. This isn’t the end. … You know. With little practice and concentration you can do better next time. It happens”
“Well it didn’t happen to you”, I said nastily.
” No ,…ya ,.. I mean no it didn’t happen but it could have happened ”
“As if,How ? I asked “You are the golden guy of Sundernagar.. You can’t go wrong” I continued bitterly wiping my tears.”You are not me. Duffer and…”
” No! of course I can go wrong. I am not infallible.And you are not duffer. In fact I used to envy you..”
” me ?” I asked the weeping competely stopping. “You are kidding”
” No I am not. I use to think – Look at her so carefree, so oblivious of everything.So innocent.So spontaneous. so radiant with an inner joy as if you are anticipating something nice. As if you have no complains against life. …”I was still waiting for him to spell out something subsantial to be envied.. “And you sing well…..
He smiled at that and I noticed for the first time that he had a dimpled smile. “See! I have still one more month before I go off to Delhi for post graduation. Your exams are not until six months but we can still practise for a month. Even after that I will visit home once in a month so we can go over again too. And now that net connecton has arrived we can still communicate..”
I was surprised at his enthusiasm.. “You really need the money badly don’t you?” I blurted out and realised a little too late of my folly. We both were red with shame. “No no !” He laughed to difffuse the situation. “This is for free.” I just murmurred my apologies and said, “Thanks. Papa will appreciate it.”
“And you?” he asked softly. For the first time I had no answer to his non mathematical question. After that things just fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle. In one month I fell in love with him , his brilliance, his dedication…everything.(He didn’t fall, obviously because he was already in love with me) We kept in touch regularly. Our conversations shy, guarded , not overtly romantic which added to the thrill of anticipation.And after I completed my twelfth and into my first year of grad , we got married. No drama there.Everything went smoothly. After marriage we shifted to Delhi. He got the job as an Lecturer in a private upcoming institute.Though he was quite sought after , he was totally grounded. I began to enjoy the fast life in Delhi on . Everything went smoothly and was smooth even after marriage except …sometimes i used to feel a strange tug in my heart. Being fed on Mills and boon and hindi movies , I used to fantasise a lot about romance- like candle night dinner, valentines day, movie date. Love leters. But, he was a complete accademic. Trustworthy, loyal caring, loving but he was not into demonstration. In other words he was unromantic and dry. We had very little conversation because I was so awed with his intelligence, I hardly could converse intelligibly with him.The evenings used to passed in contentment and companionable silence No sweet nothings, no flowers no gifts. The only time he brought me a gift was on my birthday. The first time, he brought me a hideously designed saree. Second time, he decided to play safe and gave me cash neatly packed in an envelope.. Anniversary?We went to the temple to pray for a baby.But well he was, I admit he was one of the nicest person that my life could gift me. And I was thankful to God for that.
My birthday was fast approaching and I was restless with growing frustration as I wanted something special on my birthday this time. Something different.He was busy with the coming exams and greatly preoccupied with it and oblivious to other things. I was so concerned with my birthday preparation that I was totally oblivious to other things. In a hope to hint him and motivate him I used to pester him to plan something everyday..There was just 4 days left when I decided to take matters in my hand at breakfast table.
” So what are we doing that day? Any plans?”
“Which day,?” he asked Toast in one had and a file in another.
“You forgot? You deliberately keep on forgetting!”…
“Its not like that. Things are a bit busy these days. Try to understand… We will think of something”.
“When ? After it is over? Do I have to compromise on these too? ”
“For Gods Sake don’t make an issue of this..”
“So I make issues now Huh! From day one I am just compromising .Have you ever given any thought of what I might want?” Tears were streaming down my face.
“Listen things are going very busy in my work place. I am already in stress. Dont make it difficult for me please!”
I had lost myself to anger and frustration by then, “So I make things difficult for you . And you? Do you realise how difficult you are making my life? How you are making me suffer?”I dont know why I uttered such harsh words.
I could see his face contort with pain and anger with utmost patience he hissed – “Then why don’t you leave me?”And left abruptly for his office, his face dark and ominous. Well that was that ,the most commonly uttered quarrel statement between a couple. I knew it was just that,- a statement, but at that time I had no control over my mind. I rushed to my room wiping my tears I managed to pack my case and then left with a note saying. “I am going. Never coming back”.
I did n’t know what had come over me that day, but I suddenly felt a deep urge to just get away, maybe just for days, but I felt I had to get away. Going to my parents place was out of question. That was the first place he would come looking for and I had no need for another long lecture from my parents on how to maintain a relationship. There was only one place I could go. To Vinita’s Place in Shimla. My friend and my distant couin sister in law. Her hubby , that is my cousin brother was posted in Udaipur abut she had stayed back home in Shimla for the Kids schooling and also because she had a job too. I knew she was dependable and as she was my close confidante I prompty took the next bus to Shimla infoming her halfway en route. When I reached the bus stop, she was there waiting for me…. along with someone. A tall handsome boy . A smiling boy with such a radiant smile, a radiant soothing smile ..It just could gladden your heart……A face without any pretense a face which was smiling me a welcome, a face – smiling at me with admiration… For a fraction of a moment I was captivated by such transparence
“Oh My God Maya! How are you?” , she hugged me and my reality closed in on me. Suddenly, inexplicably I missed Shubham so much, I started weeping in her arms. As if I felt that I was close to losing him forever. As if somehow my heart could sense a crisis looming in the future…
“There, there ! everything will be fine. Just let’ s go home. Rana go and get the car. ”
So this was Rana her first cousin. How he has grown! I felt ashamed and calmed myself.
We reached home in silence.Her kids were already asleep. Thankfully none asked me what the matter was. I freshened up .It was already 10pm and so dinner was served. I was tired after the long journey but not sleepy. Sitting beside her in the thick rug of her drawing room, I let my heart out to her. Every that I had held in my heart , I bared out to her- my insecurities, my dreams , my fears, my hopes…many things. It was 2am when she gently suggested that , I sleep. We rose from our seats , when I was suddenly aware of someone else in the far dark corner. I stiffened. Rana rose from his place and with easy steps he came over to us and asked casually,” Ladies would you like some tea? I could make. it for you” ?
I was shocked and felt like slapping him but one look a his expectant face, i noted there was no hint of malice or slyness on his face.
” What were you doing staying awake till now?” My friend asked equally shocked and also embarrassed.
” You both were chatting so I came down to sit too.” He replied smiling with an easy nonchalant air, no hint of remorse nor embarrassment neither curiosity.
“No we are retiring for the night. You sleep too.”
“Ok Good night” and he left for his room humming a tune but not before giving me a thoughtful glance.
“I am sorry. Please don’t mind Rana. He is a bit strange for normal standard. If I wasn’t his sister I would have declared him retarded. He has his own rules, his own ideas…but he means well”
I just nodded perplexed.
Next morning by the time I woke upVinita had left for work but Rana was at home. The kids weren’t home too. Gone to school. I felt a bit awkward. I was just thinking what next to do sitting on the drawing room sofa, when suddenly he appeared grinning with a tray in hand.
“Hi! The rest of the lot have gone to do something worthwhile for the country and since I am the only one with nothing worthwhile to do, so thought let me serve you instead…. Breakfast !”
“Never mind” he said waving a hand.” I hope you eat eggs because omelette’s is the only thing I know how to make properly…There ! Your toasts are ready too. …you may start…. I will take only tea… Already had our breakfast… Do you want to go out somewhere. ..Of course this isn’t your first trip here… Did you use to remember us after we moved from sundernagar….I hope you remember me from those days…You are as beautiful as earlier… I am still as pesky as before.” I laughed. It was so easy to listen to him going on continuously. He seemed totally unaffected, absorbed in his own happy world so oblivious yet so sensitive cautiously steering the conversation away from dangerous water. I couldn’t help but feel cheerful with his sunny disposition. It was easy to spend time with him. We shared some common interests too. I thought with a sudden pang in my heart, When was the last time Shubham and I had a long meaningless chat?Rana sensed the slight change. Suddenly he exclaimed,” Oh my god the kids are about to arrive. Macaroni.! They love it. Want to help me?”I smiled. “What do you do other than cooking. entertaining guests and babysitting.” I teased.
‘Well I am not that worthless, you see.” Feigning hurt.” I am a freelancing photographer here on an assignment but as cheap help is hard to get over here, I stand in as the cook , maid driver and etc etc. for my dear sister”
“I am going on Friday to Mashobra for a shoot. Care to come along? Could use some help”. I looked aside. It was my birthday that day. The realisation brought a stab of pain in my heart. I mumbled something incoherent and without givng him a glance excused myself from there before I could burst into tears. I came to the guest room and took out cellphone- 33 missed calls 25 his and eight mom’s. I was tempted to ring him up when I realised there was an sms too. I clicked on the sms. It was short and dry – whr r u? Sorry. Worried- made me all the more furious. I switched off the phone and went to take a bath.
Vinita came home early that day. The evening passed off cheerfully It eased my heart to see him playing with her kids and their friends. I have never had such and cheerfu and lnoisy evenings after my marriage. Having to tolerate Rana’s constant nonsense brought my stress levels down. I felt relaxed like never before. The next two days brought us closer still. I could tell him about Shubham without the pain tearing my heart out. What I liked about Rana wsa he was not judgemental. Nor preaching, Not even patronising. He simply listened, concentrating trying to understand and that was what I wanted most -Somene to listen to me with no questions , no demands…
It was my birthday eve. I was debating on whether to switch on my cell pone or not. How long could I continue this way I had already overstayed Vinitas hospitality..sooner or later I had to come to a decision. I had to discuss this with Rana….. Now why did I think that? Why Rana? Suddenly there was a knock on the door.I opened the door to find Vinita standing with a grim expression
“we need to talk. Come with me”.I followed her timidly. “Was she about to throw me out?”
The drawing room was dark and silent. She paused by the door to switch on the light and then
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU”
The kids, Rana were grining from ear to ear. Everything happened in a blur after that. Vinita hugging me. The kids pumping my hand uttering happy birthday. There was the most beautiful cake on the centre table. Her kids handed me a hand made card. A Present. A bouquet. And then suddenly Rana did something totally unexpected . He put on a song on the player.” Always a woman ” by Billy Joel and pulled me to him to do a short waltz amidst my protests and others cheers. I was speechless. I was touched by everything. After cutting the cake I suddenly started crying
“Dont worry Aunty has a dental problem , so when she is happy she starts crying instead of laughing,” Rana explained wth a serious look to his bewildered nephews.
“I am sorry … but bu.. I a m so oerwhelmed.” “Its ok” Vinita assured me with a hug. “The day is going to be fine for you”
“.Of course she will be happy today after all she is going with me to Mashobra, today..
“Wait I never..”
“Great. Be ready by 8am sleepyhead”
“Rana I ..”
“I hate being late on my assignment” and with that he disappeared ino his room. Vnita just nodded at me and smiled.
The part of Mashobra he took me to was amazing, We chatted easily as he clicked on. He took my photographs too amidst my protests. He was amazng. Concentrating one moment and joking the next.. It was such fun to be with him. I never felt so light and peaceful … We hiked on to higher secluded ground , chatting carelessly h. As I was out of practise, i `started to pant. and then I slipped. He caught my hand in a firm grip and steadied me but that made me fall against me. I was aware of him close ….very close… dangerously close, my face burried against his jacket front and i could hear his heartbeat racing …. Suddenly I was scared to look up at him.Afraid of what I may see there. I gently detached myelf from him and sat down. Fearfully I looked up at him and was perplexed. His face betrayed nothing only a puzzled smile “Tired?” he asked plopping down beside me. I scrutinised his face again.There wa no sign of any emotion of sort. It was smooth, handsome and happy.I debated for a moment and then with a deep breath I asked,”Tell me, why ae you doing all these?”
“I need the money. And I dont like a nine to…”
“No no! I mean these?”
“Those that you are doing for …me?He was silent. ‘”Tell me!” I repeated
He turned towards me and asked with a serious expression, “What do you want to hear?”
“The truth” i replied after a pause.
“The truth is I don’t know. … I never thought until now that I was doing something for you. I didnt even realise. Look, I never analyse my actions nor do I preplan. I have always been impulsive. I have always gone by my heart… I just did it. Now that you ask I cant pinpont it What I did? Why Idid? What I will do .The general questions. It was all instinctive. I just felt that if I did what I did, it would make you smile and that was what mattered. I dont even know if any of this making sense..Now that you ask me. Yes! why do I want to see you happy?” And there was a flash of pain in his face but it was gone the moment I realised. “Leave it”.He chuckled. “We both have gone mad. Its getting late. Lets go.”
All though the way, I sat silent, my mind in turmoil. His word runnng on my mind, remembering his racing heartbeat, the song- . It was already seven when we reached home. I was planning on takingt hem to dinner that night. My treat.
Vinita opened the door with a lushed face. Her eyes breaking into wide smile- genuinely happy but for what… and the I saw him. Shubham- he tood there looking thin and haggard, tired. Dark circles around his eyes.
My birthday gift to you, Vinita whispered.
I was shocked and more so when I saw the wind completely being knocked out of him when he saw me coming in with Rana. I realized what he was feeling. I realized his vulnerability,his insecurity and in his insecurity, I realised his love for me.
Oh my God! Oh my Darling! Without a thought, I rushed towards him and threw myself against him, his arms encircling me , all the while he whispered “I am sorry Jaan, I am sorry.” I wept emptying my soul of all the unhappiness , all the bitterness, washing it away with my tears…. and then my heart went numb.. Rana! Where was he? What was he doing? I wanted to turn back and see..but I was afraid to see. What if I saw pain? Or was he smiling? Indifferent? What if it hurt me to see him smile ? Did I want him to be indifferent? I was afraid to turn around for what it could do to Shubham, for the hurt it would cause him. What if I lost Shubham forever? But if I don’t turn around, wil I never see Rana?
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