By Preeti Venkateshan
Contd from the previous issue . Concluding part.
Raghav did not expect such a reaction. He felt awkward for having said that, he realized that an innocent girl like Maya could not decode his sense of humor. He just played the same old marry me joke to lighten her up but it never occurred to him that he was speaking to a young innocent girl from a village. And here she was indifferent with a blunt reaction. Raghav was embarrassed but felt good for some unknown reason. He wanted to speak to Maya even more he liked her capriciousness.
He watched her leave and yelled, “Maya do not forget to collect your blood reports tomorrow, and get me some herbal drink as well”. Maya did not turn; she did not want to see him again. That night her mind was at war. Raghav’ face, his voice, his nature. However, she never wanted her emotions to take control over her, “What if Raghav leaves tomorrow? The problems I have are more than sufficient for me. Let me not go tomorrow…”Maya said to herself. She prayed to Lord Ram for a peaceful night, and slept well. She did not go near the hospital for a week. It was difficult for Maya to hide but she had faced bigger problems in life.
Raghav waited for her, He did not know why he missed her so much. He had seen her only for couple of hours. “I have seen so many beautiful girls in my life but why am I missing her, what does she have in her that disturbs me so much, why am I intrigued”, Raghav was lost in his thoughts. He called one of the staff in the hospital and enquired about Maya. He spent the entire week thinking about her.
Maya was busy doing her regular work of cleaning, cooking, washing, and gardening, feeding animals and being a punch bag to the guardian of the ashram for nothing. She was also going to the temple and singing bhajans. “This week seemed long”, she told the sparrows, trying to put up a smile. They were chirping around her happily. She heard the guardian yelling. Maya ran towards the kitchen, she saw Raghav and his doctor friends there and was shocked. “What on earth are they doing here”? She thought.
Raghav smiled at her. He came to her and said, “I don’t know to mince words, will you marry me? I am not willing to marry you because of my principles or sympathy. I love you and I trust you would be the ideal one for me and I have chosen you to be the mother of my future kids. Think and let me know I shall pick you up and let us move on”. Maya was not surprised she was expressionless. The guardian was happy, for once. Maya looked at his bright face and said. Raghav do you know why my parents abandoned me. Raghav said, “It does not matter”. Maya blatantly retorted, “My parents left me because I was a curse for them, every person in this village dreads me because I am a bad omen and you still want to marry me?”
Raghav said, “Yes”. Maya laughed … She looked at his friends and said, “Please advise your beloved friend, I am no good for him; I will ruin his life with my cursed destiny. Why is your friend hell bent on losing his life, He can get any girl he wants…”So Raghav said, “I want you, if you do not agree I will not get married at all. I believe in destiny and this was destined, who are you and I to decide our fate.
Maya said, “I don’t think so, let us see, you rich people do not know the value of emotions. Please go back home and do your work”. Raghav felt dejected, he left Sajanpur with his friends’. He reached home, and spoke about this to his father. Raghav’s father was petrified and angry. He said to Raghav, “If you marry that woman you can’t enter my house. Are you crazy? You are my prince, a handsome intelligent doctor; I have brought you up with so much love and care. Why do you want to marry an orphaned lower caste woman? I want my generation to be healthy and happy, it is all right if you cannot bring goodwill but kindly do not defame our family name. Your forefathers have made a fortune for us for a reason; please do not hurt your father.”
Raghav said, “I believe in destiny and this was destined, who am I to decide my fate?”
He left for Sajanpur and resumed his service in Cholera prevention camp. Maya came to know of it and ran to the hospital to meet Raghav. He looked at her and asked, “Are you sick? If not please come in the evening, I do not want to keep my patients waiting for my personal work”.
Maya met him in the evening. Raghav said, “Maya I love you, I want to marry you. Money, fame, caste, creed, and beauty, all this fades away with time. We all die someday and I want to die after living a life with a girl I love, If you agree to marry me, I shall be obliged…”Maya couldn’t stop her tears. She said, “Both of us know I am not worth you, I respect your decision. I shall marry you and at any point in time if you do not want me just let me know. I shall live with your memories all my life”. Raghav smiled and said, “You may never have to face that”.
Raghav and Maya got married. It was a simple wedding. Raghav asked Maya where she wanted to go on their honeymoon. Maya had never gone out of Sajanpur. So everything was new to her. Raghav said, “We need a passport for you to travel outside India, and that is going to take some time. How about Jaipur. It is a very beautiful city. Would you like to see it?” Maya smiled and hugged Raghav, “Any place would do as long as you are with me”, she said. She enjoyed every moment with her husband in her arms. Maya always asked Raghav, “Why did you choose me?” Raghav always smiled while answering this question “Because I love you”.
When they came back from Jaipur, Raghav heard shocking news that his father had a heart attack on the day they left to Jaipur. He fell sick after he heard that his son got married to Maya. Raghav’s uncle Ramlal told him that before dying, his father had written in his will that his final rites has to be performed by his cousin’s son Ramesh and his son Raghav should not be informed about his death. Raghav went to his house took the pot which had his father’s ashes and cried like a baby. His dad had given him all that a son could ask for. Raghav felt guilty for causing his father’s death and all his relatives were staring at him with anger. He left the place with a heavy heart; he did not tell this to Maya as she would blame herself for all this and would walk away from his life.
Raghav had a very tough time hiding his emotions from Maya. There were times where he made an excuse, drove to some remote place, and sobbed like a baby thinking about his father. As they say, time heals, with the efflux of time Raghav moved back to normalcy.
Maya and he made a beautiful home together filled with love and care. Maya was spellbound looking at the love her husband showered on her. However as the days passed by, she became very possessive about her husband.
Raghav was a friendly person and his friends loved him but Maya did not want Raghav to leave her for a moment. She specifically hated one friend of Raghav. His name was Mukesh. He was Raghav’s best friend. He used to spend the entire evening with him. Neither did Mukesh like Maya. Raghav tried to improve their relations but either did not budge. Mukesh always felt that Maya was not good enough for Raghav and Maya felt Mukesh was trying to take Raghav away from her but Raghav cared for both unconditionally.
As the days passed by, Maya’s health deteriorated. Raghav consulted various doctors across the state but none of them was able to diagnose what was wrong with Maya. She was in pain most of the time and Raghav had no choice but to see his helpless wife struggle. None of his ailments worked for her. Maya held Raghav’s hand and said, “I will be fine, we should be fine, we have a long life to lead, we have so many children to bear and your father has to accept me, so how can I go before that”. Raghav just smiled and tried too hard to control his tears and fears.
The next day one of his house cleaner told him, that there is a medicinal plant in Sanjeevini parvath, 15 km away from our farmhouse, which could cure Maya’s sickness at least momentarily. She said, “Saab there are a lot of sicknesses that doctors cannot understand, only nature can. In these 50 years, I have never seen a doctor. The medicinal plants in Sanjeevini parvat work like magic. My niece had the same problem what madam has, but now she is perfectly fine. You may ask your friend Mukesh to help you out; he is good at finding the right medicinal plant”.
Raghav was a doctor, he knew that there was no cure, but love for his wife urged him to try once. He went home and called Maya. He told her “Maya I am going out with Mukesh, we have something in private to discuss”. Maya was angry. She retorted, “Raghav if I see you with Mukesh again I won’t talk to you”. He smiled and said, I’m going to give you a surprise gift, just wait, and watch”.
Raghav and Mukesh left to the mountains in his car- a Maruti 800. He said to Mukesh, “Remember those days, we used to go for long drives in the mountain ranges, lie on the grass and stare at the beautiful blanket with silver studs up above, Count the number of birds flying, make huge garlands from sweet smelling flowers, swim in the blue rivers, stare at the unblemished moon, It was so wonderful. Hope Maya was here”. Mukesh nodded his head but grunted. He wondered, “How can he miss his wife like this… and talk of her, when I am right beside him? She was never going to be a part of this trip anyway”.
So they reached the Sanjeevini parvat. The house cleaner had gone with Mukesh to this place before so Mukesh knew where he could find those plants. Mukesh led Raghav. They reached the pinnacle of the mountain. Raghav felt like he was in the heaven. The entire world was buried in depths. He could touch the clouds, he went screaming, “I Love you Maya”. Mukesh was so irritated; Raghav looked at him and gave him a sarcastic smile. Mukesh found the herbs, he was about to get it but Raghav pulled his hand and said. “Stay here; I want get the herbs myself and make the medicine from my own hands and give it to my wife”. Mukesh was angry, he knew it was risky but nothing was in his hands. “Raghav was an adult; he should know what’s good for him, let me go from here and let he do whatever he wants”, He thought to himself and moved towards the car.
While he was walking, he heard a loud shriek. Maya!!!. . .He sounded different this time, however, he loves shouting her name all the time he thought. But he could not hear Raghav after that. Mukesh ran to the spot and found Raghav had slipped and fallen from the cliff. His head was smashed against a hard rock below the mountains. Mukesh froze. He had warned Raghav against going down. Raghav had promised Mukesh that he would pluck only those plants that were in the front. Raghav had cheated him. How could he? Now what will I tell Maya, she hates me already, he sobbed, trembled, and felt like jumping down the cliff. His best friend had died and he was helpless.
Mukesh called few people from the surroundings. Maya saw Mukesh coming alone. She smiled and all her thoughts were about what surprise gift Raghav is going to give her. Mukesh had no nerve to say anything. Maya suddenly began to sense something had gone wrong. She had never seen Mukesh so quiet. She said to Mukesh “Hello Mukesh, what’s in store for me”? Mukesh had never heard Maya speaking so softly to him. He did not react.
The person who accompanied Mukesh was Raghav’s uncle Ramlal. Maya had no clue about Raghav’s relatives. Ramlal was angry, he walked in and looked at Maya and said, “You stole our son from us, now you have killed him as well”. Maya’s world collapsed within a few seconds. She could not see anything for a moment. What did he say, “I killed him, which means he is dead”. She could not cry, or move, and felt like a corpse. She ran to Mukesh and asked him what happened.
Mukesh just walked away, he could not face Maya, and he blamed himself for Raghav’s Death. Ramlal yelled at Maya, “You killed him; If he had not married you he would be alive today. You swallowed his father; now his son has committed suicide because he could not bear the defamation against his family. “Maya said, “What? When did his father die? Oh God! Raghav kept this from me just to keep me happy. I have caused him so much pain. I have destroyed his family. I told him I am a cursed woman but he convinced me that was not true. Ramlal said, “Now you know that is truth, you are a bad omen. Please do not return anything to us and kindly stay away from our village”.
Maya was not allowed to see Raghav’s body. The whole village started talking ill about her. She was never able to fathom why Raghav killed himself if he loved her so much. She wanted to ask Mukesh what went wrong, as he was with Raghav in his final moment but Mukesh was not to be seen. Her fate was rude she thought, it was good for once and then it moved back to square one again. She sobbed for days without food and water. Maya tried to commit suicide but her house cleaners saved her. Maya laughed at herself “Even Death hates me”. Every moment she spent with Raghav flashed across her mind. She felt he was with her all the time, speaking to her, embracing her. Everything she saw was like a dream. She longed for company, someone she could speak to and a shoulder to cry on.
Maya prayed to Lord Ram, she said, “Just a soul to listen, nothing else I shall ask of you”. She heard a knock, for the second time. Maya moved to the hall to answer the door. She was sure it was nobody. After Raghav left, the entire village had abandoned her. Nevertheless, she opened the door expecting some mischievous winds. No! It was Mukesh…She was shocked and happy! Lord had answered her prayers.
Mukesh went inside quietly. She gave him some biscuits and a glass of water. Maya said, “There are no eatables at home to offer you, nobody comes here, hope you don’t mind. Mukesh did not feel like eating anything but to see her smile he ate a few. Mukesh looked at Maya, she looked terrible, bony, it seemed like her disease had eaten her. She was not able to walk and dragged herself out. He thought she is going to be with Raghav soon. Maya came closer to Mukesh and asked, “Did Raghav commit suicide…? Why did he do that?” Mukesh nodded his head in dissent….
He had tears in his eyes; he was amazed at people’s belligerence. How can they poison the mind of such an innocent girl he thought? He did not say anything. Maya saw his eyes…
She said with a grin, “I got the answer”. I know he would have never left me, don’t worry I shall go there soon and fight with him”. Mukesh hoped she did not go. For once, he felt Raghav was right, he was lucky to have her in his life. Maya looked at him in his eyes; her eyes spoke to him…
“You know I am dying, I love your friend more than my life. I want to fulfill his dreams. That is the only way I can pay him back for all that he has done for me. Until I die, I want to serve people like he did. I do not want sympathy or luxury of the world. I just want your support to fulfill Raghav’s dreams. Mukesh did not say anything. He moved towards the door, closed it, came back to her, and looked at her with his gleaming eyes. She smiled and said thank you. Mukesh wagged his huge tail and said,
“Woof Woof”…”Bow Bow!”
Maya said that is the softest bark I have ever heard. He jumped on her and licked her. Maya always wondered if animals could fill the void, loss, and separation of our loved ones. She was amazed that how childless couples; aged parents separated from kids, single women, lonely kids found comfort in domesticated animals. “Is it possible to love and be loved by someone who is not of our clan? And is that love enough for us to spend our life with hope? “, Maya used to asked herself.
But now she had realized that it is possible. Mukesh was her ray of hope. What is going to happen next she had no clue about that? But all that she knew was a good friend is an inspiration to move ahead in life despite of all odds and Mukesh was such a friend. She carried him and moved to her large room happily with a sense of hope and a possibility of a future. Like her husband Raghav said, “I believe in destiny and this was destined, so who are you and I to decide our fate”.