by Preeti Venkateshan
“Here you go again, I would be glad if you could keep your hands confined”, I saw myself spitting fire that could have given a dragon run for noodles. It was one of those shallow moments I preferred to stay aloof. All of them seated in the bus including the driver gave me weird looks. This is not fair! Why do people stare at me and ignore Rahul when something goes wrong?? Not that I am too pretty, well actually I am, but so is Rahul Sharma…handsome!
He was still fiddling with my bangles and pinching my wrist. I turned towards him to give him a good dressing down and then I realized… I could not- his face had the charm of a newborn child, and innocence of its smile, his touch was as soft as a baby’s bottom; everything about him reminded me of a child.
Of course it would, because that is the way I saw him… a childlike husband.
I smiled at him and said “You won’t stop, will you?? “ He said…” No Ree!”
I hated that. My name is Riddhi Sharma, and he called me Reee like in reee, which would sound like Reeeee or reeeed or read depending on his mood or the food in his mouth. What is with this Reee, I always wondered, but it was he and I was ready to give up anything for him.
I would often laugh at my friends watching romantic movies. I always found them boring.
My time was spent watching offbeat movies. Stargazing and predicting the future, sky diving, playing scary pranks on others are trifle pearls from the large sea of endearing things I wanted to do before I die…
My parents found me scary; they thought I had a problem. And when they discovered I was in love with Rahul, they did not approve it. My dad told me he was one of my weird fascinations. I was adamant, I fought, I cried, I pleaded and then I eloped.
It was the night before Diwali.
I lived in Delhi and we planned to move to Shimla, that was about 350 kms away in distance.
Rahul was waiting for me in the garage in Dad’s car- I had slipped him the keys, just as a precaution. I wore the new dress mom got me, packed my clothes, took some money from dad’s pocket and mom’s handbag and my piggy bank, I was 23 then …for your information.
We drove away exactly at midnight around 12 when my parents were in bed, fast asleep. The only thing I was sure about, living with them for so many years was their schedule and our plan went as precisely as it was intended.
We reached Shimla on Diwali; we got married on the same day in a Shiva temple. We were so thrilled, excited, and curious about our lives together.
Luckily, we spent all the money we had like crazy goons on food and all that was unnecessary. At the end of the day, we did not have a roof to stay but many things to be kept under the roof- yet our good luck did not desert us, not yet. Rahul found a room in a decent inn. He had arranged exactly as we had thought out earlier.
That was the only thing I asked him to do and he had done his job well. We made love like crazy for the next ten days- just ate, slept, and made love. I do not remember having a wash as well. On the eleventh day we were so tired of doing it, so gave ourselves a break.
I said “Rahul what about our future, what do we do for food” He said “It is free for this week; my friend said it’s complimentary” That was the happiest moment of my life- free food for seven days, a whole week, would you believe it?
We spent the next week exploring Shimla, taking pictures, eating free food and of course making love relentlessly. Those were the best days of my life; trust me there was not a moment I thought about my parents. He did not think too because he had none.
I knew I was selfish but honestly, Rahul was a gift from God. He is so good, I never saw him angry, sad or cribbing about anything or anybody. He called every moment of his life precious. I am never able to fathom to this day, why did he have to love me? What did I have in me to deserve him? I am all that he is not, and never will be! Ever since the day we met, I found myself melting and dissolving in his goodness. All my friends who had nicknamed me “Ravenous Riddhi” were surprised at my metamorphosis.
Rahul is very handsome, and his inner beauty is more evident than the outer.
We met during a charity show in Shimla during my college days. He was training to be a teacher there. It was one of the most beautiful locations, which I had seen only in calendars and National geographic channel.
I was playing around with him as usual, for he was the cutest boy around. I left for Delhi after the show and I found him at my doorstep the next day! I was shocked and felt guilty but there was nothing I could do. I apologized and he left.
The next day I saw him near my college.
Rahul came to me and said “I am staying at my friend’s place madam, I won’t trouble you, but would you let me see you every day from a distance, I won’t even come near you”… I wondered what did I do or what was there in me that he came all the way. It was too late I had fallen for him, I said “let us meet “.
Our “let us meet” escalated to “let us go out”, “let us sing”, “let us dance”, “let us love”, ”let us kiss”, and eventually, the inevitable, “let us get married!”
I had found him terribly innocent, likeable, sweet, and humorous. With him, I found myself laughing all the time. Dad was against it because he had dreams about packing me off with an NRI earning to glory.
A small town teacher with a small pocket was his last choice as a mortal fit to marry his daughter!
“Reeee check this out “Rahul screamed while throwing a ball of snow on my face to bring me back from my reverie. We played like kids and went back to our room. Those nights we did not make love; we spoke for the first time since we moved to Shimla.
Rahul said” I have asked my friend to drive back to Delhi and park your car home. I don’t have enough money, so I have no choice but to take you to my small house nearby.” We vacated the room and I was more than happy to get to our new home. We decorated it with all the colors and decorations I could get my hands on.
Our home brimmed with exuberant colors and flavors just like our lives.
He resumed work and I picked up a job in the same school. Time passed by sooner than we thought and before I realized we were celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary. Rahul wanted a child but only after he built a school for the orphanage nearby. Most of our earnings, donations, and offerings were accumulated to the fund for the school.
We had our fights, I used to start, speak and finish, finding him poised with a childish grin on his face. One thing I disliked about going out with him was, no matter where we went, he used to fiddle with me, and all the cold stares pivoted at me.
And again, he was doing the same thing today. I looked at him again and said “All of them are looking at us, just look at that aunty seated beside us “… He signaled to that lady and when she saw us, he kissed me. She was shocked! And I thought, “This is it!”
I asked the driver to stop and started walking off.
Rahul came running behind, held my hand and was swinging it back and forth, humming some vague song I never heard of, nevertheless it sounded good.
I started humming along ‘MMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm”
He was laughing; I could not stop myself, and we walked and walked in our world, just us with hands entwined and love entangled. We reached the main road, and the weird looks began all over again. “Let go of my hand, Rahul” He refused and held it tight.
He said “let’s go home soon, I am hungry, and I know you have something special for me today”. I smiled and said “Of course darling today is our anniversary, so let me buy some flowers and sweets from the corner shop, head back home and lie in your arms the whole day.”
He smiled and stood in the corner waiting for me. I usually bought sweets from Paris corner.
The shopkeeper Ramu smiled and said, “Today is Rahul Saab’s birthday right, I remember it.”
He had kept the sweet box ready too. It had all the sweets Rahul loved.
I smiled and said “Thank you but it’s our anniversary!” I just turned back and saw Rahul waving at Ramu and he was asking me to come soon.
I was just about to leave when Rahul’s friend Reema appeared from nowhere…Rahul hid behind a fruit stall.
Reema said “Hey Riddhi, I am so glad to see you. I called you so many times, why didn’t you pick my call? I was grinning, looking at Rahul making faces at me. Reema saw me and asked “Why are you smiling?”
I said “Nothing!”
She said “It’s great to see you smile- and I know why you are here… Today is Rahul’s birthday, right?”
I said a feeble “Yes” and wished to be whisked into oblivion. Reema was smiling too and pulled me across the street, I was perplexed. She said “I know where you’re going; I want to come with you”.
I protested feebly. I did not want to go anywhere. She smiled a sad smile… and said “I want to go there too, so come with me”
I was searching for Rahul; He was still hiding behind the fruit stall waving at me. He was frowning. I cursed him and walked with her to a beautiful park across the street.
Rahul and I enjoyed walking in this park. We had so many beautiful memories attached to every blade of grass and every flower that bloomed there.
While strolling I stumbled upon a stone…It was a tomb stone and by that time Reema came running towards me holding two bunches of flowers. Reema looked at the grave and said “This will be the only grave in the world, which is surrounded by exuberance, enslaved by colors, spirited with Life”.
And it is, I thought. Can anyone find a grave in a park so beautiful?
She took few tissues from her bag and swept the leaves away from the grave that read
Rahul, my eccentric lover who had such fascination for graves and tombstones! He always wanted to be buried beneath the pines.
Then I heard her cry, she hugged me and said “He was so full of life, I am seldom surprised to see flowers sprouting out of his grave.
Reema turned towards me and looked into my eyes and whispered “I miss him”…
I smiled and said “I don’t!”
She was appalled and I was so sure that she would be…
Anyone in her place would be…
She gave me a look, of shock which turned into indignation. I said “let’s go home and have some sweets, Rahul doesn’t like crying”.
Reema made a stupid excuse and left. I know I was rude nevertheless, I was honest. Rahul had passed away after two years of our wedding- he had fallen from the school annex which was still under construction.
He came home the same night and we cried for weeks together but I realized, I had just lost the mortal in him, just the skin, the body that was him, but the person I loved was not dead. His love, his memories, his smile… they were eternally mine… and time had cascaded smoothly until now.
We do all the things that we used to do such as shopping, eating, singing, and dancing, making love but the only person who can see and feel it is I.
Rahul smiled at me and kissed my hand, and we marched home together to celebrate.
My dad said my fascinations about the dead were weird and imaginative. I seldom ponder over what he said; it does not matter to me if Rahul is real or a facet of my imagination.
All that matters is that he is with me, and I believe there is nothing such as life after death, there is only life after life and a beautiful one at that.
I heard Rahul screaming at the doorstep “Ree I am going to the school. Will be back soon,”
I saw him leaving; I knew he would come back.
I got dressed and was standing by the doorstep waiting for him when my neighbor, Radha aunty, scowling at the thought of the evil things I was about to do, signaled me to go inside and shut the door.
I scowled back at her and told myself-. “Rahul I love you and my doors will always be open for you- “Whenever You Come!”
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