Sunday, August 17, 2014

Till We Meet…


Dear Vidya,
Pardon me that I did not write for many days, the work is keeping me engaged and I had a hectic week. I had gone to Haridwar and Dehradun to finalize a deal. Yes, it was necessary to go; you know I hate travel. There was a day to spare and I rushed to Mussorie. I stayed in the same ‘Padmini Resort’, the old heritage hotel where we stayed during our honeymoon. It is not like it used to be; they have done away with the wooden dining room and small concrete cubicles have come up in its place. You do not see many people but the place is noisier than before.  
View from hotel’s balcony is still the same. You see snow-capped mountains shimmering during the day and expanse of valley beneath. At night you see bright lights at Dehradun and the city appears twinkling with Christmas bulbs, as if you have risen above the star studded nocturnal sky. The balcony has a swing, though you have to resist cold wind to enjoy it. I could not sleep thinking about those days.
We had just entered the hotel room when you said, “Honesty should be the basis of our relationship.” I could not understand what you were getting to. “People build relationship on lies by being pleasant all the time but we should not emulate that. Tell something about me which is not flattering.”
“You snore while you sleep.” I had taken the bait. Even today I can imagine you as a young bride; somewhat chubby and extremely beautiful, sleeping softly on bed; and snoring. You used to put a vermillion dot on forehead and there were henna marks on your hand.
“Your face resembles a frog.” I was not handsome but no one had told me that before.
“You look funny when you cry, especially when you make that wheezing sound. I resisted laughter while you cried taking leave of your family on our wedding day.” I could see a frown on your face.
“You look like a moron when you talk gibberish to your pet fish in the aquarium. Fish can’t hear whatever you say.” You were mocking me now.   
“You have a tendency to become fat, especially when you resemble your mom.” I realized I was in trouble as large tears swelled in your eyes and we could have divorced that day. I did not say your mother was fat; I just wanted to say she was on the heavier side or something like that but it was a wrong choice. It took million apologies (two of them on my knees), detailed explanation about everything I said before and three hours thirty minutes to mend things. Honesty is not always the best policy.
Barring that day we had a good time. We roamed for hours discovering the picturesque landscape and large oak trees covered with moss kept us company. There were occasional paintings on the rocks, or a name inscribed on tress and we relished tea at roadside stalls. Yes, I remember everything. For the first time in my life, I felt what proximity means; it was a mixed feeling of togetherness and sharing personal space. You know one day after making love, when you had fallen asleep, I lay awake. You appeared so carefree, so pure that I promised myself, I will always keep you like that; and I will always love you. It was one those solemn promises that can be made rarely in lifetime.    
Fifteen years, looks like ages we have been married. Imagining life when you were not there looks distant, remote. I feel I was incomplete before and our identities merged after meeting; both of us became new. It is difficult to put in words what I mean. Right at this moment, when I am thinking about you and looking at this paper wondering what to write next, there is a strange feeling, something which is strong like incense or music with déjà vu. I am not sad or happy but it is blissful. How do you write something which can only be felt? I think you already know what I mean.  

Let us talk about something else. You asked many times how I felt when I first met you; I vividly remember that day. After days of incessant rain, it was a sunny afternoon and sky was blue like never before. The weather was good with a cool breeze blowing. There was water everywhere and on your way home, I just managed my trousers from getting stained.
 I was tense with all that continuous bickering of the kids, aunts teasing like never before and a wet peck on cheek that your grandmother gave. People settled in groups and talked about various things, woes of traffic, Ayurveda treatment for incurable diseases and political upheavals. Amid all this, you entered and the limelight shifted.
Your feet were beautiful. I noticed it because my eyes were fixed on the floor. I was conscious that someone will mock me looking at you. I saw your face when you got seated and I saw you were angry. Yes, this is what I felt when I saw you, that you were angry. Your face softened slowly but it took time before smile came. Perhaps you were angry at being paraded in this way. We were left alone for ten minutes to decide our fate.
“Stop fidgeting, they will feel you are disappointed with me.” You said pointing towards relatives hidden behind doors. I was nervous to say anything and I just kept staring; you had deep eyes, sharp features and a prominent nose. Before I could utter a word, you again asked “What is my name?”
“er…Pinki…” I felt being ragged at first day of college.
“No that is my pet name. It is Vidya Arya. You don’t even know that and you want to marry me?” You were enjoying it. I saw you smile and something happened; I realized I had always known you.
“Yes, I am going to marry you. I would have proposed on my knees but everyone is looking and then I also do not have a ring.” I surprised myself when I said that.
 Sweets were exchanged and the date of our wedding was fixed. After I came back, I had doubts. I did not talk to you about anything and I did not even ask if you were ready for this marriage. I wanted to meet you again but lacked courage to do so.
“If we have to get married, we better know each other.” You said after two days when you landed unannounced outside my office. Although our marriage was fixed, we had arranged our love. We talked for hours and I never knew there was so much to tell each other. I learnt all about your neighbourhood, your academic woes and even that you were planning to turn your diary into an autobiography. “Isn't it too plain to be turned into a book?” You were not amused. “I will make sure it does not remain so after marriage.”
I remember we finalized a bucket list. Watching Akira Kurosawa movies was first on our list and we completed it. We even managed to visit Taj Mahal, albeit the moon light was missing. I think we were never serious about earning black belt in Taekwondo and becoming famous before we turn thirty was just a wish. We never went trekking Himalayas and could not manage Nile Safari in Egypt. We could have taken ride in hot air balloon and watched a movie at drive in, but we never tried.
I could not recognize you on the wedding day. Beautician had turned you into a quintessential bride and you looked uncomfortable. We sat on regal chairs and people came to get pictures clicked. By the time it was over, my facial muscles were stiff. After this the photographer expected us to give romantic poses. “Put your hand on his shoulders, only one hand, just slightly ahead, hold his left hand with the other one, now fold both your hands and look there, we will impose his picture. Not like this, bring a smile on your face.” You resisted killing him. Although you were sitting next to me, we could not talk. We will not marry our kids in this way. 

My father cried when he took Pakhi in his arms. “Welcome to our family.” He said with a lump in his throat. Pakhi was wrapped in light pink clothes and there was a woollen cap on her head. She was so small that she almost disappeared in those clothes. She had tiny fingers and always clenched her fists. My mother declared with a grin, “She looks like Vidya, but she will be more beautiful.” Everyone made strange faces while greeting her and uttered gibberish.
 I was afraid she might get hurt if I hold her but when my mother put her on my lap, I realized I was longing for it. She lied still with her eyes closed, and I felt she smiled in her sleep. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen; she would always be. I took my finger towards her palm and she held it tight. That day while looking at her face, I realized what innocence means. 
I remember the look we shared when you came out of the delivery room. I held Pakhi, a part of our shared selves and it was mesmerizing. It was a feeling of pride, happiness and something which is beyond words. When Aryan came four years later, our family was complete. Life changes when kids come in the family and how we relish in mundane.
You never completed your autobiography but I will write a book about life of the ordinary. In this world of extraordinary, there is not much about simple people. I do not know about the protagonist, probably an average man who is average in everything; average life, average aims and average accomplishments. But he will have a lovely wife and most wonderful kids. 
The book will capture images that have stayed with me. I remember lying next to you on winter mornings and the warmth of your body, the fragrance of desert cooler during hot summer afternoons which reminded smell of earth after rains, recipes tried by you and the aroma from kitchen, rainy days with tea and gossip in the balcony, Aryan reciting nursery rhymes one after the other, Pakhi dressing as an angel, birthday cakes and blowing of candles (which invariably always Aryan did), doctor’s appointment and tears of kids after getting vaccinated, sores at Aryan’s feet which came again and again, new year resolutions that often failed but enthusiasm when they were made, the wrist watch that you gifted me (I am still wearing it), festivals, new clothes and chirpiness of Paki when she was happy, playing cards and you letting Aryan cheat, social gatherings and sharing a ‘let us leave soon’ look, debates if we were raising our children properly,  sharing a kiss when kids looked other way, seeing our children grow and wondering how time flies, and being thankful for being a family.
Do not think that I will write only niceties about you. I hated it when you ensured a hundred things before we made love. You spent hours finalizing the perfect background music. The lighting should be perfect, not too bright, and not too dim and children should be completely asleep. The room also should have pleasant odour. No I am not cribbing; I am just stating my point of view. I like to keep my mouth open while I chew. I also enjoy burping sometimes and not saying sorry. I know how to tie shoelace, how to wear socks and how to fold clothes properly. There are different ways to do these things actually.

Pakhi and Aryan have just fallen asleep; they insist on sleeping in my room. I listen to what all they did during the day and them I read them a story. I am not good at animating but Aryan cannot sleep without listening those. Even Pakhi enjoys them though she is almost reaching teenage. The good thing is I also lie down early because of this and it is rejuvenating to watch children sleep, they look so serene.
The wall clock has started making a distracting sound. It announces every second at night as if no one pays attention during the daytime. Many crickets have appeared in our colony and they chirp loudly, disturbing the otherwise silent neighbourhood. A lone night watchman took round outside, beating his wooden stick loudly on the road. Somewhere at a distance, there was a turf war of stray dogs. I turned sides for long, but then gave up the effort to sleep. I took out picture albums from the store room and cleaned dust gathered on those. I could not have done this in front of children. I have started growing old and tears come easily.
We were so thin when we got married. There was a spark in our eyes, a feeling that our future was going to be great. We were smiling in those romantic poses; we were genuinely happy. You wore blue sari and you looked good. Your father looked tense in all the pictures; perhaps being father of the bride has that effect.
There are so many people we never met again. Shyam uncle, who had come all the way from USA got paralyzed after that. Kamala aunty also never came again. Do you remember she was the life of our wedding? She danced and sang all the time and made everyone else do so. She gifted you a seductive nightgown before we left for honeymoon. You had promised her that you will try it out soon; you are yet to fulfil it.
I created a collage of pictures. It was a lot of work, selecting pictures from various events and gently pasting them on a sheet. Touching old pictures is a different experience, something like going back to that age. I even found pictures of our childhood. Sounds strange but our parents were as young as we are when they were of our age. I read somewhere that if two persons live together for long, they start resembling; I think we started looking same.
I found pictures of Bidyut. Although he was my elder brother, he was best friend I had. He was so happy and full of life and I was shaken when he left this world after few days. I could not face bhabhi. You were a pillar of strength for our entire family and I can’t imagine how I would have managed without you.
Last year on that day in hospital, when you left us alone, there was no one to comfort me. There was a heavy weight on my chest and it was difficult to breathe. I felt that there was no ground beneath my feet. There was so much to be told, so much to be said. I hated those monitors kept in the room, those tubes attached to your body and your swollen face. It wasn't you, there was some mistake. Your hand was cold, it did not move when I held it tight. It was a kind of test, nightmare may be but it was not the truth. I could not have cried in front of you, it was bad for your recovery.
I failed my promise that nothing will happen to you and I never felt so helpless before.  It was difficult to see you sink. There were dark circles under your eyes, your lips were dry and you were white as snow. The vigour left your body and you were skin and bones. I knew it was side effect of medicines as you were responding well to the treatment, even doctors admitted that. I kept sitting their holding your hand, praying for a miracle. How could you leave me like that?  I wanted to scream but no sound came from my throat.
Other memories of that period are vague. There were lot of people at home and I was never left alone. They decorated you like a bride and I applied vermilion on your head. Everyone cried; I felt extremely lonely and there was no privacy to grieve. I wanted you to console me; I wanted you to say that everything was going to be well. A glass bier took you to the crematorium; you slept peacefully on your way. I was asked to lit a heap of wooden logs and someone who resembled you.
I was afraid to face Pakhi and Aryan but they took it better than me. They have grown more than we knew. Pakhi has your grace and authority apart from your looks and Aryan is mature for his age. He was our pampered child but this incident has made him sombre.
My day begins with missing you. I hate the stubbornness with which I continue to live another day. Your memories live with me but I am not happy. I want to feel you, to hold your hand and listen you speak. I never thanked you for many things. You taught me how to live, you taught me how to bear success and defeats and you turned our house into a home. I never thanked you for walking by my side, for weaving your life together with me. I never thanked you for your companionship; I never thanked you for loving me.
We will meet again one day. We will meet when we are young and still have those dreams. It will be on seashore, when the sun is rising and it is a beautiful new day. We will watch fishermen going in the sea and large waves swinging their boat in its lap, we will watch lovers playing on the beach and make castles of sand; we will watch the tides wash it away. We will walk hand in hand and get amazed at vastness of the sea. We will meet when everything is calm and the sea is still. We will meet when there is silence all around, silence which is not melancholic but serene. We will meet when everything is as it is supposed to be. We will meet when there nothing but happiness.
Waiting to meet you soon,



sugandha said...

Very nicely written. Life of the ordinary is such a beautiful concept to base it upon. Just loved it.

दर्शन said...

Moist in my eyes ..all the beautiful emotions of life has been captured in amazingly simple way and the beautiful dish has been created which is called "Life within Love"

My Regards

Anonymous said...

You can make people cry..!

In search of new horizons said...

wow, you are a master writer. Lovely expression and details makes one feel like watching a movie. Just came across your blog while searching for upsc interview and never thought would find this.

Just Simple said...

@Sugandha, Darshan, Anonymous and New Horizons: Thanks a ton, your comments give me a big motivation to write!