Generation without an ear

Lend an ear is such a wonderful idiom; I still use it sometimes, but it’s obsoleted in a literal sense. Well I think to myself that if the listener has all my ears meaning I listen to them what’s the harm in them lending me an ear occasionally.

Ears these days are lent to the earphones, earpods, headphones and all such devices that I probably am not aware of. I still remember in earlier days when the phones were launched with messaging system each SMS had a word limit, if you exceed that limit you would be charged for two SMSs, so everyone tend to sum up the point in just a single message to avoid the extra charge. That much money meant a lot back in the day. Along with the charges incurred the SMSs did have a value. Your read it with the same enthusiasm that you read a letter with. The letters that we received in the past were longer, not too long but long enough for you to know what the writer wants to convey. You were never intolerant about its length. In fact, you always felt it should have had more. You felt a longing to know further and, in a response, you wrote another letter to the writer telling your side of the story. This incredible exchange of letters covered multiple layers of emotions. Anxiety, happiness, sorrow, longing, nostalgia and so on. This list can probably take all the related adjectives.

I always wonder how it all fell apart. It did for me as I still am an old school person. I still remember how people texted and texted all night, getting closer and closer, sharing every personal detail in the message yet upon meeting in person felt a distance. I am sure we all have felt this at some point in time with someone. When we agree to meet we know everything from what dress he/she is going to wear to what they are going to say to each other, but the actual encounter goes mostly speechless. Not that there is a downside to this, as physical or in-person closeness comes eventually as it involves being comfortable with each other’s company. As stated earlier, in the era of SMSs you at least had definitive boundaries like limited message packs, happy hours for cheaper calls and so on.

When the latest chatting apps were launched for free everything just started to change. The distant friends, family members came closer, you created groups and chatted with friends all at once which had not happened earlier for years. It all felt good for, some of your friends that you never heard of after school were suddenly part of the group and were just a ‘hi’ away. Wow! It did make you feel closer. You spent your entire schooling learning and creating memories and now you could recollect all of those again. You revisit those days, realizing that every friend has a different set of memories and collectively it all sounds fun. You feel nostalgic thinking those were the best days of your life. Indeed. Those memories were supposed to be cherished but you talked about it all at once. After a day or two or three days in some cases you feel you have exhausted all your topics that you could discuss. Your friends know what you have been doing for all these years and vice versa. What else to talk about now? So that’s when the forwards come into play. They fill the void that is created by lack of things to discuss. All you must do is laugh, feel sad, comment or if not all just ignore it. As this goes on for a while the ignorance keeps growing and growing. All of this finally leads us to one thing, it starts here, ends here and revolves around this and that ultimate truth of the universe is the mobile phone.

Extending their favours further, the mobile phones have done a similar thing to our own personal lives as well. I remember how people came home from work and sat down in front of the television set to catch a glimpse of the 7 ‘0’ clock news in the evening sipping the fresh hot tea. The dinner was served while watching the family’s favorite program on the TV. You had one landline phone at home and there would be tremendous competition to answer that.  We found pleasure in the stupidest program on TV, we gave much importance to the mysteries around wrong numbers/blank calls; and between all of this, packaged, were tons of conversations, laughter and happiness, that have now become wonderful memories for us. Today when I look back at the times we are living in, I ask myself, what are the memories we are creating? From a society of joint families, the birth of twentieth century saw us moving more towards nuclear families. The transition from joint to nuclear families took over a century to happen (if we look at it with a larger perspective) but, our generation took less than a decade to reach further down the granularity. We have become more and more individualistic in the already nuclear families that we are part of. Instead of the evening news we prefer getting those updates Real-time from Facebook and other apps on the phones, we have dinner watching our own favorite programs on each of our phones/tablets/laptops. After a long day instead of having a conversation we prefer to lean back and take a plunge into our mobile phones. Faster the internet better it is. Information is handy and readily available. When earlier we lightened our hearts by speaking about our problems, right now, what we are doing instead is further burdening our souls with what we see on the social networking sites. Earlier when what other people do in their lives was remote to us, now our priority is to see that first and then judge our lives based on that. I remember how we traveled, took pictures saw them time and again to relive those moments. Now, we travel only to post the pictures and fetch likes and comments, then we busy ourselves looking for who liked it and who didn’t then further judging based on that. I recently heard a friend say, ‘what’s the point of traveling if you are not posting pictures on Facebook?’. This is perhaps right, why does a travel feel less significant if you don’t tell people about it? why do we have to decorate the pictures with hashtags? I recently found myself at a tourist destination, I had the camera as usual and I was clicking several pictures, after a point in time I realized I didn’t see it with own eyes instead I kept clicking pictures. What about seeing that with our own eyes to rejuvenate our souls for the further adventures that await us at work.

There is another side to this and I know I am just putting one sided view across. Though the significance of the other side only stays intact if we are content with our own lives. The problem that I wish to delineate arises when we pitch our lives against all the pseudo existences we witness on Social sites. By calling them pseudo I do not mean to diminish or question the lifestyle, but my only intention is to stress the virtual nature of it. Is it ideal to think you are not living your life to the fullest just because you don’t have an active social (networking) life? What if Facebook and all other social networking sites just vanish? Are we going to lead an empty life? For a moment, can we imagine this situation and consider what might follow? The results I am sure are interesting. A big void will be created in each one’s life. The void is something that we need to address. The scenario is so relative that we must find the answer to the ‘how’ on our own.

What all of this is doing essentially is making us more and more intolerant, not towards the society but towards your own people; your family, friends, cousins, partners. We are losing the patience to hear them, to spend time with them. We are growing more impulsive and finding refuge in clinging to our phones when we hit a road block or reach a saturation point in a relationship. We need to remember and remind ourselves that when we have different choices in front of us we always go for the easier pick. In most cases, our mobile phones are topping the charts of being the easy choice. We feel it’s closer to us because it keeps us engaged without having to speak to it. But isn’t that the problem? Are we not becoming conclusive about smaller things and hastily prioritizing our phones over everything else? One of the widely given justifications is the phones offer knowledge, does it mean our ancestors were less knowledgeable by any chance? I do understand it’s a difficult choice, but what’s the harm in sitting across on the dinner table leaving the phones miles away chatting with each other? What’s the harm in waking up early on a fine Sunday morning and sipping the morning tea standing in the balcony looking at the sun go up? If doing that is difficult for you I don’t see the harm in at least trying that. I am sure that will soon top the charts of choices you make and there will be a day when you will pick this over your phone.

-Deven Pahinkar

ध्यास

काहूर वेदनांचे रात्रीच भोगलेले
आक्रंदत्या मनाने मी श्वास मोजलेले

मज स्पर्शही न झाला गंधाळल्या फुलाचा
मी फक्त पहिले मज अश्रूत नाहलेले

लाटांसवे किनारी एकांत शोधला मी
लाटेस जीवनाचे मी अर्थ अर्पिलेले

-देवेन पहिनकर

She Took Away the Soul

Moin and I met for the first time in the staff room, where I was getting ready for my first ever lecture and Moin had just debuted and returned to pavilion. We looked at each other, immediately guessed that it was our first day. The nervousness could tell that. He wished me luck and I congratulated him. He was not able to hide his excitement and my anxiety was clearly visible. ‘I should not be late,’ I said and rushed to the classroom. I felt sorry that I cut his further gesture of making me feel comfortable, but I had no choice but to rush to the class. Moreover, how to handle classes is not something I was going to learn from someone 50 minutes senior to me.

My lecture went great. I went to the staff-room with smile on my face; two women sitting on the wooden chairs discussing, looked up at me and went back to their talk. One of them wore a blue Salwaar kameez and looked comparatively younger. She looked at me for a few more seconds and smiled a little. I grinned at her, but she didn’t see that. I felt sheepish of myself. I sat down and started sorting the books.

‘Oh, hello! How was your first lecture?’ I heard from my back. I was irritated with the word first as it made me feel inferior to others as the two women cared to pause a little and look at me. I turned around; it was the same person I met before my lecture. He came forward, greeted me and introduced himself.

‘I am Moin; tell me how your lecture was? How did it go?’ I liked his dropping the f word this time. I introduced myself and added further,

‘Oh it was pretty comfortable; after all it’s about winning your student’s hearts you know.’ I said trying to sound as confident as possible. He heard me and smiled back. His smile made me feel a little immature.

The two women started having interest in our conversation. Moin and I both sensed it. Moin was probably used to these situations so he asked me to follow him. We went to the canteen. I was expecting him to comment on the women but he kept quiet. We settled on a single table and Moin asked for two coffees.

‘I hope you don’t mind my ordering a coffee for you, you like coffee do you?’ He asked.

‘Oh of course, thank you!’ I said looking at the canteen and then at him. Moin was dressed in formals. His off white plain formal shirt against navy blue trousers looked more like a uniform.

‘Looks like you come here very often, you know quite a lot about this place!’ I said, trying to know more about him.

‘Actually yes, I studied here. My wife also did a small course from this college.’ She is a graduate in Economics, now she is doing another course in Public Administration!’ he proudly said.

 I was surprised to know that Moin was married. He looked older than me but his marriage took me by surprise. I could see the glow on his face and sparkle in his eyes when he spoke about his wife. It was evident as he had given quite a lot of information about his wife which was not asked for. Moin was not only married but he had a four years old daughter, who was very beautiful. It was a love marriage and they had to elope as none of their parents agreed to their marriage. A first ever meeting and I knew quite a lot about his family. Briefly, all I could gather about him was, he loved his family. He did his specialization in Psychology and he taught in another college in Pune before he got this opportunity. He also does career and personal counseling.

‘So you are a completely settled man I see!’ I said. He smiled gratefully and said nothing. He checked his watch and excused himself to make a call. I was pretty sure he was going to call his wife.

The canteen was a busy place. There were a few tables on the left and a partition to my right. To my left was a young couple, who was probably discussing a date. Mostly all the tables were occupied for similar situations by different faces. Right in front of me was a group sitting and celebrating someone’s birthday. I thought of my college days. Moin too looked to have lost himself in thoughts as he got back from his call and settled. As I took the last sip from my cup and put it on the table, Moin came back to his senses.

‘I am sorry, he said, I was lost.’ One of my closest friends is coming here for some work. We did our schooling together. In fact, he teaches Public Administration to Najma, she has opted for the elective.

‘That’s quite good news. She must be getting a special attention in the class.’ I said casually but Moin looked offended. Just a conversation of few minutes made me realize he was very defensive about his wife. I somehow was disgusted with that defensiveness of his. Moin was quiet and did not say a word post my comment till he finally broke the ice.

‘Rasool should be here in sometime, I hope I get to introduce you to each other.’

‘That sounds great!’ I said with a melodramatic enthusiasm. I find it very difficult to befriend people in the first meeting. First of all it was Moin, now Rasool.’ Moreover, Najma, without a formal introduction was already added to my friend list. In the meantime, I noticed one interesting trait of Moin as a person. He had forgotten that he was disappointed with me some time back; the fact that I was going to be added to their group was news in itself for him. He was happy; perhaps, he knew how to find ways to be happy. There may be the other side to many of the facets of his life, but he had a positive and secured view point towards his life that made him happy and for pretty obvious reasons he never thought of coming out of it.

Rasool was not as good looking as Moin but he had a charm. He was energetic and quick witted. As he sat down, he looked at me and asked Moin who I was. I tried smiling at him but he overlooked me. When introductions were made he stared at me for some time and cleared his throat. ‘So you teach English?’ ‘Yes, and you teach Public Administration, I said grinning at him!’ He glared at me again clearing his throat and eying the expression on Moin’s face. He specializes in Politics and Public Administration is one of the disciplines that he covers.’ Moin Said without a single expression on his face.  As I had to rush for an extra lecture, I excused myself. Moin wanted me to stay on and take part in the discussion but I was reluctant and so was Rasool. As Rasool was there for some work, I did not get to see of him after that day. I was glad. Moin however became a regular buddy at the college.

The next few months went smoothly. One cup of coffee with Moin after the lecture became a routine. Najma was a regular whenever Moin spoke but he avoided talking about Rasool. If sometimes he spoke, he would change the topic quickly. At times, when Moin spoke about life, his daughter, his family and most importantly his wife, I felt how stupid he was. Whenever he narrated any of their outing experiences or their gatherings, there always was a scope for a loophole. He never questioned anything nor did he bother to rethink any of the situations or occurrences. Either he was very innocent or he was deliberately being a fool. This mystery, sometimes I thought will not unfold until I meet his beloved wife Najma.

***

One day when I was done with all my lectures, I was sitting in the staff room going through the daily newspaper. There was no one but the younger lecturer whom I had seen on my very first day in the college. As I began getting along with the other members in the staff room, this lady lecturer was one who showed keen interest in talking to me, so did I. She was beautiful. Her hair was flossy and had a brown touch to it. I spoke with her in front of the staff room more frequently where the morning rays of the sun would fall on her hair and made it look even more beautiful. It rightly suited her fair complexion. I jovially thought sometimes how this beauty with the sharp nose and big brown eyes fell for mathematics. Mathematics. It took time for me digest it, but her talking or presenting something made it evident. Compared to the kind of person I was, she was very concrete and precise. She had a reason for every statement she made and all her statements were reasonable. That day in the staff-room was special. We were talking about our personal lives; she was telling me how she was brought up in Mumbai and eventually came down to Pune and took to teaching. She was doing the talking and I was enjoying how she expressed immaculately. I was so very engrossed that a thought of a distraction did not even occur to me. ‘Hey, sorry if I disturbed you two, said Moin. I was looking at Radha; she was disappointed but was trying to cover it up with a smile on her face. I was annoyed with Moin as he was very ignorant of her disappointment. She stood up and looked at me for a longer time, ‘see you tomorrow at coffee!’ She said and left the room. I kept looking towards the door thinking of her.

Moin was excited that day. He wanted to tell me that there was a special plan of a supper at his place and I was invited alongside Rasool. The idea of sharing a table with Rasool upset me but I was happy that I was finally going to see who Najma was. I had heard a lot about her. Moin took all the details of my favourite dishes and informed Najma accordingly. From his conversation with her, I sensed that Rasool’s likes were also going to be catered to. It was going to be a hectic dinner for Najma, I thought. Since the plan was made for the same day and Moin had to go back and help Najma with cooking he handed over his lectures to me left hurriedly. I had some more time before the commencement of the next lecture so decided bury myself back into the newspaper. I was skimming through the Editorials when I saw an article on Ramanujan, the magic man of Mathematics. Ramanujan’s mathematics reminded me of Radha and her thoughts took my soul away from the article. Over the period of time, I grew so very fond of the way of her dressing, which was simple. She preferred a Khaddar Salwaar kameez more frequently with a scarce exception of a Pure cotton Sari. Being a lecturer she chose looking like one. Her sense of style and body language was pretty common among women in the field of social work and teaching but she still managed to make difference, she indeed was different, because she was beginning to be a special person in my life.

The idea of meeting Najma disgusted me as my chain of Radha’s thoughts was broken by a message from Moin asking me to come early. Comparisons of these two women characters that seem to be overpowering on two different dimensions in my life have nothing in common. I was being bias no doubt but prejudice towards Radha was obvious. I had not met Najma till date but I had observed a constant peeping of a negative thought whenever Najma was talked about with me. I, for no reason altogether felt sorry for Moin. No matter what my perception of Najma was, for as long as I had heard of one side of her, she was a pretty woman, Moin’s beloved wife who ran his domestic life with sheer perfection and Moin too loved no one else in the world but Najma. His love for her was platonic as he often said. He was madly in love with Najma or like I felt sometimes, he was stupidly in love that this feeling has sometimes overridden his affection for his daughter. Nevertheless, Najma was my principal host for the night and I was supposed to be cordial especially towards her. I tried to wash away all the preconceptions and thought of giving it a fresh start as I felt, Najma was for no reason becoming a rogue in my thoughts. Rasool, who I thought was the other challenge for the night was side-lined by me.

After finishing my extra lectures for the day I prepared and started towards Moin’s home carrying a bouquet for the hosts and chocolates for their daughter. The area was more of an old city but the township where he stayed was a skyscraper. I entered the details and the security person escorted me to his building. Moin was waiting for me there, he greeted as we entered into his apartment. ‘Wow’ was my first reaction. Moin, I did not know had such a wonderful home, it was a class. Everything about it was affluent. Moin had told me about everything in his life but this. That day I got to know that he had a rich father who was a doctor. He had made enough for his four sons who all were leading an above average life; Moin evidently topped among them.

As I sat for a minute or so, Najma came out with a bright smile on her face. She was fair with sharp features. She was wearing a Sari and had a black dupatta around her neck that made her look pious. She was not beautiful so to say but she looked pure and divine. I was immediately convinced why Moin loved her so much. Her conduct was very earthy and she seemed a soft spoken person. She spoke extensively about Moin, their daughter, her studies and life in general. Since Rasool was going to be late our discussions were taking turns after turns. Najma sounded pretty comfortable. Salma, their daughter was a bright child who not just resembled with Moin but had many traits of his personality. I was enjoying the time till Rasool came in.

‘Hi Moin, I hope I am not too late!’ He said looking neither at me nor at Najma. He seemed a regular as he went straight to the Bathroom. Najma who till now was speaking suddenly became quiet. She stood up and followed Rasool inside. I kept looking at them. Moin sensed it and added, ‘She feels a little bit of embarrassment in front of Rasool, after all it’s a Student-Teacher relationship.’ “Of course, of course, I understand!’ I said. Moin got up and went inside. I was left alone in the living room. When I used to work on stage during my college days, I was often told, the stage should never be empty. There should be some action or at least a character beguiling the audience; if not always consider there is something happening backstage. I wondered what was happening at the back of this stage where I was the sole audience to this gradually unfolding mysterious drama.

I was looking at the interior as Radha’s thoughts came to my mind. ‘What kind of interior would Radha prefer?’ I thought. No matter what relationship you share with a woman you feel closer to, you start relating everything you see with her. Radha was just a co-lecturer but lot of times I had fancied myself spending rest of my life with her. Irrespective of how composed and matured you are, when you fall for a woman, that apparent pehla nasha brings out the Hindi Film hero in you. Mine was already chasing after a girl and popping up like a teen but I was trying hard to suppress it. I did not want to feel sheepish of myself. 

‘When did you come?’ Rasool opened up a conversation with me wiping his hand with a napkin and settling down on the sofa. He sounded casual, but he took me by surprise. ‘Just half an hour ago, how are you doing?’ I asked him casually.

He leaned back on the sofa, smiled wryly at me and waved his hand. He lifted the newspaper from the side piece and dug himself in it. Moin and Najma came out together with the welcome drinks. Najma stood there quietly till Moin handed my glass to me; after he was done she gave Rasool his glass and went inside. I was amazed as neither Rasool nor Najma bothered to exchange a glance of courtesy. Her eyes met mine but she avoided Rasool. Moin sat on a stool close to the Kitchen door so that he can keep an eye on what is going on inside and rush back if he was needed. From my arrival itself I noticed that he was making sure he does not burden his wife. He consistently looked under an obligation.

‘She works hard during the day, so sometimes I help her!’ He exclaimed smiling at me. Rasool was still indifferent. Moin saw me looking at him and sensed that his silence was the anomalous part of the evening. ‘Speak up buddy, put that paper down, I know you have already read it’, Moin shouted at him. Rasool obeyed like a child and cleared his throat but kept quiet. He was lucky as right at that moment Najma peeped from inside, called Moin and the food was served.

Later that evening, Najma distanced herself during the dinner and the post dinner discussion. Najma I saw when I came was evidently different from the Najma now. Their daughter made her presence felt with frequent cameos from her sleep. Rasool, as I felt should not have been invited in first place as he played a mute spectator whenever Moin spoke of Najma and he spoke mostly of her. Our topics ranged from work to Education to society but Moin maintained a standpoint which was his wife. Along with his views he also narrated with great interest how Najma felt about a lot of things and how their daughter shows her awareness. Their daughter indeed was a bright child. Barring her father’s sharp nose she had carried forward all her mother’s features and was a very attractive kid. She spent more time with her mother, but I thought she was fonder of Moin as she had inherited her father’s excessive hospitality because she showered me with several ‘aur leejiye’s during the dinner. I felt she hated Rasool for some reason as she did not speak with him at all. Moin’s explanation to this was, ‘Rasool uncle does not bring chocolate cakes that’s the reason baby does not like him!’ Neither that kid nor me catered to this one as I thought it was ridiculous but Moin could convince Najma and Rasool with his explanation as they felt it was apt.

I did not understand if Moin had his blinds on deliberately or he was too stupid to realize what might come his way. He could only love people selflessly but never bothered to see if it is being reciprocated. He believed he got his wife by the God’s grace and his daughter was a gift from God Himself. He wanted her to be her mother’s replica as he felt she is the key factor of his life that had lead the way so far with great respect and love for his family. He had complete faith in her and he never bothered to question any of her intentions. That night after the dinner with his family I got to know more of him. The other side of his self which predominantly belongs to his wife was exposed to me. Thanks to Moin for inviting Rasool that I could get the bigger picture of things that were crowding in my mind. People called me suspicious but my disbelief towards the whole scenario grew stronger. I was too shaken to react to his wife’s secret glances to Rasool and his impish casual touches on the dinner table. I wished I had not seen Rasool follow Najma to the kitchen with a smile when I was coming after washing my hands and Moin was off to the bathroom. I was trying hard not to believe this; I was persuading my mind in the other direction only to fail because his daughter had sensed her mother’s some of these actions. That’s precisely the reason; I thought why she was inclined more towards Moin. All that the kid could have gathered out of this is that her father does not share his love with anyone, he loves her the most. But there is someone else whom Mama loves more than Papa, perhaps more than her. Poor child.

***

That dinner at his place was it. I decided I will never visit Moin’s place in future nor I will get into this matter. I was being selfish but I did not want any trouble for myself and Radha too as we were beginning to get closer. However, it was poor Moin’s concern that did not let me give up so easily and sometimes, I would hint Moin to think in a rather opposite way towards the whole scene. I made him doubt Rasool and keep check as to what Najma does when he is not around. Of course I could not openly tell him to do any of this as it would have rather landed me in becoming one of his foes. I handled it in a diplomatic way. Sometimes I would casually make him call Najma or ask him to go to her college and surprise her. He always believed me and did what I told. As I was expecting these surprises were indigestible for Najma and Rasool as Najma I suppose did not take them as a gesture of love. That for her was an intrusion for sure which might make the cradle fall.  She did not want that to happen. She knew that her husband believed her and she wanted him to stick to the routine calls, routine returning time and a set time table which she had made for Moin. If Moin does something off this time table on my say, she would get annoyed. She had convinced him how he will be happy in that particular set of things as she preferred an organized day rather than a day that brought surprises. I had discussed Moin’s case with Radha and sometimes she would come up with very useful inputs. In fact, visiting Najma at college was Radha’s idea which had really helped me as Moin had caught them a few times. They were discussing Economics in the canteen as there were no empty classrooms; Moin had told me the next day when we met before our classes. I had never seen a stupid man like Moin.

I still remember the day when I, Radha and Moin were discussing in the staff room about how surprises matter in a relationship. I asked Moin to call Najma and see what she was doing, as Moin had sensed what I was always driving at, he put the phone on the loudspeaker mode to prove his point that his wife was not guilty.

‘Hi Najma, how are you?’ He asked meekly. She paused for a moment as if she looked around her and then said,

‘Fine, why- why did you call now?’ Don’t you see I am studying? She was annoyed. Moin apologized several times but she was not in the mood to cater to it. She continued,

‘I know why you are doing this, your lecturer friend tells you. You doubt me because of a stranger? I am hurt; I don’t want to talk to you!’ She disconnected the call.

All of us fell silent. Moin was embarrassed, I thought probably because his wife was unknowingly rude to me. Nope, he was disappointed, with me. He stood up and pointed his index finger at me and said,

‘I shall never talk to you again and please don’t interfere in my family matters again. I love my wife and my family!’ He plainly said and left the room.

I was left agape and so was Radha. We did not expect such an immature reaction from a man like Moin. Nevertheless, it was an obvious reaction from a man who does not want to believe that his wife has an extra marital affair. I thought he too was beginning to doubt Najma but the fact that he was getting such evidences was hurting him more and he wanted to be happy with his selfless love after all he had a beautiful daughter with Najma.

***

However after that day Moin did not speak with me at all. I heard he had his lecture timings changed to afternoon so that he does not have to see me. He sometimes smiled at Radha in case she happened to encounter him but did not exchange a single word. His words the other day woke me up as I thought I was poking a little too much in his personal life even though my intentions were strictly for his good and in his favour. I often told Radha that we avoid truths which come at the cost of disappointment. Moin in this case was an epitome of it.

As Moin did not want me to, I never interfered in his life. I did inquire about his well being to some of the staff members and that was it. I always thought if at all there is something fishy, it shall go away and may Moin get a life that he really deserved.

Many months had passed. I had grown pretty close to Radha and our fondness for each other was the topic of the staff room gossip. Being not so old, we were equally discussed in the campus. My compatibility to Radha grew with every single day and so did her affection towards me. As it was almost the time I decided to propose Radha for marriage. She took some time as she was thoughtful but eventually she agreed; we got engaged before the commencement of examinations during the preparation leaves. We decided that we would announce our engagement in the staff room on the first day of exams.

As the day came, we brought sweets for the teaching and non-teaching staff. I was giving the sweets when our Clark came to me,

Excuse me sir, Moin sir wants to see you, he is in the Government hospital!’

‘Does he want to see me?’ I asked him with a pleasant surprise. He nodded, took the sweet and left. I looked at Radha and told her probably he has become a father again. ‘Let us go and tell our news as well!’ I said as we left for the hospital. On our way to hospital, I was cursing myself for being suspicious towards Najma. I was happy for Moin. He, I thought had become a father again, Najma who I thought did not love him, was going to be a mother again for the second time.

The Government Hospital was very much crowded. We went to the maternity section and enquired about Najma. We were surprised to know that no patient by the name of Najma was admitted there.  When she checked in the general database we got to know that Moin was admitted in the accident ward. I was too shocked to imagine what could have happened. Radha held my hand tightly as we walked towards the ward. As we entered inside, Radha spotted Moin in one of the rooms and we approached.

I saw an old man sitting on a stool next to Moin’s cot. Moin was resting there quietly; his eyes were shut when we came near him. His daughter sat on his cot holding his right hand. Moin had cut the veins of his left arm. He had tried to kill himself. I could not believe what I saw. The old man saw us and got up from his stool and said to Moin’s daughter. ‘Come with your grandpa beta; let’s buy you a chocolate cake!’ and took her away.

I sat on the stool and Radha stood next to me. I still had the box of sweets in my hand. Moin looked at the sweets and smiled looking at both of us. He raised his right hand with effort and took Radha’s hand and put it on mine and shook his head several times looking at Radha as tears trickled out of his eyes. We very well understood what he wanted to say. I knew why he had tried to kill himself. I knew why he had called me to see him. Everything was becoming clearer. He took his hand back and put in his shirt pocket and took out a letter. He gave it to me to read. As I had expected it was a letter from Najma. She was gone with Rasool, forever. As I was reading the letter, I saw his daughter come back with her grandfather. She was crying as she was not satisfied with just a chocolate cake, she came running towards Moin and hugged him tightly. I tried to hold back my tears but couldn’t. Najma had taken his savings and jewellery which hardly matched her place in his life but she had taken the most important part of his life away, his asset, she had taken away his soul.

                                                                                                    -Deven Pahinkar

Song of Love

I was leaning on the usual grill having my tea at Bablu’s. After office hours I paid two visits to Bablu’s, one for my evening tea and the other for the delicious parathas. I was watching all the daily faces, tired badged professionals like me, who came to pick parcels and have their tea like I did. They excessively cursed their managers and smoked heavily to let that out of them. They felt lighter, like I felt released and free, in a way Bablu’s catered to these needs and was a special place for us.

That day, as I was leaning, feeling every drop of tea, the wind began to blow faster. Trees swayed and everyone was looking around to see what was happening. It was a usual breeze but a little harder this time, harder enough as a cold shiver ran all over me. I thought of Nandini and the time I spent with her here, sitting for hours, chatting, after all it was Nandini who took me to Bablu’s first and eventually that became my daily spot. Nandini’s thought made me look at the table where we sat, I missed those days. I missed Nandini. She was always with me till I took to work and it was that evening that she left me, like a phase of life changes with a decision, not having Nandini around drastically changed my life. After all it was my derailment that had us apart. I did not value the kind of relationship that I shared with Nandini. I was a completely changed person when I got the job, I behaved weirdly with her. She remained patient, still loving me in the tougher phase of life but she finally left me. She promised me that she will come back if at all I realized what wrong have I done. The only condition that she put fourth was I would never know where she was. I didn’t realize anything when she was gone, but eventually my life was taken over my emptiness. I started living a quiet and lonely life, with no answers for the questions that life asked and no takers for the answers that I had in mind. I remembered how I dumped all my problems in front of her and how she would cuddle them with ease to make me feel better. She would Koi Nahi a problem and effortlessly come up with a smiling solution. With her I felt refreshing and alive. She had the knack of unfolding me and opening me up to face the best part of life, a life that I always desired to live. Nandini was beginning to become that life for me till she left me that evening. After that, I lost all that I had when I was with her and started living a masked life, given by others, for others, which hardly had a place for me in it.  

The wind was still blowing harder. As I took another sip, my tea was no longer hot, so I asked for another with extra sugar and ginger. Nandini always liked ginger tea, I thought. As I was standing for quite a longer time now, my recently diagnosed illness alarmed me with a sudden sense of weakness and made me hunt for stool.  I sat on the same table where I used to sit with Nandini, the stool where she sat was still empty, for a moment I thought, I was waiting for her and she could be right in front of me in any moment, but I smiled wryly at the idea and closed my eyes. I wish I could have got to spend the coming brief part of my life with Nandini, I wished for her to be with me. But it was a dream that may not come true, I had no idea where Nandini was, where that part of my life was gone. I was looking up at the sky feeling the cold breeze that was blowing harder and harder. My heart beat faster with every blow if it.

Bhaiyya, Aur ek Chai bana doon adrak wali?’ I was surprised as I looked at Bablu and wondered why he wanted to make the third tea with ginger. As I looked at him he was smiling at me. I was not getting him. Then he looked at the chair opposite me and smiled back at me. In an instance I looked in front of me, there stood Nandini, like she did few years ago. I was stunned to see her. I had wished for her to be with me and the wish was granted in no less time. She was smiling at me, she had her hair open, and she wore that green Salwaar kameez and had put Kajal. She was looking very beautiful. She was still smiling as I was left agape. In all these years I had desired for her, I wanted her to be with me. I dreamed of her at night and suddenly she was in front of me. She waved her hand and nodded to Bablu for making her special tea as she settled. For her it was still the same as it was few years ago. She was just being usual; there was no awkwardness no discomfort. My eyes were filled as I was watching her. Then she stretched her hand like she always did and held mine into hers. When I was finally back to my senses, and put my hand on hers, she immediately pulled her one hand away and bit her lower lip and laughed harder like she always did. She was unchanged in all these years. She was just energizing.

‘Rajneesh, what happened to you? Speak up.’ She said with simplicity. She asked me to speak but for me it was going to be difficult. I had not spoken about things for all these years, I had grown as a completely different individual, my life had completely changed after Nandini left and I was metamorphosed completely. Still I wanted to speak, tell her how much I missed her and longed for her to be with me when I needed her the most. But I did not feel like talking about what I had lost in all these years, I wanted to look forward, look up to the remaining life that I might get to spend with Nandini. I wanted her to be with me. Nandini was my dream that I saw for these years with closed eyes, but the reality had offered her to me again and I was watching her with my eyes open and I was feeling her touch that was soothing my restlessness.

As we finished our tea, we started walking towards the beach, like we did in those days. I was living that life again, just the difference was Nandini did most of the talking and I was listening to her.  She was telling me how she wanted me to continue writing in life. She often told people about me, how much she loved me and the writer in me. In these years, she did not forget about me for a single moment, she had me in her mind every day, every moment, ‘I always loved you Rajneesh’, as she said. As we walked, there was hardly any light on the beach road barring the passing vehicles. This was the thing I loved about this street. When Nandini was not around for all these years I had walked alone on the streets to think of Nandini, to relive all those walks that we had when we went to the beach every other day. Probably Nandini too was thinking about that, I was walking with both my hands in my pockets like I did and Nandini put her right hand around my arm and leaned on my shoulders. This was the best part of our walks that was missing for all these years. I was experiencing it again. I was enjoying it. For some time we walked silently, perhaps it was the silence that was speaking; we had missed each other for all these years. We wanted to live a life together. That life I thought was here again. I thought of my illness and I lost the hope for a moment. That’s when Nandini spoke,

‘I’ll always love you my and only my Rajneesh. I am not going anywhere now.’

I smiled at her, the thought of my illness just vanished. Then I held her hand a little tighter and put my right hand around her waist and pulled her closer to me. She smiled at me again. We walked this way for some time. As we were nearing the beach, Nandini freed herself went two steps away from me and dropping her neck to the either side and twisting her lips mischievously like she always did she asked me,

‘Rajneesh would you like to listen to something?’ she would often ask and sing songs for me. She enjoyed it and I loved it when she enjoyed. She stopped at the beach, somewhere near the same place where we had sat the last time when we had come to the beach. I walked slowly as I could not run like I did once. I was disappointed with my illness. In fact, I wanted to run after her, pull her towards me, hold her closer to me and tell how much I missed her singing songs and the smile that appeared on her face when she sang this. I wanted to kiss her deeply, closing my eyes, feeling every bit of it, and tell her how much I missed her, every time I closed my eyes it was her face that appeared in front of me and with her lies my happiness. The song brought back all the memories as I was walking slowly towards her. She was watching me from a distance smiling at me. I remembered how we did the stupidest things in the world together and loved them living every moment of it. As I was spending more and more time with Nandini, everything began to come back to me. I loved the nostalgia. Every moment she was coming up with something that we did in those days to make me smile to make me relive those days.

The beach was little wet with yesterday’s rain, so there was hardly anybody except the vendors at a distance and a few couples. It was quiet. Sometimes that quietness would go away for some minutes when we laughed. Suddenly there was a silence, a silence of seriousness on Nandini’s face, which would often show up when she thought about something seriously. I knew she would say something that she felt in all these years. She broke the ice as I expected,

‘You know something Rajneesh; there were times when I could have changed as an individual, that may have hurt you if  we had met, but I never let myself change. I always thought of you, I knew you loved me this way, and for you I wanted to be the same like I always was. You were always my priority Rajneesh.’

‘I know Nandini, but I changed, with you I was happy, I was living a life I always wanted to, I was becoming you for that matter, but after you left I was shattered. My life changed, I had nobody to speak to and nobody to look up to. I always wondered if you would come to me at all.’

‘Hey Rajneesh, I am here with you now, don’t you see? She said leaning towards me and putting her head on my shoulders. She put the index finger of her right hand and tied it with my respective finger and played with it looking at me. She was looking attractive. I looked into her eye, as she saw me looking into her eye; she raised one of her eye brows and looked at me, biting her lower lip harder to stop her laughter. She often teased me this way. Teasing me was her passion in those days and it appeared to me that she still enjoyed it. With Nandini time would just fly away like that hence, every second was precious for us in those days, ‘crucial times’ as Nandini pointed out sometimes. But for now the longing for the crucial times was gone, as they were here, in the form of Nandini. She herself was the face of my life which I was beginning to get back.

We spent most of the time on the beach speaking about where and how our lives went when we were apart. Nandini applied for an NGO, which worked for Old people, they had an old age home, where Nandini worked. She taught many things like English, she worked for them, entertained them, spoke to them for hours and understood them very well. She had become a part of their life and I could see that she too missed them. They considered her to be a granddaughter. She wrote many poems about us, about her life at the old age home. In all these years she had read thoroughly about many things in the world and that reflected in the way she spoke. She always was a girl who knew about things, she was well versed with disciplines like history, sociology and politics. I remember to have agreed upon many issues with her. We hardly had any disagreements. Now she had become even more intellectual, a person who was even more lovable and respectable. I felt a sudden sense of pride for her growing within me. I realised that she was in certain senses a changed person, but that particular trait of her personality was untouched. She had kept it just like that for me. I felt happy and special.

On our way back to Bablu’s we just held each other’s hands and walked quietly. We were hungry. We wanted to go back and have the share of parathas. We always ordered two different parathas and we shared them. When we reached, our table was occupied, Nandini was disappointed. I asked her we could sit on some other table, but she insisted for the same, somehow I felt, I wanted that table too. For both of us, these smaller things always made difference.

We settled after ten minutes and ordered our regular parathas. Nandini got up and went there to order it. She always made it a point to go in and instruct Bablu accordingly. She was particular about what we ate. For me she always insisted that things have a certain quality in them, here it was about food so she wanted me to eat a complete delicious meal. She was good at interacting with people and winning them over with the way she spoke. She was not bothered about any hierarchies, she spoke with equal respect be it Bablu or his servants. After ordering and a having a long conversation with Bablu Nandini came back. She was about to sit when she asked me, ‘you’ll have tea, won’t you?’  And my answer obviously was yes. She loved having the food with hot tea. ‘Bhaiyya, Aur Do Adrak wali Chai please’ she said as she settled.

‘So Rajneesh, you have become so thin, you need to eat more you know that? Being a girl I eat a lot more than you. I might put on weight, I am worried. I am already-‘she said as she looked up at me smiling.

‘I was looking at her, you need to put on, look at what has happened to you. I am stronger enough to do lot many things you know!’ I said mischievously and we both burst out laughing.

‘You are mad, nothing can get you out of your madness, you are completely mad.’ She said furthering with her laughter.  She often called me mad. Apart from these there were some other words that she used. Whenever she had no answers or she would have nothing to say, she would call me mad. And yes, I was mad, mad for Nandini. That madness was gone for all these years and it was back again. Nandini had brought it all back with her.

Nandini and I were so very intense in certain senses and we always believed in taking pleasure out of the smallest things in life. We sang songs for each other, the songs that we both loved. I did not have any great voice but she still loved it whenever I sang. As I would say, we made the most of things that we came across. In the years when Nandini was not around, my life had lost the pleasure and the song and I could make nothing out of anything. Now just after having her back with me for a few hours and reliving some of the things we did then were charging me up to live the life again. As our parathas came, Nandini said, putting her hand on mine with seriousness on her face.

‘There are some very important things that we need to do Rajneesh!’

For a moment a cold shiver ran all over my body. I thought of my illness, somehow Nandini must have gotten to know about it. I did not want her to know that I was going to live a brief life, a life that was going to end sooner or later. I looked at her stunned, my eyes wide open.

‘Chill, these are very important things; we always wanted to do them. We have done them once in fact!’

As she said, we have done them once, I was relaxed. It was something we together wished to do. I was sure but there were many things that we did and desired to do. What she was talking about was something I had to make out. But before I could come up with something, Nandini started singing,

‘Would you dance? If I asked you to dance,

Would you run, never to look back?’

She sang and held my hand closer and kissed it. We had done all these things together, truly madly and deeply. She brought a smile back on my face. All the memories were back in their place as it were. I was feeling happy and relaxed. I did not think whether I had office tomorrow. I had gotten my life back and I was going to live it no matter what happens.

‘Thanks a lot Nandini for coming back and bringing back the taste into my life!’ I said blinking my eyes.

‘Shut up and finish your parathas first!’ She said with strictness and mimicked my dialogue with her naughty tone and pulled her tongue out from the other side to show me. We laughed some more and enjoyed our parathas quietly often looking at each other. It was always me who kept looking at her, into her eye, if she noticed; she would ask me, ‘what’s happening?’ If I told her I was looking at her, looking at how beautiful she looked, she would either say “oh really? I didn’t know it!” or simply Koi Nahi was enough for her. But that day, I saw her eyes were filled as I was watching her. She was trying to hide her face from me but when I insisted, pushed her little to tell me. She began,  

‘Rajneesh, I always missed you, not a single day went that I did not think of you. I wanted you to be with me all my life!’ She said wiping her tears with a tissue paper.

I smiled, tapping her shoulders. ‘Same here. You can see how messed up I am with my life. It was all not working out for me. I was clueless of what was happening. But let’s not think about what we lost. We have each other now.’ I said finishing the last bite of parathas and heading for my tea which was no longer hot. Nandini preferred tea while she ate, and I had my tea after I finished my meal. As we went to pay the bills, Bablu came up to us, smiling and said,

Koi Nahi Bhaiyya, meri taraf se. Aaj ka din ispesal hain!’   I was surprised with the generosity that he showed. We often kept change if he did not have, but this was quite a welcome gesture as it were, a complimentary round of tea and parathas from Bablu. We both thanked him and started walking towards the road. Whenever we met, I would drop Nandini to her place at night and then head towards mine. It was our ritual. And most importantly none of us wanted to go. Our journeys back home would usually be quiet as we found no words to come up with. I was expecting this day to be different, but it was not. I had Nandini with me, and a new beginning was awaiting but I had no time. I got her back at the wrong time, I thought. As we got into an auto, she put her hand around my arm and her head on my shoulder and kept playing with my finger. The wind was still blowing and her flossy hair was flying restlessly. It was all over my face. I was feeling the fragrance not bothering to push her hair back. Every strand of her hair seemed like a quilt to me that was covering my wounds and soothing my nerves. I loved it.

As we reached her door, before she knocked, she turned to me and hugged me tightly. She stayed in an apartment which was at the corner, so there was nobody around. She tightly held me, close to her. I always wanted to hold her close to me, close enough to never let her go off me. I put my hands around her and caressed her hair. I felt she was crying, so I held her face with both my hands, she was looking concerned, her eyes were completely filled. I wiped her tears with one hand and caressed her face and slightly kissed her on her forehead. I wanted to tell her I was going to be there for her all my life but I was not aware of what life was going to offer in coming days. I just smiled at her, and told her that we will meet again tomorrow. I asked her not to cry I was going to be around. How long was something I had left to God to answer. As I began to leave, she held my hand tightly and said looking right into my eyes,

‘Rajneesh, I can’t afford lose you again, in any case, I want you to take care of yourself, you know that?’

When I heard her say this, I could not speak any further and left her place. I was scared, I did not want her to know about my illness but the way she looked at me for those few seconds somehow made me feel she knew about it. What if she knows it, what if she doesn’t? If she comes to know in coming days, how would she react to it? Would she be able to take it? What about me, would I be able to see her cry? All the questions had one common answer, NO. She does not have to know about it, she does not deserve any of this. She should be happy. My thoughts were just out of place. For a moment, I thought she should never have come back to me, because I had nothing to offer. I was not certain about my life. And watching me in a condition like this was only going to break her further. I was becoming restless; I decided not to think about what was to come. I went home and relaxed for some time, took my pills and forced myself to sleep. Still, sleep would not come easily.

When I woke up the next day, I was not feeling well. My head was pretty heavy and I had feverish feeling. I thought of calling Nandini but didn’t. I was not willing to tell her that I was unwell. So I let her think that I went to office and did not call or texted her. Instead I called up my doctor, discussed the symptoms with him and asked him if I need to come there. He suggested some more pills and asked me rest at home today, ‘a sound sleep for some more hours and you would be alright Rajneesh.’ He said. So I ordered those pills and had my breakfast before I took them. Nandini always insisted that I have my breakfast on time; she hated it when I would skip my meals. During the day she texted me every now and then I replied to them. In one of the messages, she asked me if we are meeting this evening, I said no and to tease her further I told her that due to a meeting I won’t be able to have my lunch and if the meeting continues, I may not come to meet her. I had to lie because I did not know if I would be okay till the evening. But I told her that I was missing her badly. She replied back insisting me to have something.

I did not feel hungry but for her I felt I need to eat something. I ordered my food from a nearby hotel and waited for it to come. I slept thinking about Nandini. I was woken up by a hard knock on the door. It was the parcel. I picked it up and went back again to sleep. I wanted to be well, so that I can go and meet her in the evening, have our tea and regular chit chat. After I had my meal I slept again for some more time and woke up sometime before sunset. I was feeling better. ‘Thanks to my doctor, I thought and most importantly Nandini. I got ready wearing my office clothes and called her telling her that I was coming to pick her up. That day we met like we always did, walked up to the beach and came back home having our parathas. Somehow Nandini sensed that I was not well, but I convinced her that it’s just casual, and I’ll be alright in no time.

The next few days with Nandini went with pace. After office hours we met, she too had her NGO work lined up, so we finished our jobs and met at Bablu’s and from there we would go to different places. We mostly went to the beach. We both loved going there. We watched many movies together, went to shopping malls, temples, churches and almost any and every place. During all our visits, there was always one thing that continued to be there, fun and laughter. There were no tears, no fights and no misunderstandings. With Nandini life seemed just livable and lovable.  I was enjoying every bit of what we did together. During the whole thing, our walks, talks, songs and teasing continued, which added at the end of the day to the whole day of life that we lived. Our every evening ended with a wish, that time shall stop here, it should not move back or forth, it should just stall then and there. But it continued. With every ticktock of the clock and with every breath I took it continued and was nearing me to the end of it all. I was beginning to grow anxious.

On a weekend sometime in the evening when we were walking towards the beach, I realised I suddenly lost all my energy, I was holding Nandini’s hand, when I suddenly collapsed on the road. I was fainting, I did not want it to happen when I was with her but I could not help. I was losing my conscious but I could still see Nandini, restless, her eyes filled, she put my head on her lap and was trying to wake me up, crying. We were on beach road, it was dark and there was nobody around. She was asking for help, calling for an auto. I was trying to speak but I was too weak to get words out of me. The last glimpses of Nandini that I caught was when she was caressing my face, shouting my name, asking me to open my eyes, but I could not, I had lost all the energy and my conscious.

***

Nandini somehow managed to stop a car that was going towards the main street; she put Rajneesh in the car with the help of another passerby and took him straight to the hospital. She knew Rajneesh kept most of the things he needed in his wallet so she checked it to look for any doctor’s card. She found one. She dialled the number and Dr. Rajan answered the phone. She told him about Rajneesh, as he sensed it; Dr. Rajan knew about Nandini, Rajneesh had told him about her. After all Rajneesh was his good friend. This broke Nandini further as she was thinking about Rajneesh, he had never told her about his illness. She was not able to accept it. She requested the man and asked to take him Dr. Rajan’s hospital where Rajneesh was being treated. She was crying all the way till she reached the hospital, she had Rajneesh’s head on her lap and she was caressing it, kissing it several times to wake him up but he was not responsive. He was breathing, his heart was beating but except that, there was no life inside.

When she reached hospital, Dr. Rajan was waiting at the door himself standing with a stature and few assistants. He directly took Rajneesh to the Examination room to perform some basic tests and asked Nandini to wait in his room where he would see her in few minutes. Nandini sat there counting each and every second, she had no clue what was happening. She thought of the whole day that went happily, till they went to the beach road for the walk and Rajneesh collapsed. The memory of this made her cry even more, she was sobbing that’s when Dr. Rajan coughed and came in the room.

‘What’s the matter with Rajneesh doctor?’ Tell me right away please.’ She asked holding back her tears.

‘Look Nandini, relax, Rajneesh has Obstructive Lung Disease that was not diagnosed on a proper time when it should have been. It is caused due to a delay in his treatment. When he came to me, he was weak and thinner. He coughed whenever he spoke a word, but after that, we have been able to control his cough to a certain extent. He needs strict medication. I had asked him to quit working and hospitalize himself long time ago, but he does not listen to me. Just pray that he gains his conscious back, then only we can further with his treatment.’

Nandini was speechless, she had nothing to say. Rajneesh had coughed a few times when he was with her, he would convince her that it was nothing serious. She was not convinced but he never let her think about it. Nandini was fierce and was irritated with Rajneesh. She was there for him and he could not share this with her, they could have done something together, precaution is always better than cure, she thought. But there was no point; Rajneesh was lying there on the bed, struggling to breathe having no clue of what was happening around him. Nandini was looking somewhere down at her toes, trying to gather it, trying to digest the fact that Rajneesh may not survive.

‘Is there anything we can do now?’ She asked fretfully.

‘Yes. I agree that there is a delay, but respiratory diseases can be cured to a certain extent. Let’s think of the positives, Rajneesh never smoked, so that gives us a fair chance. I have called for some of the experts who should be here any moment. We will examine him and wait for him to open his eyes again. Just remember, pray that he gets his conscious back, because if he does it, I assure you that he will be all yours, in one piece!’ Dr. Rajan said blinking his eyes with a smile and a guarantee on his face that Nandini wanted the most.

She leaned back on the chair, thinking about Rajneesh. She wanted to go and see him, but she could not. She did not have the courage to see him struggle with his life in such a way. In a way, Nandini felt that she too was hurt somewhere and was probably sailing in the same boat. Her life was no different from Rajneesh’s, he was her love and she was his life. It was a very complicated equation that had no solution. Nandini folded her hands and prayed, ‘God, I want Rajneesh back in my life, he is my life, I can’t even think of losing him. Please do something, wake him up for the one last time and I promise I’ll never leave him again.’

God was there always, somewhere around but prayers were hardly answered. Every second somebody prayed for somebody’s life to be saved, how many lives shall God save? Still many lives are saved and many sacrificed. This was the way how it was going to be. Rajneesh was standing on a place where there are two ways, one that leads to Nandini, his life and the other lead to the afterlife as it were. He could not make the choices. The choices were already made, neither Nandini nor Rajneesh could have a say here. Time was the unique solution on this issue. Nandini understood this very well but it was very difficult to think of time that was spent. Every second she spent seemed like an hour, the ticktock of the clock was just scaring her, reminding her that every second, Rajneesh needs to breathe, his heart needs to beat. Sometimes these seconds consoled her mind telling her that, the moment when Rajneesh opens his eyes could be here any second. But it was all a game of ifs. Reality, the truth was very bitter.

Nandini got up and went to the room where Rajneesh was put. She was looking at him, he was laying there, his eyes closed, he was breathing with an oxygen mask and saline was given to make sure he doesn’t become further weak. Looking at him, she thought of all the wonderful times they spent together, the laughter they shared and many other things. She was missing how he recited poems to her and sang songs for her whenever she asked him. She was thinking of every discussion they had together, she remembered how they held each other whenever they needed. Her eyes were filled with all these memories. Watching Rajneesh from a distance did not make difference, she wanted to go closer to him, hold his hand, kiss him on his forehead and tell him that it’s time we go together, run away, escape to a place where nobody would know us, where there would be an ocean, a mountain and lots of trees. A smile of hope appeared on her face when she thought of all these things. Her chain of thoughts was broken when Dr. Rajan intervened; he introduced her to another senior doctor and asked her to wait on the bench. She did accordingly.

The doctors got out of the room after fifteen minutes which seemed longer than anything for her. She was waiting patiently as Dr. Rajan came up to her.

‘We have given him an injection. He should gain his consciousness. That’s very crucial.’ The word crucial reminded her of their crucial times together, she smiled at herself as Dr. Rajan continued.

‘Now we have come to a point where we have a hope and we don’t. If he does open his eyes, then you can take him home with you when he is well, and he will never have any issues all his life.  If he does not then he will never be able to open them again. Saving him would be next to impossible. Let’s wait and watch.’  And Dr. Rajan left.

Nandini stood there still watching Rajneesh. As she was allowed to meet him, she opened the door of his room and went straight inside. She sat on a chair next to his bed. A closer look at him made her even more anxious. She was shivering with a chill than ran all over her body. She put her hand on his and kept looking at him. She had not slept since last night and was very tired. She slept there holding his hand and sitting next to him on the chair. She was waiting desperately for him to open up.

***

My head was pretty heavier and my throat was completely dry. I felt a hand on mine. I knew it would be Nandini. I was finding it difficult to open my eyes. But when I finally opened them with a lot of effort, I saw Nandini; she was sleeping, wearing her red sweater that she had worn last night. She was looking tensed, her eyes swollen and her face tired. But I could still make out a hope on her face. Looking at her made my breaths a little faster, which she probably heard and woke up. As she saw I was moving my hand and my body, she opened her mouth with excitement probably to call the doctor. As she was about to free my hand and rush to the doctor, I held it with all the energy I had within me. I smiled at her with oxygen mask on my mouth and tears trickling from my eyes. She was nodding at me I could see the happiness and tears of joy on her face, I tried to open my mouth, to say something as she encouraged me, I started singing in a whisper,

‘Would you dance if I asked you to dance? Would you run never to look back?’

As I began singing I realized my eyes were even more filled but I still continued singing.

‘Now would you die for the one…?’ I stopped as she pressed my hand harder and shook her head. She was looking at me with teary eyes. She wiped her tears and continued singing,

‘Hold me in your arms tonight…’

As we both sang, she held me closer to her, she put her head on my chest holding me very tightly, I could see she was crying, she was crying the tears of happiness that were trickling from my eyes too. I was saved; Nandini’s love had pulled me back. I felt happy and relieved as God had given back the life that I was longing to live. A life that had Nandini in every bit of it, a life that she had turned melodious with her Song of Love, that I’d pray shall continue forever.

-Deven Pahinkar.

यादोंके उजाले

उन्हें बदलना था वो बदल गए
हालात तो नहीं थें जो बत से बत्तर हो जाते लेकिन फिर भी संभल जाते
वो लोग थे जो रौशनी की तलाश में चल पड़े थे
और यहां तुम हो जो तिनकों से उजाले करने पे अड़े हो

-देवेन पहिनकर

कविता सुचतात खऱ्या

मला कविता सुचतात खऱ्या
पण कवितांना मी रुचत नाही
मी असाच शब्दांशी खेळ करतो
अंजारतो गोंजारतो अगदी ओरडतोही
पण सगळा कसा शब्द चिखल
दलदली सारखा खोल खोल गेलेला
मी शब्दागणिक इंच इंच खाली सरकत जातो
अडकत जातो खोलवर दडलेल्या माझ्याच शब्दांच्या अर्थांमध्ये
अगदी तिथेच गुरफटून गेल्या सारखा
एक केविलवाणा प्रयत्न म्हणून मी हातपाय मारतो
पण फक्त ओरखडे ओढले जातात त्या चिखलावर
शब्दांचे… शब्दांनी कधी कुरवाळणारे कधी बोचणारे
वाटतं ह्याला तरी कविता म्हणूया पण मनाशीच हसतो
कारण…
मला कविता सुचतात खऱ्या
पण कवितांना मी रुचत नाही

-देवेन पहिनकर

It All Began at the End

We all were asked to assemble in the main room. There was an important announcement that the jailer wanted to make. I was seated in the corner quietly watching all the inmates gather, some had handcuffs while others walked on their own accompanied by armed cops. All of us had a similar uniform, half torn and dirty khaddar pants and shirts with our respective numbers on them. There was a specialty about us prisoners that we did not want any disturbances in the daily routine and preferred to stay behind the bars, as I believed it gave us our own space. A space that we needed desperately to think; for some it was all about what and how it all went wrong and for some it was about befriending other inmates and discussing their modus operandi. This type of exchange of talent too was prevalent in the prison. The only thing common about us was we were sentenced to death; so, all of us knew some day or the other the knock of death would come and get us out of that small prison where we felt safer and Kingly. I could sense the smell of it nearing as the nervousness was running among all of us. Those who could not take it, cursed the cops, for them they were the sons of bitches who wanted to disturb that eternal slumber and made them face the bitter reality called death.

 When all the men were gathered, a few police women came up to the jailor and asked him if it was comfortable to let the women prisoners in. I could hear them speak as I was the last or for that matter first prisoner in the queue, 3330. I was taken aback; I had never known that we had women in the prison. Nobody had seen a woman inmate here and this all came as a shock to me. Having seen a woman after a long time, the prisoners went mad, some started shouting, whistling to allure her but she seemed a strict cop as she just looked up touching the pistol tied down to her belt, and everyone was quiet. After she left the jailer asked us to move back a little and make some space for women prisoners. Everyone welcomed the idea of having women and there was a round of applause. I smiled at myself; last time I had seen a woman was a few years ago before I was taken to the prison here. It was in the court, she was a reporter who fiercely questioned my practice as a therapist. My smile dried away, and the entire bad dream was back in place, that reporter reminded me of the girl who had killed herself and it was her murder that I was accused of. I became restless. My heart began to beat faster, I was furious at the idea of being in a prison when I should be out practicing and talking people out of their problems. But here I was in a bigger problem, a problem that only death had a solution to, death was going to talk me out of it and walk me out of my life. A permanent solution, I thought. But there was no point in mourning over this; I had done it till date and the only solution was to wake up the next day to realize that your life has not moved even an inch and you have all your life to think about it.

I got back to my senses and saw a few women walk silently in the main room. They wore similar color like us but Salwaar kameez, torn and ugly. Most of them had their hair half cut; it looked as if the hair has not been combed for ages. One by one they all marched in right opposite to us leaving a passage for the Chief to address us. There were not many of them. But they all looked as if they have just been through a dozen of domestic chores and that they have now been forced to come here.

Opposite of me was a girl, who looked in her mid twenties, her hair was disturbed but long. I could see that her hair was flossy before she got here. She was fair, and had sharper features unlike her other inmates. She was beautiful. A shower and another clean Salwaar kameez would make her the most stunning woman I saw till date. She was probably shy of looking up at everyone around us, there could be someone who had seen her outside, someone who knew her, who would be surprised to know where she is and might just go and tell someone about it. ‘Oh my God! I saw her in the prison, I did not know she would be there or any such bullshit. But there was no scope for this gossip here. Everybody who was in was not going anywhere but back to the small room he or now she too is put in. I saw her move her head in a denial; suddenly she looked up, watching all of us men, looking at her with hungry eyes. This was the time I got to see her eyes, she had the most incredibly gorgeous eyes, they were black and there was something more to it. I was looking right into her eye, when our eyes met; she looked at me for a while and then looked at the jailer then back at me only to find out that I was still staring at her, with an amusement. She was really a pretty girl and she did not deserve to be in prison. My heart began beating faster, I was drawn to her, I wanted to keep looking at her, and I wanted to know about her. The therapist in me pulled his socks to find out more, I started studying every expression on her face to look for a small hint, I wanted her to look into my eye, so that I can have a better idea, she was my new client and for an instance I forgot that I was in a prison not to meet a client but I am an inmate here, being punished for no god damn fault of mine. I could not take it. For her, I wanted another life, I knew I could talk her out, probably with the help of best lawyers I could get her out of this and start another life with her, I wanted to be free, I wanted her to be free, and I wanted another life to live, for her, with her. I felt low at my helplessness.

My array of thoughts was broken when the Chief cleared his throat. He coughed looking at all of us and then began,

‘As you all know boys, (and girls, I thought, looking at her), what we do when we see a cockroach in our home? Anybody?’ He asked raising his hand at us one by one for an answer.

‘We smash that son of a bitch!’ said one from behind, and everyone laughed including the chief. I was still staring at her to see how she smiled. But she didn’t, neither did I.

‘So are you my friend, aren’t you? A sun of a bitch, a cockroach for our society I believe.’ The chief said smiling with pride for his statement and looking at other jailers for a response. They nodded with applaud. Then he continued,

‘We are going to smash you one by one, but now no, there will be two at a time. From now on, we’ll smash two of you on the same day. One from you he said pointing at us and one from you said waving hardly at women. And we have two special people here today, a woman, a beauty with brains who had conspired to kill a man, our fellow, for no fault boys.’

The word beauty made me look at her, I could see her bosom fill with breath, and I could sense she was nervous, breathing harder. I was wondering if he was talking about her, if it was her then all my plans were in vain, my dreams of getting her out were shattered. I was disappointed. The chief further continued to speak, as everyone now heard with more concentration, it could be anyone of us who has neared his death.

‘Not just that, we have another man, a gentleman, who usually talks people out of their problems, but he talked a girl out of her life and walked in the prison holding himself in his hands.’  To this dialogue almost everyone in the prison laughed to the fullest. It was none of their turn, it was mine. The jailer had spoken about me, my day had finally come. All others laughed because their death was postponed for some reason, they had some more days of life, a life that would see no change at all but still, it mattered, there could be an escape, so they welcomed it. My life was over, the hope was gone, I was lost in thoughts, and my eyes were wide open, facing the bitter most reality, my own death. Now for me at least there was no hope. I could never go out, to the outside world, to my office, have clients, understand people’s problems, solve them or at least help finding a solution. Here, now when I was facing a problem, there was no solution to it. The problem itself was a solution. My eyes were filled. I could hear nothing, see nothing, and feel nothing. I was half dead; I was collapsed even before my execution. I managed to look up, wiping the tears off my eyes. The chief was looking at me, smiling, I felt as if I am in a school, he is the teacher who will now punish me for my stupidity. Then send me back home, ask me to never do it again or there will be even stricter punishment. But it was not a school, he was not a teacher. My stupidity had caused the end of it all, an end to all the punishments I could have had. I bit my lower lip harder to make me face it, I realized I was thirsty, my lips were dry, I rolled my tongue over it a few times but there was no water within. It was all dried out. I sighed and looked up at the chief again. This time my eyes met hers, she was crying but not begging for mercy. I was sure she must be fighting a battle inside with herself, battle that I was fighting till now only to lose. So it was all clear by now. Both of us were to be executed tomorrow and we were going to be granted our wishes, given clean clothes to wear. Every wish except escape was granted and escape was the only thing we wished for. The chief waved the other guards to take rest of them away starting from women and asked both of us to follow him to his office. We both had the disbelief, we were facing the moment in life which nobody anticipates.

As we followed the chief, his body language looked drastically changed. He looked more cordial. I had read somewhere that, prisoners before their execution received special treatments. They were made to feel special. It was our time. I never foresaw this moment for myself. As we entered the office, he ushered us to another room inside with an air condition and comfortable sofas. The room reminded me of airport’s waiting lounges. It was neatly kept and had marble flooring with velvet carpets. There was an abstract painting of man whose mouth was wide open and a cloud right above his head that was dark as it was filled with water. The painting was wisely chosen I thought. This room somehow gave me feeling of sickness. There was everything in the room but light, it made me feel low, and I wanted to go out in open, where I could breathe free at least for the night. As we sat, the chief began to speak.

‘We deliberately put two of you together. Your conduct has been good so far.’ He paused and looked at us, then after a second or so, rang the bell on his table and asked the servant to send in two glasses of water. I was watching all this quietly; I was finding it difficult to face her. Till now I was not a criminal but suddenly I had become one and was going to be executed. The chief had been offensive in front of all, but here he was gentle. He said good thing about us. Our conduct was good; I wanted him to say further that we are going to be released. But he didn’t.

‘You know, there was always an ambiguity about both of your cases. There was the other side as it were. That always remained in the dark. Sometimes I feel-‘I intervened before he could finish. 

‘Chief, please! Don’t say that. We have learnt to live with it now let us die with it. It hurts.’

‘Oh yes, I should apologize. I am sorry!’ He said grinning sheepishly.

I felt stupidly proud for having a chief jailer apologize to me, that too in front of a woman. I felt better, as she looked at me with respect that I saw in her eyes for the first time. A closer look of her eyes and her face made me irresistible. She was incredibly beautiful.

‘Okay, let us not waste any more time having these discussions.’ He said pouring the chilled water into two glasses for us and added further, ‘Do you have any wishes? Anything you would like to eat, wear, and do? Any place you want to visit? Obviously it should be alright with the department. Take your time and tell me.’

‘The beach, I want to go to the beach!’ she said, looking somewhere down at her toes.  She sounded confident. She had a unique voice, a voice that sounded mischievous to me. I liked it immediately.  Her words echoed in my mind several times. I tried imagining the line in several other situations to check how she might be sounding in them.

‘What about you Mihir? The chief asked as I looked up at him with surprise. In these many years my name was pronounced for the first time. I felt so good and alive. I liked his calling my name. She knew my name now, I thought.

‘I too want to go to the beach chief!’ I said, her words still echoing in my head.

 The chief was laughing excessively, but I ignored him, I was watching her, she did not hesitate nor tried altering the place. She wanted it too, I thought. After all I was not a common prisoner like others; I made difference, just like she did.

We sat with the chief for some more time. He asked us to take shower and offered new clothes. I asked for my jeans, tee and the jacket that I had worn before coming here. I wanted to wear it, have it close to me again. She asked for a clean khaddar Salwaar kameez. She did not want to relive that life, which she left long back. That night we had the supper with the chief and his family. It truly was a special privilege. I knew it. The chief was an old man close to his retirement. He had seen people, from innocents to hardcore criminals; he knew how to differentiate between them. I could sense his helplessness and I also knew that he meant what he was saying earlier. But it truly was very late to discuss any of it. I somehow felt an honor having dined with a man, who understood things. I always had a respect for people who had respect for smaller things in life. He treated us like his own children, Shalini, so was her name, was his daughter’s age I was two years older than her. The fact that, I may have lived 4 important years of my life as a criminal but I was not going to die one made me feel special. My honesty was in the hands of an elegant man, a true gentleman, who I was sure knows the value of it. I forgot about every other fact and enjoyed the time spent with the chief and his family and Shalini. Now it was time for me to know Shalini, more about her, discover her.

We were escorted to the beach in a police van with two guards each. There were two women guards for Shalini. All four were armed. Chief knew we would not run away but he had to do his duty. When we reached the guards made sure the beach was clear enough and made us sit near a pillar. They sat at a distant place, a place from where they wouldn’t miss our sight. This too meant a lot for us.

As we sat there, I sensed our nervousness. We were not made to be alone on beach; we knew each other for a few hours only, till now we were accompanied by the family of a jailer who knew everything about our lives. It was easy to interact when you are surrounded by many people.  Being alone with her made it difficult for me to interact. But I was a professional therapist. I exactly knew how to break the ice, how to fill those silent empty spaces. I had to start a conversation and make Shalini feel comfortable. I decide to kick start casually.

‘Shalini, I am sorry, I asked directly that I too want to go along with you.’

‘That’s alright.’ she said and smiled at me. She was playing with the sand. The way, with which she smiled at me, I sensed that she wanted to tell me something, she had something to share but she wanted me to go on. She wanted me to ask questions till she felt comfortable to speak. I was ready to do it. I looked up at the sky, it was a night of full moon and the water sparkled with the light. It looked as if someone has drawn a line of light on the ocean till the other end, till the point one could see and the line started from us, I thought. The sand was clean and there was nobody on the beach except six of us. I added further,

‘I am going to tell you something about myself today. I am sure you won’t regret hearing it.’  As she heard me say this, she smiled wryly at me to make me realize the fact that I was beginning to forget in her company, the fact that there was no time to regret. ‘I know’, I said, ‘we somehow need to live with it.’ This is the wish that has been granted we need to make the most of it.’ I said and smiled at her. She did not respond but kept drawing something on the sand. She looked thoughtful. I felt a gap in the communication for a while, I thought, may be because I am out of touch; there is nothing I have been doing for the past few years. But Shalini was not a client, she was not going to pay me or having a client like her was not going to be fruitful for my business. Everything was going to start now and end at a point which none of us knew. I decided not to think of the end.

‘Please do not take me otherwise, I meant we should talk, lighten our hearts a little. I am sure there is something that you want to tell me about yourself.’ I said.

This time, she rubbed her hands over each other, pushed her hair back into its place and said, looking right into my eye, ‘I thought you were going to tell something about yourself.’

‘Yes of course I am going to tell you. What would you like to know? You know something, in prison, they ask, what are you in for?  Do you know what am I in for?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know, the chief was telling something. I overheard it. Are you really a womanizer?’

‘I am not. Perhaps, I have dealt with them with sheer respect. I had a client, a girl in her early twenties who had tried to kill herself but failed. She was involved in a guy, she loved him passionately. He was her life.’

‘Oh, why did she try to commit suicide? The guy must be having another affair, I guess.’

‘You are wrong. The girl was a go-getter. She wanted to own everything she liked and she liked almost any and everything. Her parents wanted me to solve her problem so they took her to my office. When I met her, I knew, it was going to be difficult. I hesitated a bit, but finally took the case. As my regular examinations began, she responded positively. I was happy that she had proved me wrong. But sooner, she started developing a liking for me. I sensed it during our sessions.’ I said looking up at the sky leaning back on the pillar to relax.

‘What about the guy whom she loved?’

‘Her parents told me that she stopped seeing him the moment her treatment started. They did not like him, so they were happy. But somehow how I felt he was better for her unlike her parents. I was later on told that they encouraged her to fall for me. It was not her idea in first place. They wanted a settled man.’ 

‘Fair enough from her parents’ perspective I think. But how did you know she liked you?’ She said curtly. I looked at her, amazed. She looked back at me tried sounding casual. I nodded and added,

‘Fair enough? Sometimes, a settled man can’t do things that a lover can do. He understood her very well. I could gather that. But her answers made it clear. She wanted to have me in her life. Things got bitter with time, she stopped responding to the treatments, and she had other intentions which I could never cater to.’ This time it was my turn to reply briskly so I did.

‘She deserved you. I agree what a settled man can’t do, can be done by a lover. But a therapist can do it, can’t he? She said biting her lower lip harder to tame her laughter. She looked delightful. I could see the joy on her face for the first time. I did not want it to vanish; I felt I wanted her to smile more and more, till she could. I liked how she laughed my situation out because seriously discussing it was not going to result in any positive manner. I appreciated her attitude. She had given me, a therapist a completely different view of my own problem which suddenly appealed to me. She had actually started making the most of the night on the beach; I thought and decided to continue on the same track.

‘So does that make me eligible to marry each and every female client?’ I said smiling mischievously. She liked my stupid sense of humor in the dialogue and laughed out loud, tapping my hand. I liked the touch of her hand. It was smooth. Prison life had hardly affected the softness of her hand and I could see that prison life had not even touched the softness of her heart. I was watching her laughing, her flossy hair flew rapidly due to the breeze on the beach, she did not bother to push them back as she was busy laughing it out. She looked beautiful. The moonlight lit her face wonderfully that I felt a sudden desire of touching her face, her hair, holding her hand tightly in mine. Most importantly she knew I was looking at her. When she was back to her senses, I asked her about her story, how a girl like her could come to a place which was not made for her.

She was a scholar in the college who studied languages. She knew many of them with expertise that could have taken her to new heights. She was born in a middle class family, where she got an education dominated upbringing. She had an interest in philosophy and used to write her feelings in a dairy. This doubled my respect for her. I was simply mad at her. She had written many poems so far and had an interest in reading as well. Her reading habits had made her fight for her rights, ‘the rights that we women deserve’, as she pointed out. She had attended many campaigns to spread awareness, wrote many articles and was known to be aggressive about it. In her college magazines, as she told me, she wrote extensively to make everyone realize the fact that women existed alongside men in the society. She was truly an activist. But that day had marked a disastrous change in her life. While returning from her college, she saw a man beating his wife to death with an iron rod, she could not see it. Before she could get there, the wife had gotten hold of the iron rod and hit her husband right between his legs. The man was deeply hurt, she hit him few more times, cursing him. After the man was conscious enough he grabbed a bigger stone and caught his wife unaware to hit her harder on the head. Before he could do that, Shalini hit him with the rod on his head and he was unconscious again. Later on the man was found to have been dead. The postmortem reports confirmed that he was dead due to major injuries on the testicle but and as Shalini had hit on the head, which too was not much harder, there was no chance she could have killed him. But the man’s wife backed out of the case and accused Shalini for the same, as he was a cop; they saw to it that she gets the best of punishments. They put severe charges and now she was here. The first thing it did was that the activist in her died. She lost the spirit she once had as she was completely collapsed. The family tried getting her out of it, but they failed and lost the hope. They visited often in the initial days but sooner or later the visits vanished. She was left with her own life. This was a kind of a similarity that I had with her. We were wrongly trapped, deserted and completely lost with our lives. We were living a common life that we did not deserve. But now the period of sorrow, shame was gone. We had lived with this fact for all these years and we had habituated ourselves.

After telling most of the things that were hidden in her heart, she looked lightened to me. She often smiled, touched me casually and responded to me equally whenever I looked into her eye. As the night went on, the sea breeze became colder; I could see she was shivering. I took my jacket off and offered it to her. She hesitated first but took it. She asked me to put it around her. I liked her asking that. Whenever I saw something, I made it a point to appreciate her, and she would reply saying tell me one thing that you don’t like about it me. And I liked her when she said so. With every moment we spent together, we were getting closer; as we spoke we wrote each other’s names on the sand.

She had spoken more than she intended to, she had almost expressed herself that made a constant smile appear on her face which made her look even more attractive. She felt relaxed. We had held each other’s hands tightly leaning back on the pillar. As we leaned back, the breeze made her hair fly heavily, her hair hit my face every now and then and I could smell the shampoo that she had just used. It was delightful feeling. A feeling I thought should be eternal. What else could one desire, I had in my hand the hand of an incredible girl, who had seen the bitter part of life, survived it knowing she was not guilty.

As the temperature began to drop further, she hid herself in my chest, now I was leaning on the pillar and she was leaning on my chest. I pushed her hair back with my hand and looked at her face, tried to think of her more and more. She was with me almost in my arms and still I was nervous about the moment of missing her badly. I felt a longing for her. Her hair played with the air and I kept playing with her hair, I kept pushing it back and caressing her gently. When I sensed she was asleep, I watched her face, pushing that one strand of hair back in its place. She still had that smile. Her grip on my left hand was pretty tight; I did not want to leave her too. I wanted this moment to last forever and ever; I wanted to hold her close to me this way all my life. I kept reiterating whatever she had told me about her life watching her smile, sleep soundly. In such a less time we had come so closer, we had nobody whom we could call our own but we just had both of us who shared the same plight. That attracted us probably, I thought. All night I kept writing our names on the sand; sooner or later a wave would come and wash it away.

After a while, she moved a bit, and I was suddenly awake. I realized I was asleep. I regretted to have slept and missed her sight, but when I saw her looking at me, I was pleased. She was watching me since I was asleep. We had played our parts in the story and now it was life’s part that was yet to be played. As I saw her I looked up at the beach, the Sun was coming up gradually. The rising sun reminded me of the end of it all and the frustration became unbearable for me. I hit my head hard on the pillar and said,

‘The bastards-‘Before I could finish she put her hand on my lips and said with a sleepy voice that sounded sweeter than any sweet dish on the earth.

‘Shh… Don’t say that dear, curses do not suit you, you are a gentleman, my gentleman!’ I could see her eyes filled with pride in saying that. My eyes were filled when she said that. Everyone till date had said that curses were bad and we should not be using them, but she was the only one to have said that they did not suit me. It made me feel special. It had respect in it for me. I liked it. She put a simple thing but very immaculately. Everything about her drew me more and more towards her. It made me want her more and more, I wanted to speak with her everything that I ever wished to tell, I wanted to tell her all the secrets that I hid about myself. I wanted to open the book of my life to her. But her presence and the night on the beach had made me forget that the book of my life was about to finish and I was writing the last chapter of it.

I saw her, as she tightened her grip of my hand and held me close to her with the other; I smiled back at her and held her close to mine with my left hand. As it was cold, I adjusted the coat to make her feel comfortable. We looked into each other’s eyes for a few moments and I gently kissed her on her lips. She smiled at me blinking her eyes and kissed me back on my lips and cheek softly. I realized it was time for us to say whatever that we felt for each other. It was time for us to express it and start a new life together, a life that would have just the two of us, completely free, probably of everything.

As we were nearing the point of saying it, I heard the guards coming closer. One of them tapped on my shoulder from behind and said,

‘It’s time fellows, we got to go, hurry up!’

“I know it is time. It was the time!’ I said it more to myself than to him. ‘If you don’t mind, I would like to walk her out to the prison myself; you shouldn’t have a problem with that!’ 

As the guard nodded, we began walking back from the beach, back to the bitter truth. We both felt a sudden desire for living another life but the flower was crushed before it could bloom. The fragrance was gone before it could spread. As we walked, I looked back at the pillar, I saw a wave come and wash both our names away from the sand.

-Deven Pahinkar