Thursday, September 3, 2009

Death is never final part II

Days passed, just the way they do. There was work, there was the usual inter office chit chat, and the evenings in the studio. Everything was the same apart from the incessant tug at her heartstrings for reasons Priya was not willing to accept. Since that day, Arun had not returned to her office, and yet every time the door opened, her gaze wandered from her files, every time she saw a well dressed man of around 6 ft walking on the streets, her pulse quickened. She was surprised that the realistic and practical capricorn in her had taken flight to a realm of fantasy that was totally unknown territory. She did not know her path, she did not have a clue as to how she could possibly deal with her feelings for a guy she had seen only for a few minutes. This was unreal, and yet she enjoyed her fantasies of him walking in once again, repeating the lunch offer..

Life has its own set of rules, the rules we cannot decipher, but looking back the dots can be connected to form a perfectly clear picture. The days of summer were merging into unexpected drizzles, The Gulmohars had given way to the greens of freshly washed leaves, of small puddles on the streets, of little children in raincoats, of hot teas and pakodas. On one such day, Priya saw Arun again. She could never miss that face, the face she had etched in her mind since that breezy summer day. She was elated to see him, and yet her nature did not allow her to take any initiative. She decided to walk to where he was standing alone at a kiosk drinking tea from a kulhad, Linens she noticed, white, so impractical for the season and yet the most beautiful apparition. Casually leaning on his parked bike, Arun in his white linens made her heart flutter like the paper boats in the puddles. Trying very hard to control the upsurge, Priya walked past Arun. "Hey there!" he said. She made a mental note to add his tenor to her list as she turned to face him. Trying to deny recognition and failing miserably, she managed a smile. "How about some tea?" was the question asked, Throwing caution to the wind, probably for the first time in her life, Priya replied,"How about a ride on your bike?"

The days that followed were a collage of unbridled hues. Validating the connection Arun had felt on the first day and Priya acknowledged now. The colours of their romance matching the oils in her mother's studio - vibrant, delicious and out of the world. There was not a place in town that did not witness the growing love between these two. They met each others parents. Arun and Priya's mom bonded from the day they met each other. They were both kindled spirits, souls that were barely attached to a physical presence almost bursting at the seams. Arun's parents welcomed Priya into their lives. They were happy that Arun had chosen such a bright and goal oriented girl for a partner. Things were blissful. There were moments when priya was enveloped in her dread of relationships, when a part of her could not trust Arun, when she felt she was headed towards disaster. These moments though far apart did emerge and the only solace was also provided by Arun. Talking to him at odd hours of the night calmed her, renewed her new born faith in men. Knowing that he was available for her 24*7, to meet her moods and assuage her fears strengthened Priya as nothing had ever done before. She emerged a stronger person, a calmer spirit. She said 'thank you' with a smile when an unknown person complimented her looks. She was changing before her own eyes.

Priya's mom's health had been failing slowly. the doctors did not come up with a diagnosis, but they were not giving much hope. The lady of course was undaunted. She carried on with a vigour that was getting harder to harness. Priya asked her one evening if she would be pleased to see Priya married. Not a woman to impose her desires on her daughter, she said marriage did not count, she knew that Priya was safe with Arun and that was all that mattered to her. Priya wanted her mother's active participation in her marriage. She wanted to treasure the moments in snaps and videos. She just had her mother for family. She spoke to Arun about this. they both knew that every passing day was taking a bit away from the woman Priya loved the most in this world. They decided on a date in the early winter months for the wedding.

The wedding date just a few months away, everyone got busy with the preparations. the days were getting shorter and Priya's mother's health was taking a serious down turn. Yet she shopped for her daughter's finery with the enthusiasm of a child. Priya had blind faith in her mother's choice, so she left her at it and followed her with a camera clicking away the emotions so clearly marked on that vibrant, fading face. The practical side of Priya knew that time was short, very soon she would have to say goodbye to the lady who had given her life. She found her strength in Arun to cope with this lurking tragedy. She hid her tears behind her camera as she shot the smiles of her mother.

Life prepares you for some tragedies and swirls the others on your face when you least expect it. It was an ordinary evening. Priya was reading a book to her mother, when the call came. The call was from a Bangalore hospital. They were asking for Priya. Arun was in Bangalore on an official trip. But the call was not making any sense. there was a lot of static on the line, and they kept repeating the word ICU so many times that Priya slammed the phone down with all her might. The call came again, immediately, the ring like impending doom rattled her nerves. She felt a wave of nausea take over. Unable to understand what was going on, Priya's mother took the call. After a few minutes on the phone She took Priya in her arms and quietly held her, as her daughter shook and retched uncontrollably. There was a bell ringing somewhere. Arun's parents were shown in by the maid. They had come to share the grief of losing their son with the two people who loved him equally. This was a loss no one was prepared for. The young man, so full of life, to be married shortly, the shoulder whom Priya had banked on to shed tears for the impending loss of her mother was suddenly unavailable, just like that, like a harsh stroke of black on the oils of her mother, destiny had played its wand again.

There were no words, no thoughts, no hope of saying anything any more. Leaving her mother and Arun's parents in the hall, Priya went up to her room. walking in a daze, calling his cell time and again only to hear 'cloud9' playing. She hallucinated that any moment the song would be cut short by the familiar tenor of Arun saying,"Hey Love, everything alright?" She felt her knees buckling under her, she felt that wave of nausea again and she fell in a heap on the floor of her room. She woke up with a splitting headache and sense of weightlessness. In a state of confusion and delirium, walking on the threshold of insanity, she found herself slitting her veins and the pool of blood that formed on the floor helped her focus on her present loss. As she saw the pool widen, her mind cleared. The house was quiet and dark, everything seemed unreasonably normal. She could feel the soft breath of the sleeping house, and in that moment of calm she could see Arun. Arun was her calm, the man she trusted, the man she loved beyond her own limits. Arun was there sitting at the edge of her bed as she lay in her own pool of blood. She wanted to reach him, she wanted him to take her in his arms and say its a bad dream, but none happened, there was a chasm between them that could not be bridged, and yet he was there just a hands length away. She was too tired to talk to him, to ask him what happened? to ask him if he was scared when his time came so unexpectedly for him. There were so many questions on her mind and she was so drained. She just kept focusing on that face, on that figure sitting on the edge of her bed. it was then that Arun spoke, or she thought he did. "I love you Priya, always focus on that. Never doubt it. This is not a breach of trust, I did not plan on leaving you. You must believe. I will meet you again on this side of the chasm when its time. Till then.. I will be in your smiles, though difficult they will come through. You have me Priya in life as well as in death."

There was an eerie calm in the light blue room. The monitors beeping at regular intervals, the crisp sheets that tucked her in on a high bed. She looked around to see a few nurses and her mother. She blinked and she heard her mother saying something faintly. She could not get the words, she could not make sense of anything, she drifted back to sleep. the next time she awoke, things were clearer. Arun's parents were by her bed. His father stroking her head, saying how glad he was that she is ok, that he couldn't bear to lose everything at his age. It struck her again, the finality of Arun's death, it was not a nightmare after all, it was real. She felt the stab of the pain as she looked at her wrist and saw the bandage, and then she remembered Arun as he was sitting on the edge of her bed. She remembered his words, she looked at his parents, who had aged considerably in the last couple of days, they looked frail and yet their concern was Priya. In those few minutes, she decided to live. To live till it was time to meet Arun again.

The recovery was smooth and in a couple of days Priya was back home. The recent string of incidents had taken their toll on her mother and she was in a stupor most of the time. The times when she seemed focused, Priya talked to her about life after death. She told her about how happy and at peace Arun looked. She held her mother's hands and told her how pain free and illuminated life is when the soul is free. Her mother knew all of this, and yet she listened in awe to her practical, distraught daughter. She tried to make sense of what she saw in her stupor, she saw Arun too, she saw his hand reaching out for her, and then again she saw Priya preparing her for the journey.

It was on a cold morning in January that Priya's mother breathed her last. Priya and Arun's parents were with her throughout. There were tears, but Priya was not inconsolable. She knew, she had to live till it was time for Arun to reach out for her again. The coming months saw her shift to Arun's parent's flat. She lived with them and it was a very natural progression for her. Seasons changed, and slowly Priya found her foothold. She adopted a baby girl and her canvas was coloured again by the pastels of a child's smile.

The End