This short story became SPIXer (Most popular story) on 20 Jul 2013 and won INR 500
How would you feel when you are cheated by the one whom you had loved the most, all your life? Someone who mattered you more than anything else? No medication, not even the strongest painkillers, can detract this pain. It’s an invincible spirit. However great you are, the infidelity resides in your heart, forever, never to be forgiven.
Viewing the sun between my fingers is a pain for my sixty-year old eyes. The forehead pains and the sun appears as a scattered yellow drop in the sky. It feels weighed and hammered by tons. But what’s much more afflictive is forgiving her – her memories.
These breezes feel like tears, the dust pinches like needles and the sun burns me to ash.
My life is lonely, heart vacant and soul unfulfilled. With every breath I take, I feel cursed and raped by destiny.
Twelve years, I am all alone but she never came back. I miss her, my darling wife, and our vow – a life together – has vanished.
“What will keep our love breathing, forever?” I had asked her our first-night.
“This knot will,” she had said, turning her beautiful neck, embraced by a heavy gold necklace, to the knot that the priest had tied between our dresses.
“What if I unknot this?”
Her eyes had grown big and she had put a finger on my lips saying, “It is a merging of not only two people, but of two families. It says that we will be together, always.”
And those were her words that laid the foundation of our love. I had kissed her tender fingers that had a ring, our engagement ring.
Ours was an arranged-marriage, so we took a bit longer to understand. But, with time, the rhythm fell in and swept up from there. Her dedication to our new marriage was what had made our relationship intimate. She would help me with my small business’ details and kids with their homework. Her life was disciplined and acts supportive. My parents called her the perfect bride, my kids the best mother and she was the soul companion for me.
However bad my days would go, her infectious smile would make up for all of it. She would talk about my bad day and would relax me with her head-massage. Her lovesome touch on my balding head would wipe out my worries and refuel my energy. She was never a nagging lady, like my friends’ wives, and would support me in nadir and crest of life. Our marriage was a world filled with commitments and sacrifices; a world with love as its backbone.
But as widely said, time is ever-changing. My increasing number of diseases would crease her forehead sometimes. Blood pressure, diabetes, obesity – she hated them all. She never said so but her face would tell me. Kids were growing, exploring a new life, and she, too, was losing her youth. It was all getting hard for her.
And finally, it was on Republic Day, 2001 when she left me – all of a sudden – all alone. I had given her my hand but she refused to hold it. My paunch was what she hated the most and had hit me there, making me fall.
As I close my eyes beneath the beaming sun, I remember her eyes. She had remorse in it but her lips had a strange smile too. That was the last time I saw her while the earth shook and the world crashed down. The heart is neither on left nor on right, it’s in the middle – that’s where it hurt when she walked away. And then, we never saw her again, never found her again. I spent days looking for my sweetheart in the buries of my wrecked world but all in vain. Everyone stopped me from doing so but I had to. After all, that was what our marriage was always meant to me – to be with each other, forever.
But the promise, she broke it. She left me alone – alone in the dark – to live without her.
For me, life without her is colourless and hollow. It has no meaning left. I skip my medicine sometimes and avoid yoga too, hoping she would come to scold me someday. I envision her in the kitchen, preparing my favorite Daal Khichdi and wiping her forehead-sweat while her bangles would hum a melody. But no, there is no melody now, she is nowhere. Her favourite chair is empty and her small Tulsi plant has grown big. And for me, every single day is a haul. I just live for my children, our children.
“Dear, promise me you will take care of our children, even after my death,” she had said, giving birth to our second son.
“Everything will be alright. We have a very long live together,” I had said caressing her sweat-wet forehead.
And my prayers, they did work. She had survived the travail. But who knew, few years later she would walk away, cheat me, fraud me.
Sitting in the lawn, where the fresh dew shines on green grasses under the sun, I look at the guava tree that we had planted.
“It will be the symbol of our love. We will water it and it will grow into a tree,” she had said while planting the sapling.
Our love, our tree, still stands there, strong in the storms and rooted at the grounds. The branches sway in the wind and the leaves dance on them. I see my grand-daughter running around it, cheerful and laughing; the sunlight on her face, glowing.
Lost in the amazement of symbol of our love, I hit my feet against a brick and the newspaper falls from my hand.
As I bend and watch the ground, I give it a kiss because inside, beneath the surface of the earth, resides my sweetheart.
Twelve years to the earthquake – 26 January 2001 – Gujarat, India read today’s newspaper’s headline.
That was the day when she walked away from our vow, ‘a life together’.