We sat near the edge of a cliff with glasses filled with Whiskey in our hand. The expensive whiskey bottle which Amal bottle brought from Dubai was carefully kept upright supported by a round stone. The evening sun was just about to hide behind the distant mountains. My servant Paulose was preparing the fire for the evening. By the time I finished my third peg, Amal was still sipping on his first peg.
“Do you know what is special about the view from here?” Amal asked after a long silence.
“No”, I said.
I had been seeing this view from a young age but never found anything special other than the silence compared to the noisy town.
“You cant see anything man made from here”, he continued. “Till your eyes can reach it is only forest, mountains and a distant river”
I knew he was wrong. There is a road passing somewhere through the mountains and you could see the distant lights of the cars passing in the night. But I decided to keep quiet about it as this was not a subject I was interested in.
I met Amal today after probably around 25 years. Even I don’t remember seeing him the last time. I accidentally met him at a shop and was very surprised that we both recognized each other. Amal and I studied together in the same school and college. By the time we reached the college we had become thick friends. I never had any dearth of friends as I came from a rich family. I drove expensive cars and wore clothes of top brands which we bought during our foreign trips.
We were different in many ways. Amal came from a middle class family. I just went to college but never studied anything whereas Amal was very studious. For me life was not something which needed to be wasted on studies. The only thing that we had in common was our love for drinking. We used to come to this house when we were young and drink from the bottles left by my father. Paulose was our accomplice even during those times. Amal used to talk a lot then. We used to come here in the pretext of combined study and had night long parties with some of our other friends.
After his studies Amal went to Dubai and got a good job. I was one of the few in our gang who stayed back in the town and I became the connection between everyone . The first thing every gang member used to do after reaching the town was to connect with me. I was always updated about all the gang member and passed the information to each other.
But this didn’t last for a long time . One pattern I noticed was that this reporting to me stopped during the time each one get married. I never bothered to marry and hence never understood the reason for that. Slowly I lost touch with everyone till I met Amal today. I was hoping for a wonderful party like olden times. But this was not becoming something like that.
“I am sure you never explored the beauty of this house” Amal had now turned his attention toward the old house built by my grand father.
I was getting irritated at the way he drank. Once upon a time we were the fastest drinkers in the gang. Now he was going at the rate of one sip every hour and talking some rubbish which I didn’t understand. I realized that after 20 years we really had nothing in common. I decided to give a smile and not to continue with the conversation. It was better to be silent than to continue with such a boring conversation.
“This is the problem with us. After an age we find things to worry about and decide not to enjoy the beauty around us”, Amal continued without bothering much about my silence.
By this time I had made up my mind that I will never meet this guy again in my life.
Undaunted Amal continued. “ We never realize that happiness is in these small things and not the big things we search for our entire life”.
I desperately wanted to change the subject. So I asked him “When you going back to Dubai?”.
“I forgot to tell you . I left Dubai for good. I will not be going back”.
“Why?, You will have at least 8 years left for retirement”.
“Looking back I don’t know what I have gained from being in Dubai. I left my family back in India to save more money for my Children. I realized that it was not my money that my children needed but my presence”.
“It would have been shock to your family when you told them that you have quit your job”, I asked.
“That is what I thought will happen. The first thing I noticed was the broad smile on my wife’s face. Then I saw my children jumping with joy. Even my mom who was bedridden walk around the house with great energy after I left the job. It was like they were always waiting for me to do this “.
I had become a person who was not very interested in listening about happiness of others. I was more interested in hearing the bad things which has happened like our old friends who got divorced, who lost their job or even died.
“ You have become a slow drinker”, I decided to make that statement in the end.
“I think I have found peace. I don’t have any worry burning inside me which need to be destroyed by this drink.”
This man was too mature for me now.
I signaled to Paulose for food and ended that boring night.
The next day when I dropped him in his house he gave the wretched dreaded advice as a parting note.
“ I have heard about your life. It is not too late to mend it’.
I just sped off without answering him.
I went to the small room where I am staying and tried to get some sleep. After all there was nothing much to do for me.
I kept thinking about my life. I had a happy life with all the luxuries of my life till my father died. I inherited 3 houses from him . One in the city, One in the outskirts on the banks of a river and the third in the mountain where Amal and me drank the previous night. There was acres of estates around this property. My mother had died when I was a kid. My elder sisters took care of me so well that I never missed my mother.
Then things changed for the worst. My sisters filed a case seeking rights over the properties left to me by my father. I couldn’t believe my ears when my lawyer told me about the case filed. My father had given huge money to my sisters when they got married. There was nothing told or spoken about they having any right on the rest of the properties. It was too greedy on their part to do it. I decided to fight it. In fact I left everything to fight it. I simply forgot my long time girl friend in my journey from one court to another till she got married to somebody else. I never found time to find a new one. The two decades after that was spend in the court. Many relatives had tried for a compromise. I was sure I was not giving anything . My lawyer was also hell bent on fighting the case than going for a compromise.
My nephews and nieces whom I used to play with me became strangers to me. After so many years I didn’t even know what my sisters did or their family. I didn’t even know where they stay except seeing some address on the legal papers. I moved from my big house to a small room . Doctors tell me that I have every stress related diseases like high blood pressure, diabetics etc. I had become a heavy drinker and a chain smoker. There were verdicts and appeals. My lawyer who started in a small office have now a plush office at the heart of the city.
The doctors had advised me to go for a walk everyday. That evening I walked on the beach I noticed the different people. I felt like I was the only person who had a weight on my heart and always sad. There were couples romancing . There were children playing with their parents. I never had anything in life to enjoy. Even the Balloon seller had a smile on his face. I don’t even remember the last time I smiled or laughed. Happiness is a feeling which I had forgotten in my life.
That night I thought it was futile to continue this way. That night I decided to call for a compromise. The feeling of losing out lingered in my mind the whole night. When morning arrived after that sleepless night I was sure that I will be ready for a compromise only if they lose heavily.
My lawyer didn’t find the idea of a compromise great. As per him I have lost the fighting spirit with age.
The compromise meeting was called in my lawyer’s officer. It was the lawyer’s idea to show the opposite party that we will not even compromise on the location of the meeting. It was informed to my sister’s lawyers.
When the day arrived I was not even sure whether my sisters will turn up. But I decided to reach the place on time. In a short while my sisters also arrived. My elder sister tried to smile at me which I ignored. They made it a point never to bring the husbands along. May be they wanted to show that their husbands was never involved in this fight though I was sure that they were the main reason for this fight. My lawyer was in his cabin talking to a high profile client. Over a period of time as he grew ,this case had become less important for him. Moreover any compromise reached today will put an end to a good cash flow for him.
I keep on seeing my sisters in the court often. I have never really looked at their faces for almost twenty years since the case started. I hated seeing them or talking to them. I simply wiped them from my mind.They were sitting right opposite me. Except for a smile there was no talk between them also. May be they didn’t want to give out their strategy before the crucial meeting.
After long years I looked at both of them through the corner of my eyes. Both of them had grey hairs. Though they had aged they still looked beautiful .My eldest sister was like a mother to me and my second sister took good care of us during the time our father went for long business tours. I always liked to fight with my second sister. I still remember she crying for the pranks which I played on her. Everything came to an end twenty years back when they decided to have a pie of my properties.
After one hour the lawyer was still in the meeting with his high profile client. It looked like he wanted to delay the meeting as much as possible.
I kept on thinking about our good old days when words slipped out of my mouth and broke the silence in the room.
“Which one of our house do you like the most?”, I asked them
They both look surprised for a minute.
Then my first sister answered “ I like the one outside the town on the banks of the river. The sound of the river can bring peace to me anytime. I like to watch the trees that pat the river with their branches, the fishes that bite your legs, the birds that skim over the water. I think I will become a writer if I spend some time there”.
The second sister like the one in the mountain. She said “I like the loneliness there. Just me and the wind that bring the smell of the distant flowers to me. The occasional cry of the wild animals”.
The words were flowing out of both of them. It was like this was the opportunity we were waiting for twenty years. At that moment I just wanted them back desperately and I didn’t want anything else.
I walked to the sofa where they were sitting and sat in the little space between them.
I said “ I don’t want anything. The small room where I stay is more than I need”.
“I didnt mean I wanted the riven house in my name. I just meant I like to spend time there”, My elder sister said.
“Even I don’t care too much about owning anything. Let us stop this madness which has been happening for twenty years”, Second sister said.
Tears filled our eyes for the lost twenty years we lost fighting and losing the most important people in our life. Both of them hugged me . Their hands were so soft the last time they hugged me. I could feel the wrinkles on their hands this times.
I could feel the lump of sadness in my heart being wiped out by a mysterious force. I felt I can walk carefree with a smile on the beach. At that moment I could even die happily.
By the time the lawyer came out of his meeting the compromise meeting was over and the case was closed forever.