From terrace, Sudeshna was witnessing the fun in the lawn; the colored faces exuding absolute joy. Apart from the children of orphanage, there were grown-ups who weren’t behaving any less than children! And why not. Life, after all, seldom gives such occasions of being childlike. And then, having been grown-up is certainly not a very great feeling. Being all grown sucks.
Smiles flickered over Sudeshna’s face. Seeing these orphaned children in the shade of happiness nearly healed her. It made her forget her own hardships. Hardships. Ah! her disobedient heart yet again longed that person, the only one who had the power to make her heart skip a beat. How she yet again wished secretly that Arjun balmed her pains and not inflicted more! Why does love hurt so much?
“Your beautiful face wouldn’t be harmed by colors, Sudeshna!” A familiar voice teased her from behind. Sudeshna turned and the look on her face somehow scared Rishabh! He was instantly reminded that she was way senior to him!
“I.. I meant, Happy Holi.. Sudeshna Ma’am.” Sudeshna didn’t respond. She just focused her gaze back to the lawn. With guilt, Rishabh had already begun to retreat when she very humbly asked,
“Why were you advising me on putting colors, Mr. Marketing Advisor.. When you yourself have not touched them?”
Rishabh smiled. Stern at one moment. Extremely soft at the very next. Such a mystery Sudeshna was! He stepped ahead and stood beside her. She glanced at him.
“That should ideally be my question, Ma’am.. Why are you observing all the fun from here when you don’t want to be a part of it all?” Rishabh sounded very sensible and for a moment, Sudeshna just kept looking at him. She hadn’t seen this part of his personality earlier.
“Sometimes, being too involved spoils everything, Rishabh.. Sometimes it’s good to observe things from distance.” There was a strange expression in her eyes when she spoke, as if she was thinking about something that happened years back.
Sudeshna Ma’am loved him so much, office mates used to comment in a hushed tone. Ever since Rishabh joined the new company, he had been hearing so much about her life. He didn’t know why but all this was making him restless.
He was Arjun. But mad in love like Radha, sudeshna considered him her Krishna. How beautiful was the love of Radha and Krishna! Like the Sun that continues to spread its colors even at the time of going down the horizon, their love immortalized itself even in separation. Why can’t human love be like that? Why couldn’t her Krishna feel her love? Why didn’t he remain hers even if he became someone else’s? Oh! why can’t human love be like that?
Silence descended between the two. The revelry downstairs suddenly seemed to have ceased for them. Sudeshna could sense Rishabh’s discomfort and so, she asked something that she thought would surely pep up his spirit.
“Where is Anvesha? Why are you not playing Holi with her?? You know, Rishabh.. I think she loves you.. It can be seen in her eyes.” Sudeshna added with controlled yet palpable zeal. In response, Rishabh just turned towards her and looked straight into her eyes. Sudeshna faltered and looked away. She had to. Perhaps she wasn’t able to meet his gaze for long. Perhaps..
She began to reason endlessly in her mind: “It’s ok, not everything needs to be explained in this world.” “So what if he looked at me like that, I know who he is and who I am.”
“I am half a decade older to him.” Sudeshna wanted to move away from him at once. But Rishabh absolutely stunned her this time by grabbing her in his arms.
As the Marketing Head of ‘Kshitiz’ and as a woman, she had every right to punish this guy for such audacity! She had every right to slap him hard! But she didn’t know why she couldn’t do that. Everything stopped to exist for them at this moment. Rishabh felt emboldened to see that Sudeshna wasn’t making any move to come out of his arms. Instead, there was a look of surrender in her eyes. The look of a coy woman who didn’t know how to respond. A pouch of color was then doled out of his pocket and gently, very gently was smeared on her beautiful face by Rishabh’s tremulous fingers.
“Happy Holi, Sudeshna..” He whispered in her ear. She closed her eyes. Her three year old abstinence from colors broke. Three year old image of Arjun putting colors on Ananya grew blurred. Something inside her felt complete. Something in her heart longed to pause this moment forever.
“Happy Holi, Sudeshna..” The words seemed to reverberate in her ears again and again. She opened her eyes and saw him leaving. Mild, soothing breeze of Spring failed to caress Sudeshna as her entire body throbbed with Rishabh’s touch. With the sprinkle of red gulaal over her long white kurti, as she saw Rishabh slowly disappear, she could feel her heart skip a beat.