“Don’t take her away from me? Please don’t….please…” a man wailed, holding onto the corpse of a woman as a few men began to lift her to initiate the process of cremation. “Hey…hey, don’t you touch her dammit….can’t you see, she is sleeping?”
Three men tried to pull him back off the body but in futile.
“Leave me…leave…..Aisha, see they don’t believe me..they tell me you are dead…they are wrong, aren’t they? You can wake up now dear…Pleaseeee…wake up..” he sobbed, tired of resisting against the world. “You would wake up….won’t you?”
But she stayed still. His emotions could no longer affect her. She was gone….she was Dead!
Now all he had with him was the corpse of the person he longed to be forever with…the person who promised to hold his hand up to eternity but somehow she couldn’t make it…somehow the promise turned into a whisper which dispersed into emptiness…somehow her heart gave up.
I stared at the body. The flames faithfully worked their way up and engulfed the body. In a matter of time, she was all ashes.
The name echoed in my head.
“Where are you going?” Sameer asked as I started to get up from the stairs. I had always been a weak prey to emotions.
Far away from this – I thought.
“Baba asked me to fetch some tobacco..I forg-”
“Vishal!” Sameer interrupted. “ You must go home dear. Okay?”
“Dear, promise me you won’t ever leave my hand,” her words resonated through my ears.
“No baby…never. My heart beats to your voice. The day it stops hearing you, it would cease to exist.”
“I love you!” she used to cuddle in my arms.
I love you too. I miss you so much.
Seated in a chair at home, I fixated my glance at the empty paper in my hand.
I never wanted to leave you…I was forced…They snatched everything from me…They ruined my life!
You must know why………I said to myself!
And I began to write –
“There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat…in a single, flashing, throbbing moment.”
5th August, 2008……
Today, my otherwise monotonous life took a turn.
Today, someone walked in through the ceased door of my heart which I never knew even existed.
Yes, it did skip a beat when it saw you….draped in a light yellowish salwar, with the wind twirling against your soft hairs, I soon came to realize my eyelids hadn’t met for a good couple of minutes. My eyes watered for a blink but the brain refused orders. You were precious, just like a princess of those fairy tales…I couldn’t take my eyes off you, I couldn’t lose you.
It’s a funny life we are indulged in. That day, I came to rob you off your purse. Ironically you robbed me off the most vital thing of my life………My Heart!
My mind drifted off to the bus-stand where I first met her.
“Vishal….you nervous?” Sameer asked, wiping the sweat off his forehead.
“A li’l…you?” I replied, looking either side to ensure no one suspected us.
“Nervous??? I might have a heart attack before I reach her. Shouldn’t we change-”
“No!” I interrupted. “Listen, all you need to do is walk up to her, grab her bag and run. I am gonna make sure no one is following you, kind of back you up. Relax, all right?”
Sameer nodded. His face had the I-am-a-dead-man-today expression.
Nervous as hell, we were. After all, a first burglary isn’t a piece of cake.
The plan was simple – Rob the girl and run.
Few ancient civilians occupied the bus-stand. They won’t be enthusiastic enough to get involved in a pursuit with two young thieves, I thought.
But something happened. I saw her face.
It wouldn’t be wrong if I quote an adage here – It was love at first sight.
My heart melted at the very glimpse of her innocent face. I was busy mental planning our honeymoon when I heard noises in the background.
Before I could comprehend any conclusion, I realized I had missed something – the backup!
As Sameer smeared his way through the crowd, I found out, the civilians actually hurtled. Some, vigorous enough to knock him down soon.
Girls can make you do the unthinkable. Had it been some guy, these civilians wouldn’t give a sh*t, but then –
Men’s grow…hearts don’t!
I turned towards the girl. Droplets of tears encircled her eyes, as she sniffled periodically, keeping her head down.
The next moment I remember, I was chasing Sameer, a newly found rage within me. In a jiffy, I tackled him down, grabbing the purse off him. Sameer had a what-the-f*ck-is-wrong-with-you-as**ole expression. To be frank, I was clueless myself. I was enchanted.
As the civilians warmed their hands on their prey, I walked up to the girl with her purse.
She looked up…her round eyes moistened with tears, her cute, li’l nose puckered up and bright red. She resembled an Angel.
“Thank you!” were the first words from her.
I was speechless. I kept gaping at her.
“Aisha,” she stretched her hand.
“V..v..vishal!” was all I could utter.
“Get lost fu*ker…are we even friends?” Sameer yelled, as we walked back home. Luckily, he escaped the civilians after a few punches. “Would you mind justifying your heroism?”
“I am in love!” I smiled.
I had been gazing outside the window.
Baba might be home anytime soon.
I better finish this stuff before his arrival, I said to myself.
And I continued….
“Life is a vast ocean and we are a tiny fish. Once you miss the drift and you are thrown miles away from your path…..abandoned….lost.
By the time you retrace your path, it’s too late…everything’s changed. You never get that chance….ever!
It’s only been a couple of months but it feels like decades. I miss you dear…I miss you so much.
There’s not a single moment I don’t regret my decision. Every second there’s this incessant pain inflicting my heart.
I wish I could take it back!
I wish I could speak to you…but I can’t. That moment is long gone and all that’s left of it is a defeated person, a person who has given up in life.
“Stagnant in your thoughts, I stare as you go,
My heart is all bruised and weeping all alone,
Crying in the dark, sobbing in the day,
Staggering through life, I might end up someday”
I am sorry my dear. I should have never left you.
You were a dream I never wanted to wake up from. Those moments you gave me were the best moments of my life.
What the hell – I wondered, as the actor carried his beloved to the bathtub, their eyes locked into each other.
It was the first time I had been to a multiplex. My 6th date with Aisha. Our friendship had travelled a long way from the bus-stand.
Meanwhile, the lovemaking onscreen had become intense, by now the actor’s hand caressing places strictly prohibited to any man. The actress grasped onto his hairs, a wild accent about it.
Streams of sweat slithered down my temples as I fought the mental battle of whether to continue staring at the screen and pretend it’s normal, or deviate my attention somehow to prevent any further secretion of testosterone within myself.
From the corner of my eye, I checked Aisha. She had her eyes locked onto the screen, a weird smile suppressed up her lips.
The eroticism further increased with the couple exploring each others tongue and indulging in some vigorous make outs. They had sworn to drain me to the climax.
“Your ice cream maam!” a voice erupted suddenly in the darkness of the theatre.
I turned to my right. A man in uniform stood holding a tray of snacks.
“Yep,” Aisha replied, receiving a cornetto. “Thank you!”
Aha! Finally some ice to combat a heated situation.
But…wait a minute. As far as I could make out from the already pale light of the screen, there was only one.
Huh! Hungry bitc-
“Ice cream?” she interrupted my thought, provoking her trademark puppy glance.
“What…no..no, thanks!” I replied, immediately cursing myself.
As**ole Vishal – the genius in me remarked.
“Vishal, I need your help. Please look out,” she said, coming closer to me. “Did I smear ice-cream on my face?”
I smiled as I removed a trifle cream gently off her nose.
“You sure you don’t want it?” Aisha asked, sticking out her tongue, a piece of cone melting in the warm breath of her mouth.
A mischievous smile evolved on her face.
With our faces in proximity, I could smell the sweet fragrance of her lips.
I never knew who took the initiative, but for the first time….our lips met!
The clock struck 7:30 PM.
Baba had still not returned.
I walked up to the window, misted with condensation.
The metal gate lay as motionless as it had always been. A cool breeze hustled through the courtyard. Other than a few dogs strolling around the streets, the neighborhood showed no signs of existence of the living.
I rubbed my hands together, as the air condensed my breath into vapor. The temperature had fallen considerably.
Turning back towards the table, I wondered – what if she doesn’t accept my letter?
This is my only shot at redemption, the only way to let her know the truth behind the breakup.
No matter what, these words has to reach her, I said to myself.
I still remember those words-
What if I leave you someday – you used to ask.
“I will turn insane…completely!”
You used to cuddle in my arms, burying your head deep into my chest. “And if you ever leave me, I won’t be able to make it…..I would die!”
Yet I left you. I can never forgive myself for that. I have been in a continuous conflict with myself. There’s this vengeance I just can’t get rid of.
You opened my eyes to the world I had always dreamt of. Sometimes life seemed like a concentration camp, suffocating me every second. But there was always a hand to pull me out of every misery. Yes, it wouldn’t be wrong if I said, you brought heaven down to earth…you made life worthwhile.
Happiness is a Devil’s bait. His tactic to allure you into the intricacies of life. No sooner you walk into one, you realize you have been deceived. There’s a huge debt to pay. All the times you laughed, the times you were happy would now be avenged….now, you would have to cry!
Hardly had I known,
That a storm awaited me. A storm that would devastate my life forever.
That the next moment would eradicate every happiness out of my life.
Hardly had I known, I had walked into the Devil’s bait.
19th October, 2008. The day we celebrated your birthday.
That day changed everything………..
“It’s a nice place,” Aisha said, as we seated ourselves in the wooden carved benches of the park.
Too many kids hurtled around the periphery.
“Hmmm,” I sighed, looking at a kid chasing a butterfly.
“So, what are we here for?”
19th October. Her birthday.
Aisha inferred I might have forgotten it. But I had been dying for this day. I had spent weeks contemplating ways to make her birthday special.
Today I will speak out my heart to her.
I had drafted a long speech which would make even Shakespeare shy. But as expected, I was clueless about where to initiate.
“Aisha,” I mustered up my courage. “I need to tell you something.”
She made a quick eye contact and looked away. I think I saw her lips spread into a smile. “Sure.”
Go on as**ole – my inner genius, this time – you won’t get this chance ever!
But before I could utter another word, something happened –
“Happy Birthday Aisha!” a voice startled me off my feet.
I turned to face a man. Dressed in formals and resembling more of an entrepreneur out of a business meeting, he seemed in his fifties. Four hugely built gentlemen accompanied him, one of them having a long cut engraved under his right eye that ran unceasingly upto his lips.
“Many many happy returns of the day,” he added, a warm smile on his face.
I looked at Aisha who was as astonished as I had been.
“Thank you,” she said slowly, getting up from the bench. Her head was drooped down.
Who the hell are you – I wanted to ask – I am gonna propose her. Can we get a li’l privacy?
Instead, I stayed silent.
The man eyed me from head to toe. “Sorry to disturb, you guys enjoy,” he smiled walking upto me. “It’s a special day, isn’t it?”
His voice felt ironical. Somehow, the warmth of the smile had disappeared.
Something was wrong!
No sooner he left, I walked upto Aisha. She was immersed in a deep thought.
“This shouldn’t have happened,” she sighed, continuing to stare at earth.
“Vishal, go home…now” she interrupted, a thrust of concern in her voice.
I was shocked. I hadn’t even wished her.
Would someone please tell me what the fu*k is going on?
“What’s wrong dear?” I asked, placing my hand on her shoulder.
“He was my dad,” she squeaked. “But that’s not all. Actually, I hid something from you. My dad works for the Underworld.”
I felt as if someone had infested a tight punch on my stomach. All of a sudden, the earth felt like spinning faster.
Of all the girls in the world, you had to fall in love with a Don’s daughter – the genius remarked – Not bad!
I gaped at her as she continued, “You saw that man with the cut. His name’s James. He takes assignments for killing, kind of a contract killer.”
That’s a Bonus!
“They followed me all the way through!”
My mind suffered a catastrophe of thoughts, the primary one being – Are you scaring me or warning me?
“I am so sorry dear…so sorry,” Aisha cried, throwing herself in my arms. “They would leave no stones unturned to cast us off each other. I don’t wanna lose you, I just don’t.”
I held her firmly.
“Am I not your Superman?” I whispered, wiping the tears off her eyes. “The only difference being, he has his underwear outside while mine’s inside.”
I realized I could give my life to see her smile forever. I had started loving her like a maniac.
“I promise, no one can drift us apart, not even the entire Underworld combined. I can even fight with God,” I continued, caressing her hairs. “Now you calm down and take care of yourself. As soon as you leave the park, I’ll head straight for home.”
She stared at me for one last time and left.
I Love You dear – I sighed but…she had gone too far from me!
I looked at the park entrance. James waited for my approach. Two men proceeded in my direction.
I was trapped!
“Where have you been all this while?” Baba enquired, as I squeezed myself through the door silently.
I stopped halfway.
The bruises hurt. My right eye had swollen considerably. A stream of blood oozed out of my nose.
“What’s that blood?” Baba rushed upto me, dropping the plates he had been accumulating. “What happened?”
I gazed down. I had been beaten.
“I fell down!”
“It’s the girl, isn’t it?” he smiled, holding up my chin.
I stared at him. I couldn’t lie. Ever since mom left us, I had been a better half of his life.
“You know, when we lie, our heart contradicts our words. It beats faster,” he said. “I can feel your heartbeat. How can you hide that from me?”
A drop of tear rolled down my cheek. In the next few hours, I elaborated everything that had happened so far with me, to Baba.
He listened intently, then walked upto the kitchen to ignite a cigarette and returned.
“Son,” he sighed, puffing a ring. “Do you love her?”
I continued to stare blankly.
“Coz if you do, these blood and bruises ain’t enough to stop you. True love happens just once, and no matter what, you must protect it. Meet her, tell her the truth. God won’t let you down. I promise I will always be there for you…always!”
That was enough. I broke down. He held me close to himself.
“I love you Baba”
“Love you too son!”
If you insist on being a ba*tard, I’m gonna hit you where it will hurt the most – The Don’s voice circulated in my mind.
That day, your Superman lost his battle. I couldn’t return home. They forced me into a van and drove to their dwellings.
I was overpowered. I was beaten. They dragged me upto your dad. He warned me to stay away from you.
I was scared. My heart was innocent, so was its love. Little did I know my innocence would land me in such hindrances.
But there was this man who always shone like a knight in the darkness for me…motivating me, inspiring me. He was my Dad. He was always there for me.
They burnt him alive…They snatched my Baba from me…
I had been waiting in the cafeteria since two hours. There was no sign of Aisha.
I have to tell her the truth – I thought – If she loves me, if she wants to elope, Baba would have absolutely no hesitation in welcoming a new member in the family. Together, we would leave the city for good.
Suddenly, the phone’s ring, shook me out of my illusion.
“Vish…vish….vishal..” Sameer stammered at the other end, a feeling of stress in his voice. “The house..it’s gone.”
“What are you saying Sameer?”
“You house has burnt down, Vishal…Every…everything’s turned to ashes. Baba’s condition is critical. Please………”
I dropped the phone. My brain failed to interpret any further. Everything turned blurred. Time seemed to have stopped still.
JEEVAN LIFELINE – End of life or Start of a new life!
I read, rushing through the hospital entrance.
Sameer was occupied in an animated conversation with the doctor.
“Where’s Baba?” I enquired, panting desperately.
Sameer gaped at me.
“The patient’s condition is critical,” the doctor initiated. “60% of the body has burnt. If we don’t operate now, I’m afraid, we can’t save him.”
I looked through the glass. Baba lay still. I could only see his face.
I will always be there for you! Always!
“Please save my Baba,” I cried, falling down on my knees. “Please.”
“Son, I am as helpless as you are. Unless we have the required sum, we can’t operate. It’s orders”
I turned to Sameer. His head hung low.
There was only one option.
“Sir, that boy wants to meet you,” James announced to the Don, who had been seated in his posh apartment sipping mugs of beer.
I was in their dwelling. I had no idea what I was doing.
“Call him,” he signaled. One man escorted me his way.
“Hmmm…Vishal, pleased to meet you again,” he smiled, shoving some cigarette ash into the tray.
“Sir, please help me. My Baba – ”
“I know, I know everything. Your house has burnt down, your Baba is critical, isn’t it? I know that. Ever wondered, how the fire got ignited, Vishal?”
I gaped at him. The reality dawned on me.
“You – ”
“No..no. That’s the wrong question. The question isn’t who did it. The question is, are you willing to save your Baba?”
I stood stunned.
That bastard had caused the fire. That bastard burnt Baba.
“You don’t have much time Vishal. Every second costs your Baba his life,” he came close to me. “You see, I’m a generous man. Now it’s upto you to decide – a faithful lover or an obedient son!”
I chose the latter. “What should I do?”
“You already know it son,” he winked.
I watched as Aisha paid the taxi and walked upto me, a smile on her lips.
“What’s so urgent sweetheart?” she pinched my cheek. “And sorry, that day – ”
“Aisha,” I interrupted, pushing her hand away.
She was taken aback.
“I am sick of faking it. I think I deserve a break,” My heart ached. “I want to end this thing, this love and all bullshit.”
Her wide eyes locked themselves on mine. The smile had disappeared.
“You see, you are a torture, an omen of bad luck. And your dad, the Greaaaaat Don, son of a bi*ch – ”
“Vishal!” she yelled, tears collecting around her eyes. “Don’t – ”
“No dear, let me speak today. You know, I thought getting you laid won’t be that tough but you are a too good-girlish type thing. However, I really liked the taste of your lips,” I went on. “Alas! I couldn’t bang you, courtesy to that as**ole dad of yours – ”
My cheek turned red. She was crying. She didn’t say a word – she left.
“I love you.” I sighed. Somehow, the words couldn’t reach her. I had pushed her too far.
I had fallen in my eyes forever.
Just then my phone rang. I received it.
“Vishal…..Baba is no more!”
……………and so I left you.
Life is ironical. It takes sadness to know what happiness is. Noise to appreciate silence. Absence to value presence.
Ever since you walked away, I had clung onto your memories. I guess the reason people hold onto memories so tight is that memories don’t change, when everyone else does.
But if you look back once, I still stand here…silently loving you and ever will.
I had given you my heart. I never took it back.
“Crucified in your love, every promise I made was true,
Now and till the last breath, I’ll always be there for you!”
Someone knocked on the door.
Baba, I thought.
“Sameer!” I exclaimed, opening the door. “I thought its Baba.”
He walked in. “Wassup? What’s that thing?” he said, pointing to the letter.
I smiled. I couldn’t wait to tell him.
“Sameer, I have been thinking of writing to Aisha, kind of an apology.” I explained, holding the letter.
His face turned grave.
“Vishal, give it to me,” Sameer said, trying to grab the letter.
I retreated, astonished.
“What has happened to you my friend? Why are you doing this to yourself?” he sighed, leaning onto my shoulders.
His eyes had turned red.
“What’s wrong? Aisha must know – ”
“AISHA IS DEAD,” he yelled, jerking me to my senses. “Don’t you get that? She is no more, she’s dead.”
A gush of chill rushed down my spine. My brain refused to obey the ears.
“How could you say that?”
“She meant it when she said she didn’t wanna lose you. She loved you. The night you ended it, she was devoid of a reason to live. She slit her wrist. She couldn’t make it. She died.”
I stood stunned. The letter fell from my hand. My heart thudded vigorously.
“It wasn’t your fault dear…then why are you punishing yourself to this date. You laughed when you saw Baba’s dead body, you didn’t cry when you heard about Aisha. Its been 8 months, you haven’t slept a night since then.”
Life had taken its toll on me. There was a harsh truth to face.
Sameer hugged me tightly. Tears ran down his eyes.
“Why don’t you stop cursing yourself?” he cried. “Why don’t you just come back…..I want my friend back, please…please, come back.”
I stared at the letter. I had no words to say.
Dear, if you ever leave me, I won’t be able to make it. I would die!
I closed my eyes. A drop of tear left my eye.