Once again that dream made me wake up untimely and once again I started feeling uncomfortable. It has been more than ten years since he has gone but still that sense is echoing inside me. I am a married woman now and I have kids, everything is great but something down my soul is missing. I become speechless when my husband asks about this uneasiness, also he tries hard to do something about it, but some things in life remain unsolved.
My day starts with sending kids to school and husband to his workplace. Then rest of the household activities encompasses of cleaning, cooking,and talking with near and dear ones. Then in the afternoon kids return from school. I hardly get any time for myself. But I am not complaining because my kids are lovable more than anything to me .Their smile is the best stress booster. Rohan is five and Ramya is three . They can’t stop talking when they come back from their school and I can’t stop listening to them. We eat together and then after doing their home work, kids take their afternoon nap and I try to read something or watch television for some time. Sometimes I also fall asleep.
Today Ramya has gone to her friend’s home for her friend’s doll’s marriage ceremony, so no afternoon catnap. Rohan is busy watching some cartoon serial with so many eerie faces and I am trying to concentrate on my magazine. The phone rings, it must be my mom, she is the only one who calls up at this time, especially when there is something to be told about. I picked up but it wasn’t my mom but my aunty Neelam.
“Hello aunty how are you? it has been a long time since you called up . Is everything ok?”I asked .
She seemed a bit anxious “Preeti can you come up for some days. I know it’s tough for you to leave your kids alone with your husband, but I need you here as my ankle is badly injured and that’s why Mishi also has to suffer. Doctors are saying at least one week it will take to heal.”
I remained silent for some time but there could not be a no from my side, as after my mom Neelam aunty was the one who was the closest to me. She stood on her toes at the time of both my deliveries now she needed me.I know she could have managed it alone if Mishi wasn’t there. Mishi is the little girl whom she adopted after the birth of Ramya . After holding Ramya only, Neelam aunty felt she should have a kid and that too a girl. She didn’t get married as she never liked someone. She remained busy all her life for doing things for others. I lived with her during my school.I shared each and everything with her even more than I share with my mom.
“Preeti will you be able to manage? I can ask for a help too, but its Mishi.”she asked interrupting my thoughts .
“Aunty you don’t worry ,I will come there. Tarun will be able to manage things here as he can do his office work from home also and it’s the matter of only a week.”I replied.
Next morning I left for Shimla , Tarun left me at the bus stop, kids were crying but I knew Tarun will manage. I had tears in my eyes.
After a long time I was going to Shimla. I was there till my high school and then I left for Lucknow for my further education. I had a memorable time in Shimla. I studied there till my high school and also I met Anay there. He was there with me in class 12th. He was from a army background, so his dad got transferred to Shimla. He was different from other boys, he didn’t talk to anyone except one or two people, he never smiled. I used to get scared sometimes seeing him. But deep down I wanted him to talk with me, I wanted him to look at me. He was the boy to be talked about among girls. I was not like other girls who gossip and are crazy to be looked upon but Anay was different he made me think in the way other girls thought.
That day I was on my way to home when somebody called me from the back. I turned around .It was Anay, my heart started pounding, I started thinking what have I done, why is he coming to me. I started trembling. He was on his bike. He asked me if I wanted a lift. What? I couldn’t believe my ears. The guy who is heart-throb is asking an average girl like me for a lift. I couldn’t say a word. He for a second time asked “Preeti its ok if you don’t want to go with me but will you please lend me you chemistry practical notebook, my work isn’t complete.”
“Oh!” I felt comforted it’s only a practical note book.”Yeah, why not. Take it now only and return it tomorrow.”I gave him the notebook and quickly left the place.
I was wavering with the thought that he had come to talk with me and no other girl, I couldn’t sleep that night. Next morning again he came early than usual and in front of the whole class he returned my notebook. Every eye had a question mark on it. I was unable to say anything even when he thanked me. I just smiled and went back to my place. Girls were unquestionably very envious of me and boys were puzzled for no reason. He used to come to talk with me sometimes and I too liked talking with him so we sort of became friends.
One day while returning from school he was on his cycle and I was going alone walking, he came to me and asked if I wanted to ride on his bicycle, now this was too much in a place like Shimla. I said, “Are you crazy , I can’t sit on a bicycle like that.”
Even though I was dying to sit with him. He got a bit gloomy but again he managed to say a few words, “Preeti I want to meet you in the evening.”
“Why?”I sort of screeched but in reality I was having goose bumps hearing those words.
“Just like that”. He said lowering his voice. May be he got petrified by my loud reaction. Being nervous he was looking cute. I couldn’t say no .I told him to come to Neelam aunty’s residence in the evening. I told aunty about it. She was very unruffled about it, she said stop daydreaming, maybe he is coming to take another notebook only. I thought maybe she is right; it’s me who is getting over excited. I waited for him like a neurotic. He knocked at the door around sunset. He was a bit late or maybe I was the one who was counting every micro second.
”What is it?”I asked vehemently.
“Won’t you ask me in?”He asked in a low voice.
“Oh my God I am such a fanatic” I thought. “Please come in”.
I mended my words. He came in and I introduced him with Neelam aunty. She went inside her room after talking with him for ten minutes. My heart again started thumping .Oh God, what is it? This thought came again and again in my mind.
”Preeti, will you marry me?”He asked without any hurry.
“What! Are you mad? We are in twelfth standard.”I replied shaking.
“That is not the answer of my question.”He said .
“But are we not very young?”I replied.
”Again it is not the answer of my question, you are replying in questions and not giving the answer .Will you marry me? Listen , I am a very shy guy as you know it. I don’t get mixed up easily with people and also I don’t like many people .You are the one with whom I want to spend my whole life. Will you be mine for my whole life?”
I was scared but I was in love with him .What could be my answer I didn’t know.
I said “What will happen if I say yes.”I said in a low voice so that aunty doesn’t hear me.
“Nothing will happen. We will complete our studies and when we get settled in our careers we will talk with our parents about our marriage.”He told me his long plans.
”Oh you have planned so much.”I tried to mock him.
”Yes, I keep thinking about you since the day I met you.” He told with confession in his voice.
”Is it? I never knew that you even look at me .”I smiled.
”And yes ,you look more cute when you tie your hair in two plaits ,almost like a little girl.” he too smiled..Oh my God ! He had got dimples . I loved those dimples and I was apologetic to myself that I never noticed them .
”How could it be possible he never smiled. “I was thinking. He held my hand for the first time. I was going mad with happiness with nervousness and with anxiety.
” I think you should go now.Its late.”I told him.
”How rude of you, you didn’t even asked for coffee.”He complained.
”I know I am rude but these biscuits are enough, coffee some other day. People of the neighboring houses will start speculating something so go now”.I nearly pushed him.
He was smiling, Oh my God, I never thought I will see him smiling and that too this much.I wanted to give him a hug and I thought he also wanted the same. He was gazing me when he rode his bike. I was shivering with excitement. Aunty was watching us from the window.
“What happened ?” she asked.
”Aunty, Anay has proposed to me.”I blushed saying this.
”What, you people are in such a young age; you should be talking about studies only. I don’t think this is the time of you people to talk marriage.”She got angry saying this.
”I know aunty but the truth is I have very strong feelings for him and today only I had come to know about his feelings. We are in no rush. He said we will get married only when we get settled and that too when our parents get agree.”I tried to calm her down.
”Preeti, that’s ok, but you should understand that you are staying away from your parents and nothing you should do which can embarrass us ,are you getting what I am trying to say?”she said showing her concern.
“Yes aunty I understand ,you don’t worry I promise, I won’t do anything to embarrass you people. My love for him is pure and I know he feels in the same way. “
I thought maybe she was nervous as I was her responsibility. Soon our board exams got started and we got less time with each other. He used to come home to study sometimes. Aunty used to be with us and strangely he had got mixed up with aunty so well like he was her son. I never knew Mr.Anay could get mixed up too.
After our results, he left for Bangalore for engineering. I wanted to pursue a degree in economics from Lucknow, where my parents were staying ,so I left for Lucknow. We used to chat sometimes on internet and very rarely on phone. But only a word from him in the entire week would make me fly in the sky. I was in my final year and my exams were going on .
One day when I came back from college I saw some fifteen missed calls from a land line number from Bangalore .I called back ,it was some hospital’s number and when I asked the receptionist that who was calling ,just before five to ten minutes, she called a boy named Ravi. Ravichandran was Anay’s roommate.
”Is it Preeti? Preeti Anay had met with an accident and he is no more now.He gave me your number and told me tell you about him.His last words to me that tell Preeti to study and not leave her exams. His parents are on the way to Bangalore. This much I had to tell. Please take your exams and take care,I can’t say more than this.”He cut the phone saying this.
I felt there was no floor under me. What will I tell my parents, they even don’t know who is Anay. I called up Neelam aunty and told her. She said “Yes Preeti, this is true it has come in the newspaper. He had met with an accident.But I know only one thing , he said he wanted to spend his whole life with you and he did that. Dear, you have to fulfill his wish now, study and don’t think anything else.”
How could I not think anything else. My whole life was shattered. Sill I managed to pass my exams .After one year I got married . Sometimes I dreamt of him smiling and saying it was all a joke I shouldn’t have believed it. I felt incomplete, I felt unanswered, even though my husband was a gem of a person I couldn’t think what was it, I was missing.
The bus stopped at Shimla bus stand and I took a taxi to Neelam aunty’s house. Everything there was same. It was chilling cold evening like before. I remember my cycle walks with Anay in those streets. Soon I reached aunty’s house.Little Mishi was playing outside. Aunty was sitting in the verandeh. I touched her feet. She kissed me on the fore head.
“How was the journey?”she asked.”
“It was fine aunty”I replied. I had turned red thinking of all those memories .Aunty understood it.
“Preeti, I won’t trouble you for long, my cousin sister is coming day after tomorrow, so you can leave early .”She tried to change my mood.”Now go and change you look tired.”She said .
We had dinner and then we went to sleep , but there was no sleep in my eyes. Only Anay was poignant in my head. I couldn’t sleep for the whole night. Next morning after taking breakfast I told aunty that I wanted to go to visit my school. She knew what was going in my head.
She said ,”Alright, his parents have moved here permanently . After retirement his father has a made a house of his own. Its near your school only, you can visit them if you want to.” She understood my dilemma.
I got ready and left for the school. I roamed there for an hour and soon found a board Mr.Vinod Singh. Retd Army officer. It was Anay’s house. I went inside. I looked at the wall ,there was a family picture of him with his parents and his elder sister Ritu and one separate picture of him with flowers was hung just in the middle of the wall. I wanted to cry aloud. But only some tears rolled out of my eyes. A lady came with henna applied on her hair.
She asked ,”Dear, how can I help you?”
“What should I say now “I wondered.
“Nothing aunty, I was just passing by and I saw your beautiful garden so I stopped and came inside to ask about the secret.”I managed to say something.
“Oh these flowers, these are grown by Any’s papa. He is the one behind it.”
She was saying Any’s papa like Anay hasn’t gone anywhere. He is there only. Now I realized why I always saw that dream with Anay saying I haven’t gone anywhere, I am just around you. Aunty and uncle were so busy with each other. His sister had got married. I sat with both of them for a couple of hours. Aunty in between of our talks use to tease uncle and uncle used to smile in reply.They never let me feel that they have left Anay somewhere back in time. He was there in their conversation,in their laughs and in their tears.
While I was leaving said, “Dear when you come again to Shimla, you come with your husband and kids.We would love to meet them.”
Tears rolled down my eyes. “Yes aunty, sure.”I hugged both of them and left.
I rushed towards Neelam aunty’s house.I went and hugged her tightly.”Thank a lot aunty for calling me here. I could have never got answers to my questions, if I had not come to this place.”
Next morning I left for my home .When I reached I saw my husband was feeding both my children food cooked by him.
I asked ,”Where is my share?”
All were surprised to see me early .My husband hugged me tightly .I wished I never come out of his grip and after that I never saw that dream.