This short story is selected as Story of the Month March’2015 and won INR 1000
This story is selected as Editor’s Choice and won INR 500
“In everyone’s life there comes a moment of reckoning.” Jiah, my fiancée said, “That moment has come into my life and having realized it I cannot go forward with our marriage plans. Please forgive me. I know how awful it’ll be to announce the break up at this stage. But I can’t help it. I am sorry.”
“Did you call me here to have some kind of cruel fun?” I asked casually tapping on the table with my finger tips.
“No. I mean what I say.” she said.
“Then you don’t love me anymore!” I said utterly taken aback and looking out of the window into the blue space of the sky from the 29th floor of her office.
“I don’t know.”
“Jiah how can you say this to me? Jiah what about the five years of our classic love? Our dreams of our sweet home and children and the times we have spent together? It’s not a small thing, something frivolous that can be brushed aside, like a kid’s game. It involves our lives, our families too now. You cannot back out at this point talking about ‘a moment of reckoning.’ We are engaged, you know that? And all arrangements have been made for our wedding, reception and now the whole world knows about our affair. How can you do this to me? Is it fair? Have I done anything wrong? Or behaved in any ungentlemanly manner with you? How can you walk out on me like this?” I asked quite hyper ventilating and completely shattered.
“Jiah, Jiah, please come to you senses. It no more concerns both of us alone, it concerns our families too. Are your parents aware of your decision?”
“They are. Now listen Arun, there’s no point getting mad at me or at yourself. I am clear as to what I am doing. I am calling off this alliance also I am not interested in taking this relationship ahead. I am ending it here. You can tell your parents of my decision and go on with your life.” she said looking stern, unconcerned, indifferent, and convinced.
I sat looking at her for sometime. She was determined not to speak anything more.
“I demand a reason and the truth, the complete truth of your decision. You…you cannot opt out of relationships like this. I am going to bear the brunt of your decision all my life. Tell me the truth; has anyone else come into your life?”
It was painful to ask her such a thing. Jiah was my college friend and our friendship had blossomed into love five years ago. She was also an IT Engineer with an MBA degree like me. She worked for Morrison Inc. an MNC and I worked in a public sector company. Both of us were record holders academically and professionally. In fact she was the perfect combination of beauty and brains, of aesthetics and morality, of sensibility and rationality.
I loved her from the time I set my eyes on her. She was level headed and balanced. I had never seen her hurrying or in disarray. There was a sort of comfortable homeliness about her, a soothing stillness that touched me deeply.
“Yes, someone has come between us and has altered our relationship. That had been my moment of reckoning. And now I know for sure you have no place in my life. So please don’t make my life difficult for me getting down to indecorous means. It will be better for both of us if you leave me in peace and lead your life.”
“Who is this other man who has changed you so completely? Does he know about our engagement, our….our love and our marriage just fifteen days away?”
“Yes, he knows everything. And I prefer to go with the other tide that has me in his power completely. I am firm in my decision. Now shall we part peacefully?” she asked politely.
I crumbled and collapsed within. Has the devil taken possession of her senses?
“You cannot treat me like this as if I am a piece of scrap, a paper written all over and crumpled and ready to be thrown into the bin.” I couldn’t believe my own voice. It sounded strange, shrill, as if I was on the point of crying into loud sobs. I stared at her dumbfounded.
“I have to go for a meeting in thirty minutes. I called you urgently only to tell you this news. I am sorry again and thank you for all the lovely times we have had together,” so saying she stood up to prepare herself for the meeting with the Board of Directors.
I continued sitting there and stared at her, crestfallen, devastated, humiliated and baffled too. I wished she would turn round and say it was all a joke and laugh and make it up. But Jiah was not that sort of a person to joke on such serious matters. My gut feeling told me that something was seriously wrong. Her love is true, genuine, and mature. She is bluffing about the other man. Something else is the reason. I loved her truly. There cannot be anyone else in my life. If she really spurns me, I would remain single all my life.
“Jiah, how can you do this to me? Are you aware of the implications of whatever you are saying? Our marriage is just round the corner and you come up with such weird stories to renege. How can I take this? Even our honeymoon is planned and above all I love you with my heart and soul.”
She was closing a filing cabinet overhead. She turned round and said, “You are still here? I have told you whatever I have to say. It’s up to you how you take it. As for me everything is over, past, finished and done with. Listen, I have moved on and my life is different now. Don’t call me up or SMS me, or drop into my house uncalled or even contact me on Face book. I will not respond.”
“How can you be so cruel? You don’t have any feelings left?”
She looked at me sharply and said, “Yes, I don’t have any feelings.”
“And this other man who has come into your life, are you serious about him? Are you both getting married?”
“That I’ll see. That’s my life now. I need not provide you with explanations regarding that part because it does not concern you.”
I felt a sharp stab in my heart, unfroze and slowly came to my senses. It sunk into me then that she means whatever she says.
“I need to make my notes to brief the Board Members before I go in for the meeting. So please….” she stopped short and pointed in the direction of the door.
I got up, picked my coat and left the room.
I walked in a daze not knowing what to do. My senses were alert now. My ears were burning, a flood of emotions poured into my heart. I couldn’t go home in this state of mind. How could I veil my feelings from my people? I needed to unwind and think calmly and take the situation in my grips. I drove mindlessly while the sound of traffic impinged on my eardrums, until I found myself close to Aksa beach. We had come here once or twice, Jiah and I. I parked my car and walked on the sand until I came across a vacant rock. It was hot even at six in the evening yet the beach was bustling with life. The noises around me swept over me and converged into one name that I repeated again and again, Jiah. The sun on my back pricked even when it was preparing to set.
I sat on the rock and played the tape back in my mind repeatedly going through the details minutely. Doubtlessly she has ended this relationship. How can I take this? At once a sudden void engulfed me and my eyes filled with tears. Life without Jiah was unimaginable.
When I turned the car round the familiar corner of my building, my heart gave several leaps. What will be the reaction of people at home? I must brave it. There wasn’t a sound in the parking lot except the wind in the trees outside and the crickets whistling softly into the night.
At the doorstep, the hyper excitement of the impending marriage aroused a clamor and the voices of relatives, who had already stationed at home, cast a gloomy feeling over me.
“Here comes the groom,” said someone.
“We all tried your cell several times. It was coming ‘switched off.’ What’s the matter?” asked my Mom.
“What is the matter with you, Arun?”
“Must be work pressure at office. You must take at least forty days leave and go out of India for your honeymoon and enjoy thoroughly.”
“I shopped today at the Mall and know what? I met some of my old friends.” said my younger sister.
My big uncle and my father were playing chess in the corner of the room. They both looked up at me. My two sisters came closer to me; my maternal uncle stood staring at me. It was as if life that was buzzing came to a halt.
‘Oh, God! How will I break this news to them? They were all so impressed with Jiah and her ways, her mannerisms, her maturity, and her mesmerizing beauty. Each one had something good to tell about her. My grandfather, who was the first one to approve of this marriage, though she belonged to a different caste, was thoroughly charmed by her. She had fussed over him and had won his heart. He came and sat by my side.
“What happened my boy?” he asked softly.
“Jiah has called off the marriage,” I said. “She told me of her decision this evening.”
“What is it?”
“How can this be?”
They converged upon me and asked for details. I carefully concealed the reason she gave me for the break off. Somehow I couldn’t let her down in their eyes about the ‘other man in her life.’ I repeated that she was no more interested in this alliance and that she didn’t love me anymore.
“But my darling,” said my mother already with tears in her eyes, “She would have given some reason. What did she tell you exactly?”
“The only reason she gave me is that she has experienced something like ‘the moment of reckoning’ and having experienced it she cannot go on with this marriage.”
“How strange!” said my sister.
“And what is that moment of reckoning?” asked my elder sister.
“I don’t know.” I said. “She only told me that in everyone’s life there comes a moment of reckoning and it alters the life completely. It’s the Truth. She has experienced it and having reckoned with it she cannot go along with this marriage. Everything else now amounts to nothing for her.”
“How can that be? It’s not a matter now between both of you. It now concerns the families. We have already performed the engagement ceremony and exchanged several items as a token of fostering permanent relationship. Let her parents give us appropriate explanations,” fumed my maternal uncle.
In fact he never honored and approved any of my decisions that easily because he still considered me an over pampered and fickle minded boy, despite my degrees and experiences.
“I know such marriages won’t work for long. Better early than late. Somehow I knew it from the beginning, it won’t work,” my uncle continued, fanning himself and walking to and fro.
My sisters were talking between themselves animatedly.
“Has she no feelings left in her?”
“No, the right word is conscience.”
“It’s all the arrogance of being beautiful, rich, and highly qualified. Deadly combinations!”
“This is being jilted. I think she has jilted him.”
“Poor Arun, he is so trusting and quite naïve. He doesn’t know the ways of the world.”
“Yeah, anyone can take him for a ride and make a fool of him.”
My mother was silently sobbing into her paloo. My father and my big paternal uncle said nothing. They stared into space, and then slowly put the chess men back into the box.
My grandfather who was listening silently said, “Tomorrow morning we will go to Jiah’s house and I will ask her myself. She will not refuse me. She will comprehend and tell me the truth. Just see I will make her understand and she will comply.”
My father immediately nodded in agreement. In the uneasy silence that hovered there in the hall, I went to my room with a heavy heart. I could hear the children asking what happened and the hushed discussions of my sisters. I spent a long time in the rest room. When I emerged out neatly bathed and dressed in my night dress, food was served. Every one hardly ate. First the children were put to sleep and the mattresses were laid out for others. Lights were put off and in the semi darkness of the house, I tossed and turned in my bed. Finally, I fell into a disturbed sleep.
The images of Jiah and I together in the canteen, college corridors, auditorium, class room, in library, in cine max, on the pavement, in Jiah’s house, in the sea shore flashed through my mind.
The tide was high and Jiah was laughing. She didn’t like wetting her feet.
“I won’t come into the water. Arun, hold my hand, don’t leave me.”
Then turning around, “Yes I don’t love you. I’m calling off our marriage” she was saying sternly. “I am breaking off. Leave me alone……”
Her laughter and voice resounded in my ears and faded into oblivion.
I got up in cold sweat with a pounding heart and dry mouth. I reached for the jug and gulped some water noiselessly.
The next morning my parents, grandpa and my big uncle went to Jiah’s house. I stayed back at home. As soon as they departed, I sent a prayer: ‘God let her change her mind. Let her be in her senses.’ I drew the curtains apart fully and looked down from the window leaning on the sill. Even the mild sunlight seemed unreal on the tree tops. A thin elongated ray fell into the room. After a long unbearable wait for more than two hours, I heard the lift door opening. My pulse quickened and heart began to beat so fast that tiny beads of sweat formed on my forehead. The door opened and they all came in. I looked at their faces and knew what was coming.
Sad, dispirited, and dejected my mother slumped into the bean bag and wept. I dared not ask them anything but waited for someone to tell me the details.
My father spoke, “Arun you can now forget her. She is firm in her decision and the reason is what she told you that she has reckoned with Truth.”
I looked at grandpa. He was the most dejected. He was sitting hunched with his elbows on his knees and chin propped up in his hand. “She shunted me like an untouchable when I tried to take her hands in mine. She is clear about what she says. Only we are not able to understand her,” he said softly.
‘Thank God I thought, I did not mention about the other man in her life. Poor grandpa, let him keep his trust. Why should I break it? Also why should I bias their minds?’
“What about her parents? What did they say?” asked my maternal uncle.
“What will they say? With joined hands they begged for forgiveness. They hardly spoke, allowing her to do all the speaking. I don’t think there’s any more likelihood of her changing her mind or of this marriage.” said my mother.
“We are with you in your moment of anguish,” said my father placing his hand on my shoulder.
My resistance cracked in me and tears filled my eyes. My mother cried in utter disappointment. “Oh, Oh, what a turn of events!” she mumbled.
“If the marriage is called off, I don’t think I will stay on. There’s no point in wasting my leave.” said uncle. “I will leave today itself.”
One by one all the relatives left but after advising me in their own ways as to how I should take life, how I should not fall into any more pits, and how not to be so gullible.
Again the four of us sat at the table. My parents, grandfather and me in total silence and we had nothing to speak.
A week later, like a blessing in disguise news arrived on my desk. I was deputed to New York on a new project. It was like a sudden sunshine on a gloomy moor. I required this much needed break.
My family decided to shift base to our ancestral house in the South where my big uncle was staying with his family. “We’ll give this house on company lease.” my grandpa said. It was all set. To be away from the familiar surroundings, is what I wanted. Out of sight would mean out of mind.
But I had to meet Jiah once, only once before leaving for New York. I decided to go her house without prior appointment. My heart thumped against my ribs at the thought of meeting her. While standing under the shower I hummed a tune in sheer delight of seeing her physically. I wore my blue pinstriped shirt which she had at one time gifted to me. She had said, “You look dashing in it.” While sprinting out of the house as if with springs under my feet, I smiled at my boyish, immature urgency to meet her and tell her of my departure. I sprayed the London Burbury lavishly over me and incidentally it was her favorite fragrance too.
I left the car by the left side of the road and walked to her house. Jiah’s Mercedes was in the garage. At the gate I saw the maid’s daughter watering the plants.
“Is Jiah there at home?” I asked her.
“Yes. Saab, she is in her room. Uncle and Aunty are in their room upstairs. Shall I call them?”
I went in noiselessly. The hall looked different. Something had basically altered there. The pots and plants along the grill outside were gone, even the hanging pots were gone. Sunlight streamed into the room and the room looked bare and bright. The portrait on the wall was also removed. It was the portrait Jiah had painted A Metaphor of Faith. Instead there hung a bizarre portrait of wandering monks in red or saffron dress with bowls in their hands in the desert and the desert storm was blowing sand on their faces. How strange! What is she up to? Is this any kind of morbid cult she is going to follow? I thought to myself.
I went to her room. It was not latched. I pushed the door open and went in. Jiah was sitting on the bed, rattling ice cubes in the tub with her feet. She was also juggling with three cubes in her hand. She turned round sharply and looked at me, her curls lying about her fair shoulders. She looked so beautiful that I couldn’t speak for a while. We stared at each other for what seemed eternity. Then she spoke. “I told you not to come to my house or try to meet me. Then why did you come?”
“What is happening? You are playing with ice-cubes?” I asked casually.
“No, I have called the beautician. She will be coming in at any moment for my pedicure and manicure. I am only doing something preliminary for it.”
“So what? This time you came but next time please don’t drop in like this.” she said. “Are you on a fact finding spree or you wanted to surprise me? In any case, I am not impressed.”
“Jiah, what sort of courtesy is this? You won’t even tell me to sit? Even if your enemy comes to your house…” she did not allow me to complete the sentence.
“Enough! I won’t stand this anymore. You have intruded upon my privacy.”
There wasn’t even a trace of embarrassment on her face. After all the upheavals, disruptions and humiliation she had caused me she was not even bothered. She had not removed the engagement ring from her finger. It was still there dazzling on her fair, long beautiful ring finger and this gave me a momentary relief. But I felt anger rising in me suddenly. I did not feel like sharing the news with her. She had lost even the basic human concern. I left the house in a hurry even without a word. I was sure she was making preparations to shift to her new house. And I flew to New York.
At the end of my fifth year, I decided to visit home. But first I had to report to my office in Mumbai.
“Enough of your self imposed exile, Arun,” my mother had said. “Come home. We are waiting to see you.”
As soon as I landed in Mumbai I was possessed with the thought of meeting Jiah. I had to find out about her whereabouts. First I tried her cell. The voice said the number did not exist.
After I got over the jet lag, I went to Jiah’s office. The receptionist was a new young girl sitting and smiling behind flowers.
“Yes, what can I do Sir? Whom do you want to meet?” she asked.
“Jiah, the Compliance Officer of HR team,” I said.
After a moment she said there was no one by that name here. “She had resigned her job five years ago.”
My heart sank. “Do you have any idea where she is?”
“No, Sir.” she said. “Most of the old staff here is new. Even the management has changed.”
I drove straight to Jiah’s house. Everything looked the same, the garden, the gate, and even the paint on the wall. I rang the bell breathing heavily. I heard footsteps coming closer to the door and the door opened. An old gentleman, a stranger heavily built stared at me.
“I am sorry; I came looking for Jiah who used to stay here in this house.”
“You mean the Sanyals?” he wheezed.
“That’s right,” I said.
“They sold this house to us. We are the occupants of this house now.”
“Do you have any idea where they have gone?”
“Thanks,” I said feeling disheartened and miserable.
Back in my hotel I sat with the telephone directory and rang up all the Sanyals listed there including all the Jiahs. Every number turned out to be ‘wrong number’ and Jiah’s own cell number did not exist.
My mother’s call came through and we spoke at length.
“As soon as I finish with my office work I shall fly to Chennai.” I told her.
“You will allow me to decide about your future, son,” she said. “I have zeroed in on one girl. She is just about the right one for you and for our family.”
“What’s the hurry? Just wait for some more time.”
“Still the other girl has not left your mind or what?” she asked angrily.
“No, not that,” I stammered.
“You must tell me categorically what’s going on in your mind. Even if I don’t get a clear answer I will proceed in the matter. This time when you go back to US you will go with your wife.” and the line went dead.
By the time I finished with my boss it was almost eight in the evening. I now had another project in hand which entailed meeting the Project Management head in Chandrapur, in the new unit. I decided to meet him the very next day, finish with the job in hand and then go to Chennai. I fixed an appointment with him and set out to Chandrapur by road very early in the morning by a hired car.
“It takes at least twenty hours to reach Chandrapur, saab. We need to halt somewhere for the night.” said the driver.
“How many kilometers is it from here to there?” I asked.
“It is at least 1025 kms. saab,” he said.
“No problem. I love to watch the rural scenes.”
We halted for the night in a small hotel and set out again by day break. The new unit was situated in the heart of the city. A thin tall man with sunken cheeks greeted me in his office and hosted me warmly. He had great plans and ideas for expanding business.
It was three in the afternoon when we commenced our return journey. The driver took a different route with forest on either side. I relaxed in the back seat with the new project in hand, my mind completely absorbed in the new project and all the potential evolution and money this project would fetch the company. The car came to a sudden halt. “The engine is fully heated, saab, we cannot go further till it cools down.”
“How long will it take?”
“At least an hour.” he said and opened the bonnet and allowing the heat to cool off.
I got down too and asked him which place it was, stretching my limbs. He said it was Sonpur, a remote uncivilized, forest area. Impressed, I took a route and walked into the thicket. There wasn’t even a path trail.
“Saab, this is a forest area. Please don’t go to the interior. There may be wild animals. “
It was so cold and unbelievably beautiful. The sunlight hardly reached the ground; the trees were so crowded and tall. I might have walked a kilometer or so enjoying the breeze, birds, bees and butterflies. Suddenly I saw a big concrete building surrounded with an extensive garden and a huge gate. The garden looked well tended and in full bloom.
As I neared the fence, I saw someone moving slowly among the plants. Just at the same time the person stopped, turned and stared at me. It was Jiah! I was bewildered. Jiah? And in a place like this?
“Jiah! What a surprise!”
We stared at each other for a brief moment and she spoke, “Of all the people in this world how did you happen to come here?”
Her voice was the same, so soft, lilting and full of warmth.
“I cannot believe this. It is an incredible concurrence. It looks as if some unseen hand dragged me to this place. It must be the power of our love. Or else how do I answer this?” I said.
She looked radiant in her saffron salwar kurti. Her hair was cut even shorter and tumbled to her shoulders. There was some change on her face. She had a small patch of pimples on her cheeks which made her look even prettier. Her nostrils looked slightly dilated. Or was it always like this? She was wearing gloves and mackintosh footwear so unlike her to wear such things. I was too excited to think of anything. But somehow the portrait in her drawing room of the monks in saffron with a bowl in their hands walking in the desert flashed through my mind. It was quite disturbing. I was swept by a feeling of intense despair. But it was only momentary.
“Why don’t you come in? The gate is open.”
I went in with a lot of trepidation and stood beside her. But her nearness brought back all the old flame and I felt as if we had never parted. She still carried that old aura of quietness, serenity, and sophisticated composure around her.
“So this is your house?” I said throwing a look at the bungalow.
“Yes, this is my abode, the abode of Reality.”
Jiah’s eyes held no expressions when she said all this to me.
“Tell me how your grandpa is?”
“He passed away two months after the break up of our marriage.”
“Bless his heart.” she whispered. “I hope I have not caused too much of disturbance and turmoil in your family.”
“And what do you care even if you had caused?”
“I was only hoping to meet you some day in life to say sorry.”
“Is this an ashram? Are you in pursuit of God? Or are you a follower of any cult? I don’t understand your dress codes and your mysterious existence here.”
“Well, yes and no.”
“I do have a family.”
“You won’t call me in and introduce me to your husband and family?” I asked with a sinking feeling in my stomach, my mouth going suddenly dry.
She smiled and said, “I am not married.”
At once my spirits began to soar and my heart started to sing. I asked her mockingly, “So he dumped you like how you dumped me. It just doesn’t matter, Jiah, whatever is past is past. It’s all over. You know, I was in the States all these years. I just need your nod even half a nod is enough for me. Give up your pursuit and reckoning and all that. You are too young to be a seeker. Let’s go away from here, from India to anywhere in the world. London, Paris, New York, Italy, Greece, Germany, or anywhere, you name it and let’s go away. I still love you the same and am still single.” I blurted non-stop in my sudden gush of joy.
“No. This impatience won’t do, Arun.” she said.
“Are you not scared to be here in this strange place in the midst of strangers seeking something absurd, abstract, and uncertain of realization?”
“No, there’s no uncertainty here. There is no fear of anything. This is an abode of no return. Once you come here you can never go back to the world. The world is not for us never, with all its unwritten codes of acceptance and rejections, eliminations, ostracization and toleration, competitions and passions and all that. Having reached this point of no return, having given up my everything how can I come again to the world and into your life?”
“Then tell me what this abode is?”
“This is the abode of truth, of reckoning the all pervasive spirit, the Truth that shatters even the slightest of worldly, and material dreams, aspirations, illusions, appeals and of finally nothingness. This is the truth of life, of death, of the here and the hereafter; it is the cosmic truth, nothing stands before it—family, relationships, friendships and even love no matter how deep and real it is.”
“I don’t understand what you say.”
What she said called for greater forbearance in me, something that was beyond me to comprehend.
“I need not tell you how much I love you. If you cannot come into my world which was also your world till recently, I will come into your world, no matter what it costs me. This way I can be near you the rest of my life. What do you say? Tell me Jiah, what does your abode of Truth demand of me?”
“This abode demands something which only the chosen few can give. The chosen ones have to give up all their worldly ties, their least of desires and give everything they hold dear, even the slightest of material things they can call theirs. It is a ruthless space. Don’t desire to be here.”
“And how did you know you were the chosen one? Who chooses?”
“Destiny, I knew I was chosen by destiny and so I came here.”
Just then two young men came out of the building, waving out to Jiah, pulling their T-shirts down. They walked towards the east end of the bungalow. A sudden panic struck me with suspicion.
“Oh, so it’s this you are into. A celebration of body. A free life. All the truth that you spoke about is just mundane not sublime. It’s a recklessly fun loving life which the institution of marriage will not accept, which the society will not accept.” I said as if speaking from a high moral ground being jilted by her.
Jiah smiled nonchalantly and said, “Let’s sit on that bench under the tree and I will tell you the rules and demands of this abode.”
We walked together to the bench, I could see that Jiah walked with some difficulty and sat down. She then dropped her gloves and mackintosh. I was terrified, horrified to see her fingerless hands and toeless feet. The disease had cleaved and blotched her inner and outer palms leaving it sore and pulpy, seared in some places. It had taken a toll of her hands and feet.
“You see this is Leprosy, I am suffering from, a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae has caused this. And this abode is not a heaven or rapture but a sacrilege, ominous, where time stands still. When I told you that day that someone had come between us I meant the ‘Mycobacterium leprae bacteria’ It had come to stay with me from the day I woke up with numbness in my fingers and toes and after a series of tests the doctor confirmed that the leprae bacteria have incubated and will take a toll of my life. That was my moment of reckoning with truth.
My inconsolable parents sought several medical opinions of experts and finally gave up but not before dropping another bomb that was like the last straw on the camel’s back. They said I was not their biological child. I was adopted from an orphanage when I was four months old. They pulled out an old folder from a rusted trunk from the attic and I saw the evidence myself. Shorn of my identity, stripped of my dignity, cast out of my world as actually a leper, how could I belong to you, Arun? How could I belong to this world any more as me? Which society will accept a leper? Or allow her to live among them? It’s not a disease that will draw people mutually to the patient and console her or pray over her. It’s a disease that is nauseating, repulsive, hideous, and abhorrent, enough to repel, to deter people from the patient.
I had to be a recluse for the rest of my life after the malady had snatched away everything I held dear. And the day you came to my house unannounced and saw me with ice cubes, I was actually trying frantically to revive some sensation. But nothing happened. I had to be severe with you. That was the only way to turn you away from me. And when your grandpa came to hold my hands, I had to shunt him away. Poor soul he must have felt bad.
I’m sorry for everything, Arun, I’m really sorry. Please forgive me. I resigned my job and sold my car and the house. My parents shifted to Dehradun and I searched for a sanctuary or an ashram for people like us and finding one I came here, away from the prying eyes of the world.”
All the while I sat frozen, numb, with a tightening knot in my stomach, listening to her, tears running down my cheeks.
“Go Arun, go. Go back to your world and lead your life. You still have a whole life before you and remember you also have my prayers and wishes always. As for me I have your memories for the rest of my life and that’s enough for me to live. Very soon we are going to be shifted from here.”
I was immobilized, staring at nothing. A plane droned high above in the sky, a bee buzzed past me, a gentle wind blew rustling the leaves disturbing the silence, somewhere a crow cawed and I came to my senses. I got up and stood on my staggering legs. I had no courage to face her. I took one step forward, turned back and faced her.
Jiah smiled and I walked away tears gushing down my cheeks. I walked without turning back, on, on, beyond the gate and outside almost breaking into a run.
By – Girija Natarajan