The warm rays of the morning sun could do nothing to decrease the chill Sarayudevi felt in her bones. At 85 there was not a single limb in her body which did not pain with every movement.
“Old age comes with its own problems” she thought as she adjusted her thick quilt and turned to her left trying to reach for a box. Hidden below those bundled blankets and shawls was a huge mahogany box. Old and worn out, the box eluded a rustic charm of its own.
A criss-cross of wrinkles covered her entire face as she sat hunched on the bed holding the box closely to her face with an anticipated look on her face. The golden rays of the morning sun creating a halo around her lent a shine to her silver hair. Caressing it lovingly like a new born baby Sarayudevi felt its rough exterior through her wrinkled hands.
Amidst all those intricate carvings it had on it, there seemed to lay some hidden secrets underneath. In its crevices sealed with a tiny lock on it, it held some priceless treasure. As her aged and tired fingers moved on the box it seemed as if her eyes were looking for an answer, for a secret to unveil itself and a riddle to decipher on its own. She put her hand inside her blouse and fished out a tiny key, completely rusted with time and inserted it into the keyhole to open the lock. She slowly opened the box, the joy of it reflective in her eyes.
With her shivering hands she took out a piece of paper from the box. Turned yellow with time the paper seemed to have lines of untidy scribbling scrawled across it. But the love and tenderness, with which she held it showed it was much more than just a piece of scribbling. She held it delicately, not wanting to damage it and began reading it.
My dearest Saru,
Every morning I wake up with the same dream of meeting on you. With open hair, wisps flying on your face, those lowered dark kohl lined eyes and a faint smile on your face you look like a poetry formed somewhere in the thresholds of my imagination waiting to be given a form. Off late I noticed there is a need inside me, a need to see you in my dreams every night just to remember the reason behind my existence.
I remember you have always complained that I never say you are mine. But Saru I can never say that for You are me, an extension of myself and by calling you mine I will have to separate you from me which I can never do.
Loving you is, has and will always be the most beautiful experiences of my life for you define love for me in every heart beat, life in every breath and you define me by living and loving me like this. The fear of losing you has never been existent for me at all as I know it is impossible to separate the sun from the sky. And their love is so beautiful, it lights up the whole sky with its splendour. That is what our love is like, shining forever.
As each day passes by and we continue to battle I wonder when there is so much to love in this world why do people hate each other to end up in wars! I hope this war comes to an end soon so that I can come rushing to you…. this time forever. Sharing with you a line by Pablo Neruda just to let you know my real feelings at this moment;
“My feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but I shall go on living. “
A tear rolled down her cheek as she completed reading this letter perhaps the zillionth time till now. She had lost count as to how many times had she read it and she knew it completely by heart. But still she began each day of hers by reading that letter. That was the last letter she had received from Manu, Maniksinh – the love of her life. A love which today even after 65 years was as strong as it was when Sarayudevi was Saru a 19 year old beautiful young girl and Manu was Subedaar Maniksinh of Rajputana Rifles.
The year was 1947 and India was fighting the worst battle it would or could ever till now. For a Mother both her sons were at logger heads and it was a painful sight. Murders, massacares, rapes, burning houses and abandoned streets were all that was visible around. Somewhere beneath this pain and agony two young lovers Saru and Manu were holding onto each moment of what was perhaps their last meeting.
Petite and demure Saru complimented the debonair Manu in every manner; their love resplendent in their eyes every time they were together. Clutching her hands tightly Manu looked into her eyes trying to promise her something which he did not know whether he would stand by or not. She squeezed his hands reassuringly as if to say fear not, I know it will all be fine. With a very heavy heart Manu got up to leave, turning around after every step to see a teary faced Saru waving him a good-bye.
Looking at his silhouette from a distance Saru sent a silent prayer to God for his safety. Having grown up together there was nothing that she could imagine in her life without him. When he had decided to follow his dream and join the Indian Army she was the only one who had stood by him. Yet today for a moment her patriotism had taken a back seat with her heart ruling her mind making her want to stop him this moment and never let him go. As he went out of sight she turned around moving to her house with a pain that just refused to go away from her heart.
Silent breeze rustling leaves and a faint music in the heart,
Reminiscence of the beautiful time spent together,
Wish I could hold you back today, tonight and forever;
Or maybe just pause the time and let you go away never!
The war went on for months together during which letters were the only form of contact they had. Letters full of love, dreams, hopes, desires and wishes were exchanged which made days easier to pass by.
Though the news in the papers was always very scary Sarayudevi never believed them. She knew her prayer for his safety would be heard. After all he had to come back for their child, which was currently safely nestled in her womb. The intensity of the war kept increasing with every passing day creating fear in their hearts leading to more frequent letters. Sometimes it would happen that before she could send a reply a new letter would have already arrived and sometimes he would get two letters at the same time to be replied to.
Everything seemed perfectly in tandem with their thoughts till one fine day when the replies stopped coming. No amount of letters from Sarayudevi’s end led to a reply, making her worst fear come true. However much she wanted to convince her heart it came back to her saying she was lying. The newspapers were screaming blood that’s what she remembered each time she tried consoling her heart and the never ending battle between a rational mind and an irrational heart would begin.
One day her heart was tired of the wait and she wrote a last letter to him:
Life is the most uncertain thing to exist and amidst this uncertainty the only certainty I have to cling onto is your love. It is magic the way your love resonates with my entire being making me glow.
Every time I think of you the smile that appears on my face is an answer enough to tell what you mean to me. Yes Manu you are the laughter of my life, the reason why I smile and the reason why I am alive. I am scared as I fear my worst fears have come true about losing you. But then I remember what you always used to say I am a part of you and I never believed you. But today I can feel a part of you within me, making me feel the oneness that we share.
I had promised you when you had left that I will wait for you till eternity to come back and I will abide by that. Till the time you comeback I will be here, waiting for you. I don’t know where you, how you are and why have you not been replying to my letters since so long. I just pray wherever you are, you are surrounded with love and joy always!
Sarayudevi did not know if that letter ever reached Maniksinh or not for she never heard from him ever after that last letter.
Sarayudevi stifled a sob as she wrapped that letter with trembling and kept it back in the mahogany box. It had been 65 years to that day and still her wait had not got over. After few months of that last letter she had been blessed with a baby girl who resembled her in every aspect.
She stared at the walls that lay before her adorned with various family pictures. She and he years, her daughter when she was 3, growing up memories, her marriage “Time just flew by…” she reminisced smiling to herself. Time had actually flown by. It seemed like yesterday that she was hugging Manu for the last time in that fort, and just few moments when she had held her own daughter for the first time in her trembling hands. The wheels of time stop for none. They just go on and on. And today her daughter was going to become a grandmother. What a moment of pride to be relived again!
Sarayudevi was going to be a great grandmother soon, a moment which somehow did not make her as happy as she should have been. She looked up at God and asked what she asked Him always “How long do I need to wait before I meet my Manu? Why did you have to make us fall in love when we could not be together? To have a moment with your loved one just to say how much they mean to you, is it too much to ask for. Yes, I have done it all.
Loved, dreamt, had my heart broken, fallen down only to get up again, faced storms and then learnt to dance in them, broken hearts, cheated, collected broken remnants and started all over again, given birth, taken birth each time with them, cared, played, smiled, cried, succeeded, got wealthy, lost money, lost loved ones and friends too, met people, made best friends, met some wrong people, created families, built homes, moved countries, travelled across the globe and through all this lived my life to the fullest. So much so that if tomorrow I were to meet my maker I would proudly claim “I used all that you gave me in the best possible manner that I could.” And yet today my maker seems to add onto my time. What is that is remaining to be seen except this endless wait which will end perhaps with my death…..”
Day and night her heart yearned for a moment where she could be with Manu and live a thousand lives in that one moment. Somewhere deep within the confines of her heart, she just refused to believe that he could have died in the battle. She still very strongly felt that he was alive somewhere in some part and would be looking for her. She remembered the times when he would be hurt and she could sense it without even knowing about it. The bond that they shared was truly unexplainable for its defining its depth was beyond words. She knew her heart would know the day he was no more.
The door bell broke her chain of thoughts reminding Sarayudevi that her daughter was back from the hospital. Before she could her call for her, she came rushing into her room. “Mom, Shital has given birth to a baby boy.” Hugging Sarayudevi tightly her daughter began crying out of joy.
Rummaging through her purse she took out her phone, flipped hrough some buttons before opening one and showing it to Sarayudevi, “Ma see this is how he looks….” Sarayudevi took the phone from her hand and narrowed her eyes, bringing the phone a bit closer to see her great grandson. For a moment she went into deep thought as she kept staring at the photo and suddenly her tired old eyes began to gleam. Her daughter had a baffled look on her face for she kept looking at her mother waiting for her reaction.
“My wait is finally over, he is here….. “ Sarayudevi could just manage to whisper.
“Ma, what happened?”
“Nothing… I loved his eyes; they have a spark in them.”
Not knowing how to react her daughter just smiled and left the room with her mobile in hands. Sarayudevi had a strange look on her face. There was a sense of calm mixed with joy which was reflecting in her wrinkled eyes. Though they were old, the shine in them was pretty much evident.
“He is here… my Manu is here… and my wait is finally over. Now it is time for to me to go and come back again to meet one more time and never to part this time. “
She kept saying this to herself and fell asleep on her bed. Generally she was a light sleeper who kept getting up many times due to restlessness. But today was different. She slept like a child, undisturbed with a divine smile on her lips. Her face was glowing as if she had found answers to all the questions she had till now and the riddle was finally solved. That night Sarayudevi passed away in her sleep.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along.