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That day it was raining just like today. Afternoon sky appeared in hues of ashy-grey and tint of orange. The big drops of first shower brought with them a tantalizing earthy smell. Standing in the bus stop, holding your hands, I sucked in the scented air greedily and then nudged you to ditch the bus and walk along with me to home.
You, being you, the practical and mature one, shook your head in disapproval. I, being me, the carefree and a romantic, stepped out of the shade, paused in the rain for a moment, turned back and extended my hand to you. You shrugged but then grabbed it, like always. As soon as you stepped out in the rain, an irresistible dimpled smile appeared on your face and I went weak on my knees.
In the rain, hand in hand, we walked through the serpent lanes of the Basti, our shortcut route to my rented home; jumping over the puddles, ducking the wash lines, with spring in our step. When the rain became torrential, so much so that we were struggling to keep our eyes open and the water started to poke our bodies like needles, you pulled me under a tin-roofed tea-shop. You shook your head and an illusory mist formed around. You ran your fingers backward through your hair, tiny tear-shaped droplets kissed your eyes and lips, and the blue shirt hugged tightly your chiseled body, the elephant-tooth shaped pendant tied to a black string hung ceremoniously on your chest. A sudden pang of desire engulfed my body, it must have reached my eyes because you gave me that half-curved-knowing smile and rest of the distance to home, we covered running, drenching.
We did not even bother to draw the curtains, your mouth devoured mine for a long time, and our tongues tangoed together. You smelled of dew and cigarette. There was an urgency in both of us, the desire was too deep but before we both would regret, I called a time out. “Uncle Tom” I uttered. You stopped, threw your hands in the air with frustration. I suppressed a chuckle. That was our code word. We had nicknamed my lusty neighbor as “Uncle Tom”; the one who would call every girl a “Beti” while his eyes would make quick trips down the neck. Whenever I spoke about his endeavors, you would clutch your fist and grunt your teeth disgustingly. He was a put off. And shamelessly I used him to my benefit. It became my code word to make you stop.
Afterwards, when the rain stopped, the sky draped in a virgin glow, the fresh and scented air from the open window waved through the room tenderly. We both laid awake on the bed, while moving my fingers playfully through your wet hair, I asked you the question “How much you love me?” And as always I wanted a flimsy answer.
You gave few gullible answers like “a lot” and “to moon and back” and some others. I pestered you for kind of an answer which would snatch my breath away or transcend me to the outer space.
You heaved a sigh, contoured your brows, curled your lips and thought hard for a minute or so.
Clearing your throat, you answered, “In my past life, I was a Yogi. I roamed around the world in search of divinity and enlightenment. My journey took me to places, I crossed desserts, plains, rivers and valleys before reaching a holy snow-clad mountain. I had heard many sages still meditating hidden in caves out there and the supreme power was in closed vicinity. So I went to the peak, stood there on one leg in subzero temperature, draped in a thin saffron robe, with my folded hands, closed eyes and tilted-up head, I prayed hard to the almighty. Days passed, months passed, and after seven years, pleased with my “kadak tapasya” God appeared. He asked me what I wished for? I pleaded for enlightenment and eternal happiness.” Squeezing my nose tip, you continued – “God granted my wish and told me there would be a girl with a dainty nose and tainted smile, in her arms, for next seven lives, you will find the eternal happiness and she would enlighten you with the meaning and purpose of life”.
Flashing a dimpled smile you concluded – “So here I’m, with the love of my life, in her arms, soaking in my blessings” saying that, you snuggled your face into my neck and my body arched with pleasure. Seven lives! Hah! Quite ambitious it was.
Wasn’t it? We could not even stay together for seven years.
God – the biggest Prankster!
I think, I first fell in love with the idea of you – the good looking, small-town boy with raw mannerisms, self-made, with a taste in poetry and politics. You were everything opposite to the perennial videogames-remote-control holding city boys I grew up around.
You introduced me to the world of poets. In the realm of poetries, I found freedom, broke free from the loneliness of my past carried over from my childhood. You would recite the lines written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Nazrul with such passion and eloquence and I would get intoxicated with your exoticism.
“When the heavy mountains of injustice
Will blow away like cotton-wool
Beneath the feet of us oppressed
Like a heartbeat this land will beat
And above the heads of the people-of-power
When lightning cracks and crackles
We will see!”
I didn’t even realize when my love shifted from the idea of you to you, the blood and flesh kind of you. You grew on me like childhood memories, slow and steady over the time but etched for eternity. On days, if I were to wear happiness, I just needed to close my eyes and retrieve my memories of those long winter evenings. Your tiny living room, classic Hindi songs playing on the radio, in between cooking dinner, stealing kisses while we spoke about everything under the sky – from Marxism to Capitalism , Shakespeare to Tagore. Being with you gave me a soluble kind of happiness. Happiness which did not show off awkwardly but was blended in my soul. Even when we fought, when I cried, with you by my side, the sorrow felt superficial, momentary and situational. In our hearts, happiness ruled.
But as they say sometimes love was simply not enough. I could not put a finger exactly on a reason why we broke up, we belonged to separate worlds and the connecting bridge was shaky, we managed to stand on the bridge in a suspended state but no one was willing to step into the other side. After a while, only the fact remained, reasons became irrelevant. And the fact was, we walked back to the comfort of our own worlds with shattered hearts. I tried to move on, met few wonderful people but nobody was you. By the time I realized that I wanted only you, the blood-flesh you, the idea of you, the whole of you, I was a little late. Like any average Indian male, you chose conveniently to settle down with a girl of your parents’ choice, a girl from your world.
I howled, went numb, cursed my fate, in a corner of my heart, kept the hope alive that you were pining for me just the way I was, and fantasied about our reunion rising above the norms and stigma of the society.
Back in my childhood, at the age of twelve, I was sent to a Convent boarding school. My parents were going through a nasty separation, it was decided in the interest of my welfare that I should be sent away from home. On my first day, upon reaching the hostel, I refused to step out of the car. I folded my hands over my chest, touched the chin to my neck and didn’t budge to my mother’s pleadings and my father’s threats. In my mind, I had this notion that my parents were still together because of me, as long as I were between them, they couldn’t go separate ways. Minutes passed, their patience was running thin, my mother pleaded to my father to take me back home and to come back another day, I was marching close towards achieving my mission but then Ms. Rosy arrived, the warden of the Hostel. She held my hand and pulled me out, I was defenseless in front of an authoritative stranger, I followed her orders and went inside the hostel. Six months later, my parents got divorced and in my teen mind, Ms Rosy became the reason. She became my secret enemy. There were stories about her, how she was betrayed in love which led to her embracing spinsterhood. For us, a bunch of young girls, taking our first steps into the adolescence, surrounded by the superficial gloss and glittery of notional love, it was hard to believe that this straight-lined, thin-lipped, withered and perennially unhappy woman was ever loved.
On my fifteenth birthday, I received an instant camera wrapped in a golden paper as a gift from my father who had already remarried and was on a way to become a father again. On the night of my birthday, unable to sleep, grabbing my camera, I sneaked out of my room. I roamed ghostly in the lonely corridor of the hostel. At the end of the corridor, a faint light was sneaking out from Ms. Rosy’s room. With my mutinied state of mind, on an impulse, I ventured out to do the unthinkable. I went to the backside of her room, stacked two rocks and tiptoed on them to peep into her room from the gap in the window.
Ms Rosy sat in front of the dresser, in a worn out, ill fitted, bisque-colored night gown. Her head was covered with a bridal netted veil, crisp white one. In front of me, sitting in the form of Ms Rosy was an amalgamation of desire and reality, of unfulfilled dreams and surrendered fate. I closed one eye and brought my brand new camera to the other eye but could not press the click button. There was something so personal, profound and forbidden. I couldn’t capture it in the camera but the scene never left my memory – “A Yogini in a veil”. That night, due to some cosmic confusion, erroneously, I was shown a glimpse of my future self. My Yogini self. Though my body strayed sometimes in carnal desires, my heart had been beating only to your name, each waking or subconscious moment, it had been achingly longing for you. In this life, our love stayed untested. In our next life, I would like to face the good, bad, ugly side of love with you. I would be fine if it got messy or selfish. With you, I would like to experience birth and loss, ups and downs, passion and boredom, anger and ecstasy, warmth and hostility. I would like to have a completion with you. The Yogini in me had been asking God to grant this only wish, and hoping HE wouldn’t play another of his pranks in our next life.
“A long, desolate highway
Its gaze fixed on the far horizon
Spreading out its grey beauty
On the breast of the cold earth
Like a grief-stricken woman
In her desolate home
Dreaming of her absent lover
Lost in thought, each part of her body immersed
in the idea of union.”
Faiz Ahmed Faiz
First published here.
Image via Pixabay
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