For all the four years that I had known him, we spoke most when our eyes locked. But I couldn’t decipher its implications. Where was all this heading to? What did it mean when I saw a sparkle in his eyes? Was it love or an imagined, self conceived attraction? It could be love, I guessed, for, the pristine beauty of the feeling meant that there was indeed something special.
But, we weren’t talking. Don’t ask me why. I simply don’t know. Sometimes, the language of silence is far too soothing than any spoken word. We didn’t want to confess something we innately knew. That’s stereotypical, archaic, clichéd. The belief that he loved me, could sustain a parade of dreams for all those years and that was exceptionally sufficient to keep my soul happy.
Someday, I would get a sign, a positive one at that, and I would know the answer, I believed. The sign finally did come, when his eyes beckoned me to his arms, on a beautiful night.
One glance my way and I blushed like those docile touch-me-nots that shrink unto themselves at the touch of a finger. It was a moment pregnant with the joys of newly found love – not a word exchanged, yet it felt like I had known him for eons.
The instant was a perfect confluence of a woman’s femininity, fragility, fluidity – that the warmth of his gaze enveloped my feminine wraps. I surrendered; I melted away like drifting ice. Did he even know about it?
Rishi and I had shared wonderful moments in the three years we spent together at college. It’s hard to find a true friend, someone who can sense your mood, act accordingly, lend a shoulder to lean on and cry, ruffle your hair and let your tears have a beautiful meaning.
Rishi was all that to me, but I was always left groping with a sense of doubt – Why should he do it all for me, a girl who had nothing extraordinary about herself?
I loved taking long walks with him round the campus. This won’t last forever, I told him one day. Isn’t it unkind of fate that all good things had to come to an end? Who said this would end, he asked. How could it end, if we decided to go together forever? I stood still, feeling dizzy and as I can recollect, feeling extremely confused. What ever do you mean? Why me, Rishi? There are so many pretty and interesting women, who dote on you. Why me?
Because you are not extraordinary, he told me. Because I adore the sweet child in you who cries for a Mills n Boon story, who smacks her lips after a dose of ice cream and who without hesitation, truly hugs me and sobs for a badly done test. You are simple and hence, truly beautiful, he said and pressed his lips on my cheek leaving a solemn and tender kiss, for the first time ever.
“You are the music of my life, Maya. Won’t you be my girl?”
Sanjay couldn’t understand what went wrong. Veena’s send off hadn’t been very pleasant in the morning.
“Good bye, honey,” he had said, while leaving for office and was met with cold silence in return.
“What could be wrong?” he wondered all day long.
Back from work in the evening, he tried the hug and pacify formula. It always had fetched good results. But that day it had a different effect. Veena thrust a cup of his favourite badam kheer into his hands and was speaking to herself.
“I am a fool,” she said, “a silly wife who does all that her husband likes and he, he doesn’t care to even speak to her! All he can do is to waste away the morning, talking to a female colleague who he finds much more interesting than his own wife!”
“Ahh, pangs of jealousy. Now, I know!” he thought and grabbed a bunch of roses from the vase, knelt down and said out loud,
“Veena, my true love, come hug me now, right away!” and ran around her following her all over the house.
“I should tell my mom that I have married a monkey,” she said.
“Really, but it so happens that the monkey’s wife is curiously jealous!”
“Nobody is jealous, here, now go away!”
“Ah really, then somebody is trying to suppress a smile, isn’t it? Now come on, don’t lie!”
“Get lost, you meanie!”
“No, no way,” he laughed, and seized her by her waist, pulling her close to him.
“You silly, stupid, leave me now, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I hate to hate you, you bum!”
They had been married for over fifty years now. But things were slowly moving away from what it used to be. Lakshmi was distancing herself from their beautiful past, quite without her knowledge. Swaminathan was trying his best to pull her out of the deadly abyss she was plunging into. Her memories were falling prey to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Do you remember this painting?” he asked her one day, pointing at one. She looked at it and drew a blank look. “You gifted me that on our 25th wedding anniversary!” How could he hold her back, she, the essence of all that life had been to him in the last 50 years? A big part of him was nearing annihilation. What was he to do?
One of those nights, he sat, massaging her foot and telling her how the blue in her eyes still remained beautiful, even after so many years. He told her how the warmth of her grasp still communicated a thread of togetherness even that day. He told her, how he missed her voice, their early morning talks sitting in the balcony. He told her of how they had shied away during their first night and how he carried her all over the house, when she confessed her motherhood to him. He told her how he still loved her silver grey curls and her small feet.
He took a deep breath and looked at her face. He saw a tear slipping down her cheek and rushed to hold it in his palm. He believed she heard him.