Thursday, February 21, 2013

An Eternal Heaven




We have one form in this world, 
Another in the next. 
To us belongs an eternal heaven, 
The endless delight of you and I. ~Rumi

Lying in the cold and a little damp bed all alone, Anjali was too lost even to wipe the hot tears streaming down her face wetting her pillow.
The night was getting colder by the minute. It was usually the case in late September in this beautiful city by the foothills. The nights got cooler and less humid as winter approached. Cold, dry and dull weather was approaching fast. Her moods were getting colder too, just like her empty bed.
She hated winter; it brought in shorter days, loads of bulky dull clothes, dry skin and parched lips. Saraansh hated it even more . Otherwise disciplined and punctual, he just wouldn't move out of the bed on a Sunday in such weather
This winter was especially going to be cruel. Bright sunshine, vivid colours and the happiness of summer was to be sorely missed and the prospect of loneliness was gnawing at the fringes of her existence.
It had been as morose a day as was the night and Anjali couldn’t get past the depressing ache in her chest. A dull continuous physical pain was all that she could feel. She felt as if her heart had been ripped away and all that was left was an empty hole with frayed edges of skin. She had been like this once before too and Saraansh had appeared at her doorstep like an angel of love and care.
An orphan raised in a convent he was a humble young man. Plain looking with simple tastes, he appeared a simple down to earth boy when they were together in the management institute. He was studious, hard working and smart. He achieved corporate success in a very short span. It was a lonely life for him though- no family, very few friends and colleagues. He had taken up voluntary work with 'Prayas' an NGO which held workshops in remote and disturbed areas to educate children who couldn't attend regular school.
Anjali on the other hand was a vivacious girl. She had a wonderful parents and had led a comfortable almost decadent life. She was good at academics and ambitious. She worked hard and landed a well paying job. An attractive girl, she always had male attention which she enjoyed. A big gang of friends kept her social life busy and she lived it up to the hilt on her own terms.

They both had kept in touch over phone and internet; it was impossible not to these days.
Some years hence her life was in turmoil. She had had a torrid affair with her boss ignoring the fact that he was married. She got pregnant and he had left her in the lurch after a showdown when his wife had found out. The selfish bastard did not even own up to being the father. The grapevine was abuzz with rumours of all kind and it was destructive in such a small city. Her parents would have been shocked beyond belief but she couldn't gather the courage confide in them.
One day she was sitting all alone when Saraansh called. She sounded so upset that he decided to come over. That day was the turning point of both their lives. She poured out her anguish to him and he absorbed it all in his gentle, loving spirit.

 “You want the child?” he asked softly. “No” she replied.  “Think it over for sometime”, he said, “No” she repeated. Next day they visited the abortion clinic. He made no moral judgement and never brought up the incident again.

What he did instead was to take care of her, guide her gently towards her previous self and support her professionally. They had developed a bond now. She realised that he loved her and she had also started to depend on him emotionally. They both needed each other but she was now seeing life in different light with him. She had become calm and content and was now more inclined to helping people in need with her money, time and compassion.

That August, he decided to join the group which was volunteering in the Naxalite area. He train was to leave in the morning, so they were having dinner together. Across the kitchen counter when they were washing the dishes he simply put the plate down and came near her.

He took the towel out of her hand and said solemnly, “I want you to know that I will always be there for you but in case something happens to me be there at my funeral.”  She laughed aloud and told him not be melodramatic. Later she made him promise that he will come back to her. He repeated solemnly, “I’ll always be here.”

Today, two months later, she was imploring him to show up. But how could he? 
Killed in a shootout at the tribal school where he was teaching as a part of the workshop, he came back in a wooden box.

She received the news as the next of kin and like a zombie saw to the funeral arrangements. Lots of people he had touched during his lifetime attended. People came up to console her but it was no help. Silent tears had become her companions since then. All day she listened to the radio for a sign.

On an evening that they had spent together, he had put a lovely film number on repeat on the little FM radio player she had gifted him on his birthday. He suddenly said “I love this song. It describes us. This is ‘our song’. Whenever you hear this just know that I am thinking of you!”

Later on they developed a habit of using Hindi film songs to describe their feelings. For the last one month now she was listening for a song that would tell her that her Saraansh was here with her.

Tonight she cried out in anguish “You had promised that you’ll be here always. Where are you now?” She outstretched her arms and suddenly she felt a tug. She opened her eyes and there he was. Standing at the foot of her bed, he pulled her up and embraced her in a warm tight hug banishing the damp and cold. He kissed her wet eyes and said, “I am here, right by your side always. I never left.”

The morning light was filling up the room and she looked outside. It was a clear day, warm with the sunshine streaming through the tall tree branches outside her window. She made his favourite ginger tea and switched on the fm player. Music echoed in the room. Suddenly she smiled “Our Song”, she thought aloud, “So it was not a dream”.

She immediately called up at Prayas and signed up for the next workshop.