Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Heart-Stone

The letter shivered in his trembling hands as he read the first line.

Dear Ashok,
It’s been over 3 years since we met now. I hope you are in the best of health. I know you have stopped replying to my letters for well over 2 years but all that we have been through together and all our closeness demands that at least I continue to write these monthly letters and (hope to) keep our acquaintance alive.


The vivid images of their wonderful times together flashed before his little eyes. She had loved staring into those eyes for hours together. As innocent 17 year-olds, they would make their daily escapades to the darker corners of the suburb together, away from the prying eyes of the residents of the close-knit chawl … and even more so, the prying eyes of her parents and his old crotchety uncle.

I think this is the right time for me to tell you that Gautam and I are probably going to move to another city. His mother will continue to live with us. The financial problems that we are facing ever since the big row that occurred in Gautam’s last job have eventually succeeded in ousting us from this house. Gautam barely stays at home these days though. He leaves home in the afternoon to return only just before dawn the next day. I am concerned about his health too. The incident has changed his appearance completely. He hasn’t found the time to shave in the last month and his face and body sag with all the pressure and nerves. I am dreadfully worried but he tells me he meets this person everyday who will help us get out of here safely. He tells me everything will be all right…

The handwriting got illegible and scrawny here. He knew she had hurriedly stopped writing at this point because of some interference. The next line explained the same…

My mother-in-law almost caught me writing this yesterday. I managed to stash this letter away just in time otherwise I would have had it trying to explain to her why I was writing a letter to another man. Actually, I did have it yesterday again although for a completely different reason. The beatings occur with greater frequency these days. And with greater intensity. But I think it’s just the pressure on her son these days that is affecting her too. So I still take it all in my stride. Although the pain sometimes is unbearable. I was admitted to the nearby hospital with multiple burns two weeks ago. I had to run away from there to get back home and resume the housework. The doctors had forbidden me from doing that but what do they know about the state of my house and how do they know that my frail mother-in-law cannot do all the housework everyday? I went to a different hospital two days later to cure the blisters on and around my burns as my mother-in-law’s recent caning had left me almost incapacitated. But I was back in her service by that evening.

This letter did not seem any different from the previous ones. He had grown immune to her hardships by now. Or was he just using the word ‘immune’ to mask his actual feeling of absolute apathy and insensitivity? No no… that was not true at all. He had thought this over so many times before. He was helpless. There was nothing he could do for her now. They had parted ways because their dreams were not alike. Her dream was to spend her life fulfilling his dreams. His dream was to spend his life fulfilling his parent’s dreams for him. They had both understood that clearly. She had needed a little coaxing but she had eventually come over and matched his thought. They had both understood their situations well. He was helpless. And the letter did not seem any different from the previous letters. At least not up until this point.

Actually, Ashok, there is a big news that I must disclose to you. Gautam says once we have moved to the new city, our new address should not be known to a single soul. We will all be starting a new life. So I am not sure whether I will be able to write to you once we have moved. I will get adjusted to my new life first and then judge for myself if I can write to you again. Actually I hope I will get to my new life first. The police have raided our home twice last week. Once, Gautam wasn’t home. The second time, he managed to hide himself up a loft in a neighbour’s house. We are counting on our luck to survive another such raid. Also, now I can barely walk at normal speed let alone run, if required. I cough blood too often too. The fresh wounds and fresher burns on my body and especially on my feet have left me looking nowhere as pretty as you thought I looked before. Those wonderful days with you seem like another age… another life. Sometimes, I wonder if we should have fought the odds to be together. But we had our duties to fulfill. You had your duties to fulfill. And I hope you continue to gain the success that you have gained in all this time away from me. In case I do not get to write to you again, remember me. And remember that my best wishes and support will always be with you forever.

Even as he smoothed the creases on the letter, there was no hint of emotion on his face. His hands moved over the areas of the letter which had been smeared once with his tears, now dried with age. His hands moved over the cello-tape that held together the frayed pieces of the sheet. In the last 30 years, he had lost many things and even more people. What he hadn’t lost was this letter. Her last letter to him. Her last letter that he had read everyday for the last 30 years without fail.

A rustle outside the door aroused him back to his senses. He managed to hide the letter behind his back as he turned around to face a young, bald monk entering his room. “Swamiji, the water for your bath is ready”, the young, radiant man said. The old seer adjusted his saffron cloak around him. He smiled at the youngster as the youngster made his exit. Priesthood had left him almost alone for the last 30 years now. Only the temple-folk and the devout villagers gave him company. Conjugal bliss was not for him. He bore no remorse for the days gone by. The chirp of the early sparrow made him turn towards the darkness outside the open window. Within two hours, the day would break and other sparrows would chirp cheerily bringing cheer to the morning. He walked toward the bath. The water, he hoped, would help wash it all away.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I'm back! ... am I?

3 long months have gone
3 long months are past
Seems like I last posted here yesterday
Damn! Time does seem to fly fast

Do I announce my comeback here, I wonder
Or do I disappear for another 3 months
and make this seem yet another blunder

It's a struggle as I write this today
I seem to have lost it with passages in time
A struggle to put in words what I want to say
A struggle to arrange a stupid rhyme
 

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