I was not comfortable with the idea of the reunion but Natasha had convinced me to attend. She felt that it would be fun to meet up with class mates after nearly two decades of college. She was very active in the alumni network and was constantly updating me about what was happening with whom. But interestingly she never mentioned Varun. I wondered if it was because he had gone out of the alumni horizon or if she suspected that it might cause me pain. I don’t think it was the later because few people knew about us.
So, here I was sitting in a room full of “successful” men and women in my cotton sari looking and feeling older than the two score years of my life. I felt a sense of detachment as some one tried to engage me in a conversation. I really did not know how to contribute to this conversation – I could not indulge in “mom” talk as I had no children, I could not talk about increasing prices as the economy that I was now part of was way different from that and neither could I talk about a jealous husband as I did not have one. Some of these people to whom I tried to explain about my work, found it difficult to understand what I was doing- “But what do you do for a living?” asked someone. How do I explain to them that working amidst tribals in the interior villages of Chattisgarh was my job. They found it difficult to accept the fact that I was not using my medical degree in either research or practice in some mainstream government or corporate hospital! “What a waste” I heard someone whisper… I walked away from the hall towards the garden.
Darkness has a way of accentuating our other senses. I felt his eyes on my back .. I knew it had to him! Even twenty years ago I could sense his presence before I saw him. He had a penetrating gaze that could look right through your soul. Eyes, that could hold yours and bind you to him until he decided to look away… I wanted to turn back and look at him.
My back was prickling with the heat of his gaze. I felt it stiffen. I wanted to draw my pallu over my shoulder covering my exposed waist. This man.. with whom I had shared so many intimate moments – this man who knew every part of my body and soul..! This man whose unspoken words resonated in my ears and whose movements I could sense even before they were made.
The brilliant student of our graduating class- my rival for the gold medal, the man who shared my dream of doing something with our medical degree for those who were less fortunate. What had happened to him within weeks of graduating?
How had he changed so quickly? Was it the admission to a foreign university or was it the beautiful Leena who had changed him? Or was it Leena’s aristocratic lineage that had prompted him to marry her.. What was it?
I had not been able to bear the pain… The pain of a broken heart is something only those who have experienced will understand. I had survived the break and run away to Bastar where I had lived for more than a decade and a half. Where I had presumed those wounds had healed.. but were they?
What was I doing I wondered… asking myself all these questions.. I needed answers. I steeled myself and turned around to face him
But was that him? That man on a wheel chair! I stared..
“Hello Rubina. How are you” he asked me with a smile as I continued to stare
“Multiple sclerosis. I have had this for a long time. Was diagnosed with it almost weeks after our graduation. Managed to keep it at bay with medicines but for the last five years it has taken a turn for the worse and I cannot move without a wheel chair. Tiresome!But when I heard that you were going to be here I wanted to come ” he explained.
I looked at him dumb founded.. He continued staring at me before he broke his gaze, and wheeled his chair around and away from me… I wanted to run behind him asking him to wait.
Why had he done this to me? Why had he hidden this from me? Did he think I would leave him if I had known about it? It was sheer injustice not just to me but to the love that we had shared! Why ! Why! Why!
So many questions. But would the answers make a difference now I wondered.. as I watched Leena slowly push his wheel chair towards the car park..!
It was too late! Life had to go on in the course that each of us had decided.
His with the disease and mine with my struggles- in different worlds!