UNSAID AND UNSPOKEN

I saw him for the first time when I went outside to collect the dried clothes from the clothesline. He was on the balcony opposite, sitting on a chair and sipping something from a tea/coffee cup. Actually, I did not notice him immediately, so busy I was with the clothes. But then, you know how it is- the way you just feel someone’s eyes on you..

The complete discomfort of that feeling drew my eyes toward its source sitting on that balcony! He raised his cup as if in a toast to me. I smiled and went inside shutting the door. But of course, I watched him for a long time after that hiding behind the curtains on that balcony door. He seemed young – probably in his early or mid thirties. His dark brown hair and white skin marked him out as a foreigner ( or atleast someone with a mixed heritage). I wondered what he was doing here in this housing colony with its multitude of pigeon hole flats.

It was easier to watch him  through the kitchen window. He worked very methodically arranging things on the counter and cooking them. I looked with exasperation at my own messy kitchen wishing I could achieve that kind of lab like organization in my work. A couple of days like this and he began to acknowledge my presence in the kitchen opposite – sometimes it would be a wave and at other times a smile.  The windows were too far away , for any actual conversation to take place..

I often wondered after those staring sessions in the kitchen and sometimes on the balcony what his name might be and how would his voice sound? I would immediately feel guilty after such thoughts crossed my mind because after all, wasn’t I a married woman?

My daily routine began to slowly arrange itself around his appearances on that balcony or the kitchen. Was it pure coincidence that he happened to be standing on that balcony outside on moonlit nights? Did he know that I was peeping from the curtains staring at him as my husband snored away oblivious to the silver light bathing the surroundings? Was he also having trouble sleeping?

As weeks turned into months, I began to get bolder and started leaving the curtain open while I sat near the dressing table brushing my waist long hair. I could see him watching me through that reflection in my mirror. My heart beat in a way that it never did when my husband looked at me. But then, I was never sure that my husband actually looked at me. In the two years that we had been married, he had probably looked more at his lap top than at me his wife! Sure, we lived amicably- there were no fights and he was very generous in terms of giving me a free hand in running the house. He never criticized anything I did – I used to think earlier that he was kind but now I wonder if he really noticed anything I did- a new hair style, a new sari, a new dish ..

Crazy thoughts like going across the road and  knocking at the door to his flat crossed my mind .  But I could never bring myself to do that –I mean what would I say? “Hi. I am Jaya your neighbour from the opposite flat and I have a crush on you?” – the very idea seemed ridiculous.

I often wondered what he did for a living. There appeared to be no one else in that flat except him, so  he obviously lived alone. He was usually at home in the mornings, afternoons and late evenings-  I knew because these were the times of the day that I lived for – times when I could let myself go and dream all kinds of forbidden thoughts from across the window.  I sometimes wondered if he could see any of these reflected on my face. I suspected he did because there would be sometimes an amused smile and at other times a very intense gaze.

Then one evening , I got caught in that gaze- yes  caught – imprisoned!It was downstairs in the car park.  I was just getting out my car and he into his when our eyes met.  I could not look away. I could feel myself flushing and my body heating up as my heart started beating in a way it had never done before. I don’t know how long it was that he held me like this but when he turned away I could almost feel a sense of lost balance – like falling off a bicycle. I wiped my sweat off my face and ran all the way upstairs trembling. I remembered a story I had read long time ago about a strange being who had been conceived out the sweat that had poured out of Parvati’s hands when she had playfully tried to shut Shiva’s eyes with them.  I was glad that humans were not capable of such forms of conception..

I found it difficult to face my husband when he came home that evening. And at night I felt a deep sense of guilt as I lay next to him. I feigned illness so that I did not have to do any cooking that day or for the next couple of days . I stayed in bed with the window curtain firmly closed trying to shut out the image of that tall man with the brown hair across my balcony…! I would not let my husband or my maid open that window giving reasons like there being too much sunlight.

But finally when my husband against my protest drew the curtain one evening, I refused to look outside. However, the eye is like a compass- moving towards what it perceives as its pole of attraction. I slowly turned my eyes towards that direction. The door was shut. I kept looking at it hoping it would open. It did not- that evening or the next evening or the next.

I could not bring myself to go across and find out what could have been the reason. I knew no one in that block and going there would only attract attention from others.

I waited for almost a month for that door to open into his balcony. I craned my neck to look into his kitchen. There was nothing I could see but emptiness.

And then one evening as  I saw the lights on in the kitchen. I ran outside into the balcony. The door was open and I waited with bated breath for him to emerge.  Emerge he did –  but it was not the “he” I was looking for – this was a middle aged man with a paunch. He sat down on a chair and opened a book. A few minutes later someone else emerged – a fat lady with a cup of tea on tray. She saw me watching her and  shouted  “ Hello. I am Mrs Roy your new neighbour. Please come and visit us when you have time”  I nodded and walked inside slowly my mind filled with questions that I dared not ask anyone…!

THE FRIENDSHIP BARRIER (part 2)

Life at college was very demanding. A diligent student, Pradeep hardly had time for anything but his studies.  He missed the carefree days of school when he could come back after classes and play cricket or football. He missed lazing around during weekends. There seemed to be some sort of drive in him that was making him focus all his energy on his studies.

He spent his vacations in campus working on assignments way beyond the requirements of his course work. His parents and his class mates felt that he was overdoing it. His visits home were very brief – he always made the excuse of having to go back to those extra assignments.

He continued to receive letters from Rinku- letters that he never opened! He put them all into a folder and stuffed them into the back of his cupboard.

But not opening those letters in no way prevented him from hearing about her. His mother was constantly updating him through her letters about the various happenings in the neighbourhood. He learnt through her that Rinku had joined a degree in fine arts at a reputed college. He also heard about Rinku’s mother’s gall bladder operation and later about her father’s knee replacement surgery. His mother chided  him in her letters about not writing to them and enquiring about their health.  “After all they are our old neighbours” she scolded him.

But somehow, he was reluctant to write to them.. He was very uncomfortable about having anything to do with Rinku or her family these days.

He often wondered why he felt like that? After all, he and Rinku did not exactly have a girlfriend – boy friend sort of a relationship. But somewhere at the back of the mind he could not deny the fact that he felt deeply for her – a feeling that refused to go away!

He tried meeting other girls. But somehow he could not feel the same degree of comfort that he experienced when he was in Rinku’s company. He often felt irritated by them.

Therefore, he was quite relieved when he graduated because it would give him the flexibility of living his own life of isolation in peace without having to keep up with the niceties of being part of a campus group and having to entertain girls.

But things did not exactly go as he had planned..!

He never expected when he answered the door bell on a rainy night nearly a year later that he would be face to face with this girl from his past. He started at her speechless! To say that she was beautiful would be an understatement –the girl standing at his door step was gorgeous!

“Aren’t you going to invite me inside” she asked softly. He opened the door wider helping her with the suitcase that she had with her. His mind was full of questions…

Why was she here?

“Pradeep you’ve   got  to help me” she said coming to the point almost immediately.

He raised his eyebrows questioningly.

“I have run away from home” she said dramatically! He stared at her with his mouth open.

“Mummy and Papa were completely against my marrying Sudhir. So we decided to get married without their blessings” she said by way of explanation.

He wanted to ask her why she was here at his door step if she had eloped with that fellow. But he could not. All that was working in his mind was that she was here in front of him-that she had chosen to come to him when she needed help!

“Pradeep, there is nobody that I can trust in this world except you. You know me for so long and you are my best friend. So can you help us?”  she asked him.

He took a deep breath! He did not want to get involved in this. But was there a way out? Not when she asked him like this. Somewhere at the back of his mind he wondered where was this Sudhir chap? But another part of him was glad that he was not there.

So, the next afternoon, he went shopping with her as she bought herself a new sari and some flowers. A day later he waited outside his bedroom door as she dressed herself inside to become Sudhir’s bride. Then, he drove her on his motorcycle to the registrar’s office where she was to marry this fellow.

He was hoping against hope that this Sudhir may have changed his mind. But he obviously hadn’t. So, Pradeep saw for the first time the man who he considered in his mind his rival. He was deeply disappointed that Rinku had chosen for herself this sly and shifty eyed man. He was angry that she had thought this fellow to be better than the boy who had loved her from the time she was a child..! But he voiced none of these thoughts.

He stood silently through the brief ceremony at the end of which he signed against the spot on the marriage certificate under the word “Witness”.

“Thank you Pradeep” she said giving him a hug. The “groom”  nodded and shook his hand.

Pradeep suggested that they all go out together for a meal. But Rinku’s husband did not seem to like the idea.

So Pradeep watched quietly as she got into an autorickshaw with her lawfully wedded husband. The auto started and all he could see was a hand with red glass bangles wave out to him

“The bride had consented, the gallant came late” were the lines that kept ringing through his mind as he started his motorcycle and made his way homeward.


THE FRIENDSHIP BARRIER ( Part 1)

Rinku was a pest ! But an adorable and charming one. She was his neighbour and probably the first person that he could call as “friend”. She had been living next door to them ever since he could remember..

They used to go to the same school –both of them on a rickshaw when they were young and then Pradeep by virtue of being two years older, on a cycle! She used to keep begging him to carry her “doubles”. But his father would not allow that given his own ability to manage himself safely on a cycle was a challenge! So he used to do the next best thing -cycle parallel to the rickshaw.. !

The fellows at school used to tease him about her. They could not understand what made him so protective about her- why he would not join them in pulling her plaits or why he used to punch the boys who troubled her!

Rinku had a free run of their house. She would be constantly in and out of his room – disarranging his books. Being very bad at maths her mother wanted Pradeep to help her with it – but teaching Rinku maths was more difficult that trying to stuff a cloud into a bag-she was  a dreamer and it was impossible to get her to focus on numbers…!

As the days went by Pradeep gave up trying to teach her maths .. because he found that he  could not focus when she was around .  Her presence made his pulse race and he was afraid he was staring at her more than required. It was quite awkward dealing with all this.

She on her part seemed blissfully unaware of the effect she was having on him. She continued her visits to their house, treating his room and  bed as hers lying down there  and reading her  romance novels. She told him about all her dreams- about wanting to be a painter, travelling the world and the seven seas. It often felt that she was talking to herself. He on his part listened indulgently because he knew that she did not really expect any response from him. His only wish was that one day these dreams may include him..

So, it came as a complete shock to him when she told him about Sudhir. It was a hot summer afternoon. He was packing his things to leave for Delhi where he had joined an engineering college. She seemed very quiet and moody, sitting around in his room watching him pack.

“You know Pradeep.. there is something I want to ask you” she suddenly said.

His heart was beating expectantly wondering if she was going to mouth the words that he had been unable to express  all these years.

“ Have you ever been in love” she asked. He almost said “Yes” but she interrupted his thoughts by continuing to talk ‘you know I have met someone.. he is awesome. I think I am in love with him”

“ I  know I can share my inner most thoughts with you. You are  my best friend. That is why I told you. Please don’t tell mummy or papa!  They will not like it ” she said.

Pradeep stared at her as his world came crashing down…!  He nodded slowly. He wanted to know more about this Sudhir. But a part of him told him that he would not be able to bear it –hearing about this fellow.  Another part of him wanted to seek out the guy and beat him up till he screamed for mercy..

He collected his feelings and slowly nodded before saying “Yeah sure. I will not tell them. But be careful. You are hardly seventeen”

“Ah! And you are grandfather- just about nineteen years old” she laughed making a face at him!

He pulled her cheeks gently as she ran out of his room screaming for his mother “Auntie look at Pradeep he is pulling my cheeks!”  He could hear his mother and her talking in the garden outside discussing him.

He shut his suitcase down with a thud! As he did that he  felt as though he was shutting away a part of his life and his dreams. Tears pricked his eyes as he fought to hold them back.

He refused to cry! It was not the end of the world..! He still had life ahead of  him. But he wondered if  he wanted that life- a life without Rinku, his first love!

A STAR CROSSED LOVE

Image result for cloudy skiesShe draws me to herself- beautiful and sensuous.. there is no one like her!!! Her brown skin rough in parts, soft and pliable at other places… I watch her from afar, her beauty glistening in the heat of the summer sun, blushing  red.

Extremely hardworking, she produces all that her children need. Her ability to sustain and nurture knows no bounds! Everyone grows and glows under her care. She extends her arms to all who need her love feeding anyone who is hungry. I cannot remember anyone she has turned away.

I don’t know when this fascination for her began..? Probably since the time this universe was conceived?

An entity who is bound to the seas and who has no fixed home, I have been attracted by the sense of constancy and the permanence that she symbolizes. She waits for me every time- this wanderer whenever I decide to come ashore from my voyages across the world.

Thiruvananthapuram as usual or Mumbai I wonder as I look for a port to disembark. A part of me wants to go to Kolkata. But east or west, I knew it was towards her that I was heading. The blue seas are no replacement for her love.

I see her from the middle of the ocean perspiring in the summer heat as I get ready to drop anchor at – yes… Thiruvananthapuram it will be this time as always! It always holds a special fascination for me

I long to touch her heated body …grasping it in my arms and making love to her , achieving the ecstasy that only both of us can experience.  Somewhere,  a small doubt  creeps into my mind- Will she love me like before I wonder?

Yes, she sees me now.. she is waving out at me as I jump ashore and pull her into my arms! I smell her fragrance as we unite in our love.

Our bodies come together in unison as lightening strikes. We  hold on to each other as only the ones truly in love can. She refuses to let go of me… I don’t want to go. I spend time with her and our children .. there are so many now!

Three months, four and then five. She blooms under my love, bedecking herself with flowers and her beautiful green robes. Green.. that is the colour that she looks her best in- I look at her with pride .. my beloved beauty!

It is time to go.. the wander lust is getting to me. This permanence, constancy and the predictability of my beloved now suddenly become stifling. ! The sea beckons as I get ready to leave.

She cries.. holding on to me. I feel miserable to leave her like this to raise our children all alone. She has never asked me for anything other than my love. Makes me feel more like a wretch!

But a wandering soul like me cannot be tied down- it is my identity and may be my destiny? A destiny that keeps me away from my beloved for almost half a year! Sometimes during my more saner moments, I think that maybe this is all for the best. After all,  were I to stay permanently with her I may lose the charm of the mysterious,  passionate lover … I would then become more  demanding  of her time and making her ignore her children.. may be I would even harm our children through my constant presence- and if I did I knew she would not spare me! She was a mother first and a lover only later….

I hit the Bay of Bengal and start sailing through it.. A  sudden feeling of grief sweeps over  me as I pass Chennai. I disembark.. She is there… again my unfailing love-arms outstretched for me..

One last time.. I think as we kiss and make love .

Then it is good bye forever until June next year  when I, Sameer will come across the Arabian sea to meet her again –my beloved Vasundhara!

( The monsoons symbolize a season of life, love and romance in South Asia when the dry parched earth rejuvenates and becomes green again. The heated land mass of the Indian subcontinent draws into herself the monsoon winds every year in June. I have tried to depict here that romance of the monsoon winds and their attraction for this land – bizarre I know.. this way of explaining a physical phenomenon through romance.. May be it was the effect of Venus taking a walk through my life last night when I wrote it.)

SOUL SEARCHING

I watched them from behind the trees. They were walking hand in hand along the path. He was whispering something in her ears which was making her laugh.

I looked at her closely- she was a beauty in a very unconventional sense of the term. Dark, small and petite with curly hair and expressive eyes!

I followed them quietly, almost floating in the mist.

Honeymooners I guessed! They stopped at a look out point where he took out his camera and asked her to pose. She smiled strutting about and striking  poses..!

He clicked her with her hair flying about in the breeze, with her scarf covering half her face and her mouth pouting in an imaginary kiss.

My heart constricted.. as I watched from my place among the leaves. She was certainly beautiful.. as none other that I had seen before.

They walked on- she was huddling towards him as the temperature dropped and the wind rose. I wanted to reach out and wrench her away from him!  My fists  clenched in anger as my jaw tightened. This was not fair –this thin fellow  with glasses had the most beautiful girl in the world in his arms!

I hurried along making sure to hide myself in the mist that was slowly spreading itself  around the path. I could not see them clearly though their voices were audible. Whispers ,laughs and rustle of clothing! My rage knew no bounds as my imagination fired up images of them together.

The wind had picked up and the trees were dancing in a frenzy. I continued to move with the mist and before long they were where I wanted them to be – the sunset point!   The mist had cleared with the wind and they were now perched near the railing looking down at the steep fall. He had his arms protectively around her as they whispered to each other.  I knew now was the time – I had to focus all my energy on what I wanted!

And soon it happened – exactly the way I wanted it to !  Her foot slipped and her body was hurtling down the cliff!

He was screaming “Padma”!!! There was a commotion around as a few walkers in the paths above started running down towards him.

I went a little beyond – away from all the noise and waited …waited for her to come to me…!

Then I saw her as  she came floating up from the valley – released from the prison of her body to join another free soul like me. I walked up to her to take her into my arms.

She looked at me with hatred and floated away towards the man who was sitting on the ground  holding  his tear stained face in his hands. Her arms surrounded his form as  her eyes flashed angrily  at me.

Many years ago, a girl had looked  at me in just that way, which had made me throw myself down the same cliff.   I had since then wandered over the cliff, hills and valleys  thinking about ways in which I could find the love that I was looking for .

And today when I had found someone like my beloved –someone from beyond the frontiers that imprisoned me and got her to my world- I still see the same hatred!

I don’t know how much longer I have to wait for the one who would come to me with the love that I longed for …