Hands – Part 2

It was surprising how he had never noticed her in all the ten years that he sat in front of his piano by the window. But then, that was him… He never noticed anything when he was with his music. The world blanked itself out.

Today however, the world lay outstretched in front of him. He saw the traffic on the flyover on Sardar Patel road and heard the voices of the workers in the warehouse below. But his eyes were riveted at the window opposite his. She sat next to it, framed by a fork in the branch of the tree in front of it. Her head was bent over a frame that stretched across a thin piece of cloth. Her fingers moved the needle up and down. The lamp under whose light she worked cast a soft glow over her features.

She suddenly looked up across her window at his. He was glad that he had switched off the lights in his apartment. A moment later, she took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes slowly. He saw her flex her fingers and wince as a pain somewhere in them seemed to hit her. After folding the cloth and putting it aside, she reached out her hand and switched off the lamp, clothing herself in darkness.

He remembered her words “ I also live by my hands and fingers” ! He did not know if it compared in any way to what his hands and fingers did for him but he had the humility to accept that she, like him was also a creator of sorts!! It was just that the senses the beauty appealed to were different.

But would he be able to create anything again? His mind sank back into the deadly quicksand of depression again. The surgery along with the hospitalization and physiotherapy would cost him close to two lakhs!! Where was he going to get that kind of money? He had no health insurance and the money he had got from selling his grandparents house was long gone ! Some of it had financed the marketing of musical compositions of his that never saw the light of the day while a lot of it had been taken away by unscrupulous people in the music business who quickly realized that he had no clue about managing money!

He gazed at his hand in frustration..!! This is what came out of getting into a fight in the middle of the night with hooligans. He should have walked away from that scene outside the night club .. Why did he have to jump in and try to save an old beggar from being beaten up?

He had to come to terms with the fact that he might lose the use of one hand forever! Sure, his right hand was still functional. But he could never play with just one hand. And if music left his life, there would be nothing left in it! He might as well think of himself as dead.

But was he ready to die at forty eight? His gaze rested on his piano. He moved his right hand lovingly over the keys. There was only one way out now..! He did not want to do it but that was the only option that was left.

She was shocked when he told her what he had in mind!

She had visited him again the next day, this time with some food. He had been  rude as usual, refusing to accept it. But as she persisted, he started eating and slowly calmed down.

She was very unprepared when he suddenly asked her “ Do you know anyone who might want to buy a piano?” She did not need any further explanation to know what was in his mind.

“Why?” she asked him

“Why not? “ he challenged her.

She did not have any answers. And anyway, it was his hand and his piano. If he wanted to sell it to finance his surgery it was his decision. Who was she to influence it in anyway… ?

Besides, what alternative could she offer? She herself lived an impoverished life inside a crumbling old mansion. What she made out of her craft was just enough to pay for the basic necessities of life. It could not finance something like a complicated orthopedic surgery. Why, what she made did not even leave her with enough to pay for those medicines she took for her arthritis. She rationed the pills taking them only when the pain became unbearable and her fingers refused to move! She used the gas stove and the electric heater sparingly, heating water to immerse her aching fingers only on those days when it was very cold.

She felt very helpless as she continued gazing at the darkened window opposite. He never switched on the light these days. It was as though he wanted to fade away in the darkness!

She wished she could do something to change all of this….!!! She closed her eyes, making a mental inventory of things that she could sell to loan him money for the surgery.

Her eyes traveled around the room taking in the few sticks of furniture-antique no doubt but too few in number. She would hardly get twenty thousand for those few pieces. The cut glass chandeliers had long gone leaving behind only the naked bulbs. The rare pieces of crockery and the silver cutlery had been taken by her various aunts leaving behind only the chipped and damaged pieces for her to eat out of.

She sighed… !! There seemed to be nothing of value left behind with her… nothing except…..

He was completely closed to the idea of her giving him money for his surgery.

“Treat it as a loan” she said. He did not want to be indebted to anyone, he said .
It had taken her two afternoons of persuasion before he agreed to consider it.

But where had she got hold of so much money he wondered? As far as he could see, she was just as poor as he was.

“Are you selling your kidney” he asked her suddenly.

She laughed for a full minute before she told him that he had a wild imagination.

“Why would I sell a kidney? Won’t I need it for myself?” she asked .

“But you are obviously selling something aren’t you” he asked her .

“Yes, I am but not something that is important to me” she said as she left his house.

When she said it was not important to her, she had meant it. And anyway, after twenty five years somethings held little meaning for her….!

She had been twenty when she had started work on the veil. The cloth was red tissue-a gift from Jah saheb himself! She had worked on it lovingly, putting together the golden threads and the stones on the zardosi. Each stitch was carefully placed on the pattern which matched the earrings that Zafar had gifted her !

Her mother had been so proud of her skill that she could not resist showing it off to the other women in the family. They exclaimed over the beauty and marveled at her talent. After all, how many brides worked on their own veil?

She was almost twenty one when the veil was complete. There were three months left for the wedding- three months during which she planned to put the rest of her trousseau together.

But that was a plan that never took off. Zafar suddenly fell ill and died two months before they were to have been married!! His family had been very cold with theirs after that. Her own family began to look at her differently. People began to whisper about her being “unlucky”.

Days merged into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. Her younger sisters and cousins got married, her parents , aunts and uncles grew older and passed on to the other world.

And today all that she had to remind herself of the Nilofer who was going to wed Zafar was the red veil and the pearl encrusted kundan earrings!

Seriously, did she need them now? At forty six the possibility of her ever wearing a bridal veil was nil…!!  Besides, it seemed right that a  creation of her  hands  should breathe life into that of another!

And as far as Zafar’s memory was concerned, she was sure he  would not have minded her pawning those earrings. He was a kind man who had always helped others

She sold the veil to a designer who specialized in wedding wear. Since she did regular work for him, he paid her some advance against future assignments. That, along with the amount she received from the pawnbroker was a tidy sum. She was sure that it would cover not just the surgery but also the after care.

Two months was a long time for him to have been away from the keys. He ran his fingers over them lovingly. His hand had healed well.

He sat down on the stool and switched on the lamp. This time when he played he was not losing himself in the music. He was finding himself through it. He played on for one hour, two and then three. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and more! As his fingers moved over the keys his eyes sought the presence at the window opposite. He felt like a ship in stormy waters that was being guided to shore by a beacon of light .

She was looking at him now with a smile on her face. He looked up from the keys and met those eyes. His ship was ready to drop anchor at the port.

It had been one long journey!!!


( I would like to thank my friend Christopher Vasanth, who is a musician for giving me some insights into Alan’s character)


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jyothi Varma
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 19:17:34

    very touching


  2. Meera
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 19:23:35

    Thank you Jyothi!!!


  3. KP
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 19:37:37

    That was a heart warming end to the story written beautifully as ever.


  4. Christopher Vasanth
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 20:54:52

    That was a charming relationship against the background of old Secunderabad with a whiff of a bygone Nawabi era. You brought out the tragedy of losing something of high value turning into triumph so well. The idea of two lonely persons in a bleak world coming together to change their own world was heartwarming. Thank you for acknowledging my inputs without which, I am sure, the story would have been just as wonderful.


    • Meera
      Sep 11, 2014 @ 11:16:04

      Vasanth, Secunderabad is a city that has been changing rapidly. I can hardly recognize some of the places now. I am glad you liked this story and honored that you feel I brought out the spirit of the place. Believe me you inputs were most valuable 🙂


  5. wordscapist
    Sep 11, 2014 @ 11:01:52

    Lovely, soul-satisfying, heart-warming. I was so hoping for a happy ending [unlike many of your others ;-)] and this was just right.


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