The three hour ride up the winding roads on a rickety state transport bus was probably one of her best journeys so far! The lush greenery on both sides of the road, the spray from a waterfall as the bus passed close to it and of course Madhav’s presence on the seat next to hers.
She had been in two minds when he had asked her if she would come with him to the tiny village up in the hills. There was a residential school for tribal children up there, where he went every now and then to do some volunteer work. It was not something that many people knew. So she felt very special that he had asked her. It was to be a day trip. They had left early in the morning and were expected to be back later in the evening.
It hadn’t been easy to get permission from her family. However, when she had told them about the school and volunteer work her father had agreed. But of course she had omitted to mention the fact that it was just her and Madhav who were going. She felt a bit guilty about that. Anyway, she was glad that she was here with him. She loved the way her body bumped into Madhv’s as the bus negotiated the curves. She had looked up to find him smiling at her.
She remembered that smile even today.. it had been such a special moment!
They had got down from the bus and trekked up the hills for about twenty minutes before they reached the school.
“Why have you chosen a school in such a remote village to do your volunteer work ?” she had asked.
“I did not choose the school. It chose me. I used to come here with my mother when she was alive” he said.
She had itched to know more. She knew he had lost both his parents and lived with an old grandfather in an equally old and rambling house in the middle of town. It was rumored that his family was one of the oldest in the town. They were also considered to be one of the richest. She wondered what had brought his mother to this place.
He was obviously a familiar figure in the school because everyone in the school from teachers to students were greeting him. The Head master came out of his room with hands folded in greeting.
“It was so nice of you to come. As always we have prepared our special lunch. We will have it served in some time” he said.
The children in the meanwhile were surrounding him and asking him to play the flute. Some of them looked at her curiously.
“This is Padma Didi. She is my friend. Say Namaste to her” he had said.
She blushed as the children turned their attention to her and chorused out the greeting.
She sat next to him under the shade of the huge peepul tree on campus as he took out the flute and held it to his lips. It was 10.00 AM , mid morning. He started to play Raag Asavari and then Raag Bhairavi. Bemused as always, she had watched him play. Clad in a black T shirt and jeans with his hair flying in the breeze he made a strange sight amid the children in this remote school.
“What are you thinking?” he had asked with a smile as the last note left his lip and fingers.
“I was thinking about the Pied Piper of Hamelin You have the same kind of magic with these children’ she had said with a laugh.
“ Only with the children?” he had asked softly looking into her eyes.
Dared she hope that he was giving her a message or was she reading something that was not there?
“ Well even the teachers and the others seem to be under your spell” she had said blushing.
“Not any spell Padma. They are just grateful for the support they are getting for the school from my family” he had said
“Support? But isn’t this a government school? “ she asked
“ It is . But these schools rarely receive the funds they are entitled to from the government. So the trust set up by my late mother helps with the day today expenses.” He said.
“Sir, lunch will be ready by 12.00 noon. Do you want to sit inside the office until then?” asked a teacher
“No. It is okay. We will walk around.” He said waving him away.
“Come lets go up that hill. I will show you a beautiful spot” he said pointing eastward.
She followed him trying to keep pace with his long strides. She admired the way he lithely negotiated the steep hill side.
“Here let me help you” he said extending his hand as she tried vainly to climb up a particularly steep section.
She hesitated, not wanting any physical contact with him.
“Come on trust me. I will not let you down” he had urged, his hand outstretched. She had felt silly about her reluctance and put her hand into his hoping he wouldn’t feel her racing pulse as he pulled her up.
They were at a clearing. The view beyond was fantastic. She could see the world stretched out in front of her. The breeze was strong. She could feel her dupatta flying away. She watched him grab the flying fabric in mid air.
“Here. Hold on to it now” he said with a laugh as he draped it around her shoulder.
“Come, its not far from here” he said pulling her hand.
She could hear the roar of the water fall even before she saw it. It was beautiful!! They were less than a couple of feet away from it. She watched the sunlight play on the water droplets and saw a rainbow.
“Did you see the rainbow out there Madhav? That is caused by the refraction of sunlight on the water drops which act as prisms” she said excitedly.
“Yes!! But everything cannot be explained by the laws of physics” he had said sitting down on a rock.
She agreed. Who could explain the magic of this moment? It seemed like the entire universe had come to a stand still. She wanted to reach across and run her fingers through his locks. He was looking at her intently. She clenched her fingers at her side, hoping he hadn’t read her thoughts.
“My mother brought me here nearly a dozen years ago” he said. “ I used to accompany her to all the places she went to as part of her charity work. But this is my favorite. And you are the only other person I have brought here with me ”
“ I am honored” she had said with a smile.
“Today is her death anniversary” he said looking away abruptly.
“How many years has it been ?” she asked softly
“Ten years” he said
She waited in silence for him to speak again. It seemed like an eternity before he resumed the conversation. “She died in an accident on the way down to town. The car skidded off the hill side. It was raining heavily that evening. It was a miracle I survived”
“ I am sorry “ she whispered.
“ It is okay. I think death for her was a release. Her marriage had already broken up thanks to my grandfather’s meddling. My parents divorced when I was hardly seven. It was just this charity work that gave her some purpose in life” he said looking away from her.
“But I am sure you would have also been a source of joy to her” she asked.
“ I was .. I guess. Until my father and her father decided to use me as a pawn in their power game. There was a long drawn custody battle. My father’s family tried to paint her as mentally unsound so that they could get custody. But the old man had better lawyers. He portrayed my father as a drunkard and a womanizer. Anyway, my grandfather won the case and here I am living with him” he said bitterly.
“Madhav..please don’t feel sad.. turn around” she said putting her hand up to his shoulder.
And when he did turn around she had found herself melting in his arms. She felt his lips come down on hers and closed her eyes enjoying the most beautiful and silent melody ever! As his hands moved over her body, an irrational part of her mind wondered if the flute tucked away inside his pocket was envying her now.
( Teevra Madhyam …. Can we now expect the Vadi and Samvadi to start coming together…….)