The University was closed today as it was Janmashtami. It had been raining incessantly since morning. The Meteorological department had issued warnings about an impending storm. The rain notwithstanding, the street vendors were busy selling flowers and other items for the evening Puja.
Padma had taken out the brass idol of Sri Krishna from the loft and cleaned it. The lamps were also polished and ready to be lit for the evening Puja. Padma looked out of the window. May be she should go out now and buy some fresh flowers before the rain got heavier and forced the vendors to close shop…..
For the first time in many years, she had drawn the feet of the baby Krishna walking in from her door to the Puja area. She looked at her drawing with a smile. She was not much of an artist but she had managed it.
She took out her umbrella and went out into the rain. There was a strong gust of wind that threatened to blow away her umbrella. She held on it and made her way among the stream of shoppers. Maybe this was how it was when Sri Krishna had been born she thought to herself as she tucked the garland of jasmine into her bag and made her way back to the flat. The waterlogged streets almost seemed like the Yamuna in spate…!!
“What is wrong with me? Next I will be imagining this umbrella is Sheshnag” she said to herself. as she got into the elevator.
“Ghir ghir aayee badariya kari” she hummed to herself absentmindedly, as she got out of the elevator.
It was just as she was shutting the collapsible gate to the elevator that she saw them- the pair of Tilonia sandals next to the door of her flat! There was only one pair of feet in her world that wore such sandals! She shifted her gaze from the sandals to the feet next to them. She was not mistaken…!! Those beautiful feet with the high arch could only belong to…..!
“Sorry!! I hope I did not mess up your rangoli” he said looking at her with a smile.
She stood rooted to her spot by the elevator, the umbrella dripping water on the floor and her bag ready to fall off her hands.
“Hello, have you turned into stone?” he asked moving towards her and waving his hands in front of her face.
She pulled herself together and took out the keys from her bag. Her hands were shaking . The key refused to get into the lock.
“Come give it to me” he said as he took the key from her hand and opened the door.
She walked in slowly behind him, in a detached manner, watching his feet as they moved parallel to the tiny feet she had drawn.
He looked older. The long hair was streaked with silver now. But the eyes were the same intense black. The crows feet at the corner of the eyes seemed more pronounced when he smiled.
“ Why are you here?” she asked in confusion
“I thought you wanted to see me. Didn’t you leave your address at the school?” he asked.
Yes of course. So stupid of her! How could she have forgotten that!
“What took you so long?” she asked finally, her voice breaking.
“It wasn’t that long Padma, when you consider the fifteen years that I have waited for you” he said quietly.
She felt herself bursting into tears.
“Shh!! Silly girl don’t cry” he whispered pulling her chin up with his fingers.
She threw herself into his arms and sobbed her heart out. It was a while before all the tears that were frozen within her melted out through her eyes and onto her face.
He held her tightly to himself almost afraid that that she would disappear again if he let her go.
“Where had you been all these years” she asked as the tears stopped.
“Here! Where else could I go? ” he asked
“ I heard that you were in Vienna” she said.
“Yes. But only for a couple of years. I came back after my grandfather died.” He said.
“ And then?” she asked urging him to go on.
“Then .. nothing! I have been busy with all the charity work and my music classes. There hasn’t been time for anything else. So you can lay aside your fears about my being involved with anyone else” he said with a smile..
“Oh, Madhav, I missed you so much!” she said looking up at his face.
“ I don’t think anyone could have missed you the way I did” he said hoarsely drawing her close to him.
“ Are you angry with me?” She asked
“ After fifteen long years, I am just very glad that we have found each other. “ he whispered.
She felt the words rather than hear them, as his lips descended down on hers. Between mingled breaths, the flutist and his love created the most beautiful music in a life time. The thunder crashed outside and the wind picked up speed. The music in her body reached a crescendo with all the seven notes ringing as he picked her up and took her inside to her bedroom. She felt the coming together of heaven and earth as their two bodies became one. Time seemed to stand still. She put her head on his shoulder and drifted into the most blissful sleep ever…!!
When she woke up, the rain had stopped and the clouds had cleared.The waning moon of the eighth day of the Krishna Paksha cast a dim light. She found him gazing at her.
“What time is it?” she asked him.
“Well past midnight my dear” he said with a smile. “You have been sleeping for nearly five hours now”
“Oh my God!! I forgot all about the Puja” she said putting on her clothes hurriedly.
“What Puja?” he asked her
“Don’t you know? Today is Janmashtami” she said
“Oh! That was why all the Rangoli and the little feet! I thought all those preparations were in my honor” he said with a laugh.
“Don’t be silly!! Just because you play the flute does not mean you are Sri Krishna” she said pushing him away playfully as he tried to pull her down onto the bed.
“ So, what is it that you are going to do now?” he asked her as he watched her dress.
“ I don’t know. Just light the lamps and make the offerings I guess. It is well past the time of his birth” she said moving towards the puja alcove in the kitchen.
She wondered if she should have a bath before that! But she decided against it because bathing was done to purify one self. And what was more pure than the expression of love that she had just shared with Madhav?
The lamps in the Puja room were still burning. The idol of Sri Krishna seemed to be glowing in their light. She took out the Jasmine garland and placed it around the idol. As she brought her palms together and closed her eyes in prayer, she heard the familiar strains of Raag Tilak Kamodi.
A part of her wanted to turn back and look at the man in flesh and blood by the window who was playing his flute while the other part wanted to concentrate on thanking the glowing image of the Lord in front of her. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on the image of the God with his peacock feather crown. Bu strangely the image that kept coming up in her mind was that of a tall man with shoulder length hair holding a flute to his lips. One image seemed to slowly blend into the other until they were both one.
When she opened her eyes, the music had stopped. She found him standing by the kitchen door looking at her with amusement.
“So what did you ask your God for?” he teased her
“I did not ask him for anything. He has already given me everything that I have ever wanted” she said with a smile.
“Thank you! I was worried you might be asking him to get me to marry you” he said with a laugh.
“Why? What is wrong in marriage?” she asked him.
“Nothing! Except that I do not believe in it” he said
“ You do not believe in God. You do not believe in marriage. So what is it that you believe in” she asked him sharply.
“Padma, I believe in music and I believe in our love. A love that had withstood the pain of separation for fifteen long years is not going to be sealed by some rituals or a legal document. My parents were married and so were you. Does it guarantee any happiness?’ he asked her softly.
She looked up at him. Yes, he was right. Marriage was only a ritual that was man made. Love on the other hand was divine.
“So tell me, will you always love me ?” she asked, putting her arms around his neck.
“ As long as there is breath in this body, I will love you and play my flute” he said pulling her close to him.
She looked over his shoulder at the idol of Sri Krishna. Did she imagine it or did she see the idol stretch its lips into a smile?
“So when do we start our life together?” she asked him
“We already have… our life together has begun” he said with a smile.
….. And they did not get married but lived happily ever after!!!
( For those of you who have not guessed it already, this story has been inspired by the tale of Radha and Krishna! Though they were never married their love has always been held up as the epitome of romance. I would urge you to read/listen to Poet Jaidev’s “Geeta Govind” which describes this love in the most beautiful manner. Mine is only a poor effort)