RAAG BHAIRAVI

I had  met them about a couple of years ago when I started going for my morning walks. An elderly couple – he in his early seventies and she, I suppose in her sixties.

I have a fairly set pattern in the route that I take on my walk. I walk along that route  twice and it is usually when I am in the beginning of my second round that I see them.  They always come by a car  parking it under the same tree every day. I used to then see him  get out ,  go  across to the other side of the car , open the door  and help her out. She had trouble moving her joints I guess and was not as fit as her husband appeared to be.  He, on the other hand was very brisk in his movements. He had a stiff bearing and his thick grey mustache made me think that he must have been in the armed forces.

I  found it very touching, the way she used to take his hand while  walking. She was not very fast and was certainly  not used to the sneakers she was wearing. Neither do I think, did she like the salwar kameeze that she wore. In all probability she was a regular saree wearer like my mother! There was therefore a self conscious air about her as she tried to negotiate her way around the damp  roads fresh from their bath in the morning dew.  But her grooming always put me to shame! I used to wonder how she found time to comb her hair, do it up in a neat bun and put her trade mark “one rupee coin” bindi so early in the morning?  It used to make me feel very conscious of my sweaty T. shirt and track pants.

Whenever we passed each other, I used to slow down and give them a smile and exchange a “Good Morning”. His used to be a curt nod accompanying the greeting while hers was softer but brilliantly  suffused with a lovely smile. I could easily imagine her to be a very friendly person while he came across as being  rather reserved.  She always had something extra to say besides “Good Morning”. Sometimes it would be as mundane as “ Nice weather isn’t it” to more personal comments like  “ You should not walk so much. You are losing too much weight”.  He never said anything much but waited quietly in the background for her to finish this small talk.

I  remember the last time I saw them together- her shoe laces had become undone and she was finding it difficult to bend down and tie them up. He made her sit on  a small bench at the side of the road and tied her laces all the while looking up at her and smiling. She on her part sat with down cast eyes  and was probably blushing, sensing  my presence across the road. No bride had looked as bashful!

In my eyes they were the most romantic of all the couples that I had known! A perfect foil for each other –she the friendly and talkative one and he the quiet and reserved man. His chivalry where his wife was concerned was something that I had only read about in books. He reminded me of the heroes of the days gone by who opened doors for women or stood up to offer them his seat. I used to see him sometimes pluck a flower from  a  creeper hanging over the wall of one of the houses and hand it to her.  She always took it from him with a shy smile and put it into her hair. It was very sweet, the way she accepted   flowers like bougainvillea and hibiscus  tucking  them into the  bun  at the back of her head just as though they were  strings of jasmines – flowers made for hair decoration!

He never rushed her to walk with him at his pace. She on the other hand was never stressed trying to keep pace with him. They walked together, hand in hand and deep in conversation –often oblivious to the world around.

I am not a very superstitious person but somehow whenever I saw them together like that I just knew that the day was going to be a wonderful one! They were like the  aroma of coffee in my kitchen and the voice of Yesudas singing Raag Bhairavi in my ear phones – it gave me hope that life held possibilities beyond what we imagine!

Then, suddenly one day, I did not see them!

Actually, it was not that sudden. It had been raining for that entire week and the few people ( other than the very determined) ventured out  for a walk. I of course, grabbed the excuse to spend those extra thirty minutes in my bed!

But when the weather improved, I went back to my routine of two rounds. A week passed, then two but I still did not see them.. ! I wondered what the matter was. Sometimes, I felt compelled to ask someone about them but then we were all strangers brought together by our common need for exercise in a public place. Very few people talked to each other outside of their own little group or cliques. Since, Aunty and Uncle ( as I had begun to refer to them in my mind), did not  mingle much with others, it was quite possible that people may not know much about them.

Thoughts about them kept coming to me at the most unexpected of moments – when I was in a meeting in the office or when I was cooking or sometimes just when I was falling asleep. I always hoped that I would see them the next day.

And then finally after about a month my wish was answered as  I saw that grey Maruti. I knew it was theirs but I was surprised that it was not parked at the usual spot. “ Uncle is probably losing his sense of routine after the long break” I thought to myself hurrying along towards the car.

The door opened but it was a  young man who got out. I waited a little beyond wondering if I had made a mistake. I knew I hadn’t because the registration number was the same.  Meanwhile, I heard the passenger side door open and saw Aunty getting out. I waited for Uncle. But no, he was not in the car.

I walked towards the car and shouting happily “Good morning Aunty! Don’t tell me you have come alone today! Where is Uncle?”

It was only when she turned around to look at me that I got the answer to my question. In place of her lovely large bindi, there was  a blank space- a space as blank as the expression in her eyes as she said   “ He will not be coming anymore with me my dear. He is now walking a different path!”

I felt my eyes fill up as I turned around and walked away. Silly, of me, considering that I hardly knew them!

I sometimes wish I had asked her how it had happened  or even said “ I am sorry”. But then words- saying them or not  would not have mattered to her. The deep love between them was a rare one. Theirs was a match made in heaven that death had decided to part..

It is more than six months today after that fateful encounter. I have not seen Aunty again !

Mornings for me will never be the same !

( I wish this was fiction)

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A MEMORABLE AFFAIR

Ajay looked at Reena across the table. She looked away.  Her eyes were swollen after crying for nearlytwo hours.

“ Shall I make tea?” he asked hopefully trying to initiate a conversation. Reena continued to sniff and then it started again- the crying! He wished she would say something to him instead of just crying like that. At least if she accused him openly
about infidelity he could say something. If he spoke now, it would seem like he
really had something to hide.

“Mummy, can I go downstairs to play” asked Tinku ball in  hand.

“ Yes beta go” said Ajay. He was uncomfortable about Tinku watching this

Tinku looked at his mother curiously.  He had often seen her get angry and shout but
never had he seen her cry like this. Somehow Daddy could not joke about it the
way he did when she shouted – “ Oh my God. Help! Tinku let us duck under the
table. She might throw some vessels at us”. It used to be quite funny trying to
take cover under tables and chairs until mummy started laughing and then it was
all fine again.

The phone rang for the second time in the last half an hour. “ Daddy get the phone! Why are you not answering it ? “  Tinku asked as he made his way out .Ajay ignored it. He was in no mood to talk to anyone.

He closed the front door and looked reflectively out of the living room window. He could not believe that his life had changed like this in the last three hours!

Was it only at one clock that they were all ready to go for “Harry Potter” .  The car was at the service centre and the plan was to  pick it up on the way to the theatre, then the movie and dinner.  Tinku was very excited that they had finally managed to get the tickets. Reena had a new hair style and was fussing around with it.

No sooner had they got into the car that she took out a brush and started to do her hair looking into the rear view mirror. Tinku like all eight year olds  , was at his fidgety best dropping things from his pockets all around the floor of the car.  “ Watch it litter bug! I don’t want you messing up the car after they have fixed it and cleaned it” shouted Ajay as he put the car into gear. But Tinku was burrowing his way under the back seat trying to pull something out.

“ Daddy what is this? “ he asked. “ Put it back whatever it is”  said Reena settling back into her seat and adjusting the seat belt. “ Shall I throw it out mum?”  asked Tinku leaning forward and waving  “it” in front of her- “it” ,  being a wisp of lace-  a woman’s panty!

Reena’s face paled as she looked at the offending piece of garment. It was certainly not hers and obviously did not belong to Ajay or Tinku! Her world came crashing down in front of her !

“ What is going on..?” asked Ajay turning around to look at Tinku as he stopped at a traffic signal.  “ Someone’s chaddi”  said Tinku cheerfully as he twirled it round in front of Ajay.  “ Put that down Tinku…  Reena… !wait what are you doing?” shouted Ajay as his wife opened the door of the car and jumped out into the busy traffic junction.

It had taken him another twenty minutes to turn the car around and try to find her.  The movie obviously had to be given a miss. Surprisingly Tinku did not ask why they were heading back home. Smart chap, he obviously realized that there was something seriously wrong.

After letting himself in, he found that Reena was home and had locked herself into the bedroom. When continuous knocking for fifteen minutes did not yield any response he decided to give up and wait for her to open the door.

He was hurt about her lack of trust in him.  He was angry about how she was jumping to conclusions. What did she think he was ? Some teenager who had sex in the back seat of the car ( and allowed his girlfriend to leave her panty behind?). It was at one level funny but he dared not think about that side to it now.

Reena could not believe that this happening to her. She had heard about women whose husbands had affairs and as they say the wife was always the last to know. But Ajay! Who would believe her quiet introvert of a husband would do this. She remembered a saying “ Still waters run deep”. Yes indeed- they were now deep enough to drown  her!

The phone rang again. “ Hell! I am going to fire the person whoever it is”  he muttered as he picked up the receiver.

Reena looked behind him wondering why he had ignored the phone twice. Was his girl friend calling him? She tried to overhear the conversation.

“ Yes that is right. What? The car? Let me see…!” said Ajay as he hung up and went out of the front door. Reena followed him quietly wondering what it was. Every step that she took downstairs convinced her about who the call was possibly from. She had mental images now of scratching out the eyes of that panty owner.

She hid behind a pillar watching her husband look at the car carefully. She moved quickly to get a closer look. “ Mummy” shouted Tinku as he jumped out from somewhere.

“ Tinku, ask her to stop hiding behind that pillar and come here” said Ajay. “ Come on  mummy” said Tinku as he pulled her to the car.

“ Ma’m if you would please care to look at the car carefully and tell me what you see ” asked Ajay with exaggerated politeness. “ A blue Maruti Wagon R”  she murmured. “ Yes but please look at the number plate”

She looked down .. gosh was it possible? It was AP 06-2556 and not 2655! “ You mean it is not our car?  But where is ours?“ she asked in a whisper.

“ With the boyfriend or husband  of the owner of the lace panty” said Ajay with
a grin.  “ he is coming now with our car . Wants his car back. Guess that panty will have to go with it! ”