Two Red Balloons

…. And sometimes, rains can be so mystic.

One more year passed by.

As usual, she sat staring out of the window, her gaze fixed at the sky. Her eyes impatiently oscillated from one point to another. To her disappointment, it wasn’t blue but grey this time. She moved her attention to those tiny raindrops that reminded her of something; of someone. The droplets that made her blush and turned her blue at the same time.

“Nature has its own way to express joy and grief” she realized.

It was that time of the year when she dressed herself in the best of clothes, rather the ones she believed he would have loved. She drenched herself in his favorite perfume; the orange bottle for which had not escaped her dresser even after 13 years. She left her long hair open, with a skinny hair strand falling on her right cheek. She wore his favorite lip gloss and her well groomed nails drizzled in bright red nail paint.

Out of habit, she touched the rain drops periodically and scribbled something

“GENIUS”

She wrote and wiped it; rewrote and smudged again, this time with the trickle that fell from her eyes. She cleared the haze to look outside more clearly. She noticed how pristine the leaves looked with new sprouts ornamenting them. The petrichor that emanated from the grass was nothing less than the evidence that nature’s fragrance is far superior to the scent held in deodorant or cologne bottles; yet she loved the perfume that she was wearing. She heard the rhythmic pitter patter of the droplets and placed her hand outside to feel the tender touch of water on her palm. It was unusual to see rain that day, something that had not happened in 13 years and she wondered if this was some sign that was to be decoded; was something going to change that day?

As more and more raindrops gravitated on the ground sliding through her window, she continued to write and wipe “Genius”… that’s what she used to call him.

One, two, three….. Seven! Empty coffee mugs piled up on the table, one after the other. Soon, despair took over her hopeful intuition that developed some time ago. As typical, she got up from the swing chair to withdraw the curtains from their hook, to turn her back from the window and to say aloud that nothing had changed. Rain, the petrichor, the chirping birds, the rhythmic sound of rain drops were not the omens. Once again, she looked up at the barren sky, which had turned a shade darker by now and repeated her standard words

Against all hopes, I am still waiting for you

Once again, tears of disgust, frustration, anger, hurt, love and betrayal flew down her eyes, one after the other. Several hundreds or thousands maybe! She had lost the count of sleepless nights by then. She pulled out a rubber band from her pocket and tied her hair into a bun; but immediately, she let them lose again.

A small curve of happiness planted on her lips just like a ray of sunshine on a dark rainy day. Was she to believe what she saw in the sky at a distance? She rubbed her eyes once again and her heart pounded faster.

Red Balloons” she said

He is here.. “ she exclaimed and ran inside to grab the keys of the car.

Hurriedly, she wore her black sandals, her mind enthusiastic enough to pick the ones she knew he would appreciate. A quick, final glance in the mirror and she was out on the road, following the two red balloons up there.

“Has he really come? Hug or hand shake? Am I looking nice? Should I tell him how much I waited for this day?” Millions of questions rattled in her head. Periodically, she bent herself forward and looked up so as not to lose the sight of the red balloons. In desperation to reach quickly, she honked a couple of times as the rains had left the streets cluttered and crowded. The pedestrians, who struggled to stride on the wet road, made it more difficult for her to drive.

She remembered how they had parted their ways 13 years ago. Her tears were unstoppable then as they were now. She reminisced the last day when she saw him; the memory was still afresh. He was dressed in a black shirt and blue denims, a classic combination she always admired on him.

Thirteen years ago, that misty evening had crippled everything including their archaic love.

So, this is it..  Is it? Really?” She felt the nip of millions of needles being nailed into her body, all at the same time. The suffering was immense, unbreathable.  He stood quiet; still. He didn’t motion, neither nodded, nor spoke. His consent beckoned with a silence. His verdict was final.

“Ok then. We will never see each other again” she reached out to his cheeks and planted a brief good-bye kiss and stepped out of the car, still in tears. She didn’t know whether it was the smooth gush of cries from her eyes or water from the heaves above that made her face wet. She waved a bye and her sight followed his black sedan as far as it could.

A sudden brake brought her back from the memory of that fateful evening.  However, his last words still rattled in her ears “I have obligations that needs to be fulfilled and so we cannot be together Meethi. I feel shackled today, but one day, I will set lose all these chains for you

That day, for the last time, he handed Meethi her favorite red helium balloons tied together and said “the day you see two red balloons near you, tangled, floating in the sky, know that we are searching for you”. For the last time, they released the balloons in the sky. And ever since then, it had been a long wait for her. She dreaded the rains, but today she wanted to harmonize her relation with the shower once again.

Left… Left.. Right.. Left again. She was being taken into a small alley that was a couple of lanes down from the main road. The red balloons were still up, ascending higher. Deep red balloons, twisted with each other added a tinge of color to the gloomy, gravel-grey sky.  After all the chasing, she found a balloon hawker in a corner of the street. A big fluorescent umbrella was tied to his gas cylinder to protect his set up from the rain. His head was covered by a plastic bag, while body by an unkempt, torn, long raincoat. Rain, sometimes, can be so harsh to people; she wondered. Near the stall were a few kids jumping and dancing in the drizzle. Her eyes could not find what she was looking for. She gave a closer look at the street and found a child sobbing on a step in the alley. His father, who sat consoling, had parked his “not so empty” vegetable cart next to him. Rain had been unkind to him as well, she noticed.  The boy, unceasingly rubbed his hand on the eyes in a circular motion, wiped his tears, saw them flow again, sobbed and kept looking at the sky. It was clear from him gestures that he was crying over his loss; loss of two red balloons that left him but not his sight.

She approached the balloon hawker

who’s balloons are those?” she inquired, pointing towards the sky.

The vendor gestured towards the crying boy. Her hopes shattered once again; agony multiplied and disgust increased. She looked up, then down. She looked to her left, then right. She stood disconcerted.  She bent down and placed her hands on the knees. This time the tears didn’t flow down her cheeks. This time the downpour was straight on the ground. Angrily, she looked up again and asked “Why me”?

With heavy emotions she went towards the crying boy and sat next to him. They both wiped the incessant flow of tears and looked at each other. Coincidentally, they shared the same loss – the loss of 2 red balloons. Somewhere, they knew this loss was forever.

Can I buy you the balloons again”? she offered.

The boy remained silent and continued to stare at the ground.

I promised I will buy him two balloons today, and I did. He tied the balloons together so as to save them. But he lost them to the wind” explained his father. “Now I will purchase him balloons later this week. Rains often lead to lame earnings” he sighed.

Rains have been unkind to this small boy as well, she thought.

In no time, she went to the balloon seller and bought two red balloons, tied them together in a knot and gave them to the little boy to save him his tears.

Just as she turned towards the car, she looked back. The two balloons danced together in the air as the boy ran happily in the street. His father had a gleam of happiness on his face and he signaled thanks to her. For the first time in the day, she smiled. For the first time in many years, she felt happy.

Maybe this was the change the day was to bring to her. Maybe the rains, the fragrance of the wet ground, the chirping birds, and the pitter patter of droplets were all an omen. Maybe, there was some indication that she was to decode. Maybe, the heavens finally signaled something; something good!

She deciphered the message the cosmos indicated and ran to the boy and hugged him. This time tears of joy flowed through her eyes. She then hurried her steps to the balloon hawker who was at the verge of winding up the stall for the day.

Two more red balloons please” she said in haste.

Today, the balloons were not tied anymore. She held the balloons one in each hand and set them free. She saw them take the first leap together & then both flew in distinct directions that wind took them to, both independent of each other. Both towards their own fate, own destiny and own life, both towards their own future…both towards their own end. She smiled. She felt relieved.

The shower had stopped by then and so had her tears. The final droplet that rested long enough on her eyelids, finally glided down.

Good bye, Genuis” She whispered and embraced the weather and her new life. After many years, she rekindled an amiable relation with rains. After many years, she felt light. After many years, she breathed.

…. And sometimes, rains can be so mystic.

The mourning valley

… And they were declared as the National heroes everywhere.

After the 1965 Indo Pak war, which was the second conflict between the two countries over the state of Jammu and Kashmir; the already hostile relation between the two nations turned sourer.  The Daily newspapers flooded themselves with coverage of political issues and Hindu Muslim bouts in the nation. Not just the army but the civilians were equally involved in this fight against Pakistan over a piece of land. More than the joy of independence, it was the war with Pakistan that was discussed and talked about in every house, over each meal, day and night. The army, politicians, civilians and home makers who were patriotically involved in any way, were seen as the national heroes. And so was Anil.

With each day, the situation in the valley was turning denser, terrifying and alarming.

Amidst this rising stiffness, laid Anil, in a 6 by 8 feet prison cell waiting for his final trial the next morning. He was accused of his wife’s murder. He remembered the last time he was at home, 3 years ago with his wife Laxmi. He remembered every corner of his two bedroom house built on top of a valley, where he spent initial years of his marriage, happily and contently. Anil remembered how Laxmi, who was a docile home maker, would submissively give into everything that he said or demanded. Even though Laxmi was an educated girl, surrendering selflessly to her man and letting him lead in day to day life was her idea of being a loving wife. She had philosophies that she never expressed and love that she never ceased to show.

Laxmi’s father in law was a shaheed who sacrificed his life fighting for India’s independence and the same emotion of patriotism cascaded in Anil’s blood. With the growing turbulence between India and Pakistan over his nation, his own state, Anil could not think of anything, but his watan. He soaked himself so much into the situation that his neglect for house, society and Laxmi could be prominently seen. The mornings were a witness to his exasperation, afternoons to his impatience and nights to his displeasure. He would often oscillate with his slow walks between the two ends of the courtyard, restless, in middle of this night. His grunts became louder and words became silent; as if he was planning something back of the mind – all the time. Something Big.

“Here… You have 30 minutes. It’s your final trial day” said an aggressive jailer to Anil, passing him a clean set of clothes from between the iron bars. Anil struggled to recollect when he dozed off the previous night, while reminiscing his last days at home, with Laxmi. He knew he had not done it, but there was hardly any evidence to prove him innocent. The case was passed between the local courts for a couple of years before it was sent to the High court. The prosecutor, who always used Anil’s dominance and Laxmi’s quietness as a weapon to prove him guilty had won the case in the lower courts. It was Anil’s brother Sushil who kept appealing in higher courts for justice for his brother. And today, it was the final hearing before Anil to be either free or sentenced to a lifetime imprisonment.

It was the summers of 1971, when there was news of another war between India and Pakistan. The valley already saw more of blood splashes, broken families and bombarded houses.

“Give me a chance today and I will die for my nation” said Anil to the jailer on his way to the court, handcuffed. He was still agitated with the current situation – fight over his motherland. His attention was soon taken away by a squad of hustling policemen on the street.

“There were some attacks in the city last night. Only God knows when will all this end” expressed the jailer.

Laxmi, who spoke very little during the last months of her life, once stated how the war will end the humanity if the humanity doesn’t end war. She always feared guns, fights and hostilities. For her, war was hell; war was a defeat to mankind; war was not an answer and war would never bring peace as the mourning the valley had witnessed will always be a battle for the families to combat daily. Anil embraced Laxmi’s words like a dew drop; calm and refreshing.

“Anil Durrani, prisoner number 231 be presented in front of the judge” announced the short, dark, stern looking man.

Anil took his place in the witness stand and looked at the judge for social salutation. His eyes met the magistrate, stayed there for a fraction of second and averted. His heart pounded faster than ever before and he was almost certain of losing his case today. He started envisioning the rest of his life, imprisoned and felt more restive to think about a wasted lifespan over a crime that he had not committed.

“You may proceed” ordered the judge in his dense voice.

The defense lawyer reiterated the whole case again. How Anil was innocent. How Laxmi’s death was an ill fate. The rifle that Anil had procured was for his family’s security in lieu of rising terrorism in the valley. How, that afternoon, when Laxmi expressed her concern over the weapon for the first time, they broke into an argument and in an attempt to snatch the rifle from Anil’s hand, Laxmi got it triggered, right in her stomach and lay on the ground, dead; immediately.

Laxmi’s family and neighbors could not believe this story as there were reports of frequent fights between the two of them. Anil’s strange behavior was a witness to many suspicious eyes all around.

“He is a murderer” moaned Laxmi’s mother when the police took Anil away three years ago. And ever since then, neither did he return to his home nor did the tension in the valley improve.

The prosecutor emphasized on the fact that Anil hardly spoke to Laxmi, was aggressive, dominant and was losing self-control during those days and one day, in a rage, he committed the evitable.  The neighbors spoke against him too.

There was a moment of brief silence in the court. There they were – the two weary eyes that looked at the judge and Anil from a distance; the eyes of a miserable mother, demanding justice for her daughter. The judge flipped across the papers, carefully examined the evidences presented by the defense lawyer and the prosecutor, took a deep breath and with painful heavy voice declared

“Upon reading and listening to all facts and evidences, the court finds Anil Durrani innocent in this case and orders him to surrender his rifle to the police immediately. The court is adjourned”.

Anil, who was almost sure to be punished, was startled in surprise. He had tears in his eyes. He tried to look at the judge, who had already left his seat by then.

***********************************************************************************

“She really loved you”, said the voice of a father as Anil and Sushil were heading back home from the court.

“Yes, I am aware of that. She was a wonderful wife and an obedient daughter and all I have left to say is ‘sorry’ for your loss; for my loss; for our loss” responded Anil with regretful eyes and tone.

“You should’ve never spared him, he killed our only daughter.. How could you?” said Laxmi’s mother to her husband.

“Punishing him for a crime not done would have never brought our daughter back. It was a mere accident. Sentencing Anil would have meant sentencing Laxmi for a lifetime imprisonment” said a father, while comforting his wife in his arms, handing over his black coat that brought pride to his shoulders some minutes ago. Sometimes, revenge is not what you seek. They both turned around when a voice from behind stopped them

“Judge saab. You have lost your daughter but your son is still alive” said Anil with an assurance.

*******************************************************************************

While the valley still grieves over several broken families, incomplete love stories and unfulfilled promises, Anil, the patriot, joined Indian Army as a jawan and laid his life fighting a terror attack in 1989. It was his penance to Laxmi’s death. His dead body, wrapped in the tricolor, was a gift to Laxmi’s mother who could never come in amiable terms with him… And Anil’s sacrifice for the nation was a respect to the judge who did not maliciously punish him on charges of his daughter’s murder.

In the end, everything falls in place and if it doesn’t, it’s not the end.

The Outhouse

Those were the best days of my life…played Bryan Adams’s in the background soon before the car grumbled to life. It was slowing down, giving up on its existence in a deserted piece of land right when the sun was merging with the ground at a distance. Ryan could see the birds returning to their nests and he was still a couple of hours from reaching Pune… Finally with a few jolts, the car came to a halt. It was dark by now. A long stretch of empty road laid ahead and a deep valley to his left. No signs of life could be sensed around. Ryan tried to turn the key again; the car briefly chortled, but died soon after. A long backroad, barren land on the sides, dark valley and chill in the air was all Ryan was left with.

“Sweetheart, I am stuck here. I will try to walk a few miles to find some help. My phone battery, akin to the car, is about to die any minute” explained Ryan to his wife over a call.

“You always do this; I don’t know what harm it is to pro-actively charge the battery of the phone. Does it cost anything?” said Veena from the other side.

“Don’t worry honey, I will be fine. You needn’t take any stress in this condition. I shall be home soon. Now I will hang up and save some battery for the emergency. Love you”.

Ryan looked around.  Clueless about which way to go, he followed his instinct and started walking straight, then turned right and followed a trail that led inside a sparse forest.

“Damn this area. Oh God, mercy!!” he muttered to himself.

Far across the trees, he saw a dimly lit shade. Hope beckoned. He rushed his steps through the wood, and reached the house. It looked like a vacation home built amid the jungle with no other house in the vicinity. Ryan tried to peep inside through the glass window but all he could see was the satin red curtain. The house was in a deep slumber. Doubtful of his luck, he still knocked at the door.

A beam of smile flashed through Ryan’s lips when, after a couple of minutes, he saw the house come to life. Lights turned on and someone opened the door.

“Hello Mam. I am so sorry to bother you at this time (Ryan looked at his watch, it showed 10 past 21:00). Actually, my car has ditched me a few miles from here. Would you know if I can find some mechanic nearby”?

The old lady adjusted her specks.

“I am sorry son. We are very remote from main highway and city. I don’t think you will find anyone around at this time”.

“Well…. Ok… I will go back and spend the night in my car and wait for the dawn to take over. Thank you Mam” Ryan started to move.

The old lady, hesitatingly called him

“You can stay here, if you want. My son and his family have come so I cannot offer you to come inside, but you can spend the night in the outhouse. It’s not safe to sleep in the car in middle of an isolated road”

“Thank you Mam. That’s really kind of you” Ryan concurred.

“Wait here. I will get the keys and some water for you”.

“So where are you coming from?” asked the lady while slowly pacing towards the outhouse.

“I am coming from Surat, going to Pune. I had to leave early this morning but work kept me occupied. I have been away from home since a week now and I can’t wait to be with my wife and child”.

“I am sure. How old is your kid?” asked the lady adjusting her winter shawl on the shoulder.

Ryan blushed “Actually the baby is yet to come. My wife is due next month”

Both chuckled.

“Here you go” the lady unlocked the door. “It’s not in a tidy condition and has no light, as you can see. But this is all I can offer you tonight”

“It’s nice” smiled Ryan.

The lady handed Ryan a water bottle… “And one more thing, there is no latch on the gate from inside. I suggest I lock the door from outside as leaving it open would mean inviting fat rats that will do anything to feast on you tonight. I will wake you up tomorrow morning… 7 AM?”

“You are so kind. 7 should be perfect”.

“Good night son”

The door locked. Ryan tried to bring his phone to work, to make at least one call, but the battery had already drained by then. From the moonlight that found its way through a small window, Ryan noticed the disheveled appearance of the room before he dozed off.

……… The next morning …….

Good morning listeners, this is RJ Sonia with you again; to play your favorite songs and dedications… played in the car.

“Daddy, I want to sit with mummy and you in front”

“Not now. You play with Daadi in the backseat. Tell her all that you will show when we reach our house. Daadi will stay with us for a few months”

Riya adjusted herself back again.

Daadi, where did you keep my doll last night? I couldn’t find it”

“Riya” daddy looked at her from the rear view mirror “Daadi can’t recall what happened 30 minutes ago, how she will remember about your doll?”

The old lady fixed her gaze on the passing by trees, with her head rested on the window, oblivious of everything that happened 30 minutes ago… a night before…. a day ago.

This song goes from Tarun to Vaibhavi..announced the RJ .. Enjoy and stay tuned.

“Zindagi do pal ki… Intezar kab tak Hum karenge bhala… Tumhe pyaar kab tak na karenge bhala.. “

… And the car sped up on the highway… far… far… very far away!!!!

An Omen Misread

Favim.com-8400

She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf, reminding her of how sometimes honesty becomes the heaviest baggage to carry along. It’s true that we all carry these things inside that no one else can see. They hold us down, they make the journey tougher. They take us back in time to question why and how. We all seek answers for our baggage as she did that evening.

————————*************————————-*************———————

….. This is my story, which began in cubicle 6209 of a multinational company in Pune. Yes, that’s when my life began, that’s when this story took birth. I landed in the city with three suitcases, immeasurable hopes and countless dreams. The city welcomed me with heavy rain and I saw that as an omen of something wonderful coming along my way. Yes, I was ready to embrace this new life that I decided to tread alone.

I was a fresher and had spent only a week accustoming myself to the new atmosphere. I had already painted dreams of being awarded employee of the year in just 18 months, leaving an everlasting impression on the team, proving my worth in all challenging situations and everything around being the best. Like everyone else, I entered the industry with zeal. I wanted to be different.

That morning while I was adjusting my bag in the drawer…

Hi, you must be Tanya’, said a voice from behind.

Hi, yes, I am. And you..

I am Rohan, your colleague who arranged the training sessions for you from Singapore, remember?’ said the dimple cheeked guy before I could finish. His appearance was like the ones you immediately become friends with. He was not tall, dark or strikingly handsome but someone who had a warmth and innocence on his face. I stood up to greet him.

Of course, I know you. Pleased to meet you, Rohan. So how was your Singapore trip?’ I asked

It was awesome, thanks. I wish I worked a bit there’ he winked.

… And this is how Rohan and I were introduced to each other. I was still an amateur who was getting used to the corporate environment. I had made a few friends by then. OK, I should rephrase it to say I acquainted myself with some of the colleagues who became my lunch and tea time buddies. The latest addition to the group was Rohan.

Life, immediately after college became full of corporate jargons, independence, late night movies, never ending weekend siestas and responsibility. The flat mates and office colleagues gave a ‘home away from home’ kind of a feeling. Whatsapp and facebook became the way of life. My blackberry became my best friend, Starbucks cafe my hangout and colleagues my only social circle. Life had changed, time was flying and I gained some extra kilos if nothing else in just eight months of my professional life. Ironically, I was still a fresher.

By now, I was friends with everyone in the team, Rohan being my closest buddy. His texts on whatsapp became a routine and he was pictured in almost all of my facebook updates. Yes, he became a friend with whom I comfortably shared even my personal life and he reciprocated the same feelings of trust and comfort.

That day, it was an unusual Rohan that I saw, not akin to the casual him. Yes, I knew him well by then. We had spent enough time during shopping, movies, lunch, dinners and weekends. His plastic smile conveyed that he wasn’t fine. We were sitting in Starbucks cafe after office when I asked him what the matter was.

Are you upset with me for something” I asked

Of course, not. In fact your presence turns things brighter for me” he said, though was still uncomfortable.

Then what’s wrong with you? Is it work or something personal?” I questioned.

I never asked him anything about his personal life. He always opened the chapters he wanted me to read and if there was anything more, it never aroused the curiosity in me. I respected the fact that some people open up like onion, one layer at a time and it’s truly their choice. All I knew about him was that he was closest to his best friend, Romel, who became a part of Rohan’s life only after Zylo passed away a couple of years ago. I daily heard the stories about their walks, cuddling, sharing and understanding. There is something miraculous about the dogs that sweep you away. Is it the fact that they love you irrespective of your class and status or is it their faithfulness? I think they understand you more than we can interpret, they are the selfless givers.

It’s just that … I want to tell you something” he said

Go on” I comforted myself on the couch.

I met you almost a year ago and got attracted like a bee to a hive. Initially, I named that feeling as infatuation but later realized that it stayed beyond its duration. I started thinking a lot of you. I want to be with you whenever you are not around. Checking your ‘last seen’ on the whatsapp is the most pleasant activity for me. I admit I got carried away and drifted myself from the reality, where there is no scope for anyone to enter into my life, for I got married two years ago. I know this comes as a shock to you and I am sorry for hiding it all through this time. I was forced into a marriage with Amruta who is in the States these days for her onsite assignment. It was a marriage for the society, not for me. I had to be wedded because I was settled and was approaching mid-twenties. My parent’s embarrassment multiplied each time someone asked about my marital status. ‘Oh, is he still not married’, ‘he earns well, looks good, then what is the problem’ All such questions from the relatives and neighbors became intolerant to an extent that my parents found a suitable girl and made me tie the knot before I could think about it. What about love then? Oh, who cares about love anyway? Soon after our marriage, precisely in four months to be honest, Amruta flew to Boston for her long term project. By the time I could know her, she was gone too far. Ever since then, we have maintained the ‘marriage’ over skype and phone calls. And then I met you and understood that you are what I want. You mean love. You give me the comfort. I love you, Tanya.”

I sat in front of him in complete awe with my mouth wide open. I didn’t know what to say. Should I have handled the situation – How? Did I unknowingly just distort a marriage? I believe yes. I calmly explained that I was not in love with him. I never was. Yes, he was one of my best friends like I had a few more, but nothing more than that. I felt ashamed of myself. I felt cheated. I left the café as I wanted to be alone. I wanted to run away somewhere.

That night, I received several calls and messages from Rohan trying to explain his feelings and situations. He wanted to end his marriage for me and I didn’t want to lose a friend, but I just lost him that night.

I took a couple of days off from work and started to ignore Rohan’s messages and calls. I could sense his restlessness but I had to be the devil. I didn’t want a marriage to break because of me. I understand that there was no element of love and compatibility in his wedding. Why do parents and society force us to get married like this? Why spoil two lives at one shot? Why don’t they understand that life is not a straight line? Life is not a set timeline of milestones. It is okay if you don’t get married by 25 or 30 until you find compatibility and love. You are allowed to backtrack. You are allowed to figure out what inspires you. What is it with society’s need to fast-track relationships? A love bred out of convenience, a love that blossoms from the need to sleep beside someone, a love that caters to our need for attention rather than passion, is a love that will never inspire you. Why don’t parents and society let us strive to discover foundational love, the kind of relationship that motivates us to be a better person. Why aren’t we allowed to just wait to meet the person who makes our cells dance? I felt bad for Rohan, but I was helpless. I believe in second chances but I could not be his as I didn’t love him. Life suddenly seemed so complicated.

Rohan’s growing possessiveness was an indication for me to deliberately distance myself from him. I was being honest. I wanted to be clam and soft with my friend, yet stay assertive in my voice. Things at work started getting hampered as everything was visible to everyone’s eyes. With no other option left, I requested for a release from my project so that Rohan could mend his shattered self.

A month had already passed by and I found a new assignment. The fact that I will work from another floor made me all the more gratified. I had cut off myself from Rohan and was not a party to his calls and messages anymore.

One fateful morning first email I saw in my inbox was from Rohan, which read –

Hi Tanya,

I am sorry for the turbulence I caused to you. Trust me; I never wanted you to land into a situation like this. More than anything, it hurts to lose a friend like you. I am not at peace with myself. I feel guilty and liberated at the same time. If I have to be with someone, it has to be you. But then the guilt of spoiling Amruta’s life kills me daily. I don’t know whether to try to achieve your love or live with her hatred forever. I have fallen into my own eyes. I never loved Amruta. She was not what I wanted. I love you, but can never win you. In either case, I lose.

So, this is to tell you that I am going away from Amruta’s and your life forever. It is probably not the best, but the only route available for me at the moment. I know I am being unfair and I do understand the amount of pain this decision will bring to everyone, but this is what it is.

Take good care and stay blessed.

Rohan

My mind couldn’t comprehend the email well and I started painting my own assumptions about his decision. It was disturbing. I couldn’t concentrate on the tasks in hand. I was still engrossed in thinking about this situation when a colleague from the previous project called.

Tanya, we are rushing to Rohan’s apartment. Do you want to join us?” she said terrified.

The world stopped for the moment, my senses were numb, and I was immovable. I was in a shock. I didn’t know what to do. My colleague told that Rohan had committed suicide that morning. He had already bid a bye to us.

I was at Rohan’s place in next hour and the domestic helper opened the door. He had called his parents and they were on their way from Nasik. Romel sat in the corner, completely aware of the tragedy that took place. I am sure even he wondered, why? There was blood on the floor and all around. Romel displayed some red stains as well. Next to Rohan’s body lay the blood stained knife that was used as a self-destruction weapon by him. The police was not informed as instructed by Rohan’s parents. Amruta was on her way to India. There were noises around but I could barely hear. I silently picked up the knife and walked out of Rohan’s apartment. The incessant flow of tears could be well seen in my eyes. I called the auto and headed straight to the Starbucks cafe. I didn’t know where else to go.

What made him do this? What made his family pressurize him to get married? What made him fall in love with me? What about Amruta? There were so many Whys and Whats running through my mind but answer to none. He had a whole life ahead of him that could have offered him a second chance as well.

This is not done Rohan, just not done. Suicide is not a solution to any problem but facing life is. You left behind so much without caring for your loved ones. You left many scars for your family, Romel and me. You have left all of us shattered. Life is full of opportunities & probabilities; all that was needed is a little patience, courage & wisdom” I spoke to him in silence.

His smiling face kept flashing in front of my eyes as I sipped my coffee, staring outside the window with the blood stained knife covered with blue silk scarf in my handbag. The heavy downpour outside reminded me of how I misinterpreted rain as a good omen when I first landed in Pune.

A month later, I left the city for I could not bear this loss. One year was enough to teach me about corporate life, independence, love, friendship and life. I wrapped my ambition with the same knife in the blue scarf to start on a new journey, something of my own maybe. This knife will always question me if I should have saved a life or destroyed a marriage. I don’t know whether what I did was right or not, I was just truthful. I am sure with all that is left unsaid between Rohan and me, I will meet him someday… somewhere…in some ways.

RIP Rohan, will miss you.

She believed she could, so she did

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Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Ilaa. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season, and cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers and traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold and goods for barter. They would exchange what they carried for the cotton that the farmers grew. The bales of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!

But Ilaa was not to be found in the fields. She wasn’t working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari.

‘I am sick of this!‘ she grunted loudly.

Her brother, Aagam, who should be helping his sister in the field, was missing.

Why do they have to force Aagam to learn economics when he wants to become a renowned priest like Kawale whom the great Shivaji Maharaj had appointed in Paithan? Why can’t I be sent to the school instead?’ expressed angry Ilaa to the Great Godavari River.

Ilaa, born to a cotton farmer, didn’t get many opportunities to learn art, literature and economics, which the Satvahana dynasty encouraged. It was a time when Paithan gained more and more popularity for its growing commerce and trade with not only Indian states but international consumers also. If art drew the attention of Muslim invaders, trade attracted Romans like bees to hive. Sadly, all education, academics and literature was intended for the boys to learn. The girls got their share only to work at homes and fields.

‘I cannot let this happen anymore. I will have to do something about it’ Ilaa took the blessings from River Godavari and moved hurriedly towards the cotton field.

Ilaa, reminisced the time when she was born as Gargi in the 7th century, a few eras ago. She couldn’t stop thinking of the period when ancient Indian society was much more egalitarian and balanced than other ancient societies, at least in the field of education. What added to Ilaa’s frustration was the fact that Indian society had changed for worse with each century. The flash back of the ancient time when no one in scholarly circle had any trouble accepting Gargi, a woman philosopher as one of them, disturbed her. Economics and literature had come to Ilaa from birth, might have cascaded from ages. She however, sometimes secretly heard her father and brother talk about barter and other economic matters at home and learnt from them. She was a born scholar after all.

In contrast to ancient India, primeval Greeks and Romans had excellent public schools for formal education but only for boys, whereas the ashrams of ancient India welcomed girls and young women to learn along with their male counterparts. Then why not today?’ she questioned herself while walking towards the cotton field.

Who would tell poor Ilaa that time had changed!!

She reached the cotton field and as instructed, started to pick cotton from the flowers. This time, she decided collect them in two different baskets, one to be handed over to family, another for her.

Am I being revolutionary? Am I doing the right thing?’ Ilaa dubiously mumbled while picking cotton though was determined in her thoughts.

The sun was setting in and it was time for Ilaa to rush towards the home and help her mother in domestic chores. It was a small family of four people that earned bread and butter by selling cotton. The everyday jobs of the family were mostly static. Father spent most of the time in his shop and home calculating his business returns. Aagam would spend half of his day at school learning economics and commerce trade. The rest of his time would get invested in understanding the family business. The mother was, by all means confined to the house and was kept busy all day long. Ilaa, however, would help her mother and father at home and field and secretly spent her time understanding what commerce was all about. She was born different!

Days passed like a gush of stream and Ila’s grit swelled with each day. She spent hours collecting cotton and distributed equal halves in two carriers, one visible to only her eyes.

I have to be more efficient, I don’t have much time left’ she muttered to herself.

It was the last week before the wholesalers from Paithan would arrive. Ilaa was happy for the progress she had made in last few weeks and was content with the plan she had in mind. She wanted the barriers to break, chains to set free and capability to talk for her.

I cannot just get married and do the same chores throughout my life. I want to study. I am capable’. Ilaa dwelled in such thoughts while cleaning the dinner dishes at home.

This Monday will not be the same’ she anticipated before being dead to the world.

As a matter of fact, Ilaa always wanted to be a scholar. She was refused education by her father when she expressed her keen interest. She was refused to learn art. She always wondered why this discrimination existed when everybody talked praises of Goda Valley civilization, which played an important role in shaping the culture of the region she belonged to. Why none of the religious sects of the village – Buddhism, Jainism and Vedic religion promote equality? Time and again Ilaa failed to comprehend why women were forced to commit to ‘Sati’ and deep down she always feared being on the other side. She wanted to have equal rights as those of men. Her intellect demanded fair opportunities based on a person’s interest and skills.

I will bring the cotton bales to the market, father’ Ila screamed as she was making her way out of the house on Monday morning. It was her important day. Aagam, forcefully, accompanied his father to the market where the wholesalers would come for the barter.

Not bad, Ila. You have done a good job’ she praised herself while carrying the baskets of cotton bales and rushed her steps towards the market. She stopped by the bank of the River Godavari to seek Her blessings. River Godavari had been Ilaa’s best friend ever since she was born.

The ‘bazaar’ was full of traders and buyers. Wholesalers from Paithan, different parts of India and Rome had come to bargain cotton, brocade textiles, ivory products, conch bangles, ornaments of terracotta and precious stones. The incessant noise of the market could be heard several yards away. Ila rested herself in a corner and placed her cotton carrier right in front of her.

Where are your father and brother today, Ilaa? Are you trading on their behalf?’ Chuckled some neighbors who had also come to exchange their cotton for gold and goods.

Ilaa stayed assured and began her trade. She had come to test all she had silently learnt from her family. She remembered how she was in ancient time and decided to use all her skills in trade that day. It was not a common sight for the villagers, wholesalers and the region to see a girl in the market. Ilaa drew many stares and overheard all that people talked about her. All she wanted was to make one good deal that day.

What do you think you are doing here? Go home and help your mother’ shouted her father as he spotted Ilaa in the market.

I can do this, father. Please let me try. I can do a good exchange for the cotton’ requested Ilaa.

Aagam, who was close to Ila, requested his father to give his sister a chance. He knew what Ilaa was gifted with. The father, unhappily, made his arrangements next to Ilaa and allowed her to do the commerce with her basket of cotton bales. He wasn’t sure of how much Ila would accomplish.

In some time, Ilaa was found bargaining with several wholesalers from Paithan. Many came, few stayed and nobody bought even half a bale of cotton from her stall. Demotivated, Ilaa stood strong like a pillar.

Oh, so we have a young lady doing business in this village of Paithan. Something very new, isn’t it? So what do you have to impress this trader from Paithan today?’ Inquired a wholesaler. He carried gold and ornaments for barter, looked rich, experienced and a learned person.

I have 10 bales of cotton. How much do you need sir?’ asked Ilaa

I can very well buy the whole of it or even more, but I need reasons to purchase it from you for an exchange of ornaments I am carrying’.

Well, I assure you sir that this is the best cotton you will find in the whole market. This cotton has been cultivated from long frost free period, in plenty of sunshine and with lots of love and care. The softness of this cotton can be used to make garments. Its sturdiness will allow you to make fishing nets and tents out if it. If you check closely, the width of each thread is fairly uniform, has high luster and low resiliency. If used in garments, it would keep your body cool in summer and warm in winter because cotton is a good conductor of heat. How much should I weigh for you, sir? ‘ asked Ilaa

I am impressed by your knowledge. I can buy 10 bales for 3 gold bangles’ proposed the trader.

Ilaa continued to negotiate with the trader and made a profitable barter that her father could not do in years. Not only this, her economic skills and vision helped her win a long term contract with the wholesaler. Ilaa had made a history, she had made an impression.

Within no time, her popularity embraced the market and everyone, who wished to buy cotton, was found queuing up in front of Ilaa’s stall. She not only sold her share of cotton bales, but emptied her father’s as well. All she was left with was a satisfactory beam on her face.

The same evening, many astounded villagers gathered at Ilaa’s house to praise her for the skills she possessed. People thought it to be miraculous. The society now knew that women were capable of helping family in more than just one way. Ilaa had brought a change.

Happy Ilaa stepped out of her house and addressed the villagers.

I, Ilaa, remember being born as Gargi in ancient time, where I was a scholar and was one of the Navratnas at King Janak of Mithila’s court. I was invited to conferences all over the country. The girls and women in that age were sent to ashrams for education with boys. Women were not only a figure to work at home; women were respected and treated as equal. There were no Satis, no purdah, and no inequality that existed in a time like that. Today, we have good art and literature schools; we belong to one of the most prosperous dynasties of the nation. The Marathas want to govern us for our richness in religious and economic sectors. We have trade relations with Rome, where women are sent for education. Then why do we lack this fairness here?

People listened to Ilaa as if her words left an impression on everyone’s soul. She continued to talk about how life was easier in the 17th century but was fairer in ancient times. She spoke how women could study, marry, run a house, produce kids and work at the same time. All that the society needed was to provide equal rights of education and respect to the women. Ilaa’s parents stood in complete awe.

Soon after that, Ilaa’s father opened doors to her education for he had no reason to stop his skilled daughter from learning art, literature and commerce. Ilaa was joined by many other women of the society who had an inclination to learn different subjects. She also started to teach young girls of the village when she was free from school and household chores.

And one fine day, on a beautiful summer afternoon, Ilaa was in a playful mood teaching her students who also came from nearby villages of Paithan.

I am sick of this’, laughed Ilaa while answering to her students questions!!!