Monday, 5 August 2013

Our Life-A Trilogy ......I~Our Promise

I~Our Promise

“What if someone takes me away too?”
“I’ll find you.”
“Our promise?”
“Our promise.”

She snuggled upto him in the darkness. He held her close through the night…scared out of his wits but trying to be brave for her. Soon he felt her steady breathing. A few more hours and they will come to take him away…far from her. What will he do without her? What will she do without him? They had had only each other for so long that he couldn’t imagine a life without her precocious presence. But he will be back one day…he didn’t know how, but somehow he will convince them. And that’s the solemn promise the eleven-year-old made to himself sitting on their favorite staircase…..inadvertently tightening his hold around his six-year-old companion, who squirmed in protest and then settled her head in the familiar crook of his neck, still asleep. He stayed awake till the first lights of dawn broke through in the far horizon…and then got up taking her in his arms and walked to the long dormitory where her bunker was. He laid her down gently and covered her with the flimsy sheet, and then bent down to plant a kiss on her tiny forehead. She smiled at the touch, and his heart constricted. He turned, picked up the bag containing his meager belongings, and walked out…looking back once at her…“Our promise,” he whispered.

“Fire? How? When?”
“More than two years back. Everything was razed to the ground, except that flight of stairs, which wasn’t even scorched. People who own this property plan to make a temple in this place now…keeping those stairs intact.”
“What happened to the children?”
“They were housed in the nearby hospital till all of them were adopted. The last one was an eight-year-old girl…. You won’t believe, Sir, how difficult it was to make her leave this place. She ran away and sat on those stairs….They had to literally drag her away.”
“Any records of the adoptions?”
“You might check at the hospital.”


They never found her. He and his father went to town seeking out the address given by the hospital authorities…but someone else resided there now. The earlier family had moved a few days after a little girl was brought into the house. Nobody knew where they had gone. With no clue to follow up on, they left. On their way back they had to cross the site of the burnt building. He kept looking back….From this distance he could see the stairs…their stairs. He won’t give up…no, he won’t. He will keep coming here…His heart told him he will find her here…one day. He closed his eyes in a clear resolution, “Our promise.” 

“Ansh!! Stay still, will you? You will hurt the old naniji. Sorry, Auntiji….he is really very naughty.”
“It’s OK, betaji…if boys don’t jump around, who will…you and me? Here, little one, have some mathri.”
“Thank you, naniji. Are you also going to Indore? Why are you so old? Will you be my friend? My badi mummy was  also old…but not as old as you…and she was my second best friend? Do you know who my first best friend is? Oho…you don’t know? My mumma, of course. She is the best.”
“Really!!…And what about your papa? What number best friend is he?”
“Ufff…you really don’t know anything, do you? My papa is my superman…He flies all around the world and helps people…and when I ask him for anything, he sends it to me. Mumma says he will come to meet me when he has helped everyone in the world. Mumma, can I go and play with that boy sitting there on that berth?”
“All right…but no mischief, OK?”
“I don’t see any sindoor or mangalsutra, betaji. Pardon me for being inquisitive…are you a widow?”
“I thought as much…hearing your son speak like that of his father. He has never met him, has he?”

Her thoughts went back to that black night, darkness of which had led her to bear her own light…her Ansh. They had married her off against her wishes the day after she got her graduation results. What could she do? Her father had passed away just a couple of months back…exactly two years after her mother’s death. They didn’t want to bear her burden anymore. With no one to speak for her, they sealed her fate. Moreover, this was a good proposal, and the boy himself had shown interest in marrying her after seeing her in a biradari function. Little did they know why he wanted to marry her particularly. She came to know on her suhaag raat…when she saw him leave the room without even a glance at her. While she was contemplating what had happened, she saw the door open and her saasuma literally dragging her husband back, telling him in no uncertain terms that he has a wife now and that he has to forget the other woman. She threatened him with exclusion from all property and her will, if he didn’t give his wife her rights. What followed then was a nightmare…the memories of which still sent shivers down her spine. Oh, how much she had cried for him to come and save her that night…“Find me, please.”

“No, he hasn’t. My husband died in a road accident the morning after our marriage.”
 “Hey Bhagwan…that’s so unfortunate. I am so sorry, beta? What about your in-laws?”
“My father-in-law  died when my husband was very young. My saasuma brought him up single-handedly. She was diagnosed with cancer soon after Dhruv was born…She passed away last month after battling the disease for three years.”
“Whom are you going to visit in Indore?”
“Oh…I am not visiting anyone. I am just going to look up an old place…to keep a promise I made myself when I was very small.”
“OK…Why don’t you come with me and visit this temple I am going to? My son is coming to the station…after which we will go to the temple first and then onto our farm, which is in the outskirts of the city.”

He held her hand tightly, afraid to let her go, lest she went missing in the crowd of the devotees. This was his final visit of the year. He had been diligently coming here thrice every year for the past eighteen years: the date on which he had left, on his birthday, and on her birthday. For the past three years, his daughter, Palak, accompanied him. His wife Arpita had left him soon after giving birth to Palak. She was unhappy with him…She accused him of being a man who lived somewhere in his past, the memories of which kept him aloof and distant from her. So she had ended the marriage…refusing to take Palak with her. He had come to know later that she had remarried and settled abroad.

“Palak? Oh my God…where did she go? She was here a moment ago, when I was taking the call.”
“Excuse me…have you seen a little girl in pink frock?”
“I was about to ask you…have you seen a little boy in blue T shirt and white shorts?”
“Your son?”
“Your daughter?”
“C,mon…we need to find them…before something happens in this melee. I cannot lose another loved one here.”
“Neither can I.”

He looked at her then…beautiful face, long hair, large eyes…at the moment fraught with worry. She stared back…suddenly feeling…feeling what? Safe? Something she hadn’t felt in years. Suddenly someone pushed her, and before she fell, he held her. Holding her hand, he moved forward….the stairs to the temple. Maybe the kids are sitting there? Yes…they were…they could hear their voices. They looked at each other, silently acknowledging in relief that it’s the end of their search.  However, what they heard rooted them to the spot.

“You will not leave till papa comes, will you?”
“No, I won’t.”
“And if someone else takes me away?”
“I’ll find you.”
“Our promise?”
“Our promise.”

Yash tightened his hold….He had found her…his Aarti!!!!

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