I don’t believe in Valentine’s, but I so do believe in love. And here’s something I wrote celebrating it.
It’s the first “story” I have published here. Let me know how you like it.
They sat there, on the shore, watching the sun set over the calm waters. A frigid wind was blowing, as if it had been waiting for the sun to descend, and the birds had vacated the skies.
Far away, they knew, there were people waiting. Homes, families, the call of the world. They knew that, for the next God alone knows how long, that’s where they were going to be. These were precious moments.
But neither spoke, or perhaps could speak. Their eyes scanned the horizon, and a glint of moisture resided in them. Their fingers were entwined, those of his left and her right, but they sat distanced. Intermittently, he would take his little finger and poke, scratch hers. She let him.
The sun was a mere ring, faint, on the water’s edge. Night had all but put him to sleep, and with a loving smile.
“Do you remember, that night?”
“And we’d sung songs till dawn.”
“Do you remember the last one?”
“Of course I do. You know I do.”
“Let’s sing it again.”
He started. She loved the way he did. His was a gruff voice, made for speech, but she’d grown to like it when he sung.
Dil dhoondhta hai, phir wahi…
He always regrets he can’t sing well, the idiot, she thought to herself.
She joined in, and he smiled. And then, the words remembered so fondly, flowed. Another half an hour or so remained, but Time could wait. These words were their story, their yearning.
The song ended, and they looked into each other’s eyes. There, after all those years, was still a moist glint. A muted smile grew on his face, as he begun with the words of another.
Aap ki aankhon mein kuchh…
And she broke into small laughter. Her fingers clasped his, just a little tighter and she stared at the distant lights of the city. It would have to wait, for just a little more.
You purposely started each antakshari with this song in college, didn’t you?
You knew I was singing it for you, didn’t you?
Yes, I did. And that’s all you did. If only you would have done more…
His mind drifted, and in that valley where our most private thoughts reside, he found himself. And wondered would things have been different? How would they have been different?
She noticed his eyes turning toward the vast vacancy of the sky. She clasped his hand.
Jab bhi thaama hai tera haath to dekha hai…
It was his turn to smile. He turned to her, that voice! Suddenly, college didn’t feel so distant: how she chided him for some or the other assignment he wouldn’t start on time; or how he teased her with every boy he could think of, knowing fully well that, underneath the layer of friendship they wore, they adored each other. Ah, that voice!
His phone rang. It was time.
They rose, and cast one long, lingering glance at the water. Then, hands clasped, they walked towards the car.
The road was well lit, though some remnants of the woods they had left behind remained. Soon the houses would start, and then the hoardings, and the lights would glow bigger. The trees would shrivel away to find only the patch of a divider on the main road by the time they reached the main crossing. There were only two that remained after it.
He drove in silence, as was his habit, and she held his hand upon the gear stick. Occasionally, he would turn to her, at a red light or in a jam, and smile. But there wouldn’t be words.
The crossings were done, and they turned into the street.
Tum jo keh do to aaj ki raat, chaand doobega nahin…
She turned to him, and the glint was more pronounced than she had seen in a long time. His voice too, she felt, was a little hoarse.
Raat ko rok lo…
She joined in, as the car stuttered to a halt.
Aaj ki raat hai zindagi, aur zindagi baaki to nahin…
They stared at each other.
He took her hand and kept it on his heart. She nodded and smiled.
The house was as large as the city allows these days. It was sparsely furnished, but with taste. On the wall hung pictures of a life gone by. On a shelf stood the trophies his children had collected, and the memories he had. He sat on his leather chair, white kurta pyjama, and pondered.
The doorbell rang and the door was opened. There was noise and hustle and bustle. Hands touched his feet, and he gave them his blessings. There was conversation too, and he was part of it. But his consciousness was elsewhere.
He saw the woman they spoke to, his children, her children.
He remembered how she had been there for all these years, all through life. No great promises, no infinite achievement, no platitude upon the altars of Memory – just an everyday life spent together.
She looked at him, and smiled.
He remembered the evening they had spent at the lake earlier, making 50 years when they’d met alone for the first time, at that very spot.
As I said, this is my first story. Your thoughts, your criticism, your feedback – all are very welcome. They help me know if what I’ve written resonates with you. Please consider leaving a comment below and telling me how this piece made you feel.