What makes special occasions special?Small, yet powerful expressions of love...
EXPRESSIONS OF LOVE….
She splashed the cold water on her face and studied her reflection in the mirror. The face staring back looked haggard; there were frighteningly dark circles around the eyes and sharp crease lines on the forehead. Depression that had crept up slowly but surely made its presence felt. It became more evident with every passing day. She had to stop pitying herself right away. Stop, stop, just stop…The gush of the water suddenly retrieved her to the present. She shut the tap and wandered in the corridor outside. The dull white walls bore a forlorn look and the smell of disinfectant made her sick to the stomach. She marched over to the window, took out her cell phone and punched her residence number. It was seven in the morning, so Amma was probably awake. There was a ring, then two, three, four….no answer. She put the cell-phone down and stared out the window.
She wasn’t an early riser but these days insomnia had gotten the better of her. Then again, this wasn’t her home either. At her place, she’d usually wake up at ten to a steaming cup of coffee by her bedside and the sound of water running in the shower. She’d gulp her coffee and rush to prepare and pack his lunch. Then she’d see him off and cook for Amma.Later, get dressed and head to work. No matter how dull and dreary her day, his voice would instantaneously perk her up. And finally, when she trudged into the kitchen in the evening to make supper, he’d quietly creep in, slip his hands around her waist and softly kiss the nape of her neck. How it eased away all the stress and made her alive…
She sighed and dialed home again. Four rings but no answer.Amma was probably lost in her prayers. That was how she’d dealt with the news.
Initially the recurring pain in his upper abdomen was not alarming. However, the rapid loss in his weight prompted him to take the tests. They’d gone together to collect the reports. Her first reaction was sheer denial. Weren’t pancreatic cancers part of other people’s grievance stories? It couldn’t be her husband after all! What followed was a torturous series of tests, chemotherapy and an operation. And finally came surrender, to the twisted game of fate. This was obviously accompanied by a burst of pain. Pain: hard-hitting like the ocean waves and unforgiving, like neurotic spasms. In a spate of ten months Aarti’s world had been transformed into a hellish nightmare.
Since then you would always find Amma, Sachin’s mother, praying to the idol in their house or telling the beads of her rosary.
Aarti decided to take a walk in the garden. The air was cool and the day, pleasantly bright. Yet on the inside, she felt a cold, biting solitude.Wrapping her arms around her chest, she shut her eyes and let the wind caress her face.
Memories can be those pleasant recollections of what makes life worth living. Or, they can be like an alarm clock that rings time and again only to resound the grim reality of your present. No matter how many times she hit snooze, they came right back at her. But how could she help it, of all the days, today?
Her scooter that stood in the parking area itself was a cruel reminder of the day’s significance. Though she had no idea when, she had once told him how she yearned to own a two-wheeler, simply for the excitement it offered. Her father had strictly forbidden two-wheelers in their family for the fear that they might meet with an accident! And voila! There was Sachin, placing the keys right into her palm. She’d actually squealed in delight on seeing it. The scooter was obviously met by the sharp reactions of her in-laws--their daughter-in-law riding a scooter was simply ludicrous! A few discussions and a few more arguments later, they’d finally agreed. So off she went each day to work, zooming on her little bike.
And the year before that--the memory made her chuckle. She’d entered the house cursing the bright jackasses who’d invented the buffet system and, those killer stilettos that literally had her feet writhing in pain. All she wanted was a good-night’s sleep as she crashed onto the bed.
“Aarti….” he called out from the kitchen.
“Oh no…”she stood up reluctantly and dragged herself to the kitchen.
The grand-father clock had just struck twelve but there was something more glaringly noticeable here—her kitchen! It was a royal mess! The table was strewn with open containers, expensive crockery dumped like trash, flour all over the place and would-you-believe-it—a crate of broken eggs and oil on the kitchen floor! Simmering with frustration she was about to bombard him, when she looked up and her voice died right there in her throat. His hair was mussed and peppered with flour, while his face had the expression of a harrowed little schoolboy who desperately wanted to get something right. And as if those terrier-like eyes weren’t enough to melt her, he moved to reveal the cause of all the tumult—a chocolate cake!
At first she stood agape and then blurted, “You made this?”Then considering him again, quickly added, “I mean, obviously you did.”
She admitted it wasn’t exactly sumptuous; it was hard in parts to say the least. But his effort alone had touched her. And of course, the enthusiasm with which he offered to clear the clutter, while she just sat and watched.
Why couldn’t she just have forgotten today’s day? Perhaps because of these very moments that he’d gifted her; so lovingly packaged and so achingly beautiful. She pictured his shriveled body on the hospital bed and it broke her heart. How she wished that all the cells of his body somehow recuperate, that somehow he rushes forward to hold her in his strong arms and hugs her so tight that all her pain and fear simply vanishes! That would be more than any gift he’d ever given her….
Finally, it was past an hour and she decided to go up to his room. She cast a sidelong glance at the card shop in the lobby. It was as such deserted. Little expressions of love; cards, she mused, and yet so powerful. She’d always fancied the poetic kind of guy, while Sachin insisted that he just didn’t have a way with words. She continued towards the elevator, and then to his room.
Dr.Shah was at his bedside, studying his chart. She glanced up and said cheerily, “Good morning Mrs.Rao! Your husband’s doing pretty well today.”, and walked out.
Sachin for his part wore the most heartbreakingly optimistic smile.
“Hi.”, she took his hand and sat down beside him.
“The doctor asked to get these…”he handed her a file.
“Okay. I’ll just be back.”
She was on her way out when she stopped abruptly, and turned to face him with a suspicious look. Inside the file was placed a card. It had a picture of a couple looking at the sunrise. She flipped it open and ran a hand over his handwriting, amazed. Then slowly read his words aloud…
“Deep within the deepest chambers of my
There resides a girl right from the
If you look now, she seems lonely
Maybe just a little betrayed.
Rightly so, for the cause of all her worries and pain,
is MY health that gave way.
But please be strong baby, don’t cry
and don’t fret,
Your sadness is the only thing that
hurts more than the thought of death.”
She couldn’t blink back the stream of tears flowing onto the card. He’d caused a flurry of emotions that she’d tried so hard to keep at bay.
“It was fate that we met, destiny,
which bound us together,
But it was I who’d promised to be
there, in rough
and calm, and all types of weather.
And I promise again that we’ll
fight and rise,
And in the end, as victors, stand tall,
‘Coz you know that thing they say
about love baby,
Love conquers all!
She looked up, her eyes twinkling with tears, and said,"I love you Sachin. Happy Anniversary!"