May 7, 2011


"Parul!!", I heard Nilima screaming my name from somewhere. I felt myself disobeying her and walking in the opposite direction.
"Come back here! The bus is about to leave!" I heard some other voice calling after her. I sensed my feet taking steps towards a familiar bench in the college campus. I heard the voices dying down and the buses driving away. I sat down in the shade of the tree and glanced at my watch. He should be here any minute now. 

It seemed like I had been sitting there for ages but no one came.
I felt absurd thoughts coming to my mind while leaves decayed and dropped on me and the sun set down...
Why hasn't he come yet? Am I alone in the campus? How do I get back home? I have an assignment to finish and submit tomorrow morning! How do I get back home?

Suddenly in the distance I see the silhouette of a tall figure walking towards me through the twilight. I feel a sense of deep relief and anger at the same time.
I see him coming and I start shouting at him, he stands still.."You know how long I've been waiting?? You're not supposed to leave me alone like this, you know that?!"
He smiles and absorbs my abuse, which he always finds sweet rather than annoying. I realise he's looking as cute as ever in the same shirt he wore on the day we first met.
I don't let that dilute my fake exasperation and I continue scolding him. All of a sudden he turns and walks away. He waves as he goes and doesn't turn in spite of my frantic shouts. Somehow even I'm not able to go after him. He fades into the twilight just as he came and it turns dark. He's gone! How am I supposed to go back home?

I wake up with eyes bloodshot and body shuddering. I feel my head reeling and realise I am breaking down into uncontrollable sobs. It turn and look at the clock to my bedside: 5.23 AM. I turn and look to the other side: an empty side of the bed. An unused pillow. I bury my head into the pillow and cry till I drain out all I can...

It's 11 in the morning when my eyes open again. My head feels heavy. My heart feels heavier. My spirit feels heaviest. I wish there was one hour each day instead of twenty-four, so that I could spend the remaining 50 years of my average life expectancy in...what would that be...fifty times one times three-hundred and sixty five hours....still a lot of time to spend alone. There was no work to do today, and it has been the same since around a month. No alarm set at 6 AM,  no hurry to prepare breakfast for two and lunchbox for one. No keeping the shirt and trousers pressed neatly. No tea in the bed and newspaper by the bedside for my lazy husband. I lied motionless on the bed, thoughts and scenes circulating through my head...

         "Wake up, Pari!"
         "Yeah....5 mins more....lemme sleep...shoo..."

         "Aww...aren't you cute?! now get up and get me bed tea."
         "Get it yourself. ...can't you do it for jus' one day, mister?", I mumbled in irritation.
         "Pleeeejjj", he said with a protruded lower lip, "Plijplijplij!!"
         "Okay! Stop it!!" I laughed and left him there, and he winked and hogged my pillow and snuggled deeper into the blankets.

I could watch him all day sleep like a baby, holding one of my hands and hugging a pillow, all at the same time; as if he'd get lost on the bed without both. I'd give anything to watch him sleep next to me today. I'd give anything to have him here with number of teas and breakfasts in bed..whatever he asked for..
Tears flowed again..

I didn't enter the kitchen these days. There was no one to cook for. Me, I don't remember when I ate last..... my mother told me I was looking really sick and deprived. In spite of a million persuasions I refused to go back with her, but promised to come down after I came to terms with Abhijit's ...departure....till then I needed to be by myself. I promised I wouldn't take my own life...he wouldn't have liked it..she was relieved but she was in doubt. But thought it was best to not disturb me further against my will.

The mirror showed me what I couldn't believe, a tear-stained face and drooping red eyes, my features had never looked so ugly before. For a moment I couldn't recognize myself. No wonder Mom was panicky! I look horrendous! For a split second I thought, Abhi shouldn't see me like this and almost started clearing up my face when I again realised that he wouldn't.

Papers and letters lied untouched on the study table...mostly related to Life Insurance and claims. Some medical reports. Some official documents of his that I couldn't make sense of. They all had typewritten statements of how he died, but none of them mentioned when he'd come back...

My wardrobe had a few additions in white and deletions of colours. So many other things had lost colour that the fabric mattered the least now.

I sat down on the sofa and turned on the TV. Led by some instinct, I switched to the Discovery Channel, like I usually did, and he'd come out of his study and settle down on my lap while watching life in the rain forests of Africa or vegetation at the Coral reefs in the Pacific. I'd gently massage his scalp while he'd be engrossed in the polyps and sea urchins, but would immediately react if I stopped.
I turned up the volume, still expecting he'd hear his favorite show beginning and come out of somewhere. No one came...
I turned the TV off...tears flowed again..

The scorching sun slowly started going down, as I stood watching the street  from my window, where the kids came out to play after school hours. I hadn't left the house in days...not since Abhi's accident. I hadn't seen the neighbours after the funeral. I didn't answer the doorbells or phone calls anymore, but they were relieved to see the shades of the windows going up and down, signalling that I was 'fine'. 
The kids cackled with happiness as they played...for a brief moment I smiled when I remembered something..

     "I want a daughter. I want only ONE daughter. Period.", he said, playing with my fingers. I loved it when he did that.
     "Why? What if we have a boy?", I asked, watching how nicely my hand always fit into his, and our fingers locked as if meant to be.
     " ..not a boy, Parul. Just one girl. Cute, little baby girl. Your beauty and my brains."
     "Why not a boy?"
     "Arey...they are so messy, baba..they scribble with crayons all around the house walls, they keep falling off bikes, they keep splashing in mud and catching frogs...they always stand outside classrooms and lag in studies...always restless and many reasons! A baby girl on the other hand will sit quietly in one place in a pink frock and piggy-tails, with a Barbie doll, all day looking unimaginably cute. So, a girl. Period."
     "Ha ha....that we can do to a boy, too, but then I can't say much about his future..", I heard his laughter echo through my own laughter tinkling in tandem with his. Bliss..happiness..


The clock struck six.
It was time when other husbands came back home to their wives. Cars came driving back from work and backing into their respective garages. Our car didn't come back to the garage that day. Neither did my husband...

Somewhere in the distance I could hear a clock ticking...slowly, and time wouldn't pass. The silence was deafening.
There was this emptiness that wouldn't go away...a void that would remain no matter how you tried to fill it up. I tried to stop thinking and flipped open my cell phone which I had thrown against the wall a few days back. Thankfully it still worked fine when I put the pieces together. It was weird not finding missed calls or SMSs from his number any more, a habit I didn't seem to grow out of. I wondered if I should change the wallpaper now. The picture of us together, both smiling in it like this is going to be forever, was stinging my eyes again. But I let it be...
I went to the Inbox and read the last one I had received from him:

'Booorriinnggg day at work baby, really tired, miss u..wish i was home :( wat r u up2? lunch was awesome, ur finally a gud cook ;) luv u. c u in evng <3'

I smiled. From Abhi's messages no one  could guess how long we'd been together. The same cute SMSs since the days of our early love that blossomed during college, till five hours before he would never message again...the same amount of affection in each one, knowing how important these little things were to me.....frequent messaging and calls every couple of hours.
Some days he would forget. I'd be very upset then and refuse to take his calls when he tried to make up.
He'd repeatedly call me till I picked up, and promise me he'd never forget again. Dozens of sorries later, I'd forgive him.
I thought of all the times when I ignored his calls and gave him the silent treatment. Somewhere inside me I had the urge to hit myself, thinking of all the precious moments I had lost, when I could have heard his voice, heard him say my name, heard him laugh, heard him say a thousand times that he loved me..

      "What if I die? What will you do, sweets?"
      "Come after you. Follow you around like a Vodafone pig."
      "Haan, whatever."
      "C'mon, seriously!" 
      "Remarry, of course! I'll get lonely you know!"
      "Get a pug, then! Or better still....I should leave around some thousand chits and letters here and there to keep you busy...'PS I love you' style...what say?"
"Wreally...tell me then, what should leave behind to make you feel better if something happens to me?" 
     "Shut up." 
     "Tell me tell me tell me...What if I die first??" 
     "Shut up!", he said and hugged me tight. I remember being scared by the tone of his voice back then.

This was no 'PS I Love You'. He didn't get the time to leave any hope behind. And the things that he did leave behind were too heavy a burden to carry for me.

It was already 10 in the night and I still hadn't done much throughout the day, except brooding over things. I knew these would only pull me further down, but I had to live with it. There is no way you can erase someone from your memories after spending half your life with him. If I had to follow the classic technique of getting rid of his things so that they wouldn't provoke memories, I'd have to burn the whole house down.

There was his presence everywhere. There was a strong absence, too.
The favorite cup he always had his tea in. His shirt thrown on the chair. Shoes lying in the corner of the room. His watch on the desk. Notes scribbled in his handwriting pasted on the door of the fridge. The books he loved neatly arranged on the shelves. The ring I wore on my finger. His backpack on the sofa. His spectacles on the study table. The photos in the frames. The marks I got on my hands during a playful banter in the kitchen when hot oil charred my skin in a minor accident. The left side of the bed. The sheets he used to sleep on. His CD collection. The walls in the house that he had painted himself. The aquarium he loved.

He's left everything he loves here, in this house. Wherever he is, he's certainly missing his belongings. Suddenly this thought strikes my mind...he can't sleep without my touch. He can't eat vegetarian food. He needs to be pampered like a baby all the time. He must be missing his books, there were quite a few he hadn't finished reading. He's too clumsy to take care of his own..He's not happy...he's not in peace...he's without me...he can't live without me..if there is life after death, then both of us need to be living the same life together, that was what I promised follow him like a Vodafone pig pug...

My hand involuntarily reaches out to the bottle of sleeping pills I had hidden from sight. I drain them down with cold water, and try not to think much in the next few minutes as sleep overtakes me.
The window shades won't go up tomorrow, the neighbours will know. I won't be dead and decaying, that's a good thing.
Ma will understand. That I need to go..She'll not cry too much, I hope.
This will be the first night, since he left, without nightmares, particularly the one from the first day we met in college, where he left me waiting without a bus to go home...

I can sleep peacefully today, even if the left side of the bed is empty..

Half in sleep, half delirious, I think I have texted something to his number: 

'C u in mrng. luv u. gn :-* '

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am speechless.......and also scared......