SHE – part 2

By Shobha Diwakar 

~continued from last issue

Even as these fleeting thoughts gripped his wandering fancy, he turned the ignition, switched on the music and headed home.

When he alighted at the gate, a savory tangy fragrance greeted his hungry stomach. Nana had cooked his meal for the afternoon and the table was all laid up with delectable food, dessert and finely chopped fruits which were to be later given to “her”. She was still asleep soundly but perhaps his heavy footsteps woke her up. Her widespread yawn mingled with her angelic beauty, freshened his dullness. Her big starry eyes hooked on him gave a queer twist to his heart. My, what an exquisite beauty “she” was. How could he have neglected her when “she” desperately needed him during those trying days in bed? The doctor had diagnosed Typhoid and yet he had trifled with her health, had not even caressed her. How could he have been so heartless?  Well, he consoled himself that stage of life was now over and he had girdled himself up with his new found happiness in her goodness. Never, he vowed to himself would he ever leave her out of his sight or neglect her.

As Prachur turned the bath he was struck with an idea. These couple of weeks he had worked harder than usual, so why not skip office for a while and be at home to take care of “her?” Taking a quick shower he called office and informed them that he would not be coming for a couple of days and that no one should disturb him. He had it all planned out. He would sit by her bedside, read some interesting novel, or a book for her, whether she listened or not, was beyond the point. He touched her forehead, she still had temperature but her gestures were normal, her response positive, what more did he want? He was sure “she” would be walking about in another week or so.

Engrossed in his own thoughts Prachur hastily drew towards the bed. He had noticed “her” twisting and turning uncomfortably. Gently he caressed her, spoke sweet nothings but just tender words of love. She still had a fever but now he would not desert her even for a minute. Gently he picked her up and seated her at the table hoping that the sight of delectable food might tickle her nostrils and she might eat a morsel. But she just threw a glance and retreated into her cocoon. Prachur did not compel her to indulge thinking her system was yet not ready for a meal. Well he would strain some fruit juice later on. Maybe she might take it then. So he picked her up and strode into the living room; turned on the TV to listen to some soft music, that might refresh her a bit and presto! It did. What a bliss it was to be blessed with someone like her.

The warmth of the noon made him drowsy. She too was yawning. Probably her weak body needed more time to recoup. That was a good sign. So he gathered her up in his arms and laid her on the bed and soon she was fast asleep. He too laid himself by her side, threw a protective arm around her and as he did so, she threw a coy glance at him as though responding to his touch, which sent a thrill down his spine and a second later she was sound asleep like a young babe in arms.

He dreamt she was standing by his side with her usual captivating smile that lit up her beautiful face that always bewitched him. He stretched out his hands to hold her but she seemed to recede, so he withdrew and just kept himself away from her image. Everything flashed before his eyes. They were returning from a movie and suddenly she had complained of feeling unwell. He had rushed her to the hospital and without further ado, he had been ordered to keep her there overnight for observation. Prachur was rather taken aback. There was nothing really wrong with her .Probably it was the heat and may what they ate at the ‘dhaba’ had upset her. She was always so particular about her health and this sudden discomfort had put them both off. But the doctors had nothing yet to say and so all that was over for the while. There was nothing he could do either except sit by her side and hold her hand to comfort her restless breathing. Wasn’t she alright a few hours back? He softly murmured to himself as though it was his entire fault. Oh God! He whispered to himself, why don’t the doctors tell him anything? Why this silence? It seemed to fill him with an unknown fear. And then the worst was gently hurled at him “She” had only a few months. The cancer had devoured her cells and there was nothing anyone could do. It was too late. She had never complained and this now came as a cold blast. Was God going to snatch her away from him? His whole life revolved round her. She had always been so loving, so supportive, so meek, so humble, and ever so gentle.

Those were days of anguish. Prachur was completely broken but always put up a brave front before her. As days passed by she grew weaker and weaker till finally one day she left him for her heavenly abode. Prachur was devastated. It seemed just yesterday that she was around. Her timid footsteps echoed in every corner of the room. He swung around each time he heard her calling or the soft notes of the songs she often hummed rang incessantly from every corner of the room. Now she stood there, her loving arms spread out …. He woke up with a jerk. He was alone and faced reality. She was no longer there. Her retreating figure had melted into the blue of the day and he was alone, very much alone. Yet the memories of his marriage, the happy days they had spent together sometimes hammered him like a vicious nightmare. Their happiness was short lived. Had an evil eye been cast upon them? Why had God been so unkind? Prachur racked his brains but got no answer and then he recoiled with the thought that he would now have to face life alone, all, alone. What had life now left to offer?

Just then he heard a whispering sound. He broke out of his reverie in time to see her wriggle out of bed. She glanced at him benigly with a candid look in those innocent emerald eyes that sparkled in the sun. Transparent and glittering, as if they would drown you in their depth; she was oblivious of his ruminations and appeared to analyze this strong, young and handsome man by her side as a sturdy support in her life. He too looked askance. She was his, both belonged to this empty house; she was trying to cuddle him and he eagerly responded that tickled his own long spent up feelings with a fresh vigor. He wondered if she thought or remembered those days of neglect, but hush, something like a

whisper, a feathery touch silenced his agitated thoughts Was she  there again? Was she giving him a message? Yes. She seemed to have crept beside him on tip toes and so he had missed seeing her. She flushed in with the cool breeze and before he could hold her, she had disappeared. Prachur pinched himself again. Was he dreaming? No, of that he was sure. But was it true that the dead come alive if you do not let them go? Well he consoled himself, he had no wish to trouble her; had she become a ghost because of his pining and was coming to him again and again, consoling him and pleading to be set free?

Even as these thoughts crossed Prachur’s mind a cold shiver shook him gravely. From now hence he vowed to himself that come what may he would keep himself occupied with his work and his pretty….? How could he forget that the spirit of his departed love was being tortured by his despair? It broke his heart to think about it. So finally he decided to put away her belongings in a box and stow them in the last shelf of the attic. He had not let her things leave his presence and that had kept him tied to her. He had to break away from the past and renew his life as before or maybe at least try to be less self centered. His brand new life looked up at him as if cheering him on. So that was that. His mind was now more at peace with himself. He strode forward gave her a big hug and a warm kiss on her forehead and that sweet upturned nose.

Now eighteen years have passed. Prachur has steadily been growing old .His forehead was now marked with a receding hairline. Horn rimmed spectacles adorned his handsome face. Life had made its own compensations and he had accepted the loss of her as God’s will. Her image was before him, sharing each other’s company as never before. They traveled all over to far off lands, visiting the rarest of places he had thought of visiting with her but could not. Yes, but that was an unfulfilled dream he could not complain about. At least now he was enjoying the past in the present. What the future. She was with him and so there was no looking back. They spent their leisure hours together listening to each other’s yarns, laughing together, holding hands and teasing.

Today is her birthday. They are celebrating it with quiet brevity along with a few of Prachur’s friends who had stood by him. Both are silent, enjoying the dimly lit garden where a table has been laid with the choicest delicacies. The event is a special blessing though it is sure to cause an upheaval in Prachur’s life and after all these years of blissful happiness the chord is once again going to be cut off.  Social norms demand it though there is no hard and fast rule about it now. Tears of happiness tumble down his cheeks as she looks up at him with those emerald eyes, compelling him to smile, despite the clouded frame of mind into which both are caught.  Quickly he brushes them aside and throws his arms around her adoringly. He has lived his life in her shadow, now it is for her to begin hers; she is shortly getting married to an army officer and will begin her new life with him. She, his daughter had finally found her wings and would now adorn another home. She would soon leave her nest but not her papa ….  He would always be there for her, and she for him.

About the Author: Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical. Dr Diwakar  servers on the Advisory Board of and editorial board of CLRI (contemporary literary journal India) for poetry and short story section.

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