“I lay there among many other envelopes at the corner of a dark room, the room which the just married couple had used for storing their glittery presents and beautiful bouquets that they had received at their reception. It was a fancy affair I must say which actually made me feel left out; I was a simple white envelope which didn’t have even a tiny glitter at its ends, so you surely can understand the inferiority I was going through.
I was cramped here in this room for both space and breath as Paisa Bhai, a healthy looking envelope, had landed over me in search for comfort. It had a smell of wealth all over it which made it harder for me to survive as I tried with all my might to retain the impressions of the tear drops and the smudges my owner had left over me. He was a sad man, who wouldn’t be, especially when he had found out that the girl he loved for the past ten years is going away from him forever. He didn’t have the courage to profess his love for her, to his best friend, but now when he had the letter ready, it was a little too late.
Still he stood adamant; he wanted her to know, at least understand what he had always felt. So when he took that teary eyed letter wrapped in me to the stage where she stood, I sensed his grip loosening while his hands started to tremble with fear. In midst of all this, I finally caught him with tears in his eyes when her eyes met his. I felt for him when he realised how happy she is, with her would-be who was standing next to her, flaunting a bright smile together. It broke my heart, my paper heart.
I could feel the tears over my body as my owner slowly removed the letter at the very last minute, and scribbled a saying over me for his best friend to read.
“Envelope is too small for me to put any gift into, after all it’s you Priya, it’s you. Only thing that would suffice would be to gift myself to you with a promise to be your side as a friend forever till my breathe would last. Keep that smile up princess, always!”
Suddenly the dark room door opened, and Priya walked in with her bridal dress still put on. She slowly searched in the flickering light, hugging me close as she found me and finally re-reading the lines with a silent tear and a smile as she ended.”
“Humanity, love for a fellow human being, is it some sort of a bargain we have to dish out every time we meet or converse with an another. Does it come out naturally to us or is it forced upon, like the innumerable veils we garb ourselves with. Couldn’t we just enforce a default and forget paying back the goodwill which others generously spend on us. Why can’t we treat it as an economic good, scare and non-renewable, using it only when we generate profit from it. Isn’t manipulation a quality? Why is it seen as a crime? Why do people see me as a misfit when they do what I do but only implicitly? It’s a strange world out there.”
The invisible thoughts flew around one after the other as I finally kept the nib up and rounded the diary back to the shelf. I had bigger things to focus upon, bigger for the moment I was in. It would be my 5th robbery today and the art seemed to flow naturally for me. Despite being only twenty, I already had a high reputation in my circle to live up to. Coming to repute, let me make one thing clear, I am no robin hood, which I think you have already figured. I have no remorse at what I do, nothing whatsoever. Though I do keep my count, the number of things I messed up during previous heists, the ones I should avoid this time. I keep looking for that perfect score, the invisible stature where I would walk in and walk out, unknown, untouched, like I was never there. But anyways that’s the dream.
Tonight, I had circled on the house at the corner, the one with the beautiful garden. Something I haven’t told you yet, I had wanted to become a florist when I was a little kid before I was pushed into our family business. It wasn’t exactly a push, it came naturally to me, may be that’s the reason I started early. Please don’t mind these thoughts; they keep flying by. Coming to the house I was talking about. It had been locked for over a couple of weeks. I inquired around, they all seem to say that it would take another week for the family to get back. That night as I lay inside on the sofa, watching my favourite serial “FRIENDS” on my iPad, I heard a chatter from outside.
“Dad, please open the door. I can’t hold it anymore.”
“Darling, be a good girl. Dad is trying to find the keys.” Tara replied.
“Ah, there it is!”
Ryan opened the door as Arya pushed her father and stormed inside.
“Careful, the lights…” Ryan stopped in between as his eyes lay upon the lighted iPad in the dark living room. There were series of laughters that were coming out from it.
Ryan went for the lights while Tara went to take a look at the puzzled activity on the sofa. The lights came on while I stood behind Tara with my knife on her throat. Ryan stood startled as Arya rushed and clutched onto her father’s leg in shock.
“Don’t come close!” I shouted.
“Leave her right now. Take whatever you want, but leave her.” Ryan shouted back.
“If I say I also want her then?”
“Joey doesn’t share food” the iPad roared.
“You fucked up shit. How dare you!” Ryan charged ahead.
“Stay where you are Mr. Ryan. Am I not in the position of strength?” As I kept the knife even more closer, drawing the first blood. Tara screamed in pain, her eyes were tensed but she didn’t mumble a single word.
“Please. Leave her! I am sorry, leave her.”
“You sound genuine! So little girl what should I do now?” Ryan kept moving his daughter behind himself. She was inconsolable, crying loudly in a shrieking voice.
“Ask her to shut up. I hate kids when they cry.”
“Please leave her. Take whatever you want, please.”
“Okay. I see you have a point.” Smiling at the irony as the song plays out from the tab, “I will be there for you…”
I took the bag from his hands, and moved towards his car still holding the knife on his wife. I asked her to sit beside quietly. She kept quiet, who wouldn’t when you have a knife on your throat. Ryan was pleading to leave her alone, but I wasn’t yet sure of their loyalty. I heard none of what they said, and whistled past the place with the bag and Tara. Ryan did run behind the vehicle but I think the vehicle was faster, indeed it should be, horse power you see.
It was only in the morning, Tara returned home. She wasn’t her normal self anymore. Though her clothes were untouched and she carried no injury, her eyes screamed in pain, as if something broke within her and wouldn’t possibly glue forever. “Only if they hadn’t returned home that night, things might have been much different, only if”, she thought.
“I always felt that it was me who had to apologise first. The spontaneous anger, the emotional fallout and finally the apology, they all seemed to happen at quick pace for me. I didn’t wait a lifetime to apologise, I felt what could be corrected soon needs to be addressed first. So time and again I had a fallout with someone, I was the one to approach for a patch up. It did feel annoying after a point of time, especially when the mistake pointed to the other side. But a habit so organically inculcated wasn’t easy to forego, even if it meant to be taken for granted by many.
The first time I realised this was when Priya and I parted ways. It was her decision which I had to honour, but my heart wasn’t someone who forgot easily. I tried to patch things up, over and over again but it was of no avail. I kept calling, leaving messages, sending emails and what not, but there was no sign of reconciliation. The habit became the culprit for the progressional loss of my self-respect, which I realised it only then. It didn’t stop with that as I went through a series of falls, one deeper than the other, before I finally made a tryst with myself of never loosening myself to any other, whatsoever. There is a wise saying that goes like this that you only realise the value when you finally lose it. This time I cherished and held that self-respect tight, but I didn’t know then that it was too tight for anyone to enter, until that night with Tara.
It was the third month of our marriage when we had our first big fight. It started on some petty issue which I can’t remember now but it escalated to bigger and important things in our lives, and a fight was bound to happen. That night we slept, without our usual conversation, in sheer silence and before she woke up I left for my office. That’s how I trained myself to be, to move out before I succumbed to my habit. It was around noon when I got her message. I knew that she had an off that day and would be going to meet her parents who lived an hour away. So I basically thought that some away time would cool her off and we would hopefully move on from the issue. An apology was the last thing I expected. But her message took me by surprise as she came forward apologised, that too for a mistake I committed. I had pulled out her ex-boyfriend’s name during the fight which I had promised I would never use. It was disappointing from my side, knowing very well that the position he held for Tara and the point that he was no more. But still she came forward, she came for me.
I reread her message, this time a little loudly in my mind, “I am really sorry for yesterday, if it’s possible please make it early for dinner. I would be cooking something special for you :)”. It broke something deep in me as my eyes glittered with tears for having someone with whom I could finally be myself. She was the one for me, she remains to be the one.”
“She appeared from behind, slowly measuring her steps before she took them. The crowd stood agitated in front of her house while she stood before them, head down. Between her and the crowd stood her father and Ram. The noise grew louder with every dialogue her father and the crowd spoke, ultimately it was her father who had the last say. The villagers returned back to their humble huts but a decision was still not taken. Her father had to approve of Ram which was in no case easy. He belonged to a different region, a different caste, and most importantly even his parents weren’t in agreement with him in this. This made the matters more complicated but Sita was determined. She spoke to her father animatedly, spoke for the man she loved at par with her father. It wasn’t something easily digestible for the village headman, her father, but he heard her patiently while Ram stood at one corner. He glanced at him, but both men shared no words. It was Sita who did most of the talking, only to be stopped by her father to bring Ram in front. Sita looked at Ram with tense eyes, of not knowing what was to unfold now, whether her father would approve the match. It was their decision, together, to marry only if both their families agreed. Now there were thoughts in Sita’s mind questioning that decision, especially after what just happened a little while ago.
The sight of charging villagers with lathi in their hand, standing in unison with their Thakur Saab wasn’t a pleasant sight for both of them. Ram had tried initially to convince Sita’s father but Thakur was in no mood to listen. He shouted at Sita at peak of his voice while the crowd jingoistically held their lathis high to make a strike. Thakur was able to understand the mood of the mob better as one among the mob yelled out, “Thakur Saab, give us a chance we will beat this scoundrel to death.” While yet another screamed out, time and again, “Kill him!!!”. Thakur Saab with a loud and clear voice yelled at the mob to disperse. “It’s up to me to decide. You all go back home, right now.” They tried to resist his words initially but no one dared to go against Thakur. They silently turned back and walked towards their huts.
Finally Ram spoke again, unrestrained as he usually does, it sounded intimidating to even Sita. But Thakur wasn’t the one to be cowed down by Ram’s rhetoric. The discussion turned into a debate with no man relinquishing their ground, they toed each other on every issue. After almost half hour, the men sat down on their respective chairs. This time the talk went more subtle, and humble. It was Thakur who relented first, Ram only realised it late that it was his turn to mellow. By that time Thakur had asked for two large glasses of lassi for one another. They slowly gulped it down along with their over expressive ego. It was dusk when Thakur finally agreed about Ram; Sita was sitting along with her father, throughout the conversation, facing Ram. She hadn’t moved an inch, it was her future which was at stake. Now their dream of being together was finally coming through, Sita let out a big smile as her father ended his sentence with a ‘Yes’.
Sita kept smiling as her eyes remained transfixed at Ram while Ram had his eyes always on Sita, especially when he thought he was faltering in the conversation. Her eyebrows rose in fear every time she felt Ram crossed the line, and Ram toned down the conversation as he saw that expression on her. Those little unsaid things which the other understood by a mere expression became the defining factor of their relationship over the years. They weren’t the vocal kind who held long conversations with the other in the name of romance, it wasn’t their thing. They belonged to a different category all together, the ones who were willing to just sit idly in front of each other, without even speaking a word, and still not get bored. That special was their bond, something which words could never define, something which one could feel but fail time and again to describe. Today would have been their thirtieth wedding anniversary but things never pan out the way they should.
Ram settled down on his usual seat near Sita’s favourite place, the one facing Mount Shalimar. He reminisced those moments leading to their marriage as a tear rolled down his cheek. Five years is a long time, but his Sita Mahalaxmi was not someone he could forget so easily. Ram never tried to either; he lived with those memories, some brought about a smile and some like today, brought out an odd tear. Isha, his only daughter, walked towards him, “Shall we leave, Dad?”. He didn’t reply. She asked again,”Dad?”.
“Sorry!” He brought out his handkerchief and wiped the silent tear gently. Then responded with a low voice, “You go ahead, I will join you for dinner.” Isha looked at her father for a brief moment, then asked Anwar Chacha to make sure that he doesn’t stay for long. And then she left while Ram Shankar sat back on the bench, losing himself all over again in the memories he had created with Sita. But sadly he was all alone to relive them over and over again.”