A warm gritty evening on an unusually cold day, where the fishermen rolled their boats into an eventful sea while the couples on the sidewalk sweated more from the heat than their intimacy; the sky was marooned with an appearing moon and the disappearing sun, peppered in bits and pieces by the ocean breeze which buffered in and out like the internet before 3G. It was an awkward time for a vacation but you got to take it when it’s up on offer, especially when you are a cop and holidays are hard to come by.
It had been a rough couple of weeks since the massacre in Maria’h and not a day had passed since then that I hadn’t woken up in sweats with pictures of blood brooding over from every inch of the subconscious frame. The shrieking children, the screaming survivors and the crying families of the deceased, the multiple bombings had left none untouched. I stood in midst of this chaos, unable to do anything when everything I valued was being burned to ground; ashes and only ashes was what I could see. While from the far corner to my right, I kept hearing a familiar cry, of a woman who I was once in love with. I could see her face, it appeared visibly shaken as she carried a dying person on her lap, may be waiting to hear his final words, maybe waiting for him to peacefully depart as there was nothing left to say then. I ran towards her with all my might but with every step I took, the distance between us only grew but somehow I was able to make it. Yet the moment I touched her on her shoulder, I woke up all of a sudden in angst. I woke up, as I saw myself there on her lap, with tears running along my cheeks.
Three days had passed, since we had arrived in Goa but it was only today that we finally decided to visit the beach. The crowd somehow made me anxious, more or less paranoid, of another possible strike. A small cracker in the neighborhood sent shivers down my spine, the hustling and screaming tourists on the beach were obviously a big no-no for me. But I finally budged and submitted to my two beautiful kids and my loving wife of ten years, Shalini. They took me to a relatively less populated beach of the Goan county where I comforted myself on the recliner, watching my wife and kids playing from a distance. There was a sense of calmness that presided; it gripped me off guard and left me to savor the moment without the paranoia that I was succumbing into, for the very first time since the days of bombing. In their noise, I somehow found my silence all over again, and for a moment at least I wasn’t burdened by my past. It felt good, finally.
“There was this man who I remember seeing couple of years ago, a peculiar individual in his own right. He was draped in a saffron dhoti with number of beads around his neck which in turn was shielded with his really longish grey beard. His hair was unkempt so was his walk, absent minded it felt. But his eyes had an altogether new story on offer. Despite the wrinkles sagging over his cheeks, his sunken eyes had remained full of life as if they had never aged. There was a sense of excitement in his voice as he narrated the tales from mythology related to the Dashashwamedh Ghat on the banks of River Ganga, the place where we had been for the past two hours. Our itinerary had a long list of places to cover, but we seemed to remain here transfixed.
The early morning sunrise, the moderating winter breeze and his nonchalant manner of storytelling became the perfect foil for the day. It was Tara’s idea to start our trip from Varanasi which I was hell opposed to, atleast initially. I had my reasons; it isn’t a normal occurrence for a couple to reunite after thirteen years of divorce and to start that journey together from a place of pilgrimage was something which I had my inhibitions about. After all no one wants to be reminded of their receding hairline and greyish hair, atleast I didn’t. Tara on the other hand had remained elegant and beautiful; her greying hair seemed to have complimented her much more. I am not denying that I may have been biased in my description about her, why wouldn’t I be? But she did, indeed, look graceful as always.
We were seated along the banks, facing the river, while the old man stood to our left as he narrated the story from Mahabharata. He continued in a deep tone, “King Shantanu…” while we sat hand in hand with a smile on our face. I realized only then how much I missed her. More than the place it was her all along who made all the difference, who made the world a little more bearable for me to survive. She placed her head over my shoulder as we kept hearing the old man’s endless stories with a child-like curiosity in our eyes.
A year later, the saffron cladded man was present with us again, this time hearing our Ramayana with a graceful smile while wishing us a successful marriage, which I really hoped to be this time around. He, although, remained a peculiar man with those youthful eyes and a frailing body but we, however, remember him often when we narrate our story of getting back together where he remains a graceful influence who rekindled our common love for stories, all over again.”
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