The room was dark and warm. The heater, which had been heating the room continuously for more than two hours, had made it warm. A shaft of mild light from a street lamp, after filtering through mango leaves and dark green curtains, was falling on her face, illuminating those big beautiful eyes. Beside her Ashok was lying on the bed, just few centimetres away, holding her hand in his and gazing into her hallowed face. Her lips were slightly parted which though a little thick looked very cute. The room, like her face, looked calm.
Outside this cocoon, it was bitterly cold. The street lamps were in full glory, trying to pierce into the armour of fog, but in vein. There was a very slight breeze, which made the atmosphere a little colder, but none the less more romantic.
Cocoon, however, was oblivious of its surrounding, just like an isolated system in chemical thermodynamics. Its two inhabitants could feel each others’ exhaled air on their face, which felt warm, and sometimes gave a tingle on nose. It was a pleasure to hold her tightly. No, it wasn’t lust, for there was no pleasure in the groins. But it was something very hard to describe, like the taste of water on your parched throat- though tasteless but tasty.
There had been many nights which passed like this in that warm cocoon, with Ashok stretched on the bed beside Piyali, holding his hand around her shoulder looking deep into her eyes while telling the new story he had written. There was an enchanting world inside her eyes where he got lost often only to find himself brought out of it by her. Today he had to remain extra careful. He could not afford to get himself lost. After all he had some duties to perform. The duty of a bread winner to supply the monthly ration after his father got disabled, the duty of a brother to earn for the dowry of his sisters. He had already wasted years writing those silly stories in which no publisher was interested. Now he could not afford to waste anything else.
‘Has something struck you? You looking so dumbstruck?’ she sounded a little anxious.
‘Just got struck by your dazzling beauty ma’am, I can’t describe how beautiful you are looking today’ replied Ashok, in a manner it seemed as if he was rehearsing a romantic classic. The words had their effect which showed in the form of a pink blush on her face making her look more innocent. ‘I know why you are praising me today’ she said, trying to hide those blushes and look sterner. ‘But don’t think that I will get fooled. No entry into my room if you don’t have a story to tell. Go away right now if you don’t have anything to tell.’
‘See I don’t have a story today. I will tell you two stories some other day. Put one story on my credit account. Charge some interest on it if you wish so’ pleaded Ashok.
‘No credit, only cash’ came the reply in a manner of a child playing the role of a bania in a play.
‘What?? You charge money? And all these years I had been thinking of you as a respectful girl’ mocked Ashok with a mischievous smile on face.
‘Shut up’ she shouted, with a light giggle on her lips and hit him lovingly on cheeks with her both hands. He in turn held both her hands, kissed them lightly and then in an artificially serious tone said ‘I am going to Middle East, will earn a lot of money there and like sheikhs there I will also have a big harem of my own having beautiful Arab women’
‘If you want me to envy you for it then my dear Ashu you are wrong.’
‘No, I just thought you will envy those beautiful Arab women’ giggled Ashok, looking at her intently. Her brows were slightly arched but at the same time her mouth broadened a little giving on her face a look of mild pleasing frown. The kind of look people generate when hearing a good joke being targeted on them. She mumbled something but stopped, but Ashok was not in mood to stop. ‘But don’t worry, I think I will miss you’ he continued ‘Sometimes’ he added after some moments with even broader giggle.
By this time Piyali was completely enraged; her female vanity hurt. ‘What do you think? I can have many storytellers, like you, employed for me round the clock for their service. You go to hell or your harem in Saudi Arabia, I don’t care.’ She started blabbering. The more she saw the expression of mockery on his face the more her rage rose. ‘And don’t dare to miss me. I was never yours. I have not cancelled the ticket my dad has sent me for my engagement with Sushanth. I know he is better than you, not at all as mean as you’
Hearing the name of Sushanth the mockery on his face vanished which eased the frown on Piyali’s face. She relaxed a little, now it was his turn to settle the score. ‘You know, he has a big bungalow in Delhi where we will enjoy a very happy life after marriage. I will have lots of children, can’t imagine how much fun it will be.’ She was relishing the fun now. Ashok’s face looked blank now and he seemed to be lost somewhere.
‘What happened, are you feeling jealous of Sushanth?’
Ashok forced a smile on his face and said that of course he was jealous of anybody getting a wife as nice as her. Piyali was again at her usual cheerful self. ‘So do you think that I can make a nice wife?’ she inquired with the innocence of a child. ‘Haan baba, off course you will be the best wife anyone can have’ replied Ashok with a little weariness, but it pleased Piyali.
‘Don’t worry; I am not going to marry Sushanth. You are my kuchu kuchu man’ she started playing with his nose, pressing it and then rotating the tip in all possible direction.
‘Piyu, has all the issues settled between your dad and mom? You know that you can’t take any big step at this point, else it will hurt both of them badly’ Ashok sounded very worried. ‘In what an intricate web we have got ourselves entangled. There are some duties to be fulfilled, then your love life need to be taken care of. And then, as if these were not complex enough, people generated another nasty thing called Divorce’ said Ashok, the philosopher, to which Piyali cut him short and said ‘can’t you novelists stop sermonizing others. How many times I have said that things are going to improve, and once all the issues between my mom and dad are settled we will marry. I know that it will take some time, but it will be settled one day. But why will you bother about my point?’
‘I even doubt that whether you love me’ she continued with a hint of tear in her voice.
‘I love you Piyu’ replied Ashok, almost pleadingly.
‘How much?’ was the next question to which he got up on the bed, stretched his hands perpendicular to his body and said ‘this much’ and then immediately fell over her, with hands still in stretched position. She squirmed loudly and then started to tingle him. He started giggling to which she also giggled. They laughed like children till they got tired.
‘I love you’ she whispered very softly in his ears when she started feeling sleepy.
‘I love you too, and will miss you always’ he replied
‘Nothing dear. Goodnight’
Piyali slept for what seemed like an eternity. After getting up when she didn’t find Ashok, she fell back to sleep again. She got up again and seeing Ashok still missing she got out of bed looking a little worried. The door was unlatched from the inside and there was a white sheet of paper on the table, with something scribbled on it in very dirty handwriting. Obviously it was Ashok’s. She picked it up and started reading.
I know how you will be feeling after reading this letter. You know that I never believe in explaining myself to you, you are a part of me and so must be knowing it quiet well that why I did it. The moment you will be reading this letter, I will be on a flight to Kuwait so there is no point stopping me. I must have told you about a friend Sujeet who has been working in Kuwait. Sujeet has got a job for me there. It will take around 5 years of work in the oilfields of Kuwait to get enough money for me to fulfil the responsibilities I had been avoiding till now and makeup for the time I have wasted in trying to publish my silly stories. I know you love these stories so much and that’s why I have kept all the manuscript in your cupboard. You had been criticising my lousy handwriting forever so initially I thought to have computer typed prints of it, but then decided against it. My handwriting will remind you of my lousy face and I know that from now onwards you are going to love it.
Now the big question which must be in your mind- I am fleeing in the dead of the night because I don’t want you to see me doing this. I didn’t tell you tonight about all these because you would have never liked it. Your cries would have made things unbearable for me which I wanted to avoid. I wanted to imprint a beautiful smiling picture of yours in my mind which would sooth my mind whenever I remember you. A picture with lots of giggling, full of innocence mixed with little rage. I got it today. Thank you for this.
Call me a coward for not having the courage to part with you face to face, call me selfish for not being there with you to wipe the tear drops from your beautiful eyes but please never doubt my love. There are people who are better than me in all the qualities but you will never get a person who can love you more than I can.
Will be missing you badly