Literature & Fiction | 43 Chapters
Author: Shipra Sinha Sakxena
Aarna’s marriage is in the doldrums yet she has lost the zeal to save it.The death of her mother shakes her. Heart broken she stumbles upon her mother’s diary .Written some thirty three years ago , it talks about someone she met and fell in love at first sight. What follows is a fairy tale . A girl in her early twenties is swept off her feet by the man of her dreams. It’s a passionate , selfless tale of two lovers . Does this love story see....
As she walked out of the MCD office, Aarna felt a thud inside her. The fact that her only confidante, her best friend, her mother, had left her alone was established today in black and white when she collected her mother’s death certificate. The feeling of loneliness had now suddenly dawned on her. Consoling herself, Aarna made it to the road and impatiently boarded the autorickshaw. She was almost in tears when the driver, rather surprised, turned around to ask her where she was headed.
“Miss, where do you need to go?” asked the driver dressed in a grey uniform, who looked like he was in his fifties. His betel-stained, red teeth bore testimony to the fact that he had been in this business for quite a long time. A tear that had somehow managed to escape from her eyes, and had run nearly halfway to her cheek was glowing brightly on her face, embarrassed both of them. Aarna quickly wiped off the tear, and replied, “172, Mall road.” The driver immediately understood the gravity of the situation having picked her up from the authority’s office didn’t ask more and started the engine.
The way home seemed to have doubled now, for Aarna was finding it absolutely difficult to hold back her tears. As the rickshaw drove over to the last bend, she fumbled through her wallet trying to find the money while her tears made it impossible to see. The metre read two hundred and ten, however, this time the driver didn’t look her way to save embarrassment to both of them. She quickly handed over the money to him and reached out for her home while stumbling over her own feet.
Unlocking the door, Aarna quickly moved inside and closed the door behind her lest anyone should see her in this dilapidated state. Her patience had now completely betrayed her, and her silent tears now turned into bawling. She sat on the couch where she sat so many times with her mother having a heart to heart, the only difference being that now she sat there alone. The world around her came to a sudden standstill, the background traffic noises, the buzzing of the refrigerator, the sound of pipes had all died out. She could no longer hear them save her own voice. The memory of that day, which was just a week ago, came alive to her when her otherwise composite mother had called her several times during office only to find her daughter engrossed in a meeting. When Aarna had come out of the conference hall, she was informed of this and had made a quick call to her mother who in spite of sounding calm had a certain urgency in her voice. A voice Aarna could unmistakenly read, “I am sorry to have disturbed you at work, just wanted to listen to your voice. Could you prepone your visit to next week?” Had Aarna known that it was the last time she would be speaking to her mother, she would have boarded the next plane, for it was on that fateful night that Meera decided to call it a day in her sleep. Her last words were still ringing in her ears only to make her feel guilty and lost. There was so much to say, so much to tell, so much to ask, yet eternal silence was all that remained.
At twenty-seven Aarna was doing fine for herself. She was employed in a multinational company in Mumbai as its creative head and was residing in her own flat in the suburbs. Life was not as easy for her as it seemed from the outside. Though she had married her college sweetheart Uday, their job commitments had caused them to drift apart with Uday living in Germany while she chose to stay behind. Her marriage was clearly in doldrums, yet she was not sure if she wanted to give it a second chance. Their phone calls had reduced from daily to once in two weeks. With Uday living in Germany for more than a year now, she had forgotten what it felt like to be with him. The only committed relationship Aarna was in at the moment was with her job.
However, with her mother gone, her life had suddenly stopped with a screech. Sitting on the couch, Aarna found it extremely difficult to recall the last time she had met Meera. Though this time Aarna had made plans to spend the whole week with Meera, destiny had played it dirty. She remembered how her mother would always listen to her patiently on the phone while she kept complaining about her life, her job, and her circumstances. Meera would then tell her not to lose heart, be brave and to absolutely not to give up. Aarna knew that with her gone, that sort of support was impossible to find. The house which had always welcomed her with open arms now lay quiet, as if this was an indication of a vacuum that Meera had created in her daughter’s life. What hurt Aarna the most was why her mother didn’t tell her about her illness, why did she keep it a secret?
Meera always did what was best for Aarna, and Aarna surely knew this, even if it meant, sacrificing her happiness over Aarna’s. Their conversations were mostly about Aarna and her life and at this point, Aarna understood why she knew absolutely nothing about her mother or her estranged father. Growing up, Aarna never felt the need for her father. Meera was always juggling the role of both her parents, be it the annual day parade, the parent-teacher meetings, the basketball match or the socials.
Aarna stared into the emptiness of the house looking for answers to questions which would remain a mystery forever, not realising when she dozed off on the couch.
Her nap was interrupted by her phone buzzing in her tight-fitting jeans pocket. She quickly reached out for her phone, and without looking, she answered the phone. “Hi, How are you?” It was Uday. “I am Okay,” she replied. Their conversations had turned formal, since the last couple of months. “Have you collected the certificate? How are you holding up?”
“Yes, I collected it today. I am fine.”
“When are you going back to Mumbai? You can come to Germany for some time for a change.” Aarna knew Uday understood her loss more than anybody.” I will leave for Mumbai after a few days. The house is to be cleaned, and I think I will close it after clearing all the bills and everything.” She knew Germany wouldn’t save her from what she was going through at the moment. “Okay then, I will speak to you later. Call me if you need my help cleaning up. Bye.” The phone hung up. Aarna got up from the couch, resolving to start cleaning the house tomorrow morning, so that she may leave for Mumbai as soon as possible. The silence of the house was taking a toll on her, and she wanted to be out of there as soon as possible. There was nothing to hold her there now, not with her mother gone, or was there?
Though Aarna had gone to bed feeling resolved to start her day by cleaning the house, as she woke up, that feeling of loneliness took over her. She remembered how Meera would wake her up every morning with a cup of hot coffee and would then sit beside her running her fingers through Aarna’s hair and untangling her knots, just the way she would solve all her problems, easily. Aarna would then sit on the bed, and they would continue to chat for hours where Aarna would go on about her problems, and Meera would always give her a patient ear. Their heart to heart would always end up with Meera telling her not to give up. This morning had proved to Aarna that life without her would never be the same, she longed for her mother’s genteel touch, her warm embrace, her encouraging words.
Aarna found it difficult to imagine a life sans her mother, but she knew no matter how much she repented not being with her during her last days, that time will not come back. She cannot undo what’s already done. She could only imagine how badly her mother would have needed her by her side yet she never asked her lest it may meddle with her affairs.
Aarna looked at the timepiece, which was kept beside her bed and it reminded her that it was a gift from her mother on her eighteenth birthday. Everything in the house had a tale to tell, a memory which consisted of Meera and Aarna. The clock read 9 am, and Aarna realised she was again lost in her memories. She got up and resolved to start cleaning Meera’s closet, and she would begin by making a bundle of her clothes, which she would give to the orphanage that was situated just opposite her apartment. She opened her almirah and took out the hangars one by one and kept them on the couch next to the almirah. Every dress had a memory she cherished, and yet she knew she had to let go.
After fatiguing for half an hour, the closet stood empty. Aarna neatly folded all the clothes and kept them in two large cardboard boxes. Just as she was about to close the almirah, she noticed a rather worn-out notebook sitting neglected at the far-end of the top rack. Aarna quickly reached out to grab it climbing on the bottom rack. As she held the book in her hand, she tried to think of what use this could be to her mother. She didn’t remember seeing this notebook when Meera was alive and yet, judging by its condition; it was evident that it had a long relationship with Meera.
Aarna closed the almirah, took the notebook to the family hall and sat at the dining table. Aarna had known her mother to be a very private person for their conversations were always revolving around Aarna and seldom would Meera say or talk about her life, past or present. Her life as a kid or as a youngster, her first job, her first meeting with her now estranged husband, her family life with him, circumstances leading to her separation from her husband or how she managed her life after her divorce. At this time, holding the notebook in her hand, Aarna felt she should have spoken to her mother more often, should have asked how life had treated her, how difficult was it to be a single parent with absolutely no help, emotional or financial, from her father. All this made her feel guilty, and for the first time, she felt she had failed her mother for she never knew how she got on with life.
Aarna opened the notebook very carefully. The pages were stained yellow with time. By the look of it, she could judge the notebook had roughly 300 pages. The paper was crumpled and any mishandling would tear them up, so Aarna took extra caution while opening the diary. The very first page had a title written in black fountain ink, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” Inquisitive about Meera’s life, Aarna turned to the next leaf.
The First Meeting:
1 October 1984
Aarna knew Meera was born on Friday 01–12–1964, which made her approximately 20 years old when she penned this. Aarna continued reading the journal.
As I entered the bank premises, I saw him standing at the counter. Tall – around 6 feet, robust, athletic figure, dressed in a powdered blue denim jacket, royal blue shirt, and sky blue jeans and black shoes. He looked like every bit a gentleman. I was the sort of girl who would seldom look at a boy and be in awe of him, and yet there was something special about this one. The way he was talking to the old man standing across the counter, his interaction with the staff sitting next to him, the way he was carrying himself, it was all very impressive. It could surely be called ‘love at first sight.’
“Aditya sir, Manager sir is calling you,” called out the peon from across the hall. And so he gazed from across his desk to the far-end of the room, where I was standing. To be honest, I was staring at him. He looked at me, and for a few minutes, both of us stood there gawking at each other. There was no point pretending that we weren’t constantly looking at each other, and so we enjoyed gazing at each other.
“Aditya! Can I have a word with you?” It was the manager now who was standing right behind him, and his voice actually broke our moment. He smiled at me and turned around.
What was that? Why was I staring at him? And why the hell was he staring back at me? There was some connection between us. Some sort of energy. Our distant interaction was, no doubt, beyond explanation.
He followed the manager to his cabin. My eyes followed him to as far as they could. It was a treat to watch him. When he disappeared from my line of vision, I turned towards the customer support counter.
“Ma’am, I want to deposit this cheque,” I said as I held out the cheque to the elderly woman sitting on the other side of the counter, behind the glass partition.
The woman was writing something in a big, heavy register. She didn’t bother to look up; she pretended to be busy while I stood there looking at her. It was only after a couple of minutes that I realised she was in no mood to entertain me, and so I repeated myself.
“Ma’am, can you please help me deposit this cheque?” The result was no different this time. She ignored me and didn’t bother to look up. I waited for another couple of minutes standing in front of the counter. Finally, I decided to move to the next counter.