(The Short Story Was First Published In Northern India Patrika 06 February, 1999 )
I don’t know how it began and why we were forced to enter into each other’s life. We remained strangers but strangers who came too close to each other. I don’t know why destiny brings two people close to each other when the end result is nothing but separateness. In all these years the only thing I could observe in Seema besides her tortoise like ability to cut off from the ongoing happenings was love towards me-a secret well-guarded. An inherent simplicity that environed her mannerism added in her persona a magnetic charm. The love that she had for me remained embedded in her heart like pearls found in the depth of an ocean. It never surfaced on her face. There was never any external gesture that confirmed the presence of such a love that germinated inside her.
In the beginning when I had the first glimpse of her I kept pestering her for few months to tell her name but she would not. To most of my gestures she maintained deep sense of inner balance which matched brilliantly with calmness on her face. She was damn serious soul. To an extent that to my eyes she appeared to be the personification of seriousness!! Smile on her face like electricity in my house never lasted for long. Anyway, an occasional smile of hers always gave rise to deep bliss within my being.
In all these years there were some occasions which brought or rather produced chances to have some sort of intimate conversation but my habit to introspect kept my wishes in check. Probably, that was one of the prime reasons why I never tried to adopt a straight forward attitude in giving expressions to my feelings. Anyway, the years of so-called togetherness with her opened before me the unseen facets of a real and noble woman’s life. Tears, innocence, great will power to resist any gesture offending to one’s self respect and the great ability to prevent her identity from being dragged into unwanted controversy. She always maintained a safe distance from such distasteful experiences of life which are born out of lust and selfish desires.
In such an ugly and rough atmosphere I cannot say with conviction that she ever gave way to desire to read the feelings that lurked inside my bosom. I was far more determined not to let my face become mirror of my heart!! Perhaps I wanted to see whether she had the ability to go beyond the obvious or not. Often we judge a person on basis of their external mannerism. I wanted to see whether she understands and analyzes in stereotyped way or she gives way to unusual methods to arrive at the truth. In fact, that would have also given a fair idea of devotion and sincerity towards this strange love between us. I must confess that she, to an extent, failed have an insight of my real being and that had a pretty devastating impact on me. I gave way to certain depression.
However, I soon gave way to normalcy, realizing that her failure not to read my actual emotions is not the result of her lack of sincerity on her part. It’s because the atmosphere she was currently placed in muted her abilities to perceive the reality. Above all, I also realized that like an overloaded ass she was carrying bundle of unnecessary problems on her head. However, prior to her failure to intercept my real persona I always believed that she possessed the power to look beyond the obvious. Now I realized that she didn’t.
On a few occasions during chance face to face encounters I had to bear her anger arising out of my attempts to make room for conversation. Her face mired in anger did bring in open that a ray of hope existed. That she did love me. So her anger, instead of developing frustration, sowed seeds of submission in both the hearts towards each other’s beings. Perhaps it was this strange bond or strange likeness on her part, which she always wrapped within her negative gestures that persistently forced me to develop acquaintance with her. This always encouraged me to devise new methods each day to attain her trust, not letting my mind swayed by the negative and dull attitude of hers.
Why I wanted her love and closeness she never came to know. The way she understood me allowed her to merely gain insignificant set of outward emotions. However, I did not commit the fatal blunder of knowing a person via such casual approach. My eyes all the time tried to intercept emotions that she guarded quite well. So it was no mystery for me to trace the roots of her thought patterns even as we remained complete strangers.However,I was really taken aback by the fact that though she was mired in host of complexities she almost looked cool like ice. Her miseries had made me develop a deep sense of pity and sympathy for her
Inside her was going a fierce struggle to uplift her crushed identity, a fight to give her rejected beliefs their due place. She was living a life full of burdens. Her eagerness to get involved in studies in unusual manner often revealed her desire to have a secure future!! Her gloomy eyes clearly reflected the pains that possessed her life.
These were the real reasons that increased my affinity towards her.I had till now seen many hearts wiped out by the cruel hands of destiny. I was now making all efforts to prevent at least this soul from becoming victim of vicissitudes of life. Something that really made me sick was that even knowing well the tragic circumstances that were constantly chasing her I was simply reduced to being a spectator of these unfortunate developments. What else a stranger can do amidst such a scenario?
In this world we had given larger than life importance to things no better than pebbles fit only for a crying child. We never realize in this rat race to turn into a VIP soul that material things we chase in short human life have no happiness to deliver all by itself. Yes, they do provide happiness but it’s a short lived happiness that in the end leaves us more bitter and broken. She was chasing these very things. She was attracted to fanciful ambitions of life which might never provide her real happiness –the thing she really desired. In fact, they were going to multiply her woes.
An eventful life full of glamour and cheap idiosyncrasies are the things that guide the course of actions of people of our times. People are in the race but destination for most of them remains unknown!! The peace of mind which people seek sitting inside rooms that look like showroom of a multinational company remains an unknown entity for most of us. What a pity that we can’t locate cave of peace that exists within us!! The people have developed unconditional love for things that give us impermanent pleasure but permanent pain and frustration in the long run!!! Everyday I saw her inner perfection shrinking under the stress of problems that she carried with herself under the urgency to be something in life.
Sometimes I wished to say all that which I felt about her but then an unknown power reduced me to statue of silence before her. Perhaps a sense of fear that my outburst in that way could lead to serious misunderstanding prevented me to give voice to the emotions. I did pray to Lord to provide me deepen my bonds with her, enabling me to unlock my emotions in front of her. Oh! We both came to sing the same song all by chance in one of the practice sessions meant for farewell. A song attributed to strangeness of life. I am not angry but I am really puzzled over your affairs life-the song revealed.
However, the life followed its own predestined course of action .It never provided us desired moments to confess our hidden emotions. Soon she was to slip away from my eyes and memories to become a dead symbol of the past. Even after making best efforts I failed to change her course of actions, signifying that I had never any role to play in her life at all!!
Though I could not shape her life I feel that life would itself do that as it does all the time. It would give her a chance to discover inner happiness and prevent her from deteriorating in the harshness of life. Or else, like others, she would too get lost in the dark labyrinth of life. Today when I am alone I feel her presence even more .She was, indeed, phantom of delight.