The Time - Part 1


Deeksha Posted: December 04 ,2013

The cab took a sharp turn and halted in front of the big gate that looked like an entrance to a big haunted bungalow. “Do you really want to do this?” A voice inside me interrogated. “9 long years and coming so far must hold some relevance” I suppressed that nagging voice with an unseen slap and stepped towards the gate after paying the cabby.

10 days ago:

“Are you sure they all left the city and nobody lives here now?” I was on phone with the last possible contact I could lay my hands on, for the information. “Yes ma’am, the entire family went to Australia, only an old lady is there who takes care of their old property at downtown.” “Ok thank you sir” .I hung up and repeated the address in my mind to make sure I remember it and then I quickly scribbled it on a pad. Then I dialled the directory service to find out the phone number for that bungalow. Got it...!!!

“Hello is this Rathore’s Property?”

“Yes, it is”. The old, dragging and a seemingly female voice at the other end answered in a conceivably low tone.

“I am sorry I may be intruding, but I really need to find out about Mr. Rajveer Singh Rathore, who is son of Mr. Dharamveer Rathore and was studying at Mount Carmel School in Delhi in his high school days. I understood that this is their ancestral property and there is somebody who could tell me about their current whereabouts.” I blurted all in a single breath.

There was a painful silence at the other end that lasted for few seconds, and then in the same dragging and low tone the reply came “Rajveer is here these days, visiting. You can come and meet if you want” and the line was abruptly disconnected. I stood there for about two minutes in utter silence, the mobile phone still stuck to my ear. It was a little hard for me to believe that my nine years long search was actually coming to an end.

Was I thrilled, was I anxious, was I nervous? I took a deep breath and came back to my senses.

Thoughts started to flood my mind as I went to make myself a cup of tea. Rajveer, my classmate, my buddy in school, got connected with me again through a common friend in my late college days.

About 12 years in the past:

I was in love with somebody at that time and was in my courtship during those days, to be married in few months. I met Rajveer in a party at a friend’s place and we both were delighted to see each other. We chatted a lot during the party and before leaving exchanged the numbers. The next morning he called and asked for a coffee which I said yes to, very excitedly. We met, we talked, we shared, we walked together, down the memory lane and laughed at silly happenings of school days, those two hours fled like few seconds.

“I am getting married in few months Rajveer. I am in love.”  Suddenly I spoke as I remembered that I have not told him about the most important event of my life, and I waited for a loud “WOW” from him, knowing his loud personality. But I was taken by a little surprise when I saw a dark cloud cover his face. “Really Smriti?” he uttered in a meek voice as if it took him all his strength. “Yes, aren’t you happy to hear that?” I was looking at him in confusion.

He got up to leave the table and before leaving he murmured “I thought this time I will let you know about my feelings and make you mine”. He placed a currency note under the glass to take care of the coffee bill and hurriedly went out of the door. I kept looking at the door for good few minutes, in absolute bewilderment.

Few weeks later, I called him, to invite for the wedding.

“How may I help you with your wedding preparations ma’am?” he said in his usual charming but “made amusing to the occasion” voice. I felt relieved and went back to being buddies instantly! “Listen Rajveer, all are busy in my family with the preparations and I have few invitations to be given to close friends, but I do not know how to drive. Will you do a favour for me and drive me to my friend’s places to give away the invitations”? “Why not Smriti, it will be my pleasure”.

...And the day that we spent together giving away the invites became an important part of my memoirs and is inscribed till date on my heart. He was a total delight to be with , joking around , laughing with my friends, going in the kitchen and making tea himself at one of my close friend’s house. Oh, I could never forget that, even today I remember all of it vividly. Married to the love of my life could not become an excuse to wipe him off my memories of him.

Love of life? Marriage? Oh yes, I got married with all that typical Punjabi pomp and show. It was a huge gathering, as if more than half of the town had been invited for the wedding function. He too came, dressed in an off white sherwani. If I have to confess, I did skip a beat the moment I had set my eyes on him, approaching straight towards me with a big grin on his perpetually charming face. “Congratulations Smriti, to you and your butter half “he winked and laughed out loud while shaking hands with Nikhil, my butter-half. He handed me a big box wrapped in a beautiful pink paper. “This is a little something, for remembrance”. He had almost whispered in my ear. The wedding went well and the life after that went on just about OK till I started my search for my lost friend Rajveer.

That little something, in that pink wrapping paper, was a Wall Clock, A wooden sculpted piece with beautiful primordial carving on the panel and frame. I loved it, so much that I preserved it for all those years after that, till I met him again. There was a note inside the box, that said “Dear Smriti, I am giving you time. All the best”. Was it some indication? I still have no clue about it and never gathered enough courage to ask him.

The news that had hit me hard after I returned from my honeymoon was that Rajveer had left for Australia with his family to be settled there. I was heartbroken and scolded him wordlessly for not leaving any forwarding address or contact number with any of the friends.

Two years after the wedding:

“To hell with you and your family and your work Nikhil. I am not your slave, I am leaving you, I want my life and for sure you cannot give me that”. I was shouting at the top of my voice and getting my stuff packed. I left my butter half’s house, my love and my marriage ended on a rather poignant note.

One year of loneliness ate up my senses and during that one year there was not even a single day that I had not spent thinking about Rajveer, his charm, his laughter, his everything that was embedded on my mind. The Wall Clock, the time that he gave me was stuck in my being till I decided to find him and tell him how I felt. That was the time I understood and I became certain of my love for him.

The things were not destined that easy for me. The search went on and on for nine long years as there was nothing that could lead me to him. I searched on every possible social networking site.  Every possible person with the same name received a letter or email from me but in vain. As if he had decided not to be found.

Then, this fortunate day of mine, made me bump into an old school buddy again who gave me his residence’s phone number where he stayed when he was in school. I called the place and rest is history.

I was in Bengaluru those days when I found about his ancestral property in Delhi, as I had taken up a job there to help myself forget the bitter memories of my own city. I planned a trip back home, something that I had not done in years! Nevertheless, this time I had a fair reason to do so.

Now:

Standing in front of the gate, I was sweating with anticipation grasping the cardboard box that I held in my hands, The Wall Clock, it was.  My hand trembled as I pushed the gate open and entered with relatively heavy feet. “Am I looking alright, will he recognise me?” I sheepishly asked myself. Crossing the narrow walking passage amidst the tastefully laid green plantations all around, I felt a surge of relaxation. A beautiful sight it was. I reached the huge rose-wood old door made of several panels and adorned with antique motifs all over. A reminiscent of huge entrances that big Havelis of Rajwarahs use to bear! I put my finger on the doorbell, heard a sharp, shrieking, disturbing sound and held my breath.

A pleasant looking, prudish lady, in her late fifties opened the door. “Hello ma’am. I am Smriti, I had called the other day for Rajveer” and I paused to search for any sign of question on her face. There was none. She was as calm as a wax statue. Expressionless! She quietly escorted me in. She signalled me towards a rather old but fluff looking couch and I sat uncomfortably! She disappeared in the hallway.

I started to check the interiors and the decor as I heard footsteps and saw him entering the room. I again held my breath. “Hi”, a middle aged man with salt and pepper beard and matching hair extended his hand towards me for a shake hand. “Rajveer?” I wanted to believe my eyes but I could not. But how can he be that aged in only few years.

We shook hands as he asked “How are you Smriti?” No sign of amazement or surprise as if he was expecting me already. He made himself comfortable on a sofa nearby. “I am good” I could finally mumble.

“It’s been long time. How is everybody in the family, your husband and all?” He asked casually. “ I got divorced only after two years of my marriage” I said in a low voice , hanging my head down , “ and since then I have been looking for you” that was a wordless addition only for myself . He could not hear it.

 “Oh I am sorry, must have been difficult” I looked directly into his eyes to see the pain matching his words. I was disappointed. Where is the The Love, The Time? I questioned myself.

“So, who all are there in your family? Your wife, kids, are they here too, it’s been so many years, isn’t it?” I tried to strike a conversation, more so to find out his marital status.

“No I am visiting alone. I never got married. I am here to sell off this property. I am completely settled in Australia now”. There still was no emotion. Not even a miniscule part of what I thought he would bear on his face when he would see me after all these years. I clutched to the Clock harder.

“Is he not happy to see me?” That stupid inner voice again? I budged it and pushed a smile on my face to lighten it all up. “Do you remember you accompanied me to give invites to my friends for my wedding?” I smiled foolishly, to pretend to be relaxed.

“I did? Really?” He displayed a confused expression on his rugged or so to say worn-out face. I felt as if I will crush the clock with my hands. I kept quiet.

“You know Smriti, I am sorry but I have to go and meet this real estate guy. I want to finish off with this business and fly back as soon as possible. Do not want to delay. I’ll have to ask for your leave if you don’t mind.” I stood up immediately, and he followed. “No, no it’s ok. Please carry on. I was just passing by and thought of visiting this haveli of yours”. I pushed another smile on my face to cover the lie that was so shamelessly making itself evident.

Grabbing the cardboard box in my hands, I hurriedly walked towards the big door. He came after me till the door. “It was nice to see you. All the best for your life ahead” and he turned back inside, before I could even say goodbye.

I was now literally dragging my lifeless legs to the gate through that passage again. I hated it now. On my way to the huge Iron Gate, while crossing the green plantation, I took out that Wall Clock from its cardboard box, gazed at it for a minute and quietly placed it near one of the several thick bushes. Stood up and ran out of that suffocation that was about to kill me.

I had bid my final goodbye to The Time that he had gifted me. It’s just that it took me nine long years to do that.

-          Deeksha

...rest in “The Time – Part II”

 

 





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