A Short Story…

The deep blue sapphire lay in my palm. Expensive, but useless to me.I had arrived at my ancestral home after 20 long years and everything had remained the same except that one thing! .That one thing which still struck me hard in my heart like a lightning. I just couldn’t shrug that feeling. Damn! Why the hell did I come back here.. After all that happened to me.

My pet dog Bruno appeared out of nowhere and tickled me till I jolted back to reality, my daughter Riya was waiting for me inside the house, bored and frustrated. I reluctantly got up and went inside may be the gem would make her happy. My mom was preparing dinner in the late summer night. She had just finished cleaning the hall and the kitchen. I had been nominated to clean the verandah and the garden area,that’s when I remembered the Neem tree at the far corner and the little secret that I had dug at its roots twenty years ago. The atmosphere was a breeze outside, it bore a sweet monsoon scent from a far land, rousing my senses. I turned towards the neem tree, memories flashing to me like a bioscope. All these years I had kept this secret in my heart ,thinking about it occasionally when I was alone.I started digging in the roots of the neem tree with my bare hands, every stoke of my hand-made my heart beat harder and harder in my ribcage.i finally found the red cloth that was dug haphazardly in the heat of the tension that was around my house.i was scared and wanted the object hidden before anybody could lay eyes on it.I had wrapped in a red piece of cloth,torn from my dupatta and dug as fast and as deep i could, promising myself that i would forget everything about it and move on in my life but had i really moved on ?.I had no answer to this question because even though i had not thought about Rehan for quite some years ,deliberately pushing those memories away from my mind but after the death of my husband Sidhhant it was difficult not to think about the other guy in my life who had touched me emotionally so deep, even though Rehan and me didn’t have an actual relationship ,still it was my first account with love and memories of that night when we spoke for the first and the last time remained with me buried in my heart but not forgotten.

I could hear Riya talking to my mom about my aloofness, which was strange to her as her mom was always chirpy and alive, in the moment. The news of my grandfather passing away had reached us in Chicago through a call from my elder brother and even though we knew we wouldn’t make it on time for last rites, we had come to India to fulfil his wish to bring all his grandchildren to gather at our ancestral home. The slowly unwrapped the cloth and the blue gem sparkled in the moonlight. I wondered what had he gone through, to get this gem for me. It was so expensive and precious gift.I remembered i had been so overwhelmed with it that,it instantly became my symbol of love. And after all these years, it was still the same, shining in the moonlight.

As a teenager, I was a spoilt brat, being the only girl child with two elder brothers and first girl child of the family. There was not a demand of mine that would go in vain. My family made sure I had everything in plenty, be it toys to expensive jewels. I had a fetish for gems from early childhood. Less had I known these pieces of stones would later mean nothing to me more than that one person whom I wanted from all my might but alas, my demand was of course not fulfilled. I met Rehan on my way to school, he was busy chatting with the boys and as always he had his eyes on me. Pretending to ignore me when I looked towards him. This had been going for past two years now.. I knew he wanted to talk to me, but the spoiled brat that I was, I didn’t so as to look at him all the while dying to hear him talk to me. Sometimes I would repeat in my mind how he would sound.. I would imagine his voice to be as soft as silk and as husky as a grown man. The thought would tickle my senses and I would pray to God that the day arrives soon. Although in the back of my mind, I always knew that day would never come as I was a Hindu and he was a Muslim and hailing from this part of town where racism was at its peak. It was impossible for him to come up to me without being beaten to pulp from my elder brothers, family or any other Hindu’s who thought it was their right to poke into others business. Riots were frequent here and there won’t go a single day where we didn’t hear a Muslim been slaughtered to death or a Hindu has been murdered by Muslim. Still, there was a hope deep in my heart. What else could I cling to, apart from hope, what else could I do, how would I ever confess that I fell in love with that stranger whose name was Rehan. A sharp pain arose in my heart and my tears threatened to flow, when my daughter Riya stirred me again this time with joy dancing in her eyes. She had apparently seen the sapphire, she took it out of my palm and placed in her’s and it looked so serene in her petite palms.I explained to Riya that this was gift from my Grandpa and a family heirloom to which my mother looked at me shocked, I gave her a pleading look and sighed I would have to explain her the reason later .For some reason she did understand my sign and let go of that matter. I rose from the chair and kept the stone in my bedside drawer, I would have to think what to do with it later, maybe I will take it back home or maybe I will leave it here and not think about it ever. I had carried it for so long in my heart and I was so tired of this feeling that I no longer willed to do so in future . After Sidhant I had also wanted to move on with my life, but Rehan and his symbol of love was always there to deter my feeling of falling in love again. Wasn’t it the same when I was with Sidhant?. Even though we were married there was a reserved space for Rehan in my heart .We had a happy life and more than couples we were good friends, maybe that was the reason our marriage had sustained so long.

After we had dinner and everyone slept, I went out on the veranda and sat there thinking. Sleep was not my guest tonight. Memories started flooding my mind, I was sixteen and the thought of being in love was refreshing and exciting to me.I knew he was attracted to me.As days passed by I could no longer curb my feelings. The day I smiled at him for the first time I could swear I heard his sharp intake of breath, even though we were on the opposite side of the lane. He looked completely stunned. I desperately wanted to talk to him to divulge what I felt for him, but had no courage, so i mustered up all that I had and gave him first sign of friendliness by smiling at him. After that encounter we would slyly smile at each other whenever I passed the same lane , but never dared to talk to each other.Finally one day I heard his name been spoken in my house I ran in the hall and saw my father explaining to my brothers that, why they should not mingle with those roadside` lafangas’ meaning rowdies and that’s when I heard his name again ,my father was telling my brother that ,kids like Rehan and his entourage had political background and his father was against Hindu political parties.There could be no way that my family could be seen with any of them or any Muslims . My eldest brother was to be married to a daughter of the Hindu political leader in the same city and he did not want any controversies at this moment. I slowly recanted from the scene and went to my room feeling depressed. My brother got married without any fiasco and with his marriage the talks about my marriage also arose. Families who proposed marriage were politely rejected as my father wanted me to study abroad and marry his princess to a rich and handsome prince. He had enrolled me for further studies in abroad and arrangement had been made. I knew that day would soon come when I had to bid goodbye to Rehan, that I would never get an opportunity to confess my love . I would never again see him in my life. I was angry with my destiny, why had God done this to me? ,had he been a Hindu I could have discussed it my parents, we could have a chance but alas!.. He was a Muslim and belonged to a political family. Our families were poles apart, there was not a chance of any encounter without leading to bloodshed. It was all a sham, the society, these religions, its rules. Which religion denied the love of two innocent hearts, which rules decided two people born in different religion can’t be one, I was sick of this society and so was relieved to flee this city, this country which could not support my love. There was no hope after all.

I had to inform Rehan, I knew he would be struck and I was sad for him, for both of us. One day on my way to home, I spoke to my friend loudly , hoping he would catch the words and know that i would be gone from his life forever within a week.i desperately wanted him to know that i was unhappy too with this news and as i spoke to my friend i told her that i would remember everyone who had touched my life and that meant him,Rehan.Three days before i was to fly abroad i saw him at the same place,red-eyed ,distressed.I instantly knew the reason and that brought tears to eyes.I saw him walking up to me, sadness was suddenly replaced with shock . I did not want any bloodshed and definitely not his blood. I signaled him with tear filled eyes to go away, but he was adamant and came up to me only to hand my kerchief that had fallen on the ground. There was a sudden stir in the atmosphere , my brothers standing at the gate of the house were instantly by my side as if they flew from there and one of my brother’s friends was holding Rehan by his collar asking him about this sudden incident.He acted normally and shrugged away explaining the reason but my brother did not believe him,they thought the reason behind my tears was Rehan and this meant something serious. It was only after i explained them that i was thinking about them, my family and the thought of missing them made me cry , that they let him go.They took me home and only then I could see what was actually written on the kerchief.I had got the glimpse of it when he handed it to me, when his fingers brushed my fingers and send shivers down my spine, but before i could revive in its glorious feeling , even before i could read his eyes my brothers had arrived and everything had happened so fast that the feeling was gone. A sudden whining sound woke me up, I was relaxing in my chair, eyes closed.Bruno must have been thirsty.I went inside my room,fed him water.On my way out I also brought the blue sapphire rotating it in my palm. It was well past midnight, I could see the sky turning light blue as the first rays of sunlight burst through the sky,escaping the darkness. That reminded me of the night we met. He had mentioned the time and place in the note. It was dark and not a soul was to be seen.I saw him waiting for me in the corner of the same lane. He walked towards me and looked intensely into the eyes. We must have been in that state for a few minutes, but it felt like forever, as if we spoke everything that had to be spoken through our eyes, those untold words were enough to stay with us forever. He gently placed the blue sapphire in my palm and said it was his symbol of love. I was overwhelmed with emotions,not able to speak anything . Teary eyed we parted promising to keep each other in our hearts forever.

Twenty years have passed and I still remember every detail of that night. I saw the early birds flying in the sky. It had been a long time and reliving those memories made my heart feel lighter. I realized that our ways differed now; the gem was indeed our symbol of love but nothing more than that. There was a soft knock on the door, I rose to open the door and met with the same set of eyes I had left twenty years. He smiled and in a flash I knew who he was, Rehan! But how could that be possible?. I was still holding the blue stone, pressing hard against it. He told me that he was a political leader of the town and didn’t want anyone to know about us. He had heard about my arrival and wanted to know if I still had the blue sapphire with me.On seeing the gem in my palm, he smiled wider and took it in his hand. He said he was married with children and had greater political aspirations and such connections or resemblance may cause him harm. He made an apology and turned to leave, I was too stunned to ask how could he do such thing after what we had in the past, but he got my question and told that all of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am….with that he left me on my doorstep pondering on life and its being.

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