Shilpa bent over her steaming bowl of onion broth, stirring the bubbling, thick, spicy mixture. She reached out for the box of cardamoms and gently pressed their tear- shaped infinitesimal green bodies. Her shimmering emerald green eyes sparkled with delight, as she eagerly glanced at the door. As she retreated to chop the pile of cucumbers, two strong hands playfully clutched her black tresses, and grabbed her slender waist, spinning her about. “Rajesh, for God’s sake: leave me alone!” she protested, chuckling in spite of herself, as her husband happily waltzed her across the kitchen. Rajesh’s solemn, grey eyes shimmered with enthusiasm as he smiled brightly. “You’ve written a book, Shilpa. You’ve scripted a novel! Tonight you’re going to release it in the city’s most prominent bookstore. Aren’t you happy?” he asked, gruffly. “I think I’d better get dressed,” murmured Shilpa, a rosy blush staining her fair cheeks; as her husband grinned knowingly. Half an hour later, she emerged from her dressing area; as an ethereally beautiful young lady, clad in a light pink gown bordered with golden thread. Her emerald green eyes were rimmed with kohl, as she tenderly lifted her infant son from the protective coverings of his baby cradle, and tenderly rocked him to and fro. She placed one hand on Rajesh’s brawny arm, as he gazed at her, wonderstruck. They briskly strode out of their cosmopolitan apartment, and ascended their Minivan. The car uttered, muttered and finally belched into action, before racing along the empty moonlit roads. “How do you feel about it, Shilpa?” asked Rajesh, as he drove down merrily. “I’m feeling very content, Rajesh.” replied Shilpa clutching a copy of her novel,”Migration”. “Your story’s very beautifully written,” he replied; rolling down the windows to let the fresh night breeze creep in.
The doomed street
Suddenly, the tyres screeched; as the car jerked to a halt, a little way away from the news centre. Rajesh raised his bushy eyebrows in bewilderment, as he ran over and lifted the car’s bonnet. Fumbling around with the nuts and bolts, he shrank back; as a steady cloud of smoke escaped the labyrinth of the engine’s pipes. “Shilpa!” he mouthed frantically, as a sleek Porsche suddenly came speeding down the road; and crashed into the car’s rear end. Baby Harsh slipped out of Shilpa’s arms, and crashed onto the dusty road. Shards of broken glass and twisted debris separated Rajesh from his wife and son as he leaned over and grabbed his dead son. Shilpa lay sprawled on the street, her glassy eyes gazing upwards, her body devoid of its usual warmth. “Nooooo!” cried Rajesh, as the Porsche’s driver, a fat man with disfigured yellow teeth came waddling towards them. .He reached over, and pulled Shilpa into his car, as her eyes fluttered opened. She was cross-eyed, and looked strangely apprehensive as she stared at Rajesh, bewildered. “Wh-Where am I?” she spluttered. “The fat man smirked triumphantly at Rajesh, a gold filling gleaming between his teeth as he propped Shilpa up against the caretaker’s chair, and slung her limp body across his shoulder with surprisingly Herculean strength. “One wrong move and I’ll plunge this into her neck. She’s just lost her memory. Next, she’ll lose her life! ” the fat man added, growling menacingly; gesturing to a gleaming dagger. Rajesh’s solemn, grey eyes shimmered with tears, as he imploringly gazed at Shilpa. The glisten of her emerald, green eyes flickered, lingered and died out, as she lapsed into unconsciousness.
The Porsche’s number plate was carefully concealed with a black cloth, as it disappeared into the darkness; leaving Rajesh abandoned on the deserted street. He clasped Harsh’s dead body closer to his heart, and mooched to the city. His hands were badly scathed, and trembled like leaves in a hurricane, as he clutched a battered copy of Shilpa’s novel. “This place is doomed! The road opposite the news centre is cursed!” he spat angrily, as tears gushed down his cheeks. The dim streetlight illuminated his footsteps as his tear-sodden parents, sisters and mother-in-law met him at the city multiplex centre. His sister let out a heart wrenching sob, burying her face in her hands; for Harsh’s icy cold cheeks, and colourless face spoke for themselves. After laying his child to rest, Rajesh’s life transformed into a churning whirlpool of depression, as he sank deeper and deeper within its never ending depths. Shilpa’s book had now reached the bookshelves of India’s famous British Libraries, and young toddlers eagerly grabbed the glossy books, and marvelled at the beautiful illustrations. On dreary evenings, when the days seemed to drag past; Rajesh took to sitting in the kids play area and trying to teach them how to read. In his deep, baritone voice; he dramatized scenes from the book- cawing like an eagle, and squealing like a humming bird. Seeing the ragged beggars on the streets, he joined the Red Cross foundation, as an educational trainee and medical assistant, attempting to spread the message of his wife’s book. The engulfing black cloak of the shadows of his past gradually slipped off his shoulders, as he immersed himself in his newfound wondrous profession.
“Shilpa always wanted to see me happy,” he remembered one night, gazing at his ink-blotted palm. A scruffy rag picker had bent over, and planted a kiss on his palm, a little way away from his curving lifeline. The kiss nested in his palm like a little bird, and sent tingles of warmth through his body, as he closed his eyes and slept peacefully for the first time, since that fateful night.
The early morning sun filled in through the cracks in the window pane, as the door of her cellar swung open Mr. Gupta waddled in, grinning broadly: displaying a row of rather disfigured, yellow teeth. A golden filling glinted between his incisors, as he playfully tapped her on her slender shoulders. She hastily pulled her silken veil over her slashed cheek and got up. . “Come on, Shilpa,” he rasped rustily, gesturing towards the kitchens. She smiled weakly, as she trudged down the staircase. Rolling up the sleeves of her gown, she started dragging the gas stove to the other end of the kitchen. Beads of perspiration trickled down her forehead, as her breath forced its way out of her lungs, in short, sharp wheezes. Last night’s horrendous nightmare projected itself in her mind’s eye, as she felt those solemn, ghostly grey eyes press against her heart, desperately peering inside into its softest corners, searching for the place they once had. The solemn, ghostly grey eyes made her toes curl, and her heart throb with regret. Yet, strangely- she didn’t know why she was lamenting. Her instinct ached with that immense longing for someone, as she blinked away a silvery tear.
“Eh, don’t look so bewildered and reluctant. You’re my wife. I’ve gone bonkers trying to tell you that you fell off a rickshaw and lost your memory. Why do you think your cheek is slashed? ,” cut in Mr Gupta gesturing towards the scratches on her collarbone, before slamming the door. She rolled out sheets of dough and tipped them onto the pan. “I’m not his wife,” she murmured to herself, as she pushed her hair away from her eyes. She unconsciously raised a trembling finger to the deep slash across her fair cheek. Draping her silken veil over her mark of disgrace, she served afternoon lunch to ungrateful customers, and handed over the bundle of r green bills to Mr Gupta at the end of the day. As the silvery orb of the moon crept into the night sky; she retreated back to her cellar, and succumbed to the engulfing blanket of sleep. “This is where ever-so-rich Mr. Gupta’s so called wife gets to sleep,” she muttered to herself, as a rat sped across the dusty room.
Suddenly, a stone zipped through the air and clattered against her window, shattering the glass pane. She groggily struggled to get to her feet, and hobbled over to the window, narrowing her eyes in bewilderment. A threshold of raised candle flames, shimmering like golden petals; seared her pupils as a cacophony of yells crashed against her eardrums. “We want justice! We want justice!” bellowed a mob of young women, clad in white gowns. A display of crimson- stained bodies adorned the road as she briskly strode out of the house. “Mr Gupta isn’t at home,” hissed the old caretaker, as he delightfully lit another cigarette, smoking away blissfully. Screwing up her nose in disgust at the stench of rotting tobacco, she lifted a crying infant sprawled on the dusty road: gently rocking him. Ducking sideways to avoid being hit by a flying bit of broken wood, she joined the crowd of helpers. This road opposite the news centre held unpleasant memories of her past, which tormented her mind’s eye every night. She clutched onto grotesque images of cracked car windows, shards of broken glass, a dead infant and a pair of solemn grey eyes shimmering with tears and gazing helplessly at her unconscious body. These faint memories were the mere remnants of her past. Her nightmares had surely picked up every detail of this place perfectly.
The caretaker’s chair, where she was propped up against by unfamiliar, evil hands seemed to snarl menacingly at her. A chill ran down her spine, as she bravely advanced towards the scene of disaster.
“What’s happened, Kaki?” she asked, as the old woman hastily doused a damsel’s injured hands in a bowl of antiseptic. . “Ah! Shilpa! Don’t ask, child. I don’t know what’s caused these communal riots, and no one seems to be doing anything, but shouting, hitting, trembling and crying. Just be careful!” sighed the old woman as she held a bottle to the damsel’s quivering lips. Shilpa bent over and ducked sideways, as a piece of wood came whizzing through the air. Her eyes watered with exhaustion, as the khaki-clad cops charged through the mob whipping whoever they could, with their ferocious sticks. The male protesters grasped the officers and started wrestling them to the ground,. Shilpa’s veiled face lolled over to one side, as Mr Gupta waddled through the mob struggling to get to her. Continuous splinters of metal forced him to the ground, as he lay unconscious and bleeding. A throbbing pain dashed through Shilpa’s temples, as a drop of scarlet blood trickled down her forehead and blurred her vision. Suddenly, her violent world was hidden behind the blob of deep red, as she moaned, and struggled to sit up. Cool hands on her burning forehead calmed her down, as a tall man clad in a pair of turquoise suspenders leaned over her. His solemn, grey eyes examined her injuries, as he placed a white handkerchief over her bleeding elbows. A sudden impulse tugged at the sinews of his heart, as he lifted her veil. The faint glimmer of her familiar emerald eyes spoke for itself.
“Sh-shilpa!” he breathed, his deep voice muffled behind his sterile mask. A shimmer of a smile seemed to dash across Shilpa’s face, as she clasped his hands. Her slender fingers trembled like leaves in a hurricane, as a thundering wave of memories washed over her. “Rajesh” she murmured, her voice wavering. Rajesh bent over, and propped her up against the caretaker’s chair, his solemn, grey eyes shimmering with tears. That beautiful, bedazzling shimmer which had relentlessly tormented Shilpa’s mind’s eye, now made her grin dreamily, as she lapsed into unconsciousness. The immense strength and power of a true lover had given all she’d lost. The disaster that had separated Shilpa and Rajesh had happily reunited them again.
A day later
“But I have a right to visit her. I am her husband. I was in the next room. I’m Mr. Gupta,” rasped a familiar voice. “Who allowed a rascal like you to take my place in Shilpa’s life?” retaliated a deep, baritone voice. “I have a legal agreement,” the rusty voice rasped again. “Yeah, of course you will. Taking advantage of my wife’s vulnerable state, you reached over and signed the marriage papers for her, didn’t you?” answered the deep, baritone voice. Shilpa opened her eyes. The, glowing lights of the town hospital greeted her pupils, as she struggled to edge herself up against the bedpost. The room’s door swung open, as Rajesh walked in smilingly, gesturing towards the guard who had Mr Gupta’s wrists firmly strapped with a pair of handcuffs. “Juice?” he inquired gruffly, shaking some cool, refreshing drops of orange pulp onto her parched lips. “Rajesh. Where’s- where’s....?” asked Shilpa, cradling an imaginary baby with her plastered hands. “Shilpa, God needed Harsh more than us, that night,” replied Rajesh trying to keep his voice steady, as he gripped onto the sides of his armchair. Shilpa’s lips quivered, as a gush of silvery tears snaked down her cheeks. The drops of salt bore into the deep slash on her cheek, as it burnt badly, sending searing throbs of pain down her cheek-muscles, as she dug her nails into her clammy palms. “How have you been?” she whispered, clutching onto Rajesh’s index finger, never wanting to let go.
“Stepping out of the shadows of my past, I reached out to embrace a new future with the Red Cross. Educating little children gave me those pleasant moments of bliss, which my heart yearned for. I attempted to spread the message of your book ,”MIGRATION”,” said Rajesh, drawing out the battered copy of the novel from his bag. “I take this with me, wherever I go,” he added. He closed his eyes, and clasped his hands together in prayer. Shilpa fingered the cross around her neck, and clamped her eyes shut; her head bowed in reverence. “Thank God for last night,” she murmured. Rajesh approvingly nodded his head, and stroked her throbbing temples, as her head lolled over to one side, and she lay contentedly in the gentle embrace of peaceful sleep. Rajesh opened his hard-bound diary which had been his only comrade throughout. He jabbed the top of his pen, and scrawled in neat, printed handwriting; away from his furious scribbles.
“All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But, some of us know how to shrug our past. I think, this is who I am.”
He smiled to himself, as well-deserved relief washed over him. He laid down next to his sleeping wife, gazing up at the ceiling, on a bullet train to a beautiful dreamland.