A LOVE STORY
(A story of love, remembrance and commitment to life
narrated in first person)
My heart bristles with the vibrations of love; a sublime love that was sown in me in 1974 to be exact. It was love to a physical reality that surrendered his whole being to me and involuntarily martyred his life, unaware of an unknown cause for unknown reasons. It is still love in all its intensity to a noble soul that continues to live and bloom in me and enrich my whole being with sweet memories of the happy and wonderful days I spent with my man who was not ordinary by any standards of human relationship and life values
My memory goes back to the days when I met him in a public library. I was then a Research Fellow in Indian Classical Dance Forms. Books on this topic were hard to come-by. I was literally scanning the entire collections on Indian Art Classics. I could manage one. I just got it entered and came out when this young man – his attire partially wet – passed by me. He was tall, handsome and with his chiseled features and royal gait he was the ultimate persona of any girl's dream. Being in my late teens and brought up in a Muslim family with a rare broad social outlook, his sight did make an impact in me, but I just left it at that. It was raining cats and dogs outside literally and left with no means to leave, I stood alone cursing the rain. I saw this young man coming out holding a few bulky books and stood by my side for some time. In my inner mind I was craving to talk to him; but I controlled myself. When the rain eased he looked at me smiling and offered to give me a lift to my destination. I looked at him for a few seconds and convinced myself of his intention. I accepted his offer and took from him the books he was carrying. He ran out in the light rain and brought his small red sedan to the portico as close to the place I was standing. He came out, took all the books I was holding and opened the front door for me. I got in smiling thanking him for his kind gesture.
It was still raining. The music system was on in the car. To its accompaniment was the soothing sound of the rain falling on the glass panes. During the sojourn we talked for some time and he enquired about my family, my vocation, my interests and in detail of my progress in my Research on Indian Classical Dances. I could see his face glow when I told him that I was interested in classical music too which I was studying at home under a known Classical Music Master. He shared with me his passion for light music and the stage events he participated and the accolades he received from the listeners for his rendering style. He was a man of few words and most of his expressions were confined to a few bewitching smiles that made vibrations in my psyche, which I concealed skillfully. Much to my chagrin the sweet journey came to a halt. He stopped the car in front of my house. He came out, opened the door and handed over my book to me and gave out his name as Kiran. I invited him in for a cup of coffee, which he politely declined with the same enchanting smile and excused himself saying he was in a hurry to reach his home. He gave me his card and agreed to avail of my coffee offer at a day later. My mother was at the door. She saw Kiran dropping me and enquired about him. I told her that Kiran gave me a lift to reach home in the rain. I went further forgetting myself for a minute. I told her that never in my life I had met such a person who was an embodiment of intelligence, decency and dignity. She was pleased, but she kept quiet. I retired to my study room; but I could not concentrate on anything. Events unrolled in my mind screen – the time I spent in the car; his expressions, his enquiries about my studies and above all his hypnotic smile to which my entire being surrendered voluntarily. He was the man of my dream, the man with whom I wanted to live this life. My imagination ran amuck and I shaped him the way I liked to suit my whims and fancies of my future. Kiran belonged to a different religion; so what, I asked myself. He was distant to conservatism and orthodoxy. He was, as I observed was brought up in a progressive outfit, so was I, I thought. My family outlook was in identity with his. It did not identify humanity with narrow religious chains and bonds, the creation of men with vested interests. To that extent our family was isolated, but we were role models to the liberals belonging to all religions.
Came dinnertime, the time for sharing our day's thoughts and events. My parents and I made our small family. I was called in from my room. The hangover of the sweet moments I was with KiranKiran's card and handed it over to my father. He glanced over it. It contained the name and residential address of Kiran. "Oh! He's Shankar's son, Kiran! "I know well his family. Shankar is my good old friend and my college mate! We did the Engineering finals together". I went back to my study room. My heart was still throbbing of the rosy memories of the day. I retired to bed to forget and sleep, but could not till midnight. A beaming Kiran and his soft voice haunted me in my dreams. I thought that the intensity will bane away as time passed; but that wan not to happen. The next day was another day of intense feeling towards Kiran. It was dinnertime again. Modesty calls for certain amount of control of the mind; but I could not; such was my longing to see Kiran again. "Dad, I want to see Kiran again. Shall we not invite his family home? No outbursts; no explosion; none expected; none happened. "Why Not? Here is a good chance to renew my friendship with him. We will of course invite them for dinner." My father said.
My father did act. The three-member family was with us for dinner the very next day. My heart beat high when I saw Kiran. He looked dazzling in his pale coloured Indian attire. Tears of happiness were rolling down my cheek. Kiran noticed it; but kept quiet. He accompanied me to my study room before dinner and he enquired about Indian Classical dance, Music and in detail about the Research resources. He went through some of the books he found lined on the shelf. Time was ticking past. I did not want that, but I was helpless. Dinner over, the family courteously took leave of us. Kiran's mother called me to her and affectionately embraced me. This time too, my eyes filled with tears. Kiran's parents took note of it. Kiran, before leaving, called me to his side and assured me that we would in future meet and talk more often. I was relieved. It happened. Kiran kept his promise. We used to call one another quite often within the full knowledge of our parents. We used to roam in the beach, the park, the libraries, museums and tourist spots nearby. I enjoyed the bliss of friendship and the company of an intellectual. The loneliness we felt in our homes in the absence of siblings in each one of our families was more than compensated. He used to sing his own composing to me in his fine soft voice, which was sweetest to my ears. Time went past fast. Two years just passed by. We both completed our Doctorate in our respective fields and soon took up job in two local colleges.
Another year passed by. It was a Diwali day. As was the practice Kiran's father came home personally and invited us to celebrate Diwali along with them. When all of us were together Shankar took my father for a private conversation and was closeted with him for a few minutes. They came out with a beaming smile and asked all of us to wait for happy news. Happy news! What can it be, I thought for a second. Shankar started: "Convinced that we are one and all of us think alike we have decided on the marriage of Kiran and Sehra. It should take place soon." For the first time I saw Kiran in an ecstasy. He ran to me, raised my hand and gently kissed on the palm in the presence of his parents. I was never an extrovert and tears in abundance were flowing from my eyes out of joy. Both of us in accordance with Hindu custom knelt before our parents who blessed us for a purposeful married life. To our parents and us, marriage was purely a personal subject and we did not want it to be sanctified by a society mired by evil thoughts and seclusions. We had the courage and the marriage was registered to the chagrin of those in the extreme.
When our life took a new turn to live together we did resolve to stick to certain basic guidelines. We decided that the children born to us would not be subjected to any particular religious guidelines or norms. They would be guided in the right path respecting all the good in all the religions and its teachings and will have a broader outlook in all issues related to life and its values.
Two more years' ran past. It was a magnificent relationship based on mutual understanding, adjustment, accommodation and consideration. Marriage had not reduced an iota of our mutual love and admiration. Kiran used to help me in my work, admire my innovations and appreciate my achievements. He had encouraged me to participate in classical dance and music concerts. He sat along with me in developing new forms in classical dances. Kiran was always by my side when he was free from his work. There was no lessening of our going out together and it continued as in the past. In fact the intensity and genuineness of our love and passion has never come down. During our married life we were never separated even for a single day as Kiran used to accompany me even during my concerts. Every day ended with my thanks giving prayers to the Lord for gifting me such bliss in my married life through my Kiran.
My married life flowered. I was diagnosed of pregnancy. For the second time I found Kiran in an ecstasy. He bodily lifted me high and kissed me all over continuously for minutes together. He was crying out of joy. He rested his head over my shoulders and embraced me tight. I wiped away his tears of joy and wished myself to merge in him. God has blessed me with such a loving husband, I thought. Bless him with eternal life, I prayed, for such a person as Kiran will never again be born. But that was not to be. Evil eliminates the good. So Kiran had to go. Kiran indeed did go.
It was the sixth month of my pregnancy. There was a sacrilege committed in a place of worship. Soon there was mob fury. Humanity lined up with their brand names. They lined up against one another and faith was the dividing line. There was total chaos and violence. Many lost life in the violence leaving pain and orphans behind. The old, children and women fled the scene fearing for their lives. A public meeting was called for in the interest of Communal Harmony. Kiran, an authority on humanitarian sciences was invited to be a speaker. He made a sensible speech in the meeting and argued for communal harmony in the interests of humanity and nation. He stressed that there should not be a dividing line in humanity itself. He paid a price for his advice – yes, with his own life. Driving alone in his friend's car, returning at night after the speech he was stopped by self claimed Deputies of God who torched the car. Only his groans could be heard outside amidst the noise of the men who went amok. His carcass lay charred in the car. His ever-smiling face was gone forever and in its place was a black battered skull. The vocal cord of his soft, sweet voice was consumed by fire. The spring that inspired my life and the stream of his soft, gentle voice that soothed my being and enlivened my spirit was no more there. The barbarian of a terrorist stole me of my guiding spirit, who loved me and lived for me. My lover's passion for life was terminated in the middle. Communal violence had extinguished a noble, loving soul forever.
I did not cry when in the middle of night I was informed of Kiran's murder. I could not. I was stunned and shocked for hours. During these hours Kiran was with me in my mind and took complete possession of me. He advised me to be bold and face the reality. He asked me to pray for better sense to prevail on religious fanatics. His face appeared solemn and calm. There was no streak of vengeance in his voice, but appeared concerned about the future of the baby in my womb. "Duty first Sehra; take good care of the baby; you can do it, Sehra " was his parting message. I woke up from the delirium. His body was brought in, covered. I insisted on seeing his face against constant refusals from all. The cover was removed. I wanted to see the end reality and result of the ugly face of communalism in its charred state. "Misguided elements", I thought. "Lord, guide them right" was my prayer. The life lost was not of a tagged individual but of a man who was the embodiment of all human virtues who even in his last speech asked the people to follow their religion in its true spirit guided by a humanitarian approach untwisted from the directions of vested interests. His approach to life was serious, practical and above all humane. His body was cremated for a second time; first people of his own caste without knowing his communal identity burnt him inside his car to serve for a religious cause. The next cremation was a religious ritual. I do not know at whom to laugh; the inventors of religion that fragments humanity or the herds that religiously follow religion and build up passion to destroy humanitarian values. Lord, restore in them the right sense to discern the right from the wrong.
The cremation over, I returned with our parents, in Kiran's red sedan. It started raining. Perhaps the nature was shedding its tears at the ignorance of men and my loss. Raindrops were flowing through glass panes. My memory went back to our first meeting in the library, the car journey, the soft music and his dropping me in my house. No strength left in me to cry! Still I exploded and cried. His voice reverberated in me "control yourself; you can, Sehra". The baby in me was full of vibrations and I controlled myself. The rain was still in full strength when I went inside my bedroom. It intensified further and there was lightning followed by ear breaking thunder one after another. I opened the shelf and took out our wedding photograph and kissed my Kiran a hundred time crying, letting out all that was suppressed in me, till I sat down exhausted on the chair. I did not rest. I knelt down holding my arms on his chair making promises after promises that I would live down his legacy and bring up our baby the way he would like it to be. I washed my face and in the mirror my reflection was that of a person hardly resembling me. Such was the damage, Kiran's death has caused to me. I went in for my regular reading. The lightning, the thunder and the rain now stopped.
I continued my stay with Kiran's parents. I preferred seclusion for long hours so that I can see hallucinations of Kiran talking to me and comforting me quite often. Kiran's parents took adequate care of my needs and me. I was taken for regular check-ups. Sitting alone some times, I used to break down thinking of the man who was my life and tears flowing down my cheeks. Several times Kiran's mother used to rush to me and wipe my tears, consoling me. She advised me to face life realities boldly as none could escape from it.
Months passed by and I became the proud mother of a cherubic baby girl, the newborn additional link between my lost Kiran and me. I quietly mourned the fact that Kiran was not by my side to share this new found joy.
Years passed by. Life became normal. The devastation it had on me subsided. My career and my concerts continued. My voice and my dance forms mellowed. Kiran's parents were always by my side when I needed help. Financially we were affluent. Besides Kiran and I used to save part of our earnings to be self-reliant and take care of ourselves in case of an emerging emergency. Years again went past. My little baby girl grew up. I was always at her side when she needed help and guidance. I guided her in the right directions and taught her to be independent in outlook and thoughts and express herself without fear when she was convinced of a cause. It all worked well with her.
I encouraged her to take part in athletics and she won laurels for the school. I taught her classical dance and music and she excelled in it. She ranked first in education as well as in all curricular activities. She was the darling of the school with the leadership qualities I inculcated in her. I took comfort in seeing in her all the qualities I admired in her father. What a gem of a man, her father was. I taunted him intentionally to see him in anger. He was never seen angry. At times I envied his qualities that made him special to me. What a loving relationship we had! Each time I received an appreciation of my daughter's qualities, I downgraded myself and in my presence was the towering image of her father, my Kiran. At bedtime I used to picture him in my mind; his most loving face; his contagious smile and the soft voice he was noted for. I pictured myself sitting beside him in his car and looking beyond answering his queries on Classical Dances. What a life of splendor it was. That was lost forever. How sad it was that he was plucked of from me at the prime of our life by fanatic sadists in the name of religion. Who can compensate my loss? What exactly was the volume of my loss? Why he had to pay with his life for a cause that was dear to humanity? Who can compensate and who can substitute for such an irreparable loss of a great human being?
My daughter stood first in the State in her final examination. She ranked top in the Professional Entrance Examination too. She opted for a medical career. I didn't have to tell her that choosing medicine was not for amassing wealth, but to serve the less fortunate, suffering humanity. It was her priority. She started participating in state level athletics and was always a winner in events she participated. Encomiums were pouring in. I always attributed without reservation, all her success to Kiran's indirect influence on her upbringing. She was the pride of her alma mater. When she completed her internship, she brought to me a poem written by her titled "LOVE". She asked me "What do you think of love, Mom" I could read her mind. She was at it. I had neither reservation nor hesitation to answer her. At near her age I was in feelings of deep love. I called her to sit by my side. Kiran came in my mind with his captivating smile. "Tell me, Shreya, are you in love with anyone", I asked her. I can't answer, Mom, I have some strange feelings of proximity in my mind with one Anoop. Can you call it love?" "Shreya, wait, don't rush, study the man and come to me later. There is nothing wrong in loving a person or feeling closer to one. But the man is important. First settle well in your profession." "But he is a Christian, Mom", Shreya said. "Shreya, look here, your father was a Hindu and I am a Muslim! What is your religion? Tell me. When in deep love, you have to throw that rubbish out" I advised my daughter. Anoop was a cricketer of eminence at the national level and his father was a Lt. Colonel in the Army. Shreya used to talk to me about her meetings with Anoop and what she thought about him. Two more years passed by. Shreya settled well in her profession serving the needy. Her earning from her profession was practically nothing. I thanked God for gifting me such a wonderful child. She was happy with her profession as it benefited others more than her interests just the way we wanted it.
Time again ticked fast. The time has come to think of Shreya's marriage. I called her by my side. I asked her about her love for Anoop. "It is still in me in all its intensity. I love Anoop. He is waiting for a nod from you, Mom". "I will take care of it, Shreya. I understand your feelings for him" There I stopped. She left for her clinic.
I discussed the entire matter with Kiran's parents first and then with my parents. They had neither reservations nor objections. "If it is okay for Anoop's parents, it is ok for us too". Anoop's father was contacted over the phone to fix up a time. Anoop's parents volunteered to come over to our place. "A rare magnanimous gesture", we thought. They dropped in. Shreya and I were asked to be present. In military language, a bomb exploded. They were aware of the love sometime ago and were wondering what happened. "Better late than never" Anoop's father said. Our family background was explained to them in detail. "Look, I am an army man. Religion is secondary in my life style. If I have a religion, it is the religion of humanity where values of life are more important than anything else. Ah! Religion. Throw it to the nearest Garbage Bin," he thundered. "I want Shreya to be my daughter, no other considerations, Agreed?" Anoop's mother said. I was happy, so was Shreya and all others. The marriage date was fixed. Without ostentations the marriage was registered with friends and near relatives. I looked around and l could see Kiran's presence amongst us beaming with joy.
Marriage over, it was time for Shreya to leave us for her spouse's house. She came to me and I was in her deep embrace for minutes. She held me tight. Tears were flowing from her eyes without any let up. I consoled her saying that this is the law of nature and that we have to gracefully obey it. She did not utter a single word. In fact she could not. I found her holding her breath and controlling herself from bursting out. I kissed her a hundred times on her face and she released her arms and departed looking back at me a number of times as she entered the car,
Shreya left me, as per human law and the law of nature. Now I have none to share my grief, my feelings and my happiness. Shreya was on the anvil of building up a new life. I was confident that Anoop and his parents would take good care of her as had happened in my case. Shreya was brought up that way molding her character the way Kiran wanted it to be.
"I returned to my bedroom. I looked at the framed picture of Kiran on the wall; that solemn smiling face over and over again. I stood in front of the picture for some time. I felt losing my control over self. I felt weak and tired. I took the picture from the wall and held it close on to my chest for a few minutes. I showered kisses on Kiran's face continuously and cried between sobs "I did my duty Kiran, I did my duty Kiran, yes, the way you wanted it to be done" I leaned on to the wall and sat slowly resting my back on the wall. Tears were rolling down my cheeks as if there was no end to it. Outside it was heavy rain, to the accompaniment of lightning and thunder. Raindrops were rolling down on the glass panes. I could see in my mind, Kiran coming to me in his wet attire. He comforted me, and congratulated me for bringing up Shreya the way he wanted. He kissed me over and over again and tears were dropping from his eyes. His advice this time was different. "Learn to live adapting yourself to changing and challenging situations. Living is an art of a different dimension. Master it as far as you can. I am in you and I am with you because our love is eternal"
K. Mathew Thomas