This should have been a very happy day for Meera, like her other college colleagues, who graduated from the MahilaSamiti University, a small time women’s university in Faizabad. Everyone was happy that they graduated, the first hurdle of their life’s main agenda, i.e. getting married, is accomplished. But Meera, cause of her usual sad and aloof nature, was sitting in the corridors at the back gardens of the college. While she was sitting on the verandah lost in her thoughts, looking at the sprinkler of the garden came to Shyam running at her.
“You are here and I was searching you for the whole while all around the campus.”
Meera looked at Shyam, who was still struggling to catch his breath accompanied with a big smile on his face. She looked, gave a fading smile and went back to staring at the sprinklers, whose shimmering water droplets looked like the golden beads in the yellowish sunlight. Shyam knew why she was upset. Ignoring her mood he sat beside her and started, “I knew you will top the exam; you have worked so hard for it. You deserved it. Look, I got a fresh pack of jalebi from the jagatramhalwai’s shop.You know there was a big queue in front of the shop……”
But before he could finish, Meera said, “Shyam look at these water droplets.” And with a sighed pause she said, “How beautiful they look before landing onto the ground.” Shyam though interrupted but looked and smiled. She continued, still lost in her thoughts, speaking more to herself, than to Shyam, “My life is also like these water droplets. It looks all fancy and shiny, but at the end will get lost with no identity in the ground.”
Shyam, in a consoling tone, said, “Meera, why you think like this, you have topped in the whole class, you should be happy.” At this statement, she irritatingly turned to Shyam and said, “What happiness are you talking about, the happiness to get enrolled in a course in which I never wanted to enroll, happiness to top the class and leaving behind whom, all my fellow classmates whose main intention is to pass the course and show the degree as a trophy to get married. You will never understand Shyam, how difficult is for me to even live and bear this whole drama, where progress is only a word in books.”
Saying this, a golden bead of hers rolled down on her cheek.
Shyam there suddenly started feeling super guilty. He always has tried to make and see her happy. But no matter what he did, some or the other thing will happen cause of him which will make her feel bad, or flip her mood off. Shyam always had tried to be cautious of not to do anything like that but, again he landed making her sad. And once her mood is off, Shyam knew she needed to be left alone, but this was her result day, how could he leave her alone, hence Shyam too went mute and sat beside her, staring at the golden waters being sprinkled in the winter noon of Faizabad.
It was still cold. The whole city was under the melting blanket of fog, which was now battling the sharp morning cozy sun rays. Shyam came out on his balcony, scratching his groin, still sleepy and shivering from the cold, to get a look of the morning city that his mobile rang. The screen flashed the name of Meera. Without picking up he knew what this call meant.But just to ensure, he picked up the call, and in almost whispering way he said, “Hello.”
From the other end, even in more silent whispers, Meera said, “I have boarded the train,” and disconnected. Shyam took a deep breath and exhaled heavily, taking his time to sink in the effect felt, releasing a dense gush of foggy smoke from his mouth, standing still, suddenly all drained of energy. She was leaving. She was leaving her home, her parents, her locality and “ME” behind in Faizabad, to move out for a better life, a better meaningful future of her choice. Though Shyam knew that she is just 700 km away from him, but he knew that not meeting her for even one day means what for his relationship.
He went back inside, looked back at his still warm unkempt bed. He slowly slid himself into the bed, covering himself completely by the quilt, rushing back to the days when this all started.
He could very clearly recall the first time when he saw her. How nervous he was when he approached that confident, serious looking girl in her yellowish maroon suit and dupatta. No matter how strong the nervousness raised the heartbeat, he instantly fell for her. How within some initial meets, he got to know that beneath her outer anger and arrogance lays a deep layer of loneliness and helplessness. They both relied totally on each other and started enjoying each other’s company, at least Shyam did. He knew that she was far very talented and ambitious than him. But then this relationship is what had made him more updated and gave a strong reason to look up to someone in life for his own growth. Also somewhere deep down, Shyam knew that he loved Meera more than she loved him. They both used to spend time always and share almost everything. Where Shyam’s talks varied from movies to temples of Ayodhya, to plans to meet more often , to Gulabbaari and Umaraao Jaan from Faizabad, Meera’s whole discussion will directly or indirectly revolve around the fact that she wanted to do something. She wanted something from her life; she wanted to test her, to try her. She wanted to become independent. She wanted to see and feel abundant money. It’s cause of this that after initial few meets, they both started lacking a common flow of discussion. The interesting company within a few months became a lecturing company, where Shyam was always on the receiving end. As no matter where Meera was, her strong urge to grow and make her life meaningful always made her try and think out of the box. Even her over conservative limits got dwarfed, in front of her efforts. She constantly worked hard and prepared to get more and more exposed to knowledge of whatever kind she could approach. Resulting in a more diversified and vibrant lady with confidence, as compared to a common regular man of small time India. Meera usually became highly irritated of Shyam, as even she too at some levels wanted someone whom she can look upon.
As time passed, their talks and the number of meetings all changed drastically. If it were not Shyam and his super desperate, thick skin tolerating and adjusting nature, the relationship would have long gone. But Shyam never looked it at this way, for him, the relationship was perfect, as one always has to try and rise above all the problems of a relationship. For him, adjusting was the only solution in a relationship. And then one day, he got to know that she had graduated and topped in the subject, whereas he only just passed the course with third-grade marks, but thankfully Meera was not at all interested in his marks, hence he got saved from that embarrassment.
But since the day of the graduation, Meera had changed a lot. She never called, which was not that strange for Shyam but this time, she didn’t even picked up the calls. She had stopped being spotted at her regular places. She already had few to no friends from whom Shyam could find where she was and what had happened. He could also not go to her home to check, courtesy to the city like Faizabad.
After one month of hopeful trying, Shyam became hopeless on means to find her. On one fine day’s eve, while he was staring out from his uncovered street protruding unplastered PG balcony, looking out, occasionally checking out his phone, as his normal habit now, and as happens in any Love story; he got a call from Meera.
Shyam ran to pick up the phone. They talked. She told him that, she had got a call from some design school in Ahmadabad. She wanted to go but she was being opposed by her family to go out and study, hence she is planning to elope. Shyam didn’t know how to react on this, whether to be mad for going underground without informing him, or appreciate her on her achievement. But if one is like Shyam, they don’t have many options to contradict and complain. Hence, he appreciated her followed closely the complaint, in whispers, of not informing and going invisible, which was left incomplete as even she started whispering, unlike the way she talked to Shyam. Shyam was taken aback. He became absolutely silent.
She, almost murmuring, asked for some financial help from Shyam. Shyam was the happiest man on Earth now. He, for the first time in his life, felt that Meera actually found him worthy enough to trust and ask for some help. She whispered the amount to him and him happy as a hare agreed to all the terms and suggested an amount which he could provide. Meera thanked him, she even sobbed while thanking him, at least Shyam felt that way. And in that “sobbing” tone she gave him the account number to transfer the money. Shyam wanted to meet her, but she told, my family is already very suspicious of my activities, I’ll go to Ahmadabad and enroll myself, and once the process is done I will call you, or will come back to see you. Shyam again went back in gratitude on how much she loved him that she will come back and she out of everyone will meet me.
After a few days, she called again that she has made the reservations and as a precaution told him that she will call only when she’ll board the train. Thinking this, Shyam fell back again for her, accompanied by the dark abyss of cold noon’s sleep.
12 long years have passed. Meera has now transformed herself into a lady wanted by half the population of the globe. Her net worth was now in millions, thanks to the much growing interior developing savvy newer generations of the country, which took her new interior and spatial designing company, “The Meera Designers” hand in hand making her an almost overnight millionaire. She got super busy and engaged in her work. The engagement out of the demand was such high that the overnight duration equaled the 12 long year’s duration of success. She climbed and climbed and climbed. She now owns a mansion in Delhi along with numerous cars and almost all material fantasies of the world. And people who are driven by this strong “progressive” drive, are often more rebellious in nature, which they very casually cover under the soft velvety words of DIFFERENT and UNIQUE.
She worked hard, very hard to try and live every moment and ripen up by experiencing everything possible, under the name of being different and unique obviously. She not only explored herself but now with the added power of money, she explored the world too. The once over enthusiastic Meera for her first air travel now made air traveling as her regular part of travel. The wish to get a random car ride from any of her uncle’s old second-hand car didn’t bother her now. She could use the best cars, go to the best places, she could party wherever, with whomever and in whatever way she wanted. The once curious heart to meet her relatives on school and college holidays are done, now she meets the most influential lot of the city, that too with pride and ego and sometimes even at her own choice and demand.
The development of this kind also demands to shed your hidden fears and inhibitions of any kind and be as fierce and naked as you could be to withstand when the world tries to drag you down. It’s cause of this strong boost from within that she became fearless and independent. She now became absolutely confident and focused on how to expand the business, how to maintain the work-life balance for her and for her employees, how to catch the eyes of investors and customers and remain loyal to them. And in order to support the proper functionality of such giant empire, you have to, sometimes climb the back stairs and take a couple of shortcuts to climb and be ahead of others, an act of smartness and courage again. It was now Ok to evade and forge income tax details and personals.It was now a necessity to cheat the customers a few times, by quoting a price and then reprise the whole contract in the middle, claiming that the contractors and retailers have either added items, increased the price or best have gone out of business. And for smart customers, get in some fake invoice and receipts and get out of the trouble. The new booming industry and being its first few crusaders have its own law dodging benefits and why not, the whole world runs like this. All the big fish in the market do the same. So it’s not only perfectly Ok but also, it is the only means to rise.
And if you work hard, you need to relax and chill also a couple of times. The once frustrating struggle to go out for even a samosa party at some nearby friend’s place now was not there. She herself now could organize and throw lavish parties, who could envy many luxury faces of the city. She could do anything in those parties, she could eat, she could drink, she could meet friends, she could make friends, she could “DO” whatever she wanted with anyone, friends, foes, whoever. And now she recently has experienced the euphoria and enigma of parties after snorting and trying a couple of “NEW” things, which has completely changed her upside down.Her life was brilliant in all aspects as she wanted. She was now worthy of and by many. She always was surrounded by a big bunch of people around, with new faces almost every time.
Everything was perfect. Everything was going perfectly. But why suddenly on this evening, at her own poolside party among these fancy semi-naked to almost naked glossy unconscious unknown faces, she is getting reminded of Shyam. This has never happened before. She ignored, then avoided, then fought. But no, even the loud music, even the naked distraction of guys, even the over user of those “NEW” things can’t perish his strong reflexive memories.
In order to calm and distract herself, she stood up impulsively, looked around to the rest dead souls, and lit a cigarette. But nothing could create the gap she wanted. She slowly moved to the pool.
She ogled the light blue wavy lightened up water, in the pool, trying to find the fragments of memories floating within the microscopic layers of the waves. She looked at it for a while and then suddenly all the memories broke the surface tension of the chlorinated water and came flooding in one by one like the ripples made by drunk bodies on the surface of the water in the pool. She one by one got remembered of everything. She remembered her school days, her house, her family, her relatives, her friends. …..and SHYAM.
And with his face in front, she went ahead to reach him, get hold of him, confront him and…..SPLASH!!
A complete numb silence followed her immediately after the fall. She felt as if she has been encapsulated in gravity less vacuum tube. But even this sudden plunge into the water created a more sorted medium for her to connect with her now activated sub and unconscious.
She didn’t even struggle to come out of the water. As she sunk in, she felt that she is being teleported closer to those people. She wanted to meet them instantly and as super lucky she was, even God was now helping her in teleporting her to meet them. With every passing moment, she could now see her family, friends, and Shyam, standing, waiting on the other end of the pool, calling out for her for help. HELP, but from whom? She like any responsible human tried to move ahead and reach them. But as she made her first attempt to slide, she found herself stuck and caught.
She turned to unfurl herself but got shocked to see that all the naked people from the party are holding her, with more people coming in to join them like zombies. She now knew that it’s not the help that they want; it’s the warning of help that she wanted. But it was too late now. All the new age people have reached her. They have started making a human mesh around her, encapsulating her within. She, in the next few momentary lapses, could now feel the pressure of these people around trying to squish her, smash her, taking all the real near ones completely out of sight. She has now started feeling suffocated by the pressure by these people. Help…help, she screamed, and suddenly a hand from nowhere came and zoop…..someone pulled her out from the water.
There is a knock on the door. Meera stood up, went and opened the door.
There was a snow white haired old man in his 80’s, in his crisp black tux with purple stripes and mirror shiny black, slightly pointed shoes, was standing at her doorstep.
Meera, with the first glimpse, got signals from her inherently dead business self that he is a man of influence, but she, suppressing all and exposing nil, said “Yes!!”
He, standing on the doorstep, introduced himself as the chairperson of the BHARAT group, and told that he’s here for a business proposal. She, suppressing her inner curiosity and excitement, welcomed him.The man, with extreme decency, followed her and sat on one of the only two wooden chairs in the front room of a two bedroom house.
Meera, the smart woman which she was, appreciating the presence of an unknown person [man] in the house in a town like Faizabad, ensured that the door was kept open. She came and sat on the deewan bed lying near the next room’s entry. She, very smoothly, also adjusted the wrinkled bed sheet, which was unkempt since the start of the day, by his 6 years old son, who was now in school.
The man with a blank but emotionally warm face, smiled obligatorily, projecting that though he saw her doing that, but it’s perfectly OK. He started; “My name is Ram Chandra Upadhyay and as previously informed, I head the Bharat group of companies,” saying this he reposed himself crisscrossing his legs, maintaining a more comfortable posture. Meera’s subconscious knocked, she recalled that she saw a big maroon Mercedes at her doorstep. Something of some potential is about to come.
In a slight proud form, he continued, we have expanded our business in various different sectors and now want to tap into the interior designing world. Owing to the cause and the vantage point of the location, we already have invested in the required amount of land at the new SEZ made on the Lucknow- Faizabad highway. Our main objective is to do a proper R&D in the field at our centers in Mumbai and Coimbatore, and use the raw materials from the upcoming plant to be set in the SEZ.
He then let loose his legs, leaned a bit forward and in a very serious tone said, “My board of directors have done a bit, back of the envelope study on you and suggested your name to me. I was visiting the site for a few days, so I thought I myself will come and meet you.”
He then again reclined back and said, “I am familiar with the sad incident of your company going bankrupt cause of the scam. But the skill set developed and knowledge garnered during the process is what we need now from you. For initial few days may be months, you might have to come to our Mumbai office for the initial set ups. Then if you want you can come and operate permanently on your wish from here, with your family. I perfectly see you as the lady to head my organization.”
She, controlling her addict like an urge, was about to speak, but the man with experience raised his hand and said; “I know these decisions are not done at a flip of a coin. Hence, take your time. I am for two more days in the town. This is my card,” saying which he reached for his plain white plastic coated card in his left top side tux pocket. “I will call you one hour before I leave the town, i.e on Saturday 7 P.M and if before that you make a decision, my number is on the table.” Saying this, he stood up, did a polite Namaste and walked away.
Meera didn’t stand. She couldn’t stand. She was lucky and her luck called again. She rushed back to the memories of those days when being on top started being suffocating for her. She was managing the company brilliantly but now has started suffering from the staleness of some kind.
She wanted to release, either herself from the situation or the situation from herself.
She recalled that she was sitting in her 20th-floor office cabin, lost as she was once, back in Faizabad in her teens, when the news broke in.She got bankrupt, as no wonder she was not the only “hard worker” in her modern motivated company. But she again, this time, was lucky as always. The sad moment for the company was a chance for her to encounter her staleness. She escaped. And the first man whom she thought to contact was Shyam. She knew it’s been too long. But still a voice from the corner of that day’s shimmery blue pool incident knew that he will talk. He is the right person to call. She without much thought picked up the receiver and called. The voice from the other end was exactly similar as she heard 12 years ago. Even the diction and accent nothing had changed. The nostalgia of retrospection grasped her, and her old memories came flooding in when she used to call him during her college days from a local PCO shop nearby. Though her inner confidence boosted her to pick the receiver and dial, but after the voice, her confidence shook a little. She didn’t know what to start and say, a problem which usually never happens with her, making her underestimate the logic to think before dialing.
But the voice at the other end, after 1 min of silence, huskily said…… “Meera, is that you?”
The name and its recognition after so long shook the professional and practical soul of Meera. She broke. Shyam got his answer. And with this answer, he got his sense to get back to his old lost struggle to make up to the only love of his life.
I knew you will call. I knew I will be among-st the very few whom you will contact from there, even after this long.
The only words Meera could whisper was, “Shyam, I am coming back”, and she stopped. There was a silence prevailing on both the sides. Both sides struggled with their share of troubles to respond and listen to this question.
Meera’s curiosity and eagerness to listen to the response controlled her. And on the other end, the answer had poked a pin to the long held full blown up balloon of emotions. And with a gush, the turbulent stream of 12 years accumulated emotions rushed out. He too cried.
“Meera, I am so happy that you are coming back. I..I will come and receive you. Should I come to the station or Ayodhya station…no no, I should come to Delhi. Is it ok, or…..or, what you suggest Meera? I want to meet you. When is that you are planning to come back?”
The sudden outburst of emotion blended perfectly with the failed attempt to put up the best side of an average human being, eluded her sense to speak. The smile appeared on Meera’s face. She again thanked her luck for supporting her.
She said, “I will call you back in a while with details. Thanks, Shyam, and…she took a not wanting pause…… never mind, I will call you in a while with traveling details, Bye.”
And then there is this day. The old man is still visible through the door, walking way. It’s a big day for her, for her new family. Though she had completely shed her past and didn’t want any re-coating of any sort on the darker shades of the abyss formed by money in her life. But she is not alone now. Her capabilities and its payoffs were now owned by two more members, who now form her new family. Her decisions are not totally selfish now. Her kid needs the future and it’s not only for her that she wanted to go back, its cause of Abhiman, her kid, for whom she wanted to get back, she tried to justify the red side of her brain. The Kid, yes the same, whom Shyam adopted and accepted as his own. The same kid, for whom Meera’s first thoughts were to abort him. And then Shyam like a messiah happily agreed to adopt him. Shyam, yes, he will be the right person to consult. He had done so much for her since so long. This is my time for her to pay back a little to her capacity. She reached for the mobile hidden under the freshly adjusted bed sheet. But before she could dial, it rang, love, luck, and its means.
Shyam’s name flashed up, she smiled and picked. The voice from the other end said…. “Hello, Madam. This is inspector Ravi. I am speaking from the mortuary department of SardarVallabhai hospital. I have a body of a man who met with an accident near the Gulaab Baari Chowk. I got your number from the speed dial. Please come for the identification of the body.” The call disconnected.
She was not lucky anymore !!