Continued from Dawn: The Charioteer (IX)
“I guess then I didn’t really deserve the scolding you gave me, did I?” he said with mock severity.
“No, you certainly didn’t. I am sorry I yelled at you. How can I scold you for a mistake I too have made?” She was a roller-coaster of emotions, this woman. She went back to looking lost, woebegone and contrite.
“Oh, forget about it! I didn’t mind you scolding me at all. Do you know when you called me a silly fool, I froze?” If only she had looked up, she’d have seen his smug grin, his nose crinkled indulgently, his eyes broadcasting their message of tenderness. But she kept her eyes resolutely down-cast.
“Sorry once again Chetan,” she murmured.
“I read somewhere, that events happen in our life only to take us a few steps further on our soul’s journey of evolution. Some events help you apply the wisdom you have learned, and others cause you to acquire that wisdom. Both kinds of events are essential for the soul’s growth. What do you think we ought to have learned from the remarkably similar experiences we have both had?”
“Not to love anyone… or at least not to show it to them lest they take advantage of the fact?” she asked hesitantly, finally looking up at him.
“Come ON! Surely you can do better than that? Think again.” His voice was gentle and coaxing.
“I don’t know Chetan, you tell me,” she said.
“Let me ask you a question. Do you think we would both have suffered like this if we had understood the nature of love and how it is nurtured?” Her eyes were fixed on his and she shook her head imperceptibly. Once again he laid his hands on the table, palms up. This time it was she who clasped his fingers tightly. He continued.
“After I bought this house, I went for my six-week annual holiday from which I have returned just today. Until last year, it was my ex-wife who decided where we would go for our holiday. She always chose the most fashionable and exotic spots all her friends were going to. This year, however, since I am now divorced, I decided to visit my aunt who lives in Nainital. After my parents passed away in a road accident, it is she who brought me up. I had hopes of asking her to live with us after I got married, but my ex-wife assured me that it was an impossible fantasy for me to even think of it. My aunt had invited us to Naini many times, but for obvious reasons, we never went. This year, I finally went. And I am glad I did.
“I went there with a terrible load of hurting questions and a heart drowning in pain. My spirit was bruised. I was morose, brooding and silent. I had lost my appetite and couldn’t sleep. All night I would sit up flipping channels on the telly and all day I would mope about drowsily. She tolerated it for three or four days. Then, thank God, she decided to snap her fingers in my face and told me to wake up.
“From the next day, she made me go for a walk with her in the pre-dawn chill of the morning. We’d return to find the sun just breaking over the horizon, and sit down on the front steps of the house with huge cups of tea and wait to greet the sun. Within a week, I got back into the old groove we had, both of us. It was as if my time with my ex-wife was just falling away from me… layer by layer. Our time on the steps began to stretch to mid-morning. I didn’t realize it then, but I had begun to heal.
“Once I began talking to her, I simply couldn’t stop. We’d talk late into the night. I would go to bed eagerly waiting for the morning. It was as if the years had evaporated and I was again the thirteen-year-old boy who would come running to her for everything. She was again my best friend and confidant.
“During the day she took me with her to a community centre she had set up for kids. She organized story-telling sessions for them, took them on trips and encouraged them to play the few games they had resources for. While I was there, we organized a play. I had no idea that kids that age could handle almost all aspects of the production by themselves. It heals you, to work with enthusiastic, spirited and cheerful children. Their curiosity is so infectious, their openness so endearing. There is nothing that can teach you to trust again better than kids who have been nurtured in an atmosphere of love and trust. The kids came from different backgrounds but in the community centre, they found a rational, logical world where trust, respect and loving concern were everyday living values. It is only when I saw what she had created in the centre that I began to understand what an extraordinary woman my aunt was.
“There are over thirty kids who are associated with the centre at this time and they all adore her. During the production of the play, there were many times when I thought the kids would break out in argument — or even a fight. But it never happened. She had taught them how to express displeasure without quarrelling and how to quarrel without bitterness, resentment or fear. After the six years of unadulterated one-up-man-ship and power play that I lived through with my ex-wife, the community centre felt like heaven to me. One night, I asked her how she had managed to engineer this wonder. That was the night she told me things that I will tell you now. Can you imagine, it was just four days ago?”
His smile lit up the room with a glow brighter than the sun’s rays spilling in through the open windows. He was in the room with her, anchored by the clasp of her fingers, but he was also hovering over the sunlit mountains of Naini, letting her feel the warmth of his recent experiences. She became his mirror, reflecting his happiness, revelling in his serenity, glowing in his joy. For a moment, they looked at each other, too happy to say a word. He didn’t need to ask her if she was getting bored… or if she minded listening to his long explanation. Her eyes gave him all the reassurance he could have needed, I am sure.
For the umpteenth time, I realized how essential it is for human beings to share their joys. I have seen them able to bear the most terrible adversities alone, but it kills their soul to celebrate alone. They need company then, even more than they need when going through bad times.
One of my long-dead owners used to say, “I am strong enough to bear my misfortunes alone, but I cannot bear my joys in solitude!”
Another owner, a woman used to say:
“You know you are suffering from terrible loneliness when you have no one to share your joys with.”
To be continued… Dawn: The Charioteer (Conclusion)