Continued from Mesmerizing Eyes (II)
The questions hammered on. What had happened to her? Was she sick? Was she….? No! She was not!!
He didn’t even know where she lived! Why hadn’t he made a greater effort to find her place?! She usually went home with the two boys hanging on to her hands, chattering nineteen to a dozen. Why hadn’t he asked the boys the other day? Why had he not tried to find them? He was the laziest good- for- nothing on earth! How could he be so casual!? His they were right; he took things too easy.
He had never applied himself, neither in college nor at his job. He let things slide, procrastinating until it was always too late. Then a few days of regret and back to square one. He had never learned his lesson. He was careless, irresponsible and heedless. A slip of a girl- one who mattered so vitally to him- and he had lost her!
All those months he went and stuffed himself with idlis and hadn’t the gumption to talk to the girl about the things that were important! As if the idlis were all important and she was not! Someone ought to shoot him and then hang him for good measure! He was so pathetic that he couldn’t even find out where she lived! What kind of a man was he? He wasn’t a man; he was a slimy worm- and useless to boot!
Praful’s self- disgust was boundless. For many weeks he tried to douse his inner fires with flaming self- hatred. The conflagration consumed him, turning things into ashes within him. The fire showed in his actions; it blazed from his eyes. He was restless and untiring. He wanted to punish himself for having lost something beautiful and precious. He will never forgive himself, he vowed.
His mother began to notice a change in him. He became quiet and intense. The utility bills got paid well in time without her having to remind him even once. He was solicitous and responsible. It had been weeks since she had had to reprimand him. Her long homilies were now a thing of the past; they were no longer required. He was responsible towards himself and the rest of the family. She held her breath, silently blessing the thing that had brought about the change in him.
Some days he went halfway to the station but the possibility of not finding her there was too painful for him to deal with, so he returned. A few days ago he had gone all the way to the platform but it was after six. She was not there. He berated himself for being a coward but he couldn’t bear to go ever again. It had now been almost two months since he had gone to the station. He decided that idli- chutney was not a snack worthy of his mature patronage; it was food for children, he told himself. Some days he almost convinced himself.
He was on one of his half-way sojourns to the railway station again today. At four o’clock on the dot, in response to a relentless inner clock which had decided to rear its head today, he had got up and walked out of office without a word to anybody. He needed the walk, he told himself. Just as he was about to turn back and retrace his steps, he saw the two ragamuffins in the distance!
He’d never seen them outside the station. It shocked him inexplicably. He looked wildly around, disoriented. He didn’t want to meet them, to be reminded of her, to be reminded of her absence. It didn’t occur to him that they could be a source of vital information- his state of mind was such. All he could think of was the pain of being reminded of her with no way to reach her again.
Willingly, he’d have thrown himself from a bridge- or a skyscraper- just to avoid those two boys. They were chatting away animatedly, happy and carefree. A flood of resentment sloshed in Praful’s heart. How callous these boys were! She had disappeared and they didn’t give a damn! Fickle- minded little brutes!
Oh damn! They had spotted him! He turned on his heels abruptly and hurried away, almost breaking into a run.
“Bhaiya, wait!” cried the pursuers behind him.
“Please bhaiya, wait!”
Praful began to run. He wasn’t going to let them get in his face. Bloody scoundrels! They probably wanted more money from him! Blood- suckers!
He ran faster.
“Bhaiya, akka was looking for you!” The boys shouted in desperation.
Praful skidded to a stop. Akka!! What the…!? Were these boys making fun of him? How dare they!? He’d settle them in a minute! The cheek of the brats!!
Within minutes, the boys caught up with him, completely out of breath. He stood in the middle of the jostling crowd, hands on his hips, the very picture of an angry and deeply offended bear. The boys were not fazed by his aggressive demeanor though.
“Come”, they said briefly. Holding on to each of his hands on either side, just as they did when they escorted their akka home, they half- pushed, half- dragged him along. A few yards before the station gates, there were a line of shops from which many road- side eateries operated. In one of them sat the boys’ akka, demurely serving idlis from a huge steel pot. Praful was dazed. She was here all along!
“Akka, look! We found bhaiya!” the boys declared proudly. Without raising her eyes, she gave a smile that spoke volumes of her delight.
“Raghav”, she called her sole helper in the shop, “give the boys an extra plate of idlis today.” With that, she came out from behind the counter and stood silently before Praful, her eyes lowered as always. He waited for her to say something; she did not. He stood tongue tied too. A lifetime went rollicking past.
Hesitantly, she held out her right hand, palm upward. Her fingers slightly curled, she held her hand in front of him as if asking him for something. The hand looked so vulnerable held out like that! Praful melted with tenderness though he was also perplexed. She still wouldn’t look up, say a word or give him a smile. What did she want? They stood thus while a few more minutes walked away from them.
He had no idea why, but he felt compelled to place his own right hand over hers, palms touching. As soon as he did that, she gave a soft sigh, as if she had been holding her breath which she had now exhaled. He closed his fingers around her small cool hand, his thumb and index finger circling her wrist. He pulled her closer towards him. She still wouldn’t lift her eyes.
Gently, he lifted her chin. She allowed her face to be raised…but her eyes were still hidden, covered by her long-lashed eyelids. He waited; he had all the time in the world. He was not moving until he had looked into her eyes.
Another chunk of time sidled away. They breathed together: in and out; in and out. The world around them popped out of existence. The sounds were muted, the colors got faded. Nothing existed but the reality of this woman who stood quietly close to him, her eyes lowered. He had no idea how much time went by before she finally she raised her eyes to him. He met himself in their warm brown depths.
He met some old sorrows and a few new ones. He met the wisps of a few hidden fears. There were a horde of questions and a bevy of answers. There was loneliness and its succor, together. And there was uncontainable happiness spilling wetly over her soft cheeks. He inhaled deeply and her fragrance filled his senses. She rested her head on his chest as he tucked her head under his chin and held her close. There weren’t any questions left. She was home, where she belonged. And so was he.
Even blind eyes can mesmerize, he noted with surprise.
Oh, I’m first again. I thought I might not be.
Interesting conclusion, Dagny. I am wondering how the girl got the road-side eatery suddenly, who helped her to do that.
Other than that, I’m happy that a love story happened, and she was home where she belonged.
You described the emotions well, Praful’s self-disgust and new found attention to things. 🙂
You were surely the first Leo. Thank you for wanting to be the first. 🙂
Thank you for your appreciation. The truth is, the girl’s blindness was merely the side- issue. The main focus of the story was the interplay between her and Praful. Specially the final interaction. 🙂
What a lovely rendition of what it feels like to find, lose, and then find again – love, home, a sense of belonging, and the calm and quietude that comes with these. Really like the way the characters are sketched out. I particularly appreciate the fact that the story raises to almost spiritual heights the simple act of serving food, which is not just food for the body but something that satisfies the deepest part of one’s self. And how such an offering changes the receiver too in the process. Wonderfully told, Dagny! Loved it.
Thank you Beloo. It is so like you to catch that particular nuance of the story. I do believe that the spirit with which food is cooked and served deeply impacts the one who eats it. Technically, a human body is nothing but a collection of chemicals. But that not all there is to us. There is also a knowing, an intelligence that knows how to use that collection of chemicals. Everything in the world has its own aura… and that aura impacts us in subtle and manifest ways.
You have no idea what pleasure you afford me with your comments/ interaction. Thank you! <3
Thanks dear for such a beautiful reply. I will always cherish the memory of my mother silently reciting her mantra/jaap all through her cooking. I wish I could be half as sincere and self-giving in my cooking and serving. This story served as a wonderful reminder for me 🙂 Thanks again for writing this. It surely is a delight for me to read your writings and to know you and interact with you. Sending you a big warm hug, my friend!
The difference between food and ‘soul food’ is just of intention. Aren’t there people who cook and serve with such serene love? It satiates more than just physical hunger… 🙂
Warm hug to you too Beloo… <3
Interesting ending Dagny.. esp. liked the description of the frustration Praful goes through and the emotion that transpires between them when they meet. His affection for her was evident…So she did notice him all this while…but being blind and never having spoken to him, what made her fall in love with him I wonder… this time I leave with this line *For many weeks he tried to douse his inner fires with flaming self- hatred. * Such words sure are pearls of wisdom flowing from your pen 🙂
Have you ever met anyone for whom you’ve had a strong reaction- positive or negative- even before you’ve exchanged a single word with them?
If you have, my explanation is already given. If not, I will wait until you do. Her love for him cannot be explained with logic- or words. 😛
Thank you Seeta. Your comment delights me. 🙂
Lovely end !
Thank you Vasudha! 🙂
Beautifully done Dagny. The descriptions are so lively and ..well…descriptive 😀 More feedback have been sent to you via email.
Thank you Sid! 😀
Descriptive descriptions… I like that 😀
Lovely and fitting finale to a nice three series novella 🙂
I don’t know why but maybe it was because of the title and the fact that you didn’t dwell too much on the girl’s eyes, but I kind of guessed about her being blind in the first post itself. I can bravely make these statements now that the story is fully published 😛
But honestly, I liked your narrative and your style of writing quite a bit, and am hoping this is the first of many more fictional tales to be woven by you on the blog 🙂
Jairam, I believe you completely. I am sure you must have guessed her blindness in the first part.
I hope you will read some of my other stories too, if you really liked this. Not all of them are as predictable as this one…. 🙂
Thanks for taking this journey with me!
Well, I guessed it only in the third part, if that is any consolation 🙂
And for sure, I will take all your other journey as well, walking with you 🙂
Perhaps I should blatantly self promote and share a couple of links to a few stories of mine that I like? May I? 🙂
I had guessed as much that she was blind…but, the way you built up the story…was…I was holding my breath. 🙂
Thank you Janaki! 🙂
oh beautiful story…I was waiting to get to the end..like all stories 🙂 beautiful description of characters and though the climax was expected, it was good to read in your words.
Thank you so much Prudhvi! SO happy that you liked. 🙂
loved it Dagny. Though the blindness was just incidental for me in this story. Ways to connect with with people can come from whatever one does whole-heartedly, soul connections happen even if they were not intended.
I like the way you built up the story and the way the characters evolved.
Thank you so much Sangeeta! I am so happy you focused on the point I was trying to put across. The silent relationship between them both, the last scene in which they came together was the climax of the story- for me. The rest was- as you say- incidental. 🙂
Thank you for the feeling of connection you’ve given me. 🙂
Sent from My Blackberry® @ Tata Docomo
I can no longer differentiate between you and the authors I read- the ones closest to my heart.
Though each genre of writing has its own intricacies, I have always been drawn to short stories- as a reader, and as a writer. It is an art- to flood beauty into the simplest and most ordinary occurrences in life…to breathe life into the simplest characters, and to thus create magic with words.
I fell in love with your characters. I love the way you build a mystery around the girl, making us wonder who she is and what lies beneath the surface view of her life that you present to us through Praful’s eyes.
You also subtly bring out various attribute of human behaviour in this story’s the way invisible threads of attachment form between people- the subliminal nature of human relationships. This was the most attractive part of the story for me.
And then you weave in the plot quite naturally, create an anticipation and move on to the climax. I loved the abruptness of the climax.
Your characters played in my mind long after I finished reading your story- I wondered who they were and what their lives were like. That defines the impact of your story.
Lines I particularly loved:
The frame trembled, the glass shivered…
The dimple played hide and seek with the smile…
Her resigned sadness…
I need not tell you how humbled I am by your words. To have you say that I come anywhere close to your favorite authors overwhelms me. Thank you for saying this. I pray that I continue to deserve your esteem.
The highlight of the story was the relationship between Praful and the girl. Not just the relationship, but also the silence in which it develops, the wordless expressions- unrelieved even through a shared glance. Most of my readers found that aspect of the story unbelievable. But you know where it comes from, you know the possibility of something like that happening. As do I.
Once again, thank you. You have given validation to my effort. What could be more gratifying than to win validation- and from fabulous writer like you. I shall walk on air for a month! 😀