It was through a few turning of pages of days and nights, they were neatly woven in friendship. In an unusually underdeveloped semi-urban environment, moments of togetherness led two distant sailors to unite and discover an island of seclusion in an lazy expanse of bucolic ocean…to breathe in the way they were taught, to express the way their wishes were wrought and to renew life the way its meaning was sought…through their childhood, and adolescence and youth.
Robert headed straight from picturesque IAS Academy in Mussoorie to a shabby town of district headquarter and was happy enough to be soon remitted to a shabbier environment to complete last phase of his training. He was indeed happy for it offered him an opportunity to get rid of those unusual guests dropping in unusual time with unusual purposes in their folds only to perturb tranquil pool of his mind. He wasn’t sure if it would ruin him more, yet was content to get out of eddy he was caught in for the moment.
The vehicle sped fast…faster and faster…almost with an intense urge to toss him out of it; but it finally slowed down to glide through a wide green field passionately embracing a two-storied red bungalow. He was impressed for the first time in last a couple of weeks.
When he met Kelden, a bright lady—well clad in deep blue jeans perfectly married to a lemon top—with a wide innocent smile drawn upon her chubby face, he found himself in a grand luxury of joy. She was senior to Robert by two years in service and elder to him by a couple of years more. He enjoyed to learn a few more things, took active interest in learning more and devoted full time and vigour to mature himself in administrative job for deep impressions that the Sub divisional Magistrate left upon his young mind.
It was soon a usual scene that they would sit in the terrace overflowing the rooftop of Bungalow through moaning evenings—smoking, talking, debating, joking, laughing and at times enjoying music of silence in between—till it would be a time when moon and stars whispered, “Goodnight!” They would break…leaving the moon, the stars and the night to play with their dreams upon the vacant terrace.
It was a dream that came true for Robert. For long he missed sweet company of a sister and cursed his own fate for not having one while everyone else had…one, two and more ! He was delighted to have one…so late, yet so more compassionate than of his friends and neighbours. He didn’t mind—rather loved—to be rebuked by Kelden for not getting up early in morning, or for not taking care of health…. not eating properly….smoking too much….not polishing the shoes…and what not. Those nagging “nots” were slowly weaving a splendid texture of his mind with of strong threads of respect and love for her newly-discovered sister.
It went for weeks and months; and the summer slowly sheathed into mantle of the monsoon, and the monsoon into that of sacred autumn. It was another full moon. The twilight had folded its magic canvass to leave vacuity to a relaxing moon to soon rise and shine the evening sky. They were together on the terrace—holding long mugs of coffee—with molten wishes bubbling beneath secrets of silence.
Robert told her about most events of his life…his mom, his dad, his friends, his school, his passions, his dreams and so on; but never spoke about the girl—his love—for he could never gather enough courage to speak about love with someone whom he regarded in so high esteem. But he felt…he must...one day...sooner...before the winter broke news of his marrying the girl.
Upon flowing steam of silence, he struck the oars of his sailing thoughts. In a single lash of moment, he was bare to the core of his heart. It was a breathless spree…uninterrupted gush of hidden pleasure…and he could only stop when an image of his beloved was broadly laid upon Kelden’s pebbled soul. Unknowingly, he smiled…felt himself foolish at the end and he drew a curtain with just a concluding sentence. “It is she who’s turned me what I am, led me to explore threads of my life and took my dreams to a space where they could have tryst with just goodness.”
There was a long deep silence. The golden moon had, by then, risen. Peeping through long dancing leaves of coconut trees, it had started playing with dark shades of night upon faces of two young islanders. And, the silence spread its wings as widely, as intensely as it could.
“So, you’re in love?”
Her tone was comforting, yet somewhere missing the chord. Robert was anxiously enduring that long pause only to hear something…anything….being sure of either a few explosion of laughter or stern displeasure on his bringing down Kelden to a level of fun and friendship from revered space of elder sister; but he did not expect such an indistinct reflection. He stretched himself to discern between lines and shades crafted upon her pensive face—somewhat veiled under brown smokes of cigar.
“It’s a great revelation…great for me, Bob! It’s so enriching for me to learn about someone who chiselled you out into a truly loveable personality of a block of ordinary self! It’s indeed enriching…to feel why every stone doesn’t shine as a gem….a long tale of its becoming is more astounding than all dazzles of its shines. Okay, what’s her name?”
Another long silence followed. Robert was still searching to read her face while the moon slipped its golden gown to wear a silvery white…and it rose…beyond those lofty wishes of coconut leaves, and poured in gentle drops of soft glow…here and there and everywhere. It shone an half-turned face—smooth silk of pink, adorn with a pressed monogolian nose suddenly halted before relief of narrow lips, a pair of deep eyes tucked under faint eyebrows and a beach of temple broadened over to sacrifice itself before leisurely ripples of a tranquil bay of neatly combed hairs. She was pretty, and it was such a long phase of silence that Robert could bathe in its vastness to explore more beauty than he could find in time and opportunity ever before.
His gaze stupefied….in those eyes…glistening elegantly in showering moonshine.
“Are you crying?”
“Yes, I’m. Well, never mind. Bob, I have something to say to you. I wanted to tell it before, but I couldn’t….Yes, in so many nights, alone I gathered words, perfected it and held them pressed inside to express my feelings to you next evening; but I could not….Bob, I love you and I wanted to tell you that loud and clear; but I could not. Well, it would be another new world for me now…yes, without expecting your love. It’s not a fault on your part…it has neither been on my part…you are the finest man I have ever met in my life and I could not simply abort the embryo of love that went on growing—deeply connected to chord of my inner self—and growing, kicking, moving…all inside me. I’ve loved you…in every moments of being with you…in every word shared between us…in every dream of mine to be with you. I couldn’t just stop loving you. It grew and I loved every moments of its growing....flourishing in its natural contentment. I love you so much, Bob! Hey, never mind. I’ll take care of myself. Look at me, surely I will. I would have…er... I would have…I would have urged you to accept me in your life…I dreamt of such bliss of life, Bob! Still, I won’t urge you so...because I know it’s not to be in this life. Bob, don’t feel bad…I will surely take care of myself…please don’t feel bad.”
Robert did not speak a single word. He could never realize that Kelden loved him so dearly, so passionately. He had no fault indeed. He did never express anything that might have impregnated Kelden’s soul with such intense feeling of love. Still he felt bad. He had no words with him for either to express him or to lay a comforting touch upon her ravaged mind.
It was almost midnight. Never before had they spent night, for so deep, so long time. Robert was indeed in deep agony for carrying his defenceless entity through a long lane of corpses of Kelden’s dreams. After a long while, Kelden rose, had a few quick puffs and handed over the half-spent cigar to Robert. She gazed on...beyond the horizon of eastern sky...firmly holding wooden railings and turned to Robert. And, she drew herself near to him and smiled...wide smile danced from the eyes to lips while tears still rolled down. Softly she whispered.
“Forget my craziness, Bob! The tale ends here...yeah, just this night. None will know of its seedless birth and endless death...it will only flow like a stream without any banks to confine its destined journey... let this feeling....let this love live for just this dying night. We will just be friends from tomorrow. Bob, I love you so much....I just want to hug you, kiss you....just for this one night...just once.”
Kelden walked as near to Robert as her trembling feet could carry her. Robert held her drooping existence and put a gentle kiss upon her temple. For a while, she stood motionless within ease of his embrace. She lifted her face, her light arms encircling around him and drew him closer and closer till it erased all margins of distance between them. And, she showered him with kisses all over his face, eyes to eyes, lips to lips—kissing, weeping, kissing, embracing and kissing.
The night flew away riding upon wings of newly born dawn, so had the tale. They were seen as usual in the terrace next evening ...and the next, yet they were just friends...just friends—smoking, talking, debating, joking, laughing and at times enjoying music of silence in between—till it would be a time when moon and stars whispered, “Goodnight!” None could know of a tempest that swept over the terrace in an autumn night...wildly playing with fallen leaves of dreams...of wishes...twirling emotions to chase a silver moon...and it died gently to be buried in unseen graveyard of soul.
After a few more weeks, time had ripened enough for the autumn to share its last fall colours...all over the field and the forest and the sky....and in the island. Some yellow, some red, some brown fallen leaves were awaiting white blanket of the winter to be laid upon to sink in smooth sleep for ever. The last autumn moon smiled over the terrace to drench the last night of union of two islanders with its passionate shiny shower. Kelden and Robert sat over idly....in silence...smoking cigars...one...another...many.
“So, you’re leaving tomorrow?”
“Don’t know if we will meet again...may not have a chance to meet Deepsikha...it’s for her.”
A small wooden box...fine craft of soft yellow. Deepsikha opened it. A piece of golden paper neatly folded in a velvet...fastened around by a golden chain with a perfect heart of ruby lying loosely over its soft bed. Robert watched on while she unfurled it. Not a long letter... string of wavy words...deeply drawn in Chelpark blue. Tears rolled down her cheek...streaming down to reach nowhere. She folded it, held it close to her heart...and silence reigned. After a long while, she dropped it softly between folded palms of Robert.
“Deepsikha, my dear,
We may not have met...may never...but, I have seen you through eyes of the man whom I loved. It had just been a secreted brook that took birth in me, flowed within me and met its finality in me without having privilege to drench the vales of his soul...the roots of those wild flowers that bloomed only to shine in smiles on your face. We have never talked to each other, yet I have known you through every word he had shared with me...in every bits of being loveable for your sweet presence in his life. I loved him...yes, with dreams on my eyes to be with him forever. It all was till he revealed a grand portrait of you...the lady who made a perfect man for me to love. It was the moment that confided in me that he was born to yours only...for I would lose the man forever if I robbed him out of a soul who’d turned him a man whom I loved….I didn’t want to dream to lose the man I’d loved while enjoying every loss within. I enjoyed every bit of losing him for I knew my man...my love...would be in your company. I still love him...will love him....secretly within my suppressed cries, hidden emotions and its subterranean flow will keep me alive. The candle will burn...without expecting to illuminate around. Yet, I dream of its fallen rays finding recluse in your soul..Deepsikha, the flame of the lamp...yes, I dream of just such peace in you for to be in eternal embrace of the man of my love. I wish you grant me this privilege.
I love you, my dear. I love to see you together...bound in one self...forever.
Robert folded it...wrapped it in velvet—as neatly as it was—and put it inside the box. Her beloved was still sitting muted....through her wet eyes he traversed to the deepest core of heart—as elegant as the pendant of ruby—and he remembered Kelden...of those moments...of that night. His thoughts were soaked in tears of those two women, love of those two women, dreams of those two women...and of just those two women, who never met each other, yet were far more closer to soul....in honouring love, in feeling about its sacred sense, and in keeping its flame undying for to bless life. That’s just woman. Robert felt lack of such sacred power within...the best of him could not even touch that ribbon. He felt and wondered powerlessly that his life would await another life to let him be a woman...just a woman.....if not for a whole life, but for just a single moment. He whispered to his own soul, “That’s what man needs.”