2476-a-couple-on-the-beach-during-sunset-pv

BEFORE SUNSET

 

He looked young as ever in the tailor-made suit
And his face glistened with happiness
As he beamed a toothless smile
While my wrinkled feet walked down the aisle.

 

The sun had incessantly painted the entire sky with hues of orange and touches of yellow, and the summer breeze had just started to blow its magic around the humid weather of Bombay. The birds were flying back home and the untamed waves had just begun to roar passionately. I was sitting on the edge of a bench, looking into the sea, when he tapped me on the shoulders and politely asked “Can I sit here please? I’m a little tired from walking.”

 

I looked at him, smiled and nodded.
He sat down and both of us stared into the endless horizon of the Arabian Sea. I come here almost every day since the past fifty three years. It was my husband’s undisputed love for this place that brought us here every evening with or without any occasion. From anniversaries and birthdays to random getaways, we have seen summers change into winters and leaves withering away in autumn year after year. Gradually, as time passed, coming here almost transformed from a want into a need. We had begun to concede the infirmities of old age and our family physician had recommended us to go for a walk every evening. We were more than willing. Walking down the promenade together, watching the luminous ball retreating into the horizon leaving the sky in multiple shades of orange was our favorite thing to do. And would you believe me if I said, no sunset ever looked the same?

 

After he passed away, I stopped coming to this place for a short while. It was difficult to accept the loneliness that had suddenly crept into my life uninvitingly. We practically spent every day with one another for almost an entire lifetime and then one day he decided to go away, leaving me all alone. It was quite unfair, I had told myself. He didn’t even leave any warning sign. My children had suggested my selling the house and living with them but I could never agree. This home has housed millions of tiny intricate stories. How could I just wipe them all away? 

 

I gradually found myself going to his favorite place every evening again to keep myself occupied. It’s been over five years that I’ve been coming here alone.  I began to realize how everything has changed over the years. The benches along the promenade have been painted yellow now. Back in those days, it used to be rustic blue. New food joints have opened up across the streets and from what I have learnt, hawkers sell something called Selfie Stick instead of flower strands these days. But few things remained just the same. There were kids playing in the park and dogs resting under the shade. The man by the street corner still sold peanuts and the sun still set beautifully every evening leaving traces of its gorgeous radiance behind.

I was so engrossed in my own world of thoughts that he had to repeat the same question thrice to get my attention. “Do you come here often?” he asked. 

 

It took me a while to comprehend the question.

“Yes, almost every day.” I replied.

“I haven’t really seen you here. I come frequently too.”

I laughed a little and said, “Well, we must have crossed paths but too old and wrinkled to look at each other.”

Both of us laughed loudly on that one. 

We sat on the yellow bench for three and a half hours that day until I was interrupted by a call from my granddaughter. 

“I am going to go to your place during my summer vacations for a week, granny,” my eight years old said. 

“Of course you will. Granny will make your favorite pickles and wait for you.”

“Mamma, granny said “yes”. I could hear her voice trailing away as she turned from the phone to inform her mother about the successful holiday planning. 

“Bye Granny”, the voice got loud again until the call was disconnected. 

“My little granddaughter,” I smiled at him.

“I understood”, he said. 

“I should leave now. It’s about time for my dinner.” I got up to leave when he said, “see you tomorrow?”

A smile is all I could manage as I walked towards home wondering if I should take a rickshaw today. 

 

 I honestly don’t remember the last time I spoke to anyone for three hours. I would have blamed my memory at this age but I know for sure I haven’t in a long time. We talked about our lives and numerous tales from our younger days. Both of us have lost our significant other and it was beautifully comforting sharing the pain with someone who could understand the same kind of emotion. I felt different after a long time, probably because it was disparate from my usual routine, devoid of any changes or surprises. 

 

I met him the next day again as well. I was sitting on the same yellow bench as he came by and said hello with a smile. 

“I’m tired today again.” he said. 

 

Five months, three days and few hours later, I realized we have roped ourselves into an intricate relationship of silence and conversations. And that was all we needed in each of our respective lives at that point of time. We needed someone to listen when we talk, someone to talk when we want to listen and someone to share silence with. We spoke about stars and after life, international peace and dentist appointments, feather pens and the monsoon seasons, migrants and noise pollution. We spoke without regrets or fear of consequences. Moon, magic, travel, youth, politics, literature, humans, dreams – we have touched them all. Endless conversations without a purpose, some heated discussions, some mindless laughter and just when we had enough of words, silence engulfed us. There were moments of absolute serenity when we both stared into the empty space sharing an inexplicable feeling that no words can define. We loved silence as much as we loved conversations.  And through, silence and conversations, we realized we have started to fall in love with each other. 

 

A year had gone by. It was a bright Sunday morning after days of no sunshine, as if nature too was preparing itself for the big occasion. My son took my hand and led me to the door.  And as I looked up, I saw him standing at the other side of the hall.

 

He looked young as ever in the tailor-made suit

And his face glistened with happiness

As he beamed a toothless smile 

While my wrinkled feet walked down the aisle. 

 

I realized, sometimes we are not destined to grow old with someone. But we can always meet the one even when we are old.

 

– SHRAMONA PODDAR

 

 

 

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