Monday, November 18, 2013

Return Home

I was tending to the garden at my home in Mumbai. I had been away for couple of months to my Mausi’s house in Kerala and when I reached back yesterday, I was aghast looking at the appalling state of my once lovely garden. So today morning, as I soon as I had my cup of morning tea, I changed into my old clothes and started watering and clearing the dead plants. I was bent over the plants when I heard a voice behind the wall, that separated our house from the Singh’s.

“Hey, you must be Shruti”. A guy in a sweat soaked T-shirt and track pants sat on the wall, with a pair of headphones dangling on his shoulders. He looked as if he had come back from a strenuous workout.

“Yes, and you are?”

“I am Neeraj, your neighbor and your childhood sweetheart.” He smiled and my heart gave a leap for some unknown reason.

“Neeraj? You are Meera aunty’s son?” I tried to look busy digging the earth and pulling out the weeds. Neeraj was Mr. and Mrs. Singh’s son and also my childhood friend. We always played together when we were kids. In fact we were inseparable, leaving each other only when our parents threatened with dire consequences if we didn’t return to our respective homes and finish off our homework. I remembered in my pretend games, I always used to make him my husband, and prepare imaginary dishes and serve with great relish.

I felt my face going crimson as I blushed stupidly.

“Hello, are you there? You seem awfully quiet”, he was about to jump and come beside me when I heard my mother calling me.

I rushed past him muttering an “Excuse me”. There was something about him that flustered my otherwise composed self.

I saw Neeraj again at the breakfast table when, uninvited, he sat to eat my mother’s hot ghee laden parathas. My mother being the quintessential Indian mother heaped the parathas on his plate, much to my amusement.

“So apart from gardening, what do you do?” Neeraj asked me.

“Well, I was working as an accountant in a firm but I quit after my accident. I took a break for few months and went to my aunt’s place in Kerala”. I replied a little hesitatingly. I was still guarded when I talked about my accident.

“Oh, an accident? What happened?”

I looked down at my plate but my father replied.

“She was crossing the road, when a car hit her and she was injured badly. She had to be hospitalized.”

There was an awkward pause before Neeraj continued.

“I’m sorry. But glad that you have recovered completely. You should put it behind you…”

“Stop. Who are you to give advice? What do you know about me? You just met me like an hour before and now you are here, poking your nose into our matters. You are a neighbor, so behave like a neighbor.”

My sudden outburst had shocked my parents and Neeraj. I got up and went to my room. I don’t know why I had lost my temper. Yes, it was true I had barely survived the accident, I had multiple surgeries and then I was kept in the ICU. By the time I regained consciousness, a month had passed since the accident. I had felt disconcerted and unstable for the next few days drifting in and around sleep and consciousness. I remembered a silhouette, someone standing beside me every time I opened my eyes, tears in eyes and sometimes the cool teardrops falling on my face. It felt like a dream but that dream kept returning back to me often, haunting me. I felt that I was missing a link somewhere, a sinking feeling of forgetting something but when I thought about it, I felt dizzy and nauseous.

Was I being insane? I didn’t know, but somehow I felt that I had changed after my accident. That I left behind a part of me, a very significant and vital part of me, in my life before the accident.

I knew that I was silly to shout at Neeraj who had innocently tried to perk me up.

The next day I headed to Neeraj’s house to apologize.

He was watching the television with a concentrated gaze on the television. I stood near the door studying him. He had worn a tight fitting shirt that showed off his toned muscles. There was tattoo of a star and a heart on his upper left arm with some wordings. I inched closer to read what was written.

You’re the star that shines bright in my heart.

'I had seen that tattoo before! If only I could remember where’ I pondered. I must have done a sound because Neeraj turned suddenly towards me.

“Hey, I’m sorry for yesterday. I shouldn’t have shouted at you. I am not very comfortable talking about my accident. But still it wasn’t your fault.” I muttered even as my heart beat wildly.

Neeraj was smiling at me. There was something about him that quickened my pulse, that made my heart beat like wild tribal drums.

“I will forget about it if you come to watch a movie with me today”.

“A movie?”

“Yes, don’t sound incredulous. It’s just a movie. I’m dying to watch this movie and I have no company”.

I agreed and we both had a wonderful time together. The movie was horrible with bad dialogues and even worse acting but, Neeraj’ s jokes and his company kept me cheerful for those couple of hours. He made sure that I was comfortable, bringing me coke, popcorn and ice-creams. As I reached back home, I realized that I was happier than I had ever been in the past couple of months. In fact I couldn’t remember when I had laughed so much.

The next day when I saw Neeraj at our breakfast table, I was pleased and happy. Neeraj was a cheerful person, someone fun and pleasant to be with, someone who could bring a smile on my lips even on a gloomy day. Every day he used to pick me up in the evening and we would go around the city in his car, listening to music, chatting, cracking jokes and reminiscing about our school days. Some days we would have dinner in a restaurant that Neeraj praised to have exceptional culinary delights.

Those few hours I spent with Neeraj were the highlight of my life. When I was with him, I felt happy, I felt alive. I was on a high, talking and arguing with him. I laughed, I cracked witty comebacks at his jokes, I was a different person altogether. And more importantly, I didn’t think of my life before the accident.

I didn’t know if I was falling in love with Neeraj but I enjoyed his company and I basked in all the attention that he showered on me. A few times I caught Neeraj looking at me longingly, but when I met his gaze he averted his eyes quickly. I didn’t know what to make of our relationship.

One evening when we were returning back from dinner in Neeraj’s car, I was gazing out of the window silently.

“Hey pretty lady, why are you so silent? Do you want to hear one of my funny jokes? Neeraj said hoping to snap me out of my pensive.

“Sure”, I replied.

“Well, once there was a murder and the police brought in a potato for interrogation. They tortured him for hours subjecting him to third degree torture. And when the potato could not take it anymore, he broke down shouting,

‘Main batata hoon, main batata hoon’”

I giggled and slowly the giggles turned into guffaws. I doubled over with laughter clutching my stomach as Neeraj, sitting next to me, looked at me in amusement.

But as laughter ended I howled with sorrow and grief. The tears ran down unabashedly down my cheeks. I wailed loudly folding my hands into a fist and banging them on my head.

Neeraj had stopped the car to the side and held me until my sobs died down.

“You remember the first day you had asked me about my accident. The reason why I was upset was, I had lost my memory in the accident. I cannot remember anything that happened in my life in the past 3 years. Nothing. And I know that something important happened to me in that period. I just know it. I have dreams of someone holding me, begging me to return back. But I cannot recall anything, no matter how hard I try. It’s so frustrating. Every day I try to remember and when I can’t, I try to forget the wispy memories. It’s a war out there in my mind. Every day, every moment.”

Neeraj was looking straight out of the window. Silently, he started the car and drove till he reached an isolated house in the outskirts. It was a small house but with a large, spacious garden at the front, that seemed well looked after. There were flowers of all colors blooming and their fragrance wafted alluringly in the cold night air.

Neeraj took my hand and led me inside the house.

The living room was warm and cozy with flames burning in the fireplace.

“Where are we? Whose house is this?” I asked Neeraj.

He showed me the mantle above the fireplace where a dozen or so photos were kept.
The first photo showed Neeraj kneeling below me with a ring in his hand and I was beaming with happy tears. In the next photo, I was wearing a red bridal sari looking gorgeous, the next photo was of Neeraj’ s, in a groom’s dress complete with a turban and atop a horse, the next photo showed Neeraj and I dancing with the bharatis. There were rows and rows of photos, on the wall, as picture frames, all displaying the blessed and loved life that we had led as a couple.

“After the accident, the doctors warned us not to force you into remembering anything. You would get your memory back and we only had to give you time, to recover slowly, to recall as years passed. But I couldn’t stay away from you, Shruti. It was torture for me to see you but, not be able to hold you, to see you cry, to see you depressed but not be able to help you remember those wonderful moments we had spent together. Every day I hoped that you would remember something, some moments of us and I prayed that you would regain your memory.”

I sat down as the memories flashed in my mind, like the photos taken lovingly and placed all over the house. Those loving years Neeraj and I had spent as husband and wife in this house. Neeraj stood over me and his tears fell on my face. I knew now the person beside me all those months when I was in the hospital, the person holding my hands and praying, and talking to me although I could hardly hear him.

I knew I had returned, I knew I had come home.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

18 comments:

  1. Nice, feel good story!
    Very well written.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice post and nice new theme :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Deepa :) The dynamic templates were giving problems in formatting so I had to shift to another template :)

      Delete
  3. This is simply amazing..I really loved it very much Prasanna.. :D

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oohhhh!! Did you mean this post??? Its really very sweet :) and yes, we have a similar premise and yet such different takes.. that's what writing does to us I guess.. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's what I felt when I read your post too, Seeta :)

      Delete
  5. Loved your take on the prompt...love happy endings :) loved your story...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice post.. :)
    Accept this Liebster award from my blog.
    http://tulipsandme.blogspot.in/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Preethi. I am humbled by the award, thanks once again :)

      Delete
  7. Hey a great one on the prompt. keep writing !!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Such a beautiful WOW story, Prasanna!
    Qualifies for the Platinum Day of Love! Love retrieves your memory!
    I could connect with the car-accident...

    ReplyDelete