A Prism Of Her Life
A Prism Of Her Life
It was a hot Saturday morning. Rohan arrived Pune station, fifteen minutes prior to the departure time of his train to Mumbai.
It was just like any other day….a book stall near the entrance, a small grocery store from where he bought a bottle of water, sonorous voice of announcements and an insane crowd. He made his way through the throng and got into the train.
He found a seat and waited for the train to move. Just then, his eyes glued on a woman, sitting cater-cornered from him, near window. The train advanced slowly, but his eyes didn’t. There were a group of women accompanying her, cackling and munching aloo bhujia; but she was continuously looking outside the window and lost in her own thoughts. Half an hour passed, and she remained stock-still at her place. Only the pupil of her eyes moved from one corner to another with the trees outside, goats grazing grasses and electricity poles, as the train moved; and her neck, sometimes moving up seeing the clear sky, and sometimes down seeing the adjacent track bewilderingly, as if believing “motion illusion”. Her childlike innocence captivated Rohan, and her cryptic behaviour raised his curiosity.
Later, the train reached Mumbai station. They both got off, and their ways parted, but not for forever.
“Mom, I am home”, Rohan shouted blissfully on phone.
“See you in the evening son. There are few patients waiting outside”, his mother responded from the other side.
Renuka was a psychiatrist and counsellor, had her own clinic and a flat in Mumbai; where she alone, being a single mother, sustained her son, gave him a good education and inculcated ethical principles in him. Her husband died due to heart attack when Rohan was 7 years old.
He took a shower, heated up lady fingers in the oven, which her mother cooked and kept in the refrigerator for him, and ate it with chapatis rolled in a casserole. He then went to sleep.
“Wake up Rohan, Sun is about to set in an hour. You and your love for sleep...only your wife can change your habits now”. Renuka gave him a roguish smile.
“Oh! Please mom, not again. I am just 28”, he said in hushed tone with his eyes half closed.
Rohan was a Chartered Accountant, working in a well established firm in Pune. He came to Mumbai to visit his mom.
Concurrently, that group of women, whom Rohan espied in the train, were swinging with the waves of Arabian Sea at Marine Drive, and waiting excitedly for the enchanting sight of sunset.
“Priya, come here. We rarely get a chance to look beyond that pale yellow, dreary walls of Chhaya”, one of them called ‘a woman who was in some other alien world’, to whom sea and the Sun seemed powerless to enthral, the same woman who kept records of number of trees and poles to which train passed by.
Priya, sitting at a distance from her group, was busy drawing a leafless tree and sand dunes with a roughly sharpened pencil on her favourite drawing book. That was her only companion, privileged enough to get all her attention.
Chhaya was a shelter home for homeless in Pune.
On Sunday serene evening, Rohan went back to Pune.
A month later, his destiny rang a bell. A fleeting glimpse brought back his faded memory.
One evening, while going back from the office, Rohan stopped at a fruit market to buy sweet and lush Nagpur oranges; where subliminally, he followed someone who was in onyx black salwar kurta, absorbing lambent sunrays, and teal green dupatta wrapped around head. She was Priya. He went close to her.
“Hi! I am Rohan Verma. Can we talk?” He said hesitantly. She looked at him with her upturned eyes. Her face was void of all expression. But within seconds, she turned away and continued giving an abstracted stare to the apples.
“Priya, you haven’t bought apples yet? Okay, hold this packet of bananas; let me check apples”, a woman came just like a rock that cuts the flow of a river.
She went along with her. But Rohan stood there, watching her going far from him.
He started visiting the same fruit market after every 2 to 3 days, with a hope of seeing her again. He was slowly getting attracted to her, like bees towards nectar. Her strange personality concealed her sweetness like a bud, and Rohan wanted to open each layer and let her inner beauty be revealed. He wanted to know about her life, he wanted to see her smile and to tell her that she had become a frequent visitor of his dreams.
On Sunday morning, Rohan was in his flat, sitting in a balcony, sipping his green tea and watching kids of his society playing. The walls of the flat were spotless white, there were striped grey eyelet curtains on windows, a snake plant at one corner of his living room and everything was at its place. His house reflected his simplicity and his heart free of chicanery.
Someone tapped at his shoulder. “Rohan, what has happened to you? The door is opened and you are lost somewhere that you didn’t even see me coming”, said Amit, his childhood friend, who came to spend Sunday with him.
Rohan- “Hey Amit, How are you my friend?” He hugged him.
“You tell me first, where were you lost? Don’t tell me that you are in love”, Amit asked with impish laughter to tease Rohan.
Rohan- “It’s nothing like that. I am just curious to know her.”
Amit- “Her? So I was right. What’s her name?”
To this, Rohan had no answer. The woman who was always in his subconscious mind, he didn’t even know her name.
“Am I being foolish?” He thought to himself.
“Hello? Don’t you know her name?” Amit interrupted his train of thought.
Next day, Rohan went to the fruit market again. This time despondency kneeled down in front of his dedication, letting rays of hope fall on him. He saw Priya and followed her secretly to Chhaya.
He quickly went in and met home in-charge. He pointed a finger towards Priya and said, “Hi! I am Rohan Verma. I want to meet her.”
Home in-charge- “You want to meet Priya Singh? Nobody came to see her since the day she is here. Where did you come from? How do you know her?”
“She was my schoolmate. We were not in touch after leaving school. Few months back, I shifted back to Pune. I was passing from here, and I saw Priya. I thought to meet her. It has been years. I must say, she hasn’t changed much”, he lied. “By the way, why is she living here?” He was surprised to find out that she lived in a shelter home.
“Three years back, the watchman saw her on the next street walking aimlessly. He brought her to us and since then, she is a member of this home. We tried to interrogate her about her family. But she never uttered a single word. She is an enigma to us”, home in-charge replied.
Rohan thought the time had come to strike the iron, and therefore he said, “Can you please call her so that we can meet?”
In-charge- “I can’t permit you to take her out. You can talk to her in the garden, and do not forget, visiting time is only for 1 hour.”
Then, she called Priya. Rohan thanked her and moved to the garden.
“Hi! I am Rohan. Remember, I met you earlier at fruit market?” Rohan tried to start the conversation.
But Priya fondled her companion, i.e. her drawing book, flipped through the pages to find a blank one and started drawing mountains.
“You like drawing?” Rohan asked.
“Yes, I love it”, for the first time, he heard her voice. She continued, “So, you came to meet me. But why? I like talking to my family and friends only. Like yesterday, my mother visited me. We had a long talk.”
“But the in-charge of this place told me that nobody comes to meet you?” He asked perplexedly.
“She always lies”, Priya replied.
“Anyway, can we be friends?” Rohan asked Priya. But she went back to her room without saying anything.
Next evening, he again came to meet her. They again sat at wooden bench in the garden. This time, she allowed him to see her drawing book.
“Don’t you colour your drawings? They all are black and white”, Rohan asked.
“But I like them this way”, she answered.
He then thought to talk about something else and so asked about her birthday.
“It’s on 10th November. I will turn 29”. Priya was one year elder to him.
They started spending one hour of every Saturday and Sunday together. Priya used to listen more and talk less. An unseen connection was developing between them, to which they both were unaware of.
Few Sundays later, Amit visited Rohan again. This time, Rohan had a contented smile on his face.
“You seem happy. You came to know her name?” Amit asked enthusiastically.
Rohan- “Not just her name, but many more things. I meet her every weekend.”
Amit- “Really? Tell me also something about her. How does she look?”
“Her face is like a dream that every artist wants to portray, innocence dribbles touching every part of her face, her eyes are diamonds, big and sparkling, her wavy hair like a black night in which anyone can be lost, and when her hair blows in the wind, it impregnates the air with its fragrance, her voice is like a nightingale singing at night, like cuckoo chirping with sunrise, like soft lullaby that soothes the soul, her heart is as pure as gold”, Rohan described Priya.
A woman, whom he had never seen smiling, gave him a new lease of life.
The next Saturday, he thought to surprise her and went half an hour early. Someone told him that she was sitting in the garden. He went quietly to her and was stupefied to see her laughing and talking, but there was no one around her.
He immediately called her mother, told her about Priya, how he met her and about what he saw.
Renuka- “This could be a case of Schizophrenia. It would be better if you could bring her to me.”
“How could you be so careless? You paid no attention to her condition”, he shouted at Chhaya’s in-charge, and took permission to take her to Mumbai for her treatment.
Rohan was worried for her.
Renuka tried to know about her family, her home, and how she reached Chhaya.
These questions were annoying her. She got up from her chair, ran towards Rohan and hugged him tightly. The warmth of his hug gave her comfort; he was like an armour shield for her. He felt the wetness of her tears on his shirt. He held her in his arms, caressed her face and wiped her tears off.
“Don’t worry. I am with you”, Rohan consoled her.
He then took her to the guest room and asked her to rest.
Renuka- “Rohan, she only trusts you. It’s you who can help her to recover.”
Renuka, in couple of days, did her few tests, started her counselling, and also her medications. Rohan, on the other hand, started visiting her every weekend.
He used to sit beside her, and tell stories, to deviate her mind whenever she had hallucination; and she, with an angelic smile, used to listen to him attentively.
One Saturday night, he went to her room to see her. She was sleeping like a baby. He went towards her, stroked her hair with his hand, stooped a little and his lips gently touched her forehead.
He had fallen head over heels for her.
Renuka reprehended the fact that Priya was becoming the cynosure of her son. But the tranquillity she witnessed on his face made her to accept Priya…more than a patient.
Few weeks later, Rohan came home for Diwali holidays. He sat with Priya, held her hand, his fingers laced with hers; he came close to her and their foreheads kissed each other. Slowly, with his other hand, he touched her cheeks soft like mullein leaves and said, “Priya, your counselling sessions with mom and treatments are going on. By this time, you already know that you are not well. You have Schizophrenia. It’s a mental illness. It’s important for you to know your condition. Sometimes, things or people you see are not real.”
“Are you also my hallucination?”- saying this, she quickly embraced him with her arms folded behind his neck.
Rohan- “I am your breath. Even if you won’t be able to see me, you can feel my presence. Unlike hallucinations, I will be with you forever in this real world.” He further asked, “How did you reach Chhaya?”
Priya replied, “My father said that I am not normal and asked me to leave his house….No, I think I lost my way and started wandering on streets…..Or may be, I was a bad omen for my family, and so my mother left me in a shelter home.” She couldn’t recall any one incident, as she was unable to differentiate between what really happened and what were just delusionary stories.
Rohan- “It’s alright. Remember one thing that you are normal. You are just unwell and you will be fine soon.”
Later on, Priya helped Renuka in making delicious karanji, a Maharashtrian sweet.
At night, all three of them celebrated Diwali together. But for Rohan, every moment spent with her was not less than a celebration.
Priya loved the ‘sparkler’. She waved it around and the colourful sparks delighted her. She was really happy, like a child on getting a new toy.
She was slowly recovering.
Few months later, on Valentine’s Day, Rohan brought a special gift for Priya. She opened the pack and it was all kinds of colours and paints.
Rohan- “I want you to add colour to your drawings.”
He came into her life like a season of spring, who brought her out of those chilly doleful days and gave colourful flowers in the garden of her life.
She looked at him affectionately.
“There is something else also that I want to say. Priya, will you marry me?” He asked.
She was filled with emotions. She had no word to describe her happiness. She simply nodded her head yes.
And within a month, they got married.
On wedding night, Rohan came into the room, sat near his wife on a bed of scattered rose petals, and kissed her hands painted with henna.
She got two precious things, life filled with bright colours, as Rohan played the role of a prism, and true love.
After many weeks, they went to Marine Drive. Rohan was holding her hand.
Rohan- “What a beautiful sunset! Isn’t it?”
Priya looked at him and smiled.