I stepped out onto the 10th-floor landing from my hotel room in Mumbai. Travelling from New Delhi, with my husband, Henry, who was here on an official visit, I intended to go around and thoroughly enjoy my stay in this city. I eagerly awaited when he would be free.
The floor had a large window of transparent glass from which the soft blue and white waves of the Arabian sea were visible. The morning sun was shining; it was lightening the milky white walls of that space like a reflector. Next to the window on the left was the lift and the flight of stairs which was leading downwards.
The glorious morning seemed to spread cheer, and my mood matched the scene. My passionate romance during the night with my husband was happily spilling over into this morning. But then I was also feeling slightly queasy. In this picturesque setting, there appeared to be some glitches.
I remembered faintly that I suffered a brief blackout five minutes ago when I was in the shower. To add to that discomfort, I was now noticing that my long hair was completely soaked with water, my feet in the slippers were squelching, but my pink dress was dry. Also, the mirror opposite the lift was showing that my mascara and crimson lipstick were intact and so was my light foundation makeup, though they looked a bit washed-out. It was peculiar that there was a red mark on my left forehead just below the hairline.
Yet I didn’t bother. While thinking that I should have dried my hair and changed my wet slippers, what I eventually did was to press the button of the lift to bring it up to my floor. I wanted to go down to the restaurant to have breakfast with my husband. He was already in the hotel lobby for picking up some official papers.
While waiting, my uneasy feeling in some way changed into a weird sensation. Something was not right, I was sure.
And within moments I realised the reason. The lift came up to my floor, the doors slid open noiselessly, my husband came out along with his personal assistant, Daisy and moved towards me. As I was about to respond, I realised that they had not seen me, although I was standing in their full view. They walked through me as if I was an open space; as if I was not any physical hindrance to them.
I blinked in surprise and tried to stop them, to call out, but nothing happened. They went towards the room; my husband opened the door with the spare key, and they went inside.
I was quite taken aback. This would need to be checked out. Moving painstakingly towards the door, somehow my right leg was hurting, I heard a shrill cry in the room. It was Daisy’s voice. My husband’s loud and thick voice also reached my ears.
Before I could react, Henry staggered out, he was muttering to himself. “Oh my God… heaven help me, what is this? Is Maria dead?”
Hearing this, I wanted to reach out to him; to ask him about what was happening, but he again completely ignored me. Pressing the button of the lift and seeing that it was not coming up, he took the flight of stairs with shuffling feet. Instead of following him I thought fit to go into the room. The answer might just be there.
I had failed to understand clearly what my husband was saying.
Walking in slowly I saw that Daisy was sitting on the sofa near the window. Her face was white; she was checking her mobile phone in her right hand which was shaking noticeably.
I said, “Daisy, what’s the fuss about? Tell me, why Henry has rushed down the stairs?”
She didn’t bother to look at me, more annoyingly there was no reply, I could see her sobbing mildly, her body seemed to tremble, she was staring intently towards the shower room door.
I frowned slightly. All sorts of thoughts were crossing my mind.
“Is my husband saying that I am dead? Have I heard it right? What rubbish is that? I am very much alive and well. I am standing here. Or am I not?”
Never in my lifetime, I confronted these quandaries.
To begin with, the mystery seemed to lie inside the shower room; so, I walked in there.
It was just the way I had left it a little while ago, but then there was a difference.
Instantly my breath stopped, and my legs became weak. A stifled scream came out of me. I had to steady myself against the wall.
I simply couldn't believe what I was seeing!
My body was kneeling on the ground at the side of the bathtub, my head was hanging inside, twisted to an impossible angle, my right arm was dangling outside, touching the floor, and my head was resting awkwardly against my left shoulder. My loose hair was floating on water; both the taps were partially open; so, water was accumulating… gently swirling and turning into a deep red colour with my blood oozing out from the deep gash on top of my left forehead. My right leg was awkwardly bent, and the slippers which I was wearing were wet.
I gulped hard as I continued to survey the spectacle. My body was in a green nightgown, but I was wearing my embroidered pink dress now. I noticed that the pink one was hanging next to the bathtub so that I could have changed after the shower. My makeup bag, which was kept near the basin mirror, was open. I couldn’t see any towel. There was no pair of slippers too.
All these took some seconds to absorb. Then shakily I sat down on the floor mat, holding my head in my hand.
I touched my face, my arms and they felt normal. But there were two critical questions before me: What had happened to me? And, was I out of my body?
Slowly realisation was dawning upon me that this moving body of mine was not real, it was my spirit...my soul…which none else could see or hear or touch.
My ethereal body was with me, but then my physical body lay dead in that shower room.
I was now faintly recalling that after getting up from my bed, this morning, I had gone to the shower room and while bending down to open the bathtub taps my feet had slipped on the wet floor, and I had hit my head on the taps and collapsed inside. Initially, I was unconscious, but as the water accumulated, I drowned, and my life ebbed away. Unfortunately, my husband had gone down to the hotel lobby to meet Daisy, during that time.
It also crossed vaguely through my mind that after my death, I had put on my pink dress, applied makeup, but in the absence of any towel and another pair of slippers, I couldn’t wipe my hair and continued to wear my wet slippers. The reason for doing all these became clear to me; I knew that later I wouldn’t have got any other chance to be properly clothed.
Next, after coming out from the shower room, I looked around. Absolutely everything was the same. Daisy was now talking to someone on the mobile.
In this invisible state, I started thinking about what I should do next. Still musing I walked forward and sat on the edge of the bed.
Within a few minutes it seemed, I heard that my husband was returning. He entered the room and directly went to Daisy. He looked utterly devastated.
“Have you informed the hotel guys?” She asked.
“Yes, they are coming and the police,” my husband replied haltingly. “This has been a tremendous blow to me.”
He sat next to her and held his head in sorrow. She put her arms around him and said soothingly, “Now, now, my brave man, don’t lose heart, everything will be all right. This is just an accident. The police will understand this, and soon the matter will be closed and be over. Why do you have to worry so much?”
My husband moved away a little, “I know, I know, Daisy… still.”
She then took both his hands in hers, “I am always with you.”
As I was watching all this, the special relationship between them was becoming truly clear to me. I couldn’t deny that I had suspected this quite early during our marriage; however, my husband had always insisted that there was nothing.
But today, while I was observing them my sentiments were getting gradually roused, I couldn’t hold back my tears.
Shortly, the hotel staff arrived, followed by the police.
They had concluded that my death was indeed due to an accident. After the formalities, my body was laid at rest in the city mortuary.
Three nights later I was back in New Delhi; in my otherworldly self.
Henry had also returned. Daisy was always with him. Although I was dead, I was very much present in this physical world. The apparent difference was that I could move anywhere at my wish and I didn’t have any demands of a physical body, such as hunger, thirst, sleep…
Another two weeks had gone by. That was the night of the 14th May, the time was 11.43 p.m., and I was in my bedroom with my husband. He was of course not aware of my presence. I was sitting on the chair in front of my dressing table. I could see myself clearly in the mirror, and I could see my husband too, lying on the bed. His right arm crossed his eyes, he was very still, I could see his suffering.
I was not sure how long I was sitting there and watching him when suddenly his mobile rang.
My intuition was that Daisy was calling.
Henry listened for some moments and then said, “Daisy, please try to understand, I am totally shaken, and I can’t think straight. Please don’t come now. We will talk about this later.”
He was interrupted, after which he spoke with a slightly higher pitch.
“No, no, I can’t give my words at this time to marry you. I still haven't quite decided. Don't try and force it on me. I repeat, don’t come now.”
Disconnecting the mobile, he sat up on the bed and shook his head. Then, getting up, he went into the kitchen, poured himself a glass of water, drank it and returned closing the bedroom door behind him.
I was watching him intensely without moving, but then my emotions, which were in turmoil, were gradually wrenching me apart.
I was on the side of my husband continuously as an unseen shadow during this unhappy phase. I understood his mental turbulence. He was listless; had become silent for long hours; many times, I could see him crying in the presence of Daisy, who tried her best to pacify him. He calmed down occasionally and then again sank into bitterness and helplessness.
We had been a childless couple with no known relatives who could support him at this crucial juncture; he was so very lonely. I wanted him to overcome the grief of my absence; to return to normal life; regain his happiness which I had always given him. I just wanted to help him.
But then again, my thoughts were on Daisy. I wondered whether she could make his life easier. Even though he loved me, he had a soft corner for Daisy. He always denied it, yet I supposed that she would make the difference. She was serious and might be in love with him. Yes, she could bond with him; I could even say that they should marry!
But then a depressing thought struck me. “If he got Daisy, would he still love and miss me? How could a wife accept her husband’s marriage to another woman?” This was mental torture to the extreme. After that, I wiped my tears away. It was not right for me to become so upset. I was not alive anymore; my husband was a widower; now he was free.
Many hours had passed. I could hear the wall clock in the passageway outside the bedroom chime every half an hour, and many chimes had struck. I sat in that chair for hours; Henry was on the bed, I could make out that he was restless, he couldn’t sleep.
Then that incident happened.
I heard a slight noise coming from towards the closed bedroom door. As I turned to look at it, I saw Daisy was walking through the doorway, without opening it! Just as I could also do. Various thoughts, after that, flashed through my head. “Was she no longer alive? How did that happen? Was her body a spirit just like my body?”
Nonetheless, this one was totally unexpected.
I knew that she could see me since she came near me and held my hand. “Maria, my dear friend… I have joined you.”
Staring at her, I asked, “How?” I knew the answer anyway.
She looked at me with sorrowful eyes. “This is God’s will. I was coming here. While driving my car, I met with an accident, just a while ago. My dead body is still on the road, not too far away from here.”
I was not sure whether my crisis would ever end; still, the conclusion was now inevitable.
Getting up I embraced her. “Yes, He is supreme. See the poetic-justice! Neither can I stay with my husband nor can you get him, although I guess you love him and want him.”
She stayed still for many minutes, then said, “All these are beyond us. Let’s not remain in this physical world anymore. Let Henry live his life the way he wants….”
We then walked out of the house, hand in hand. No doors were needed to be opened for us.
But for Henry, my dear husband, all doors were open.
Time was the best healer of all.