Jinxed Love and God's Wish
Jinxed Love and God's Wish14 mins 509 14 mins 509
Excitement was palpable in the Verma household this tuesday morning. Sunita woke up early than her usual time; in fact she had slept only in sporadic intervals during the night. Her mind was continuously preoccupied with the thought of Anuj returning home this afternoon from USA after completing his Ph D. For an umpteenth time during the night Sunita had recapitulated in her mind the preparations she had to make for the homecoming of Anuj after three years.
On this tuesday she left her home early for the visit to the temple to pay obeisance to Lord Hanuman. She had been following this weekly ritual for several decades. In measured steps as she walked the vacant street this morning, her mind took the liberty of going back in time. Sunita's thought catapulted her to the cold December night thirty two years back when she had took the seven pheras hand in hand with Ashok.
She found herself in perspiration when her mind played the memory of the trauma of not being able to conceive for four long years. She vividly remembered the train visit to Tirupati, which Ashok and she undertook for seeking the blessings of Lord Vishnu in their quest for a child.
Sunita's mind wandered to her most joyful moment of life when Anuj was born a year after their visit to Tirupati. A blissful smile crossed her lips while her thoughts took her through the journey of Anuj's early childhood. He was indeed a bundle of joy. Sunita had almost reached the entrance of the Hanuman temple, she stopped at the small shop selling flowers and as always she bought some for her obeisance to Lord Hanuman.
Noori woke up as usual this tuesday morning to the call of azan from the nearby mosque. Today she was brisk with her chores, she wanted to reach the bungalow early than usual. Noori was also excited to the homecoming of Anuj. She remembered the birth of Anuj and how as a teenager she would baby sit the newborn with glee. Noori's thought wandered to the trauma of losing her parents while she was a child during the communal riots. She recalled how as a small child she had ran away from her burning house to safety escaping the rampaging violence and how she had found a home which provided her shelter.
It has been forty years since Noori had lived in the outhouse of the bungalow owned by Ashok Verma. She had become a member of the household ever since. The Verma family reposed as much faith in Noori as they would do to a close family member. Young Anuj always found solace in the arms of Noori when his tantrums, as a child, would be ignored by parents. Noori remembered how Ashok and Sunita had requested the local mosque cleric to teach young Noori the Quran and the tenets of Islam. Noori's thought took her to the moment when the Verma family had played the role of a perfect host to the baraat which heralded her nikah to Abdul.
As Noori finished her morning prayer this tuesday morning she prayed for the safe flight of Anuj. Her gaze moved to the nearby cot where Zoya, her daughter, was in the process of waking. Noori reminded Zoya to wake up and offer the morning prayer before it became late.
By late afternoon the Verma household wore a festive look. Ashok and Sunita were almost ready to go to the airport to receive Anuj. Noori had made an assortment of delicacies which in her opinion were Anuj's favourites. Zoya had pitched in with cleaning and putting things in order. As a mark of importance for the occasion, both Noori and Zoya had put on their best clothes. With youth on her side, the twenty two year old Zoya looked vivaciously pretty.
Three years in the cold US climate had made Anuj almost two shades fair. He had also gained some weight. As he came out of the airport terminal, Anuj scanned the waiting crowd for his parents. Sunita could not control the involuntary tears which swelled in her eyes when her gaze met that of Anuj. In that red jacket with black Rayban glasses, to her mother's eyes Anuj resembled a Greek god. With a lump in his throat and a beaming smile, Ashok hugged Anuj.
The homecoming was complete. Anuj looked for things and felt happy when he realized that very little has changed while he was away from home. In Noori aunty he still found the same soft shoulder where he could get his tantrums resolved. Anuj found the most remarkable change in Zoya. Three years back when he had left for US, Zoya was a teenager and looked a chirpy girl. In the last three years, Anuj realized that Zoya had transformed. She was indeed pretty.
Zoya's upbringing had inculcated in her the habit to hide her feelings in public. She found it natural to be comfortable always in the background. This afternoon, while everyone interacted with Anuj, she was contended to witness the festivities from the kitchen door. Despite her unwillingness to come to the fore, she could not resist the flight of her mind which instigated a primordial basic instinct. She did find Anuj handsome. It was just three years back when she would gleefully talk to Anuj who was just five years older to her. She remembered the days when as a teenager Anuj would play cricket with friends and she would be a part of one of the teams. Today she experienced an unknown hesitation in initiating a conversation with Anuj.
The following days after Anuj's arrival were stamped with joy for the Verma family. The mood in the family was picture perfect. Anuj had melted into his old routine without any difficulty. Noori aunty tended to his personal requests. Even Zoya had started conversing with him. He found it interesting to share the college life of US with Zoya. He found a perfume bottle in his luggage which he wanted to give to Zoya. An unknown instinct made him look for a private setting to gift it to Zoya. It was a few weeks after his return that during dinner Sunita initiated the conversation of his possible marriage. With no effort to conceal the conversation, Sunita and Ashok discussed the attributes of Poonam, the daughter of their long time friend Vivek who owned several hotels in the city. Anuj offered no response.
After repeated requests and cajoling from Sunita and Ashok, Anuj met Poonam as part of a dinner date. Anuj found Poonam to be a simple girl with no bearing of a rich legacy. In that maroon top, Poonam looked stunning. Even before they had ordered dessert, Anuj was already looking forward to his next meeting with Poonam.
Given the approval of parents, finding opportunities for rendezvous with Poonam was not a problem for Anuj. He found that Poonam had completed her graduation from a prestigious college and was interested in pursuing a career in fashion industry. She was soft spoken and a good listener. Anuj felt nice to learn that Poonam was a vegetarian.
Poonam found Anuj handsome. Some strange evolutionary instinct made her happy in his company. She realized she felt secure when Anuj was around. And therefore when, exactly six weeks later when they had first met, Anuj proposed to her while they walked hand in hand in that soft drizzle of July, Poonam did not hesitate to put her hands around his neck and whisper a soft yes!
Amid festivities the two families met over dinner to chalk out the programme of the marriage. The priests in attendance on the occasion proposed the best date for the marriage. On the insistence of Sunita and Ashok it was decided that the reception menu would be totally vegetarian. Sunita recalled that she had vowed to become a strict vegetarian, as per religious commandments, ever since she had gone to Tirupati to seek blessings of Lord Vishnu exactly twenty eight years before.
The festivities of the engagement ceremony extended late until midnight. Poonam was the cynosure of the ceremony. In pink ensemble complete with tiara she looked ethereal. The soft tune of Jagjit Singh ghazal filled the air. The moment had arrived for Anuj to place the ring on her finger. As she watched Anuj walk towards her, her eyes drooped. She felt giddy, a bout of nausea engulfed her. She lost balance. Commotion ensued but soon she regained her composure. The ring finally found its place on the delicate third finger of the left hand.
Anuj realized that good times never pause, days seem to pass by in a hurry. Every moment spent with Poonam was worth a lifetime. He would always learn new things about Poonam which made him yearn for more time to spend in her company. He had become obsessed.
Poonam again felt giddy. Her episodes of transient passing out had returned in the last few days. She felt tired. Was it the effect of her emotional euphoria which was making her tired? She wondered. Just as her mind had started exploring difficult health options, her phone rang. Anuj was on the line. His voice made her lift herself. She remembered she was being late for the date.
The date of their wedding was fast approaching. Three days separated Anuj and Poonam to be legally bound into the lifelong association. Anuj suggested that they would observe a hiatus for three days. This would again be more romantic than be constantly in touch. Thus it was mutually decided that now they would see each other only after marriage.
It was during night while she was changing clothes that Poonam saw some red patches on her skin. Although she had became used to her constant fatigue, this new observation made her worried. She made a mental note to visit the doctor the next morning.
Lest no one became unduly concerned, Poonam made her visit to the doctor as discreet as possible. The doctor took down her history and made careful observations. Before making any diagnosis, the doctor prescribed some pathological tests. Poonam went directly to the pathology and gave her samples.
A night separated the marriage date. The Verma household was bathed in joy. The extended family had converged to take part in the celebrations. The dholak found no respite till the wee hours. Anuj wanted to talk to Poonam but the joy of observing the self imposed restriction was too romantic to be breached. Despite having spent a considerable time with Poonam, Anuj day dreamed a thousand options he would indulge after marriage in the company of his beloved Poonam.
Poonam again had to find a benign alibi to visit the doctor for the diagnosis and pathology report. On an obscure reason she did find an excuse to be away from the celebrations for a brief moment. After a waiting of fifteen minutes she was ushered in doctor's chamber. The look on the face of the doctor was not enthusiastic. In clinical terms, he explained to Poonam that the initial findings and the symptoms probably point out to the first stage of leukemia or blood cancer.
Poonam could find just enough strength to return home. Her mind was in a spin. The news had given her a second wind. For a short time she forgot her fatigue. On an impulse she picked up the phone and wanted to talk to Anuj but then visualized his beaming countenance and decided against breaking this news to him. She did not want to spoil his joy. She lost her count of the options she explored to cope with the present crisis.
It was dinner time and Poonam had not joined her friends and parents at the table. Someone yelled to Poonam to come down for dinner. Her friends joked that she must be busy talking with Anuj. It was around eleven at night that someone suggested to check with Poonam. The door was bolted from inside. She was also not picking the phone. Enthusiasm had transformed into anxiety. The door was finally broken. Poonam lay on the bed her hand revealing the deep cut on the wrist. A pool of blood had soaked her hair and the bedsheet.
News travelled fast to the Verma family. The dholak became silent. Anuj thought he was dreaming. He picked the phone and frantically called Poonam. His Poonam always picked his phone on the first ring, today the phone defied the romance that had became synonymous with these lovebirds for the last couple of months. Anuj realised the reality of Poonam's death. He could not muster the courage of attending her last rites.
Six months had passed since Poonam's death but Anuj could not come out of his mourning state of mind. For days he would remain confined to his room. The Verma household remained perpetually gloomy. Sunita and Ashok explored the possibility of visiting Tirupati to seek devine help for bringing good times to the family again. Noori was entrusted the responsibility of the household while Sunita and Ashok went to Tirupati Balajee.
Noori took extra care of Anuj in Sunita's absence. She found ways to cajole Anuj into eating his favourite dishes. While Anuj sat on the dining table, Noori would delve into his childhood anecdotes in her effort to uplift his spirits. This afternoon while Noori served lunch to Anuj, the routine atmosphere was suddenly punctuated by the entry of a jubilant Zoya carrying a small box of sweets. Oblivious of the presence of Anuj, Zoya ecstatically announced that she had passed her M.A. examination in first division. The lively announcement also made Anuj take notice of the intruder. Anuj looked towards Zoya, her ebullience was infectious. His eyes caught the sight of Zoya's gaze. In that moment of exuberance, Zoya looked beautiful. Anuj realized he had to make an extra effort to move his transfixed eyes away from Zoya.
About the same time, almost a thousand kilometres away at Sri Venkateswara Swamy Vaari Temple , Sunita and Ashok were deep in prayers seeking Lord Vishnu's divine blessings for happiness to return in Anuj's life.
That night, as Anuj lay in bed, his mind recollected the ecstatic moment of a beautiful Zoya asking him to share sweets in celebration of her academic achievement. He realized that he had not interacted with Zoya for several months. Zoya's youthful exuberance had an intensity which was indeed highly attractive.
The next morning Anuj woke up early. With no predetermined thought, he walked out of the bungalow towards the outhouses where Noori and Zoya lived. The sun was still below the horizon but there was enough light for Anuj to see the inside of the room. The door was slightly open and Anuj peeped inside. The prayer mat was neatly laid out, Zoya was praying. In that moment when Zoya stood before her Almighty with her head covered with a scarf, Anuj saw the portrait of bliss. Anuj stood in trance, he was enchanted. He waited for Zoya to complete her prayer.
Zoya opened her eyes after the prayer to find Anuj standing at the door. A thousand thoughts flashed in her mind however none could decipher correctly what was going on in Anuj's mind. She looked towards Anuj with a perplexed innocent smile. As if on cue, Anuj took a step inside the room. He could now see Zoya closely. The unblemished face looked enticingly beautiful. Anuj hesitantly came closer, three words escaped his lips. Zoya heard the three words which till now she had only heard in bollywood films. She didn't know how to answer; she covered her face in both her hands and ran inside.
Sunita and Ashok returned with peace of mind. They had prayed to the Lord to once again bring happiness in Anuj's life. To their great relief, the parents found Anuj in a cheerful mood. The family had dinner together.
Sunita heard something moving. She realized it was beyond midnight. She put the lamp on. Anuj was standing at the bedside. The sudden movement also made Ashok to wake. Both the parents looked dazed. Their looks beckoned Anuj to explain his presence in their bedroom such late at night. Anuj searched for words, when he found his voice he could only say that he wanted to marry Zoya.
For a moment Sunita didn't acknowledge what she had just heard. Ashok felt a bout of headache. No one spoke for a couple of minutes. Anuj meantime had left the room. Sunita and Ashok remained awake for rest of the night. There was very little to discuss though.
No one initiated any conversation during the breakfast. Noori did not come to the bungalow this morning. Perhaps she was also contemplating the effects of what Anuj had told Zoya.
The marriage was a private affair. In exquisite Sherwani Anuj again visited the outhouse but this time a few friends accompanied him. In bright red traditional clothes Zoya looked a princess. The nikah was solemnised by the local cleric. The same evening the Verma bungalow wore a festive look. A mandap was built within the lobby. Under the watchful eyes of the head priest, with Sunita and Ashok in attendance, Zoya walked hand-in-hand around the fire taking the traditional wedding vows.
Sunita had problem in her knees, she had started using a wheelchair. On this Tuesday morning, while Zoya pushed her wheelchair on the street towards the Hanuman temple, Sunita felt nice. She found the same florist at the entrance of the temple.