MEMORIES NOT FOR SALE
MEMORIES NOT FOR SALE
They met for the first time at Patna Railway Station. Seetha tumbled over my luggage as she was in a rush to catch the train to Bangalore. Some of the romantic Hindi film scenes immediately flashed in my mind, where the heroine meets the hero, who gives her a helping hand. But I never moved but stared at her indignantly because all the fresh fried snacks my wife prepared for me got crushed in a second. The sound as she fell on my luggage proved to me that not even a single piece was left in perfect shape. But why should I bother her, because everything goes in in crushed form. So, I held my calm.
"Why are you standing there as tall as the Statue of Liberty? Hello! Can't you give me a hand? I think my ankle is fractured." She cried, lying there, crushing my snacks even more.
As I didn't want her to crush it again and because she was a fair-looking beauty, my hands were stretched forward. A few young and elderly men who stood far away had already set out to help her. I might have disappointed or enraged all of them with my humble gesture of help.
She is a nurse hailing from Kerala. I had a special disposition towards nurses because of my friend's bad experience in his married life. Everyone believed him to be so lucky to have married a nurse. Opportunities for nurses abroad were not so popular among our people. I remember him saying he had barely seen her as he was also a nurse. Whenever he had night duty, she had day duty, and vice versa. They also had heated arguments about their own efficiency. She was a bad injector, and he had to solve the issues of patients who fell prey to her experiments. Very often, he had to settle such issues outside of court.
Naturally, when the marriage broker suggested a nurse as my future wife, my friend was the first to dissuade me from attempting such an adventurous task. Moreover, I have had a horror of nurses and their injection needles since childhood. All these thoughts came to me when I heard she was a nurse.
However, I decided to help her and took her to the nearest hospital in a taxi.
Upon reaching the hospital, I had to run to a lot of places to take an appointment, buy medicine, and so on.
"Who has come with you?" The nursing supervisor asked her.
"My husband." The reply came instantly, without even a second thought. I was shocked at why she said so.
"Your wife has to undergo surgery immediately. So, go and pay these charges first and buy these medicines." She said this without even looking at my perplexed expression.
And what is this surgery for? I don't know. I arranged everything because the prescription was written in an unknown strangled language. She was observing me from the other end of the doctor's room with a smile.
She seemed amused by seeing my expressions.
Finally, the surgery was over, and she was shifted to a room.
"You can't be so careless like this now." The attending nurse said it in a haughty tone.
"What did I do?" I was perplexed once more.
You didn't do anything for her, yet. Are you her husband? No fruits, no caring, not even a loving kiss. She criticised me.
Yes, sister. You are right. He is always like this. But, as you know, he adores me but is a little reserved and stingy when it comes to expressing his feelings.
Why did you say that? I asked her later.
Said what? She was confused.
"You say I'm your husband."
"Yes, you are my husband... until I leave this hospital... and don't worry, I will repay everything you have paid for my treatment up to this point."
"But why do you assign me the temporary post of your husband? There must be a reason behind it, right?"
"You said it right. There is a reason. But don't insist on me revealing it now." She made me promise.
Days passed with a lot of questions unanswered. She began taking extra freedom in her behaviour towards me.
For some reason, I couldn't speak of her to my wife. Women are always women, I thought. My sincerity in narrating all the good and bad stories of life has always brought me to a Bermuda triangle from which I had no escape. I thought to abstain from any self-inflicted torture. After all, I'm not doing anything unethical. I'm just helping a helpless girl in desperation, that's all. I consoled myself.
I felt she was expecting more affection and care from me within 2 or 3 days. I don't know what she wants from me. When I noticed she was becoming more interested in me, I told her I was married and had a child.
But sometimes, situations prove that mortals are born to be overcome by their emotions. I've struggled with my overpowering emotions and feelings at times, but victory was often with those weak emotions.
The fourth day, the doctor discharged her. She could walk with the help of a stretcher by then. I was advised to help her walk every day.
"Where should I drop you now?"
She said nothing for a few seconds. Instead, her graceful eyes shed a few drops of tears. I don't know why. "Come with me. I shall show you where I belong." Finally, she spoke and she walked ahead.
I took a taxi and accompanied her. As you expected, I too assumed she was an orphan. But the reality was different. The car stopped at the gate of an abandoned house in a remote area of Patna. The rusted gate and the grassy yard indicated it was an unused house. I noticed the board that was hung outside the house.
"MEMORIES, NOT FOR SALE." The board intrigued and confused me a lot. I sensed that an unexpected story awaited me.
She pushed the gate open, and a black snake slithered down the gate and disappeared from our sight.
"Come in; don't be scared. Nothing within this boundary will be as dangerous as those beyond."
Her words had a sinister ring to them, but I was too nervous to ask her anything.
The photos hung on the outer walls of the parlour gave me an idea about her family. Faces weren’t obscure. But I could count the heads in them. There were four excluding her, I assumed.
"See, my family is on those frames." She pointed her finger at those photo frames with a stare. No, it was a feeling of fright, I felt.
"What happened to them?" I inquired curiously.
"Come with me." She invited me to a bygone era...perhaps something she wanted someone to listen to.
She pulled my hand while moving up the steps. I just followed without any resistance. As we entered the house, my senses were in a frenzy. The air was stale, the floorboards creaked, and the furniture was covered in layers of dust. It was clear that no one had lived there in a long time. Seetha led me to a room that had been untouched by the dust. There was a bed, a table, and a few chairs in the room. Seetha sat on the bed, motioning for me to take a seat. I looked at her with a mix of curiosity and confusion.
"What is this place? Why are we here?" I asked her.
"This is my childhood home," Seetha said, her eyes filling with tears.
"My parents and my younger sister passed away when I was young. No.... It was an accident, and I know why they did it...... Their only intention was my mother. "God rewarded them appropriately... or I would have..." Her eyes were filled with rage and vengeance.
I had no clue what she was talking about, and I didn't want to bother her with my questions.... But I sensed that someone from their family was behind her family's unexpected demise. I looked at her quizzically, waiting for her to explain, but she remained silent for a few minutes, looking through the broken window pane.
"They were selfish..... They've all gone to heaven, leaving me in this hell.” She shed a few drops of tears and continued.
“I am all alone in this dangerous world. I used to come here to escape from the world and be alone with my thoughts. This house is all I have left of them."
I felt a pang of sympathy for her. I couldn't imagine what it must be like to lose one's family at such a young age. I couldn't believe that Seetha had been carrying such a burden all this time.
"I'm sorry for your loss," I said, feeling a pang of sympathy for her.
"I appreciate your kind words," she said, smiling weakly.
"Thank you for everything you've done for me these past few days. I don't know what I would have done without you. Thank you for bringing me here," Seetha said, wiping her tears.
"You asked me why I called you my husband," Seetha said, taking a deep breath.
"The truth is, I have no one in this world. I have no family, no friends, and no one to call my own. When I met you at the railway station, something about you made me feel safe, like I could trust you. So, I made up a story that you were my husband, just so I wouldn't feel so alone."
I reached out to her, taking her hand in mine. "You don't have to be alone, Seetha. "You have me," I said, trying to reassure her. She looked at me with a glimmer of hope in her eyes.
"Do you mean it?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. I nodded, my heart swelling with compassion.
"I do. I may not be your husband, but I will always be there for you. You can count on me." Seetha smiled—a genuine smile that came from within.
"Thank you," she said, squeezing my hand. "You have no idea how much that means to me."
"I have something to show you," she said suddenly, rummaging through her bag. She took out a small, faded photograph and handed it to me.
"This is a picture of my parents," she said, pointing to a couple in their forties.
"They look like nice people," I said, examining the photograph closely.
"They were the best," she said, a wistful smile on her face. "I miss them every day."
We stood there for a few moments, lost in our own thoughts. Suddenly, Seetha's phone rang, breaking the silence.
"I have to take this," she said, answering the call. "Hello?"
I couldn't hear what was being said on the other end of the line, but Seetha's face fell as she listened to the person speaking.
"I understand," she said finally, hanging up the phone. "I have to go back to Bangalore. My services are needed there urgently."
"I see," I said, feeling a sense of disappointment. "When will you be back?"
"I don't know," she said, shaking her head. "But I hope we'll meet again."
"Me too," I said, feeling a sudden rush of affection towards her. "Take care of yourself, Seetha."
"You too," she said, hugging me briefly. "And please, take care of your health. You have a family who loves you."
I nodded, feeling a sense of guilt wash over me. "Thank you, Seetha," I said, watching as she walked out towards the car.
As I made my way back to my own life, I couldn't help but think about Seetha and the impact she had made on me. Even though our time together was brief, I knew that I would always remember her and the lessons she had taught me about love, loss, and the fragility of life. As we left the abandoned house, I felt a sense of gratitude for Seetha. She had opened up to me, revealing her deepest fears and insecurities. And in doing so, she had allowed me to see a different side of her, a side that was vulnerable and raw. I knew then that I would do anything to protect her and make her feel loved and wanted. Because in a world that can be so cruel and heartless, the only thing that truly matters is the connections we make with others and the memories they leave behind for us to cherish.