The Broken Bridge
The Broken Bridge
It was around 9 pm at night. I have put children to bed and took a book in hand. My wife Asha is still in the kitchen. I gave a smile, wondering what women keep on doing there. But never dared to ask her that for I don't have time to take it up in case she entrusts the tasks of the kitchen to me in anger! A man's precaution.
My phone rang. Reluctantly expecting another business call, I took the phone. It is the last news that I can expect. My hands started to shiver and panic gripped me all over. I threw the phone off, thinking it would let me not hear what I have been hearing on the other side. She is no more.
I know it is going to be a long drive to the airport, which is almost now 2 hours journey from home. Asha wanted to come with me, but I told her not to as kids are already sleeping. But I was not sure if I could drive myself. So-called the driver and by then started to get ready. As I got into the car, suddenly remembered something and ran inside to pick a thing that I kept for her for long. Was just waiting for her to come back. It is a saree that she pestered me to buy on her birthday.
By then Ram, my driver started to drive towards Airport. I know the flight would only reach by 3 am, but I was not in a position to wait any longer. There is a pain in this waiting. I have waited for her many times in several years in the past. However, knowing that this is going to be final waiting for her, I wanted it to be long and a lonely wait. Distressed thoughts engulfed my mind and a heaviness surrounded my heart for the first time in the recent past. I closed my eyes in pain.
She came as a wave with a smile. I could visualize her in front of me bidding me a final adieu. For a moment, I wanted the phone call to be fake, I wanted my drive to the airport to stop, I wanted my thoughts to stop and I wanted my past, present and future to stop. But I know I do not have control on any of these. My driver turned back and gave me a stern look. Probably the few tears that sprang unknowingly would have been the reason for his surprised look at me. What he does not know is that my silence is actually awaiting a roar of trauma of a broken bridge. The river of tear is ready to flow beyond any control. Can men be also capable of such an emotionally disturbed state? I would not have acknowledged had I not come across this painful day. The day I realized that the person of my love is no more.
Asha and I returned home after a long day. The day was full of various emotions and pain. I stood there among hundreds of people, friends, associates, well-wishers, and family when she was getting ready for her final journey. The end is only to the mortal remains of a human being who transformed lives around her. Along with me, I have heard people who kept on telling that there can be no death to the person who lives in the thoughts of others. Maybe this is what is called Atma (The Soul) and its eternity. I think this tragedy had made me give myself a spiritual look, which otherwise was a distant activity in my life.
All through the 24 hours that passed, Asha did not speak to me. I could see a different pain in her eyes. A look that only scared me more. I thought it is natural when a dear one passes away. Did not want to think anything more, and I just went and tried to catch up a quick sleep.
After couple of days, everything started to become normal. Kids started to go to school, and Asha as usual started to become busy at home. I had no rhyme or reason to be away from work. So I called Ram and packed myself to work.
After 3 days of being away, I had loads of tasks to attend. Meetings that got postponed, proposals that are pending from review, and outlook was over pouring with the mails. By the time I realized that I am hungry, it was 4 pm.
For a while, I closed my laptop and took a walk to the office cafeteria. With a cup of coffee and a sandwich, I took my usual table and looked outside the window. The cars are all like little ants running behind each other. The fourth lane was full of trucks. Here everything runs. People, Cars, Machines, Shares, Money, in fact everything in the world today just runs! Run! I grimed at myself for not having born in the previous century. Life would have been more peaceful.
Within few days, things started to become much more normal. Once in a while Asha mentioning about the grieving family. I behaved as if I did not listen to her. But inside me, there started a vacuum and a sense of guilt. May be I could have changed the things for her. Maybe I could have handled issues differently. May be, may be, may be- I got wild at myself for this Maybe! Sometimes, just like the ship wrecks, few broken bridges also haunt for life. My broken bridge is no different.
"Bala, Can you drop me at home for my car is gone for service?'' Paru called me. I was more than ready to offer her a drop, on condition that she would go for a coffee with me. "You guys are all like this!" She gave me a free statement along with her acceptance. Mocha, our favorite coffee shop is always full of energy, and young crowd hanging around. Paru also loves both coffee and Mocha...so it was my pleasant evening when I could go there with her.
She is such a lively girl that I used to keep on watching her while she is at work. Multi-tasking specialist and very friendly person. A person who strongly believe that women makes better managers as they can get things done by intuitive management. A very revolutionary thoughts of this young woman inspired not just me but lot of my colleagues in senior management.
One day, she called at my desk. I was in midst of my phone call and asked her to sit. She was looking very tensed and troubled. After the call, I asked her what is bothering her. She forwarded her resignation to me. I advised that she is recognized here and have lot of growth opportunities and she should not go just because she gets a salary hike. As usual she was adamant. Sometimes, she is so strong in her decisions, despite the fact that she will not think of it, once taken even if it proves wrong to her later. Knowing her attitude, I signed the acknowledgement and handed over to her.
"Bala, will you not ask me to stay back!" She gave me a jerk with her question and a statement. I replied to her that I already made an attempt to stop her from going. "No, I am not asking you to stop me as my Boss, but you could try to stop me as my................." She stopped there. Took the piece of paper I signed and walked out of the room. I stood from my seat in a kind of disbelief. What did I hear from her now? My mind was boggling me like never before.
Asha and kids wanted to come with me on my business trip to Germany. It was summertime for children and I was not able to give them enough time during the last few years and don't remember taking them on a long holiday. So thought I can make this trip a combined one with professional objectives and pleasure time with the family too. After completing my usual work in office, I drove down to the Hotel Hilton. Kids were waiting for me and quickly changed to my casuals and picked the fishing rods and sandcastle stuff. Asha commented that sometimes I behave more worse than the kids.... I laughed. Yeah, she is right. After 4 hours in the beach and having good Mexican food on the way back, return to retire in our rooms.
As the night clicked its wings across the black canopy dazzling in the twilight of stars, I could not sleep. My restlessness was new and my intuition was going strong back to my old memories. Slowly I moved away from Asha and kids and started to walk in the lobby of the lighted Hilton in the night.
I could not believe my eyes when a woman walked into the lobby with her travel bags and was checking into the hotel where I stayed. This is the woman whom I know so well. Never thought that after 3 years I would meet her again. Paru… I gave a call in the slightest voice possible. She turned and gave me a surprise look. "Bala!.. Oh, what a pleasant surprise. I never thought we would meet again." So did me.
I asked her about her husband and child and her work. Sitting opposite to me in the lobby, she did not speak. Her eyes conveyed her loneliness and betrayal. "It’s all over!" She said. I could not ask her more. As she checked into their new hotel room, I also went in with her. Suddenly, she turned and hugged me tightly and cried. I did not stop her. An old friend lending a shoulder to shed the tears. I felt so lifted being able to stand beside her and solace her.
It was in the morning, when I introduced Asha to Paru. Paru was happy to see my daughter and son and joined us in the long drives and picnics in the same week. Asha initially raised so many questions as to why Paru is moved to a hotel, where she is working and what happened to her family and so on. I could not reply to her for I myself do not have those answers. Sometimes, silence is better when words may hurt people's thoughts.
After15 days, of both business and holidaying, it was time for us to return to India. Loads of shopping, memories captured in pictures, and tokens of the places we visited made kids and Asha very excited.
Inside me started a train of thoughts on how to leave Paru and go back. Made an attempt telling her to come back and start life all over again. She refused, this time, the one decision I expected from her.
Paru came to airport to see us off. This time, I found her face brightened up. There are no traces of dejection or a battle in life that she is undergoing. After the flight took off from Frankfurt, it flashed in my head on what made Paru look afresh. A new hope. A hope that emerged from my interaction with her. I know, that very soon, I am coming back to Frankfurt.
I could not face Asha. It was almost my umpteenth visit to Frankfurt. Asha started to slowly understand why most of my business is happening in Germany. Fears of her own and not wanting to hear me accept the truth and go ahead with the unexpected twists and turns in my life, Asha never dared to ask me straight. But slowly I could see the change in the way she handled children and sometimes with me.
This time I returned from Frankfurt with my decision. It is not that I have some problem being married to Asha, but because I could not run between two parallel priorities. It is going to be tough to handle but unfortunately if one of your priorities take the maxim, you have to make a decision. This time, I returned to India with Paru. Asha as usual maintained her composure which in fact surprised me a lot, startled me too.
Three of us were sitting in our living room. I started to speak to Asha. "Asha, I know this is not going to be easy..." She stopped me. "No Bala, I don't want to listen to anything. I don't have the energy or strength to listen to you telling me that you love another woman in life. I cannot accept for what so ever reasons, that I have to go on my own for no fault of mine". I felt very painful. There is justice in her words. But sometimes, I hate to understand why love becomes so blind and what is that binds us for unexpected relationships. First time, I felt guilty. I felt stuck between two important people in life. One who has no other world than me, and the other person vulnerable in the open world. For a moment, I wished I did not meet Paru again.
"Asha, for heaven's sake, listen to me. Bala had been my greatest strength and my worst week-ness ever. I don't deny that. At the same time, I am not a person to break your relationship and build mine. He had been coming to Frankfurt for almost 5 years now, which I am sure you are aware. But understand that I have got to tell you something. Something that is important to all three of us" Paru stopped for a while.
After 2 years of that important conversation that turned our lives altogether is when I received the most unexpected phone call. About her untimely death.
Just before a month of the tragedy, she called me. Telling me about her failing health and the kind of fear that is engulfing her progress in everything in life. She sounded depressed and lost. I have never seen Paru being so low and talking about failure, depression and death. First time in life, she was telling me on the arrangements she made for her family back in India and about her property and other things in Germany. I gave her my usual motivational speech, guaranteed her that things will fall in place and she would get better and back to track in life. Once again, I called her to come back to India. This time, Asha joined me in calling her back home. Paru promised us that she would come back very soon.
Many times after that distressed call, me and Asha used to talk about Paru. Never did we expected that she would come so soon, but this time, wrapped up in a casket. My mind is so heavy and the cars in the distance from where I had been watching them all this while look so tiny to me. Somewhere in the distance, I could hear an airplane zooming above the building. I wished I took the next flight to Frankfurt. I know I have no reason to do so anymore.
The words of Paru echoed in my ears. "Asha, I know I need a Bala in life. He has become almost everything to me and I also know that it will be equally difficult for me to live without him. But let me tell you the truth. He can never be my husband. Sometimes, you need some people in life, just for what they are and not because what you want them to be in life for you. I am a person who can accept reality and move on. When I came to India with Bala, one thing that I realized. For me to have his support and emotional bonding, I don't need a commitment called marriage.
All I need is an understanding of you that Bala to me is a mentor, guide, and strength who cares for me and helps me to remove my mental blocks to move on with life. As long as you don't suspect our relationship and understand the beautiful bondage of two friends, we don't need to change anything in our lives the way we are living today. I promise you, I had not been his wife anytime. He had been my shoulder to lean on from day one. If you could accept and be a part of this unique bonding, I think I am all set to go back". I remember Asha suddenly going and embracing Paru and giving her a big hug. Later that night, I asked Paru, what made her change her decision. She replied, "Asha needs you more than me!" She went back to Frankfurt taking my promise that I would not go there anymore. She broke my bridge! This time forever!