Just some more time Diya pleaded with herself and this will go away, like most other things or will come within the precincts of her endurance. Rishaan watched her close pursed lips, and lowered eyes. She was so aptly named, the lamp- the lamp who tried to light up the little world around her. The hall was cheering to the announcement and Kiara – the bride to be was being crowded around to be congratulated at the announcement. Rishaan would marry her. Diya turned to go away and almost ran into Rishaan, a cigarette held loose at his lips, and a gaze that penetrated deep into her, he lit the match but did not hold it to his cigarette instead held it near her face for a while and muttered under his breath, that a lamp without a flame was of no good.
Kiara became curious, ‘what is there?’ she inquired, ‘Oh a flame test it is’, called out Rishaan and lingering the flame a few moments near his cigarette threw both away, ‘ just testing, if I really get drawn’.
The inward agitation was too unsettling, if she had apprehended anything like it, Diya would not come there. Involuntarily her steps took her to that small patch of green. Is was just a six months she was working here now, everyone had warned her that Rishaan was a hard task master, someone to whom solely his own goal mattered. He was so taken up by his being centered on his work that twice he had broken his engagement with the same woman in these many years. Finally today he declared to the world of his marriage.
To all Rishaan lived up to his ill repute. He flew to a rage often and was famed never to forgive mistakes. None of his employees outlived his temper outbursts. All had warned the soft and supple Diya that it would be a very wrong choice of employer. Necessity more than choice made Diya to opt otherwise, she believed endurance solved most problems till they went away themselves. The first few days were uneventful, soon Rishaan took a fancy at her, and piled more work on her than she could possibly do and made her run around on silly errands and reprimanded for not being up to the mark. Despite his tyranny, Diya saw through his harshness and found a terribly lonely man who thirsted for some care some love some softness but was too haughty to admit it even to himself.
Rishaan was hell bent to ‘break’ Diya. Her soft demeanour and lowered gaze was starkly in contrast to what he had normally experienced all through. To extract a reply from her was daunting, she was soft but had some strength that he had not experienced earlier. On one particular hectic day, Rishaan decided to skip lunch to keep up with time and as he was on his final check before leaving for the meeting, Diya came in with a plate of sandwiches and insistently held them before him. ‘No way’, he hollered but she did not budge, he was used to having his ways, and turned from harsh to rude, yet she did not budge, he had spat out very rude words and was about to say something real unbecoming when she raised her gaze and met his eyes, one moment of the silent gaze from her soulful eyes and he sat down like an obedient child to finish the food.
The restlessness in him grew by the day. She cared for him, yes but then she cared for any other people in trouble too. He hated it when she showed concern towards others.
One afternoon an employee injured himself at the office and Diya offered to tie up the wound, Rishaan stood there awhile in stoic silence and no sooner than she had finished the bandage, tugged her away to his office, held both her arms near her shoulder in a tight grasp he vehemently protested her doing it, there were others who could do it he argued. He almost shook her in his rage and drew the frightened timid girl up close to him till his hot breath blew on her face and then becoming conscious of himself suddenly let her go. Even the most steel nerved buckled before him, but this pint of a girl stood her ground, softly and silently held her own.
When in a good mood Rishaan often joked that Diya or a lamp without a flame was really no good. One day this rage finally took its toll in Rishaan. Some deal did not work out, he was upset and amidst a heated agreement with the other party, he collapsed in a heap. Even as he fell, involuntarily he reached for and held on to Diya. She looked after him with utmost care, the only family he had, an old aunt Ira flew in from Goa, she herself was too infirm to be a caregiver, but firm enough to put her foot down, that enough was enough and that Rishaan had to marry now. Diya had just come in to give him a glass of water when Rishaan agreed with his aunt, yes, he would marry, he said and held the glass over her hand, her palm in his grasp, and eagerly implored her with his eyes. Diya hesitated and withdrew, no he did not see any acquiescence in her eyes. The old aunt was unaware of what was going on between them and continued with her diatribe of his recklessness and his turning down of the girl she had chosen for him twice, that too after engagement.
An obstinacy overcame Rishaan, he asked Aunt Ira to settle it again if that girl was available, that he would marry her for sure this time. These words were spoken more to Diya than to the old aunt. Kiara the bride to be was available, not that she had waited for him but she was available to marry, yes despite being going through that ignominy twice she agreed to Aunt Ira. Rishaan instead of turning thankful to Diya for the care she took, behaved all the more hostile to her. He took to displaying his affection for Kiara only when Diya was around and such silly things that was starkly not befitting him. Diya bore it in her unassuming softness. The engagement happened. Even as all were still at it the news came in that Aunt Ira who had gone to Goa to dispose of some property matters all by herself, had taken seriously ill. Infirmity and fastidiousness do not go hand in hand but essentially that summed her up. Kiara who was already weary from last two nights of partying preceding this engagement and declaredly did not have the penchant to babysit any convalescent, agreed to accompany him. Rishaan entreated Diya to come, and she did too.
In the middle of the flight, Kiara woke up to go the washroom. When she returned, she was too lazy to push her way into the middle seat. And with Rishaan readily offering to shift seats, the seating arrangement changed. With 20 minutes still remaining for the flight to land, a sleep starved Kiara took another power nap, this time holding Rishaan's right hand more firmly. Rishaan's other hand, though, nervously moved to touch Diya's. Her heart skipped a beat. Diya pulled her hand away. But a defiant Rishaan held her wrist again, this time firmly and more reassuringly. The changing behavioural dynamics between the three perhaps gave out a foreboding of what was to come in Goa.
When the flight landed at the Dabolim Airport, Rishaan felt uncanny, his excitement seemed replaced by an unknown fear that he found very difficult to decipher.
Aunt Ira had regained her consciousness and immediately ordered to be shifted to her home. Pleading or reasoning did not work with her, and the doctors finally allowed her to go if they could assure proper care. The old lady wanted Rishaan to settle down while she was still around, she wanted the marriage in a fortnight. There was no getting away from it.
Kiara was not inclined to taking care of sick people only gratitude to the aunt and the idea not to oppose Rishaan made her come along. The place being Goa, she had far more attractions than to remain in the confines of the four walls. However, she tried to be useful, she brought the bowl of soup and tried to spoon it to the infirm aunt, just as a few drops spilled on the lady, Rishaan took the bowl away from her and chided Diya for not being of any help. That relieved Kiara and gave Rishaan ample scope to watch Diya from close as she completed the work. With Kiara out on the beach, Rishaan needlessly followed Diya around in the house, loosened jar tops for her, lifted heavy things and sat expectantly when she sat at any place for work. With Kiara back he would fuss over her and offer to buy her clothes and things and talk about plans after marriage but strictly it needed Diya’s presence to intensify and display his emotions for Kiara.
One evening Kiara took her turn to sit near the ailing aunt, the marriage was in a few days, she had done the purchasing nearly all by herself and was showing the old lady all what she had bought. They would have a grand reception when they got back home and sharing her plans as most women do on such occasions. In the next room Diya was packing her things, and Rishaan stood there against the wall, emotionless, his jaw set tight and eyes silently following her as she moved back and forth putting her things in her bag. There was a short intermittent breeze blowing outside, it picked up speed quickly and died down sooner. The stopper that held the door ajar had weakened by its moving to and fro in the wind. Diya was wearing a dress that had small pink flowers on it and loosely draped her delicate frame she had a light fragrance that could be felt only when she came close, a soft one that stirred something in him. There was a table just beside him and it had a small package that Diya came to fetch, she came too close to him to reach the package, so close that the edge of her dress brushed against him and her fragrance ignited it.
As Diya picked it up and turned to go, Rishaan barred her way and held his arm out. She walked into the it and he turned her around enwrapping her in the fold of his arms, a gust of wind slammed the door shut loudly, Rishaan just held her to himself, Diya struggled to free herself and Rishaan held her back to the wall blocking her way by placing his weight on his palms on the wall on both her sides and withdrew himself from her a bit. Perhaps this was the first time he had given space to someone in life. Diya trembled initially but calmed down in some time and raised her eyes to meet his, he was looking into hers with one intense question in them, her lips parted and without saying anything joined again. Rishaan brought himself very close to hers almost losing his hold on himself and stayed close there for one eternity long moment, and raising his head a little from there gently kissed her forehead.
He withdrew leaving her there and unpacked meticulously what she had packed till now, taking pain to unfold each folded dress and scattered them on her bed, tried to put back things in an unskilled manner that he was capable of, to probable places they were taken from and shaking her big bag free of its contents carried it away with him.
It was the big day, the marriage was to be a low key affair, with grand plans when they got back. Kiara was getting ready, the priest was already into the rituals, the excitement had taken its toll on the old lady and Rishaan requested her to stay put in bed and he would come to fetch her at the opportune moment. Diya was too busy arranging things for her, Rishaan was too calm for himself, too collected. He asked Diya again to change into something good, “For God’s sake it is not her marriage’ remarked the aunt, ‘she may be in whatever she chooses’.
With some rituals done in some time the priest asked Rishaan to have the bride brought there. The only other paid help was still with Kiara, Rishaan got up himself and accosted Diya from the lonely verandah, before she could actually realize what it was all about, he forced her down on the nuptial seat beside him and without losing a moment poured down a generous pinch of vermilion between the partings of her disheveled hair. He had finally found her flame for her for good.