The Vaults in the Mountains
The Vaults in the Mountains
It was somewhere in the 1970s when communication barred technology. They still believed hearts could talk. The earth smelled sand and not cement or tar. Rural India was more beautiful than urban India. The men wore dhotis, put on sandals, and held a newspaper. The women wore sarees, the drape covering the faces filled with shyness. The young ladies wore a frock that covered the outer skin of their femur and sometimes extended beyond. Often when an automotive came rolling on the non-fabricated streets, the children, half-bare, ran with joy, heading nowhere.
We were in someplace where there were mountains. When the Indian road congress was busy connecting villages and cities, sometimes to go from one part of the village to another, we often took to the mountains. At the top of the mountains, there were temples made under rocks, to worship. The sacred neem tree was covered with yellow and red threads. The branches had temple bells to summon God when a visitor knocked at its door. Beneath the rocks, there were small wooden vaults that opened like a modern-day hatchback with locks to store things.
In a nearby city lived Saket. He was working in the post office. We met over weekends to gossip about science and the new rhythm in the city. Sometimes about the government, the policies, the trends, or about feelings. It was a cloudy Saturday afternoon when I had to go to the other part of the village to meet Saket. I took the way through the mountains. While going through the mountains, I stopped at my vault, opened it looked inside, and smiled. It was already evening with the lights dimming when I reached the other side. While walking across a lane, I saw a long known face, sitting on a bench. She looked tired. Her pale skin looked a bit brownish, droplets of perspiration covered edges of the forehead and I could mark some (not many) pimples over her once flawless cheek. She had some of her family members around (some ladies and a kid which I assumed to be her cousin) who were busy flustering the atmosphere. "Shraddha"? I muttered; although the excitement made it obnoxiously loud to drive everyone's attention.
I hadn't met this girl for ages. Right after school, she went to the city. They say she read medicine. She was smart, beautiful, and curious. Unlike most of the girls, she was ambitious yet humble. She wanted to fly as if she had wings and nothing could stop her. Every time I had a chance to talk to her, I would spoil it by shaking and not even my eyes could gaze her completely. It would lower down to avoid awkwardness. Although, there was a picture saved in my heart or mind that brought in happiness when looked upon. I believe I liked her. But somewhere between the thin line of likeness and eagerness to reveal, lied worth. I wondered how different we were and our world was. I could never bring in the strength to divulge what she meant to me.
Initially, she was looking down as if contemplating deeply about something. She raised her head disgruntledly. Suddenly, the color of her face transformed. "Vishnu!" She exclaimed with her eyes cornering the people around and the face startled as if she wanted me to be there. We exchanged smiles. She made a quick introduction of me to her family members which was followed by uneasiness and silence. I was controlling the urge of touching her skin to check if she was real. Something about her was soothing. It felt as if the insides of me calmed the soul to sleep. Years of rage, chained patience, distrust of faith and hatred were released.
She asked me to sit beside her. We talked as if years of loneliness were suppressed inside. We discussed out how things have changed in years, the difficulties of life, about work, she growing pimples and everything. Surprisingly, most of them were sad. She had returned to the village to spend some time with her family. The kind of life she dreamt and the kind of life she lived were bridged. I could sometime hear the pain in her voice which was covered partly by her smile. Meanwhile, Saket popped in. Barely had I introduced Saket when all of us decided to cross the mountains back to the village. Back in my head, I was wondering how exhaustive it was to climb the rocks again.
We slowly ascended towards the mountain top. Saket and her brother were then a part of the conversation. Her cousin was nagging persistently with his bad sense of humor while Saket was trying to pull off my legs. She was melancholic calm like the silence after the storm which has ruined everything. We didn't know what to talk about. It was loud with thoughts and eerie with silence. At the mountain top, we sat and saw the half-lit world beneath. A part of the darkness was eliminated by the lights of the greasy lamps. It was difficult to judge what was displeasing; the darkness or the greasy lamps? But together they looked beautiful. While walking downwards, we passed by my vault. I wanted her to see what I kept in there. But, something restrained me. I knew it would hurt her to see what lied inside. Her head moved from side to side as if in quest of something. She peeped at some rock again and again. Her eyes were excited. But, she chose not to say a word about it and kept moving.
When we reached the rock bottom, we decided to move along to our respective places and bid goodbyes. I was not ready for it. I wanted to live a little more. I didn't want to lose her again. She could read it from my drooping face. "Maybe we can catch up at the mountain top sometime again" she comforted. I smiled and let her go from my imaginary grasp. When she passed by, something sparkled me. I threw the room key at Saket and asked him for a moment. I ran climbing up the mountains again to the spot that she peeped at. At the back of the rock, lied a vault. When I opened it, there was a diary. Old, brown with crisp papers. I was too happy to see it. I held it close to my heart and cried. I took the diary out, closed the vault, and went to mine where I opened my vault to see a dairy. Both of them looked alike. I sat at a rock with them. The moonlight was enough to see the papers. I started reading hers.