Punyasloke Bose



Punyasloke Bose


Withered Love

Withered Love

8 mins

Hiralal was feeling a little shy. What would people think about him. But within himself he felt very happy and excited. All of a sudden his lonely life began to have a meaning. Because he was about to meet someone who had brought cheer to his dreary life. He had been very depressed after his wife of twenty two years passed away last year. His wife was very sick and no amount of medication could revive her. Ultimately she died leaving behind Hiralal alone. Although he was not alone in the strict sense because he had a daughter. But his daughter was now married and had gone away to live with her husband and in laws.

So Hiralal was alone and lonely. This loneliness used to make him remind his wife and he used to become sad. After his wife had passed away some of his relatives advised him to remarry to overcome loneliness and boredom. He was still a few years away from his fiftieth birthday and they all said that he could still marry. But he did not approve of the idea. He had loved his wife very much and no one could take her place.

But his depression would not leave him. He consulted doctors. Doctors advised him to take daily walks as a form of exercise for both body and mind. So he used to go for walks and return home and prepare himself to go to his place of work. He was employed with the government as a lower division clerk. Still he had more than a decade to go before retirement.

On his daily routine of walking he came across many men and women on the road. They were all walking for fitness and pleasure. Most of the people walking were older than him but there were few younger. The younger ones did jogging and running for fitness. Only the older people did the walking. Many of the people were known to Hiralal. Some used to stop to exchange pleasantries and then moved on. Hiralal generally did not spend time in gossiping but utilised the time fully for his daily regimen of walk.

One day on one such walks he came across a lady. This lady had tripped and had fallen down. Her slippers had torn and she had misread her steps and as a result had fallen down. She had fallen in such a way that she could not get up without taking help. There were people around who were looking curiously but were not decided yet to hold her hand and pull her up. Then Hiralal reached there and this lady looked at him in such a way asking for help that he couldn't refuse. He caught hold of her stretched hand and pulled. But she would not budge. She had fallen in a little hole in the ground and got stuck. A little trick was required to pull her out and get her standing. So this trickiness was the hesitation of the people to help. Hiralal then decided to catch hold of her hand with both of his and pull with all the strength he could muster. He did just that and felt that the woman could move and then gave a final heave. The woman did get up but with the reflex of the pull she fell forwards over Hiralal. Hiralal lost balance and fell to the ground on his back with the woman on top of him. The woman was lying flat on Hiralal's chest with her face almost touching Hira. It was a comical scene with the curious onlookers enjoying the moment of their togetherness. They both blushed profusely and got their act together and got up as fast as they could. Hiralal did not stand there a further moment and with brisk footsteps moved towards home.

For the next couple of days he did not venture out on his walk. After few days he decided that he should resume his daily routine. While on his usual round he came face to face again with that same lady all of a sudden. She smiled at him and came forward to talk. Hiralal wanted to avoid but thought otherwise as it would seem rude and offensive. She thanked him profusely for saving her on that day. She introduced herself as Asha. She invited Hiralal to come and sit on a bench nearby. Hiralal found Asha to be more candid and open than him. She had no qualms talking to a stranger and fell completely at ease with one and all. She had recently recovered from an illness and therefore to regain her original self had taken to morning walks as a remedy.

Asha shared her personal story to Hiralal. She was herself a corporate employee and her husband had been a corporate big wig. But tragedy had struck their family. She and her husband were child less. Even after lot of unsuccessful attempts when they couldn't become parents to a biological child they had thought about adoption. But then all of a sudden while on a company tour her husband met with a fatal accident. All was over for Asha. Her world came down to her feet. She went into depression. Nothing could be changed. She stopped working. But somewhere deep inside she knew that she had to work with children. Working with children she could keep herself busy and get over her grief.

With the compensation she got for her husband's demise she started a small school for poor children. Initially she started with about ten children. Mostly children from the slum who could not afford to go to school. Asha hired few teaching and non teaching staff to help with the children. Now the strength of the children had risen to fifty. Asha was very proud of her students. She invited Hiralal to the school. She introduced him to her students. The children welcomed Hiralal with great joy and enthusiasm. Hiralal was touched. He was very happy meeting Asha and then with her students. The students asked Hiralal to come to them every day. Hiralal felt a magnetic attraction for the school, for the students and also for their mentor Asha. Every morning Hiralal and Asha used to take their morning walk together and then return to Asha's school where both Hiralal and Asha would drink tea together. Sometimes he used to have his breakfast there and go to his office from there. While coming back from his office Hiralal would visit Asha have tea and snacks and then return home. Asha used to press Hiralal to take his dinner and then go home. This continued for days and then months. Following this routine didn't seem out of place for both Asha and Hiralal. Destiny had strange arrangements and surprise get togethers. Both had secured lives and good loving families. But destiny had snatched all they had. Both had their love withered. Now all of a sudden destiny had brought them together in a strange way and rekindled love in a surprising way. Both came from totally different backgrounds. Hiralal was from a lower middle class background though educated and cultured and mild mannered. Asha on the other hand was from a upper class background accustomed to a fast and racy life. But now strangely with so much opposites they got on pretty well. Though Asha was not as old as Hiralal she liked his simplicity and down to earth honesty. Her family had avoided her after tragedy struck her. But as she was an independent person no one bothered with her life. On the other hand Hiralal had confided to his daughter about this new friendship. She was very happy for her father. At least he was happy now and there was someone to take care of him, she thought. Her mother's death had shattered her father. Also she could not take care of him as she had her family to manage.

Now Asha involved Hiralal in the activities of her school. She wanted a trusted hand to manage the school funds and bank accounts. She even paid him salary. Slowly Hiralal developed interest for the school work due to his love for the children.

Hiralal then took early retirement from his job as he had a pension. He could now devote his time fully for the school and the children. The children were very happy to see Hiralal full time. They called him Hira uncle and was very popular. Asha was also very relieved to find Hiralal work with the school full time. She would also spend more time with him. Deep within her she became more and more attracted towards him. She failed to understand if this was just love or plain gratefulness for this simple and honest man. She wondered if Hiralal had also the same feeling for her.

As this was not adolescent love so they could not express such amorous feelings between them. But slowly and steadily they both understood that there was a hidden bond between them that tied them together. They felt confident in each other's company.

The children now wanted that Hira uncle should stay there. He had become so much popular with them. Asha made arrangements for Hira to stay in a room of his own at the school. Hiralal now rarely went back to his house and mostly stayed back at the school.

So much time both Hiralal and Asha spent together. No doubt that they truly loved each other but didn't have the courage to spell it out. Talking of marriage was not really taboo now as times had changed. There were many a couple who were making a new beginning even at a much later age. But Hiralal could not muster the courage to propose and Asha preferred to wait. So they continued living this way loving each other.

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