It was dark, pitch black dark and darkness inside me was graver than that. The only thing which was tearing the silence was the rumbling noise of rain from neighbour's asbestos shed, as if heaven was crying with me though I had no tears in my eyes. I wanted to go out, scream and cry as loud as I could until my pain was assuaged. What had brought me to such a situation? Why I was in such a pain? We will get to know once the story unfolds.
Two years back… It was a usual morning and I got up early as usual. I gave a cursory glance to the painting hanging on the wall and noticed its old broken edge. A black and white painting which was nothing less than a treasure to me. It was everything for me and my only memory of childhood. I got it as birthday present from my grandparents and my parents were very fond of it, and that was the day when I lost everyone whom we call as our family. I didn’t know what family meant and had started getting to know this bondage when everyone left me. I had an unpleasant childhood, getting bullied, having all the insecurities which I could have thought of at that age. They say I was very lucky that I was not engulfed by the storm but I never knew for sure. I had only one memory and that was this painting. Suddenly someone caught my eye, sitting on the bench of the park which was usually deserted. Autumn foliage was on its peak. All red, scarlet, brown, yellow and purple leaves were spread over the landscape. I kept gazing at the stranger for few minutes without any reason and then realised it was already 9 am and I had to rush to office to make it on time. I left everything and was able to make it to office on time. The day was average and I was returning to my apartment when again that stranger in the park was attention seeking. It was worth giving a thought that what he was doing there for the whole day but I just ignored and went inside my flat. I had my supper and went to bed but I was curious to know whether the stranger left or he was still there, so I jumped out of my bed and went nearer to the window and this time he didn’t surprise me with his presence on that bench. The park was moonlit, it was the glory of full moon but now all leaves were the same and their vibrant colours were not recognisable. I had a glance at that painting and went to bed thinking that I should get that broken edge repaired. Next morning I woke up at my usual time and was waiting for the clock to turn 9. After some time when I looked at the clock, it was 9:15 am and I rushed to the window to see that stranger and yes he was there again sitting all alone and observing the minute details of nature, far from drudgery and mundane pursuits of life. It was like he got eloped with nature. I was monitoring his presence but still couldn’t grab a mere glimpse of his appearance. He was wearing an overcoat, a hat and had a shabby bag. What was there in his bag? I wondered and realised that today I won’t be able to make it to office on time. I ran for the office and for the whole day I was thinking about that stranger and was waiting to rush to home so as to check on that stranger. I reached my place and it was sharp five and the stranger was done for the day and was leaving. I thought today I will get to see him but again I missed the chance. This continued for the whole week and it was strange that I couldn’t sneak a peek of his appearance. I was not much outgoing and gregarious and that’s why never had so many friends and had troubles in getting close to people. Never mind, Sunday had arrived and I had taken a sheer decision of mending the frame of my painting. I forgot about the stranger and went on my mission to mend the broken edge. The concerned shop was too far and it took half of the day to reach there.
Finally I was there in the shop and was enjoying the scent of wooden varnishes and paints when someone from the back addressed me “Hi! Sierra. How are you doing?” I got perplexed and replied back by saying “Sorry Sir! I think you are mistaken, I am not Sierra I am Riya”. He smiled at me and said “I will call you Sierra from today. You are the one who is keeping a watch on me. Isn’t it?” It was then when I realised that he was the stranger. We talked for sometime and after giving that painting for repairing, we came back together and got to know each other a little bit. He was taller than I had assumed and was cute though. He was in his mid-twenties according to my observations and was a painter but not sure though. I couldn’t ask him what he was doing for a living. Still it was tacit from his appearance. Now I had a name for my stranger and that was Mrinal.
My acquaintances with him started growing. Every day after my office hours we both used to sit on that bench for hours and admire nature. He said, he was not from that place and had come there for his new painting. He was a famous painter and used to explore new places every time when he was a creating a new one. We shared some common likes and dislikes, like he didn’t like rain and he felt sad whenever it rained, so do I. He was as simple as me still very different. His simplicity, humility and never ending qualities were compelling me to think about him when he was not there. I never take much time to know how a person is and this time one month was suffice to know him completely. I was very fond of him and I could have written a book on him for his extraordinary qualities. I used to call him Star out of love and he always addressed me by Sierra. Why? I never knew. I went to his workshop and saw his few pieces of art. I just didn’t want to leave that place and wanted to stay there forever. Smiling at him I asked him “Is there any way that I could spend the rest of my life with your paintings?”
He knew what I was asking, he smiled back at me and didn’t say anything. What else I could have expected? He was a man of few words and famous for his laconic expressions. His amazing dexterity at the canvas and deft use of colours was astonishing and taking my heart away.
It was Sunday again and I had to go, to get the painting back. Star insisted he would come along as he had some errands in that shop. I would have never said no because I just simply enjoyed his company. While returning he started asking me about the painting, I told him everything I could. Suddenly he looked at me and asked me “Do you want this painting to be converted into a coloured one? It will be all new with all the new hues” I didn’t know what to tell him so kept mum and didn’t utter a word after that. I never wanted to change it, it was all I had and was a keepsake from my loved ones. We came back, all along the way without breaking the silence and went to our places.
After few days, as usual I went to that park to meet Star after office hours. We both agreed for a stroll on the road behind that park. We went along and I informed him about the painting exhibition, which was going to be organised soon. I told him that he can display his art there and then everyone will know that he was there in their city. He just smiled at me and said “Sierra I don’t want recognition. Living without recognition is a skill.” I sighed and continued to walk. All of a sudden an uncontrolled lorry was heading towards me and I had no time to react. I don’t know how Star managed to save both of us and he bore the brunt of the accident. His right hand got fractured and his work was on halt for few days but still his 9 to 5 visits didn’t end. It was because of him that I was alive and still marking my presence in all those after 5 meetings.
After few months, he recovered completely and told me that he is going to start working on his art again. I asked him in a low tone “Will you convert that painting of mine into a colourful one?” I had pondered a lot and reached on a conclusion that sometimes change is good. Though the painting will get transformed into a new one, still it will be the same, the one which had shackles of my memory. He replied by saying “I had asked you before.” Now he used to come to my apartment, every day after his 9 to 5 visits and painted only a small part of the painting with single paint every day. Now my apartment was our new place of meeting. I was happy as long as he was with me and liked every moment when he was around. I asked him for the reason that why he was painting only a small part of painting every day and not the entire painting at once. He said this was his way of working and I will get to know once the painting is completed. Really the results were beyond my expectations.
One fine evening he came to my apartment earlier than usual and we continued with similar chores, he started painting my black and white painting and I kept talking about everything in the world. It was the same only till the end when he said “Sierra I have done my part here and have almost painted it and now it is up to you to complete the remaining parts of the painting as I am leaving tomorrow. I couldn’t say anything and never wanted to hear the last few words. He left my apartment and still his words were echoing in my head. I didn’t sleep for the whole night and just kept looking out of the window. How can I complete the painting? I am not a painter, neither had I any idea about colours. I would be spoiling it if I am painting the left over parts. But this was not the real reason of me being sad, I had realised that Star was the only reason of my happiness and I was badly in love with him. I thought I will kneel down on my knees and ask him to let me live with his paintings for the rest of my life. Next day we left together for the station and all along the way none of us dared to start a conversation. The train was about to leave when Star said “Sierra I know that you are sad because I am leaving, but you know some things are destined to never happen. Like what you are expecting to happen. I always called you Sierra because it was the name of my first ever painting and it is very close to my heart and so are you. You are very special to me but I don’t have the same feelings which you have for me.” I had tear in my eyes and just wanted to tell him don’t go, just stay back for me. But I couldn’t.
He left me and I missed him badly. I thought time will lessen the pain but it was not happening. For the first time in my life I had someone who was close to me and now I knew what bondage meant. Few days later I got to know that I was getting a transfer because of some new requirements and I thought this will be a good change for me to cope up with Star’s absence and I will be able to forget him. I shifted to new place and started adjusting in the new neighbourhood. My painting was still unfinished and was hanging on the wall.
The broken edge of the painting was not mended properly and I thought I would take it again for mending. I went to the nearby wooden frames shop. Suddenly my heart started pounding because I could see someone who was as tall as Star and wore an overcoat and a hat. He was standing with his back turned towards me and that’s why he couldn’t see me. I knew it was him. He was just few metres apart, I could have gone to him, tapped on his back and said see I am here again in your city and this time destiny brought me here. I could have knelt down and asked for his lifelong friendship. But I didn’t do that because I knew somethings are never meant to happen. If it is supposed to happen it will happen on its own, we needn’t force it. I had loved him with all my heart and soul but I never wanted to impose my feelings on him. I turned back and came to my place, though I was sad but I was confident enough to complete my painting. I took some paints and started painting the unfinished parts. I did it quite well, it was not that bad what I had assumed. At last my painting was completed and I did it on my own. It was looking great with all hues of happiness. I had discovered new strength and now I was much stronger than before. Now I was not weak and vulnerable and knew how to fight with the situation. I painted the remaining parts of painting as if I was painting my life with all new colours.
This incident of my life was something from which I learnt so many aspects of life and about love, bondage and emotional ties. That stranger came to teach me a lifelong lesson and went back when the purpose was served. He intentionally painted my black-and-white painting and left some parts unfinished so that I could finish it on my own. Sometimes changes are good and they make us a better person.
At present I am sad because I saw that stranger again after two years and this time we met again at the same place, the old wooden frame repair shop. He waved at me and said “Hi! Sierra. How are you? You are still the same. After that, pointing to a lady standing beside him, he said “Meet my wife Riya.” He was smiling at the irony of the situation. I wanted to tell him I am still the same and always missed our after five meetings. I came back with a heavy heart. I am looking outside the window and listening to the rumbling noise of the rain. I am sad but stronger than before.