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The Parkbench
The Parkbench

© Ananyaa Mishra


5 Minutes   8.7K    121

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It was on a bright summer morning, in the middle of one of the most beautiful parks of Ahmedabad, that Gautam's fiancee called off engagement with him. He tried to coax her and explain to her that he would do anything and everything to keep her happy, but she did not listen to him, and left the park.

With a feeling of defeat shrouding him, Gautam collapsed on a bench next to him. He pressed his elbows against his thighs, and sank his head on his open palms. An unbearable pain shot through his head, and he felt his body go numb. All he wanted to do was sit and weep till his broken heart felt better.

That period of agony was cut short for him, when he heard a melodious flute playing. He raised his head to object to the music, but did not, when he saw the musician play. An old woman, presumably in her 50's, was standing in the middle of the park and playing the flute. People of all ages were sitting in the park and listening to her performance, with smiles on their faces. All of them seemed to have a good time listening to her, which made Gautam try to forget his failed engagement, and follow them.

After watching two performances of hers, Gautam was amazed. He couldn't believe that a lady as old as her was still learning. And her music did make him feel slightly lighter. When she put the flute away, applause rang across the open air, and a few youngsters ran to her and clicked pictures with her. The moment they left, she sat down, next to Gautam and sipped water slowly from her water bottle.

'Looks like my music changed your mood,' the lady tried starting a conversation with Gautam. In response, he raised his eyebrows and answered enthusiastically, 'Yes aunty, it did. How do you know?'

She replied to him by recounting seeing the quarrel that took place between him and his fiancee, the way he held his head in his hands, and the way his face adorned a smile soon after he looked up. Her observation skills made him more comfortable to vent out his frustration, but he contained himself. However, she could still make out he was upset, and wanted to let out his emotions. So she asked him in a pleasant tone, 'Did her actions hurt you?'

Gautam broke down before he could reply to her, and started sobbing. The lady comforted him by rubbing his arm slowly, and asked him to breathe. He exhaled after a while, wiped his tears, and started speaking, 'Yes, they did hurt me. Your music made me feel refreshed, but honestly, her words were still ringing in my head, taunting me for being an unsatisfactory fiance, and a hopeless life partner. They still are.'

'So your heart is broken?'

Gautam responded with a slight shrug of his shoulders, 'Yes.'

'Then you need to hear the story of my life, from a young bride, to now.'

Geeta Solanki couldn't wait to tie the knot with Praful, a man whose praises her entire family sang. The couple wed with the blessings of the elders, and Geeta was elated to be decked in wedding finery.

Their togetherness, however, didn't last very long. Praful started to harass his wife for dowry, and would often call her names. Her self-esteem would lower after every encounter with him, and she couldn't live with him for longer than two months. So, when she went to her parents' home for the summer, she refused to go back to her marital home. Her parents didn't force her, but they insisted that she move out of the city for the sake of her family's societal status.

So she did. With a bag carrying her flute, five sets of clothes, and a few rupees, Geeta left for Ahmedabad. Her first job there was that of a flautist who played hymns of Lord Krishna in the local temple on her flute. When she had a decent income, she built herself a house, outside which she would practise playing her flute at dawn hour. Once a French tourist told her, in his broken Hindi, that he was mesmerised by her music, and it made him feel connected to God. He even invited her to Paris, with the promise that he would sponsor both her travel and stay.

Geeta, originally reluctant, accepted his invitation, and went to Paris, which opened new doors for her. She made friends from all over the world, and learnt skills like swimming, speaking 5 different languages, baking, and driving a car. Her friends from across the globe invited her to their hometowns, which gave her the opportunity to travel the world.

'When I think about the day I left my family, my eyes were filled with tears, but I try to remember what followed, and pride instantly fills my heart, which is why, son, remember to see the brighter side of everything. Not every time you let go of something, do you lose something. Had I not left my marital home, I wouldn't have gained so many experiences and friends.'

She was interrupted by Gautam's friend, who brought good news for him, 'Gautam, we are now going to Kerala! We'll enjoy the beauty of nature there, and relish the best of their delicacies. Now that your fiancee is out of the picture, we have nobody's constant calls to attend to, either. Let's go!'

The lady used Gautam's upcoming trip as an example, 'And had your fiancee not left you, you would not get the chance to go on a trip to God's own country, without worries.'

'That's right,' Gautam smiled at her.

'Have a good trip, Gautam,' the lady got up from the bench.

'Thank you aunty,' Gautam paused, looked at the freshly emptied spot on the red bench where a conversation with a lady took place and changed his life, and turned to her, 'especially for having changed my life.'

With an approving smile, the lady left the park, probably ready to inspire other people, or to celebrate her life.

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