When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.
- Ernest Hemingway
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That fine morning Sameer woke up with a strange kind of feeling in his stomach, the kind of feeling one gets before an exam or a job interview or even just hours before getting married. Bubbles of nervousness formed and exploded all at the same time in his stomach.
Sameer Sharma was the kind of person who never thought about himself or rather listened to his inner voice for even more than ten seconds. He blamed everything happening in his stomach or for that matter even in his brain on the pizza he ordered the other night. Ignoring the rumble going on in his stomach he glanced at the other side of the bed.
There she was, the woman he married four months ago, sleeping sound like a baby as if they never had that conversation the other night. The sun light now profusely stroked Aishwarya’s face, revealing her flawless skin along with those largely noticeable dark circles. Probably her night wasn’t as sound as it seemed to be for Sameer.
Sameer had no intention to wake Aishwarya up, but he had to otherwise both of them would be late for work. He very particularly stroked Aishwarya’s shoulder as though stroking the feathers of a bird.
‘We missed the alarm!’ Sameer alerted her when she gazed up at him.
In no time Aishwarya sprung out of bed and headed straight to the bathroom without even giving Sameer a second look. Sameer was startled at this absurd behaviour of Aishwarya. After all the things he explained her yesterday, all the things he forgave her for, and she still behaved as if she gave a damn about him or their marriage. He had exceeded all the levels of temper management now; he knew he had to take a strong stand. The only thing keeping him at bay from getting violent with Aishwarya was that his father did the same things to his mother and he knew his mother had suffered a lot. Every day he dreaded becoming like his father, although somewhere deep down he knew he was exactly like him.
He got up from the bed and headed straight in the direction of the bathroom and started banging the door.
‘Open the door,’ he shouted from the other end.
Aishwarya sat on the wet floor, leaning her head against one of the walls and slowly but very deliberately banging it against the same wall, thinking of how Sayed would have never raised his voice at her.
‘What do you want?’ she shouted with all of the strength in her core so that Sameer could hear her amidst all the banging.
‘I want you to get out of the bathroom, now!’ he shouted back, only this time more assertively.
Aishwarya had seen the end coming for a while now. She wiped her tears bravely and opening the door she stood still, looking through Sameer. He grabbed her by the arm and let her sit on the bed, he hated man handling her like that but she had left him with no choice. He kneeled down to her height so that she could see eye to eye with him.
‘You and your parents have cheated me,’ he said grabbing both her arms.
‘And yet I am ready to except you with all of your past, even though you dated a guy with........,’ Aishwarya was turning into flames now; she pushed Sameer as hard as she could before he could even finish his sentence and burst into tears.
‘So does that make me a whore or worst a terrorist?’ she screamed, at the top of her voice.
‘I am sorry my parents kept you in darkness but they did the same thing to me, I didn’t know a trip to Indore will lead to marriage and that too just after a month of Sayed’s death,’ She explained, by calming herself down.
The very next second she cried out loud, ‘God has cheated on me Sameer. What are you going to do about it?’
Sayed and Aishwarya were never meant to fall in love but eventually they did. Sayed was exactly the kind of person Aishwarya planned to live the rest of her life with. She grew up in a conservative yet a very close-knit household. The men and women were given certain duties and nobody was given the right to question those duties.
Sayed walked into her life like a breath of fresh air. She knew of no men like him, the liberal kind; the ones very rare to find. That one year of dating Sayed felt like complete independence to her. His love changed her to be, what she was always meant to be, a strong headed, highly independent woman. And so when fate drew its sword on their love, that’s when Sayed met with a terrible accident and her parents found out about their relationship. Aishwarya chose to stand strong beside Sayed’s side day and night without her parents’ consent. But as fate had it, he did not survive that accident for more than two days and bidding the world good bye he took away with him all the strength Aishwarya had acquired in his existence leaving a permanent void inside of her heart forever.
Aishwarya had told all of this to Sameer the night they got married. She couldn’t tell him anything before because her father blackmailed her that he would kill himself if she did so. She didn’t have any strength left inside of her to fight him or for that matter the society so she surrendered.
Sameer on the other hand had accepted all of this and was ready to move on but only if Aishwarya accepted that loving Sayed was a mistake. He left no stone unturned to remind her everyday of how much he hated Sayed’s religion. Aishwarya couldn’t even blame Sameer for his behaviour as he was the product of the very shallow society she was a part of and no matter how much ever open minded he tried to be by letting her take up a job or by he himself taking up some of the household chores, deep inside he would always be mediocre. His roots would never let him fly.
Sameer left for work leaving Aishwarya crying at the edge of the bed. The rain caused more irritation to the already frustrated man. He couldn’t for even one minute stop thinking about Aishwarya; over these last few months in spite of their numerous fights he had kind of grown fond of her. Clearing his head he started looking for a taxi.
It rained with full force now and Sameer had no intention to run back home and fetch an umbrella. Fortunately a taxi did stop. The taxi driver rolled the glass down and greeted Sameer.
‘Salam Saab,’ (hello sir) he smiled.
One any other given day Sameer would have never taken this taxi, but this time he had no choice.
‘Take me to BKC,’ he said adjusting himself in the backseat.
‘It is raining like this since yesterday night,’ the driver tried talking to Sameer.
‘I know!’ a frustrated Sameer exclaimed wiping his wet face.
Strangely the handkerchief smelled of Aishwarya.
The rain did not seem to take a break; Sameer was lost in his thoughts until the taxi driver interrupted.
‘Saab (Sir) can I stop the taxi for a few minutes at the turning ahead, I have to drop my daughter-in-law to the hospital,’ he said.
A half lost Sameer just nodded. A few minutes later the taxi stopped near a bus stop. The roads were now clogged with water. A heavily pregnant woman stepped into the front seat. Sameer would have still been zoned out, but the site of vermillion on the woman’s forehead burst his bubble shockingly.
He smiled confusingly at the woman when she glanced at the back. She reciprocated by humbly joining her hands as though greeting Sameer. The black beads draped around her neck confused Sameer even more. A few minutes later the taxi stopped near a government hospital, by the look of it, it definitely wasn’t going to be a private hospital.
‘Be careful,’ the taxi driver alarmed her while she was getting down the taxi.
‘Yes Abba,’ she replied walking towards the hospital.
Rolling the glass down, he called for her from behind ‘Radha! Once you’re done call Javed he will pick you up ok? Don’t go home on your own,’ he caringly said.
‘Yes Abba,’ she smiled.
The picture was extremely clear to Sameer now.
This taxi driver who was almost illiterate, made no millions yet was a living example of liberalism, a word he knew nothing about. And then there was Sameer, over educated, surely well paid and yet far from being liberal.
‘Where are you lost Saab (Sir)?’ the taxi driver startled a rather zoned out Sameer.
‘Nothing,’ Sameer replied looking enviously at the driver.
‘We have reached your destination,’ the driver informed him.
Surely Sameer was closer to his destiny than ever.
While getting out of the taxi, Sameer asked the driver, ‘What’s your name?’
‘Sayed,’ he replied.
Meanwhile at home Aishwarya lay still in the bed, looking at the ceiling or rather through it. Suddenly she got up and called her office to take a sick leave, after that she texted her father.
" I know you will never pick
my call, so I did not bother
calling you or mom for that matter.
I am none of your concern now,
I get it. I have only texted you
to inform you that I am giving
Sameer a divorce, because
he deserves not to be cheated,
and since a married daughter is
none of your concern anymore,
her divorce shouldn’t be either."
She pressed send and went back to lie down under the blank ceiling.
At the office, Sameer could hardly pay attention to his work. He so wanted to sort thing out with Aishwarya. Fortunately his office left early that day due to heavy rainfall. While leaving for home he checked his phone for updates on the rainfall.
‘644 mm in the last 20 hours,’ he read it out to his colleagues. Then after getting into a taxi he immediately tried calling Aishwarya, but she did not receive any of his calls. So he texted her.
Did you leave from work?
He texted her again after ten minutes.
I know my calls or texts don’t
deserve to be reverted but I
need to know that you’re safe.
I am sorry......
Will you give me another chance?
Sayed gave you the hope to change
Will you pass on that hope to me?
Hope to change for good.
He typed teary eyed, but nor did he receive any reply and nor did the taxi move for more than one kilometre for almost thirty minutes. A rather frustrated Sameer paid the fare and got down of the taxi. He decided to walk home, through the floods like everybody else.
Sameer had been living in the city for the past five years, but he hadn’t seen anything like this in all these years. Everything was disrupted, huge branches of trees floated along the floods; he even saw a few bikes floating away like paper boats in water. The rains had blacked out the city of lights completely. Sameer was extremely worried about Aishwarya, completely drenched in the rain; he tried to call her again.
Meanwhile at home, Aishwarya was feeling a little under weather, probably because she hadn’t eaten all day. She headed to the kitchen. Her phone was vibrating on the kitchen platform, near the sink; unaware of how her phone got there she picked up the call immediately. It was Sameer’s call.
‘Hello......hello....Sameer?’ the call got disconnected.
She tried calling him again but his phone wasn’t reachable.
While trying to call Aishwarya, Sameer lost his balance, and just when she picked up, he slipped and fell halfway into a manhole. Fortunately because of his bigger frame, he did not go all the way down. He could still breathe. He started calling out for help. After a few minutes breathing became more and more difficult as the water covered half of his face now. Trying to not lose hope he raised one of his hands above as much as he could and started waving hard, splashing the all water around.
Sameer wasn’t ready to die like this. He hoped to see Aishwarya one last time. He hoped for her to love him. And maybe somebody above did listen to him because after a few minutes both hope and help did come along. A man pulled him out.
Aishwarya checked her inbox for any messages from Sameer, and to her surprise she did find some. She felt a strange kind of rush after reading his messages. Somewhere her heart still hoped to fall in love again; it is just that her mind wasn’t ready. Aishwarya unlike Sameer was extremely complex as a person. Sameer was the most primitive thinking man she had ever met, but at the same time she liked how genuine he was. She wasn’t sure of anything right now; she just wanted him to reach home safely.
She tried calling him again; he picked it up this time.
‘Hello Sameer, Where are you?’ she said aloud.
‘Who am I speaking to?’ somebody from the other end spoke.
It definitely wasn’t Sameer. Aishwarya started sweating profusely now. The voice from the other end spoke again.
‘I am constable Tirade, we found this phone inside of a manhole, but the body is not found yet, I put the Sim Card in my phone. Are you a relative?’
The floor under her feet slipped, not literally though but she did feel that it will tear down. Aishwarya felt a certain kind of numbness which didn’t let her speak. Tears rolled down her cheeks now.
‘Hello.....hello....anybody there?’ the constable raised his voice at the other end.
Aishwarya was completely lost. All she hoped was for Sameer to be safe. Sayed would always say to her, ‘Love can never be blind, Aishu. It sees everything. Love is accepting’. These very words echoed in her ears. All she wanted now was to accept Sameer the way he is.
Holding on to hope she spoke back, ‘This is Aishwarya’.
And the door bell rang.
Gathering all the shattered pieces of courage, she opened the door. A tall, drenched frame stood in front of her.
All of a sudden words had lost their meaning. Actions spoke for themselves.
Aishwarya hugged Sameer tightly.
26th July was one such day. When the entire city was drenched in rain, some souls were drenched in hope.