The first instance I came to know of his worldly existence was through Baburaj, Who had called me to inform of his visa approval. It was an exciting news given that I had been waiting long to hear this about my reliever. Lakmal was coming to relieve me from Dubai for my annual vacation to India. It was imperative that i handed over my duties and responsibilities before proceeding for vacation.
This was my first vacation since my marriage six months ago. It was unexplainable joyfulness to realize that I would be seeing my wife again.These six months were spent in the misery of separation, each day was spent counting and waiting for it to pass, Innumerable times counting the days left, heightened desperations. It was moments of realization that it was impossible to live without my wife; the one who loved me uninhibited. There were moments when i would lounge on bed watching TV and my hand would caress the pillow, utterly missing the presence of my wife. While dining at a restaurant , I would unhappily wish if I was with her. I didn’t know why it was so important in my life to see her happy. It felt that was the sole purpose of my life; to see her smile. That most beautiful smile.
Lakmal and me bonded as if we were friends since long. The first instance i looked at him, I sensed an aura of warmth , a friendliness in everything about him, including his non-fussy smile. He came walking through the arrival terminal with his luggage trolley and saw him approach me, standing with a placard bearing his name. I tried pulling his luggage in an effort to ease him, but he refused to hand over the burden to me. I guided him towards my car and we sped towards my apartment. He was arranged to stay in my apartment until i returned from vacation.
I still had a week to go for my vacation. Lakmal’s arrival was a respite, it helped me get rid of the loneliness of staying alone in an apartment. Almost on all days We went to the nearby Bar and had few drinks before our dinner. Drinks opened me up, I shared my life with him. He told me about his recent marriage and I understood the universality of miseries of separation.
My wife accompanied me on my return from vacation. Lakmal had already moved into another apartment.It was gleeful to hear the news that company had decided to place him permanently in Bahrain.
He joined us to restaurants on weekends. The only difference was that i had stopped Drinking, but he continued. My wife would reprimand him for smoking and he stopped smoking in front of her. After her arrival We always went to non-smoking restaurants. Another dissimilarity was that we stopped going to posh five-star restaurants. My wife disapproved spending money on anything which she thought was not worth the spend. and he called her a miser. She would pass her wayward grin and say, “ You can say that, i have to take care of a family. Wait after your wife comes”.
Wordlessly, I approved my wife, her sense of responsibility , her planning for tomorrow. She had completely changed my life, But it was a welcome change.Years of self-regulated, wild and indiscipline life imbibed certain wish for order in me. I liked the way she cooked my meal, the least oily food in the world. I liked the way she made me get up in the morning and push me to jog, all because she noticed some extra cms of growth in my belly. I loved the way she called me in between an important meeting to check, just because she had a fluttery eye. I loved the soft touch of her palm when she applied the balm on my forehead when i returned home with an headache. I loved the way she returned my gaze, a tinge of shyness and a tinge of poise, and smiled awkwardly, hinting me to stop staring at her.
I also loved my wife, when she placed her hand over my mouth, to stop me when i said ill of god during her minutes of prayer. She would make me pray and ask me to light the lamp before my office visits. I would tease her for her devotion and say, “ Gods must have been really cursing you for all your prayers. Give a break to Gods, leave them alone”. She would insist me to stay silent and tell me, “For my sake, please, do you lose anything?”. I appreciated her strong devotion,; She had so much faith in him that she always believed, that god would make me live long years, much longer than hers. I would feel bad, and apologize , yet the atheist in me staying unmoved .
It was after another month that Lakmal announced the approval of his wife’s visa. He was understandably excited. We helped him shop, to furnish his apartment. He always had an eye for the most expensive, he bought the costliest TV, the biggest refrigerator, and ultra complicated washing machine, leathery sofa set, which my wife disapproved but didn’t convey.
We accompanied him to the airport on the day of his wife’s arrival. A short, plump lady; nothing to do with her appearance though, my wife had an instant dislike for her.
We invited her straight to our apartment, where my wife had arranged dinner for her. The whole evening and during the entire course of dinner, his wife kept her silence and was just nodding to my wife’s attempts at making a conversation. My wife felt she was avoiding her.
The next day my wife called her to ensure about her comfort. She again called the next week and invited her home for dinner, but his wife refused. She never returned a call and my wife was infuriated by her behaviour. My wife never called her again and neither his wife.
It was after four months that we heard of his wife. Lakmal announced the news with excitement and we congratulated the family. His wife was pregnant and was through with her first trimester. The news also brought certain gloom to us, for being childless in spite of being married for few years. I could see the gloom in her eyes, as her eyes turned red and moist. I tried to hold her hand but she pushed me, embarrassed to have been caught in distress. Childlessness can be such suffering, and to top up, her recent miscarriage. I had no words to comfort her, a sense of helplessness enveloping me across.
The Joy was short lived. One day, after a month, Lakmal called me to announce the news. The twinge in his voice alerted me of the incoming bad news. A lump was found in her breast and They had consulted a Physician. An oncologist confirmed their worst fears. She was developing a tumour in her breast, which was in its earliest stage. A surgery could remove the tumour but could not be confirmed if it was malignant and recurring. Surgery would be followed with Chemotherapy , which was the concern, since she was pregnant and the child could be affected. Doctors advised an abortion.
His wife refused an abortion straightaway. She was in no way persuadable. Lakmal informed me about his wife’s decision,; She would die but wouldn’t go for killing her baby. Moments of anguish and ambivalence left us sleepless for several nights.
Finally one of the oncologist suggested a specialist surgeon and after consultation, it was mentioned that there were chances of a surgical procedure, which could remove the tumour completely and further proceedings of chemotherapy could be avoided. It was as if Few rays of hope emerged and shone between the dark clouds.
After a week, the surgery was done on her and it was announced to be a success. It was as if all our prayers were answered, that it was found that the tumour was non-malignant and chemotherapy wasn’t necessary. It brought a bundle of relief and joy and we celebrated. We invited the family and a special dinner was spread-out by my wife. Our entire office was invited and celebration went on till wee hours of the morning.
Months passed and his wife delivered a baby girl. My wife was present through out, beside her at the hospital and to receive her after discharge. She cooked and we carried food for the family. So much joy was visible around, as if the family had completely passed the memories of torment.
The joy again was short lived. She was again diagnosed with tumour and apparently cancer was spreading at an alarming rate. The family was asked to return to their native SriLanka and seek immediate medical attention. The entire office was in a state of gloominess.
Lakmal was sent off with all the prayers and help we could provide, wholeheartedly. He was sanctioned with indefinite leave and The entire office contributed funds for him and presented as a token of support.
It was after a month that things started to emerge clear. Banks and credit card companies started to call ,inquiring about Lakmal and his whereabouts. We were informed that he had taken large sums of Loans coming to $ Sixty thousand from various banks. Apparently, He carried around twenty different credit cards from different banks which was an outstanding of another $ fifty thousand. We provided the banks with his Srilankan address and contact numbers, but it was found that those were bogus. Legal notices were sent to our office and he was termed a criminal.
It was utter disbelief for us since we never in our wildest dreams conceived such ideas about Lakmal. My wife refused to believe me altogether.
It was after a week that I realized his contact cell number I carried in my cell phone addressbook, that he had given me before leaving. I immediately decided to call him and verify the matter.
One ring...two...... and then on the third ring I heard a frail voice answer my call. It carried the unmistakable accent and the familiarity that I was so used to, and I was excited to have heard him once again.
I emptied my crate of questions on him, and i heard him get uptight. He started to sob, abruptly, startling me and confusing me altogether. He was saying, “Arun, i don’t know what to tell you. You have heard it correct, I am a criminal and a fugitive. “ He paused for few seconds, “What else do i do? Kill myself, or run away from everything.? You tell me? By wife is critically ill. Doctors have given her six months to live.I have an infant daughter, she is always sick. I have just returned from the hospitals.” He was uncontrollably sobbing, I could make out by its loudness.
I tried to console him, but couldn’t control myself from asking: Why had he taken so much Loans? Why did he need so many credit cards? Why didn’t he inform anyone about his loans or credit cards?Why had he given a false address and contact details?
He paused for few moments and continued, “ Arun, i had to take them. I had no other way. I am no criminal. I am no fugitive. I just love my wife. Tell me, what would you do if it was your wife? What would you do if she had the most fatal Cancer and doctors told you that she had just six months to live?”
I felt my heart had stopped. I felt blood rushing to my face, my eyes popping out. I felt a strange sense of numbness. I felt like throwing the phone and breaking it into numerous pieces.My palm was sweating and darkness was enveloping around my vision.
I could never imagine my wife that way. I refused to answer him. I was disturbed by asking that to me. I was unsure, how do I console him? Someone, who lived with the truth that his wife, his dearest companion, would live only for the next six months?
At last I heard me speak, “ Take care Lakmal. We all will pray for you. Keep your faith in god. He would certainly open his doors for you. Take care Lakmal.”
I couldn’t believe what i had just said. The atheist me, the unbeliever and why had i given someone hope?I was never so bewildered.
I was in a state of shock. Images of my wife, soft touch of her hand when she applied the balm on my forehead, her gaze with a tinge of shyness and a tinge of poise, and the awkward smile hinting me to stop staring at her came rolling before my eyes.
I remembered the way she placed her hand over my mouth, to stop me, when i said ill of god during her minutes of prayer and the way she made me pray and ask me to light the lamp before my office visits.
My wife was so much right. To hell with my atheist views, to hell with my suspicions and logic, there certainly is a god. At least to comfort us mortals, in times of extreme grief.
I looked at the sky, the clear blue and profound sky, realizing the presence of a power, unperceived to my mere perception, that of a mere mortal.
P.S: I am still with that book that i was to review. While i am at it, i just cant keep myself away from writing. I cant keep my shatterbrain away from forming ideas.
PPS: BTW , ARUN IS A FICTITIOUS CHARACTER AND NOT ME. ITS HE WHO IS DESCRIBING HIS WIFE AND HIS LOVE FOR HER, AND NOT ME. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THE STORY BEFORE COMMENTING, OTHERWISE YOU CAN SKIP WITHOUT ANY. THANKS.:))