The rose was eight years old. Desiccated, shriveled, devoid of a scent; a mere shadow of itself. Like memories-faded with time. The rose had appeared when he was searching his old diary.
Flow of Memories-As if formed like steam from a pot of boiling water. Produced at once, unconsciously lifting up, and then spreading into the thin air, into the invisible...
The possessor of the rose had held the most important place in his life. That was eight years ago.
“I love you.” He had told her. He was blushing and frightened. His palm was sweating. His heart was palpitating.
Long moments of silence.
“What da?” She looked into his eyes and asked, as if she knew the outcome of this lunch together.As if she expected every man to propose her after few lunches together.
“ I love you Mini. You are the most beautiful woman I have seen in my life.”
She giggled. Her cheeks rosy now out of blushing.
“Sure? How about Aishwarya Rai?” She asked.
“ Ohhh, Common. I haven’t seen her.And she will just pale before you. I swear.”
He was visibly embarrassed now.
“I wish I could enlarge your photograph and post it in my room. Will you give me a photo of yours?”
“I will not give you.” She replied bluntly, though teasingly to reduce the bluntness.
“ Mini. Do you love me?”
Long moments of silence. He was staring at her. She was looking down at the ground.
He left the question unanswered, as if he never expected an answer from her.
The Next six months of life passed, though separated for weeks together and then to see each other on weekends. Daily telephone calls, hours of conversations on mundane of all topics.-Birthdays, childhood, loneliness, future.
He waited for her calls all day, though she called only in the evenings. Everything else was irrelevant in life, except for her smile. Life became a struggle for possession, though all possessions became immaterial. Songs, Music, words, food, phrases had its association with her. The car her family owned became the best car, her favorite food became the tastiest, her cloths became the trendiest, colour of her skin became the prettiest, her hairstyle the most stylish. He searched the dictionary for the words she used- “how conversant she was”.
“Do I deserve her?” Once he asked himself. The serpent called “self doubt” emerged out of him, for the first time.
He understood new connotations of the word ‘love’-Frustration, resentment. He loved her like himself, in fact more than himself, because he was not sure if he loved himself so much. He demonstrated his love as a measurable, quantified essence. He devalued the expectations of reciprocation. Yet he was frustrated. He was too human to understand that true-love was above an expectation of reciprocation. True-love? Was there also an un-true love ?
“You didn’t reply, Mini.” He asked her during a phone conversation.
“I love you so much, I have told you that. I mean it Mini. I love you so much.”He replied, with a tinge of frustration.
“ How much?” She asked giggling.
“Cut that”, He was furious now.
“I don’t know Manoj.” She replied.
“ I need more time.” She replied after a brief silence.
“ How much more Mini. I have waited for so long.What makes you doubt me so much?” He asked.
“ No Manoj. I don’t doubt you.”
“Then? Whats the problem with you?”
“ I don’t deserve you.Manoj.”She replied.
“ WHAT? What makes you say that?”
“You are good. You would get someone really good.”
“ You are the best. I want you. There is noone good enough for me. Its you, Mini. I love you. You are the best,Mini” He spoke with calmness, with a saintly composure..
“ Can I trust you Manoj?” She asked.
“ Yes, Mini. Please. All I want in this world is you. Nothing more.Trust me!” He replied.
She opened her heart to him.
“ I can never imagine getting married to anyone else Manoj. I love him.”
“ But he used you. He used you and dumped you for someone else Mini.Still?” He asked.
She smiled. He could hear her chuckle. He wondered why? Do women smile overly when they are hurt-“ Tum Itna kyon Muskurarahe ho, Kya gam hein jisko chupa rahe ho?” “How true?”
“ We made it twelve times a day once.” She told him once, after a few weeks, during a lighthearted conversation.
He pretended indifference. His heart was on fire.
“ He used me Manoj.All he wanted was my body. And all those words and promises had no value.”
“ I love you Mini. All men are not the same. I respect women. I hate men who look at women as an object of desire. I seriously hate such men.” He replied.
He knew he meant every word he had spoken. In fact, he had spoken only half of what he had meant; only if words had the power to expose hearts. Bloody words!
“ I don’t know Manoj. You will get a good girl. Much better than me. And then you would think of all this as a joke. A big joke.”She giggled.
“ Stop It, Mini. I love you. I can never love anyone the way I love you. I will only love you. Only once in my life.” He replied, distraught now for being made to repeat.
Frustrations mounted with the passage of time. His heart bled bloodlessly. It ached unsettlingly. World stopped to amuse him. Nothing else mattered but her. Her attention was everything. He was starved of her. The woman dumped by another man; used as his object of desire. A woman who had no place in that man’s heart. And he was starved of her love. How strange is this world? Someone else’s trash is another mans aspiration.
“ Keep this rose. This is to remind you of me. Otherwise you will forget me in no time.” She said chuckling, her last words to him.
Climbing the train, he turned to look at her once again, knowing that this would be the last time he would see her. “A lifetime of not seeing her. Forever of not seeing her. Will never see her again in my life.” Very Heavy words filled with sadness.
“What are you staring at?” A feminine voice stirred him back to present.
“ Nothing. A Rose. I was wondering how it came here?”He turned to look at his wife.
“Must have been given by some girl. Isn’t it? The way you were staring at it.” She said teasingly.
He smiled at her. She smiled back. He could never lie to his wife. He was plain incapable of doing it. If she would have probed into his past he would have revealed everything. But she never bothered herself.
He looked at his wife; that beautiful smile of her. Brown eyes, lovely poise. “Could he live a day without her?”.
A woman who presented herself to him. A woman who gave him innumerable joy of a life time; in just a few years. A woman who gave him a beautiful daughter whom he could call his. A new dimension to life. A new rationale to life. A life with a direction and speed limit.
“ Keep that flower back inside the diary or throw it. The pollen could cause allergy to her.” His wife said, directing towards his sleeping one year old daughter.
He crushed the rose in his palm and threw into the thrash bin. He walked to his wife and hugged her-she struggling to come out of his embrace.
“ Go away, the baby would awake.” She said teasingly.
He looked once again at the thrash bin.
“And then you would think of all this as a joke. A big joke.” He grinned as if realizing the essence of a joke.