All along the drive, Aravind was thinking of it. Why did she refuse it? After all, there was no additional burden to him. It never went to his head that it will be embarrassing to her to get out from someone’s car. After all, he was to leave her at the cross-roads. Then why did she refuse? And added to the mystery was her reply that she did not want to be dropped. By whom? At the sea-side none would have recognized them. Anyone, who saw them entering the car, would have taken them as a young couple.
His thought process stopped all of a sudden. It was like an inadvertent entry to forbidden land. He had never thought of her like that. But now, from the sweetness it brought on his palate, he realized that it is the most desirable thought, the longing for which was always there. The ice, in which the boat had been stuck, seemingly for ever, was not real at all: it was the accumulated dirt and dust of hypocrisy. A small push by an uneventful event like the polite refusal of a lift brought it out into the clear, open waters. Forward. All relationships have to move forward. Or backward. It is the law of nature and who are we to go against the law of nature?
By the time he reached home, the thought had become an obsession. He visualized Anitha sitting next to him in the car, the beautiful face bright with happiness. He wanted to touch the vision and knowing it only as a play of imagination, he smiled.
But by this time, she was firmly seated in his mind. He realized that he had not thought of her like this ever. The fear of morality always stood guard to direct his thoughts and it had guided him to think of her, in the past, only as a friend. Even that was a privilege granted to him by the guard, after having failed to persuade him to treat her as a sister. But now the guard had vanished. He was now his true self, a creature of nature, to obey none but the law of nature.
Now he was seeing her very clearly in his mind. The oval shaped face was exceedingly beautiful. Her head seemed slightly bigger, compared to the slim and supple body, but that disproportion added a superb richness to her grandeur. As a student, her eyes always had the gleam of high expectations, but now they were clouded with a sense of grief and resignation. And he knew that she was not happy in her married life, although she never discussed it. He had tried so many times to bring her around discussing it, but sensing his intention, she changed the subject, at times even abruptly, which nonetheless, provided him with an insight into the pitiable state of affairs about her.
In the semi-dreamy state, Aravind visualized Anitha, the first time as a beautiful girl. In the eyes of his mind, he saw her fully; the heart-shaped face, the beautiful curves of her body. The graceful locks of her curly hair looked dazzling to him. The face and hands were reddish-white and he tried to imagine the colour of her entire body, fully reddish –white and shining, like a mysterious, divine statue. The body was slim and symmetric, perfect. To his mind, released from the bondage, she presented herself as the most charming and glamorous. While imagining about her this way, he realized that a sort of super-sweetness was filling within him and his own soul was being absorbed by a musky fragrance. Now there was no guard to check his imagination. To him, she became the personification of his suppressed desire. His lips closed themselves tightly as if in prayer, asking her to be ever present in his mind. Then inadvertently his lips moved uttering: “Please Ani.”
Once relieved of the clutches, his mind moved swiftly, through a different world, created by his imagination. He visualized Anitha as his bride, but devoid of any make-up or ornament, as if she had purged them off, as soon as the ceremony was over. She was happy and content. Her body was ivory-colored now, delicate and delightful. Her innocence and happiness shone in her eyes, which were inviting him benignly. There was the beautiful smile on her lips, which was like the one he had noticed on the face of some picture in the past, reserved and yet joyful.
When his imagination reached this level, he had the strange feeling that by dint of some mysterious and uncontrollable power of his mind, he was transferring his thoughts to her. He was certain that, at present, that is what is happening. She knows his thoughts. This made him feel bad. He feared that she will see it as a transgression of the boundaries of decency and was panicked of losing her friendship, which at least was his. He tried to force himself into some other thoughts, but his mind always returned to the same track, making him feel guilty. He was now quite frightened that his thoughts will make him an object of repugnance in her eyes.
But the feeling did not prevent him from going to the beach the next day. And when she was not there the day and the next, he felt that his fears were real and she no longer wanted any friendship with him.
Still, he went to the beach the next day too and there she was, his Anitha. She was looking at the sea and was so absorbed in it that she did not see him coming. He stood near her silently for a while and then bent and touched her head. She reacted by turning violently, and seeing him standing near-by, a faint smile appeared on her lips.
And he sat down.
“What had happened the last two days?” He asked. And even while putting forth the question, he was intently watching her face for any symptom of disgust, which his thoughts for her the other day onwards might have created in her mind. But he could not find any. She was the same, the adorable Ani. The only change in her was that her face was more solemn.
“I did not feel like coming out.”
“Were you not well?”
“Oh, nothing like that. A sort of laziness. That was all.”
“It means today you are not lazy.” He smiled and quite unconsciously moved near her.
The declining rays had decorated her head with a halo around it. Or so he thought. He desired to touch her, to take her hand in his. But he could not do so for fear of her resisting. Instead, he continued with looking at her. A heady fragrance of roses swept his insides. He felt that his body is losing weight and in a few moments, the breeze will lift him up to the land of wild ecstasy.
After a while, she became aware of the extra-ordinary pool of silence amidst the ocean of sounds and turned to see his eyes fixed on her face.
“Why? What happened?” She asked casually.
“You are so beautiful Anitha, so beautiful.”
She read it in his appreciating eyes. And also there she saw a speck of something else, which revealed itself in the glitter of his eyes. A desire, which despite his playful ways of the past, was hitherto not there.
She lowered the eyes, and her hands spontaneously tucked up the border of her sari to put it properly above her bosom. Her heartbeat had increased suddenly.
The gesture did not escape his notice and he quickly withdrew his eyes and looked towards the sea. The daylight, although weak, was still around, but he experienced a sort of mist in front of him. Through the corner of his eyes, he looked at her and to his embarrassment, he found that she was looking at him. He felt himself being pinned down by her look and turning his head clumsily, he asked:
“Why? What happened?”
He asked the question to straighten out his mind by returning to naturalness through small talk, but apart from the question being irrelevant, it exposed his bewilderment.
She now turned towards him. The eyes met and remained locked for a while. Then he turned with great effort and looked towards the sea.
“What can happen? Nothing. Why did you ask?”
“No. Nothing. I was simply………..” He could not find words to complete his sentence. “I felt like ………..”
Her question was like ice-cold water thrown upon his face. By someone, to change the course of his thoughts.
He looked around. People were moving out. Some had already left. The beach was like a market, wherefrom those who had sold their wares had already left and the others were getting ready to go. And he felt like a merchant, who had also to go, without selling any of his wares, but having added something more, unsaleable. The burden had only increased.
And Anitha was also getting up.
“Are you not coming?” She asked.
He tried to get up. But the dead weight of frustration did not let him get up. He went on sitting.
“O.K. Enjoy the dark sea. I am off” She said.
“Wait, I am also coming”
He got up wearily.
“Didn’t you bring the car?” She asked.
“Nothing. I liked to walk.”
Then silence engulfed them. Aravind was thinking about Anitha and Anitha’s mind felt an uneasy calmness. A fear-infested calmness.
And she did not know as to what she was afraid of.
They were near the cross-roads.
Aravind stopped suddenly.
“What happened?” Asked Anitha.
“I want to ask you something. Please.”
Anitha stood silent, looking at him. His face was hidden in the shadows of something.
“And I wanted to ask you many times. But avoided.”
“What do you want to ask?”
“Why are you so sorrowful?”
He asked it in such a way as if he was pushing down a heavy rock from the brink of a precipice, with no idea as to where it is falling.
She stared at him for a while and then said: “I am not”.
Although she tried to be firm and assertive, her voice deceived her. It was wet with suppressed emotions.
“O.K. I may be wrong. But I felt that you are now-a-days not happy at all. Anyway, forget that I asked about it.”
They had reached the cross-roads. The place to depart.
And then Anitha said: “I am sorry Aravind. Please do not waste your time thinking about my sorrows and worries. I cannot explain it. I am unable to”.
“I promise. I will never ask about it. And……….will you come tomorrow?”
Contrary to their former routine, she said. “Yes”.
The single word bore a lot of meaning for Aravind. It expressed a sort of trust, which he felt, she had towards him. It expressed a fresh warmth, which their relationship had newly possessed. Even after her departure, the word seemed to be floating in the air, touching his soul gently like a feather, soothing him and bringing great happiness to his mind.
Print This Post To toggle between English & Malayalam Press CTRL+g