Meera loved the rains. They were a poetry for her. Beautiful, simple yet mysterious. She had spent her childhood listening to her grandma sing about the rain. Her grandma always said that the rains were the harbinger of good fortune. Good fortune or not, Meera just liked the sudden drop in temperatures, the gusts of chilly winds, the dark grey appeal of the clouds, everything seemed to have a charm to it.
Just like her grandmother, Meera grew up to love the rains and to simply dance in them. She would have let the rain drench her through even today only if she didn’t have to rush to the office afterwards. While she ran for shelter, she suddenly remembered what her grandmother used to say, “Ahh a mid-summer tempest, when it rains untimely my dear Meera all the bets are off; anything can happen!”
‘Anything can happen’ she thought, after all, it was this rain that had brought her here today in the Maharaja Mahal; after so long. These labyrinthine arched passages of the palace still lay as abandoned as they were when she played here as a child. Dressed in fancy frocks and skirts, she and her friends used to prance around playing out the fairytales and fighting imaginary battles with wooden sticks.
Here, in the ruins of the palace, she had started her own fairytale as well. She and Aman had promised each other to have their own sweet happily-ever-after. But their ‘ever-after’ seemed to have ended too suddenly and too soon. Just like these rains she thought; beautiful and romantic in the start and by the end it left back nothing but murk and sodden souls in its wake. But they may be still had some hope. Only if he returns. If, the big bad If…Sighing sadly she removed Aman from her thoughts.
The place became a bit crowded as more people came to take shelter. To escape the crowds she decided to go further inside the palace. She knew these palatial passages by heart.
A soft smile crept across her lips as Meera thought of all the times her mother had punished her for playing in the ruins. The ruins had ghosts she used to say. Hadn’t she and her friends tried to sneak in late one evening only to be found by Chutki’s father? All of them had gotten a scolding of their lives that night. But the very next day they tried it again. ‘To see the ghosts’ they replied when their parents asked them about it. All these things seemed so fascinating back in the day.
She laughed remembering those childish games, dares and those stupid bets. Her laugh echoed through the empty rooms, mixed with the sounds of the downpour until all she could hear were soft ghostly whispers. Ghosts, she thought, yes mother this place has ghosts. Ghosts of her memories with Chutki and all her other friends who went their own ways after college. They rarely met these days.
Lost in her thoughts, she hardly noticed where her legs took her. Tracing her memories they had brought her face to face with the darkest ghost of her past. Realisation stopped her in the tracks as she gazed into the very passage where she and Aman had stolen their first kiss, confessed their love. It was in this alcove that they had last fought and Aman had left her and his country, never to return he had promised…
She could hear her heart pounding in her ears as she extended a shaky hand to touch the walls. What did she expect to feel there? All that was to be said and done was already said and done. Yet she ran her fingers on them as she walked down the passage. So beautiful it looked today in the rains. Half-formed thoughts plagued her as she turned to go back. It was still raining but she could wait in the outer portion of the palace. This place was just too much to bear. It still hurt. But she had just gone a few steps when…
She could not believe her ears. It was such a faint whisper. It can’t be him. She didn’t want to turn. Didn’t want to wake up if this was a dream.
“Meera, I thought I would find you down here”
What? Why was he here? When did he return to India? Did this mean he has finally returned to her as well? Did he make his decision?
“Meera” He breathed her name again, like a gentle caress. She still couldn’t believe her ears but also was too afraid to turn and look at him. She knew what his return meant.
She had prayed for it every day, but now that he was finally here she didn’t want to believe it. What if this turns out to be a cruel dream? She heard him walk the distance between them. He was standing so close that she could smell his cologne. How she teased him about this cologne, always pinching his nose saying that he had lost the senses to use it, but today she just wanted to let the smell wash over her. It had been so long…
She felt his touch even before he touched her. She closed her eyes as he turned her to face him. She didn’t have the strength to look into those grave and deep eyes again. He was her best friend, her prince of every fairy tale, her first love, her everything. He can’t be ‘just a friend’ now. They can never be ‘just friends’.
He traced her silent tears with his fingers and cupped her face in his hands. “Miru look at me, please. I should have never left. I’m…Please… I love you” he stammered. She shrugged him off smirking but he caught her again.
“Meera.. listen to me, please. I love you. Meera..marry me…I mean..will you? Will you marry me?”
The question made her open her eyes. She had almost forgotten how he looked. ‘The same. He looks the same’ she thought as she struggled to control the sudden rush of emotions. The storms that raised inside her heart rhymed with those raging outside. She had imagined this moment so many times, mulling over every silly detail. But right now she wanted to slap him, hurt him, punish him for keeping her waiting for so long and at the same time wanted to surrender in his arms and cry her heart out.
“Meera, say something dear, please. I love you…I always have. I shouldn’t have left..I…I should have come earlier..I’m…I’m sorry. But I have come…marry me..Meera..I..” he struggled for words his eyes bright with unshed tears.
It was some words he was waiting for. But words failed her…so she kissed him. She just let herself drown in his arms.
Later that night, when she was still wrapped in his arms, she remembered her grandmother’s saying ‘anything can happen beta rains bring good fortune’. She chuckled, pinched Aman’s nose as she loved to and biting softly whispered in his ears “All bets are off..yes I will marry you…a thousand times over”
© 2018 Ashwini Nawathe, Kaleidoscope of My Life
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