On the eve of life…
by Dr.Ketaki Patwardhan Nirkhi
They sit together on the beach, side by side, facing the vast expanse of the sea, watching the breathtaking sunset. He looks at her, she keeps looking straight ahead at the fierce orange ball.
“This beach, this beautiful sunset brings back so many memories”, he says, “I had been here exactly fifty six years ago. I had come with my friends to enjoy a play of volley ball. I was a champion then. But that day my playing skills got paralyzed. Coz I saw the most beautiful creature on earth…you. You were here, roaming around with your girl friends. I still remember the dress you wore, white with big pink flowers all over. Your hair was free to dance on the rhythm of the wind. Your smile lit up a thousand lamps in my mind. I forgot all about volleyball! I guess I have never confessed to you, but it was love at first sight for me.” He smiles. She looks at him and smiles.
A smile that gives away nothing.
“Then”, he continues, “After our marriage, we went to Goa, the city of beaches and beer. You remember our first evening, we sat on the beach just like we are today, watching the sunset? It was such a wonderful feeling…being in the embrace of nature with your loved one. That day you wanted to go shopping. It was my first time of accompanying a lady while shopping, and did I ever tell you, it was a terrific experience! I loved shopping more that you ladies.” He pauses to look at her. She is still looking at the sun with a smile on her lips. “And then next day, it was your first time to taste beer”. He laughs as he shakes his head at the memory. “I have taken a picture of the face you made after your first sip, remember? Our kids will laugh their hearts out if they see it…but of course I will never show it to them, its our little secret.”
Few moments pass by as they revel in the beauty of nature. The cool breeze makes them relax.
“Few days after our darling son Ryan’s first birthday, you said to me that you were getting bored of the monotonous routine and that you needed a break. I had come home wary and exhausted from work. I shouted at you, I scolded you. You said nothing. I later felt very sorry but my male ego prevented me from saying that to you. But you remember I took you and Ryan to Silvasa for the new year? That was my way of compensating for my behavior…”
She keeps looking at the sun which is now partially buried into the dark waters, with still a hint of a smile. He looks at the huge waves that form in the depths of the ocean and come crashing all the way to the shore. Each wave begins somewhere in the ocean, travels the same path, hits the shore at the end and bursts into thousands of white sparkling pearls which soon get mixed with the pearls from other waves. Yet no two waves are alike. Each is beautiful and different in its own way. We humans are also like these waves, he thinks. We are all alike, yet so different.
“You remember the vacation we all, you, me, Ryan and little Rucha went to Kodai kanal? What a lovely break that was?” he says with eyes closed, as if reliving those precious moments. “You remember the Pariyar back waters? The beautiful Munnar? The long stretches of lush green tea farms? You remember what you said to me then? You said ‘lets buy a tea farm, build a small wooden house here and stay here for the rest of our lives…”, he pauses and then says, “I sometimes feel we should have done that…because it was the same year I lost my job…”
Both are silent for sometime. The only sound is that of waves crashing and
“My worst period of life was that time when I lost my job. I was frustrated, I was depressed. And I vented all my anger and frustration on you. But you remained as strong as a pillar. When you started working to support our family of four, I could not bear the thought that my homemaker wife was earning money and I was jobless…again my male ego. That’s when I took to drinking…Those were the worst seven years of my life, but I pulled through only because of you. I never admitted this, but I am indebted to you for that. I know you suffered a lot, but you never let our family break. You tolerated me and injected sense into me. You never let any of this affect Ryan and Rucha’s upbringing…”
He looks away, his eyes welling with tears. She is now looking at him earnestly.
“But then again, our life was as beautiful as it could be. You were so happy when Ryan got married to Kajal. You remember how we ourselves painted the whole house in vivacious, flamboyant colours? You know, those colours reflected our mood. It was a happy reunion for all of us after a long long time. Ryan was very happy, you were happy to see him happy, and I was happy to see you happy…” he pauses carefully before continuing, “And I was sad to see you sad when Ryan and Kajal decided to stay in a different house, away from us. I know your heart wept for little Vivaan, without whom you could not even think of spending a single moment! In those two years little Vivaan had become the centerpoint of our lives…suddenly the house seemed empty and vacant…as if life had been sucked out of it…of course they visited us on weekends, but the vacuum remained…”
She just keeps staring at the small sun which is now almost completely submerged in the dark waters. The waves are gradually turning wilder.
The ocean now appears grave.
“Life is so mysterious…it keeps on bringing ups and down at the moments we least expect them. Just when we had adjusted to our lives, accepted our fates, compromised our destinies, another blow hit us… Rucha fell into bad company. She was far away, she was alone, and she succumbed. You had warned me when we decided to send her far away for college, but I didn’t listen to you. And then we repented our decision. Drugs are the worst things in this world. Rucha had almost become a lifeless creature. Bringing her back to life proved such a challenge for us. Those days in the rehabilitation center where she was kept were the toughest days.”
He sighs. She is still staring far away into the horizon.
“But now, after all these years, on the eve of life, I am happy. I am happy that we are together. Together, to see Ryan and Kajal with their kids Vivaan and Vihaan, happy in their life. Soon it will be time for Vivaan’s marriage. Do you know he has a girlfriend?” he chuckles, “Together, to see Rucha back to her own life, happily married to the person who can take good care of her, and blessed with a beautiful daughter like Revati. Together, we can now retire, just like the sun does…I have led a very happy life with you. Two years back we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary…silver jubilee…do you remember?”
The overnight sky is now studded with stars. Moon is not visible anywhere. Is it a no-moon day today, he wonders. She now turns to look at him, and asks, “Who are you?”
He is eighty two and she is eighty. And she has Alzheimer’s. Doctors say she is deteriorating, but he has faith in God…and in his love. He knows, one day, she will remember. He has been doing this daily, for the past six months. Because for her, its just another day. But for him, it’s a lifetime!