The Open Window
by Anita Bhattacharjee
Raindrops poured outside with violent shower and the sky was filled with dark clouds. The downpour continued for an hour and suddenly the sunshine glittered as if nothing had happened. The birds started chirping and the dark clouds vanished in no time giving its way to the blue clouds. I smiled and turned away from the window which was my only asset in my lonely hours. The house was neat and clean as always and there was no one to break the silence of the house.
Five years had passed by since my marriage and God had given me everything, except the happiness of having a child. My husband is in his office and would probably return sometime in the evening. I often wonder if a child would be able to fill the void between us that had gradually developed all these years after the death of my only child. I aimlessly wandered in the house for some time and made my way back to the window. Two pigeons had made their nest near my window and they are busy feeding the little ones. Life is beautiful until you crave for more from life. The utterance of mantra made me look in the opposite direction. An aged lady, dressed in white saree, was chanting mantra and pouring water on the Tulsi plant which she had carefully nourished all these years. Like the pigeon and other things the lady is also a part of my daily observation. After completing my daily chores, I regularly spend hours sitting near the window which is perhaps my only gateway to the outer world.
The lady in white saree who lived in the opposite apartment is a subject of my envy. Five years ago when I newly married and shifted to this apartment, the lady in the opposite apartment caught my immediate attention. She was standing in the balcony dressed in a blue embroidered saree waiving her eighteen year old son who was going to college. Her red sindur was visible amidst her white hair and her radiant face broke into a smile as her husband joined her in the balcony. The aged couple really made a nice pair and I gave them a last glance as I entered the threshold of my house.
I became busy in my household activities and my husband was as always loving and caring till the tragedy occurred. After the unfortunate accident, we both lived a dual life as if trying to hide our grief from each other. We led a fake life, a fake smile and a fake existence, yet we lived on and on with our shattered heart. The window gradually became a part of my life. I watched the aged couple often and gained inspiration that God is not unjust to all His followers. Her son gradually completed his graduation and took up a job. The happiness of his parents knew no bound. One evening I saw a beautiful lady coming with him to his house and after some days the apartment was beautifully decorated for their son's wedding. The lady was replaced by her daughter in law and I often watched her pouring water on the Tulsi after puja in the morning dressed in high heels and short dresses.
A few days later, I watched the old couple seating in the balcony with a very weird expression. For the first time in many years I had seen them unhappy and I wondered the reason behind it. My husband came home in the evening and as usual gave me an understanding smile as he entered the house. As usual I made tea while he freshened up and served him tea along with snacks. He sipped the tea and asked me how was my day and I replied ,'Nothing special, just the same old routine.' He watched TV for sometime and engaged himself in his official papers till I called him for dinner. After dinner, he gave me an apologetic smile saying that it was a busy day for him and he was going to bed. Soon he went to sleep while I sat brooding. I went to shut the window before I retired to bed.
The sound of crying filled the night air. The aged lady in the opposite apartment ran out of the house crying for help. Neighbors came out of their houses and very soon summoned the dead body of her husband towards the cremation ground accompanied by her only son. It was an appealing sight. I felt as if I had lost my own father once more. Delhi is a strange city you hardly know or care who your next door neighbor is. But I have developed a strange bond with the aged couple. They have become a part of my life. I retired for the night with a remorseful heart.
The next few days the opposite apartment was filled with friends and relatives, but after some days a void filled the house. I saw the aged lady clad in white saree pouring water on the Tulsi plant again and uttering her daily prayer. Now I saw her more often sitting quietly in the balcony her radiant face completely looking fragile and exhausted. Her son and daughter in law often went out in the evening and locked the door from outside as if she hardly existed. The balcony became the home of the aged lady and she spent most of her time sitting quietly beside the Tulsi plant. I wanted to walk up to her, sit beside her and say that I really care for her. Her old eyes waited every night for her son's return, but he never returned the gaze.
July had arrived along with heavy shower. As usual, one morning I gazed out of the window. It was raining heavily. I glanced towards the balcony of the aged woman and there a surprising sight awaited me. I saw her sitting in the balcony, motionless, drenched in rain. I opened the window with a heart pounding like a hammer. I waved at her, but she did not respond. I lost no time in walking towards the opposite apartment. The door was locked from outside. I went from door to door asking for help. Soon neighbors gathered and someone brought a duplicate key from the guard room. The door opened and I rushed towards the balcony. The fragile woman still sat motionless. I sat near her and touched her hand . It was deadly cold. For the first time in my life I cried like I had never done before. I gathered enough strength to walk back towards my house realizing I would never see her pouring water on the Tulsi plant again.
The incident changed my life. I started to see things more positively. I published the story about the aged lady which was a source of inspiration for me. God has his own plans but there is a reason behind all his plans. I gifted my husband a copy of my published writing on his birthday. He was overwhelmed.
“That's what I was trying to make you understand all along. Having a child is not important rather having a child who cares for you till the end is more important.” He said.
I did not reply but that day my silence said a lot. I became a changed woman. ***