The afternoon sky peeped through the dense mask of those green leaves which formed a massive canopy over that lonely path, crawling into the dense spruce forest and losing itself somewhere in between! The dankness of the cold winter noon and the discomfort which it brought with itself compelled me to walk out of my doors and walk upto those virgin hills which stood at a mile from the dwelling …. And savor its tranquil verdure. The world outside seemed busy and playful…somewhere gray and industrious, while the rest in various shades of moods and classes…..separated by the societal chasms. Soon the faces were lost, and then the murmur of the crowd, the sordid streets narrowed down and got transformed into a continuous streak of land peering from the grasses as I walked away from the swarming multitude. And now I stood at the foot of the hill, wild and magnanimous and…. swallowed in a green-grey blanket with a thin curtain of mist blanketing it further.
Just a mile away from civilization and how untrimmed and untamed life seemed to be…. I treaded through the woods on that thin thread of path waiting for it to disappear completely so that I would turn back to begin my retreat journey. All this time I had been wondering whether I were the only trace of civilization in that feral world but nay…. A sudden screech disrupted the perpetual silence. Was it just the dry leaves, or the impatient breeze, it could be a broken bark or a wild boar but it was the footstep of a man, another man….crushing those dry leaves which covered almost the entire forest floor. With him was a woman, clasped tightly in his arms, tall and all covered in black with perfectly black glasses veiling their eyes. Emerging from within the mist through those thickets of trees, the blurred image of the humans gradually gained prominence as they walked towards me. She, the lady had slipped her hands into his and clung to him…. and he walked straight but with a sluggish gait, as if he was dragging her. They walked past and the man watching me gaping at their sudden appearance smiled but with an unfinished expression and I smiled back too.
But there was an uncanny familiarity…a strange feeling did grapple me. It was the lady. Had I not seen her before? Had I not known this lady all wrapped up in that black apparel?? Had she not been my first girl? She was!! She was the girl I had known in my college times sparkling yet a silent conundrum. How silently had I adored her silence and tried to fathom this deep gorge, unspoken and unveiled!! My admiration succeeded by infatuation and then by a strong liking made me tame her in my mind. I might have talked to her a couple of times or more, but I had treasured those moments in some pronounced corner of my frame. How much I craved to be with her, talk to her and hold her in my arms but alas…all muted desires sulking beneath!!
I turned back to see how far had they gone and it was just a few meters away. I was seized with a desire to get back and stir the past, to talk to her and relive those long lost moments but the man…..Who was he? A grey crested tall gentleman perhaps in his late fifties. My curiosity exasperating with every passing second pulled me towards the drifting couple. I hurried to them and hesitantly uttered in a wavering voice, “hello sir!!! I am new one in this town and…. ” and swiftly with a sharp coarseness a ‘hello’did echo back. Before I could speak more words, the man poured down a buffet of questions, all of formal kind but perhaps the best way to begin with a cordial conversation. As the minutes glided by, I tried to move my eyes from the sober countenance of this fine man and place it on the woman, an impeccable finer human form. But her glasses, those were an obstruction!! She seemed not to look at me, as if untouched and unmoved by the conversation.
The man turning his crest towards the lady, spoke out loud, “ And the lady with me is my daughter. She got a sprain in her ankle and the doctor advices her to take a walk every day. So we love to walk through the forest path and devour the forest air. Is it not pleasant sire??” The humid air, the freshness of the leaves, the pristine aura, indeed all was pleasant..but more pleasant was the beauty of my beloved!! And I continued, “It seems to me that I know your daughter….madam were we not class mates during our graduation time?? We often talked….Mukul here.” She turned towards me, her brows contracted a bit, as if trying to read through the past and the face gradually brightened up. A sudden Smile escaped from the corner of her lips, quite reluctant to show how beautiful and mesmerizing it was!! A faint voice replied, “yes, I do…I do so well. Dint we have coffee at times!” And I was gladdened!!....Gladdened to assume that I too was a fragment of her memories. And a myriad of questions started building up in me. Did she treasure me as I did?? Was I a framed monument in her gilded chest of memories?? Did she like me as well?? Or was it just my Love that made me take these assumptions!
The noon sky was turning murky. The complexion of the forest had turned greyer. The father with a domineering politeness said, “It is time we should leave. Look the sky gets a darker shade. Mom must be waiting. Better we haste.” Convinced and agreed we decided to part. But was it the last verse??Would the unspoken words remain sunken as ever??Was this the culmination of this beginning?? I could not have let her walk away this way...but all in my thoughts. As I was baffling with myself, she spoke out once more, “Mukul… we hope to see you soon at our place. It would be a pleasure. The house stands on the market street and reads H-8.” “Sure!!” I replied. The father caught hold of his daughter’s arms and slightly pulling her toward him and enquired about her ankle….and whether she could walk. And came a reply, “It is absolutely fine. You have been dragging me all the way…but I feel I can walk now”. She pulled a folded stick out of that overcoat….and let it down. It was a white cane!! She probed it through the ground and took a couple of steps ahead. My heart dropped low and I raised my eyes to the man. Fathoming my curiosity, he replied, “Last year there was a mishap…and she lost her eyes”…. A melancholy smile followed those words as if mocking at her fate, their fate!!
I turned tail to them and fled as if I were being chased, chased by her Blindness. How comfortable she seemed to be in that perpetual darkness as if it were her native clime, not a trace of despair, not a tinge of regret…all was like a fluent poetry without a glitch!! But I stood stunned and traumatized… my feet could hardly carry me...as if I were chained. She was blind, blind forever. She would never see me. She would never see the world either!! The Love, the rapture all was so effervescent. Just the truth prevailed in me that she was Blind. The strong desire to possess her in my arms was dead. The adoration of that silent beauty was gone. The hesitation, the conversation, the invitation….all was futile. How could she make my home? The reveries had been submitted to the hands of folly. This was not selfishness…this was pragmatism. And I walked away