Nah, it can’t be an omen. It just can’t be. Just because he asked me what would I do if anything happened to him, it doesn’t mean that he is going to die. It doesn’t Nina, It doesn’t mean that. I tried convincing myself.
Then I started to feel scared, what if my thoughts are jinxed. What if something is going to happen because I was stupid enough to think that way?
I closed my eyes, so I can stop thinking bad thoughts. But the more I tried to stop thinking about death, the more ‘death’ thoughts came in to my mind. I tried to concentrate on my breathing. But instead of my breath, I could feel him breathing. I could feel his chest moving up and down. The man sitting next to me was my everything.
I couldn’t imagine a life without him next to me. He was my anchor, my strength. my reason to live.
I turned my head to look at him. He was looking at me.
“I can’t. I just can’t” I told him
“What Nina? What do you mean?”
“I can’t live without you” I was even afraid to speak those words, lest they came true, but I had to tell him. I wanted him to know, hoping May be, just may be, he would stop fighting the war and get himself killed. He will do at least that much for me. Won’t he?
“Oh Nina” he held me closer. This time I didn’t get annoyed when he said Oh Nina, because I could feel the pain in his voice. “Nina, I promise you this, We will be together till death do us apart”
Again he used the word death. Why can’t he stop using those words? Isthis all an omen? What am I going to do if anything happens to him. Then I remembered something.
“Do you remember Roop Kanwar?”I asked
“No, who is she?”
“She committed sati few years ago”
“Oh yeah. I remember her. Stupid woman”
“Do you think she was stupid?”
“Of course she was. Why did she want to kill herself just because her husband passed away?”
“What if she really loved her husband?”
“So, she had to kill herself? For heaven’s sake she was in her teens! She had 3/4 of her life yet to live. And you are justifying her actions? Self immolation for what? To be a satimata?”
“May be she loved him so much, she would have felt so incomplete without him, and she would have thought what is the point in living?”
“Are you crazy? How do any of us know what is the point in living? We live because we are born to live, not because there is a reason to live. We go when we are told to leave. You didn’t chose to be born, how can you chose when you should go?”
For a second, I thought I was in Chengannur and was speaking to Ammachi. He sounded so much like her.
“sati is wrong. It is such a draconian practice. When a woman dies , does her husband kill himself?” He spoke
“He doesn’t have to. The society is very merciful to a man who lost his wife. We feel sorry for him and if he had kids, even more sorry for him. But it wouldn’t be the same for a woman who lost her husband and if she had children, we would even be blaming them for their father’s demise”
“No Nina, It isn’t like that”
“Really? Tell me,What would have been Roop Kanwar’s future? Her husband died in the first year of their marriage. Who would have married her again? Which guy would have risked marrying her if her (bad)karma had already taken the life of her first husband?”
“You think it was her karma that killed her husband?”
“No, I don’t. But the society does. When my grand father died, his family blamed my grandmother for his death. They told her, she brought the bad luck to the family. They blamed my father and my aunt, because their time of birth probably was the reason why grandfather died! Do you know what is even more ironic? The same people told her that she was very lucky when she gave birth to a boy? Paradigm shifts from lucky to unlucky just like that”
“Nina, Life is to live, not to end. How would Roop Kanwar know what her life would have been, when she didn’t give her life a chance?”
“It would have been a life of loneliness, she would have been shunted from family and friends. Each day a part of her will die, because she has nothing to look forward to, no one to share her burdens with, no one to laugh with, no one to hold her hand, no one to talk to”
“How do you know that Nina?”
“I know someone who died each day”
“Why do you say like that?”
“Died each day? She wakes up each morning, eat. work and live that day and at night when she goes to bed, she hopes she won’t have to wake up in the morning, because if she does, then she will have to eat, work and live one more day. She didn’t have anything to look forward to. Her future was all about old age, failing health and the knowledge that she will have to depend on her children to take care of her. I know there would come a day, she would regret not dying long ago. I know there would be a day she would regret not jumping in to that well in front of our house, when she had a chance”
“Why? Why are you talking like that?”
“Because that is the truth. There is no one for her. I should be the one who should take care of her. I am the one who is doing medicine. I am the one who should be there for her and I won’t be able to take care of her”
“Of course you can”
“No, I can’t. Would you come back to Kerala with me? Would you leave everything and everyone in your life and stay with me in Kerala?”
I looked at him. He was deep in thought.
“Would you?” I asked him again
“few months yes”
“Few months? or few weeks? or few days?”
“We can always take her to Nagaland?”
“You know, there is a lot of things we can say we can do. but none of it would work.”
“My grandmother would die, the day I take her out of that house. That is her home. She lived there for more than half a century. She knows every single sound in that land. She knows when a coconut falls from the tree in the night, exactly where it fell. She knows by looking at the sky if it would rain that day. She knows when she is going to have a visitor by listening to the tone of a simple crow’s cawing. How can I take her away from her home? I can’t”
He was silent
“Why are you not blaming my grandmother?”
“huh?” He looked at me
“Why are you not blaming her like everyone else? Why don’t you say that my grandmother is stubborn? or that she is a stupid woman, who just can’t see how wonderful her life would be if she moved from that stupid house in the village? You know my father always blamed her when she didn’t want to stay with us. He was so angry with her. He never even wrote a letter to her all those years. He used to ask, Isn’t the life in city better? Don’t we have better hospitals? Can’t we employ someone to take care of her when we are at work?
Everyone blames the old people. Because we feel they stand as a barrier from us achieving greatness in our lives. But my grandmother never did. She allowed my dad to follow his dream, she allowed me to follow my dreams”
“I am sorry Nina”
“For taking you away from your grandmother”
“You didn’t. I chose this. I made my choice and now I have to live with all the consequences. I chose to love you and I will follow you where ever you go. That is my choice”
“Nina,Will you regret not going back home?”
“of course I will. You see, regrets are free. There is no cost involved in regretting. So we carry tons of regrets on our shoulders. Don’t we?”
“Oh Baby. I wish I could tell you that everything will be alright”
“The truth is you and I know, It won’t be. It will never be. Our life is like a river, we keep going forward, we can’t look backwards, we want to, but we can’t. We just can’t. In fact I don’t even have to turn back and look. I just have to close my eyes and I can see my grandmother sitting on the parapet wall, waiting for me, hoping each bus that stopped at the junction would bring me back home. You know something?”
“50 years from now, We will also be sitting somewhere listening to the sounds of every bus stopping at the junction, hoping our children would come home. Like my grandmother waited for me”
“Nina Life is like that, For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday” He replied
“Gibran! Those were Gibran’s words”
“Do you read his books?”
“Oh yes, I love Gibran.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.” I recited what Gibran spoke about children in the Prophet.
Though my heart felt heavy because I knew I abandoned the only person that mattered to me, I was still happy because Beautiful Eyes and I, we were meant to be together. There was comfort in knowing that we had so much in common.