Life is a long journey: we start somewhere, we end elsewhere. We move along with life. We meet people who travel with us; some for a short time and then leave us; some others travel with us for a considerable amount of time. There are still others, who play such a small part in our lives, but we remember them throughout the journey; yet at other times, the tide of time washes away our memories.
I was recently at a wedding reception. A posh wedding with posh people. A plethora of extravagant display of personal wealth. Women wore different types of saris-some shining, some glistening, yet others glimmering. Their lips were redder than wine, their eyes were blacker than death. Mirth and merrymaking was all around, punctuated by the sound of laughter. Some of the laughter was natural; others were concocted to suit the situation. There were false exaggerations of each one’s property. Among them there was also some talk about me. ”Me” –would be wrong. The talk was about my father who had left the country as a mere doctor and returned with riches. ‘New Money’ was the word.
In all that glimmering and glittering I saw a girl, utterly beautiful. But there was something else about her that was striking-she was different-she was simple, unlike the glittering ladies in the background. I was walking with two of my friends. My eyes met with her beautiful eyes. Those eyes seemed somewhat familiar. I felt that those eyes were taking me somewhere. But a pinch on my arm and a push on my back broke the eye to eye contact. I walked away into the fun and fantasy world again, leaving the not glimmering girl behind.
After half a night of posh fun with posh food and posh drink, it was time to bid others goodbye. As I was about to get in my car, a hand pulled at my sleeve. I turned around. It was that simple girl; with eyes full of piteous recognition. A beautiful smile flushed her face.
‘Ricky’! How, in the world, did she know my name? I frowned as I thought hard. She waited for my reply. Alas! I had none. She simply didn’t fit into my world.
“Don’t you remember me? Tell who am I?”
Instinctively I shook my head.
“I don’t think I know you, do I?”
Those words created a storm in her. She was surprised, awed and grieved. She turned and ran away. I thought I saw a building drop of tear in her eye. As she went, she accidentally dropped her handkerchief behind. I picked it up and put it in my pocket.
In my room, on my bed, I opened it. In red thread the name sewn was-‘LIPI’. That name was enough! Memories came flooding as if a barrier holding them had broken off somewhere. Those sweet memories of my childhood, those precious moments of my childhood. With all those memories, another name was attached-‘LIPI’…My first friend, I had in life. A friend whose hand I had held and cried. A friend in whose house I had taken shelter from my father’s wrath. A friend with whom I had shared food and time.
I was about seven years old. We used to live in a rented house in a middle class society. There, the day I moved in, I met this friend. And there we shook hands and became friends.
How many temples we had built on sand, I have no clear account. She was the designer and I was the builder. Tunnels through sand we had made and held each others hand under it. We had watered so many plants and plucked so many flowers. I used to create a runway to land my plane near the temple. She would make a home for her doll.
“Ricky”, she would ask, “would you take me with you in your plane”?
And I used to reply “Yes, who else”?
Then we would christen our temples and houses and runways with curses for those people breaking them.
I remember now, the day I was supposed to leave India. I had cried before the Gods not to take me away from her. But my destiny was destined. She was sad, but only her tender heart wept, not her eyes. She promised to write letters, I promised to call her when I reached the other land…..But promises were made to be broken!!
“And when you return, what will you bring for me”?
The car started and she ran after the car, waving madly. I was doing the same. Her figure became smaller and smaller, until finally she went out of sight.
Yes, I returned. But nothing had I got for her. It is said-‘out of sight, out of mind’…I felt she was not out, but concealed in a deep trench in my mind, in my heart.
Next morning I woke up, dressed and drove into those areas which I had left twelve years ago. Nothing had changed-her sweet house, those sweet trees with sweet flowers, that sweet ground, and that evil road which had led me away! I opened her main gate and walked inside her compound. I knocked at her door. She opened the door and was awed again.
“Lipi, sorry for yesterday”.
“Never mind Ricky, come in”.
I went in. The house was still the same. The scent of roses still came through the window. The sofas still creaked as I sat down.
“When did you return, Ricky”?
“A few months ago”.
She sat beside me and looked into my eyes.
And slowly, with trembling lips she asked-
“What have you brought for me”?
She wept, I wept; both holding each other tightly. There was grief and joy, happiness and sorrow, all at the same time. But the most important thing was that we were together again; together never to be separated again.