August 2014

Excuse me, can you please let me have that window seat?”…..I looked upward from the book I was engrossed in reading and was faced with two quiet, greenish grey eyes. For a fraction of second I was caught up in the unusual colors of those deep eyes. “hmm..but..”

“I know this seat is allotted to you but you were so engrossed in your book that I thought it might not make any difference to you whether you are on window seat or not”…she said substantiating her request with a valid reason even before I could complete my sentence.

otherwise too perhaps I was not in a hurry to complete my sentence or for that matter saying much as some how I preferred to listen to her soft velvety voice.

“Is the seat next to me allotted to you?” I asked, collecting myself. I remembered that the name in the passenger list for that seat was a male one.

Just a little hint of smile reflected on her otherwise placid expression and she said,”No, but I had requested the gentleman of this seat for a change and then stopped there as if she had said all that she wanted to say, but my askance glance fixed on her face compelled her to go further. With a small sigh of helplessness she continued……”well, you know it’s a whole night journey and the comfort and convenience of a window seat passenger depends a lot on the person beside him. I am traveling alone and after looking around I just thought I will be more comfortable here.”

I vacated the seat for her. She mumbled a thanks and settled on the window seat. I opened back my book and tried to pay all my attention to it.

The bus started moving. It was quite dark outside. By the time the bus crossed the city limits it had started drizzling. It was already late so most of the passengers had settled down to rest with the lights off, windows closed. The window by her side was still open and she sat facing it. I tried to steal a glimpse of her face from the corner of my eyes but could not have a fair look. Her loose hair waving with wind covered her face

After futile effort to concentrate on reading I closed the book, put off the light above and rested my head on back. She did not react to anything and continued to look outside. It was not a heavy downpour but a continuous drizzle when rain drops hand in hand rush to meet earth. The way she sat the drizzle was not affecting me but she definitely must have been getting wet. She did not seem to bother about it and kept the window open and continued gazing in the dark without changing her posture. After some time tiredness of a hectic day took over me and I dozed off.

Somewhere in the middle of night I woke up and found her sleeping. She appeared to be in deep slumber, face to my side, her dark brown tresses covering half her face. Tiny, very tiny droplets studded on her hair were shining like diamonds. A single drop of water or was it a tear drop rested on her cheek bone trembling with her breath. How I felt like touching that drop…..but something on her face checked any violating thought. What was that….a thin film of sadness lurched there on her face….it was different from quietness or placidity. I felt like pulling her head protectively to my chest and cradle her like a little baby.

It was still raining. Few bouncing, dancing drops landing on her hair and shoulder. I stood up very slowly and leaned cautiously to close the window without disturbing her sleep. She did not wake up but my closeness while leaning made her snuggle to the seat.

I sat down slowly and then drifted to sleep. When I got up next, the bus had reached the small, quaint hill station. She was awake and watching outside the window in her earlier posture. It had stopped raining but the sky was still downcast . The passengers were getting down one by one but she sat there unmoving. I took out my luggage and was ready to move. I wanted to take leave of her, to say few parting words but the way she was resolutely looking outside, I did not dare to address her and got down from the bus.

Getting down I saw towards the window but she was not there. Perhaps she was waiting for me to get down and now she herself must be taking out and arranging her luggage. Well, somethings are best to be left at that…..I had already booked my room in a hotel so I hired a taxi and left the place.

After freshening up and having breakfast I was ready to visit the place I came for. It started raining again, heavily. I could not have gone out in such torrential downpour and had nothing else to do. I walked towards the window . It faced the backyard of the hotel. The hammering rain blurred the view. A wall of water rose between earth and sky. Rain and stormy wind lashed the tall trees. They swished and bent helplessly and rain danced maddeningly.

I tried to focus beyond the boundary wall of the hotel. The sheet of rain made it very difficult still I could make out the crosses here and there on the graves. It was a cemetery. My heart was heavy and the sight of solitary crosses guarding the graves bearing the heavy, pelting blows of rain made me sadder.

Finally the weather got better but still it was drizzling, wind too became softer. I woke myself up from the reverie and collecting my raincoat proceeded towards the destination. Reaching there I entered the office of the care taker. He was expecting me as I had already talked to him. Yes, I was there to visit the grave of my cousin Robin. Robin and I were very close to each other since childhood . Three months after I left for USA for higher studies Robin had met with a fatal accident in the hills where he came to spent time with his newly wed wife. The body was in such a bad shape that our family decided to bury him in a cemetery here only.

I was not there for Robin when he needed me most. He had married Simi against the will of family. Though he talked to me almost daily during his pre-marriage conflicting days, I could not come down to him due to my preparations for the exam and then every thing happened so swiftly. Otherwise too, my family had never accepted Simi. Robin’s death within two months of marriage made them sever all ties with her. My younger sister told me that after the accident no body even bothered to know where and how Simi is. They did not even go to meet her in the hospital. After claiming the body and the burial, they left the place.

Now after five years I was here to be at Robin’s side. The smouldering pain in my chest, suppressed for so long was getting heavier.The care taker offered to accompany me to the grave but I refused politely. I told him that I wanted to be alone with him.

It had almost stopped drizzling but the ground was muddy and full of puddles. The trees leaned on the gravestones and dripping drops slid towards epithets sobbing. Sudden spurt of weeds and grass in rainy season made the cemetery look green but the unkept order added to the loneliness of graves. The silence there was palpable.

On the gravel path as I turned towards Robin’s grave, I stopped abruptly. There were two persons sitting near it. A lady and a kid. Perhaps she sensed my presence and turned to look back.

“You…!!!” I uttered. She got up with a bewildered look….”You followed me…!!!”

“No, I came to this place to visit Robin only …I am Mark, Robin’s cousin from USA.”

“Tina aunty’s son…!!!”

I nodded…”you?”

“I am Simi”

The kid was standing beside her hugged to her leg, uncomfortable in sudden appearance of a stranger.

One look at kid’s face and my heart missed a beat. As if Robin of childhood was before me. But how come no body in the family knew about child.

My confusion was perhaps writ large on my face. “I myself was not aware of my pregnancy at the time of accident” Simi started telling me. “When I became a bit stable the doctor in the hospital told me about it. I was discharged from hospital after two months. I tried to contact, tried to tell but …….”.she fell silent.

I opened my arms to the boy. He looked at me curiously but did not move. Simi nudged him, I moved forward and took the child. She stood biting her lips and trying to control her sobs. Looking Albert on my lap had opened her wounds.

Instinctively I stretched my free hand towards her and embraced her. We three stood there hugging one another. At the far end wind cracked through the dark and dense clouds. It was still drizzling softly……..a drizzle with a promise of clear bright sky.


A smile through tears….such eloquent expression of grief. This piece of writing provides strength to bear the loss…

Gordon Darroch's Unreal Domain

It’s just over a month now since Magteld went away. Thirty-eight days that have gone by in such a haze that I often suspect time has gone haywire. The house that the boys and I moved in to nine weeks ago is already packed with history: the two weeks we spent going back and forth to the hospice, the two weeks we lived here as a family and celebrated Euan’s birthday, and the last five weeks, when we’ve had to cope with the shock and aftermath of Magteld’s abrupt departure.

I say ‘went away’ in the absence of any more suitable words. She died, obviously, but that fails to cover the impact of her loss. The day she died, when the boys and I stood by her hospital bed and watched her take her last breaths, seems etched in history, already distant, like a picture in a school textbook. The…

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