The air carried a hint of agony today. She tucks another stray strand of her hair behind her ear. Her pale, slender fingers, running along the edge of her silver jhumka, making their way back to the soft fabric of her beige dupatta. The sound of the Ganga echoes in my ears as the sun paints the river with a crimson hue and there I was trying to find my breath in every moment in between.
इशार ोंइशार ोंमेंदिल लेनेवाले
(The one who stole my heart with only plain actions)
बता येहुनर तूनेसीखा कहााँसे|
(Tell me how did you learn to do so)
It all started under that big old laburnum tree of our colony. My favourite song was on loop that morning and there was she humming along to the bits of whatever tune she could come up with from the other end of the bench. “Rafi sir’s fan as well?” she asks while I just smiled.
“Same here.” She giggles, “I’m Aayat and you?”
“Kabir” I keep smiling.
My name in her mouth melted away like a dead poet’s metaphor, comforting in its own way. The sunless month of August that followed called for showers and I remember her tiptoeing across the hardwood floors of the bookstore, casting a soft smile upon the verses that caught her eyes while I just stood by the window, shoving my hands deep inside my pockets and occasionally looking down at my shoes, flustered, for little did I know that I was falling harder than these raindrops against the windowpane.
I have always been a patchwork of grey skies; for some heartbeats I am just a soft drizzle but when I hear the sound of her heart, a hurricane storms inside me and I happily embrace it. From the way she tucks her hair behind her ear while the sun melts in her deep brown eyes, how she concentrates on raindrops running down the windowpanes, to the way she tilts her head while waving a goodbye – unknowingly, she started to reside in my breaths and I started to look for the hurricanes she blessed me with.
Summer and her songs are hard to go unnoticed. I run my fingers by the edge of the ceramic mug, slipping more into the silence, while on the other hand happiness bloomed in Aayat’s voice. The letter she received from her beloved this morning rest on her hands. Her fingers trace down the alphabets. The pink of her cheeks carried his name. I watch her hold his letter close to her chest and whisper something silently which ended with a smile. My heart wept for a summer but I was drowning in my set of winters, again.
It has been nineteen summers, twenty eight poems and a handful of breakdowns ever since this town has felt her heartbeat. I often find myself in places she blessed me with, trying to relieve every bit of her. I smile at the same old bench at my old colony where I first met her, find myself tracing down raindrops from other side of the windowpane. I unknowingly tilt my head now – in every hello and goodbye.
There is a pink tint in the sunset today and my mind here crawls back to the day she received that letter.
“So this is what nostalgia is supposed to feel like.” A familiar voice speaks up.
I turn back and there storms, my most eagerly awaited hurricane inside me.
My gaze fall back on her as the temple aarati fills the air around us. Her old set of rusted bangles still holds the same promise. She clasps her hands closer to her chest, leaving a painful sigh or maybe a silent sob and I feared that even the slightest form of touch would break her or worse could make her move cities away from me, again. As the sky darkens, I follow her eyes.
“We should go home, Aayat.” I somehow manage to whisper.
Aayat closes her eyes, refusing to stand and I swear I could feel the wind sigh as she began to speak.
“I have spent twenty five years of sunsets with him but today, this sunset felt like a thousand silent deaths.”
She pauses and looks up at me. While every fiber of body begged me to reach out to her, to hold her, her gaze held me fixed. And then all I could remember was the sound of my heart breaking all over again.
“Kabir, I don’t think I can make it to home tonight. I am so sorry.”