The lady.

Pictures Smiling at me from a teak frame.

He must have written her long soulful letters under the shade of those tall tress that stood like silent spectators to the drills at the IMA. The chilvalry and restraint that came from all those endless training to be a gentlemen at all fronts was no match when an unprecedented meeting took all his conviction about himself at the Allahabad junction. Why should not he be thinking about her at that moment when everybody was thinking about stocking up food and ammunition in those icy winds; she was afterall bethroted to her; his fiance; and he hadn't left any effort to establish this wonderful alliance; by learning Sanskrit to please her brother or be it memorizing the Indian penal code to strike an intellectual conversation with her father.
Kashmir was in trouble and India went to war but he was longing to go back to that moment at the Allahabad junction when he had a minuscule glimpse of her standing beside her muscular brother. They exchanged soulful letters, letters written in an way of writing a daily diary. The time of second world war and struggle for independence was perhaps the right moment for them to have fleeting glances of each other at the filthy train station dotted with innumerable people changing trains to go to different parts of the country.

She wrote to him too quoting words of wisdom and love from all those English books she had studied at Benaras Hindu University and seldom from those cheesy Hindi movies.She must have written him soulful letters describing her life at Benaras and the raagas she learnt in the sitar. When she came back home to Guwahati she played her sitar every evening at her majlis. She carefully plucked certain notes to emanate mellifluous strains but she made sure that her behala playing father and tabla playing brother thought the sudden change in her behavior to be her physical mastery over the instrument. It was something more and very profound which I think people in love would understand. Her father had ordered new teak furniture to be made for her dowry. It wasn't obligatory on part of the bride to bring a big ransom with her, her family provided the basic necessities to set up her new home. They had chosen the jewellery, the silk mekhela chador and the pandit was booked.

She chose teaching as her profession and taught juvenile girls at the girl's school. She was matronly and yet loved by one and all. I could see her eyes glimmering with happiness and love in that old sepia picture framed in my grandma's album. I felt she poured her love all around because it was a manifestation of her longing for her love. She colored her world with the most festive imagination. Meanwhile he was at the IMA juggling writing soulful letter and his assignment. I guess people grow restless to do something when they know that they have been specially packaged with the right ingredients to complete a certain job. Kashmir called and he lapped it up with utmost sincerity like any soldier would have done. His courage and valor was incredible for his motherland but it finally took him away from his love. He was dead at the war front and his body was never recovered. She got a mental block, her dowry was distributed while her teak furniture lay outside in her massive verandah greeting unknown people who frequented her home. What would have been a basic necessity in her new house was then doing the most lowly job fit for it. She refused all proposals that came her way and immersed herself in teaching and music. A few years later she went to Kohima with her little sister's family and as she was starting to reminiscence her past days of love by staring at the haunting beauty of the hilly terrain of Naga Hills; the reckless and probably drugged driver took a risky turn flinging the car off the cliff. It plunged into an 80 feet deep gorge meeting its imminent destruction. She met an instant death. I sometimes think if she was smiling at her fate that would unite her with her dead lover or did she lament her death because she had moved on in life. Her lifeless body was found somewhere by the local naga folks. Her father burnt the teak furniture he had made for her wedding, donated her sitar to their Bengali neighbour while her mother beat her chest and cried her soul out like a madwoman and the same brother who was guarding her at the Allahabad junction when she exchanged fleeting glances with her love was now lighting her funeral pyre. As I turn the pages of this old album I can see her smiling at me, telling me things that she wanted to say; I moved on to the next page and so had she, perhaps they had both built a love nest in their purgatories.