The sound of his feet was disturbing the silence of the night. There was water at different places on the road side. Perhaps it rained in the evening that is why the sound was heard in a sharp tone. But he was unaware of these facts. Whenever he looked back, he speeded up. The sound appeared like that of an animal which tried to safeguard and find a safe place. Though walking speedily, he had kept his hand on his pocket wherein the desire of his children and the wishes of his wife and also his own dreams were hidden. ‘At this time if any robber comes and loots me…’ he used to hold his pocket with all the care. Any small sound would disturb him and his contemplation. Except the small insects on the bulbs, nothing is visible. But meanwhile a small lean dog came out of a small lane suddenly and started following him. “Go away you base dog..go away” he lifted his arm to drive away the dog.
“Dear father, all my friends come to the school on bicycles. So you, please, get me a bicycle!” he was reminded of his child’s words, he suddenly held his pocket tight. ‘Why this road is becoming so long….?’ he started moving fast. The dog is also following him with equal speed.
“So you have come…..very late,” said Mitali opening the door. He did not say anything, but went in silently.
“Shall I arrange meals for you?”
“No. I had my meals at the party, now, a cup of tea would suffice”
Mitali turned towards the kitchen. He emptied his pocket in the almirah and started dozing. But he had a tension on his face. ‘How can I tell Mitali that I will fulfill all her desires. For many years she has been surviving without anything, now she will be free from those scarcities. I will free her from the problems. I fulfill all her desires and bring happiness to her’.
“Tea is becoming cold,” she shouted.
“What is the matter, Kishu?” asked Mitali keeping the cup on the table. ‘Kishu’ is short of Kishan Chandra. Mitali used to call him that.
“Nothing is important, but I am a bit tired,” he said looking at Mitali. He had, of course, love and attachment for her. She did not say anything. She was looking at him for some time and then she slept properly. She went into deep sleep also. She had placed one hand on his chest, which was her habit for many years. She used to encompass him with her one hand. Mitali’s habits had not changed even after many years. He started looking at her and noticed the black lines below her eyes.
‘What did Mitali gain by marrying me? She was very thin then. She was like the imagination of a poet. Having seen her exquisite beauty, I used to lose control of my mind. Looking at her further what was then… how …‘
That day he had gone to Hisar from Tohana. He saw a girl in the bus and continued to see her. What was in those eyes was not understood by him, but he was dragged with her after getting down at Hisar.
“Hello,” she stopped.
“If you do not mind, may I ask a question?” Having heard this the girl stopped a while and looked at him – “Yes?”
“Where are you from?”
“What will you do with it?” an answer arose in the form of a question.
“Shall I tell you the truth or not.” She winked repeatedly and looked at him saying, “Truth”.
If you are from Tohana, I shall try to contact you again. But if you are from any other place, I pray for help to reach by any pretext to your place so that I can contact you” he continued saying it. Seeing this the girl started smiling at him.
“ You appear to be very talkative.”
“ But today I feel like doing something.”
“ What?” she looked at him with a question mark.
“Companionship” (life partner) short but dashing answer. She was surprised. She never expected this kind of adventure from him. But he too did not expect his answer. He was a man of a free nature. He had loved many girls but he did not have any occasion like this. ‘How could I get such an expression?’ He failed to understand it. He became pale for a while. He couldn’t face her broad eyes, he bent his face.
“Mitali is my name. I belong to Hisar. Come, we shall move.” He was taken aback at her invitation. He glanced at her eyes again and again. He closed his eyes for a while and later started moving along with her in a rather happy style.
Thus they joined in the journey of their lives. They have met many times, write many letters to each other. His letters used to be lengthy and too big, but Mitali used to be very short in her replies – two, three lines. Within a year they got married. But Mitali’s father had rejected him at the outset, “I shall not marry my daughter to a beggar-like person. What can you give to my daughter?” “Love,” you may say. “Yes, I was to tell, it indeed. But you can’t cross the ocean of life through only love. One needs money for it. Wealth is needed. Respect is necessary. What do you have?” He stood silently.
“I do not take bribes,” he told him. “Then I shall not give my daughter to you.” Having heard these words he returned. Perhaps he was unhappy. But Mitali came back to him. “Don’t be disappointed, Kishu, I have love for you. I will convince my father.” She was successful in convincing her father. Her father accepted or he must have been helpless before her persuasion.
After the marriage him in the first night Mitali told, “I worship your ideals, Kishu. I will not allow you to let down your ideals.” In fact Mitali never ignored it. She was living a life of scarcity of everything, but never expressed it. But …nowadays…thinking of it he thought of smoking a cigarette. He searched for the ashtray which was near the window. He was trying to pick it up along with the sound of his cough. He remembered a dying dog. He opened the window; a cold breeze touched his body. The clouds had scattered and the moon was as clear as a bride whose upper garment is bared. He was looking here and there, the dog was barking at only him. He went out silently, brought that dog in and wrapped it in an old blanket. The dog was murmning for some time. He was listening to it for quite some time and then he went to sleep.
He slept till late in the morning. ‘Let him sleep for more time as it is Sunday,’ thought Mitali and she didn’t awake him. When Sachin switched on the TV set he opened his eyes. Since he had a deep sleep, he was feeling free from the pains of sorrow. But when Mitali was approaching him, he became restless with anxiety. “Mitali, sit down.” He held her up when she had come to give him tea.
“What is the matter? You have been feeling disturbed since yesterday.” she noticed.
“Mitali, that…” he hesitated. He murmured in her ears a few words. “I worship your ideals, Kishu.”
“What happened to you? Why don’t you speak? Please tell me what is the matter.” She had become upset. She couldn’t tolerate herself.
“Mitali, what have you achieved by marrying me? What have I given you? A life full of poverty, scarcity, hardships, at every step. What had I thought? To keep you like a queen. Your bowl full of pleasures. But I couldn’t do anything for you. You are not a queen, but a servant of this house, your bowl is not full of pleasures but of calamities and restlessness.”
“Kish,” Mitali stopped his mouth from speaking with her fingers.
“Allow me to speak, Mitali, today you allow me to speak. You have turned away from all kinds of pleasures for my sake. I have been seeing you, living somehow, but how can I see the children living somehow? How can I tolerate their helplessness? What kind of father am I?….. I have not done anything to remove their sufferings. Mitali, you remember, before 15th August Sachin had told me: ‘Papa, bring me a new T-shirt, I want to go to school wearing that shirt.’ You had scolded him. ‘Sachin, go to school and learn.’ You are always with only one tone: bring this… bring that… “Did you see that his desire was not fulfilled? So the next day also he was asking for a shirt.” Mitali went into these memories.
“Yes I brought them but after selling your ring. See what kind of a father’s and husband’s role I adopted?” his throat choked with grief.
“Kishu, tolerate all this. Do not feel disheartened.”
“Do you know Sachin has a desire for a cycle, now I have to fulfil it, because we have got him admitted in a better school. He should never feel inadequacy and any short-comings. You see yourself… you have changed a lot! I used to feel happy to see you and your beauty then. You were like a fresh rose but now a faded one. Your eyes have sunk, the bones are visible, pale face and weak eyes. I am responsible for all these things, Mitali.” He started weeping.
“Kishu,” Mitali was taken aback, “what has happened to you today?”
“No, Mitali, I cannot tolerate. Henceforth, I cannot see you dying so slowly. Since long I was in the dark, today I have decided. Do you remember that Vikramajeet?”
“That man who had come to pay you ten thousand rupees for this property? Whom you had driven out from the house?”
“Yes…yes… he had come again. Seven days have passed away now. From that day onwards I am a little restless. I am marooned in a way. I could not decide anything, yesterday…”
“What did you do yesterday?” Mitali was excited and stopped him in the middle.
“Yesterday I accepted his words. There was a party at his home also,” he said half a sentence.
“What?” with great surprise Mitali was looking at him. “Henceforth I will not trouble you. I will keep you happy like a queen. I will fulfill the desires of Sachin and Geeta. Now I am capable. I can do anything henceforth.” He went on saying without understanding her feelings towards him. Mitali was just weeping. She felt her disease now. She started feeling like a devotee whose god is found walking in the ditch. She felt like running away as she was losing her heart. She went inside. “Mitali… Mitali” he followed her. She was just weeping in her bed. The whole night she was weeping. She started sleeping in the children’s room.
Next day when he called her, Sachin told him “Mummy has slept.” Mitali did not want to see him or meet him. When he returned home in the evening he was shocked to see the lock. “Where might Mitali have gone? Where are the children? Mitali will not take the children anywhere. But where she might have gone with the children?” He did not want any unhappy thing to happen. He opened the door and rushed in. Everything was intact except Mitali and children! Suddenly he noticed a letter on the table. He lifted it quickly. It was written by Mitali. He read very fast :
“Today you have disturbed my trust and belief. You have broken my idol of trust. I had told you ‘I worship your ideals’. Then why did you sell my ideals? I used to be highly elated because of your honesty and principles. But today you have buried them along with me.
I thought of bringing up Sachin and Geeta in accordance with your principles and honesty. But you have sunk yourself. I tried my best to face the hardships that befell us. Being a lady I tolerated the calamities.
But you were afraid of them. You are a coward to have surrendered your honour. It is very difficult to lead a life with a coward like you. I am going away along with my children. Lest my children succumb to the hardships like you.”
Mitali never wrote using more than two, three lines. But now she has written a lot. He went on reading the letter. What a venomous missile she had left in the letter! He couldn’t tolerate the situation. Mitali, his wife, co-traveller, had left him, without telling him anything and without giving him a chance to rectify his mistake. He was very tired, he sank into the sofa. The dog came near him and sat. Perhaps that had followed him in. Kishu found it to be his friend. He lifted it up “My friend, Mitali has left. I am all alone now like you. What all I did for whom? I did it for Mitali and my children. Seeing them in such a bad condition, I adopted this way of life. If I am wrong in this, she should have given me a chance to rectify myself, hard hearted – stone like Mitali”.
The dog started licking his face in such a way that it had started understanding his stress. But however the dog looked at him “as if saying courageous, everything would be all right.” Kishan also understood the feeling of the dog. “My friend, things will not be so good. She never returns, she is very staunch. In addition to it, I have broken to pieces her idol of worship. She tolerated all miseries along with me but she was right in recognizing me as a coward and she had said it.
“Yes, I am a coward, I said my prestige. Mitali had changed her victory into a garland because of my cowardice. I have to undergo the needed punishment. I have to live along now ‘lonely.’ Will you be with me my friend?” He held the dog with his fist and his tears scattered in the hairs of that dog.