Delhi to Haridwar – Part – 2 – Muse India the literary ejournal, 22 Jul. 2021

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“She never told me about the discontent in her mind”, he said with a sigh. His unending search about some unknown thing in his world caused a visible hostility in her. He could never make it go away. I admired him for saying that her hostility never stopped his love for her. In spite of his objective outlook, he was sad that her presence may be distracting him away from his quest.

When I brought him a white cotton Kurta Pajamas set from Varanasi, the child in him was overjoyed. He wore it at home and rushed back to show me.  We had phone conversations for two years after we moved on from Delhi. In one of those calls, he told me that his wife died suddenly and he felt debt-free and became independent. He had to settle for cooking for himself on his terrace due to his differences with his son. The next news which came after a long time was about his death.  I never understood the spirituality to which he often alluded.  The questioning was not my habit in those days.

When we returned to Delhi again for Murali’s new posting, I was haunted by a feeling of loss. Walking on the roads of Janakpuri brought some solace. 

The dawn was slowly arriving while the sleep was not, and I had to abruptly break my chain of thoughts to begin the day.

“Will you go to the Travels by Metro? I will reach there directly.” Murali asked dispassionately on his way out that morning. 

“I will not. You have to drive me from home to the Travels at Karol Bagh”,  I sounded uncompromising.

Murali and I stood silently like two strangers at the Travels pickup point at Karol Bagh that night.  There were a few solo travelers.  A couple, probably Chinese or Korean, stood in a corner talking in low voices.  A loud group of tourists from Andhra was conversing excitedly in Telugu, and it made me feel that we were in Andhra.

Murali stood like a stranger waving his hand as the bus started to move.  Why did my spirituality threaten this stranger? He should know that it did not appear overnight.  Life was a great teacher. When we got married, Murali had already lost his parents, and his grandmother was bedridden.

Soon after our marriage, he told me, “Nimmy, we have to take care of my grandma, and as we both work, we may not be able to handle children. Let us not have them.”  I had no clear opinion on children then, though my unconscious life plan included one or two children. The grandmother was ailing for many years, and I left the job after finding it dry.

I never really cared for children.  My mother enquired a few times in between and sighed at my disinterest. By the time grandmother left us, I turned forty. When I looked at my B.Ed. degree obtained long ago as a hobby, the children’s world seemed to be beckoning me.

After a few stops, the bus picked up speed. The biting cold breeze led me to discover the broken glass window behind the curtain. Then I saw the Korean woman in the next seat. The couple got their seats at different places. I thought of exchanging my seat with her husband. I attempted a conversation with her hesitantly.

At first, she did not respond to my greeting. I hoped that she was not asleep. I pressed on with my “Hi, is there anything I can do for you?”, and after two attempts she turned towards me. “Sorry, I may have disturbed your sleep. I noticed the broken window earlier but did not act on it.” She was apologetic.

“No, Not at all. My sleep is not disturbed. I can exchange my seat with your husband’s if you wish to be together.” I wondered whether I was being too intrusive, but convinced myself that it was my Indian way of being helpful.

She told me that they were fine with separated seats. She introduced herself as Sydney. Our intermittent conversations made the cold night’s journey very interesting. We got off at Haridwar by dawn. Shrinking from the cold, we made our way to the Guest House. Like me, Sydney and her husband Steve came to Haridwar for Yoga and meditation classes. While my program lasted for two days, theirs was of six weeks. I kept thinking about Sydney’s life story while I got ready for the day. Probably she was so candid with me as I was a stranger.

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