Prakash heard her voice, sweet and melodious. And he had yet to make his peace withThe Lord.
Prakash. Yes, what an antithesis, he sadly thought, his name was. It meant, 'light' in the Sanskrit language. It meant 'ray of light', 'a sight of hope' and he was, none of that. What had life brought him to? Prakash was an educated middle class Indian. He had a Bachelors' Degree
in Mathematics and he had done well through his
academics. He had put in that little extra that would make a champion. He had succeeded. He had graduated with honors and had gone on to take the ICWA exams that would qualify him to become a Chartered Accountant, a highly honored and respected career.
Had it not been for that fateful delay, that had made him linger a little while longer to see his childhood sweetheart Deepa, whose name also meant 'light', he should have reached his college on time and would never have come face to face with such a quirk of life. That one mistake, or what he called a slight miscalculation had made him pay a heavy price. A price that had proved too costly, a debt that he could never repay or forego. A sell that he had had to buy and never had had a choice to disrespect. A sell that he had to live with and endure for the rest of his living life. A buy whose tag brought back chains of memories such as this one and predictably followed the same sequence.
Prakash was awakened from his reverie with a startle when he heard a wonderful melifluous voice singing the Lord's praise behind him. He had been sitting on the cold hard worn stone steps of the all too familiar Shiva temple, with his back to the diety, as if in defiance to His presence. It was customary for all the devotees to sit for a few minutes in the temple premises before leaving, always facing the idol, never the back; a cultural practice, that often resulted in the channeling of thoughts towards God and Peace,
despite the families indulging in idle chatter and joyous negligence of ethics.
His eyes slowly focused on the singer, amidst the crowd. The moment he laid eyes on her, he stood riveted. She was simple and lovely. There she stood, his love, Deepa. Her tender eyes taking in the luminous presence of the Lord.
Yes, her wonderful eyes...Prakash, shut his own and entered his dream world again.
He remembered vividly of the day, at hospital, when she had come to visit him after his near fatal accident exactly five years ago. She had looked just as lovely, with that wonderfully carved body, white as marble and the flower printed sari that draped her from head to toe ,as if shying for cover. As if anticipating the amorous looks that would come by. That jiggling of multicolored glass bangles creating a unique music that so special, yet so hauntingly familiar. She always had been unassuming and charming, even from when her knew her, as a child. Her bubbly laughter had always tickled Prakash's juices. He had wanted her company more and more. Never were those words spoken, but, everyone knew, that they were made for each other. And so did Prakash and Deepa.
She had come, and with her came her usual scent which forced out the nauseous hospital smells. That scent of fresh jasmine bloom strung into a garland adorning her long black hair which plaited its way up to her hips. That braid always swayed with her gentle walk. And he was smitten by her.
But he had had to tell her about his final decision. He had to tell her to leave him and go. He did not want her to waste away with him. He was emotional, distraught and broken. She had stood in silence and then, had turned and walked away, never to return.
Prakash opened his eyes, to look at Deepa's and fought back his own tears when he saw tears streaming down her face as she sang in praise of the Lord with folded palms, in total obeisance. She was in her own little world, lost in the realm of God's land and totally oblivious to how much inspiration she had brought about. The air was magical, almost mystical with everyone soon joining her in her hymn. The temple priest, began chiming the bell along with the melody. Passers-by stopped at the foot of the stone steps to listen and the noisy hawkers selling the usual flowers, and items of offerings became silent, as if in deference. Such was the quality of her melody, her voice and her hymn.
When he was finally able to focus on what she was singing, he realized that it was a request, an earnest prayer asking God to forgive her for thinking that she was the most unlucky person in the world. She sang, that she was not, because she had Him by her side. He, who was always with her every step, giving her strength and power to go on living despite all odds.
Prakash then realized how long it had been since he had said those final goodbye words to her. In fact, he realized with a jolt, it was the same date and month of the year that he had escaped from the clutches of death! And he had not even realized that he was making his dutiful salutations to the Lord for having saved him, by just being there, before Him. His act of defiance and deep rooted resentment towards Him had still made him come to Him.
He had always prayed and hoped that she would be happy wherever she was. That she would be married and living a satisfied family life among her loved ones. He had never attempted to find out about her in all those years, he thought, with a pang of guilt. He had let her go and meant it in the true st sense of the words. He had never once tried to interfere with her affairs. She was forgotten, and history, until up to that moment when he heard her voice in the temple.
He for once, moved his sight from her grieving face to her body. She certainly looked the same simply lovely Deepa that he had fallen in love with. But he felt a sudden rush to his head and his body reeled backwards, when he observed keenly. Beneath that shy sari that had always hid that wonderfully youthful body, was a pair of wooden feet!
He then, also realized with shock, how foolishly ignorant or rather, obtuse he had been when he had failed to notice the ugly wooden stick that she had been leaning on! She had no feet!!
What had happened in the time he was gone? What had brought his Love to this? How had it all happened? His mind swirled with hundreds of questions, that saw no answers....and he dared not guess.
He was struck by Deepa's faith and unconditional love for the Lord. Her deep sense of trust for the Lord's blessings, showed no guises. It was apparent that she had made her peace with reality.
He wanted to talk to her. But, wait, not after all those years. And what could he say? He had shown her the door first, in, and then, out of his life, like she was some object of a child’s affection that was discarded, once the charm was lost. But he had a valid reason, and he knew
that she knew. He knew that she had understood his need to be left alone and also her feelings of hurt and feeling of being considered inadequate.
He thought better than barging in on her private moments with God. He wondered whether he had done the right thing by giving her a chance to live her own life, happily, on her own terms and not for the unconditional, sympathetic services of a cripple, that was him, after his accident. He looked at his leg, or what was left of it, lifeless and hanging on in support to his other good one, like a dead weight, a parasite sticking on to a healthy tree for its sustenance.
And this time, for the first time, he made his peace with God.
He had one good leg, but, Deepa had none!