The golden flames of the pyre stirred in sync with the gentle breeze of the night. The members of the Pandey family stood around the ceremonial pyre praying for the cremation of all evil from their lives. Bihan stood with his family, eyes closed, trying to control the turmoil of his heart.
“Bihaan..” The gentle voice jolted him out of his reverie. He opened his eyes to take in her face, her innocent face, the very face which was the cause of his heart’s torment. The melancholy which adorned her face these days looked more pronounced in the light of the Holly Fire. What would he give to remove it? He came out of his thoughts as he heard her calling him again. He looked up to find her gesturing towards the Kalash in her Thaal as Dadima instructed everyone to perform the rituals.
He felt her hand on his elbow as he emptied the Kalash in front of the Pyre, standing by him as he performed the ritual like a perfect wife. He tried to reel in his emotions as became deeply conscious of her closeness. The gesture threw him into a whirl wind of emotion and this wasn’t the first time. Ever since he came back home from the hospital, he was deeply aware of the changed dynamics of their relation. Both of them were afraid to name whatever was between them. They were in a limbo of unrecognized unacknowledged emotions. There were moments of strong intensity between them like when it came to changing his bandages. He would sit still in his bed with his back to her and she would unravel the bandage. She would caress his wound in pain. He would close his eyes while her hands roamed his back. And if by any chance their eyes met, it was as if their souls were trapped in a vault and were left to choke and this would always come to one of them leaving the room unable to tolerate or suppress the intensity.
He shook himself out of his reverie as he felt her moving past him to do the Parikrama. He paused for a moment to take in her figure, and then followed her wordlessly. His eyes lingered on her form as he took the parikrama. She was dressed in a simple blue chiffon sari for the night, the pallu was held over her head, the simplicity of her attire added to her beauty and drew him towards her. His heart was yearning to be with her, wanting him to admit the truth, realize that he cannot have an existence without her by his side. But his mind was already on a war with his heart. His rational mind told him the bitter truth, how unworthy he was to ever have her, how she was destined for someone better than him, how he was foolish enough to believe that she would have feelings for him after all that he has done to her. As he took the last round he realized that he cannot bear to be in her proximity anymore, he needed to breathe, he needed to be alone. A pair of eyes filled with pain followed his retreating figure.
Thapki went through her list once again before she walked out of the store room. The preparations for the following day were complete. She had personally requested Dadima to be in charge of the Holi preparations knowing full well that she would never refuse. Holi was going to be her last day in her Sasural. Last day with the family. Last day with him. Falling for him was the last thing she believed that could have happened to her. Her lips curled up. However a lot of what happened to her in the recent past were things she never even dreamed of. She would have given anything to not leave this house tomorrow, anything except his life. Her blood chilled at the prospect of leaving him with that woman, the mother who refused to give her son blood until she agreed to leave the house. Her heart broke as she remembered the selfless love Bihan had for that woman. When she was at the pyre she had prayed for him, she also asked God for a wish, a wish she knew God could never refuse. She wished for Bihan to find a person who would love him as selflessly as he loved others. He deserved nothing less.
Her steps faltered as she reached the door to their room. Suddenly she wished that she never came back here. She was afraid if she stepped inside she would never be able to leave the house. She never thought that leaving him could be this painful, even if it was for his welfare. She took a deep breath and stepped into the room hoping for him to be asleep. Suddenly a hand grabbed by her waist and slammed her to the wall.
“AArrh…” Her scream was cut short by a hand which was clamped over her mouth. She felt herself being tightly held to a male form. The lights were out but the moonlight from the balcony filled the room. The first thing she noticed of her captor was the sparkling eyes and her fears washed away at once. The hand on her waist travelled up her back involuntarily as their eyes locked weaving a spell around them. The lights came on and he stepped away from her breaking the spell. His laughter echoed across the room as she stood fuming.
“Wwwhat kind of childishness is this Bihan? Thapki struggled to keep the anger in her voice as she composed herself. His proximity, the feel of his hands on her waist, the way it travelled up her back- her heart was racing due to what transpired between them moments ago. Bihan was in no mood to listen to her and laughed even more hard.
“Chuk chuk gaadi …You were sho shcared.” Thapki looked up bewildered by his words. He was slurring.
“Bbihan …are you drunk?” Bihan stopped laughing and looked at her. He grinned cheekily and shook his head in a no. This time Thapki was really angry.
“DDDo not lie to me Bihan Pandey. How can you drink you idiot. You are not yet fully well and you are drinking- Her words were cut off as he tripped on his own leg and fell on Thapki. She caught him with difficulty and helped him to the bed murmuring curses under her breath.
“Chu chuk gaadi…pleash don’t be angry…I shwear I didn’t drink…I jusht drank that” He pointed to the jug on the side table as he fell on the bed and then held his own ears. “Pleash forgive me…I’m shorry..pleash don’t be mad..I wash very thirshty…I will never drink that again..I promish.” Thapki slapped her forehead in exasperation and suppressed a smile hearing his words. He was indeed innocent, the jug from which he drank was the one in which the tandaayi mixed with Bhang was kept for the next day.
“Oh all right…I ffforgive you …now will you please sleep before you hurt yourself?” Thapki asked in an exasperated tone trying to make him lie down on the bed. But he shook his head violently like a stubborn child.
“No…No…I want to play holi.” Bihan said getting up back on his feet. Thapki got up from the bed trying to stop him.
“bbut Bihan it’s night time…You can play holi tomorrow…now sleep please” Thapki said as she followed him as Bihan went to the cupboard to take out the colors. He turned around to look at her. The glint of naughtiness in his face was replaced by gloom.
“But you won’t be with me tomorrow…I want to play holi with you.”He whispered. Thapki stepped back in shock. She had never told Bihan that she was going to leave. She had a feeling that he would somehow find a reason to make her stay. “I heard you shaying good bye to Dadima..You were thinking of going without telling me…at leasht play holi with me before you go.” He was slurring yet his words held so much emotion that she involuntarily shook her head in consent. Bihan took out the thaal of colors from the cupboard. Tears formed in Thapki’s eyes as she watched Bihan. Suddenly he slipped and she held him. Bihan chuckled as he placed the Thaal on the table and gestured her to color him.
Tears streamed down Thapki’s face as she took a fist full of red color in her hand. She came close to Bihan and caressed his cheeks lovingly with the color. Bihan closed his eyes in bliss as her hands caressed the side of his face. Her hands slipped to his neck and she leaned on his chest hugging him fully. Bihan slowly took her in his arms and lowered his head. He caressed his cheek on hers coloring her in the process. Their eyes met in a smoldering gaze.
The hug turned passionate as he further lowered his head to caress her neck, rubbing her with the color. Thapki’s eyes closed in anticipation of his touch when he suddenly kissed her on the neck. Her eyes snapped open as reality came crashing down on her. What was she doing? She was leaving him tomorrow. She pushed him away from her feeling disgusted with herself. She could see that she had hurt him. She turned herself away from him to leave the room but he held her hand in a tight grasp.
She understood the meaning of his words; he was not just asking her to stay in the room but to stay with him forever, he was asking her not to leave. A sob threatened to surface.
“Pleash don’t leave me.” He was hugging her from the back now his head buried in the crook of her neck, trying to prevent her from leaving. The sob broke and she turned herself to hug him once more. He cupped her face in his hands and began kissing away the tears on her face. She leaned on to the table for support and her hands found the thaal of colors. His face lingered on the side of her lips, their breath mingled in the tiny space between their lips. Bihan’s hand travelled down hers to the thaal of colors. As Thapki closed her eyes in anticipation he smeared her forehead with a fist full of red color before lowering his lips to capture hers. They finally acknowledged the intensity of their passion for each other. The need of the heart overpowered the patience of the mind. Bihan slipped and he took her with him as they fell on the bed. The kiss broke but he held on to her.
“I love you chuk chuk gaadi…pleash don’t leave me …pleash shtay.” Thapki smiled sadly as she heard Bihan’s voice lowering into a whisper as he drifted off to sleep. She quietly untangled herself from him and moved to the bathroom.
She stood under the shower fully clothed letting the colors wash away from herself. Bihan wouldn’t remember anything of the night tomorrow but she will. And she has a promise to keep. The tears mingled with the water droplets.
“I love you Bihan.”
Credit to: Lachu