I lay wide awake on the terrace gazing at infinite orange-ish sky. From the distant woods, I could hear the birds chirping. As if, they’re signalling me to get back to work. It’s been 4 weeks since, I left home and my old life and came to Varanasi. No one knows where or why I left ! Or maybe they know but don’t want to bother me. “Bhaiya” a voice came from downstairs. “Come upstairs,” I replied.”What are you doing here so early in the morning Neel ?” “Baba sent me to invite you to the feast, and to inform you that he will take a leave today as he has to prepare the feast” said Neel. “How can I refuse a feast ?” I chuckled. Neel was a 10 year old son of Dhyan-the caretaker of the house.”Where’s Viha didi?” asked Neel. “Why? Are you missing her ?” I asked.”Yes bhaiya,I miss her. Ever since last winter I’ve been looking forward to play with her again.” “Viha is off to a faraway land” I said smiling at Viha, who stood at the end of the terrace, smiling at me. Neel was perplexed, he said “Tell her I missed her.” “Ofcourse, And you can play with me.” I replied. After a brief instruction to reach on time for feast,Neel left.
I came downstairs to get ready for the feast. My phone rang again.It was 28th call from home since morning. Ever since I moved to Varanasi, I forgot about social media and my work altogether. Earlier today, a glimpse of Viha made me wonder whether what I saw was merely a mirage?! In my eagerness to know more about Viha’s whereabout I pounced on Instagram. Moments later my hopes to see her came crashing again. Amidst my doubts and shattered hopes I couldn’t help but notice how everyone is comfortable in their life. As if nothing happened. My family, my friends everyone went on with their life except me. For, I couldn’t clarify if I was the victim or the assailant? Every time I smiled, it reminded me of her pacifying smiles. In saddest moments, her motivating words echoed in my ears. I hated myself for feeling anything as every emotion reminded me of Viha’s words and my failure to be the man I promised. The more I resisted my pain , the more I resented my myself for bringing her into my life. Today was different.All my hatred and regrets vanished when I saw her smiling in distant end of the terrace.
It all began when my company hired some interns for summer vacations. Although being an intern, Viha was foremost expert. Viha was assigned as my intern for her duration in the office. A smart, dusky, enchanted with confidence Viha, never failed to awe me with her wittiest answers and thus started our tale of love and maybe betrayal. Monsoon was my least favourite season until I met Viha. She had a way of bewitching me with her words. As seasons passed I slipped deeper into Viha. And, before I could understand what’s happening to me , I found myself drowned in her love.After, 1 and half years of our relationship, I was sure she’s the one.Now, came the toughest question , does she feels the same as I do ? Patience wasn’t my strong suit so without putting much thoughts, I texted Viha, ” Hey! Do you love me enough to settle for a lifetime with me ? ” Not the best way to propose love but as I said, patience wasn’t for me. I waited for a minute and already decided she wasn’t serious about me. All sorts of embarassing comments stormed my mind. I was shook by my stupidity so, picked up my phone to delete the text when a familiar perfume distracted me. It was Viha. She entered my cabin with an adorable smile. My mind struggled to find words but before I could say any she went down on her knees and put forth a ring asking me whether, Would I like to spent my life with her ? I gasped out a yes, I will. Still, It was hard to believe what happened around me, I asked Viha to pinch me. She walked up to me and pecked me on the cheek.And, thus entered love and happiness in my life.
We drove to Varanasi to celebrate ourselves before we involve our families ahead. The memories of those two days vacation is as clear as crystal. How charmingly Viha danced around the house playing hide and seek with Neel. And, how petulant she becomes while losing a game. We lived two days away from reality into a fairy tale I assumed. Like a dream come true. Unaware of the fact that dreams vanish too. On monday morning we drove back to city. As, diwali around we decided to meet eachother’s parents. On Diwali eve, I invited Viha to meet up with my parents. Amidst the excitement ,I forgot to describe about Viha beforehand. My mother always wished for a fair skinned daughter-in-law. I was worried how she might react after meeting Viha. Viha, as always arrived on time. Seeing her in saree, I blushed. Everyone was thrilled to meet her.I was glad to see how well she got along with everyone. After the party, I dropped her to her place. I returned home to talk to my family about what do they think of Viha as their daughter-in-law . Everyone was happy to give us their blessings. Now it was time to meet her parents . I asked Viha, was she sure about us ? If not, then we can take some more time to decide.” No, I’m not sure, it’s a trial marriage. I will be serious with the next one in the queue” chuckled Viha. “Don’t be nervous, just be yourself” she advised. “As if my natural self is admirable” I laughed. She was excited to move ahead with me and her confidence in me made me sure about myself.Then came the big day. She invited me over her place. I arrived on time to meet her parents. I rang the doorbell. Her mother, Mrs. Pal opened the door. As nervous as I was, Viha’s absence in her house didn’t help me much. I was wondering where was she ! 7 texts in a row and no replies yet. Mr & Mrs Pal greeted me cordially. We talked about my plans for future and our family backgrounds. I could sense a discomfort in their voice.I decided to ignore it. Few moments later, Mr.Pal
asked me to join him in the balcony. I accompanied him. Now, came few questions on my way to which I knew no answers. Mr. Pal told me about things that Viha never gave me the slightest hint. Mr. Pal’s words echo in my ears even today, “Viha had a traumatic childhood, constantly being bullied on her skin colour by distant family and friends and the society ladies at times. By the time she was 15, all the fear of being bullied caused rage.There came a moment when she ended up hurting herself. Years of therapy although helped her to control her anger but the shame inflicted on her for seeing a therapist stuck along with her. Somehow, with our love and care she triumphed our society’s accusations. Also, she has had 3 relationships broken b’coz of the Indian notion of white being recognised as the colour of beauty.” Hearing Mr. Pal’s words, I was appalled.Never in our relationship has she told me about her past and her fear. I assured Mr. Pal, “I love your daughter, and so does my family. You have nothing to be worried about.” That night on the way back home, I was driven by the fact how cruel our society is ! And how seldom do we realise we’re hurting others ! I was ashamed of my mother’s belief in fair skin colour. And how much she despises dark skin tone. I reached home and tried to call Viha. I checked my phone, but no replies . I wondered what’s kept her so busy from replying my texts. I texted Mr. Pal to enquire about Viha, and he said that she told him that she won’t be home today as she was off to her friend’s birthday. I was relieved to hear that she’s fine.
Next morning I woke up hoping for a text from Viha, but nothing except for some stupid work assignments. I sensed something wrong. She has never not responded to my texts. I called her friends to enquire about her whereabouts but none of them had seen her since the party. A heavy breath gushed down my lungs sensing the perils around my love.
I called police station, took help from some officers and friends and the search for Viha begun. By noon, I had looked and talked to every possible person that Viha could have known. And as the dusk approached, my heart sank down. The cops called me to the police station. Hurriedly, I grabbed my keys and drove to the station . My brain knew something ugly has happened but my heart held onto the good deeds, the goodness in the world and most importantly to the love in my heart. As, I reached station, I found Mr. & Mrs Pal sitting on the bench with their head hung down. And my worst nightmare came true.I was taken to the room, where one person moves ahead from the misery of worldy life whereas the other person drowns into the misery hoping not to let the memory of the dead ones slip away. My world blew away like castles in the sand. I mustered courage to look at her lifeless body lying on the stretcher. Her, hair drenched with water and the glossy lips turned white .And in that moment of numbing pain, I had only one question – I wished my dreams come true with you then why am I given nightmares?….why Viha ? What happened ? How strange our wants are!, we always dream of happiness and love and forget to think about the sadness and pain that makes us cherish them.
The autopsy reports confirmed the her death was due to drowning. I wished I knew why and how did it happen?
I left police station and went home. I couldn’t speak to anyone or eat anything. I spent days scrolling through her photos. The time we spent together in Varanasi.
It was 7 days since Viha’s demise. All I wanted was how did I let her down ? What went wrong ? How did she end up on a beach ? And amidst the piles of doubts I recieved a text from her friend Sneha. A text clearing all my doubts about Viha’s death. I packed my bags. Faintly said good bye to my mother and decided to never comeback to this place.
I spent few days roaming around places to places then at last I decided to come here,to Varanasi. The place where I had the best days of my shortest love life. I hoped to find peace here. I got innumerable texts from my mummy and daddy but how can I even confront them after the saddening deed. I couldn’t look at them without thinking of them as murderers. The murder of an innocent girl, and for what ? For some dislike towards her skin colour! The post-mortem reports may not declare it as murder as the there was no physical harm, but what we lack to see is the death of dreams due to my parents harsh words. The mental torture that let Viha commit suicide. What we, as a society fail to acknowledge is that suicide is the most brutal kind of murder. A person tortured and traumatized to end it’s own life. The more I thought about them the more I hated myself for bringing Viha in my life . Had I not introduced her to my world ,maybe she would be alive now ! I talked to my mummy to check whether Neha’s accusations where true or not ! And as unrealistic as it is to admit Viha’s death, it was more saddening to acknowledge how easily my mother’s words dimmed a girl’s life yet she doesn’t has remorse. As per my mom, she only said Viha to break up with me as she would never be accepted in my society, or my family due to her dark colour. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I realised I betrayed Viha . “If only I had been more understanding ,you might have shared your fears with me and maybe today you would have been alive and sitting beside me as a person. Caressing my forehead ” I cried looking at her spirit sitting beside me, helplessly.
” Bhaiya,” screamed Neel standing at the gate. “Yes” I replied. “Come on, baba is waiting for you ” , “I will be there in a moment ” I replied. I looked at Viha, I told her, “I let you go once but not now ! Although you’re not here in person but your spirit is enough to help me survive the misery of this cruel world.” – Shraddha Mishra