At nine in the evening Kabir was returning from his office. His cab was stuck in a traffic jam for about an hour. Kabir scanned the other side of the road across the divider to find the traffic on the opposite side moving swiftly. Kabir’s lane on the other hand was moving like a snail – dull and bored. He was in the slow lane and unfortunately towards the very right side of the road. His driver had no option but to move with the traffic and listen to the chirpy songs being played on the radio. But the driver didn’t seem to mind it. He sang along as the radio played the Kishore Kumar evening collection – zindagi ek safar hai suhana, hamein tumse pyar kitna, aap ki aankhon me kuch…
At first Kabir got annoyed with the driver’s croaky voice over of those melodious songs, but as the traffic slowed, the clock ticked and the realization set in that he wasn’t getting out of the cab any time soon, he made peace with it. He reclined his seat in the sleeping position, stretched his legs, laid down and closed his eyes. There was nothing much he could do anyway.
Lata Mangeshkar’s soulful voice in tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahi soothed him and he began to mull over the simplistic truthfulness in the beautiful song. How effortlessly the lyrics conveyed the deep and twisted emotions people feel. The longing, the desire, the silent wish in our hearts, the burning ache of unrequited love. These are all the emotions we all feel but don’t quite appreciate them in the way the song makes us appreciate them. Music has its own way of making you feel certain emotions. It flows right through your ears into the depths of your heart to that dark hidden box in which you hide all your secret desires, your stories and memories of love and loss. It pounds there, shakes the lid of the box with every beat of the song until the dark hidden box opens up and all those emotions you had safely buried inside come out and travel to your throat. That lump in your throat, is what it is.
Kabir felt it, the weight of those desires in his throat. He felt the separation from Gauri. Those sleepless nights he had devoted to reading Gauri’s letters flashed in front of him. Try as he might but of late he was lost in her thoughts much more often and much more achingly. Somehow she just wouldn’t leave his thoughts. There were days when he got tired of her and wondered if she ever thought of him the way he thought of her. He often ruminated if he ever crossed her mind, if she ever stopped whatever she was doing to remember him. How can she forget me? How can anyone forget anyone after all the time they spent together? How does one let go of the memories even if they have let the person go?
After a long period of questioning his existence in Gauri’s life, Kabir had come to a conclusion that Gauri must still think of him. He concluded that we never forget anyone, we remember them, even if as a faint reverberations, as distant echoes, as faded memories, as a nameless face, as a faceless name, in some form, as someone. We remember the people who touched our lives, and we remember them in the strangest of places, in the strangest of times.
It was this new found conviction that Gauri could not have forgotten him made Kabir believe in the possibility of meeting her again. It was the innocent child in him believing that somehow there was more to him and Gauri than a lost love. They were meant for something more lasting than a failed relationship. The thought of re-uniting with Gauri gave him this new-found happiness. It gave him liberating freedom from the guilt and incompetence. It gave him confidence and above all, a strong sense of satisfaction. He began to believe what it would be like to go home to the beautiful eyes of Gauri smiling at him as Rusty came and jumped into his arms. But somehow he couldn’t ever imagine further. He would get stuck at Gauri’s beautiful eyes. Those innocent eyes which would say everything without her saying anything. Those beautiful eyes he had fallen for in the alley twelve years ago. How cute Gauri was looking as she stared at him, angry for something stupid he’d done, though he couldn’t remember what he’d done. He remembered the way he had kissed her in that alley. The way his lips touched hers, the way she trembled into his arms and how tight he had held her. He remembered her breath, her soft lips and her tight hug. It was that moment that had sealed their unspoken love to each other and then they had never looked back…
Kabir felt that first kiss on his lips sitting in the cab stuck in the traffic nine years later. It made him conscious and he opened his eyes.
…but she was nowhere. She had disappeared like fumes of smoke leave a chimney. Kabir slowly made sense of his surroundings. It wasn’t quite pleasant and he wished he had continued dreaming. Nonetheless he reclined his seat back to the seating position. The driver smiled at him and he passed an awkward smile back. The radio was no longer playing and the traffic had receded. The cab was moving in good speed and Kabir was brought back to the present.
It wasn’t long before he decided that he needed to meet Gauri, even if for once. His heart needed to know what could have been…or what can still be.
(to be continued)
In the meanwhile, read:
Maybe | Wanderlust | Make Believe | Airport
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