Urvishi is unhappy and silent, walks sluggishly. Did ever Sahil before it watch her slothful? No, no, no. Might a humorous girl grow worried? And much distraught too. She is a silly girl. Silly, silly, silly. Sahil announces.
She fears leprosy might swallow Sahil in total. Might God punish her snatching a
loving friend? Oh, no, no, no. God! Why you don’t put sense in Sahil? She has heard from many quarters the tales of leprosy outcasts. It is a horrible disease.
Morning was hateful when Sahil had explained to her the gash over his left hand.
Oh dear Jesus! What an appalling thing going to be happened. Her face nervously went dry and white to ponder about it.
“Are these not the symptoms to leprosy?” She asks to herself then to Sahil.
“No” Sahil answers and explains to Urvishi that the vast majority of healthcare workers who look after leprosy patients commonly do not develop the disease.
“See, how mother Teresa looked after leprosy outcasts?” He praises mother Teresa and assures Urvishi. Worried Urvishi thinks about Belgian priest father Damien who had martyred his life for leprosy patients. Sahil hates to notice sulk on her face.
“Hey, what happened, dear?” He extends his smile.
“Nothing” Says Urvishi taking his hand in her own.
Chilly morning of January month gives them warmth of togetherness. They sit on a cement bench entering the main gate of botanical garden where Sahil clears the fogs before sitting. The golden rays of sun, yawning as if sylph kisses his face as he kisses Urvishi’ hands. But sulk does not disappear. A chirping flock of birds passes flying over their heads but birds’ happiness does not move her.
“I hate you when you worry about me. Do you think I shall die so early?” Sahil nudges her breaking the silence.
“Is that what you want to say and punish me with your ill words?” She is near to crying in frenzy. Sahil hushes apologetically. After a pause, he whispers.
“Urvishi dear- is it really important for you to fly out to Britain this week” He does abruptly change the subject knowing if he does not change, Urvishi might begin to weep cryingly otherwise, he before it, had enquired about it scores of times and her decision was final and unchanged. As well, parents too had approved the decision. Mummy was madly happy to send her daughter to Britain getting further study.
“Yes, yes, yes, everything is ready, daughter” Mummy announces- “Your dresses, magazines, food items and money is also arranged”
“No problem, within a day or two, we shall get it also” Papa assures her.
Urvishi had completed her M. Phil in Psychology. What is the use of earning Ph. D from India? She reflected. Passionately, she had the long cherished dreams to seek higher education from Europe and cleared the test with higher rank to grab a seat in Cambridge university, England, the second oldest one in Great Britain after Oxford. Now on, many organizations were coming forward sponsoring her higher education. How could she put off the opportunity? She had explained to Sahil that she might stay there three-four years.
“Three four years?” Sahil saddened gloomily.
“Yes, but- if you say no, I shall abandon the idea of going there. It is not important” She says emotionally and holds Sahil’s hand. Sahil knows she is lying to him and herself. Her vivid blue eyes speak what is in her heart.
“No. Never. I would never stop you” Sahil presses her hands- “You must fly out and do what the destiny writes for you” And he gushes.
“Thanks, sweetheart” She smiles winningly and wraps him around waist.
“You take care in my absence” Sahil buzzes.
“Oh, yes, I do. You too take care.” Her eyes glow with tears.
“When will you positively come back?” Sahil mops her teary eyes and thinks why he again and again asking irrelevant questions. Hasn’t she explained to him earlier the all thing? Urvishi studies the curves of his face and utters gravely.
“Immediately after the thesis submission, I would be back, not a day late” She gushes- “I promise” And she touches a soft twig with his lips.
“But, you must consult your family doctor. I am worried about this gash” Then she touches her fingers onto the cut.
“I fear you get infection” At this, Sahil smiles mockingly.
“It is just a cut by knife, dear that I got yesterday night while slicing mangoes”
“Lie, lie, lie” She tosses the twig over him showing anger.
“Promise, it’s not a lie, darling” Sahil says pressing her hands.
After stroll, when they sit on a tea kiosk for tea, Sahil explains that leprosy generally does not spread through merely touching of infected person.
“Did Mother Teresa not touch patients? She touched, touched…again and again touched” But he realises that Urvishi does not seem believing in him. He is greatly puzzled how to convince Urvishi. In fact, Urvishi wants him to discard the mission of serving lepers.
“No, no, no”
“Why no, why no, yaar, there’re so many other spheres you can contribute” She advises him but Sahil only enjoys the company of lepers. For many years, he is doing this job as a duty. Many doctors are his friends who help him eradicating the menace. And from time to time, he keeps on consulting some NRIs also.
“Deadly sure, leprosy is not easily transmitted diseases if proper care be taken” One of the NRI friend doctor concludes.
When the tea arrives, Urvishi chimes in.
“I don’t forbid you for doing this humane service but I am worried you are careless” Her words make Sahil laugh. Careless. He is careless, he laughs….mocks at himself or Urvishi but she dislikes oddity of his behaviour.
“I know- you love your mission with untiring zeal” Thank you, thank you, thank you. His eyes smiles and takes Urvishi’s hands in his and pats warmly. Urvishi continues.
“I understand what you are doing is not easy. Going to slums, looking after lepers, provide them food, treat them medically, give them clothes and moreover organize awareness camps to motivate people about leprosy and spend thousands from own pocket is easy job? No, it’s not. But your mission gives you extreme satisfaction therefore I am happy because you are happy” And she kisses the gash.
“But I’m worried about this cut, darling, take care” With efforts, suppressing his laugh, Sahil changes the subject.
“I hope you must write me a letter everyday?”
“Promise” They clap their hands.
“I must try to rush back after completion the study but don’t mind if I fail to rush back forever” Her glances seem Sahil cold and hostile. Did she really want not to come back forever? Sahil loves her madly. Might he live without her? He feels sharp claws tearing his stomach. Noticing his sadness, Urvishi guffaws with delight.
“I am joking, yaar”
“I don’t like unpleasant jokes” Sahil blubbers.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry” And she cradles him into her bosom as if a loving kid. Putting a kiss onto his cheeks, she gushes.
“Sometimes I think darling, is it anything more important than you in my life? And then I myself find answer from my inner self. No- nothing is important more than you are- nothing. You are my biggest craze, my enormous mania. Without you, I perhaps might be insane. I definitely should not fly away leaving you alone behind. Never. But the second thought would often compel me, it is my duty. Should I not perform my duty honestly? Duty is love and love is everything. Does love ever expect duty not to be performed? Duty is not lower than love and love is not bigger than duty. They are twins. They are made for each other in my life. Just three- four years are not a long time, I sometimes brood, is it not just my lust for you if I decide to stay back with you.
Then, she pauses for a while. She pants. Rush of emotions chocks her. Stop, stop, stop. But Urvishi continues.
“I know your existence without me is of no value as my being without you too. But without performing duty in life for you as well for me-Sahil, why don’t you understand. Could true love ever be bloomed forsaking duty?”
Sahil plucks two bougainvillea flowers, tucks them onto Urvishi’s ear. Cool breeze begins to blow expressing its happiness over Urvishi’s duty-love decision
“What’s the flight time morning” Sahil asks without any burden onto his heart.
Next day morning, they meet again and speed up airport together. Sahil notices Urvishi’s sullenness as if she is forcibly dispatched to London. Then they hear the crooning of a lady announcer- this is the last call for Air India International Boeing, passengers please” Urvishi, all of a sudden, looks up at Sahil up and smiles.
“I might be back with the assigned work submitted” She says and places her hand onto his arms. Sahil tries to embrace her but she sees travellers noticing their activity.
“MummyPapa wants I should get citizenship of that country and settle down there. In India, talents always frustrate but I must come back after the completion of my study, I promise, take care, Sahil” She waves and pours inside the plane
“I have knitted a woollen sweater for you, get it from mom” Sahil smiles.
“It is my last present for you in India” She adds.
“Be careful. You have been storming into danger. Your leprosy job always would be frightening me” She then laughs meekly by herself. Within minutes, the plane flies away. But the goodbye hands on both sides are waving until it becomes unseen.
Over a week of her going, he keeps on pondering that he might be mad, cry out wildly and thrash his forehead against the walls. When he again joins his mission. He forgets his meeting with Urvishi. He occasionally rushes to botanical garden where they strolled last day.
Urvishi had promised she would write immediately after she landed there. In initial weeks, then months, he begins to wait getting letter but having got nothing, he phones her MummyPapa home and find Urvishi number deciding he would ring her. When he calls her up she is not at home. A device answers a tape recorder message:-‘Hello, this is Miss Urvishi Sharma. I am sorry I am not at home at the present. If you will leave your name and phone number, I must call you back when I come back. Please wait till you hear the signal. Thank you.’
And after that, Sahil hears a sharp long beep and leaves his name and phone number. To talk to machine is an odd experience. In India, hardly anybody uses the machine for answering. He waits and waits on long but Urvishi ever would bother to call him back? His heart sinks; he leaves the idea of telephoning her again. Why does she behave like this? Sahil feels hurt. He endeavours to forget her. He devotes himself fully into his mission. With the efforts of his organization, some lepers are developed to be cured. Out of zeal to mankind service, unanimously he is appointed the member of International Social Welfare Organisation (ISWO) which headquarter is in New York.
After a year, the esteemed president of India confers him national social service award for his untiring service rendered to society’s outcast class. Besides it, he achieves many appreciation letters from foreign government for his indomitable contribution to society. World Health Organisation (WHO) too is much worried to eradicate the scourge. He is invited to America (New York) to launch a crusade against leprosy eradication. Even some states governments too confers him citations.
In India, he is many times invited by different state governments to motivate other social organisations to curb this menace. He is invited by school, colleges, universities, hospitals, public homes, working women hostels, convents, religious places, monasteries, gurudwaras, churches, temples and other twenties of institutions to motivate the people. And, he has no time for Urvishi or her memories. He is deadly busy man. However, over half and two years, he surprisingly gets a letter from Urvishi.
My soulmate Sahil,
Don’t know what you think about me. But I well understand you are not a person of my trust. You promised me to write back. Why you didn’t, dear? I have taken down couples of letters to you but you dislike throwing response any of them. What mistake I have done with you, sweetheart? Now, it is my last letter to you, just informing you that I have read much about you in newspapers. Congrates! Don’t write me back. I’m not expecting now.
Listen, my friend Julia often advises me that generally people with social missions should not be taken as friends or husbands as they are always failed family. Love or passion for them would have no value in their life. Out of your love initially I hated to listen to her advice. Now I think she said right.
Dear, darling, sweetheart Sahil, your demeanour shows me that you don’t love me. Do you? I am maybe not a lady of your choice. Considering about you a lot, now I choose a scientist for me and free you forever. He is an American- Mr. Anderson. Nick name- Andy. He has everything- power, position, fame, money.
Now days, he has toured to West Germany and next month we might be in India. Very shortly, we’re going to be married. Andy has promised me that he would change my name after marriage- Olivia. He would love to shout me Olivia, dear Sahil. However, I must invite you, no matter, either you come or not. Ultimately, you are my old love and first too, darling. I could not stop myself inviting you. Now let me stop to write you. The more I write the more you hurt, sweetheart.
Yours’ Urvishi Sharma
C/o Mr. Pushap Pal Singh
124, Twyford Court
Fortis Green, London, UK
After reading the letter, Sahil smiles and sets it into diary. Words scribbled on aerogramme seem him as if cruel stings of agony. Is she really going to be married with a scientist- Andy? Why she had promised him before going to London that she would not leave him alone. Are social activists really failures in life? Urvishi wrote he had lost the privilege to be annoyed. Should he write a letter to her back? Social activists are failures in life. No, no, no. He decides he would try to stop himself writing back to her.
Then oneday, Urvishi’s mother admonishes him.
“Son, why don’t you answer her letter? You know how desperately she misses you?”
“Sorry, auntie” And he scribbles a letter to her.
Hope, you would be fine making your life joyful. You’re going to be married to a scientist. Good! Wonderful idea. I think you are a wise lady. In fact, I’m unable to find time for you. Ah, your hand knitted sweater I had donned. Cosy a lot. My all friends praised it. You’re coming to India. I welcome you.
Within a week, letter reaches to her. She rings up Sahil.
“Arre, night I watched your interview on CNN channel. Congratulations. I think you’re the first one in the state who is recommended for top Magsaysay social service award from US government. Really, a great achievement, yaar”
“I’m thankful to God for this” Sahil humbles. Next, on being asked, Sahil explains that the government of USA is ready providing his organisation fifty thousands dollars to eradicate the scourge- leprosy.
A week later, Urvishi visits India. No phone call. No email. Sahil amazes when he sees her in India, when he sees her into his home. Suddenly, the door of the house bursts open and a lady bounces into it and surprises all. She is Urvishi. Alone.
“Which husband?” Except Sahil, the other members of the family are unable to recognise her. She is too much weak. She greets Sahil with her kiss. He presses her hands with warmness.
“I’m sorry I could not get to Airport to receive you. Why didn’t you inform me earlier?” Sahil speaks with a mix of apology and complain.
“In fact, I want to surprise you” She jumps at her shoulders and moves closer to him. Sahil notices that she has been wearing an elegantly tailored tight fitting suit. Hands are perfectly manicured and nails sophisticatedly polished.
“How is Mr. Andy?” Sahil gladdens to hug her.
“Who Andy?” She surprises.
“Mr. Anderson, your hubby” Sahil emphasises. Urvishi laughs as if mocking at herself.
“He is bastardly an intelligent man therefore I hate to travel with him, darling” She speaks passionately.
“But I am grateful to being his wife, darling” Darling, darling. Sahil is far much puzzled why she again and again shouts him darling. Might Mr. Andy not be angry with her?
“Your research? Have submitted thesis?” Sahil enquires. She nods and closes her eyes resting her head onto Sahil’ chest as if wanting to listen to the sound of his heart.
“Maybe, next month?”
“Again, you would visit there?
“No, my guide has instructed me that he would be able to arrange it in India” She says craning his hands to mouth for a kiss.
“I really love your hands, darling. Your hands are truly good; these are really made for the services to poor, the leprosy-ridden patients, the outcasts” Sahil surprises. Why a foreign-returned-married Indian lady lavishes on him?
“I wanted to see your hubby, why didn’t you bring him with you?” Sahil asks. Urvishi laughs and kisses him. It surprises Sahil more.
“I had lied to you, Sahil. I’ve married to none. Do you think could I do? Had I not promised to you I would be back as early as possible?” She surprises into his eyes. Is Urvishi sincere to him? Sahil astonishes. Really, is she married to none?
“Why did you lie?” Sahib mumbles.
“Sweetheart, I wanted to make your personality great. I didn’t want you run after me, my body. So I did. And what I did I wanted to do” She takes a deep breath.
“I did know, the more my separation agonise you the more you serve the society, the lepers, the outcasts. So, I continued trying to agonise you. If I write you more, you engage yourself into writing back to me and forget your mission. I desired to see you a determined social activist” She went on. Sahil amazed… amazed…and amazed. Great lady? Should the award not gone to her credit? Might he ever so much greatness from Urvishi? Really, he is greatly proud of her friendship.
Urvishi meets Sahil’s mother and sister and congratulates them on his achievement. Priyanka- his sister calls Urvishi- the goddess of virtues, the beautiful mind etc.
“Didi, I have done this thing out of a sense of duty rather than love. It was my right (beloved’s right) to make him a gentleman” She beams. Priya is impressed.
“I understand duty is not lower than love and love is not bigger than duty. They are twins. They are made for each other” Sahil muses. Woman is an embodiment of God? But he often thought women- an obstacle in the way to God.
“Hey, where is the gash gone which you had on your left hand?” Urvishi takes his hand into her and scrutinises it. Sahil smiles.
“It has gone to Britain to see up your scientist hubby, Mr. Anderson.” He laughs noisily. Urvishi flamboyantly giggling shakes her neck and begins to hurl her fists over his chest and screams.
“I would kill you, my sweetheart”