Shreya stood rather awkwardly in front of the old faded mirror in her bedroom. The walls of the room bore witness to the years of neglect inflicted upon it by the busyness of its inhabitants. A simple understated bed sat in one corner overlooking a rather glamorous window. It was regular apartment in the suburbs. Right opposite to the sad window was shreya’s greatest comfort; a prudent bookshelf which housed some of her greatest companions. Poems from Rumi, her favorite; Classics of all temperaments; books on adventure, romance, rapture, passion; they were the ones which provided a soothing shoulder for Shreya to lean on those seemingly endless nights while she waited for her husband to come home from work. They were the friends who made her laugh when she was left brooding after a tough day of neglect and indifference. They were the stories which took her away from her mundane existence into the land of fairies and Djinns with endless possibilities. In their acrid earthy smell she found comfort. In their yellowing pages she found what she longed for most. Companionship.
Shreya’s eyes scan the fine lines on her once attractive face. She was in her late-thirties. The years were not kind to her. The once smooth flawless skin was beginning to show signs of aging. The laughter lines were getting deeper. The eyes were losing their luster. Maybe it was the demands of running a household, trying to make the ends meet in a exhausting middle class life. Or maybe it was just the sheer boredom of a marriage that lacked passion and excitement. She had let herself go. She knew it.
“Shreya…Is the breakfast ready?” Her husband’s voice breaks her train of thoughts.
A deep exasperation sets in her heart.
He didn’t remember.
It was 2 April. It was their anniversary.
Shreya sighed, her mind picturing and reliving the beautiful adventure her life once had promised to be. Ravi, her husband, hadn’t always been this dull. He had been the liveliest man she had met. Was that a decade ago? Maybe it was a whole lifetime ago. Their courtship had been straight out of a romance novel. Late night walks under the pewter sky, impromptu dates in the parks, flowers, candles, and promises to elope and start a life in a foreign country… it had been a dream. They had met, fallen in love and married against the wishes of their parents.
She couldn’t remember when the dream broke and the reality of a regular life set in. She couldn’t remember when they turned into this boring couple dinning every day in grave like silence, taking solace in television to avoid enduring the awkwardness of having a real conversation.
Often she caught herself wondering, was there someone else? Maybe there was. Maybe this marriage was dead. Maybe it was time to bury the body and move on, for both their sake.
Ravi was getting ready for work.
She looks beautiful, Ravi thought; And why not? She always did.
He had seen her for the first time in a diffident coffee shop in MG road. It was drizzling. She had just rushed into the cafe with her friend to escape the rain…beautiful lustrous eyes; soft understanding smile; beautiful curls caressing her perfect face. Something about the way the tiny drops of water clinging to her soft wavy hair captured him. She was beautiful. Any regular guy would have given her a second look. But not Ravi. His eyes never left her.
He carefully picked out his shirt. It was a gift from her. His shreya. Blue was her favorite color.
This was 10 years ago. Not much had changed from then to now. She was still as beautiful as she had always been. She was still as patient as she had always been. Sometimes he thought maybe he should tell her how much she means to him. But he was never good with words like she was. He could never be that guy. He hoped that she knew what she meant to him. He hoped that she knew it was her… always her.
Ravi walks over to the window in the bedroom, picks up the book lying face down on floor. He carefully placed a bookmark on the current page and placed it carefully on the side table. She always left her books lying around, half open. She wouldn’t have to look for it now.
Ravi sat down on the bed to tie his shoes.
He had to buy the groceries on his way back home tomorrow. He knew how much she hated taking the bus to market. And pay the credit card bills. Shreya had bought herself a new pair of shoes. They have had some financial difficulties in the last few years. Ravi never complained. He had hid them from his wife. He didn’t want Shreya to worry. She deserved much more than this. She deserved abundance and happiness. She deserved the world.
He prepares for a hard day at work. He had been working extra shift in the office for years now. He remembered the years as they passed him. He could see the distance between him and Shreya increasing with each passing year. But all that would go away now. He had been planning this for years.
It was their anniversary.
He had been planning and saving up for this for years. He had been slogging away at work, putting in all those extra hours so he could see that smile on her face when he came home with his gift that day. He was going to surprise her tonight. She loved surprises. And he loved her.
Shreya sat across the breakfast table to her husband, her eyes lined with kohl, a careful foundation trying to mask the laughter lines around her lips.
“Do you like the breakfast?” she asks with a hopeful smile.
“yes. It is very good” he continued reading the newspaper hiding behind his weary glasses.
“So, there is this new restaurant that has opened in MG road. I have heard it is good” she said, her heart sinking with each word that went unnoticed.
He is so cold. He doesn’t remember it is out anniversary. She thought.
Shreya continued to drink her tea in silence. She was tired. She was done.
She could see clearly now. It was all over. Their marriage. Their love. Everything.
I am leaving. I need time to think… about us.
The note read.
Ravi sat down on the bed with a heavy heart. He was too late. He had wound up his work early today so he could surprise Shreya. Only she was not there anymore. The apartment was filled with a harrowing emptiness. It was hollow. So was he.
How could she not see? How could he not show her?
Maybe he should have told her something. Maybe he should have shown her how precious she had been in his years. Maybe he should have said…something … anything.
Ravi was shattered.
It was their anniversary. Ravi blinks off the tears that were blurring his vision. His eyes scan across the bed looking at the gift he had planned for Shreya.
And there on the bed bearing mute testimony to what could have been was the gift from Ravi. It was a book of Shreya’s favourite poet, Rumi.
And inside the fresh pages of the book filled with ageless wisdom of the Sufi saint, was an unopened white envelope, reading “Happy anniversary”; Inside the humble white envelope were two tickets to Europe.
The page read,
I am yours, Don’t give myself back to me.