Secret of Love

It was Monday morning. I was getting ready. It was an important day and I was preparing questions that I had to ask. Ishan was sitting on ...

It was Monday morning. I was getting ready. It was an important day and I was preparing questions that I had to ask. Ishan was sitting on the bed with a cube in his hand and was trying to solve riddle. He requested me to get ready as soon as possible. I was wearing a silver colored saree with a light pink border and was preparing my bun. It was his day and so he was all ready to start our journey. He was looking the best gentleman resembling his features with his grandfather. The only difference was lying in clothes. He got off the bed and probably went downstairs. “We are getting late grandma, please come down soon” he screamed. I was giggling and was happy for my grandson. It was the day when I was going to meet my grandson’s choice ‘my future daughter in law’. Ishan had praised Deepika for her dedication towards work and her caring behavior towards everyone in office. Nearly, five months before I had been mockingly asking Ishan that am I getting my daughter in law soon? He hadn’t replied to me that day but today I was going to meet the same girl with whom Ishan is in love for two years. I had seen that spark in his eyes when he used to talk about Deepika. After all, white hairs have their own perks of experience.

Once more he shouted grandma in the most aroused voice. I just giggled and went outside the house and locked the door. He opened the left door of car and I sat inside. Then, he moved towards right and entered inside car. We started our journey from Shimla. I could see the most beautiful smile which made me to recall some moments. Memories flashed inside my head. I remembered the day when I had met to his grandfather. He was having the same smile at that time. As i looked outside the window, cool breeze was blowing over my face.

Ishan asked me to reveal the story today. I had told him that I will tell him the secret love story when he’ll get his true love. I smiled.

It was September 1962 and the same breeze was touching my face. I was sitting under a peepal tree with my eyes closed and feeling the same sweet and fragrant breeze of Shimla. As I opened my eyes, a boy of nearly same age as me was staring at me from a meter distance. He was wearing a woolen coat and his hands were in his pocket. He was having a Pahadi Topi on his head. His eyes were black and sparkling. His smile was adding most of the charm to his face. Two minutes later, I discovered that I too was staring at him. I at once woke up and rearranged my scarf and went to gather my sheep to bring them back to home. I observed he was still standing there but ignored and went away.

Next day, when I went to fields, I saw the same boy working in the next field. I asked my friend Niru about him. She said, “His name is Shankar”. She told me that he was her cousin and had come to Shimla for the very first time. He was mesmerized by the beauty of Shimla and excited to live the lifestyle of the people living here. “See, with how much dedication he is working in the fields”, she said. We both giggled. As he shook his head and picked the apron to clean his face, the sweat on his face was reflecting the sun-rays. He turned towards us. As he started moving towards us, my heart beat started increasing. I don’t know what was there. It was for the first time that I was feeling so unusual. I didn’t know what was it but something invisible thing was there which was making me feel that I was familiar to him. He came to Neru and also wished me a ‘Namaste’ and smiled. I said ‘Namaste’ hesitatingly. He asked Neru about the lunch. She pointed towards a mango tree and told him to move towards it. It was our (Neru and mine) daily routine to take our lunch together. We were best friends since childhood. She said, let’s go there Renu. I was so confused at that time that I don’t even remember how I accepted her proposal. It was for the first time that I was feeling nervous to say anything in front of Neru. We went beneath the mango tree. Neru and I sat together and he sat opposite to us. When Neru was totally busy in taking her meal, I observed he was looking at me and smiling. I felt as if something is wrong with me. Why is he smiling at me? Am I looking funny? A lot of questions just came in a second. As soon as we completed our meal, I told Neru that I had to go home early. I just wanted not to look like a fool. I went home and saw my reflection in water. I touched the right side of my face and then turned towards the left side. There was nothing wrong with my face.

Next day, I was going toward the woods in the evening to bring some wood for fire. As I entered the woods, I saw Shankar coming towards me. He greeted me with ‘Namaste’. I reciprocated the same in return. He started to walk with me. He asked me about my family. Then, he talked about the glory of Shimla. He said, “The Mountains and its people both are beautiful”. I nodded and gave a smile. He insisted to sit and told me that he was tired as he is not good at climbing mountains, especially the woods. We sat down. For some time, there was silence between us. He then spoke up leaving me in the frozen state. It was what he said,
“I want to marry you. I saw you when you had come to Neru’s house. I was watching you from the window. I fell in love with you at that time. The besan ladoos that you had brought that day made me to want you more. I want to spend the rest of my life with you”.

I was both frozen and shy at that time. Something inside was beating very fast. I was unable to speak for some time. He asked me to say something but nothing was coming out from my mouth. He took two pebbles from the ground. One was white and other was black. Then he asked me to pick the white one if I feel same for him and black if I don’t. With his hands towards the sky and pebbles in his hands, he sat still for five minutes. Then, I collected the courage from inside and took the white one. He jumped up. I looked at him and I saw the most beautiful smile ever. His sparkling eyes were saying something to me. “See you soon”, he said and went away.

I sat there for some time and then collected woods. Afterwards I went home straightaway. As I reached home, sun had been already set. My mother scolded me for being late. We started cooking food. I was sitting in front of the ‘chulha’ and preparing chapatis. My father came in the kitchen. He announced that he wanted to marry me off. “We have got a nice proposal”, he said. I was stunned by his remarks. I used to talk less and didn’t get the courage to say anything. After cleaning the utensils, I went inside my room. A flood of tears started flowing through my eyes. I didn’t remember when I slept that night.

Next morning, a man same as the age of my father came to our house. He asked where about of my father. I told him that he was working in the fields. I offered him water. He took the water and then went away. At evening, I got to know that the man who had come in the morning was the father of the boy whom I was supposed to marry off. My father declared that next month, there would be my marriage and asked my mother to prepare things within a month. I was the youngest daughter of my parents. We were five sisters. He wanted to marry me now so as to complete his responsibility. Everyone was happy at home.

After two days, I went fields. I met Neru there. I wanted to tell her everything but before I could say something. She hugged me and said, “My bhabhi”. I remained shocked. She said, “Shankar is a very good guy. You are probably the luckiest girl”. Tears dropped down my cheeks and I smiled.

In October, 1963 we got married. After our marriage, we went to Punjab where his father used to work as a clerk. Everything was different there. The people, culture, air, almost everything but with time managed to settle there. After one year of our marriage, he joined Indian army as a lieutenant. I was expecting a baby at that time. I felt sad as he had to leave me here in Punjab and went away for his job. But as I respected him from the bottom of my heart, I didn’t say anything on hid decision. As months passed by, my urge to meet him started growing. It was when my delivery was near, he came home. I was happy at his arrival. He had brought gifts for everyone. He had brought a wrist watch for me. I had read up to eighth standard, so I was able to understand when he taught me how to check a watch. We had a lot of talk that night. Within a week, I gave birth to a healthy child. It was a boy as everyone was expecting. He used to care a lot for me. I was really a very lucky woman.

After one month, he received a letter. It was written that Indo-Pak war has been started and he was called as soon as possible. He packed his bag at that very evening. Next morning he has to go away. I was upset and asked him to stay few more days but nothing worked.
Next morning, I was standing at the door of our room with our baby in my lap. I didn’t want him to leave me and go for a war. I closed my eyes and tears rolled down my cheeks. When I opened my eyes, he was gone. All I could do was to wait now. He had gone in the battlefield now. Every day I used to pray to god for his well-being. I used to keep fast every Monday.
After six months, news came that he chose to be a martyr and died in a martyr operation. It was him with the help of whom we located and destroyed the camp of enemy. I fell down when I heard this.

Two days later, their body arrived wrapped in the tricolor. Many people had gathered there. He was being respected and saluted. I was sitting in a corner with my one year old son crawling and walking around me.

After twenty five years, I lost my son and daughter in law in a car accident. I was left with three years old Ishan with me.

I felt a jerk and my head hit at the front of car. Ishan said sorry as he pressed the brakes hard. I smiled to him. “I don’t have words, granny”, he said. You are amazing. You are the best lady and grandmother of the world. I love you granny. He smiled with moist eyes. I opened my purse. I picked up the white pebble and gave it to him. It was the secret of my love. Now it belongs to you, my son. It had given me strength whenever I had left alone. I hope it will bring up smile to your life too. 

We reached at the hotel where Deepika was waiting for us. Ishan introduced her to me. She was wearing a black saree and was looking very beautiful. I was imagining her in red bridal costume. “She is perfect”, I said. Ishan looked at her and smiled. I could see the same smile I had seen years back. But this time, she looked straight away into his eyes with no hesitation and smiled back. Ishan opened his fist and said, “Secret of love” and winked at me.

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