“Dad, what is first love like?” A thirty year old beleaguered Rahul enquired to his sixty year old father, Manish. In the last twenty four hours the thirty year old Rahul had aged by decades and sixty year old Manish had just withered to a frail old weakling.
The old man, his hair silvered by age and experience, closed his eyes for a good part of the minute that ensued. He was formulating a beautiful and soothing reply to his son’s question. “Drown your face in a bucket of water for a minute. First love is like the first gulp of air after that. You can virtually feel every molecule of air passing through your nostrils, engulfing your lungs and speeding relief throughout your body. Elongate this sensation to an eternity that is how I felt when I met your mom.”
“And what was the loss like when mom died?” On a normal day, at a normal hour, at a normal moment this question would have been awkward and out of place- however not now. They were sitting in a hospital.
“It is the most bitter feeling of my life. The taste is still fresh in my senses as if it was yesterday. It felt as if half of my brain had died. Along with my brain, my body was succumbing to an unknown and fathomless pit of which there was no way out. A darkness which creeps out the daylights of any happy man, I was falling into such a pit; and worth mentioning remarkable part is I wanted to be wholly consumed by it. I wanted to be overlapped by it to the tiniest measure of my hair. She left a hole in my soul which nothing and no-one from this universe can fill.” Manish’s frowned forehead revealed multiple wrinkles. There was a palpable sadness etched on his face. The sadness was contagious and seemed to radiate with a high lethal intensity. Even a blind man could sense the grief his face radiated.
“How did you survive after she died?”
“You made me survive son. You had her eyes- the black jet eyes, the prominent chin. You reminded me of her every moment. You reminded me of how much I loved her eyes. You reminded me of what I had loved and how that love was not transient. My love for your mother and her love for me came back to me through you. I don’t picture myself surviving if you hadn’t been there.” Manish took a long look at his son. His eyes were moist and just on the verge of overflowing. A slight nudge from somewhere and he would have wept.
The doctor clad in light green robes came out of the operation theatre. Her face bore signs of tiredness, as if she had just fought a long battle, and marks of grief; it was a battle against fate “Mr. Rahul you are the father of a sweet, beautiful girl.” She spoke with a fake smile that didn't reach her eyes.
“And what about my daughter, doctor?” Manish sat on the verge of his chair. He could sense the foreboding which the doctor was trying to camouflage.
“We are sorry sir, we could not save her. There were complications and there had been a lot of bleeding. We tried our best yet we couldn't revive her.”
The old man knew what the bad news was going to be. Yet he was hoping for some miracle to occur. He had hoped for a similar miracle when Trisha had died. He had hoped against hope the last time and this time. For the last hour he had been replaying this conversation with different result, only wishing the versions he played in his mind might turn out to be real. He accepted the news with no reaction on his face. The old man slowly retrieved himself from the chair on which he had been sitting. Tiptoed to the room adjacent to the Operation Theater where the dead mother and the new born had been temporarily shifted. Manish wanted to sit down and console his son, however from an old and sad experience he knew better. He knew that at such moment one can simply show the door to Rahul, it was he who had to walk past that door. No matter how much painful and hurtful it was going to be, he had to walk through it. He did walk through when Trisha died, Rahul will too. He had not yet lost faith.
Manish went inside the room and took a good look at his grand-daughter. She had her mother’s cheeks and was sleeping with her eyes closed akin to petals on a delicate rose bud. She looked beautiful and at peace, unaware of how her world had recently shattered. Manish dragged his feet from the incubator to the bed where her daughter-in-law lay in a different type of peace and in a different type of sleep.
Old memories started flooding in. The day she had come to his house for the first time with Rahul; the day she married Rahul and entered his house as the bride; the day she tried cooking for the first time and over-cooked the dal. His lips parted to reveal a small smile. “It is a torture to see your children die before your own eyes. You were the daughter I never had. May you rest in peace my daughter.” He kissed her forehead and slowly walked outside.
Rahul was sitting at the same position dejected and lost in thoughts. Manish occupied the empty seat beside his son. Neither the father nor the son spoke for the next quarter hour. Finally, Rahul broke the silence, “how does she look?”
“Just like her mother. Bright, beautiful and lovely.”
“Just like her mother. Bright, beautiful and lovely.”
Suddenly, as if all dams binding the emotions broke down. Out of the blue some electromagnetic spark transpired between the father-son duo. Manish and Rahul both started crying.
Note from the writer: The winters are harsh on all. They may not be fair to all. Regardless of how harsh the winters are, they cannot stop the spring from coming. Flowers do bloom when the spring comes. People are meant to be loved, and people are meant to be mourned. No one is immortal neither me nor my loved ones, despite how fondly we bind ourselves to them. People after a certain time do move on to a different world. Rahul's wife did, Trisha did, someday Manish will too. What shall remain is a brief memory of an over-cooked dal. A thing of beauty is indeed a joy forever.