Another Valentine’s day,I thought, when couples will spend fortunes to keep each other happy. It brought to memory one couple instantly. They are not even remotely related to this day, and I doubt they know of the existence of such a day. I remember them because they stand for what this day is supposed to signify. Unending and unconditional love for each other.
Twelve years ago, Nitika had been beautiful and young. Just about 35 years of age, bubbly, vivacious, energetic, full of life. They were watching the construction of their dream house. It was almost ready, except for the painting. She had gotten Akash to promise he wouldn’t paint it without her choice of colours. It was a long day in the sun, and she felt tired. Suddenly she had collapsed and the doctor later diagonosed it as stroke caused due to rheumatic heart disease. She was paralysed neck down; their life had come to a standstill.
I had heard about the incident but distances had kept me from meeting them. Now when I was in the same town, I decided to pay them a visit. Akash was gleaming with happiness when he saw me at the door.
“Nitu, we have a surprise visitor for you,” he announced.
For a moment I thought she must have recovered in these twelve years. But nothing prepared me for when I saw her. She was now 47, the prime of her youth snatched away from her.Her beautiful face was now wrinkled and sunken, the lush black mane now all grey, the full of life Nitika lying limp on the bed in an old night gown. I could have cried. But then, I caught the glint of happiness in her eyes and smiled back. She tried to speak but I couldn’t understand because of the slur in her voice. Mercifully, Akash translated it for me. I was awed by how he could understand anything at all. As if he had read my mind, he said, “Whatever a child may blabber, the mother always understands what it is trying to say isn’t it?”
I simply nodded my head in agreement. We chatted on and I learnt how Akash had been looking after her for the past twelve years, tending to her every need, giving up his high profile job and starting a daily needs shop close by and bringing up his sons who were 11 and 12 years of age at that time. The kids had grown up now and they took turns taking care of their mother. I couldn’t help but notice, that all this while, Akash had no regret on his face and Nitika had a slight smile on her lips. It was almost 1 o’clock, and Akask excused himself to feed Nitika .
“She tells me what she wants to eat and I prepare it for her,” he announced as he brought in a plate of chapatti and potato sabji , little rice and dal and fed it to her with utmost love and devotion and then lulled her to sleep. I couldn’t control my tears this time.
We chatted for some more time about what treatment was being given to her and how she was responding, when my eyes fell on the walls. Almost the entire house was still not painted. Akash saw me gaze at the empty walls and told me he was waiting for Nitika to get well and tell him what colours she wanted on the walls. They had moved into the house just as it was on the day she had been paralysed. I was visibly moved.
It was almost 4 o’clock and Nitika would be up any time now. Akash excused himself again. He wanted to make some tea for her and keep her book ‘Chimanraoanche Charhat’ , humorous short stories by Chi. Vi. Joshi , ready for reading it out to her. Not wanting to disturb them, I bid them goodbye, secretly praying and asking god to bless my Valentine couple.
read part 2 here..