Sample Chapters

The Story Begins At The End by Sujay

Rainbowed

The journey of a lifetime began with an encounter of about 40 seconds.

 Sue was with a few of her friends, probably coming back from breakfast at the food court, as I entered the lift at the ground floor and promptly turned around towards the door.

“You keep changing your look,” one of her friends standing next to me quipped, referring to my newly grown moustache.

“It looks good on him,” she added teasingly.

I turned around and stared at her.

“Is it so?” I put forth a comeback. “If I stand with my back to the elevator door, will it be odd?”

“It wouldn’t be as odd as you looking towards me.” She blushed. My stare fell to the floor, a little embarrassed, but I stood still, facing her, inches apart in that small box filled with people.

“Fifth floor. The doors will now open.”

I took a step backward, just as she took a step forward towards the door as it slid open. Her groupmates, who until now had stood mute to our conversation were rooted to the spot, oblivious to their own impending action.

I walked back, one step at a time, my gaze again reaching her eyes.

If I walk back through the door, will I fall? Will I be too late as the door closes again behind me?

Just at that moment, the heel-end of my shoe got stuck in the tiniest of gaps between the lift and the floor. The backwards momentum had me inclined at a degree, the left hand holding the laptop satchel useless in preventing my impending fall, as my right hand instinctively lunged forward waving at emptiness.

Sue put her hand forward and held mine, as the pre-recorded voice from above announced in that same mechanical tone.

“Destination arrived. The doors will close in five seconds.”

*

By next year, we were celebrating our friendship anniversary day, and we went early morning for breakfast.

As we sat in the open air restaurant, beside the cascading artificial waterfall on the wall, she looped the red sacred thread three times around my wrist and tied three knots, signifying love, love and love. I was deeply moved, but I thought I should ask her, ‘Sue, how true and lasting are these things in this sham world?’

I was not deeply religious, nor overtly superstitious, but still believed in the human energy and the workings of the larger cosmos, something that drives our spiritual world.

What we had shared by then in just those few months was already beyond what two people could hope for even in a lifetime. It was a bond of friendship and of love that was growing firmer and fonder by the day. Still, I wanted answers from beyond the material world. Something that would reach deep within my soul. Our souls.

 “I had kept the thread at the temple, and chanted 108 times, for our togetherness.”

I asked her for the bundle of sacred thread and tied the same on her wrist.

The mist of the waterfall   sprinkled ever so slightly onto her charming face. I looked up at the cloudy sky. Will the clouds take some contour that would shape our lives like never before? It had started to drizzle.

I could have told Sue, ‘If what we have going is true in its essence and in spirit, then it will rain today.’ I laughed at my own thoughts. Of course, it will rain today. As we would walk back to our own lives. Maybe, a slight brush of our hands and a stare stolen into each other’s eyes with not a word being said.

I remembered then, in one of our earlier conversations by the lake, as she had teased me, I had a comeback for her, “I had got rainbowed.”

So, as I leaned across the table, touched her lips with the first morsel, and I thought that there could indeed be an answer from the skies. I took a sip of green tea, and put forth to her,

“What if there is a rainbow in the sky?”

This time she looked up and smiled coyly.

“I mean not just today, but since it is a fairly rare occurrence, we will give it a month. If the sky is lit up with colours in this month of August, we will know for sure, that this could be beyond the material world.” It will be something beyond the capability of any human of any stature – whether divine or devilish.

Sue  wasn’t too sure of such a thing happening, so she just nodded. Perhaps, no one had ever told her of such a thing before. A declaration from the sky, perhaps, deepening our bond over a few more lifetimes.

For me it would just be a confirmation to the soul what my heart and mind already knew.

I wondered at what I had just said. Rainbows do not appear in the sky just like that. I hadn’t seen one in ages. I googled, the last it appeared in this city was about four odd years ago. And even if it appears, there is no synchronicity that either one of us will see it.  Will the rainbow show its  ‘August’ presence in our lives?

*

Prior to that happenstance in the lift, we had sat five feet away from each other for five long years, but hardly had a conversation that was not work related. So much so, we used to turn away from each other if our paths crossed in anyway. 

How many times have we heard this one before: ‘It was love at first sight?’

Maybe, there was an instant soul connection, which both of us had refused to acknowledge.

We had met alright, one fine day, as two ordinary people do, when thrown together in ordinary circumstances. Sure to say, there weren’t any shooting stars, music playing in the background, or colourful paints thrown on the canvas of life, that day. So obviously, one wouldn’t remember it.

Neither one of us would recollect anything significant in the next few years that followed. Maybe a brief conversation at a party. Our paths never crossed, colloquially speaking.

Both of us wouldn’t have anything to do with what one would call even remotely romantic. In fact, we would make it a point to make sure there would not even be a ‘connect’, if ever there was the possibility of such. We revelled in the trivial, the absurd and practically nothingness. The survivability of something that could be considered as friendship, fringed on the ability to embrace ignorance, that too in totality.

In practice, both of our paths actually led to the same things, work, or the cafeteria, or the stairs, perhaps the lift. Sometimes, the cab. But we hardly spoke, again, colloquially.

Until that one day, in the elevator, years later…

*

That holding of hands, albeit in curious circumstances, lit a spark within us. We exchanged numbers and then numerous evenings spent over coffee at the food court, followed. We realised we shared the same interests.

“Did you write something lately? Did you paint something?” I often encouragingly asked her.

“Little did you know that you had been throwing colours onto the canvas of my life,” Sue would  tell me months later.

We celebrated festivals, as we probably never had before, the first of which was Holi.

“Come down for a few minutes,” she said.

As she put colours on my face, she brought me life, that had been draining away minute by minute.

One day she pinged me.

“Do you remember when we met at the party a couple of years ago?”

It was at this party that we had spoken for the first time, at any length, on something other than professional matters. And then as time had flown by, none of us realised that eventually we would spend a lifetime in just six months, or ‘maybe two’.

“I always wanted to talk to you after that, but never got a chance. And now after all this while, as we chat for long hours, it seems my dream has come true.”

I pinged back with a smiley.

“Did you also feel the same?”

“Yes, I did.”

“I will meditate on this feeling for the rest of the day and night.”

And now it was becoming difficult to stay away from each other.

We spoke each other’s thought, shared absolutely everything under the sun, and sometimes even said the same thing at the same time. Indeed, there was something special between us when we were together.

The irresistibility of our togetherness made us question whether we could stay apart from each other during weekends. 

“Was it the fear of being alone?”

“It is not a matter of being alone, it is a matter of…”

…being together” Sue  completed my statement.

I nodded with a smile.

It was one of the best things that we had spoken to each other.

*

In just a few months, those initial tentative and sometimes even off-the-cuff conversations, went full-bloom as we explored the mysteries of our minds.

Her daily dose of philosophies coupled with my haze, led to countless words being exchanged about practically everything related to our lives or otherwise.

“If someone talks for even half hour every day, it will take them a lifetime to talk as much as we did,” Sue rightly said.

We went through a whole gamut of experiences – good and bad alike, festivals, birthdays, anniversaries, sad times overlapping the good, or vice-versa. Yes, we shared a parallel life, and the uncanny coincidences of our past. The present devotedness too ushered in synchronism beyond routine coincidences that could happen to two people.

What had made us come so close to each other in such a short while, I always wondered. Would there be a time when we part, go our own separate ways? How painful and sad that would be.

“It seems that we are certainly related from some past life,” she thought aloud.

“Yes, maybe we were twins.”

“Dumb twins probably,” she retorted.

We both laughed.

The next day, I said to Sue, “Perhaps we are soulmates? That would explain why we are so similar to each other.”

“We are unisoul.” She made a statement.

‘There isn’t anything beyond that, is there?’ I thought.

I wished I could spend at least a few more lifetimes with her.

*

As we began spending more time with each other in those initial days of closeness, our fondness for each other grew further. Our favourite pursuit  was the walk by the lake near her house.

As we sat on the bench by the lake, watching people paddle in those colourful plastic composite boats, she slid down a bit and rested her neck on the backrest, with her face towards the sky. Whenever she does that anywhere, I always know she has a conflict in her mind. As if the laid-back posture would somehow resolve the puzzle that she was trying to unravel. Or maybe God would look down upon her from the heavens and say, “Not to worry, everything will be okay!”

“There is a white cloud clashing with a black one,” she said with all seriousness as she gazed up.

I smiled at her. I turned my neck slightly upwards, while trying to keep an eye on her. She had this habit of teasing me with the unlikeliest of lines, alluding to some of the weirdest of instances.

‘If she smiles at me now, as I try to look up to the sky, I would know this would be one of those instances.’

“It seems pretty clear to me, the sky, from where I look, with the sun beating down on the facade of the building,” I said pointing to the glass structure on the right.

“Well, it is perspectives.”

“But do you see a thin strip of coloured bands, that has sneaked across from behind those clouds?” I played along.

She knew there isn’t one.

“Have you ever noticed why the strip is always one end to another over the horizon, in a perfect half circle?” I prodded further.

“That is you answering your own question, silly. It is because the earth is round.” She rolled her eyes.

“But it could have taken the shape of the clouds, or it could have been straight or slanting, like the streaks of rain?”

“It is the sunlight that breaks into colourful hues, when mixed with raindrops in the sky. And it is an arc because the rays of the sun reach the earth at a slant.”

“That means one can’t do without the other, the sun rays and the rain, to produce the colourful rainbow.” I asked half-a-question, more of a statement.

“Like how all your friends are sweet to you,” I added further.

“You just say random things,” said Sue, and burst out laughing.

She always gets exasperated by my questions, always thinking that I was up to some mischief – trying to pull her leg.

Well, she hated me for sure. That hate-love kind of a thing. But for me, somehow, she is the peace that I seek in this world. She is the smile, she is the laughter, she is the words, that I had thrown away from my life for some time.

“Okay”, I continued, “We have filled our atmosphere with pollution and dust, but the colours are always radiant, unblemished and without distortion.”

There was no reply, so I continued.

“Okay, why is it called a rainbow?”

She still does not answer, so I offer her an explanation.

“Perhaps it is that the raindrops have bowed to the sunrays in submission of the heart, or maybe the streaks of rain have formed a bow, to shower arrows of love at the sun.”

This time she looked at me, directly into my eyes, and smiled.

“It means one can’t do without the other, silly,” she got up abruptly for a walk around the perimeter of the lake.

As I looked at Sue  walking away dreamily, I could not help this thought entering my mind,

  ‘I just got rainbowed.’

She turned around towards me, twisting her hips, and nodded towards the direction of the path. Perhaps she had been rainbowed too.

*

It was now time that we decided on our first official date. A time that we spent an entire day together. I just call it the ‘The Monday’. As I stood there at the entrance of the mall, she walked in, usual greetings followed, after I put my arm across her and gently tapped her back.

“I come here quite often,” Sue said.

We decided to walk into Cafe Noir – the name translated as ‘black coffee’. But something that we didn’t know then, another French-English translation of ‘noir’ is raven, the title story of her book that we had been writing together.
The conversations over mint green tea grew warmer as the hearts grew fonder. It was always amazing, how the length of time got distorted, the range of conversations horizoned and the zeal to still continue, increased each passing minute, when we were together.
We speak about writing, her sketches, her health, even conversations about talks that we have had before. Anecdotes, instances that reminded us of one another when the actual presence was not there. The way she showed pictures of time gone by. One thing for sure is that we laugh and I get lost, and I melt. Listening to her is solace, joy, an emotional surge, yet a calming effect. We talk a lot about family, relationships, about difficult times, or what fate had brought to us, a lot of it that we did not have much say about. But it also had that moment in our conversation that tore me apart. I will come to it later. And so we headed out to lunch, and obviously our talks continued beyond our appetite for something as trivial as food. Yes, that is what it had become to me.
But what happened next  wasn’t in any sense a matter of daily routine, as I touched her lips with a spoonful of soup, summing up our hours of intimacy in that one poignant frame of life.
Sometimes, I also wonder, if all this is me reliving those precious moments of love that I had lost forever. And that she was creating some that she hadn’t had before. Hoping again that this would last a lifetime, albeit in memories only, beyond which we both wanted to forget.
It was cleansing too, removal of clutter, de-fragmentation of the brain memory-bytes. Forgetting the hurt, or at least removing past emotions attached.
We both had different lives, belonged to someone else, our priorities beyond us two, the moment we walk away from each other, always in the knowledge that it could be never again, back to our own different worlds. Perhaps we were just like those two railroad tracks, that would always be together if we wanted to, but yet always at a distance – never could meet.                     
Were we living a sham in our parallel worlds, or the one real life that we had was instead the mirage?
Didn’t matter to me, because of those pearls of happiness I experience when being with her. Because of that carefree state of mind. Because of it being priceless memories of time.
 Because, how it made me dream again, to care, to laugh and finally, how to love. This was even beyond selfless, beyond sacrifice, beyond hurt, beyond body, and beyond even love. That was for mere mortals, this was our very souls.

*

Our day together didn’t end there, even as the sun came close to continue its journey to the other side of the world. Both of us unwilling to let go of each other – at least for this day.

We headed out for another round of coffee and perhaps a browse through a bookstore later. I had begun to stare into those large eyes, with ‘kohl’ lining her eyelids. They were beautiful, mesmerising. Much more than that, it showed forth such depth that I got completely lost in her. Many a time I had to try and not look into her, as I spoke, lest I fumble for my own words. Her eyes were a transparent window into her emotions. Sometimes, the sadness and the pain, and then her happiness. The serene calmness in most other instances made me fall in love with her over and over again.

Sue  felt joy in the smallest of things. Her enigmatic smile and her uninhibited laughter were captivating. She was indeed irresistible, as if coming down to earth from the abode of the Gods. As she showed something on her phone, our shoulders touch, her long locks of hair fall over my arms, the breeze blowing them across my face, slightly touching my cheeks. Other times she would bend her neck forward and a few strands fell across her face, making me lean across and tuck them behind her ears. In these moments of our togetherness I realised that we were sowing the first seeds of love.

That day as we sat, at the café, looking outward at the world idling around the promenade, the mist from the sudden rain shower blowing on to our faces, we acknowledged within our hearts that we cared for each other, beyond the realms of time. She spoke softly, sipping her tea, as I listened to her as if the winds had brought on her words. We had clicked a few selfies just a while back and we had time for another.

As I opened the car door for her, we hugged lightly for the first time ever, there was a certain warmth in her that only a chosen few angels possess. I did not know if I deserved this, but I was drawn to her in a way that wasn’t love at first sight, but it seemed it would only go away with my last.

The month was almost coming to an end. It would be seven more days, before we step into September. We both looked up above, the clouds wore a crimson hue from the setting sun. All that we wished for is the rainbow in the sky in that month of August. We had indeed journeyed a lifetime already, that had begun with an encounter of about 40 seconds.

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