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My memories of Sujata do not go to far, far back. Thoughts are still as fresh as a lily in March. Of and on they come flooding and drown me into the ocean of pinching joy. I become nostalgic and travel in the kingdom of past to those dark, rainy nights of Sawan which saw us engrossed in romantic gossippings for hours, where I found her enthusiastically pouring all her heart out, and sometimes confiding in me even those secrets which she had hardly trusted with anybody else. Years after those sweet moments have passed, leaving just a trail on the sand of my memory, I have been unable to make it out –what it was that made her exhibit so much confidence in a mere stranger whom she had met first time in her life.

As I recall, hers was a beautiful face with black eyes abounding in life. Once, while passing by her window where she stood combing her hair, I chanced to have a look at her. I observed that she was silent but there was a mischievous twinkle playing in her large lustrous eyes. I, once, said to her, ‘Sujata, I want nothing else but a life-partner like you.’ Her immediate response was the usual girly giggle. Unforgettable she was.

I still remember how we got introduced to each other. Both of us were at our common relative’s. It was a humid afternoon of July and having been bored of bearing with all the formalities expected to be observed from a guest and sitting alone in the verandah, I sneaked into the adjacent room and lay on the couch. Sujata had returned from somewhere in the vicinity and if I am not mistaken, was wearing a blue mantle on her shoulder. Seeing me in bed at such an unusual hour, she hurled a question, ‘Sleeping, at this time? Anything wrong?’ I did not expect this sympathetic question from a damsel with whom I had not exchanged a single word so far. ‘Nothing serious,’ I said, ‘just feeling bored, and to be frank, there is nobody to talk to.’ She sat down and that was the beginning of our friendship.

One thing I had noticed about Sujata that she was innocent and talkative. Always eager to tell about her experiences of this world and I, showing far greater maturity and understanding than that my age allowed, listened to all her gabfest with rapt attention.

As the days went by, we came closer. An incident is still fresh in my mind how I had to exercise all the power of my will to resist the temptation of kissing her hand extended to me with a request that I should read what her palm lines said. In fact, that day I had got a book on astrology from somewhere, and dipping myself in here and there, I was trying to make out things outlined in it. It was enough to make her feel interested. I held her hand and feigning the deftness of a scholar, said some nice things about her future, which put her in a highly pleased mood and needless to say, created in her heart a soft corner for me.

Now during the rest of my stay in that place my time flew off effortlessly. Our long courses of discussions, her enchanting smiles, her childlike simplicity, everything was a treasure to savor of.

One morning she was trying to collect guavas but was unable to do so for the tree she was trying to approach was fairly high. I watched all her efforts and gestures stealthily from over a book which I had kept in front of my face and was pretending to read it. Suddenly she glanced at me and I was caught red handed in my misdemeanor. But she seemed not minding and came to me with a request that I should help her in plucking those fruits. Happily, I consented.

Then we discovered a new passion. I had found a few books and magazines and every afternoon I read out to her from them. She listened intently and I think she loved it. Thus we enjoyed every moment of each-other’s company. Ours was a fairy-tale love in which there was no place for aphrodisiacal feelings but a will to see each-other happy.

Days went by un-noticed and then came the day of my departure. I was terribly upset but Sujata was far more miserable. Perhaps she had spent all the night before weeping. Her lovely eyes were red and swollen. The pain and suffering I saw in her eyes I can never forget.

The fated hour crept in. I was standing along with other members of the family in the verandah, all posing the same question, ‘So when will you come again?’ What could I say? Sujata was standing alone, away in a corner, fighting to hide her tears. I could not even throw a casual glance at her with so many people around. And then, I walked off, away…in the kingdom of detachment and loneliness. A loneliness that, since then, has descended upon my heart, making me wander like a desolate wind in this world, in search of something unknown. And Sujata! I know not what happened to that kind and caring soul. She has become a beautiful memory that would keep visiting me from time to time and filling the canvas of my mind with the color of a sweet and cherishable pain. But there are some pains which are dearer to one’s heart than its most sought-after pleasures.
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Upload Date: 31/12/1969

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