Posted: 15 May 2011 at 6:22pm | IP Logged
it was Sunday afternoon, Aham was sitting out in the garden terrace reading the newspaper, while his laptop and journal were sitting on the table waiting for him, just in case he wanted to stop reading to work or write. After lunch Rashi and Jigar had gone out for an afternoon of shopping, movies and dinner out. The parents were also out for the afternoon at a family friend's event and were not expected back until after dinner.
From the kitchen window Gopi could see Ahamji sitting by himself on the outdoor lounger lost in the paper. She decided to bring him some lemonade on this warm day, just in case he got thirsty. She wanted to spend the afternoon monogramming his initials on his new handkerchiefs. She remembered to adjust her pallu before taking the tray with a pitcher of iced lemonade and a glass.
Aham looked at Gopi and watched her as she poured the lemonade into the glass. Her pallu was starting to slip off her head and her hair was blowing in the rare cool summer breeze. In the shade of the umbrella Gopi looked more tempting than the cold drink she was pouring.
Aham took the glass she offered and said, "Thanks, where is yours?"
Gopi totally taken aback by the question and stammered, "vo main, nahi, ander..."
Aham frowned, "what are you doing inside?"
Gopi could never put a sentence together when Ahamji was looking at her. Especially when he looked so good in the natural light of the sun. Em, even though he was in the shade, "vo, handkerchiefs, embroidery..."
Aham got the gist of what she was trying to say and replied, "can you do it out here?"
Gopi already confused in Aham's presence, "here? Outside?"
Aham was starting to feel sorry for starting this conversation, "yes, here, outside," pointing at a chair across from him.
Gopi, "yes, do you need anything?"
"Yes, another glass."
"Glass? but...vo..." Looking at the glass in Aham's hand.
"For you, if you get thirsty."
Finally understanding. Okay not really, Gopi had no idea why Ahamji wanted her to sit outside with him. Maybe he wants me there just in case he needs something later and so that he doesn't have to yell for me. Gopi ran inside the house and gathered up the embroidery bag with all the paraphernalia and started to run out before she remembered the glass. A big grin came over her face as she ran back outside with the glass. In her rush she forgot all about covering her face and sat down on the chair across from Aham.
Gopi poured more lemonade from the pitcher for Aham and then some for herself. They both stared each as they both took a moment to enjoy a rare moment of solitude. This must be the first time that the two of them had ever spent any time together completely alone. Even Mani was out.
The both quickly looked away and Aham went back to his newspaper and Gopi started sorting through her embroidery. For long while both were busy in their tasks but did look at each other from time to time without the other being aware of it. It was a beautiful setting. The terrace was surrounded by large trees to give them privacy from outside world. The summer flowers were in full bloom and mother nature had decided that Aham and Gopi needed comfort on this warm day by giving them a gentle cool breeze. You could hear the rustling of the leaves as the breeze travelled up through the trees. The atmosphere was taking its affect on Goham and both were finally able to relax and focus on their mundane tasks and just enjoy being together.
Finally the silence was broken by a hesitant, "Ahamji..."
Aham put the newspaper down on the table and raised his eyebrow in question.
Gopi quietly said, "vo, maaji usually writes your initials on the handkerchiefs for me to embroider." She showed him a beautifully crafted handkerchief for Aham to admire.
Aham looked up from embroidery in question.
"vo, mai...I ran out." She looked away thinking that she shouldn't break the peace and quiet of the afternoon by reminding Ahamji that she couldn't write his name to continue her work. She looked down. She was terrified that he was going get angry and she was never going to get to spend some time with her husband. Why was she so stupid? Why didn't she just copy the design from the last hanky? Why did she have to go and disturb the moment because she may never have this again. She started to get tears in her eyes just in anticipation of loss.
Aham knew something was going on in her head but was puzzled. He too didn't want anything to disturb the peace and quiet of the afternoon. He look the rest of the hankies and noticed they were just plain. Finally it dawned on him that there was nothing written on them as well and she couldn't write. The usual emotions that came with the thought of her illiteracy were missing today. He took his pen out of the journal and wrote his name on the remaining hankies and handed them back to Gopi.
Gopi looked up at Aham and then at the hankies and back at Aham him in question. A huge grin cam over her face as she realized what he had done. Seeing the smile, Aham too could feel happiness wash over him. He had to stop himself otherwise he too would have the matching grin on his face.
Gopi quickly went back to putting the hankie on the frame and noticed that the letters were different.
"Ahamji, this looks different than how maaji writes your initials."
"I wrote my full name out in English instead of just my initial in Hindi as mom does."
"Achcha! If you prefer English then I will only do it that way in the future."
Aham picked up journal and decided to write for a bit. But he couldn't keep Gopi's happy grin out of his mind.
Finally he asked, "You told that boy at the temple that you didn't go to school but why didn't you?"
"I did when I was very little but I was too stupid to continue."
"WHAT?!" Even though, he had called her stupid numerous times, this was contrary to what he had seen of her.
"Ji. Ahamji. You know that I am stupid..it is true. I couldn't learn anything at school and the teachers used to complain to Mami and she said it was a waste of money to send me to back to school."
"What are you talking about! You're not stupid".
"Ahamji. It is true. When I tried to learn my letters and reading. The teacher would tell us how to read the word...I would think I understood but when the teacher asked me to read I would read the words backwards."
"You saw the words backwards and mixed up?"
"Yes. Stupid, right?"
"No. That is dyslexia. Lots of people have it."
"what is dyluxfia?"
"Dyslexia. It is a condition of the brain which makes the words appear different than what they are. It is easy to correct. The teachers shouldn't have called you stupid."
"But I was or I am. Maami said I couldn't do anything right. I always keep making mistakes. I am not as smart like Rashi".
"CHUP! Don't talk like that. You're not stupid."
That stopped the conversation short. For a while both were busy with their work. Aham furiously writing in his journal and Gopi focused on her hankies. Both appeared to be lost in their thoughts.
"Ahamji, why did you marry me?"
Aham was not expecting that question and taken off guard by it. He was quiet for so long that Gopi thought he hadn't heard her.
"Why did you marry me?"
"Because mom wanted me to."
"But why did you do it. "
"I have never been able to say no to mom. Why did you?"
"Yes. Why did you do it?"
"I didn't really have a say in the beginning. Then when I found out you loved someone else I tried to say no. But then your letter..." as she realized what she was saying her voice trailed off.
"We'll talk about the letter another time. Why didn't you have a say?"
"Maaji had come to see Rashiben for you. I wanted everything to go perfectly so I spent a lot of time making sure everything was done just right. As I was serving the food Maaji put the kangan on me. I didn't know what to do. I had never thought marriage...let alone someone like you."
"Someone like me?"
"Ji..vo..someone with you stature. Your looks. Why would I even dream that high."
"what kind of man did you want to marry."
"Someone who would be happy to have someone like me in his life."
"Was there someone you had in mind?"
"Nahin! nahin! All I know is that whoever it was I would spend the rest of my life making sure they didn't regret being stuck with someone like me. "
"Gopi, why do you speak like that?"
"Ahamji, I will always make sure I do everything to make you happy. That I do nothing to make your life difficult. I don't know why despite all my efforts things always go wrong."
"Let's not talk about that. Drink your neebu paani!"
"Ji. Aap bhi!"
As Aham put his journal down. He watched Gopi like she was a puzzle he would like to solve. What kind of life did this girl lead before mom found her? How could anyone call her stupid when all she had was dyslexia? How did anyone deprive her of the basic things in life? Despite all of this she seems to be the most unassuming person on this earth. All she wanted was someone who appreciated her and she is stuck with me who told her within a few days of getting married that he could never love her. Was mom right, would this girl add simplicity to his complicated life? A deep sigh escaped Aham's lips and as he reached for his glass he noticed the completed handkerchief that Gopi has placed on the table. He picked it up to check what she had done. The embroidery was beautifully intricate design that decorated name he had written. He was shocked to see the name he had written was GOPI. He quickly reached to check the other hankies...they all had GOPI written on them. He quickly dropped them back in the neat pile that she had in front of her. He could not believe he had done that. Why would he write her name on his hankies?
He picked up his journal with shaky hand to continue writing and sort out why he had done that. When he reached the page where he had left off he didn't find his writing but a picture of Gopi he had drawn during their conversation!
WHAT WAS GOING ON!?!?!?!?
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