Joined: 28 June 2012
This one is for M and Souji, who I am missing...
It is also for Uma, who feels that I write well, though I am not totally satisfied with this OS
It is also for Khushi, who made me feel better today
And it is to lighten up our moods in the absence of AnSh...
Shiv and Anandi. The names were going to go down in history as pathbreakers in rural development. A sarpanch and a collector, tied together by duty and tied together by the marital bond. Unexpected as it was, the handsome and stern collector, who inspired fear in most of the people who crossed his path, and the dainty, emotional yet logical, beautiful sarpanch of Jaitsar had made it past all obstacles to forge a common path. Gone were the days when they awkwardly pushed aside their respective prejudices to form a deep friendship. Gone were the days when their union faced objections from some of their dear ones. Gone were the days when deep, dark fears held Anandi back from considering Shiv as more than a friend. And gone were the days when Shiv held back his feelings.
Their married life started with a bang. During one of the most important pre-wedding rituals, Shiv had to face the biggest humiliation of his official life. A stain on his so-far unstained record. Caused by the biggest blight in Anandi's life (her ex-husband, Jagya), Shiv was embroiled in one of the biggest breaches of trust he had ever faced. What other public officials would have shrugged off as inconsequential, Shiv could not. He had to put the issue to rest before his new life began. The bright spot in this dark time was Anandi, who stood beside him like a rock, her faith unswerved.
Though Jagya's confession (spurred on by Anandi's vociferous slam-dunk) cleared the immediate issue, Shiv had to look into the loop holes in his own office and relook at his all-too-trusting behavior to ensure that nothing of the sort ever happened again.
So, they married, and returned to Circuit House, full of new hopes and dreams. But still, a distance was maintained… the distance of friendship and trust, the distance of waiting for a signal, and the distance of time and work. Shiv was busy setting his office back to normalcy and Anandi was busy adjusting to her new life, away from the Singhs. Her work, as usual, was paramount – village issues, the nehar project, and the everyday work of a newly married woman.
In the back of her mind played the dread that she was responsible for what had happened. That Jagya would never have done what he did if it weren't for her. A strange new hesitancy crept in, which Shiv tried to dispel with his constant avowals of love. But, at the moment, Anandi had nothing to give except her trust and her sweet smiles.
A month crept by. A month interspersed with smiles, blushes, and unintentional and no-so-intentional touches. Each day, they grew closer emotionally, and each day, Anandi looked forward to seeing and adoring her husband. They shared a bedroom, but had yet to take "the" final step. She had, in her own soft way, acknowledged her feelings for him several times over but something held her back from the final commitment – the "I love you" – that would bind their hearts together, and leave her open to hurt once again.
And then one day, while sharing their breakfast, she looked up from her plate to catch Shiv staring at her adoringly, a deep-rooted longing in his eyes. As she stared back unblinkingly, a voice inside her seemed to say, "What is wrong with you, Anandi? Here is the man of your dreams, loving you, wanting you, and proving that he will always stand by your side forever… and you still doubt yourself?" Shaking herself like a little puppy dog, she came back to earth with a start and smiled at Shiv. Seeing her smile, an embarrassed Shiv jumped up, "Main office chalta hoon, Anandi. Meeting ke waqt pahunch jaana. Main gaadi bhej doonga."
Flying high on her newfound resolve, Anandi rushed through her day's work… She went to office, and found herself unable to do anything more than stare at her love. Shiv had to snap her out of it a few times. The panchayat had a good smirk at the newly married couples' dilemma. Anandi found several excuses to hang around the office till Shiv was free, notwithstanding his several instructions to go home and rest.
In the jeep, on their way back home, Anandi suddenly put her hand on Shiv's thigh. "Rukiye na. Mujhe ghar jaane ka bilkul mood nahi ho raha. Kahin drive pe chalte hain?" Smiling tenderly at his childlike bride, Shiv acquiesced. Aah, if she only knew that he would gladly lay down his life for her.
Driving silently under the moonlit sky, Anandi suddenly said, "Collector Sahib, is raste chaliye na. Bahut khubsoorat lag raha hai." Their silence deep and understanding, they drove on till they reached a large barren area. "Aapko yeh jagah yaad hai kya, Collector Sahib?" Drawing up, Shiv looked around and said, "Arre, yeh toh…" "Jee haan, Collector Sahib, yeh wahi jagah hai jahaan aapne mujhe pehli baar bachaaya tha… sirf ghode se hi nahin, balki apne aap se." Shiv spun around and stared at her in shock. This was indeed where he had stopped a runaway cart, only to be taken for the ride of his life, to a destination he had never even dreamed off.
Anandi smiled gently at him, "Main bahut dinon se aapse kuch kehna chahti thi. Magar himmat hi nahin jutta payee. Aaj socha ki maine aapko bahut tarsaaya hai. Aapne to baar baar mujhese kaha hai ki aap mujhse pyaar kartein hain, magar …" Shiv could not believe what he was hearing. Pinching himself silently, and softly breathing out "ouch," he looked up to see Anandi eyeing him with her trademark amusement in her eyes. But, there was something more there.
She reached out her hands and gently took his hand in hers. Looking at the reddened pinch mark on his wrist, she gently caressed the tiny hurt with her fingertips. Sighing deeply, she raised his hand to her face, cupping it around her cheek like a dearly beloved cushion. Gently kissing his wrist, she said "Shiv, mujhe isse acchi jagah hi nahin soojhi, jahaan main aapse keh sakoon ki main aapse bahut pyaar karti hoon. Mere liye, aap aur aapka yeh pyaar anmol hain. Yeh rishta, jo itne dino se mere dil mein jagah bana raha tha, yeh hi meri jeene ki wajah hai. Aap aur main, main aur aap… hamesha, hamesha ke liye."
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