Joined: 02 July 2012
"Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depths of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
I am looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more."
- Alfred Tennyson
It was 4th February 2013, exactly two weeks since Rashmi Bhargav was convicted. Convicted of being a terrorist, of being a traitor, of betraying the country that she proudly called hers.
Yes, she was free, finally free. But nothing in this world, nothing could ever erase the memories of those painful, tormenting 14 days of her life. Every moment had felt like an impenetrable prison closing in on her. She had yelled, begged, prayed... that she was innocent. But it was no use. Nobody believed her.
Nobody but one... who trusted her till the end... who was the only ray of hope in the dark storm. In fact, it was only because of his efforts that she was proved innocent. She knew deep down that he too didn't sleep for those 14 days. But even he cannot wipe the memories of those 14 days from her mind.
Rashmi jerked as a taxi whizzed past her. She realized that she had taken the wrong route. Her home was on the left... oh, not home, house. A house where no one lived. Her father and brother left her alone, grieving and now, Bhabhi and Mithu were gone too... The moment the harsh reality had sunk in, she realized that her state would directly affect them. So, she called her Bhabhi and asked her to go to her parents' place with Mithu. She requested her not to ask any questions and convinced her that she was alright. It was not easy but she had to do it. She did not want to worry them, especially Mithu. That poor child had already been through so much. She could not hurt him anymore.
A lone tear escaped her eyes. Subconsciously she touched the pendant that her brother had given her. His last gift. When he and dad had left her, she did not know how to live but somehow she managed to. Today felt the same. For 14 days, her soul had been shattered and smashed to pieces. Soulless... lifeless... yes, that's what she felt like.
She slowly made her way to her home... no, house... she again corrected herself. Mrs. Verma, her neighbor, smiled at her and asked her something. She nodded once in her direction but without saying anything further rushed inside. The room was dark; it felt like night even in the broad daylight. However, she did not bother to open the curtains. She liked it this way. This darkness... enveloping her... overwhelming her.
Her phone rang but she did not seem to listen. She walked to her room, kept her things aside and lay on her bed. Her muscles ached, every part of her body felt sore. She curved into a ball and shook uncontrollably as the tears slowly made their way out of her eyes. Tears... the only thing telling her that she was alive...
She woke up with a start and looked at the wall clock. It was 6 PM. She must have fallen asleep while crying, she reasoned. She lay for a few more moments on her bed. However, she could not sleep because every time she closed her eyes it would happen all over again. So she finally gave up on sleeping and wandered to the bathroom.
The warm water felt good. It loosened the knots, all the sore spots and she relaxed a little. The water soothed her prickling wrists. She let the water drain as she cried some more. The unbridled tears fell and fell and fell...
STF Officer Randeep Rathore walked towards his jeep. It was 8 o'clock. He tried calling Rashmi once again but he already knew that it would go unanswered. And so it happened. Earlier in the day when he had proved her innocence, he had breathed a sigh of relief. He himself wanted to give the news to her that she was innocent and that she was free to go. He had wanted to see the twinkle in her eyes, the smile playing on her lips, the tears of happiness, as she would thank him. He had also imagined that he would say 'It was my duty' and then, ask her out to dinner. Just the two of them.
But nothing happened the way he had imagined. In fact she didn't come to see him at all and now she wasn't even picking her phone.
Suddenly he wanted to see her. Not because he feared that she would have done something stupid just... he had to see her... so, he jumped on his jeep and swerved towards her house.
Rashmi looked at her reflection in the mirror. She looked... pale... ghastly. She no longer recognized the person in it. She had become thin and the twinkle in her eyes was gone. Her lips were bleeding and there were dark circles under her eyes. She blinked... once, twice, thrice... but the image did not disappear. She gave a bitter laugh. Her worst nightmare had come true.
Just then, the front doorbell rang. She tried to ignore it but it rang relentlessly. It must be the neighbors, she told herself. She contemplated whether to open the door or not but finally decided that she should. And so she did... Only it was not someone she expected to see.
Worried, breathless... at her doorstep.
Both of them stood there staring at each other for an infinite moment. Finally, Randeep spoke.
"I called you."
Rashmi nodded her head slowly as if in a dream and checked her phone. Yup, the screen read -Randeep 30 miss calls.
"I am sorry... I must have fallen asleep..."
Silence. Their eye lock continued.
"I brought you some food."
"I have already eaten," Rashmi lied quickly.
Randeep stood on the doorway, unsure what to do next. His initial relief that she was okay was overcome by despair. She was crying again. Her eyes were puffy and swollen.
"Thanks," Rashmi said abruptly.
Randeep looked up. Did Rashmi say thanks to him?
"Thanks... for everything... for believing in me when no one did... thank you very much."
She looked at her feet uncertain how to continue.
"Can I come inside?"
Rashmi nodded and left the doorway.
Randeep looked around. Except the fact that Mithu and Bhabhi were missing, the house looked pretty much the same.
"I will get you some water," Rashmi said but before she could turn, Randeep held her hand.
"I don't want anything. I want you to sit down and have dinner. Please..." Randeep begged.
He slowly released her.
"How did you..."
"I am a cop."
Rashmi understood that it was no use lying. Randeep already knew. So, she pulled a chair while he swiftly got two plates and set the dinner.
It wasn't until the dinner was served that Rashmi realized that she was famished. So, without thinking twice she gulped the food as humanely as possible. Out of the corner of the eye, she noticed Randeep giving a chuckle.
When the dinner was done, Randeep helped her with the dishes, each stealing a look at the other every once in awhile.
"How's Nani?" Rashmi began.
Randeep, who was engrossed in his work, startled upon hearing her voice.
"She's fine... she misses you."
Rashmi took a deep breath as the tears threatened to spill.
"No, I told her that you were out of town."
"I miss her too," Rashmi whispered, after a while.
Randeep's heart broke seeing her this way. She looked... so vulnerable... so broken... she was not the smiling, brave girl he had once met.
Hesitantly, he placed his hand upon hers hoping that this little gesture would tell her that he was there... for her... always.
Rashmi looked at him, his hand felt so good, so warm in her cold one.
They again stared at each other, each assessing the new yet familiar feelings. In the midst of the silence, they could feel each other's heartbeats. It was strange actually, how they found comfort and solace in each other.
"I think I should go," Randeep said, withdrawing his hand.
He almost reached the doorway when Rashmi stopped him.
"Please... please... don't go... please... stay... Mithu and Bhabhi... I have never been alone..."
She broke down into sobs. She tried very hard to restrain the tears but they wouldn't stop.
The very next moment, she felt strong arms embracing her. She too hugged him back for dear life.
Randeep had no idea what prompted the gesture. He just held her in his arms while she cried. He thought of saying something, anything to console her but words abandoned him. The girl he cared the most about continued sobbing in his arms but he was unable to do anything. He felt strangely helpless. The helplessness was soon replaced by anger, at himself and at the person who was responsible for her condition. If only he knew who was behind it... if only...
It took a long time for her sobs to subside. She stirred. It was then that she pulled back a little, trying to put some distance between them, her cheeks a crimson red.
She expected Randeep to say something, probably run away after what conspired between them. She mentally berated herself for putting him in such an embarrassing situation, waiting for him to turn away any moment. But it didn't happen. Rather, he wordlessly helped her to the sofa and fetched her glass of water.
"Are you okay?"
Rashmi's breath caught by such concern and warmth that he radiated. Without saying anything, his eyes were conveying a thousand feelings.
"Yeah... I am fine, I..." she was about to say something when he interrupted.
"Rashmi Ji, it's okay. I understand what you are going through right now. You are hurt, in pain. I cannot... I cannot possibly see you in this condition. I am your friend and I will be there as long as you need me." He looked at her in that moment, his eyes reflecting his resolve.
"So, you will stay?"
Randeep gave a small smile or perhaps an amused smile, she thought as he gave a slight nod.
Maybe, all was not lost.
Ek ajnabi sa ehsaas dil ko sataye
shayad yahi to pyaar hai
betabiyon mein dhadkan meri chal paye
shayad yahi to pyaar hai
kuch bhi kaha na
kuch bhi suna na
bechain dil hai humara
behke kadam hai
mushkil main hum hai
sambhle bhala kaise yaara
chahe bina bhi
nazdeek hum chale aaye
shayad yahi toh pyaar hai
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