Matters Of The Heart…
Early morning sunrays streak in, making a beautiful pattern of prisms at the Goddess’s feet. The light catches on Krishna’s earrings throwing multiple little rainbows all around as she stands, her head bowed in prayer.
She has never been overly religious, Krishna. The Gods or Goddesses, for her, have been the only ones with whom she could openly discuss her woes, her fears, draw motivation and gain hope from. So for her, prayer, is nothing but talking to the Goddess as if she stands opposite her. Listening to Krishna’s every word, with that serene smile on her face.
Thank you! She says now to the Goddess. Thank you for everything you have blessed me with. And my daughter too. Take care of her Mother. Since I am not there with her, now that she needs me most… Give her the strength, Mother. Be with her.
And thank you Mother, for Ananta too. For giving me a friend in him like none other I have ever had. Thank you for smiling down on me from up there, really. But I do not understand where you are taking me with this Mother… Ananta inspires thoughts in me that are so foreign to me, so alien… and yet, so familiar… I am scared sometimes… I am scared of myself, for what I find myself hoping for….wanting…
Do not play with me Mother, I beg of you. I do not know what mysterious ways your mind works in… but you know it Mother, as do I, that I will not be able to bear a broken heart. I am not that strong. Please Mother, don’t test me this way. Please give me some indication of what’s to come. Give me some sign, Mother…
“Top of the morning to you!”
Krishna smiles into her joined palms before she opens her eyes. As she turns, her face lights up at the mere sight of him.
Visiting the temple on Fridays is her routine. But visiting the temple, on his way back from his morning walk, isn’t his, she knows.
“What are you doing here?” she smiles.
“I am on my way back home after my walk.” He says. “Saw you walk into the temple. Been waiting since,” he shrugs. “Are you about done?”
“Yes, I am.”
As they walk out together, the priest greets Krishna with joined hands in a Namaste gesture, and she reciprocates. She also sees several other people, regulars at the temple. She smiles and greets them as usual. And suddenly, she is aware of where they are and how close Ananta walks next to her. Unexpectedly, she feels conscious of people in the temple looking at them – the people from their own neighbourhood, acquaintances – it is a small town after all. She steps away a little.
Puzzled, Ananta follows.
“What did I do?”
Krishna purses her lips. Looks away. She doesn’t know how to answer him.
They are on Krishna’s back porch, having one of their routine teas together. Krishna sits brooding while Ananta tries, unsuccessfully, to make sense of her behaviour. He is still miffed at what happened in the morning.
“What did I do Krishna?” he asks again.
She looks at him.
“I don’t like things awkward like this,” he says with a sigh.
She is unable to meet his eyes.
“We are not teenagers Krishna. We are old enough to…”
“Yes, Ananta. We are old enough,” she says finally.
“I am just saying we are old friends. Childhood friends for crying out loud!”
“What’s happened? Why did you suddenly go all awkward in the morning? I go for a walk every day. You know that. I saw you go in the temple so I walked in too. I figured, since we were both going back home, we could go together. What did I do wrong?”
“Ananta… please. I don’t know what came over me. But sometimes, I am just… scared… I am scared of my own thoughts. Of how you and I… Don’t get me wrong Ananta, but… going for a play once in a while is one thing… but going everywhere together…being always seen together…”
“Goodness, Krishna!” he stands up, livid. “You make it sound like we are teenagers sneaking behind our parents’ back!” “How does it matter if it is a darkened theatre or a temple in broad daylight?” he asks throwing up his hands. “We are doing nothing wrong! We are friends, Krishna – friends who enjoy each other’s company. And if that means we go to places together or take walks together, it makes perfect sense to me. I go for a walk with other friends too. No one has a problem with that…”
“That is different Ananta…”
“Why? Why is that different?”
“Because….the guilt is in my mind Ananta. And I see the judgement reflected in people’s eyes.”
“Guilt? What guilt? Why should you feel guilty about being friends with anyone? You are a grown
woman Krishna, no one has the right to decide who you should be friends with, except you!”
“And what if it is not merely friendship I want?” she whispers.
The silence that follows is absolute. Birds, as if sensing the enormity of what Krishna has just said, go quiet. No sounds come from beyond the gate. No noises from the neighbourhood. Surely, there are things happening out there, beyond the gate; but for now, there is nothing but silence between Krishna and Ananta. Making it extremely difficult for her to breathe. And Ananta… her best friend…her rock… her Ananta doesn’t help… He looks away.
“Do you really mean it?” he asks after an eternity.
He stands with his back to her. She cannot see his face as he asks this, but the honest yearning she hears in his voice takes her breath away.
And just like that, it is twilight, and they are back in the woods behind the temple where they had been over three decades ago. The day clearly etched in both their minds when a conversation very similar to the present one, had taken place between them. When they were barely out of their teens.
When the world looked full of possibilities for him and full of responsibilities for her. The day when, it was Ananta who had uttered similar words… asked for something more than friendship… and the day Krishna had felt she wasn’t equipped to give him what he asked for. The day that had driven Ananta away from her – angry that she hadn’t understood him. The day Krishna had chosen someone else over Ananta. Because Ananta needed more time to be eligible enough to come ask her father for Krishna’s hand. Because Krishna’s younger sister needed to get married, soon, to the man whose child she was carrying; and they couldn’t wait too long, lest her pregnancy showed.
At the time, Krishna had done the only thing she felt was right to do. Given up on her own feelings and happiness, so her family could save face. And she had resolutely refused to even think about how she had broken Ananta’s heart in doing so.
Of course, she has paid a heavy price for doing that, considering the marriage she has had. But she has stoically borne it all. Not merely for her daughter, if she is really honest; but also because she always thought it was her penance. The atonement for hurting Ananta despite knowing how much they meant to each other.
She has never expected Ananta to forgive her. But now… now she feels as if nothing has changed. As if he has never held her in contempt. As if, he has, always been merely waiting for her to come to her senses.
“Do you really mean it Krishna?” he asks again. “Because, I am a little old, you know… and at this age, the heart can give nasty surprises if I put it through what I put it through in my youth…”
She starts to say something as he turns to face her. He still keeps the distance, though, as if afraid to come too close.
“Don’t… Please don’t say something that you are not sure of. I know you don’t mean to hurt me Krishna, but let me tell you now, that it hurts, every time the heart breaks, it hurts… no matter how old one is. So before you say anything, please think if you have the courage to leave the comfort of… of norms and approvals and everything that you hold sacred. Because courage, Krishna, or comfort; we can choose only one. We cannot have both…”
“I never chose comfort over you Ananta. And although you now know what I have lived through, the fact remains, that a life without you, was never going to be a comfort anyway… But I hear you. I know what you are saying. And that, Ananta, is why I am scared. Because I still want what I have always wanted.”
“Then please don’t do what you have always done Krishna. Don’t push your feelings away… Don’t… break… my heart, again.”