The cold monsoon wind blew over the sands of the beach. He was sitting, watching the setting sun that filled the sky with reddish hue. It was scenic, but he wasn’t enjoying it, just looking at it with an impassive face. His mind was thinking of his past, a past that was filled with emotions of only one sort…
Manohar was aborted at an early age. He did his schooling in an institution that cared for the blind people and a graduation in Information Technology under a scholarship reserved for special people. People called him special, but he regarded himself as one not fit to be social, not fit to see the beauty of nature, in short, not fit to live. He had only one friend, Shiva.
He stood university first at the end of his graduation, but still got placed only in a night-shift inbound call centre along with Shiva. He just had to attend phone calls and speak diplomatically to people who called from all over the world. The table next to his was occupied by a young lady by the name of Padma.
Padma was tall, had a fair complexion, straight and silky hair that hung down till her shoulders. She always wore saris even in this age during which western culture is imported more than anything else. She too was an orphan; her parents were killed in the 2008 Mumbai attack. She never mingled with anyone. All she knew was her workspace and a small apartment that she inherited.
It was 6:15 that morning. Shiva and Manohar were heading to the canteen for some refreshments. It was crowded, people with their sleeves rolled up and ties loosened were bustling around with plates on their hands. ‘Hey, shiv! Here,’ Keshav called out to Shiva, pointing to the two nearby seats. Keshav got down at the same stop as them.
‘Manohar, wanna smoke?’ said Keshav, pulling out a cigarette.
‘No, I don’t smoke,’ said Manohar smiling.
‘Fine, will you guys join me this evening at our neighbouring pub?’ asked Keshav.
‘Not a problem for me,’ said Shiva.
‘Sorry again, I am not used to all those,’ said Manohar.
‘Manohar, you don’t smoke and you don’t drink. You know what my girlfriend said? She said I should be like you, a gem among men. But, I can’t even imagine life without all these,’ said Keshav.
Padma, sitting behind them, was listening to all these while having her drink. She smiled at these words of Keshav and craned her neck slightly to look at Manohar. Noticing the smoked spectacles he was wearing and the folded white stick in his left hand, she was stunned. This was the first time she saw him properly in over two months of being his neighbour in the office and only then she realized he was blind. Her father used to say that god closes a door if he opens another and she understood that now. She quickly finished her drink and walked past the three men.
‘Shiva, you know her?’ said Keshav lifting his head towards Padma who was just leaving the canteen.
‘Yeah, the most decent girl I know of,’ replied Shiva.
‘Right… Saris, a handbag without cosmetics, footwear without heels and a cheap phone; not to my taste certainly,’ said Keshav shaking his head.
On hearing this, Manohar was glad that there were women of this kind even at this time. And this was the first impression Padma made on him.
After a night’s work, Manohar left the office a few minutes after six. Shiva stayed at home that they both had rented as he had severe back-ache, something call centre people would develop frequently. Manohar was walking to the station alone, helping himself with his walking stick. Following him behind was Padma, in a dark green sari and crimson red blouse. They had monthly passes, thus crossed the ticket counter and entered the platform. Their usual train came with its headlight shining on the railway tracks. When it stopped, Padma got onto it, but Manohar was trying to find the entrance by tapping his stick on the compartment and moving across it. On seeing this, Padma got down hesitantly and caught hold of his hand saying ‘I’ll help you.’ No one else had said these words to him; it was exotic to his ears. All his life, he had helped himself.
On getting into the train she made him sit down on a chair and sat next to him.
‘This voice sounds familiar,’ said Manohar.
‘It should, because I work next to you,’ Padma said.
‘Oh yeah! I recognize it now.’ Manohar said, realizing that it was the same woman they were talking about the other day.
Meanwhile, the train came to a halt at the next stop and three men got onto it. They came and sat opposite Padma and Manohar. One of the men gave Manohar a strange glance.
‘Hey, look at this. A blind man! And that too with a beautiful girl!’ said he.
‘Hey blind! How do you survive like this?’ said another.
The man who had not spoken anything till then stood up, closed his eyes, aligned his fingers around an imaginary stick and started walking slowly with his hand moving here and there in order to imitate the tapping action.
‘Sir, madam, please give me some money. I am blind, please help me. Like this, of course!’ said he, resuming his seat.
Manohar remained silent throughout. Padma was quite angry at this and was surprised why Manohar didn’t heed to all these. When the train stopped at the next station, Padma took Manohar’s hand and dragged him to the next compartment.
‘Why did you do that? I am used to all these….. I grew up with all these.’ said Manohar.
‘But I couldn’t withstand it. How so cheap they were! ’ exclaimed Padma.
But I couldn’t withstand it… Those were the only words that ran through his mind throughout that day. He loved that moment, he wanted to revisit the past and extend that one moment in which a person truly cared for him. For the first time in his life, he was sad that he hasn’t got eyesight. Manohar didn’t know why his thoughts went so wild and he couldn’t understand what was happening to him, something was running through him, his insides went so cold and he wanted to listen to melodious romantic songs that seemed to describe all these symptoms. He finally realized that he had got what people call, love.
On New Year eve, Shiva came to Manohar’s table at about 11:30 pm.
‘Mano, boss isn’t there. Keshav and I are planning to celebrate New Year at his house. Why don’t you join us?’ asked Shiva.
‘What are you talking? We have work to complete,’ said Manohar.
‘Don’t be so workaholic. We need some break, its New Year eve,’ said Shiva.
‘I am married to my work. I can’t leave her and go around,’ said Manohar.
Hearing all these, Padma smiled to herself and was glad to work along with a man like him. She removed her headset, leaned back and fell in deep thought. After some time she reached a decision and wondered what made her take it. ‘Happy new year everyone!’ someone shouted. It was 12 o’clock and the room was filled with voices exchanging wishes. Padma went to Manohar’s side.
‘Happy new year!’ she said.
He couldn’t understand the words. There wasn’t any problem with his primary auditory cortex, the problem was with his heart, and it weighed so much suddenly. The girl you love is coming to you and wishing you voluntarily, wouldn’t you be struck with a spell of… You can imagine it.
On the first day next year, Manohar told everything to Shiva. Shiva was dumbfounded. After taking everything in, he just said ‘Go and tell her.’
Next day, in the canteen, Shiva urged Manohar to go and propose to her.
‘She is a perfect match for you, just tell her. She will agree, because no one can be perfect like you,’ saying thus, Shiva hugged him. He helped him to the corner where Padma was standing and left silently. ‘I want to tell you something,’ spluttered Manohar, with his head bent down.
‘I love you!’ said Padma, looking at his smoked spectacles. ‘I have decided. If there is a man in my life, it will be you…. You are a quintessence among men…… How could a girl ever think of another man after knowing you,’ stammered Padma.
Thus blossomed love between them and it flowered without going stale.
‘I have known him for the past four years, he has never cared for anyone other than me and now you,’ said Shiva leaning on the window ledge and watching Padma who was sitting on the only chair they had in their room.
‘He hasn’t even prayed for his eyesight until the second you said you love him.’
‘Have you ever tried for an eye-transplantation, it’s too common these days,’ said Padma.
‘No… I never thought of it.’
Padma was surprised on how this notion hadn’t reached him. She left their house with a promise of enquiring about the related procedure. On the same night in their office Padma came to Shiva’s desk, told him that a nearby general hospital has the facility for the same and that Manohar can get eyesight if he is admitted immediately. When Shiva enquired about the cost, the glowing face of Padma became dim suddenly.
‘It’s expensive, but we don’t have a choice. I am determined to do this,’ she said.
‘But how?’ asked Shiva.
‘My flat…. I can sell it.’
‘But it’s the only property you have.’
‘No. I have Manohar… And he is everything to me.’
In the registrar’s office, next day, during the signing process her hands began to tremble and she put the pen down, crying. The flat was her only reminder of her dead parents where they had lived there for the past twenty-four years.
After the formalities they collected the money and went to their office to obtain leave for that night. When they finally boarded the train to the hospital the time was 10:30 pm. The compartment was empty except for five men in a dark corner. Shiva noticed that the men were looking strangely at Padma and were pointing at her. One of the men, large and ugly, came forward, grabbed her arm and threw her to the floor. Shiva instantly flew at the man and hit him in his chest. He reeled back, and another man jumped up and held Shiva with his hands pinned behind his back. The man who Shiva had hit started removing his dress quickly. Padma started screaming and Shiva struggled, both in vain. The man above Padma hit her when she protested and when he couldn’t endure her cries, he lunged her head on the iron seating. At that point, she just fainted with blood oozing out of her forehead. When he had done with her, she just let out a moan while Shiva cried at the top of his voice and turned his head away. The other men followed this and when they were done, left the compartment at the stop that came immediately.
Manohar opened his eyes and let light enter them for the first time. He saw a tall, clean shaven man standing nearby. Manohar leaped out of the bed and hugged Shiva. After exchanging pleasantries, he turned around, but there was no woman to be seen. There was a woman’s body in the adjacent bed, with a white bandage rolled around the eyes.
‘Where’s Padma?’ asked Manohar.
Shiva started crying and pointed to Padma’s body. The black tone of his life was replaced with a tint of blue.
The sun had set and darkness prevailed the sky. The man stood up from where he was sitting. ‘All I asked for was her heart, but she gave me only her eyes. Eyes that are no longer of any use to me,’ he said to himself.