Silent Nights – a short fiction

He stepped on to the sidewalk and switched to a leisurely pace, his office bag swinging from his right shoulder. The time was 8 pm.

Surya looked at the shops lining the platform; their brightly lit signboards, that looked even brighter after sunset and the garland of neon lamps surrounding their entry. The whole area was bustling with activity and he wondered why people took special interest in this place, especially during night time. The place was recommended to him by his secretary as a prescription for his fluctuating mood, which predominantly lied in the state of tension.

He found the restaurant at the end of the road. A magnificent black board displayed the name Cozee in red font. He took the corner table of the sea side restaurant and waited for someone to take his order. He didn’t expect a boy wearing red vest that was torn at a few places and trousers that looked like it hadn’t gone for a wash for more than a week. His eyes went through the menu card the boy gave him while his mind was occupied with the auditing that was to take place the next day.

“Just an apple shake,” he said. Raheem, the youngest waiter at Cozee, kept looking at him impassively. Surya repeated his order and watched the boy running to the next table. A bald headed man who couldn’t have been a day younger than sixty occupied the other chair of his table.

“He’s a deaf and dumb,” he said suddenly, his eyes fixed on the boy. Surya turned to his neighbour. “Then how come he understood what I said?” asked Surya.

“He paid close attention to your lip movement and guessed it,” replied his neighbour, matter of factly.

Surya was astounded. He turned to the next table and noticed a young couple throwing away their orders while Raheem was concentrating on their running lips. He felt pity for the boy, a defective product of god. As he slowly scanned the other tables his eyes fell on an attractive woman. She was clad in a pink sari. She had a fair complexion and was devoid of any make-up. She had a long nose with a pointed end and her broad forehead boasted a pink bindhi. Surya felt an immediate pull towards her. He couldn’t let his eyes move away from her. There she was… the most beautiful making of god; how could He create the best and the worst with the same hands! Surya thought.

Having taken the order of the couple Raheem ran to his most favourite customer, Anandhi. They were having an animated conversation with hands playing in the air and faces covered with smiles. Surya was watching it without blinking. He admitted to himself that she looked great. He hadn’t admitted that much about any woman, save this girl. Slowly in his mind emerged a thought. Poor girl, Surya alleged, why such a pretty woman should be deprived from the power of speech. She is so good looking and apparently rich too. I can’t accept the fact she is dumb. Maybe congenital! He turned away suddenly, unable to bear such a thought.

After having his drink and leaving Raheem a huge tip Surya left for his car. He had intentionally parked his car near the bus stand so that he could get to walk the remaining distance. After reaching the end of the road with his mind occupied not with auditing but with the lady from the restaurant he turned to his left to cross the road.

Anandhi nearly bumped into him when he stopped suddenly and turned to his left and the handbag she was carrying slipped down from her shoulder. They both were staring into each other’s eyes. Surya stared at the woman he felt attracted to. She was so close to him that he could feel the warmth of her heavy breath and smell the aroma of her body which was so mesmerizing. Oh my god! He thought. This can’t be happening. Have I… have I fallen in…

Love… yes you have fallen in love! Anandhi thought. I felt it when I first saw him back at the restaurant with a striking charm around him, but is this it?! Surya’s face was only inches away from Anandhi’s and she saw nothing else. She could feel herself falling towards him like how you would feel while standing at the edge of a cliff.

There was a loud horn sound in the background that made both of them realise they have gone too deep. They bent down together to retrieve her bag. Surya picked up the items that had come out. He found everything a typical office-woman would have except a mobile phone. And then it occurred to him. No apologies and no mobile phone, so she is a deaf and dumb.

Anandhi was thankful that her fragile phone didn’t fall out from her bag. She replaced the bag over her right shoulder and crossed the road. Surya was walking with her, feeling jealous of her handbag that it had the privilege of resting over his love’s shoulder, much closer than he could get. He maintained a certain distance from her and was nearly walking in the middle of the one-way. A speeding car came along the road and screeched to a halt just as Anandhi caught hold of Surya’s hand and pulled him towards her. The car driver shouted a word that an Indian Censor Board official would have been more than happy to expurgate. Only then it occurred to Anandhi, Is he a deaf and dumb?! No expressions of apologies or thanks and no aural instincts; oh pity! He can’t be.

They walked side by side without exchanging a word and reached the bus stand. Surya came to the stop too; so that he could spend time in her proximity which was more relaxing than the sea side restaurant.  He turned towards her with some hesitation, only to find that she was boarding a bus. He was surprised he didn’t even notice its arrival. Altogether in another world eh? He teased himself.

Surya was lying down on his four-poster. He could bring that girl before him, her face giving all kinds of lovely expressions and her hands dancing in mid-air. What a woman!He didn’t care for her disability. He would devote his life to her and make sure she never feels wounded for the rest of her life. And tomorrow, he decided, he would tell her everything.

Everything… yes, I would devote everything to him, thought Anandhi, lying on her massive oak bed and hugging a pillow. And it’s going to be tomorrow! She had never expected the next day this much in her past twenty-four years.

He regarded her as his destiny. He couldn’t take her from his mind. He looked at his reflection on the glass doors of all the shops that he crossed on his way to the restaurant the next night. On reaching his table he was stunned, his heart skipped a beat. The girl, or rather his girl now, was seated there. She was clad in a green sari and a matching maroon blouse. There was something about her face that was brighter than the neon lamps of all those shops put together. Wow! She looks beautiful!  He slowly took his seat opposite her. They were looking away from each other for some time, an uncomfortable silence hanging in the air. And then it happened suddenly. Surya took her hands into his and locked eyes with her. That was all they did to propose to each other. The same silence now was more than comfortable. And then they realised the truth. Even hateful and unexciting silence becomes comfortable when you fall in love. You don’t have to say anything; just staring into the eyes of your loved ones will speak stories.

It was exactly three months since they fell in love with each other. They were walking together, hand in hand. Surya and Anandhi did not exchange a single word for whole of the three months mistaking the other to be deaf and dumb. They talked in actions and enjoyed the silence, never with regret or unhappiness. They were now heading to the same restaurant and took the corner table, as always. Anandhi needed this refreshment badly. She had a terrible week and a backlog of work to cover in the coming week. On top of all this was her manager stalking her. She gripped Surya’s hand even tightly and received a reassuring smile from him as though he understood what was running in her mind.

As Raheem placed their order with a smile on his face and turned to the next table Surya caught the boy’s hand and motioned him to wait. He retrieved a small plastic cover from his bag and pulled out what looked like a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He gave it to Raheem who was clapping and jumping with joy on seeing something like this being presented to him. The last time someone gave him something turned out to be a bearer plate and a kitchen towel. Surya hugged the boy. Raheem was frozen, his jaw dropped and eyes opened wide. He hadn’t experienced this privilege outside his dreams. Tears began rolling down his cheeks. He loved this customer! Surya got up and pulled him. He took the boy to the other side of the road leaving Anandhi with an ‘I-know-what-you-are-going-to-do’ smile. They entered a gift shop where Surya bought him a palmtop video game. It made Raheem’s day. Anandhi saw them coming out of the shop. They were having an animated conversation. Surya lifted the boy up and made him sit on the raised platform that was newly built. Surya pointed towards Anandhi and said in sign language that they were getting married. The boy clapped his hands, laughing uncontrollably. He told Surya that he was lucky to marry Anandhi as she sings very well, all in actions. Surya didn’t understand this. He shook his head and told Raheem that Anandhi cannot speak. Raheem clapped his forehead and told Surya that she can speak very well and she doesn’t speak to him so that he shouldn’t feel inferior. Surya didn’t know how to react. Can my Anandhi actually speak? Why didn’t she speak to me then?! Oh my god!

Surya just got up and ran to cross the road. Raheem jumped down and followed his favourite customer. There was a red Scorpio speeding down the beach road, after all it was a Saturday night. Anandhi saw the car and Surya running towards her without noticing the vehicle. She became nervous. Raheem was following Surya closely with his right hand outstretched and left hand gripping his first gift. The driver was concentrating more on his fast disappearing vodka than on the road. Anandhi stood up and ran towards the road. The car missed Surya by inches and hit the boy running behind.  Raheem’s first and last possession was thrown in air and fell next to his motionless body. Anandhi just sat down on the platform, petrified. She was holding her throat with her two hands and was trying to shout something but the words did not come out, nor could she hear anything; there was a long ear-piercing beep sound. At last she became what Surya mistook her to be, a deaf and dumb.

Surya stopped running and turned back, only to see a thick red fluid oozing out of the little boy’s body. The car driver dropped his vodka bottle on his lap and pressed both his legs on the accelerator.

Surya and Anandhi were walking down the beach road, each holding to the hands of their six year old son Raheem. During all those years they have only shared pure and passionate love and not a single word. Silence was, is and will always be comfortable to the two.

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