Had I been sleeping for too long? My body felt so rigid! And what was this smell? I sniffed, it smelled like wet earth. Was it petrichor or had someone recently upturned wet soil? I stretched my arms and tried to adjust my eyes to see better in the darkness. Where was I? Where was he? I looked around but he was not there! I ran here and there looking for him under the trees, behind the bushes, but he wasn’t to be seen anywhere. Was he dead? Then why was I alive? I wanted to die! I did drink the poison, but why was I not dead? And how did I end up here? This place was so eerie and cold!

I was filled with worry, and I wanted to go out to look for him. Oh God, please let him be safe! There were a hundred thoughts that raced through my mind, “How do I get out of here? Who should I ask for help?

What was it that I saw – a graveyard?!

There was a watchman at the gate! I shouted and tried to get his attention, but why wasn’t he listening? I was definitely within earshot…maybe he was deaf! I started walking towards the direction of the faint street light, coming from the far end.

Finally, I reached the main road and saw a cab coming.

Stop…stop…

Why didn’t it stop? A car coming…stop…please stop…help me! Frantically waving my hand and shouting, I signalled it to stop, but in vain! Such heartless people! Weren’t they worried about a distressed girl standing all alone on the road in the dark?! What should I do? Should I wait till dawn? Yes, it would be easy then to find a way to get out. I’d wait inside the graveyard, away from everyone – that should be safe for a young, lone girl like me, I decided.

I sat on the bench under a big banyan tree and my mind started racing again. This cruel world can never understand true love. So what if we have different castes, different economic statuses – does that mean we can’t love each other? We tried explaining but no one understood us. “Dying together is better than living without each other”, he had said and I had agreed as there was no other option.

Oh, how romantic that last night was, when I was with him in his farmhouse, the place we chose to execute our plan for eternal togetherness, a place that was away from the hustle-bustle of the city. I closed my eyes and that night started playing as if I had pressed a replay button.

****************** 

“Let’s celebrate before entering the ‘eternal togetherness’ that awaits us,” he said, before twirling me to the tune of the soft music playing in the background. As I turned, a huge portrait of a beautiful lady in black with a seducing smile caught my eye. The quote beneath it in bold red read, Lust feels like love until it’s time to make a sacrifice.” Varun saw me staring at the poster and asked, “Isn’t she beautiful?” 

“Yes, she is, but I like the words more. There is no lust between us. It is love, only pure love and we are going to sacrifice our lives for our love”. I kissed him and asked him, “But should we really? Varun, let’s rethink this. Are you sure your father will kill himself if you don’t marry that wealthy bitch, or is he just threatening you?”, I asked bitterly.

“Gauri, you don’t know my family. They can kill themselves or their own blood for honour but never allow marriage to a girl whose caste and status doesn’t match theirs.” 

“Then let me meet that rich girl, I will convince her not to marry you.” I asked hopefully.

“It’s not easy. It can affect my family’s business. After all, she is the business partner’s daughter and I don’t want my family to suffer because of me.”

“But Varun…..” Before I could finish, he put his lips on mine. He knew very well that his kiss made me weak in the knees!

“Varun, I love you so much!”

“Me too honey, let us unite our physical bodies one last time before the union of our souls in the afterlife,” he said while putting a silk scarf on my eyes.

“Why the blindfold?”

“So that you don’t know what to expect. The anticipation and the surprise will increase the pleasure. I want to give you my best for our last time!”, he said as he nibbled on my ear. I moaned. From ear to neck, from chest to waist, from inner thighs to toes, his warm touch and tongue moved without any warning and gave me intense pleasure. 

***************

He was right. Our last time was indeed the best. I suddenly felt a strong current down there.

Oh Varun, where are you?

Both of us had drunk the poison. I remember I was feeling dizzy then but now I am perfectly fine! Why did nothing happen to me? I wondered.

I had to find him. I hoped he was alright, or else I would not be able to forgive myself. Vainly, I tried to console myself.

****************

From the corner of my eye I saw the watchman again, but it was a different man. Perhaps the earlier one had gone home. I hoped the new one would help me get out of this place.

“Uncle, will you please help me? I want to go towards the city. Uncle, uncle, are you listening to me? Uncle, please,” I pleaded.

Why was he not listening to me? Were all watchmen deaf? He didn’t even bother looking at me! This place was strange for sure.

Daylight had broken. I needed to get out of this eerie place immediately. Traffic on the road had started to build up. Why was everyone in a hurry? I couldn’t expect any help from such people! I started running; there was no time to waste! Varun might be in trouble, waiting for me. I was tired, my legs were aching, and the road seemed endless. Suddenly my eyes shined upon seeing a familiar path. Yes…yes.. I had seen this path before!

What was there at the far end…it looked familiar – oh! It was Varun’s farmhouse!

Unable to wait for our reunion, I ran as fast as I could and reached the farmhouse. Where was Varun? I searched every corner of the house, but he was nowhere. Now where would I find him? I was extremely worried about him. Suddenly, I heard someone whispering.  It seemed as if it came from the terrace. Oh… yes, there he was, holding my red *dupatta in his hand! The very same dupatta that I had worn that night! He missed me! I blushed. My love…my Varun! I was elated because we were both fine and alive. Now we would not die, we would leave this place and go to a place far away where no one would recognise us. 

Varun…Varun…I am here… you are looking for me; I know…I know…you can’t live without me. 

I wanted to hug him but there was a short and stout man next to him. Who was he? I had never seen him. Varun was interrogating him – it must be about me. He looked so worried!

“Did you check before burying?”

“Yes Sir, there was no pulse.”

“And I hope that no one saw you!”

“Yes Sir, no one saw me. The place is adjacent to the graveyard so hardly anyone goes there.”

Who are they talking about? I wondered. 

“Take this and dispose of it too,” Varun said while handing him the dupatta.

“…that’s my dupatta Varun! Why do you want him to dispose of it? What’s going on? This doesn’t make any sense!” I wondered.

Deciding to come out of hiding, I shouted. “Varun!!!”  It seemed that he was not listening to me. Screaming “Varun! Varun!”, I started walking towards him. I was right in front of him, but he didn’t bother looking at me. Why was he behaving like the rest and pretending that I didn’t exist?

“Varun…look at me, I am here… tell me what’s happening?” I hugged him, but what was this? I was not able to touch him, as there was an unfillable void between us and it made me feel so helpless! Without getting heard or seen, how could I tell him about my presence?

“Sir, you don’t need to worry, no one will find out – the person who supplied the poison is my trusted one. Only he and I know, no one else.” the man said while taking my dupatta from Varun’s hand.

“But Sir, if you don’t mind, can I ask you one thing?” the man asked.

“You have been with me for the last five years; you are my most loyal man. Ask me what you want to ask.”

“Sir, I don’t understand one thing. The girl was so beautiful and was madly in love with you, why did you kill her?”

“Her love became the reason for her death. You know me; I am from a family of businessmen. She wanted to marry me and spend her entire life with me!  Her life will be secure and without worry, but what will I get in return? Other than a hot, beautiful body she had nothing! No status, no class, no money!  And why would I marry such a girl just for her body? I was getting that without marrying her! If she hadn’t pressurised me into the marriage, if she hadn’t nagged me to take her to my parents and to my prospective bride, I would have enjoyed by fucking her a few more times. Poor Gauri, she never realized that when she was getting orgasms while blindfolded, the poison, umm..fluid for her murder was also getting an orgasm by mixing with other fluid, but only in her glass, and thank you for the successful execution of the plan.”

“No…no…not murder Sir, she committed suicide. She drank it on her own despite the knowledge that she will die, and why thank you Sir, you are our Lord, anything for you.”

“Hahaha…yes…suicide…she thought that my drink also had poison in it! I told her that blindfolds provided surprise, and surprise provided pleasure. So now my dead Gauri, ‘surprise’ for you and ‘pleasure’ for me! But I will surely miss your ample bosom, your sculpted body.” 

Was this Varun? Were these his words? He betrayed me; he betrayed my love, my trust! How could he do this to me, to his Gauri? 

Varun…Varun… You can’t do this, you said you love me, you said we would be together forever after our deaths. Why did you do this to me? 

I wanted to hold him, slap him, shake him…but I was not able to do anything. I couldn’t touch him, couldn’t make him hear me or see me! I felt so helpless! I am dead… I am dead…I am dead. I finally understood why no one could hear me and behave like I do not exist. Gauri was dead now. She was no more. She was non-existent.

Dejected and wounded, I started towards the graveyard. The watchman at the gate didn’t acknowledge my entry.  Sitting on the bench I cried and screamed. The pain was unbearable and there was no one I could share it with! My cries were only coming back to my ears; no one was there to hear it. Why Varun…why did you do this to me? I loved you so much, I trusted you so much, but you lusted for my body only! You betrayed me! I will never forgive you.

“Trust the power of forgiveness. It will heal your hurt and pain.”

A young man was standing in front of me.  

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes”

“Can you see me?”

“Yes, I can see you too.”

I swiftly got up and touched him hesitantly. I could touch him! He was cold. I had found someone who could hear me and see me!

“Who are you and how is it that only you can see and hear me?” I asked him and for the first time, noticed that he was a tall, handsome, brown-eyed man.

“I am a tourist – the same as you.”

“Tourist?”

“Yes, we both are tourists here; both of us have completed the journey called life and attained the ultimate truth called ‘Death’. Now the new journey will begin. If you burden yourself with pain, sorrow, regret, hate, and anger, you will not be able to move ahead. You will be in the prison of all this negativity forever. It’s up to you whether to remain in this miserable state forever or break free of this and move forward to another journey!”

How could I forgive Varun? How could I not hate him? Without punishing him, was it possible to move ahead? 

But how long would I wait? Would this anger and pain ever let me sit calmly? Should I forgive him? I tried to find the answers.

“Come with me, and leave all your negativity here. There is a light there, let’s go.” He smiled and extended his hand.

Should I go with him? Events of the past few hours had raised many questions. What is life? Is life a delusion, where you believe that everything is real?  But nothing is real. Then why do people celebrate life? Why do they celebrate birth? Why are there no celebrations for death, when death is the only truth!  People suffer throughout their lives from pain, hate, betrayal, anger, frustration…does this suffering end with death? I don’t know.

****************

 

 *Dupatta-  a long piece of cloth worn around the head, neck, and shoulders by women from South Asia.

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Photo By: Pawel Swzmanski

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This is an entry from team Heads and Tales Game of  Writers co-sponsored by Diners Club International.

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Thanks for reading.

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