The strains of “Subah, Subah, yeh kya hua…” played in a loop inside her head. She smiled. The cool early morning air felt good. She lifted her arms and flexed her wings. She spread them wide letting the wind play with them. Her eyes watched the black vees floating calmly against the azure blue sky. She kicked off on her course.
Sumit stood speechless while she held the baby…baby didn’t register yet. He watched her: Aditi…that is Aditi. …my Aditi. Is that her? The afternoon sun burned a part of her face as she sat with eyes downcast, tired hands weakly holding on to a piece of knitting. Her hair shone like a halo around her face where the sun caught the silver of her loose curls. So very, very beautiful – still. His breath caught in his chest. He had never wanted a child. It had been her wish.
Clutching at his left side he eased himself into an old cane chair across from her. She looked up then. He followed her eyes to the front gate. It swung open as the thin, wasted form of a young man walked in without turning to put the clasp back on.
The sight of the slightly built young man with a shock of black rumpled hair stirred a vision in his mind – of an excited man rushing, half carrying, half pulling a frail young woman hugging a bundle of swaddle and smiling, all the way to the house. Almost the age of this young man that walked into their strange life right now.
Strange life, because he could still not fathom it. This morning they had had a child. At six thirty p.m. they are here with a little mud pot sitting in a corner near the staircase, somewhere inside the empty house, holding the ashes of a child.
“Did you call him?” Aditi turned her eyes in his direction. “Have you?” She seemed to have forgotten why she had turned to look at him. She looked away abruptly, as if he hadn’t spoken. The curtain in a door behind them fluttered slightly. He raised himself and very slowly walked indoors stopping by a door that looked into a lovely little room. Lyric had been like her mother. There has always been so much rhythm in her. Everything about her space – from the little potted gardenia on the windowsill to the Japanese painting of a monastery standing on top of a hill to the shiny Tanpura and all her belongings arranged on the white marble floor in the way she liked was proof – of how much in love she had been, with her life.
There was a seat arranged near the window so Anurag could sit there and watch the changing colours of the sky while she did her riyaz. It rang in his head, her clear young voice caressing the sombre notes of Purvi as she released them one by one into the air like little pet birds. So much love!
These two had been inseparable from their childhood days: fatherless Anurag and Lyric. He sat on the floor now with his head resting on the bed that had been hers. The letter lay at his feet. There was a little breeze and it caught the piece of paper which floated up at him. Sumit reached out for it and started to read, for the hundredth time, for he just could not think of a way to deal with this yet. How could he have not known? Or seen? How could they have all done this together? And why could she not talk about this?
No, that she could not. He realized that at least. Talking wasn’t going to make a difference. This would take action and that is what she has done!
“It is love: yours and mine. I like Shamik. I hope he and you are both happy together. Papa taught you and me to respect choices people made. I hope you would respect mine. This isn’t about anger or sorrow or like the man on the street might call it – frustration.
I loved you as the man in my life, you loved me like your favourite tee-shirt, I guess. You wore me – to shield yourself from harsh weather, of hatred and fear and doubts and suspicion directed at your love.
This is my way of asserting my rights – not giving in to a life that needs be bound by choices other people make in the name of protecting us from ourselves, so that you and I, Anu, cannot make ours.
I exercised my choice rather than live a life as prisoner of a homophobic society’s misguided whims. I chose to be free. Will you please, always, remember this about your wife, Anurag?”
Sumit and Aditi had met at a concert. His lyrics and his music had drawn Aditi into his life and one day Lyric was born out of music they had created together in their life. Their child had been born of a song, and had lived like a song, lovely while it played, lovelier in its cadence heard in thought in the silence after it was sung. Only, Anurag sat there like a question mark, like the incomplete arc of an unfinished song, that Sumit could not yet hope to right.