Priya had just pushed him as if into a deep and dark well. He had for long adored countless beautiful dreams about Priya and himself in his eyes, but now everything was blown to dust.
With sun going down, the cool breeze coming across the lake on to the Chinar trees of Naseem Bagh and kissing the fiery autumnal leaves was knocking at his memory bank, reminding him of his loving past and painful present.
He grabbed his jacket lying nearby and started walking away. Like the smoke coming out of half-burnt Chinar leaves, the serpents of his memories followed him, striking at will. There was nothing left in his life, any more; no happiness, just dejection and hopelessness… Priya had not even for once bothered to tell him that she was going away; and yet he was still in pain, thinking of her. He was sad and lonely, not knowing why was he punished like this…
Priya had been gone for two years now and here Kamal was still wandering about clueless in absolute wilderness, without any sense of direction whatsoever. The day Priya was getting married, Kamal was taking his BA Final year exams. His life, his dreams everything was shattered. After marriage Priya and her husband went to America, and Kamal was left in lurk, thinking of and trying to figure out reasons love … With what went wrong with day, he simply got sucked deeper into the whirlpools of dejection and depression. Failures followed next — one after the other — and soon his family turned against him.
For father he was a “useless brat” while elder sister Seema would add insults to his injury by saying that he was ‘good for nothing’. Nobody was able to understand why Kamal was behaving the way he was – what was wrong with him. But he wouldn’t complain, for he had sort of reconciled with his fate. Seema did try to help him, to get him back to life, but since he wouldn’t change, she also started hating him. She too was very helpless in her own right. Everybody knew about Kamal. For the past couple of years, her in-laws had started cooking all sorts of stories about Kamal. They would poison his Dad’s opinion about him, for they wanted him to throw out Kamal so that all of his wealth would come to Seema and thus to them. Seema was aware about the conspiracy of her in-laws, but she couldn’t do much about it. Kamal also knew what they were up to, but then he had lost interest in just about everything. All he would do was record his feelings in his personal diary and that’s it. His memories were his only possession and only companion, he cherished this company! His heart-ache was so severe that he wouldn’t see a reason for it to heal and go away.
Had Priya not abandoned him the way she did; had she bothered to meet him once, even after her marriage so as to reason out why she had left him, may be Kamal too would have been able to reconcile with his loss. But nothing of the sort had happened, and Kamal was all the time trying to figure out what had gone wrong between them; why had Priya dumped him the way she had?
After a few once, it was once again time to register for the BA Final Year exams. Once again friends and relatives started pressing Kamal to register for the exams, but he wouldn’t listen to them ; he wasn’t interested at all… And when his Dad made it clear that he would have to take exams come what may, Kamal warned his sister that in the situation he was left with only two options – either to commit suicide, or to leave home for good! This infuriated Seema so much that there was a big quarrel at home before she left for her in-laws’. But Kamal was still unmoved, adamant that he wouldn’t budge. Everything he was doing, the way he was torturing himself and his family seemed justified to him! He dreaded that in case he took exams and failed yet again, for the third time, it would cost him his face…
A few days passed by. One afternoon he was strolling in the front lawns when a postman entered the gate. He came to Kamal, dragged a chair and after sitting down, started rummaging through the bundles of letters he carried in his bag. Then he pulled out a letter addressed to Kamal and handed it over to him and left the place. Tearing the envelope, Kamal took out the letter and started reading it: “Dear Kamal.
Few days back one of my friends told me about you_ We were discussing ah s ort story written by you — “Justaju” (Longing) – which had featured in an old edition of your college magazine. Actually we wanted to adapt it for a play and stage it. But looked around for your address but couldn’t. Then few days back the brother of one of my friends told me about you.
Dear Kama’, I know you have been through worse, and I am extremely sorry for that. I was told that you were a bright student heading towards a brilliant career. I know you have been through a rough patch, but then I would suggest that you should not loose heart. Although we don’t know each-other, but somehow, I don’t know what after reading your short story, I have a feeling as if we have known each-other for ages. Well, if you think that I have a right to ask for something, then, please start smiling once again … for my sake … Well, you know I am not the kind of person who would go around praising people. But let me confess to you that I have a strange feeling that you have a better understanding of known life, that you cannot be just like any other ordinary person – you are my IDEAL.
With Love from
Now Kamal was thinking very seriously. He couldn’t decide what to do now. He could smell Priya in the letter he had just received. A huge tempest overtook his heart. Standing by the fountain in the lawn, and staring at his reflection in the water, he could feel that the letter was as if calling him to break loose the shackles of dejection and hopelessness and run, as fast as he could, towards life. It was telling him to defreeze his frozen feet and start running yet again on the highway of life where success was just waiting for him with open arms, to embrace him in a tight hug.
Kamal was now receiving regular mail from that girl. Although she was still a stranger to him, for he knew nothing about her, who she was, what she is up to; yet each time he would get her letter, his eyes would just light up and a strange contentment would come to adore his face.
There was no respite in the torture contentment taunts Kamal faced from his family, but now he was a changed person, for he was trying to undo some of the damage he has done to his self earlier. He was working about that hard while all the time thinking about that stranger girl who had become his inspiration now. Now he was longing to meet her, to see her, touch her, for he was madly in love with her. With each passing day, he was nearing the moment to meet him. The result for the BA Final Year was to come in three days when Kamal got another letter from his beau-ideal — that stranger girl, whom he had not met even one.
“My dear Kamal,
I am worried more about you than myself. We are meeting in a couple of days. I don’t know what do you think about me, what do you think I look like … Well howsoever I am, I am sure that you won’t hate; and you won’t be sad after meeting me!
Day after tomorrow, at 3 o’clock I will be waiting for you in the university cafeteria and I am sure that you would come to me with good news of your success in exams. Now the question how would you recognize me. Well, I will place a beautiful red rose besides me on the table which would be the gift of your success, a token of my love an appreciation for you – besides of course a clue for you to recognize me.”
It took quite a while for the new sun of hope to dawn that night. Kamal was happy and so was everybody in the family. Kamal had passed his exams in flying colours, he was back on track – everybody — his Dad, his sister Seema – were hugging him, kissing him, praising him. But Kamal was a bit uneasy at the same time, for he wanted to meet the girl who was behind this miracle…
Around 3 O’clock he reached the University and headed straight to the cafeteria. As he entered the hall, he could find that there were not many p corner beat people around. His heart almost skipped a because of happiness when he saw a table occupied by a girl with a beautiful red rose resting on it. The girl was not facing him, but he could still see that she looked stunning, like a statue carved out of marble. She was as if lost in some thoughts. Her dupatta was embracing her like a waterfall kissing the rocks it passes
Kamal couldn’t resist but fall in love with her, then and there, even though he was yet to see her, meet her. But as the he started moving towards that table in corner, he could feel his love for her overflowing his heart. “ Ah, I should have had so many hearts to fill them up with her love ; not just too I should have had many more eyes to look at her in praise …” With these thoughts ringing his mind , he steadily walked to the girl and said in a very feeble tone ; “ Hey, here I am !”
His beau-deal simply turned her beautiful neck and looked towards Kamal. She was Seema, and she gifted Kamal his old diary !
Syed Zeeshan Fazil is a renowned writer and author of several books. The story is an excerpt from his book “STRANGER ON BLACK HIGHWAY” ( A collection of short stories)