Buddha was an impressive man: the most revered headmaster of the village. The sixty year old man with long luxuriant white beard, was filled with pride on his final day of retirement; clad in a spotless white dhoti and kurta, heavily garlanded, he was thundering into a microphone. The school was after all his success.
The villagers had assembled in the school premises to be a part of Head Master's farewell. Self respecting Nandini was standing discreetly in the middle of the crowd, hoping to catch sight of things that was lurking outside her line of vision. She was attentively listening to the long formal address. After many years, once again she was mesmerized by a voice filled with knowledge.
The sun had ducked behind a cloud. Buddha suddenly spotted Nandini in the crowd and turned solemn. The shape of her outline was exactly as he remembered it, slim, crumbling and ungainly. Her face was intent. He delved inward, trying to dig up the old and buried shards of their past… A part of him yearned for her once again.
Eyeing her still, he spoke pushing his glasses up to his forehead, ’ It is nice to keep talking, but I am forgetting the time…ah, look at the black sky. The sun has set. Thank you all for being here’.
Soon there was a rustle and the villagers started walking back to the village with a crowd of school children swarming after them…and slowly the congestion eased and the surrounding became more gracious for both of them. Buddha smiled, and walked closer to her. He whispered something and slipped his hands through hers; and hurried into the office room. Nandini went completely numb.
After her wedding, they’d rarely had an occasion to be together like this. The silence between them grew; none wanted to break the calm.
Buddha grumbled, “Civilized humans aren’t meant to live like this, don’t you think? You are mature enough and entitled to your own space and time before you give me your decision. I think at the age of sixty two, I will have no problems to convince my mother to take you in my life. I have shared everything with her. Thank goodness, I am not married as yet…’ he said smilingly.
‘Your son Nibendu, is grown up now and married with kids; he has been my student in the past. I think, I shall not have much problem in convincing him. He is an intellectual and has learnt ‘to dream’…he has to accommodate ‘us’-- the two long lost souls that for some reason find each other irresistible now,’ he said scrubbing the grime-edged desk.
‘ I am sure, he wouldn’t misunderstand his mother, who has lugged her body as an inevitable piece of baggage till now, and is striving hard to re-establish her own identity ..' He stopped, taking a deep breath he added,” your arrival is indeed a happy coincidence for me, and it would be my pleasure to release you from the shades of godforsaken stars and omens.
Nandini was looking like a person struck dumb by a miracle. The lonely widow was well past fifty now, and didn’t she really want the freedom to live it the way she wanted now? She clutched her sari to her face, her eyes were wide with shock…
‘Are you OK, Nandini? He asked her.
‘Buddha…has the shadow of the star-Saturn really lifted its veil finally? Are you sure…?’ Nandini paused and her breathing had quickened suddenly. Her words were laced with panic.
'Yes, my dear...it has left you for good now'.Take it easy, accept this new offer with grace. Nothing requires logic or reasoning at this age, only memorizing facts give a kind of lesson, never to look back.'
Nandini nodded her head in agreement.