Ram opened the letter and held it tenderly, peering at it, almost willing it to reply. He wanted to write her the perfect love letter - a letter, which will reveal his true feelings of love to her. He didn’t want his letter to get lost in the bin, where he was sure the scores of letters that she received, finally found its solace. She was the prettiest girl in the college, and he knew that if he had to catch her attention, his letter should be better than the rest of the suitors. She never looked at the boys anyway, and he was not sure, if she even knew he existed. The silver lining was that she was his classmate, and the odds were much narrow, or so he thought.
He asked Sita to read the letter aloud once more. He was grateful to her for helping him write the letter. She was a kind lady, and seemed to understand him perfectly. He could never remember her name, but she didn’t seem to mind and would remind him gently. She always found the right words when he fumbled with framing his feelings and had an amazing knack of reading his mind. He told her all about his pretty classmate, describing in fond recollection the picture perfect smile, the million curls on her head bunched together in floral pattern and the oval vermillion over the black bindi on her forehead. He also told her about the time, when he literally froze as she walked past almost grazing him in the corridor, giving him his first sense of an invisible touch, while he breathed in her perfume and took until eternity to breathe it out. He then told her about his helplessness, his disinterest in the activities of his friends, his sleepless nights, as she hung on to every word with rapt attention. He could see her eyes glaze over as she transposed herself to the world that he had created.
He was nervous and wanted to know from Sita, whether she would think he was the common place flirt, if he walked up to her in the canteen and started a conversation. After all, she had all the boys vying for her attention. Will she slap him when he gave her the letter or tear it up in front of her friends? What if she already has a handsome boy friend? Will he not look like a fool to write her a love letter now? She may show it to her boyfriend and both may have a hearty laugh at his misplaced ambition. Her boyfriend may fail to see the funny side and accost him with his bike buddies, when he is walking back alone to his hostel room. He knew he was no match for them. But Sita calmly assuaged all his fears and assured him, that when she received his letter, she will realize that there was nobody else in this world, who could love her more than him. So he had to find the right words. There will never be a second chance.
Sita found Leela standing by the door as she walked out. Leela was wiping a tear from her eye. She hugged Sita and asked, ‘Mom, How can you? You are helping Dad write a love letter to another woman.” Don’t you feel angry, hurt, that he is expressing so much love to another woman in your presence, which he had never expressed to you in your fifty years of marriage?”
Sita led Leela to a chair, and sat down beside her. Her face was devoid of pain or hurt. It was in fact glowing and the eyes sparkled with a long lost dazzle that had finally found its way back to where it belonged. She smiled at Leela and said “I am the one in love”.
Leela looked at her dumbfounded, “But Mom, he is writing that letter to his college sweetheart, not to you. You can’t pretend to be her”.
Sita smiled. She said, “Leela, you don’t understand, do you? It is true that we spent fifty years together without ever being in love. To your father, it was his responsibilities that ruled his life. He married a woman, whom his parents chose for him. He was a good son, a good husband, and a great father. He never let any of us feel neglected or ever shirked his duties. To him, my every wish was a command that had to be fulfilled. I never could find a fault in his behaviour towards me. But it is true that I also could never feel the love in any of his actions. They were always kind, affectionate, caring and passionate, but I always got the feeling that it was borne out of a sense of duty than anything else. The magic of selfless love which I yearned for then, and experiencing now, was missing.”
“Mom”, Leela sobbed “Dad is suffering from Alzheimer’s, He does not recognize you. You and I, no longer exist in his world. How can you feel happy and loved when he is not even thinking of you?”
“It doesn’t matter”, said Sita calmly patting her hand, “Today your father does not recognize responsibilities, or remember relations. Even if I track down and bring that woman here, your father will not recognize her. So the feelings that he is expressing today is just a state of mind, a kind of pure love which is emanating from his self, and I feel myself enveloped in a surreal bliss. I no longer care who his love was. There is no person here, in this house, in his room, in his mind. It is just a heady lightness of the being, floating in a space, uncluttered by memories, unrestrained by relations and unconcerned about consequences. When I sit with him and listen to his love, I can feel the fragrance in the air, hear the patter of rain drops outside the window in this sweltering heat, feel myself swaying to the lilting tune of the invisible flute and the world around, amazingly cease to exist. It is this feeling that I had imagined and associated with love when I was a teenager, but had over time, pawned my imagination to the realities of the world. I am happy that I am able to finally share this feeling of love, with a man before i die. I have lived my life the way this society demanded, fulfilling my duties to one and all, but now, I want to spend the little time that is left, experiencing this wonderful feeling of Love. I pray to God today, to forgive me, for being thankful to this dreadful ailment that has afflicted your dad. It has freed him from bondage, filled the vacuum of thoughts with feelings of love and made him smile in innocent carelessness.” She added “These are the last vestiges connecting him to the world and it is a miracle that it happens to be the strings woven with love. When this dreaded disease finally wipes his mind clean, I want Love to be the last word that gets erased.”