The huge clock struck 10pm. A cold winter October night and there she sat staring blankly at the people walking past her at the waiting lounge of the busy Heathrow airport. Dressed in her favourite white fur coat and her red heels, her hair was tied in a messy bun with brown eyes sparkling through her brunette fringes. She was an attractive young woman. Her husband owned her as a possession though, like a doll in his showcase. A beautiful prized possession, one he was too busy to shower his time and affection on. Over the years she had almost forgotten what it felt to be loved. A few dispassionate words always resonated in her ears. “Ask for money but never ask for my time.” She understood that statement very well. Abiding to it took a few years.
There she was, sitting at the airport, a packed suitcase for company. She had left her husband, moving out on her own for the first time. An immortal, courageous spirit dwelling in her frail body. It would be a couple of hours before he read her text. Plenty of time for her to move on from a man who could convince her easily.
The mike announced the boarding. She couldn’t have missed it. Lost in her thoughts she boarded the flight. The air stewardess with a pretty warm smile directed her to her seat. A window seat. She looked away at the double glazed window, pitch dark outside, with the faint glow of the runaway edge lights. As the flight taxied, she slammed her eyes shut and hummed the pain. The image of her past flashed behind her lids, tears trickled down her cheeks and she slowly drifted away to the pain of the past few months.
She was pregnant then. In her womb she carried her hopes, a companion she could have bestowed all her love, who would take away her hollowness. She was already in love with her child. Someone she was yet to meet. She had left her work. It was around six weeks, still a bit of time for her first scan. Her husband, a workaholic, stayed preoccupied with his work and travels. In her lonely moments she would occasionally talk to her unborn baby, feeling silly, yet complete.
One Sunday afternoon, an unexpected sadness fell on her like a cloud. She sat in a pool of blood. Rushed to the emergency, she discovered she had lost the child. A miscarriage! Bed ridden for the next couple of those lonely summer days with no one to talk to, changed her completely. All her thoughts ran into tears like sunshine into rain. The husband didn’t even spare an hour to sit besides her. His behaviour had broken her – physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically. Slowly but surely, in those lonely days she began to give up on things that had mattered to her. Pleasing others and giving her all to her marriage. A much loved and pampered girl since childhood, how much things changed over the years. Everyone thought it was an accomplishment to be living in England. No one bothered to see her soul. That was pretty much the end to her six years of marriage.
It took her a couple of hours before she reached Kolkata, just in time for her favourite festival, Durga Puja. The cerulean sky with fragmented clouds and a discernible scent in the cool breeze of the autumn air. Streets strewn with happy faces, the city lit late into the wee hours of the night as the sleepless crowds would spill out on the streets and visit pandals. The lingering scent of Shiuli flowers blossoming at this time, a reminiscence of childhood and the approaching of the festival. Lights strung on every street corner. The city was decked up like a bride. Noisy, cheerful, with music and loudspeakers. She felt the sunshine and warmth, she felt welcomed, she felt home.
She had come home after three years. Her family welcomed her as if their Maa Durga had come home to them. A celebration. Here she was amidst all happiness.
The emptiness dissipated softly.
Next morning, dressed in white sari with red border, a traditional attire, her eyes glistening once again. There was a sudden surge of hope and she didn’t want to let go of the feeling, something she had been missing within her. As she walked with her mother through the old lanes of her childhood, memories of happy days brightened her spirits. They walked in through the pandal gates decorated in traditional style and made their way around the stalls getting ready to start their day. The sound of conch shells filled her soul with a certain calm she hadn’t known in the past few years. The thump of the dhak (drumbeat) accompanied with the clanging of cymbals, a sound people strain to hear from the para (neighbourhood) pandal, filled her with an inexplicable energy. Entering the deity hall, filled with known faces from her childhood, she was warmly greeted by people she had known and forgotten. Suddenly these faces meant so much to her. She folded her hands in prayer and wished some magic would change her life.
Can she be happy again? Can she live again?
Suddenly someone called her name. A familiar voice amongst all the noises of dhak and the chanting. She turned and stood in surprise. A friend from the past, she had lost. He had loved her once. There he stood. “I waited for you all these years, I knew I would see you again,” said he, with love in his eyes. The past and present flashed before her. Immersing herself in the strength of the Goddess before her and in the hope she saw in his eyes, she joined her hands, closed her eyes. She had returned with a purpose, to derive the Shakti she so needed to build her life again.