Finally, after half an hour drive, he stopped the car before a building in the outskirts of the city. The gatekeeper opened the gate and he drove the vehicle inside.
Aastha felt she would collapse any minute.
Still burried in her thoughts, she did not realise when Aakash had opened the door for her, asking her to come. Seeing her rooted there, he took her hand and gently pulled her along him.
Aastha could scarcely breathe, too apprehensive of the surroundings. A huge house, surrounded by a garden. Any other day the sight would have mesmerised her. But not today.
She was about to shake off her hand from his, when he realised that she was standing beneath a canopy in the garden, offering a little relief from the sun, nor that it was hot. But it felt pleasant sitting in a shade.
She took a look at him. He was low on confidence, he could see. Her legs felt too shaky and she sat on the bench. Aakash who saw her sitting there, gradually kneeled before her, taking her hands in his, struggling with words, Aastha, I am sorrry. I had to act in haste. If not today, it won’t happen any other day. There are few things to disclose before we get ahead with this relationship. I want to be as honest as possible with you. Please allow me to tell you some dark secrets before I fail on my confidence level…”
Aastha just looked at him, barely trying to comprehend what was to follow….
“This is ancestral property from my mother’s side. Papa bought it for her as a gift. She designed this place with her heart and soul. We used to come here almost every weekend. Mom would be so happy here. She would run around, as if living her childhood. This garden, this canopy was all her designs. She was here a week before she was finally admitted to hospital and breathed her last.” A pause to swallow the lump in his otherwise hurried speech.
Aastha could feel all his emotions.. And he continued.
“So when she was gone, I visited this place almost every day. Didi, Papa… everyone thought I am here just trying to stay close to her memories as she loved this place. Her heart and soul would always remain here. But I used this place as an escape route, to shut out the fact that she is not around. It was not easy, not to miss her and with every day the pain became hard to bear. I could not sleep and then…” he paused again, this time heading towards a pot lying nearby.
Aastha was just startled by his movements. He placed the pot near her, pulled out the plant, which came out dragging the sand along as it was tied in a net. He kept the plant aside and dragged a packet from the empty pot.
He held her hand and placed the packet in it as he kneeled again, this time he was facing down in shame.
“Nothing helped me. The pain was hard to bear. I had no one to share it with. I don’t know how but I came across this.” He pointed at the packet. And looking at her confused expressions, he mouthed in a whisper, “Drugs!”