Smiling face across the flowers…

She was restless all through the night. Thinking if she should do it or not….

What if they catch me? What will they do to me? But I can’t just sit. I will not be able to hold back….

It is a day to express my love…. It is my rightful time to speak what I feel! It is my time to say that I love you! …Flowers! Yes! I will get flowers tomorrow! There is nothing as pleasant as a beautiful flower to confront the love! It brings a smile, makes you agree, even if you are angry with me!

Who will sell flowers on the Valentine’s Day?! I have heard they burn down the shops

It will be very tricky… but I will feel so nice when I will see that smiling face across my flowers, watching me with admiration?!

And with that thought she smiled to herself….laying in her bed, watching vacant ceiling she drifted to sleep with sweet dreams in her eyes….

Morning came with distant bustle of awakening human world….and she woke up from her dream world. Her first conscious thought was the same smiling face across the flowers, watching her with admiration! Again she could not help but smile!

With eagerness of a five year old she got herself ready. As if she wanted to catch the first flower of the season, first ray of that special sunrise, first smiles and first laughter! She changed her dress five times before the mirror….but finally selected the first dress only! She went through breakfast as if it was first time she ate food! And she rushed out in hurry…

Roads were still covered in lazy traces of last night’s fog. As she reached, the florist shop was only opening its shutters… its clean glass doors shining in soft morning light…. There was smell of soft watered earth… And fresh flowers were yet to be arranged. Florist, an elderly man of wise temperament was busy arranging the bouquets on display racks. He saw her approaching with a beaming smile on her face, and he thought to himself,

Here she comes, another fool! She will buy flowers for her lover and he will cheat her first thing tomorrow morning! How many like her have come to buy a red rose and gone home with a wilted face like stale lilies!”

But working with flowers everyday gave him a youthful heart, the one that can encourage love everyday with a new blossom on his display racks! He smiled as she entered the shop overflowing with smiles and so many things to say!

She bought flowers of assorted variety, unlike everyone who was expected to come today for red roses. She got fresh white lilies and sunny yellow roses along with pinks! Even when she was selecting the flowers she could not stop her smiles! What an overflow of zest!!

The florist chuckled to himself and he too could not help the smile that retouched his face! He took the money from her tender, inexperienced hands and noticed that it must have been her hard earned, saved for so long, money that she was spending today…. He looked down at that innocent smile and prayed to God that, “You still not have stopped giving out innocence and love in abundance! Thank you lord, world needs this so very much!”

Unaware of the florist and his prayer, the girl swayed her way out of his shop, controlling her desire to dance into walking steps across the pavement. The roads were almost empty, so unlikely for a beautiful morning like today! She thought for a moment but it could not dampen her joy and she walked on with the bunch of flowers cradled like a delicate baby in her arms… As she saw the flowers, again she melted into the fantasy of the moment when the flowers will be given! And there was the same smiling face across the flowers, watching her with admiration! Again she could not help but smile!

Around next corner she heard voices….as if people following her…. Smiles tucked in…. as if they had never known how to smile….tall and rough… in a moment she was surrounded…. Another moment had realized her flowers, her fresh and beautiful flowers were strewn across the road…torn petal by petal…. She could not concentrate on next moment…. Her eyes were closed… And there was the same smiling face across the flowers, watching her with admiration! Again she could not help but smile!

Her eyes opened to reveal white vacant ceiling…smell of something familiar….like a hospital….. With a tiny shock she looked around… it was not a dream…. Was it?! She was definitely coming here….right towards the hospital…but not to lie in bed! Why was she in bed?!

As she tried to get up, a searing pain went through her stomach…. A soft but firm hand came from somewhere and supported her up, so that she could sit and look around. That was some strange surprise to see her best friend by her side! What a great day it must be! And as her gaze moved around, she saw that old grandpa on first bed with his toothless smile, little foreigner girl craning her neck over the pillow to look at her, Head-nurse aunty in her crisp white uniform, bustling around the beds arranging curtains….sweeper uncle with his broom swashing under the beds smiled at her….

All the smiles that she had been dreaming of from across the flowers were right there! And she remembered flowers! Where are my flowers?! Some distant vague scene of petals strewn across the road…. Was it true?!

“I was getting flowers for you all” She said to the room at large, though her confused and pained look contradicted her words….

“Grandpa, I had got white lilies for you…you said it reminds you of granny…. And for nurse aunty and sweeper uncle, I had got yellow roses…those big fragrant ones….For the little china doll over there I had got pink rose”

She looked up at her friend, “What happened of my flowers?!”

He just smiled as if relieved from great tension. “You are safe, my flower! That is all we need! You are one fool to carry a big bunch of flowers right on the road, when you know things are very sensitive these days! If I had not found you in time, the people who stabbed you would have left you bleeding there on the road!”

His expressions of warm love changed to ferocious anger while he spoke! Late morning light fell across the tall windows, his red angry face glowed in that light…. But his rage could not touch her! She still smiled at him the same way! What could he do?! He had to smile too; such was the intoxicating wonder in her smile!

She was not much disturbed….as if violence never touched her! “Alright, so the flowers are gone you say?! Could we get fresh ones? What do you say? Do you have some money?”

“My dear, it’s the morning of 15th February, 2010! It was not very nice of you to remain unconscious for one whole day and keep everyone worried!” though now everyone was laughing!

He got up from her side and yawned and stretched “Is it okay if I go home now?! You are safe here with all your valentine friends and your parents will come in some time. I will see you later today…. Is it okay?!” she smiled and nodded with the enthusiasm of a fresh daisy swaying in morning wind!

She waved a goodbye to him, and relaxed back into the soft pillow, realizing the small effort had tired her out…. She saw from her bed… grandpa had taken his medicine and was dozing away…. The little Chinese girl was watching the doctors bustling outside the ward. It was very quiet… tranquil place.

Her gaze moved around…..and stopped on a wrinkled shirt, clumsily folded on her bedside table…. She recognized it at once….it was the same shirt he had worn. She knew her best friends shirt so well that she could have closed her eyes and picked it out of hundreds! But it was stained with blood… was it her blood?! She touched lightly on the bandaged wound on her stomach….trying to feel it….remember it…. It hurt for sure, even through the heavy painkiller dose….

She opened the folded shirt…and from its folds fell something in her lap…. A wilted red rose…one solitary red rose… and a note,

“to my dearest flower, you have been my best friend ever since I know you…. You have brought magic and wonderment in my life. You are no less than a magician for me! Would you want to spend your life with me, fill me with your magical love always and forever?!”

She Smiled and closed her eyes…and she saw his smiling face from across a solitary red rose, watching her in admiration!

She was restless all through the night. Thinking if she should do it or not….

What if they catch me? What will they do to me? But I can’t just sit. I will not be able to hold back….

It is a day to express my love…. It is my rightful time to speak what I feel! It is my time to say that I love you! …Flowers! Yes! I will get flowers tomorrow! There is nothing as pleasant as a beautiful flower to confront the love! It brings a smile, makes you agree, even if you are angry with me!

Who will sell flowers on the Valentine’s Day?! I have heard they burn down the shops…

It will be very tricky… but I will feel so nice when I will see that smiling face across my flowers, watching me with admiration?!

And with that thought she smiled to herself….laying in her bed, watching vacant ceiling she drifted to sleep with sweet dreams in her eyes….

Morning came with distant bustle of awakening human world….and she woke up from her dream world. Her first conscious thought was the same smiling face across the flowers, watching her with admiration! Again she could not help but smile!

With eagerness of a five year old she got herself ready. As if she wanted to catch the first flower of the season, first ray of that special sunrise, first smiles and first laughter! She changed her dress five times before the mirror….but finally selected the first dress only! She went through breakfast as if it was first time she ate food! And she rushed out in hurry…

Roads were still covered in lazy traces of last night’s fog. As she reached, the florist shop was only opening its shutters… its clean glass doors shining in soft morning light…. There was smell of soft watered earth… And fresh flowers were yet to be arranged. Florist, an elderly man of wise temperament was busy arranging the bouquets on display racks. He saw her approaching with a beaming smile on her face, and he thought to himself,

Here she comes, another fool! She will buy flowers for her lover and he will cheat her first thing tomorrow morning! How many like her have come to buy a red rose and gone home with a wilted face like stale lilies!”

But working with flowers everyday gave him a youthful heart, the one that can encourage love everyday with a new blossom on his display racks! He smiled as she entered the shop overflowing with smiles and so many things to say!

She bought flowers of assorted variety, unlike everyone who was expected to come today for red roses. She got fresh white lilies and sunny yellow roses along with pinks! Even when she was selecting the flowers she could not stop her smiles! What an overflow of zest!!

The florist chuckled to himself and he too could not help the smile that retouched his face! He took the money from her tender, inexperienced hands and noticed that it must have been her hard earned, saved for so long, money that she was spending today…. He looked down at that innocent smile and prayed to God that, “You still not have stopped giving out innocence and love in abundance! Thank you lord, world needs this so very much!”

Unaware of the florist and his prayer, the girl swayed her way out of his shop, controlling her desire to dance into walking steps across the pavement. The roads were almost empty, so unlikely for a beautiful morning like today! She thought for a moment but it could not dampen her joy and she walked on with the bunch of flowers cradled like a delicate baby in her arms… As she saw the flowers, again she melted into the fantasy of the moment when the flowers will be given! And there was the same smiling face across the flowers, watching her with admiration! Again she could not help but smile!

Around next corner she heard voices….as if people following her…. Smiles tucked in…. as if they had never known how to smile….tall and rough… in a moment she was surrounded…. Another moment had realized her flowers, her fresh and beautiful flowers were strewn across the road…torn petal by petal…. She could not concentrate on next moment…. Her eyes were closed… And there was the same smiling face across the flowers, watching her with admiration! Again she could not help but smile!

Her eyes opened to reveal white vacant ceiling…smell of something familiar….like a hospital….. With a tiny shock she looked around… it was not a dream…. Was it?! She was definitely coming here….right towards the hospital…but not to lie in bed! Why was she in bed?!

As she tried to get up, a searing pain went through her stomach…. A soft but firm hand came from somewhere and supported her up, so that she could sit and look around. That was some strange surprise to see her best friend by her side! What a great day it must be! And as her gaze moved around, she saw that old grandpa on first bed with his toothless smile, little foreigner girl craning her neck over the pillow to look at her, Head-nurse aunty in her crisp white uniform, bustling around the beds arranging curtains….sweeper uncle with his broom swashing under the beds smiled at her….

All the smiles that she had been dreaming of from across the flowers were right there! And she remembered flowers! Where are my flowers?! Some distant vague scene of petals strewn across the road…. Was it true?!

“I was getting flowers for you all” She said to the room at large, though her confused and pained look contradicted her words….

“Grandpa, I had got white lilies for you…you said it reminds you of granny…. And for nurse aunty and sweeper uncle, I had got yellow roses…those big fragrant ones….For the little china doll over there I had got pink rose”

She looked up at her friend, “What happened of my flowers?!”

He just smiled as if relieved from great tension. “You are safe, my flower! That is all we need! You are one fool to carry a big bunch of flowers right on the road, when you know things are very sensitive these days! If I had not found you in time, the people who stabbed you would have left you bleeding there on the road!”

His expressions of warm love changed to ferocious anger while he spoke! Late morning light fell across the tall windows, his red angry face glowed in that light…. But his rage could not touch her! She still smiled at him the same way! What could he do?! He had to smile too; such was the intoxicating wonder in her smile!

She was not much disturbed….as if violence never touched her! “Alright, so the flowers are gone you say?! Could we get fresh ones? What do you say? Do you have some money?”

“My dear, it’s the morning of 15th February, 2010! It was not very nice of you to remain unconscious for one whole day and keep everyone worried!” though now everyone was laughing!

He got up from her side and yawned and stretched “Is it okay if I go home now?! You are safe here with all your valentine friends and your parents will come in some time. I will see you later today…. Is it okay?!” she smiled and nodded with the enthusiasm of a fresh daisy swaying in morning wind!

She waved a goodbye to him, and relaxed back into the soft pillow, realizing the small effort had tired her out…. She saw from her bed… grandpa had taken his medicine and was dozing away…. The little Chinese girl was watching the doctors bustling outside the ward. It was very quiet… tranquil place.

Her gaze moved around…..and stopped on a wrinkled shirt, clumsily folded on her bedside table…. She recognized it at once….it was the same shirt he had worn. She knew her best friends shirt so well that she could have closed her eyes and picked it out of hundreds! But it was stained with blood… was it her blood?! She touched lightly on the bandaged wound on her stomach….trying to feel it….remember it…. It hurt for sure, even through the heavy painkiller dose….

She opened the folded shirt…and from its folds fell something in her lap…. A wilted red rose…one solitary red rose… and a note,

“to my dearest flower, you have been my best friend ever since I know you…. You have brought magic and wonderment in my life. You are no less than a magician for me! Would you want to spend your life with me, fill me with your magical love always and forever?!”

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Fulfilled…

Again I stand at the ground zero

Unable to know which way to go…

Again I’m here with my bleeding heart

My wings are cut, I’m fallen apart…

Again I watch the blazing sun

far beyond my reach of run….

Again I wish in sullen melancholy…

Does my dream have a chance really?

May be something’s wrong with the dream itself…

I jumped to own the God himself!

My two tiny hands can’t hold his glory….

But my heart hides a long secret story…

Since it learnt to sing its pulse…

It sang thy name in very verse…

I can’t console my weeping heart…

Unable to give up, again I start…

Now I am robbed of everything I had…

My body is sore…my weather is bad…

My two tiny hands folded into prayer…

I close my eyes and my song aquiver…

I can’t reach thee, my feet so fickle…

I am robbed of the world; I own not a nickel…

But since when thy glory is confined?

Since when thy love cares for the defined?

I heard thee loveth all the same…

Thy glory lives longer than fame…

I tried my best, I toiled till I broke…

Still you deny me, still you forsook…

I wasn’t a saint, I wasn’t a king…

An insignificant one in thy fling…

I could be crushed under mighty feet…

Happily walked to the death I’d meet…

But you make me exist, survive and live….

You make me dream, smile and believe…

Now I give up….thy dreams, thy visions…

I care for nothing, neither for thy mission…

I want thee, only thy face to see…

I want thy love deeper than the sea…

Come to me if thee ever loved me…

Hold me close, never leave me…

Then I will be drowned in thy sweet rose….

I will say yes, to everything you propose….

I will live for thee, and die for thee…

My every heartbeat will sing for thee…

Thy gaze will heal when I am fallen apart…

Thy love will blossom, spread from my heart….

I will be your hand in everything you perform

I will be your sword, in the wars of reform….

My mind my soul was lost in the dream again…

In that moment no tears remain!

Glow of thousand suns fell over me….

Great Joy of love burst within….

In that moment I found your secret…

Not in the skies, you hid in my heart!

My prayer was answered…

And my love was fulfilled…

Three Mad Woman…

I lived in central part of the old city at that time….in a congested, cozy neighborhood…where everyone knows everyone, with all their past histories and extended families too….

There was a mad woman….roaming out on roads…with no house…no shelter…..no whereabouts of any sort…. She was mentally disturbed beyond repair…She was unkempt but a very beautiful woman. Fair, tall and with a proud erect posture…she used to walk with grace not conceivable to any ordinary woman….her cloths were torn and patched…but she wore them well….there was an air of dignity around her…. her stark white hair were tangled but she kept them rolled in…what used to be an elegant roll.

Even through those disoriented eyes I always saw a glint of energy…..

In crowds of dead hearted men and women living lives equivalent to rats breeding in dingy holes….she looked like a ray of undaunted hope… though she was labeled a hopeless case, and I was warned to run home whenever she entered our lane…

People teased her…..and she used to get angry…lose her mind….she looked like a lost doe in the middle of hunters…..so helpless…. Those dignified elegant eyes used to shed tears…it wasn’t pain though…..it was anger…pure hot anger pouring down from her heart….

But in such old rickety neighborhoods people are very closely knitted to each other…. She had a few well-wishers too…..who saved her from those scavenging beast like men…..

I remember an old lady, who used to sit in the parlour of her house, watching the street, while her fingers ran on a rosary, singing god’s name….. She used to call this mad woman in her quivering voice….to come and sit with her for a minute or two…. I have seen the mad woman sipping tea with the old lady…..like a married daughter had come to her maiden home….to chat with her mother…. Those old cataract eyes showered her with love! They did not care about her mental disorders, did not care about the dangerous anger of the mad mind….they only knew simple innocent love!

That day the old lady called out to me while I played on the road, in front of her parlour… we never used to talk much…but she often gave me a sweet from a glittering jewelled box on her shelf. That was all the communication that was needed between us. In return she would get a hard unsmiling stare of five year old me! I hardly smiled at anyone…..but still the old lady knew that I appreciated her sweet very much…and that I liked her wrinkled toothless smile more than the sweet! But our custom of wordless speech was broken one day…. The lady told me to sit with her….on the clean daubed parlour floor of hers…. And I sat silently…we were at ease….homely….

She suddenly spoke to me…. A conversation that had started in her mind I guess….

It was the story of the mad woman….told to me without asking for it…..

A story that stayed buried in my heart….forgotten for all these years….

“Once upon a time….the mad woman was not mad….she was an only daughter of her parents, and only sister of her brother. The family was respectable middleclass household….known for a generous hand and kind heart. The daughter so beautiful was also a girl of good “samskara”, a well- behaved intelligent kid, she was delight to all…..

In her teens she met a boy who liked her very much…..pursued her till she too fell in love with him…..

A silent love story was taking shape in that neighborhood….where everyone watched it….and smiled naughtily! Love is a wonderful power that binds two hearts together….”

I was watching the old lady….her eyes were lost in the rosy memories of past!

She kept continuing the story though…

“Of course a long family drama took place as a prelude to that legendary love marriage! But the girl was not just well educated but also wise…..she took us elders of the neighbourhood to her parents…. Our eyes had seen so many seasons…..we knew that this man who loved her so much was the right partner for her… he wasn’t as educated as she was….he was not of her cast…..but you see, once in a while god makes a match like that…to show the real fabric of love to entire world!”

The old lady winked at me with a childlike laughter as her shaky voice narrated on….

“so finally the marriage was agreed upon…..

The bride was ready in a traditional red outfit….clad in jewellery from head to foot….yet she glowed in a light that was coming from a lovely smile of hers!

What a marriage it was! Whole lane was decorated with flower streamers! not just her house….! There was music and sweetmeats and kids danced around in the crowd…..

And who knows whose jealous ill gaze fell on her….. Police took away the groom, under the crime of murder of a well known industrialist in the city….

Everyone was aghast…. He never looked like a murder to me… I always thought he wouldn’t even hurt a fly!”

The old lady was still resolving the puzzle of human mind while telling me the story…

“Who knows what happened of that boy….nobody saw him after that night….. this girl went mad slowly….waiting for his return….. her family took care of her for a while…tried many psychiatrists…but she was not cured…. After few years, her brother got married. I always told his father that the girl was not right for him….but he did not listen to me….. He said, with your consent I agreed to marry my daughter…and see what happened of her…. I need no more suggestion from you” Right he was….

I could do nothing…but watch the family going to pieces in front of my eyes…. The new bride that entered the house changed not just the furniture, but the soul of that house….

Now the parents are sent to an old age home. The brother and his wife have put a fat lock on the door….they now stay abroad. And this girl….roams around in the lane….coping with her own lost mind….”

“Was it destiny….was it the law of karma….who knows what ruled the whim of that almighty?!”

“I am past age of a hundred now…. I am watching his world sitting right here in this parlour that he gave me….. I have fulfilled the role I was given responsibility of…. Now all I look forward to is the tryst with the almighty god himself!”

She remained silent now…..

The old lady was a simple common neighbourhood granny….who was talking to one tiny me…. She never doubted if I understood her well…. Or may be she did not care that much?!

I remember her parlour growing dark…as the twilight faded off the sky…..a skinny wrinkled old lady sitting with another skinny five year old… and then there was the mad woman in the story….sitting next to me…. And I was not going to run home because she was here….

We were three generations….three women of different age and time….three people marked as mad somewhat! We were in one time and space gathered together fetched from three different worlds…. We were wise….carefree….and unaware of the world of other humans that bustled in front of that parlour….