Thursday, June 11, 2015

Who is my God?

So, who is God? Is it the protector Vishnu or the preacher Messiah or the amorphous Allah???  Well, not a very interesting topic I know. There has been several discussions and debates on this over and over again. Being so opinionated myself I had to give in my opinion. 

Like many of you, I have wondered over the years as to what is God's role in my life. My religious and spiritual upbringing promised me that God will fulfil my wishes if I pray devoutly and make offerings ( not necessarily money).  So that's what I did, for years. I prayed, to succeed in an exam, not to miss the bus to school, to punish the mean teacher at school who spanked me, for the cute guy at school to give me a smile... Well, the list just goes on. Some of them worked and some didn't. For anyone wondering, the cute guy in school didn't even know of my existence, eerrrrr!!!!. But nothing shook my ardent religious believes.

When I moved to a hostel for my college, I had a lot of Christian friends who would hold their hands together and pray feverishly. They talked like they could hear Him and see Him and He would do whatever they righteously ask for. I was fascinated. This was a time when I pondered as to why Hinduism (as I knew) wasn't as forgiving as Christianity. There was only one Christian God and Christians didn't have to fear about Hanuman swami being mad at them because they didn't offer him a coconut, but only to the Ganpathy beside him. But as much as I didn't understand the logics of any religion well, I believed all God's are powerful and would help me. So during exams, I would also go the church near my hostel. Well, You never know where you get help from right? Thinking about it now, my attitude of that time reminds me of Salim Kumar's  dialogue from Superman movie, "Eni engaanum biriyani kodukkunnundenkilo"!Ahem Ahem! Now you should remember, for someone who doesn't even have study materials almost 3-4 days before the exam ( Yeah, girls go through those exam situations too), it really doesn't matter if the help comes from Meenakshi or Mother Mary or Messiah or Mecca. When I did pretty well in the exams considering the amount of effort put in, I marveled God even more, all of them. I am one of the very few who have chanted Hanuman Chalisa more than 100 times in a go, more than once. God would just do anything for me if I prayed, or so I believed.

I had several instances in life where things would seem to go extremely bad, but in the twist of events, end in my favor. At this point I was sure that God is doing this to me on purpose. Give me a tough time so that my victories will be sweeter. A lot of troubles didn't even bother me when I started believing it. But then came a time in life when I felt like God wasn't hearing me anymore, in spite of anything I did. I started to think that no matter what I pray, God will only give me what is thought to be best for me and not what I want. What is the point of praying then? So while I held on to my beliefs in God, I stopped praying, at least for getting something in return. Going to temples did not feel like a spiritual experience  anymore. But still at times when something went wrong, my immediate innate response would be to say "eeswara" (Oh God!) in my mind. 

So, is god Hindu or Christian or Muslim? May be Buddist?  What does God look like? Should I be scared if I do not pray everyday? The questions have lingered in my mind for too long and I have finally found the answers that make the most sense to me. 

God is our "belief". God is Ganapathy, Shiva, Devi, Parvathy, Krishna, Jesus, Mother Mary, Allah, Luck, Karma, Destiny, Fate, the family, the neighbor, the garbage man or whatever it is that one believes in. God is Hope. The hope that someone or something is there is keep us safe and secure all the time. God cannot cure our diseases, or wipe away our enemies or make our exams easier, but can fight all these battles with us without ever giving up on us. God is any of that, something or someone, living or imaginary that does not judge us when we make a mistake, that does not punish us for our secrets, that does not hate us for our misdeeds. That which stays perfect when we are imperfect. We need not look for God. We just live a life, try to do what we think is right, (of course killing someone isn't) and BELIEVE. Belief is God! Believing in ourselves and believing that everything will turn out fine. As for religion, it is man made. For all I know, I can make one tomorrow. Ok, Now I wonder what I will name it if I have a religion of my own. Although pretty narcissistic, may be I will tag it with my family name, "Mulangadism",  sounds fancier than Lalism at least. 

PS: This is what I believe now. God knows how my beliefs might change later! ;).

Monday, June 8, 2015

A blessing

She is blessed from heavens to save the world
She will wave her magic wand,She will touch your tainted arms
Your miseries will efface, your soul will be virtuous
your heart and brain so unperturbed.

She purges them all for 1000 days, the murderers, the rapists and them all
She comes to me on 1001., "Bless me", I beseech, "shrive my heart"
She gazes at me, with compassion in her soul and fear in her eyes
she chants a silent prayer, she hurls her magic wand
She vanishes,touched by me, leaving me untouched, !

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mistress of Life

Revathy looked at her watch again. It is 7.50pm.  The bus leaves in 10 minutes. "Where is he"?, she thought. She could vaguely see the taxi she came in, waiting at the red light in the intersection far away. The taxi driver Baby was the family's virtuous chauffeur for around 10 years, before Revathy's father loaned him money to buy a car for himself. Revathy has always been amused by the name "Baby" for a 6 foot 2 inch muscular man whose long face and bald hair resembled anything, but a baby. She had asked him once, around 20 years ago, about how he got this name. He did not know. He thought his grandmother named him Baby, but wasn't sure. "My official name is Srinivas, But everyone has called me Baby since I can remember" he had said.

Far away, she sees the red light turn to green and then red again. Many passengers have already boarded the bus. A young couple gets out of an auto and rushes to leave the baggage in the luggage area. Revathy gazed at her watch again. 7.55pm. She is becoming more fretful with every passing second and is startled by the bus driver's petulant voice. "Chechi, I am asking you for the third time, please get in and take your seat." Revathy is in her late sixties. She liked that the twenty something driver boy called her chechi and not Ammumma or Amma. It often made her feel fragile when someone called her Ammumma. "A few grey hair and you are inevitably bestowed the title of  grandmother of the entire neighborhood"!, How unfair!, she thought. She curbed her urge to respond to him and boarded the bus. She puts on her glasses to read the seat numbers. She had checked her ticket several times while she waited impatiently outside. She knows that their seat numbers are 13 and 14. She paces quickly, feeling conscious that she might block way for someone behind her. Revathy's feeling of relief to see the number 13 and 14th towards the 4th or 5th row of seats immediately turns skittish when she remembers how unlucky the number 13 is. She rushes to the window seat, restive and peeks out of the window, antsy. He isn't seen anywhere. The couple who just reached are the only ones outside the bus. The helper boy accommodates their rather large baggage into the luggage area. She is relieved to see that they have some more baggage to rearrange and hope it takes longer.

"Revu", she hears the familiar voice beside her and takes a deep sigh of relief before she turns her head, with no effort to veil her indignation. Without giving him a chance to speak, she pounces at him. "Where were you? Do you have any idea how worried I was? What if the bus had left without you?  Sukumar smiles and patiently takes seat number 13. Sukumar knew Revathy well enough to know that she wasn't just angry about him being late. She has been on an emotional turmoil lately and he knows he is culpable for it. Sukumar looked exceedingly handsome for a man in his early seventies. Clad in a white Polo T-shirt and Louis Vuitton blue jeans, his age is concealed efficiently than his fondness for big brands.

He pulls out an orange from the white bag he was carrying and holds it towards her. "I could not find oranges anywhere near. Had to walk through several different stores. May be if you liked apples, I would not have had to walk so much."He said smiling.

Revathy immediately feels a sense of guilt. She wished she had liked apples so that he wouldn't have had to walk so much. But refusing to divulge her feelings, she said, "Apples have no flavor. Do you know that if we lose our sense of smell, apples and potatoes would taste the same, and the saying that, An apple a day keeps the doctor away, its a myth". She then looks outside the window, but unable to bear her sense of guilt, turns around to apologize. But when she sees Suku enjoying the carefully peeled orange, unsympathetic of the old woman next to him, decides against it. The bus slowly starts to move. The driver turns the lights off in the bus, the only dim light comes from the TV which is now turned on, but the screen is just plain blue. Several passengers in the bus have already started to sleep,  some are reading books in the dim light while others broke ice with the stranger beside them. 

"We will reach Bangalore around 7 am in the morning, Suku said. 
"Oh no!, I forgot my BP medication" came Revathy's response.
Sukumar with concern in his eyes said, "You are so forgetful! You have to take better care of yourself Revu. They will take a rest room break somewhere on the way, I will go buy it".  

"No! No!" Revathy said, " You will take long and I will then be worried till you return. I will have it in the morning after we reach Bangalore".

Sukumar just sighed and did not resist. He then said, " Medicines aren't good for you anyway. They make you sick. That's why I don't take any. But you Revu, please take better care of yourself". 

"You are just lucky you don't have to take any medicines" Revathy said trying to provoke him. 
But Sukumar ignores the comment.

The young couple who had arrived late for the bus had taken seats right behind Suku and Revu. They try to pretend, not to hear the couple chortle and mumble behind them.

A movie starts playing on the TV which gets Revathy excited. "Chupke Chupke!", she says the old Hindi movie. "I haven't seen it. The movie released sometime around the time we were in college. I have always wanted to watch it". Revu sounded like her seventeen year old self, Suku thinks, around the time he had first met her in college. "Amitabh Bachan!", Revu goes on. "The angry young man, he is still as handsome as he was all those years ago. His son didn't inherit those looks. What is that boy's name Suku?"

"Abhishek Bachan!" he replies,  "Well, the most beautiful woman in the world does not seem to think so. Apparently Aiswarya Rai thinks he is very handsome".

"Come on Suku", says Revathy, "she has had several flings and she just hung on to the most reliable one. Now that doesn't make him handsome. I dont even think she is that beautiful. She was not even Miss Universe. It was that other girl, you know... Sushmita Singh!"

 Sukumar does not laugh at her gaffe. He simply corrects her. "It is Susmita Sen Revu".

Revu responds red faced, "yeah, bad memory, perks of aging you know".

"We only grow old when we give up on life. It can be in our thirties or in nineties. I don't think either of us have started aging yet. We would not be together, here today if we had". Revu unsure of whether to agree or disagree, just stares at him. She remembers how much she loves listening to him speak. She always felt like a little girl when he talked to her like this. She quietly admired his articulate preachings, even when she disagreed with him.

♪♫Chupke Chupke Chal Ri Purwaiya.... Chupke Chupke Chal Ri Purwaiya..♫♪, The song grasps Revathy's attention back to the TV. "This song brings back a lot of old memories" she says. I can never forget you and your friends bullying me on the first day of class."

Suku introspects shortly before he says "The golden era of life. Kids these days will never understand the joy of life without electronic invasion."

Revathy asks, "Suku, Do you wonder how different life would have turned out, if we knew back then, that everything we thought we knew about life was fictitious".

"I don't know Revu. I don't think like that. But I know those days are not coming back. We will have to make the most of what we have now.", replies Sukumar. "Do you remember  Professor Krishna Shayle, from chemistry."

"Ofcourse, I do! He was my Acha's lookout for me. He called Acha and warned him about us, remember. It took a lot of lying and convincing before I was allowed back to go to college. I promised him there was nothing to worry. Actually I cheated him, I betrayed his trust, you know" She sounds apologetic as she speaks.

♪♫Pagal pavan se, kaise koi bole...Gori ke mukh se, ghunghata na khole♪♫, the song continues

They drift back to their college days, Again. This time, together. 

"Christ University", the big black sign outside the university read. A small, private university with just 3 buildings managed by the priests of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), the first indigenous Syrian Catholic religious congregation in India. A chilly June morning of 1972 was a 17 year old  Revathy's first day in Bangalore. Her father had just found a new job in BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited), Bangalore. This June held a lot of firsts for Revathy --first time away from grandparents, first time she travelled on a train, first time she saw a girl in jeans, first time in a college and the very first time she saw Sukumar, but the last time she would fall in love.

Sukumar and Revathy were two of the only 5 Keralites in the university. Sukumar was in Revathy's class of B.Sc in Chemistry. But Sukumar did not look like the other seventeen year old boys in the class. He definitely looked older and he was. He had already tried out two years in Zoology classes, 6 months of Economics and with the subjects failing to garner his interest, has now started Chemistry. He was like the big brother in the university. Everyone knew him and those who did not know him, knew someone who knew him. Sukumar was known to work his charm among the girls too.

On his first day in Chemistry class, the short girl with dark, smooth hair, had caught his attention, but he never tried to talk to her. He just watched her sitting in the middle row, unable to understand a word of Kannada her teachers or classmates spoke. He knew she could come to him. Someone would ultimately tell her about the only other one in the class who can help her in her misery. " I will be the saviour she would turn to", he had thought. 2 weeks he had waited and she never came to him, not even a smile. Without speaking a word of this new language, Revathy had already made several friends. They would laugh to her jokes and she would bring them her Amma's Upperi from home. Finally on June 22nd, she came to class with a handful of cadbury chocolates. She handed them to all her classmates. "Happy Birthday" he said and she smiled. She doesn't know when and how she fell in love for the guy who her classmates had warned her against. Sukumar felt like Revathy traded a piece of his heart for the cadbury she gave him. After the first year his classmates were sure that Sukumar stayed in the chemistry class for no love of Chemistry, but for Revathy.

Sukumar and Revathy never spoke of their love, for almost 3 years. Her heart skipped a beat, when he looked at her, when he mildly brushed against her when they walked through the corridors, when he called her Revu, or just asked her to be careful when she walked back home.
Sukumar did not know what was it about her. He just felt very different than he had ever felt before and he thought he had been in love before. "What is with this girl"? he often asked himself. But they never spoke of it.

Revathy's unforgettable day of them together was this one day at the college canteen. It was Suku's birthday, He got hot chai and kesari for all his friends.

My chai tastes horrible Suku kept complaining.

"Revu could you try this and see if it is just me?" he had asked

Revu took a sip from a perfectly sweet tasting chai. "Whats up with you? There is nothing wrong with this chai. It is sweet", feeling perfect authority to reprimand him for being unreasonable.

Suku looking amused, takes the cup back from her and takes a sip. "Oh, its so sweet now - the touch of your lips I guess, that is what it lacked."

Revu blushed till her cheeks turned blood red. As silly as it sounds to her at this age, she still cherishes that day and  remembers the day like it was yesterday. This reminiscence never failed to brighten her up.

It was the little things about him that she loved -- the way he looked at her, his eyes so small and yet so idyllic, she sank in his gaze, his words so effortless and yet so invigorating, she could listen to him all day, his hands so sinewy and his touch gentle, she could be her guileless, genuine self. A glimpse of him and her breath leaped , her kness tickled and her chest heaved. She felt like a rapacious witch when she saw Suku with another girl, jealous and envious. But she could not tell him of her love. She loved him too much to lose him by being one among his several flings,  her father would not approve of his frivolous life style, he does not love her, not decorous for a girl to make the first move, she had just too many reasons to hush her love.

A hump on the road caused a sudden jerk in the bus, yanking them back to the dimness of the A/C Volvo bus. Revathy pulled the lever next to the handle and the leg rest swayed up. Revathy struggled to bend down and take her sandals off her feet. No matter what Suku says or how much she denies it, her body has started to resonate her age, she thinks.

The movie is still playing in the small TV perfectly placed on the top center of the bus from where it is visible to even passengers in the back seat. Revathy watches the TV screen as a handsome Amitabh Bachchan as Professor Sinha tries to boo the endearing Vasudha played by Jaya Bhaduri. Revathy is caught unguarded by the scene where Professor Sinha asks Vasudha to taste to cup of tea for sweetness. Vasudha tries the tea finding it perfectly sweet and returns it to Professor Sinha who too now finds the tea, touched by Vasudha's lips, excessively saccharine. A staggered Revathy stares at the screen bewildered. Suku turns to her, embarrassed, perfectly conscious of the reason behind Revu's astonished look. She had told him innumerable times, how glorious she had felt that day.

"Sukuuu????!!!!"Revu calls in utter amusement.

"I have never seen this movie before", Suku retorts. "I have no clue how they got it", Did you tell someone Revu? I am sure you did." Suku smirks sheepishly. Don't you know all these scriptwriters are looking for real life instances, especially all Amitabh Bachchan movies are replicates of real life or English movies"?

"I have not told anyone", Revu snaps and yet she deliberates in her mind if he could be right. Could the scene be based on her real life? Could Amitabh Bachchan have heard of it from any of her friends or someone at the canteen that day? Suddenly realizing how dense those ideas were, she turns to Sukumar and says, "I can't believe I was so half-baked to fall for your filmy dialogues. Has anything you ever told me come from your heart and not a movie"?

" What do you think, Revu"? Sukumar asks looking her right in her eyes.  His tiny eyes, still so alluring, wipes off all her suppositions.

While they continue talking about college, old friends and family, Revathy can sense every passing minute. "Time is moving unusually fast today" she says and he nods in agreement.

The helper boy in the bus appeared from behind the white curtain that separated the passengers seats from the driver area. "We are going to stop in a restaurant for half an hour he said. You can have food and use the restrooms", he said sounding uninterested, as he did every night when he repeated this same sentence.

Suku feels sympathy for the boy's mundane life. The same bus, the same itinerary, the same restaurant and many sleepy passengers, not one caring to thank him when he helps them with their luggage.
Revu meanwhile ponders over how she wishes her life was like the helper boy's. He gets to travel a lot and meet new people every day.

"We will have food and also look for the BP medication." Suku said
Revu although delighted that he remembered about the medicine convinces him that it was unnecessary.

The place can hardly be called a restaurant. A small building crowded with passengers, in the deep corner of big ground with buses lined like match sticks in a box. Some of them looked more sophisticated than the others.

"The owner of this place must be paying a lot of cash in commission to all these bus drivers. Look at this place, it is flooded with passengers." Suku said as he sipped through his sugar free coffee".

Revu did not hear him. She was lost in her own thoughts. Suku decides not to bother her. He knows what she is thinking of. It has gone through his own mind several time. He looks at his watch again. 11.45pm.
 "We will reach in almost 7 hours" he says a little later.
"I know", She says and after a pause, " I will go use the restroom."
"It is to your right from that blue door"
"I know. I can read signs"! She sounds hostile.

Suku takes a deep sigh and watches her she disappears behind the blue door. He does not hear his phone ring in the rambunctious room, but feels the vibration in his pocket. Ashok calling, the screen read.

"Hello Achu", Suku greets
"Acha, Where are you, I have been trying you for a long time. Message said out of coverage", Ashok asks warmly
"I was in Cochin. On the way back to Bangalore now. The bus just stopped for dinner, I might lose connection again, once I board back the bus."
"How is Amma?" Achu asked
Suku looks towards the blue door as he speaks "She is not with me right now. I will call you once I reach Bangalore and you can talk to her"
"Ok Acha. I will call tomorrow morning. I am leaving for office now. The Chicago weather is getting warmer, so I might go out with friends in the evening. Tell Amma not to worry if I don't call until late".
"You know how your mother is. I will tell her." You take care Achu. Bye!
"Bye Acha" comes the reply and the call is disconnected.

As Sukumar and Revathy boarded back the bus, the couple behind them has already cuddled under a single blanket. They move a little away from each other as they see the old couple coming towards the seat, a respectful gesture.

As they occupy the seats, Sukumar says, "These kids think we don't discern love and intimacy. I should probably go tell them our story. I want to see their reaction when they hear it"

"You are silly, leave them alone. They must be newly married or first time in love" Revu blushes as she speaks.

Sukumar is delighted to see Revathy smiling again.

"Do you remember our final year college excursion?" Revu asked unexpectedly.

"Ofcourse I do! Without that trip, I probably would have never known that you love me. I always thought that you never cared for me you know,  that I was not your types like the kids say these days." he laughed wholeheartedly and she joined.

"Well, I thought the same of you. You always had a bunch of "Gopikas" around you." She blurted out.

"What can I say, I had my looks back in the days-. All these girls were after me. I was too busy trying to impress you that I never paid attention to any of them. Actually I should have right?  I wonder where is that girl Vijaya now. She did have a thing for me" Sukumar explains.

" Well you have carried your looks pretty well to your seventies, no doubt!, but I have seen you flirt with all those girls." and yeah, your Vijaya, she is dead. Heart attack, 5 years ago. I thought you knew. " She says without remorse.

"Oh heart attack, I knew I had broken a piece of her heart when I rejected her love. She would be alive today if I had married her."He replies equally unremorseful.

They both  laughed again. The movie had finished on the overhead TV and old Hindi songs started playing.  "♪♫Khilte Hein Gul Yahaan, Milthe Hein Dil Yahaan♪♫".  As they looked into other's eyes their memories hitched a free ride back into the days...

Department of Chemistry, Christ College- Batch of 1972-1975, the banner on the bus read.

It was around 2.30pm and everyone was dozing off after the lunch. Prof Shayle was right in the middle row making sure the boys and the girls weren't getting any closer than it was absolutely necessary.

"This drama has been going on for two years now. Why don't you just tell her that you love her? This whole class know of your love for her. I am sure she is aware of it too and is just waiting for you to tell her." Raghav explained to Sukumar.

"I don't know if she loves me. It will be too embarrassing if she says No. I won't be able to look at her again". Sukumar replied as he bookmarked page number 3 on the book he was reading, The Day of The Jackal, By Frederick Forsyth. Although he had waited 2 years to get a copy of this fiction, he realized his mind was too occupied to read right then.

"What are you,  stupid? She loves you, the whole universe knows that. Now this is your last chance. The classes get over in 3 months and we will all go our own ways. You will never see her again. Think about it". Raghav reminded him.

They reached Ooty around 5pm. Most of them took out their sweaters before they unboarded the bus. Sukumar wore a white full sleeved T shirt and blue jeans. Revathy puts her hand out the window and felt the chill of the slow breeze in her hand. She wrapped the black shawl tightly around her blue salwar. The bus would not get till the Lodge they stay in. They have a five minute walk. There were several small stalls on the road sides, most of them selling flowers. The gust carried with it fragrances of mullapoo (jasmines) and roses. Revathy waited for a few minutes to make sure Suku came out of the bus before she started walking. Shayle had already walked ahead. Unable to bear the cold, he rushed to the lodge.

Revathy had started walking before Suku could join her. She paced slow, hoping Sukumar will catch up. But she did not expect him to halt her like that, dashing in front of her and not letting her move.

"You startled me. Why will you do that?" Revathy pretended to be annoyed.

The other students passed by utilizing this time without Shayle to taunt each other and flirt.

" I want to know, you have been driving me crazy for a long time now." Suku said

Revu was annoyed, this wasn't what she had expected. , " Driving you nuts? What did I do?"

"You don't do anything, that is the problem"

Revu feels confused and starts to walk away. She found Suku's charm fading away in this unexplained pique. But before she could move, he spoke again.

"What are your feelings for me? Do you love me?" He sounded unintentionally commanding, as he spoke, dreading rejection.

Revathy's  feet froze and as always she was bewitched by his infinitesimal eyes. She regained all her prowess, took her eyes off him and walked off.

Sukumar had no idea what it meant. Was she mad? Did she hate him? His ego was on its peak however, and he was determined to know. He had to know.

He stopped her again. But as he looked into her eyes this time, he knew, he knew that for the first time in his life, he had madly fallen in love. He said again, "Revu, I need to know. Do you love me?"His tone was much placid this time.

"You never told me you love me!!!", came the quick response. Revathy didn't realize she spoke those words.

 "Oh God, girl!" Sukumar smiled, his usual smirk, looked around and said. "I love you. In fact I feel like a lunatic. I wake up thinking of you. I go to bed thinking of you. I have a stupid pillow in my room, I call Revu...I mean, not stupid.... a good pillow, like soft and.... fluffy, like a teddy bear.!!!" He paused. "See, I come to class just to see you, to talk to you. I would have given up on this Chemistry class by now if you weren't in this class. I want to make something of myself now. I want to finish my studies, find a job and then come.... talk to.... your parents. I had never thought of life this way. You make me want all that girl, everything I have never wanted before."  "I Love You Revu, a lot!"

Revu just stands there dazed, too shy to look at him and then starts walking again, slowly. Suku holds her hand gently and begs, "Please"!!!

"I want mullappo".

Suku is purplexed, "Huh"!!!

Revu repeats, " I want mullappoo, this time pointing to the woman who has several bunches of flowers in front of her.

"Mullappoo???? No you don't". Suku replies unsure of what else to say.

Revu with timid audacity says, "I love mullappoo and do I have to tell you for you to know that I love you" and walked away. She looks down and smiled gleefully as she moved.

Suku hollers happily from behind, "Wait, I am buying it".

Back in the bus, the driver honks a long one at a biker who passes by him. Revu startled by the honking, looks at her watch. It is 1.23am. She looks at Suku wondering if he is asleep. But he was getting something out of his bag.

"What are you looking for?" she asks

Suku pulls out a small package from his bag. It is wrapped in a white paper and secured with a thread. He hands it over to her and says. " This is really why I was late to board the bus". It was harder to find than I thought."

Revu takes the package from Suku. " A gift for me"? Thats unusual. I am not very used to taking gifts from you." She said trying to mask her enthusiasm under her taunt.

She could smell it already. Infact, the whole bus smelled of mullappoo by now.

They heard the girl behind them remark, "Mullappoo!. Where is this fragrance coming from? " The boy next to her, unconcerned where it is coming from,  hugs her tighter under the blanket as she speaks.

Revathy holds the small strand of flowers in her hand uninterested. Surprised by her lack of zeal, Suku sayss, "I thought you love mullappoo".

Revu looks at Suku and replies, " I loved mullappoo."

Suku feels his heart sink as Revu continues, "I am too old to love flowers now Suku. I will save it in my bag."

Suku grabs the flowers from her hand and slips it in between her hair. "You are not old and definitely not old enough to give up on everything you love. "

Revu gives him a disappointed look and turns her head towards the window. There was nothing to see outside, but darkness.

"Do you know of this grandmother who skydived for her 90th birthday?" That is how we should celebrate life." Suku says

"Do you know she almost died and could have killed the man who jumped with her"? He could feel her rage when she talked. " Life mocks at me Suku, everyday!  It gives me everything... everything I need, except what I want. Then it laughs at me while I make futile attempts to make up for what I want with what I have". 

Suku does not respond. He doesn't even completely understand her perturbance this time. He had thought she would be happy to see the flowers and now feels annoyed at her whining.

Revu sees what is coming next. Suku will do what he does best now, start moralising her, until she feels guilty for everything she has ever said to him. But this time, she isn't sure if she wants to hear it, but before she could say anything, he starts talking.

"You know moments before we die, when we look back at our lives, we will only regret one thing, that we did not live life to the fullest. Have you heard of Professor Randy Pausch?" Suku continues unaware of Revathy's disregard. "He was a professor at Carnagie Mellon at University in Pennsylvania, one of the best in the world. At 45, he was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. Instead of brooding over it, he inspired his entire university by talking about how he overcame different obstacles in life to fulfil each of his dreams. He became an advocate for cancer awareness. You have to learn from the lives of these people who leave a permanent foot print in this world before they leave. What do you even complain about? What do you not have? People suffer every day for countless reasons. You think your problems are bigger than everyone else's Revathy. They aren't. You are just less appreciative of what you have right now. It is not all about you Revathy! It has been years, just get over it Goddamnit.!"

His words bounced back and forth in her head, more jarring than she had expected. "Do you know how hard it is to be me? Do you know how it is to live.........."she hesitates and does not finish. What is the point she thinks as she turns her head towards the window again. He will not understand, just like she does not understand anything he says.

Revathy was no stranger to Suku's censures. Although she had expected this, she wondered how he could be so brutal. She often wonders if he does this on purpose. To make her hate him. That would make her life easier. But she knew he didn't.  This was Sukumar, one who cared, but whose ideals transcended his love for her. No matter how hard she tried, she knew she wasn't getting anything more.

The young couple behind them seems to have fallen asleep.

The next time Sukumar looks at his watch, it is 2.00am. He looks at Revathy who is still looking out into the darkness through the window. He cannot see her face, but he knows she is struggling hard to hold back her tears.

"I am sorry Revu" he says. "You know me. I just say things I don't mean. I don't know... I just do that. Just forgive me.... Please!"
Revathy's head drops into Sukumar's chest as she weeps vehemently, heedless of her surroundings. He gently pats on her hair with his left hand, while trying to gather his own emotions. As she fails to curb her tears he says again"I am sorry".  He then looks at her again and ever so gently kisses her on her forehead.

They don't know how long they just held on to each other like that. They haven't spoken a word, but a lot was communicated. Revathy sinks in the cozy comfort of Sukumar's shoulders and holds on tight to his arms. She doesn't know when she dozed off.

She wakes up with the sun shining into her eyes. When she opens her eyes, she sees Sukumar already awake.

"I did not want to wake you up". He says.

"You should have".

"We will reach Madiwala in half an hour".

Revathy looks at her watch unable to believe that she had slept that long. She tries to remember the last time she had an uninterrupted sleep. She hasn't realized that she is still holding Suku's hands and has not let it go for the last five hours.

"Your hair smells of those flowers Revu. I think you will start loving them again", Suku says.

"I told you Suku, it is too late now"

"Madiwala", Someone shouts from behind the curtain. She suddenly feels as if awake from a dream and realizes her right hand is still clasped to his.
Some passengers are already moving towards the door.

Sukumar is surprised they have reached already. He turns to her, "I know I have hurt you. I am sorry"...  He says perfectly aware of the damage he has caused". She knew he meant it.

"I am sorry too Suku. I know I have done the same"she says. Before reluctantly pulling her hand out from his, she sucks her breath in and asks him. "Have you .....ever really loved me"?

Suku just pauses,  holds his head down, took a deep sigh, looks her in her eyes and says, "Revu, Ask yourself, you know the answer".

The bus was slowly coming to a halt. Rickshaw drivers are charging towards the bus door, competing to lure passengers towards their vehicle. As the door opens, a passenger gets out and tries to walk past them feeling like the first feed in a fish tank. 

Sukumar and Revathy slowly get up and walk towards the door,but only after she turns to look at the young couple behind them. They are still sleeping, snuggled inside a blanket. 

As the two passengers ahead of them step down, Suku suddenly turns to Revathy and asks. "Will we see each other again?"

As she collects her words, the driver asks them to clear the way quick. Revathy holds her tears and  smiles at Suku, before she slowly, with one feet at a time, gets out of the bus and without looking back turns right towards her husband. Balachandran was waiting behind all those drivers, explaining patiently to them that he does not need their service. The cleaner boy has already taken out her bag and handed it to him.

"That was on time,. How was the ride?" Balachandran enquired.

"Quite pleasant" 

Sukumar grabs his black bag and gets into an auto. He knows he can see her again if he just looks back, but he cannot.  He says "Indira Nagar" to the driver and holds his head back into the seat, closes his eyes and tries to replay in his head, the last few hours of his life, again and again.  

As they get into the car, Balachandran comments. "Is that some flowers I see Revathy? That is new. Since when do you like mullappoo?"

Revathy takes the flowers off her head and shoves it in her bag, She smiles and says "I really don't" and the conversation dies. 

She closes her eyes, "Ask yourself, you know the answer", Suku had said. 
She had asked this question to herself, over and over again. She had expected to finally get the answer when she met him,  after all these years. 
She asks herself again. "Did he really ever love me?"
She does not know and it does not matter, at least right now.