Sitting near the window, she could feel the autumnal breeze. The fainting sun was illuminating the snow-capped mountains creating an amber colored pearl necklace.
The myrrh of the apricot scented roses on the trellis served a reminder of the days bygone.
When Meera and Sanjay had decided to settle in Mukhteshwar, they instantly fell in love with this colonial-style cottage. Every window in the house gave a spectacular view of the drifting clouds between the snowy mountains. She immediately knew this was the perfect house to plant roses. She will have roses of every color she could dream of just like her exquisite and handpicked handloom and silk saree collection.
She spent her childhood in a Delhi suburb, in a cramped two-room apartment along with her parents, old grandmother and an elder sister. The lack of space at her home and relationships was something; she always had to struggle with.
The lone red rose she had planted on the window sill danced with the possibilities and gave her a sense of bright future. She painted her coming life through the brush strokes of imagination. She wanted to be a university professor just like her aunt, Varsha.
Varsha was the quintessential Indian women who taught sociology at Miranda House. Varsha had an enviable collection of sarees and had only two objectives in her life. One was wearing saree every day of the year and the second was to read every possible book written on women by women. Her love for sarees developed and refined after she met her husband. Her husband Mr. Joshi was an art curator for a museum. He used to travel across the country to select and interpret the dying arts amongst the tribals. On every assignment, he used to bring Varsha, a saree from different parts of India.
After settling in her new house, Meera promptly took the daunting task of selecting and planting the right kind of roses along the fence and imperial trellis in her new home. She spent hours training the climbers to make the right impact. Her house within two years boasted of deep red roses on the fence, cheerful yellow roses on the side walls, innocent white, cream and lavender for the beds and peach colored blooms for the trellis.
Her mahogany cupboard just like her garden had a magical abundance of reds, oranges, and yellows. Everything was bursting with colors around her except her pale and dull life, said Varsha.
She met Sanjay at Varsha’s home. After finishing her classes at Miranda House, she used to head straight to Varsha’s university accommodation at North Campus. The tastefully done small government flat was a confluence of arts and beauty marrying style elements from Kerala and Rajasthan. Every wall narrated the story from Indian mythologies. The vibrancy and the visual appeal of the house impressed and fascinated Meera. It stroked creativity and redefined a sense of style and idea of space in her.
The aging walls and crampness of her own house, along with usual bickerings between her mother and grandmother suffocated Meera. She loved the quietness and solitude of this house. One evening when going through her uncle’s latest treasure box which was full artifacts from Bastar, she met Sanjay.
Sanjay had come to collect the box. He was a handsome young man with deep eyes and a beard, very typical of a JNUite.
After finishing his graduate degree in tribal arts, Sanjay was writing his research thesis on Dhokra art of Bastar region in the history department of the University. He was also assisting her uncle in creating a database for the new archival section of the museum’s website. They met at coffee shops, at bookstores and quaint dhabas. He used to spin color and magic with his tales in her monochromatic life fabric.
One dusky evening after watching a play at Mandi House, they were walking towards the Metro Station when he proposed her for marriage. Without much consideration, she said yes. Varsha spoke to her family, and a date was fixed. The coy bride dressed in orange kanjivaram silk saree and bridegroom in traditional silk dhoti and rust colored kurta were tied in holy matrimony that was neither loud nor extravagant.
Sanjay got busy with the daily grind of the research thesis, and Meera took up the job of the primary school teacher in the Kendriya Vidyalaya. Her government job postings took her across the nation.
But Mukhteshwar felt like home; they decided to settle there. It was love at first sight with this quaint and hilly town. And Mukteshwar wasn’t very far from Delhi.
Every weekend, Sanjay used to come to Mukteshwar taking the Friday night train. But then weekly sojourn turned into bi-monthly visit and the triannual. Sanjay started his agency that curated global tribal and ethnic arts. He was sought after by museums and cultural centers.
Meera never asked Sanjay why his visits were dwindling. She got used to living her life without him. It wasn’t difficult for her to adjust to the new town alone. She felt single while being married. There was an innate sense of freedom while remaining in the boundaries. The boundaries that were neither very loose nor tight.
Sanjay’s brief visits as guests were a sweet relief for her. He used to narrate stories from his travels to the places that stimulated her intellectually.
It wasn’t that he didn’t ask Meera to come to Delhi or accompany him with his trips abroad. He had requested Meera sometimes to go with him, and but she always averted it. Sanjay never resisted.
He never asked Meera to get a transfer to Delhi. There was a silent consent on both sides. Both had adjusted to this life where the threads will bind them like kites but will also give them enough space to fly in the air.
She was handling additional responsibilities of vice principal of the school. The administrative duties along with regular class work were already too much for her to handle. But she loved her job, and she also liked Alok, the Education Secretary of her district.
Sanjay opened doors to the external world, and Alok he opened the window to the world within. He was his companion on forest walks, bird watching and or during star-gazing. They could spend hours in the company of each other without giving away a single word. Words seemed to fade and become meaningless when they were together. Watching the sunset at Nanda Devi, or madly looking for forbidden tantric caves, it was like an adventure of going within.
The thought of not seeing Alok for even a single day shuddered her. Her inner self is electrified when she speaks to him when she sees him. Very much in the same way, when Sanjay visits her occasionally, her whole body gets electrified.
She loved Sanjay as a wife loves husband and she loved Alok as Alok. She felt for Sanjay, and she felt the same for Alok too. She was the sky, Sanjay was her day and Alok was her night, the silent, sacred night.
A rose remains rose whether it’s red or yellow. Varsha called it infidelity. No, it wasn’t infidelity, every pore of her body screamed. Sanjay gave a structure to her life. Alok gave new dimensions to its composition.
There was no question of choosing one over the other. Both have their space and place in her life. Choosing one over the other was ugly. And she has never crossed that line. Will she ever cross that line? Why are lines and boundaries in a relationship? Why we can’t just love? Why is it essential to give a name to relationships?
The cup of tea in her hand had lost its warmth. It was already seven. The sun was displaying its fiery colors on the canvas of the sky when she reached home from school. The Education Secretary is visiting the school tomorrow for an inspection. Her phone beeped. Sanjay canceled his train ticket to Mukteshwar this weekend as he is going to Bangladesh for curating an exhibition.