Heard melodies are sweet;
But those unheard are sweeter
She had just returned from US. She was on a visit to her sister’s place. A long stay of more than six months abroad had resulted in a major change in her personality. She was no more that small-town girl Kasturi. She had definitely changed a lot. At least that was what she thought of herself.
Had she really changed? When she got up on that beautiful morning it did not seem so. She had this regular habit of waking up early in the morning when she was at home. She also used to go on a long walk in the early morning. The track was always the same. Her feet would invariably draw her to that small but beautiful lake not far from her home. At the one end of the lake, stood, this big Bakul tree. During the flowering season the entire ground below the tree would appear to be a bed of roses. Their fragrance could be smelt even from her house. This time also the same fragrance attracted Kastuir’s nose and simply pulled her feet up to it! She felt she was walking in a dream!
Yes! She was at the place for sure! The tree was there full of flowers. The entire earth below looked beautiful with fallen flowers. The blue waters of the lake combined with the bed of flowers created a beautiful atmosphere. Kasturi had reached her most beloved place on earth. But was she happy? She missed the presence of her most beloved. Without him the most beautiful place became the most painful! The fragrance of the flowers brought the sweet memories back. But they also brought back the pains of separation!
She was quite young when she saw him for the first time. Her father was the chairman of the village school committee. The Head Master of the school came to visit her father for discussion on some administration matters. He had brought this young boy with him who was a student of the school. The boy was introduced to her father as the best student of the school. His name was Shyamal. He was a smart young boy with an intelligent looking face.
Kasturi was the beloved daughter of her father and used to be with him whenever any visitor dropped in. She was still young and had not been admitted to the school yet. She had lovely features. When her eyes met Shyamal’s she developed an instant liking for him. In fact she wanted to speak to him right away. But she could not. So she waited for an opportunity. That opportunity came up very fast.
It was the annual day function in the school. The chairman was invited to be the chief guest. Kasturi accompanied her father for the occasion. She saw Shyamal coming on the stage several times to collect the prizes from her father. She was quite in awe of him. Once when he was getting down from the stage she lifted her hands to wish him. Lo! She could attract his attention. He came to her seat and shook her hands. He fully recognized her and spoke to her. Kasturi could not speak. She was totally mesmerized by his presence.
Kasturi wanted Shyamal’s company desperately. She was totally infatuated with him. She had her opportunity when she was admitted to the same school. Luckily she found that Shyamal was to pass near her house on his way to school. She told her father she would go with him daily. Shyamal also had other boys and girls with him for company on his way. Hence however much she tried she could not have his exclusive attention. But she was still happy just to be with him.
Kasturi was very fond of Bakul flowers. She would daily collect the same from a tree very near her house. She would make a garland and offer it to God Krishna during Pooja. She would carry the same to School on many occasions. She had one innermost desire. That was to ask Shyamal to fix it on her plait! But she could never gather sufficient courage to do that!
The years passed by. Shyamal being a senior student completed his schooling. He had to move to the City to take up his college education. Kasturi lost his company and became desolate. All her dreams to have a close association with Shyamal appeared to have come to an end. While Shyamal did show special affection towards her occasionally, she could not convince herself that the infatuation she had developed for him was duly reciprocated.
Kasturi had no occasion to meet Shyamal quite for some time. The years passed by. She was in the final year of her schooling. She had grown up to be a beautiful maiden. Her yearning for Shyamal never came down. She herself was about to move to the City to take up her College education.
During the summer holidays she was waiting for her results. One fine morning she was on her way to the Bakul tree for collecting the flowers as per her daily routine. She saw a smart young boy sitting below the tree. On reaching closer, she found the boy smiling at her. And Lo! Kasturi could not believe her eyes. It was indeed Shyamal for whom she had waited so infinitely. When her eyes met that of Shyamal’s, her entire dreams so far appeared to have come true.
Shyamal had come home for his summer holidays. He was on his morning walk when he had suddenly remembered Kasturi. It seems he was aware of Kasturi’s daily presence near Bakul tree in the morning. He waited for her sitting below the tree. He was right. He could see Kasturi approaching the place within a short time. As for Kasturi, the heavens had just opened up!
For the first time Kasturi could speak to Shyamal privately without any inhibitions. Their first day together after such a long time allowed them to have a free exchange of their present state of affairs. Shyamal had completed his professional degree and was waiting for his results. There was every possibility that he could be proceeding to US for his Masters degree. Kasturi was disappointed to know that by the time she moved to the City to pursue her College education, Shyamal would proceed abroad.
Shyamal made it a point to meet her daily near the Bakul tree. The two would go on a long walk together. Kasturi gradually lost all her inhibitions and could speak to him freely. They would sit on the banks of the lake below the Bakul tree and spend their time in conversation endlessly. They were totally unaware of the summer holidays running out fast.
Like all good things their daily meetings also had to come to an end. One fine morning Shyamal had to leave the place in preparation for his proceeding abroad. Almost simultaneously Kasturi had to move to the City to take up her College education. Their parting was painful. Kasturi expected Shyamal to keep in touch with her. At the time of separation only she remembered that she had miserably failed to express her feelings to Shyamal so far. Their conversations all these days were surely encompassing all the matters except the most crucial one! Both of them had kept untouched this most important aspect of their life at that age. Definitely love was blooming in the heart of Kasturi. But as regards Shyamal she found him holding his cards close to his chest!
Kasturi continued her College education in the City. She had no occasion to meet Shyamal any more. Neither Shyamal kept any communication window open for her. She completed her graduation and was back at her place. Her parents started looking for a suitable bridegroom for her. Kasturi was least interested. But she could not express the same to them.
She got an opportunity to escape from the situation. Her only sister had come to
on a holiday. She asked her to come with her to US and stay for some time.
Kasturi readily agreed. There was no objection from her parents. She
accompanied her sister and visited US. India
She had a nice time in US. She visited all the important places of interest with her sister’s family. But her one important purpose of meeting Shyamal never materialized. She had no way of finding his location in US. She was reluctant to return to
She was aware her parents would force her for marriage. But obviously she could
not stay there indefinitely. India
Suddenly Kasturi heard some body calling her name loudly. She realized that she had been sitting there for a long time. It was her mother calling her. She had come in search and found her beloved daughter sitting below the tree desolately. She was surprised to find that Kasturi had not collected any flowers so far. She could understand that something was burning in the mind of her beautiful and young daughter. She did not look the normal energetic and spirited Kasturi.
That afternoon Kasturi was reading the translation of Sharatchandra’s famous Bengali novel Shreekantha. She was comparing herself to the character of Rajalakshmi. The childhood longing of Rajalakshmi for Shreekantha was so similar to her own! She wondered whether Shyamal would really turn out to be her Shreekantha in the end. Suddenly her mother entered her room. She told her that a senior couple would be visiting them in an hour. Kasturi could understand. They must be the parents of her ‘would be bridegroom’. She kept herself silent. But she could not sit in her room any longer.
She left for her most beloved place on earth under the shades of the great Bakul tree. She continued reading the saga of the romantic pair of Rajalakshmi and Shreekantha. Oh! Their love was so eternal but still so elusive! She was so deeply engrossed in their great romantic affair that she failed to observe somebody approaching her. That ‘somebody’ stood so close to her; but Kasturi was still undisturbed! He threw a small pebble into the lake.
Kasturi could not believe her eyes. Her ‘Shreekantha’ was indeed standing by the side of her! He slowly whispered in her ears. “I have a question for you”. The novel in Kasturi’s hands slipped away. Shyamal tried to hold it from falling. A photograph slipped out from the book. Kasturi just closed her eyes. Shyamal collected the photograph. It was his own! Kasturi had cut it from her school magazine and had preserved the same for years. Shyamal again whispered to her, “I don’t have that question any more!” Kasturi snatched the photograph from him and held it close to her heart. She whispered in Shyamal’s ears. “I know. I don’t have to answer that question any more!”
They held each other’s hands and walked slowly towards the lake. Just then they saw their parents coming towards them. Seeing the two holding their hands they felt they also didn’t have any questions to ask!
A V Krishnamurthy
17th February 2008