Your lips and hands quench
The thirst of my flesh
Your caress feeds my passions' flame.
Yet your touch cannot quench
My heart's true thirst for belonging
Nor can you tame the yearning
Inside of me.
For Love is my longing, my thirst.
The thirst to know both the bond and the freedom love means.
I love. And yet I won't mourn yesterday, when I lived without you
Nor be anxious for tomorrow, when you'll be gone
----Joseph Faegan (Haiku for Living)
Paro's hands shook a little, as she stood before him with the glass. The liquid sloshed over the rim, a few droplets falling down onto the face of the terrified son sitting on the ground outside the ICU. He had ignored his family, all huddled in other areas of this corridor. Alone, even in this moment of shared crisis. Rudra had chosen for some obscure reason, this corner where he could sit as if he was under attack with his back to the wall. Tension--a coiled strand of lightning around him-- Rudra sat with his eyes fixed on the ICU opposite where his last remaining parent was fighting for his life. The fight was not his own, and yet the soldier sat, wary, watching the closed door as if he was waiting for enemy fire.
"Paani.." Rudra looked up, his cheeks wet. With the water, with his tears...Paro did not know. Rudra did not speak as he stared at the woman before him. But the look in his eyes, the one of pent up rage, of howling fear and shame, loss and regret---those eyes spoke as loudly as if he had screamed his pain out to the world. Almost in response to that unspoken howl of agony, Paro's own eyes smarted with tears as she carefully knelt next to the Jallad on the ground, her eyes never leaving his own.
"Aaap-..paani pih le jiye...--Please drink some water."
Rudra stared at the woman who had, in all probability, done this crime. Dilsher might not make it. Danveer had told him. No one else, not even the doctors, had dared to tell the raging madman who had burst into the hospital this truth. But his uncle had taken him aside. And asked him to make peace with his father. His broken words to his stone faced nephew--"Maaf kar deh, Rudra Banna. Bhai ko ab teri maafi milne chaiye.."--(Eng: "Forgive him, Rudra my son---my brother needs to get your forgiveness now") had explained what his uncle's shaking sobs could not fully articulate. Rudra had not had the guts to see his father.
As he sat outside the ICU, Rudra could not find the courage to get up and walk the ten paces to enter the room. Some part of him, a wild, unfettered child, some remnant of the little boy he had been was---refusing. Telling him that if he went in, if he saw his father, if he said the words that crowded in his throat, let out the torrential tears choking his heart, Dilsher would take his capitulation as permission to die.
Ranawat was like that. He would have the last laugh. Rudra just knew it---he would get this final submission from his stubborn son, and to prove he was the baap to the beta, he would then die, just to spite Rudra. To leave Rudra had always been so easy---why would Rudra make it even easier for the only parent he had left? The little boy would not let it BE so easy. So Rudra could not go in to see Dilsher, and he could not leave his father, who was clinging to life, waiting to say goodbye before he perhaps left his son forever. So here the son sat. Neither moving, nor speaking.
Paro sat before him, kneeling, watching the interplay of emotions across the face of the man who would not cry, and would not move. His zidh, his will, his fear, a rock-face of staggering proportions stood between him and peace. Both the son and the father, even here, in the quiet beeping silence of the hospital were playing out a game that was age old, engraved in both hearts. Neither would give in.
Dilsher had stirred a few times, the words "Rudra..." a soft plea from his cracked lips. But he had not opened his eyes, his stubbornness as strong as his son's own. His agony was so extreme, the doctors wanted to induce a medical coma, to help him with his burn injuries. Dilsher who had been fully conscious through the pain and treatment, would have to give his consent for this risky procedure. He might not emerge from this coma, the doctors had explained. So if there was anything he wished to say... but Dilsher had refused, shaking his head violently."Rudra.." he had muttered, his eyes as blazing as the fire that had brought him to this bed of wracked pain. "Rudra ko bulao..." And Rudra, sitting right outside, would not go in. Would not say goodbye, would not accept blessings, or curses, or both. He would not come.
Paro, a fly on the wall, thought of the hours she had watched this strange battle. The one inside, as Dilsher, weak, refused his medical coma, and outside, as Rudra refused to give his parent the chance to die. Rudra would have to go to him, for himself, if not for his critically wounded parent. But no one had been able to make him go in, nor had they been able to make Dilsher accept this. So they stayed---the Ranawat men, one inside, one outside. Bound by a twisted, deep love, and a fear of unspoken promises broken, of strange companion-ships shredded and ended.
"Paani.." Paro's grave, wounded eyes examined his own. Rudra, coming out from an internal hell that burnt red and gold within, snatched the glass from her hand. One flick of the wrist and it shattered into a burst of crystallized shards on the wall across from them. The sound, as loud as a bullet shot in the quiet hospital corridor galvanized everyone into movement.
There weren't too many family members left. Paro was glad for this small mercy. The pall of hatred and the demands that the "murderess" be taken away from her victims, the loudly voiced taunts and the hard eyes had been bruising, a whiplash of pain and accusation. But, silently, without protest, Paro had stayed on. For hours she had stood here, staying near Rudra, and far away from them. Finally, Kakisa had left with Sunehri, and had taken Sumer with her.
Now Samrat and Maithli came to the kneeling figures, saying something loudly about Paro disturbing the son after having attacked the father. Danveer, quietly fetched the nurse and apologized for the mess. Paro, totally ignoring Rudra's cousin and sister-in-law, apologized softly to Danveer for the trouble. A hand rested for a moment on her bent head, and Danveer, a pillar of quiet strength, ushered his unfeeling, bitter daughter-in-law and yammering son away from the silent figures on the floor. Paro now got up and walked away from Rudra. Across from him, the mess he had created got cleaned, the water mopped up, the shards swept away. Nothing remained. Not Paro, not the crystal glass of water she had brought. Rudra, his mind circling the drain within which lay ugliness and a shattering howling loneliness, brooded on.
"Paani..." Startled, Rudra looked up. Paro was before him. A glass in her hand, she once again knelt down in front of him. "Aap pani pih li jiye." She held another glass of
Rage swirled, drowning out the fear. Rudra welcomed it...the old friend that it was, the cleansing scarlet blur of fury behind his eyes was far more preferable to the shivering blackness of the fear of loss, of betrayal. This time, he clamped onto the slender wrist before him, his ruthless grip so tight it broke her bangles, small slivers of red tinkling to the floor. He twisted his hand, deliberately pressing into her soft skin, cutting deeper into bone and tendon.
A gasp of pain, but the hand holding the water glass remained before him.
The glass shook, as he looked up into Paro's eyes. She was now crying, involuntarily shedding tears as her face contorted with the hurt he was giving her. Feeling almost manic with rage, Rudra looked into his father's would-be killer's face as he increased the pressure, taking it from mere pain to total, unbearable agony. A choking moan, as Paro closed her eyes, gritting her teeth to control herself. She gasped for breath, as his eyes, merciless, burning and almost evil looked at the lines of pain etching onto her face.
"Paani...paa..pani.. pih...li...jiye..." Paro said, between sobbing breaths. Her wrist felt as if it had been crushed by a fist of steel, her fingers spasming in agony, blood pounding between her eyes. Paro rather thought she might faint, fighting against the black spots dancing behind her closed lids. But she held on to the glass of water, her hold steady. If she could hold on, if she could just not black out... one... two... three... the seconds ticked by...four...Abruptly the grip loosened. She opened her eyes, as she saw Rudra gently, almost tenderly take her offered glass. She understood his intention, before he did. The look in his eyes, malicious, cruel, told her what he did not himself say.
So she did not flinch or move back when he dashed the entire glass of cold water into her face.
This time, everyone in the area stared at Paro as she silently got to her feet and moved out of the corridor. Rudra , from his spot on the floor, watched the graceful sway of Paro's hips as she walked away, one hand wiping at her wet face, the other holding on to the empty glass. Small droplets fell behind her as she left, and a fanciful part of him imagined those little droplets, trailing from where he sat to where it dripped from her wet face and hair as a chain of sorts. Linking them. Ephemeral. Easily dried up, easily rubbed out, yet a chain connecting the quiet woman and the grieving man in here now. His heart hurt, banging against his rib-cage. The chain shimmered before his eyes, as the water droplets trembled in the light.
Maithli now came up to him again, asking if he wanted her to remove the "auraat" from the ICU area. The eager glint in her eyes, the way she was so ready to humiliate the younger girl--it now repelled Rudra. Almost as if bidden to it by the force of memory, he recalled how another pair of eyes, brave, defiant, had stood up for this woman, standing between Maithli and her own family---speaking up because Paro's heart could not quietly watch an almost-stranger's pain as it lay before her.
Paro had taken on Kakisa's hatred and pain to give this woman a chance at a family, at getting her heart's desire. And her reward for her kind heart stood before Rudra now, asking him to just say the word, and then that murdering bitch Paro would be thrown out, as she deserved.
The mirror before him made Rudra flinch.
He was no different, right now, from the cruel woman before him. What was different between what Maithli was saying, and what he had just done? Paro had come to him, to take on his hatred, absorb his pain, and he had rewarded her, with more pain, with some peculiar form of punishment he was not even fully sure she deserved. But she continued to come to his side, again and again---to give him a chance at...what? Where was she? Where had she gone? How far away? Thoughts nipped at his heels, untrained dogs worrying away at an unwary master. He let them flood his mind.
Impatiently shrugging off the hand that the hypocrite before him had dared to place upon his shoulder, he now told Maithli to get lost, his dismissive tone hoarse with his dislike. Maithli, unnerved by her reception when she had been trying to get some points from the Major, now scuttled away to her end of the corridor.
Waiting impatiently, Rudra now watched Paro approach him again, her head down, her calm eyes focused on the glass she held. Of course-- filled to the brim, with water. Again, she came before him, and this time, he got to his feet before she could kneel. He instinctively grabbed her wrist, to get them both away from the watching eyes and palpable curiosity that was coming in their direction from the doctors, the nurses and his own family.
A shuddering in-drawn breath, and a sudden shiver of pain--hastily suppressed-- came from the quiet girl before him . Looking down, Rudra was shocked by the purple and green marks already bracketing Paro's wrist. Slowly, as if it had not been Rudra himself who had done this, he looked at Paro, almost accusingly. As if she had done this to herself, as if he had no idea how this had happened. She looked back at him calmly, only a trembling of her lashes indicating her pain.
"Aap yeh paani...pih li jiye.." she said, offering her other hand to him, the one holding the glass.
Rudra, horrified by the realization that it had been his own grip that had made the skin on her wrist swollen, with bursting blooms of bruises and red dots of cut skin, now stared at his victim. His eyes fixed onto a face that held no accusation, only patience. Unnerved by the explosion after explosion of pain in his own heart, Rudra dropped the damaged wrist and reached for Paro's other arm. It held the water glass, still being offered to him. Impatiently, Rudra grabbed it from her slack hold, downing the entire contents in one long swallow, before dragging Paro into the only space with promised them privacy---the ICU room in front of them, with Dilsher inside it.
"Bapu-sa..."Paro said, softly, walking towards the bed where the shrouded and bandaged old man lay. Holding her wrist in his own, Rudra automatically moved with her, so he was right there when Dilsher opened dry eyelids to look at the girl standing next to his bed. He smiled at Paro.
"Shadhi...hui? Yah mujhe havaan ke aag banake sirf bhag gaya tha tu? Meri saamne hi sath phere lene ki irada tha, kya?"
(Eng:"Did the marriage happen? Or did you turn me into the Havan fire and then just run away? What was the plan, to take your marriage vows around me as the center?") Asked Dilsher, as Rudra, stared at his father in shock. The tone held nothing but a shadow of mischief, and the gentle warmth with which Dilsher always spoke to Parvati.
"Bapu-sa...menne yeh nahi kiya. Aap bhi..."
(Eng: "Father, I did not do this.. do you also think...") Paro, her last hope totally extinguished, looked at the man on the bed. Helplessness was sounding a reverberation of jangling bells within her heart. She had waited, for Dilsher. She had tolerated everything, for this one moment with this man right here. If he, the victim, believed she had done this...
"Beti, menne dekha ek aurat ko, shadhi ki jodha pehen thi woh. Teri kapde. Teri jaise. Lekhin tu nahi tha. Jaanta hu mein."
(Eng:"My child, I saw a woman, dressed in wedding clothes, just like yours. She was built like you, but it wasn't you. I know that.") Dilsher whispered between wheezing breaths. Paro, her eyes streaming with relieved tears, was shoved aside by Rudra. Glaring at his injured father on the bed, Rudra demanded:
"Kaise? Saboot sab iski khilaf. Sunehri bhi dekha isko, tune bhi dekha ...Toh.."
(Eng: "How? The evidence is against her, and Suhehri saw her, and now you are saying you did too...Then..") The harsh words burst out of his son.
The son Dilsher had been deliberately ignoring as a small punishment for having
made him wait like this. Of course, Parvati had brought him in, finally. He had
hoped as much, when he had heard snippets of talk from outside his room between
bouts of consciousness---he had heard Mohini's screams, and knew that Parvati was
outside, that she was being asked to leave. She had not. He had fallen asleep
for a while, waking to hear the shatter of something breaking just outside.
Dilsher knew she would not leave Rudra. He had slept, again, fitfully, waiting for Parvati to bring his son to him. But clearly, it had taken her a while to break through to Rudra, and Dilsher was in enough pain to resent Rudra a little, for the delay.
"Teri jaise BSD walo hi itni bewakoof hoga, mein nahi. Saboot kiss kaam ka? Issi ko janta nahi hu main? Parvati kya aisa karega? Kabhi nahi. Bas---toh woh larki jo yeh kiya, woh Parvati nahi tha."
(Eng: "Only fools like you BSD walos will think something this stupid. I'm not a fool. What do I need evidence for? Don't I know this girl? Will Parvati do something like this? Never. That's it--then, the girl who I saw could not have been Parvati.")
A faint ghostly echo of Dilsher's sarcasm came through as the man gasped and panted, the pain medication wearing off a little due to his agitation. Before Rudra reacted to his father's discomfort, Paro had already turned to get a glass of water.
Now, silently, the "murderess" helped Dilsher rise up against his bed, tenderly giving him a small sip, and wiping the water from his slack mouth. She smoothed Dilsher's clammy hair from his face, her fingers trembling a little as she carefully adjusted his pillow, laying him back down gently. Dilsher accepted her ministrations as if he didn't even notice them, such was the natural way they interacted.
The victim and the supposed killer shared a look and a small smile. Rudra, watching them, felt excluded from their odd, silent understanding. His father's eyes, hawkish even in the midst of searing pain, looked at his son, the vulnerability, the sheen of tears. Letting Parvati go, Dilsher stretched his hand weakly towards Rudra-dev. The hand had been so often shaken off, tossed aside, or roughly flung away, that hand now trembled, ready to be rejected again. And, shaking with fear and love, Rudra, just as weakly, just as hesitatingly, now took that offered hand into the warm clasp of his own.
"Tujhe kuch kehna tha. Meri baath sun le, Rudra-dev..."
(Eng:"I have some things to say to you. Listen to me, Rudra-dev") Paro backed away from the father and son, knowing that this part of the conversation was private. She stood near the door, leaning against the wall. She could not hear what the men said, but nothing could stop her from greedily, desperately drinking in the sight of the younger man at his father's bedside.
Every emotion, every change on those harsh features seemed to pierce her very heart, filling that battered organ with wave after wave of pity, compassion and..yes..love. Choking down that one emotion she had no right to feel, Paro watched Rudra as he mumbled words to his father, and as he buried his face into his Bapu-sa's hands.
The words were unintelligible, but the emotion carried clearly across the room. Paro wept silently, as she saw Rudra's tears fall. Turning blindly to the door, to give him time to grieve, Parvati looked unseeingly into the grey future that now awaited her. She did not know where Mami-sa was. She had no way of finding her. Perhaps she would go to back to Birpur, to her house there, to ask the neighbors. Assuming, of course, that they spoke to her. Perhaps she would ask Aman Bhaiya, if he was still at BSD HQ nearby. Perhaps not. Perhaps she would just..go somewhere new, start afresh. It didn't matter much, right now.
Paro turned her back on the father on the bed. Fathers were precious things, Paro thought. She had lost her own so long ago, he was a man made of mist and echoes, when she thought of him all that came to her was a memory of a deep laugh and a caressing touch across her face. She recalled the smell of tobacco, the glowing tip held between rough fingers--the beedis he had liked to smoke. That was it. Rudra had come to his father--a man alive, even if barely, but a man who was solid, real, there.
Paro was glad for that. Even temporarily, she
had shared one relationship with Rudra, then. Not that of a bride, not that of
a witness. A shared father. She remembered how, hours ago, eons ago, she had
almost unwillingly called Dilsher Bapu-sa, as he had blessed her future, tying
it to Rudra's in even his blessing. She had held his love to her breast,
looking into the eyes of the sarcastic, bitter man who was going to be her
father, and had accepted his blessing as the only good part of her future. Her
future had now vanished, or, rather, had changed its course. Once more it twisted away from her, unknown, like a willful snake cutting across the desert, the sinuous movements mystic and unexplained.
The responsibility of that blessing had brought her back to this hospital room. She did not care about the accusations. They were so ludicrous, they didn't even seem real to her. But the blessing---that had weighed on her head, like a brand. Now, she had given back to Dilsher what little she could. She had been called a daughter, she had called him a father. She had fulfilled her part of the blessing she had received---and given that father his son. There was nothing more left for her to do here. She had fed both thirsty men a glass of life saving water, and given them to each other, for the first, and she prayed, not the last time. She had fulfilled the thirst for a parent in Rudra. After all she of all people knew that longing for what it was---the most painful, most devastating thirst of all.
The sheer emotion,
the grief, fear and the longing within the tortured man now expressed itself. Healing both the father and the son. The potential goodbyes, the sadness, the
regret, the deep love and the sincere respect---Rudra spoke his heart out, through
his eyes and his whisper of "Bapu-sa." Dilsher finally slept, still clasping
his son's hands in his own weak grip. They sat like this, for many minutes,
until the doctors came in, and started the procedure that would sink Dilsher
into a coma, from which he would either wake with recovery, or from which he
would slip into death.
But Rudra, as he backed away from the hospital bed, felt light, free. It was as if the relief of expressing his love, his respect and his thanks to his father was a liquid emotion, bathing him inside his soul with the cleansing shower of peace. These words had to be spoken, after all, and the little boy within him stayed silent, feeling a sense of closure. If Dilsher had to leave, he would now do so knowing how much he had been cherished, how much he had been loved. The end, if it came, would no longer come with shards of jagged regret and unspoken longings. Relieved of a fear and filled with a strength that was as unexpected as it was empowering, Rudra looked around for the woman who had brought him to this crossroad, guiding his steps into this path with Ranawat...no---Bapu-sa.
"Shadi abhi bhi nahi hua, naa? Thik hai, intezar kaar Rudra banna--kuch din baad thik ho jaunga, phir second time paagri pehen ke aur ek attempt marna."
(Eng: The wedding didn't happen yet, naa? Its fine, you go ahead and wait Rudra, I'll be fine in a few days, then you can wear your paagri for the second time and give this another shot.") Dilsher had said this, clinging to his son's hand. Bapu-sa would be fine, Rudra knew it now, in his bones. His father's last whispered words gave him hope beyond the teasing jest of the mere words.
Rudra left the room and was immediately surrounded by his family members. Ignoring their chatter, their irritating questions, Rudra swiftly looked around, stepping around patients and banging against doctors in his haste. Over everyone's heads, he scanned the corridor, looking behind the nursing station, banging open the other cabin doors. A small glint caught his eye, and he turned to look down at the spot on the floor where he had sat, for hours, with Paro by his side. The water glass, the one he had drunk from, was there, incongruously still lying upturned on the floor. Empty, dry. The droplets of water on the corridor that had fallen from Paro had faded, as if they had never been.
Rudra felt his heartbeat accelerate, panic a flutter of white wings in his chest. Parvati ---the quenching rain, the only answer to the thirst his soul craved ---was gone.
The sight of Maithli behaving the way she did, the Pre-cap, and Rudra's pain, Dilsher's silence--all that has made me very depressed this weekend, baisas! So I worked it out, in my head, by writing this One Shot where I incorporated how Paro should treat this hypocrite--by ignoring her, and how she should treat Rudra--by being his connection to his father. Sometimes there is a limit to the goodness a character should show.
By the way---this story is not connected with my OS: Yesterday and Tomorrow series, its just a one-off piece where I want Paro to both help Rudra, and to leave him for a while, to maybe heal herself, and give him a chance to realize her worth.
I'm hoping this One Shot gave you some closure, some peace too. I look forward to hearing from you--Please comment and tell me your reactions!
Topic started by napstermonster
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