A post of different kind. Hope you enjoy this story.
Prakash was a writer of all sorts. He began his career with the Times of India and wrote a fortnightly column on the challenges of crowded cities. Later he started focusing on environment, its conservation and the problems of pollution. He penned interviews of some of the great environmental warriors of the country in the Sanctuary magazine and Down to Earth. His articles were well received and later got published in the form of a book that got printed in three editions by Penguin. More recently Prakash shifted to writing travelogues that portrayed his exciting journeys to not so commonly visited destinations and the interesting people he met. In many of the South Mumbai parties, he was the person most sought after, especially by women who were always charmed by his personality, his shining white hair and the style of conversation. Prakash was a great storyteller.
His wife, Gita, was a famous gynaecologist of the town. She was attached to Hinduja and Leelavati hospitals and in the evenings practiced as a consultant at her clinic on the Nepean sea road. She was an extremely busy person – an accomplished gynac surgeon. But she still found time to read Prakash’s articles and sometimes even peer them to serve as a sounding board. Indeed, Gita admired Prakash’s creativity and sensitive writing. Prakash also attended some of the dinners at the medical conferences. He moved along with Gita, watching the kind of respect she enjoyed in the medical fraternity. So indeed, their circles of life while different – did intersect at occasions! Isn’t this a common case with the lives of most of the accomplished couples? Prakash and Gita celebrated their 25 years of happy marriage just last year. They opted not to have children and live free. Gita was a music buff, especially loved listening to Jazz.
Prakash decided to take on a project to write about Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK as they call) and unearth the science of sustainability in the Indian culture. Someone told him that he should spend a month or two in the mountains to write in peace and draw inspiration. So, Prakash rented a bungalow of the British times at Dharamshala, a place on the mountains of Dhavalgiri and close to the temple of Dalai Lama. The plan was to reach Dharmshala in the first week of November and return in the third week of December to celebrate the New Year in Mumbai with Gita and friends. Prakash managed to get a Himachali cook cum butler to take care of his food, washing and ironing of clothes and stocking the bar. Harpers had agreed to publish his writing and had the generosity to sponsor his six weeks stay in Dharamshala. The project was of three years duration.
On the very first day, Prakash discovered a boutique place called “Illiterati books and coffee (IBC)”, not too far away from his bungalow. IBC is a cute little unusual cafe right on the valley with antique looking wooden furniture with simplicity as well as grace. The cafe sports a great collection of books that you can read while watching the peaks of Dhavalgiri mountains. Prakash found that the food menu was excellent, and the dishes were simply delicious with all the freshness, creativity and balance. IBC had a good Wi-Fi too and so Prakash chose this place to camp and write. The owner of IBC was very friendly and knew about Prakash and his writings. He “reserved” one the balconies for Prakash where he could sit with his laptop and watch people parasailing from the peak of the Indranaag temple.
Aashi was a young girl of around 26 years of Tibetan origin and worked as a coach at the parasailing company at the Indranaga peak. After the paragliding sessions in the morning she would come to IBC for a coffee and a sandwich. The owner of IBC introduced Prakash to Aashi as an author. That is how they first met.
Aashi was a book lover and a girl with very high energy and enthusiam. When Prakash lent her his book with Penguin, she was simply charmed with his writing. So, almost every other day, Prakash and Aashi would meet and Aashi would ask Prakash on the progress he made on the book. As a person of Tibetan belief, Aashi had lot to say when it came to the subject of TEK. She shared with Prakash notes of her grandparents who followed several science-based traditions that were sensitive to environment. The conversations gradually got thicker and personal, and within a week, early evening dinners followed the brief sessions with coffee. Aashi had a great sense of humour and when she would laugh, her dimples on the cheeks would show up.
To Prakash, meeting with Aashi was like a fresh breeze and he longed to see Aashi every day. He thought he was living another life, conversing with a beautiful and charming young girl in the foothills of the Himalayas.
On the weekend, he called Gita as he wanted to tell her about Aashi, but Gita had another news to give. “Prakash, I am flying to Geneva for a Conference organized by European Gynaecologists. I have been invited to give an address on my research. I am so excited” and Gita went on and on not giving a chance to Prakash to tell his story. “I will be there for a week and will get back before you arrive” She put down the phone.
Gita returned from Geneva after a collaboration struck with the HUG Gynaecology and Obstetrics department to spend four weeks each year during November-December. That was perfect, as Prakash would be in Dharamshala then working on his three year book project on TEK. When Prakash had a chance to tell Gita about Aashi, she was really fascinated – “must meet this girl Prakash. And I hope you are not falling in love” she chided. Honestly Prakash did not know the answer.
In his next trip to Dharamshala, Aashi asked Prakash to come for parasailing with her. Prakash had never done such an adventure before as he feared the heights. “Oh Prakash, don’t you worry. I will be with you as a guide and sail along” said Aashi. Prakash couldn’t refuse. When they reached the top of Indranag, Prakash was in two minds and his mouth went dry as he saw the valley beneath. And then Aashi did something sudden as she hugged him and whispered, “I am with you dear” and she planted a light kiss on his cheeks. Prakash felt her breath and an aroma of mountain flowers.
Gliding with Aashi was divine. She was humming a song that had a wonderful melody. Later she told Prakash that it was a Tibetan song that thanked the mountains, the trees and the rivers we inherited. Prakash was touched with the message the song was trying to give. While leaving Dharamshala for Mumbai, Prakash decided that he will invite Aashi to celebrate the new year in Mumbai and introduce her to Gita and the friends. But he wasn’t sure whether the Tibetan girl will enjoy visit to the indifferent, polluted and crowded city.
As Prakash reached Mumbai, Gita called from Geneva. “Prakash, I want you to pick me up at the airport this time. I have a surprise for you”. Prakash had never heard her so excited.
At the arrivals, Prakash saw Gita. Walking next to her and wheeling out her luggage was a handsome young man with blond hair. Gita hugged Prakash and introduced “Meet my new friend Fabio”. “He will stay with us and join the new year party” That was Gita’s surprise. I noticed a large box of guitar on the trolley.
While in the car, Gita talked more. She had met Fabio in her very first visit to Geneva at a Jazz pub where Fabio performed. Both Gita and Fabio clicked and after day long work at the HUG Gynaecology and Obstetrics department, Gita started visiting Fabio’s pub to listen to his jazz on acoustic guitar. In her second visit, they went skiing too – an adventure that Gita had never done before.
“Wow” said Prakash. “Did you two walk along the Geneva lake Fabio”. He asked but his voice was almost dead.
“Oh yes Prakash” Fabio responded in his French accent “It was so wonderful to walk with your Lady in such a romantic place. Those conversations will never be forgotten”. Prakash looked into Fabio’s eyes – he was serious but a bit emotional.
Prakash realized that the intersecting circles of their lives were blurring. They were perhaps withering away – emerging into lines that seemed going rather parallel.
But isn’t this a common case with the lives of most of the accomplished couples? In the evenings of their lives they often long for a sunshine.
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