I had seen her first time in a party. It was the marriage anniversary of Ajay and Sudha, my doctor friends. I was in high spirits; virtually and emotionally because Ajay has been my oldest pal. We had gone through the thick and thin of life together.
She had the touch of arrogance. Beautiful, yes she was and she was charming. Tall and shapely, in fact she was alluring and captivating. Dressed to the occasion, she carried the freshness of the flowers, and a mesmerising smile on her lips. Looking at her, I was swooning and the first thing I did was to talk of it with Ajay.
"Ajay, who is that dame in the light blues next to the flower vase, up there", I asked him pointing towards the right corner of the hall.
"Ah Ha! You too have been bowled over."
"Not exactly but then she is attractive. Isn't she?"
"Well Sir, she is Dr. Amita Shukla, the new doctor posted in my department. Has in fact joined recently."
"What is her husband?” I asked, trying to look un-inquisitive.
Ajay waited for a few seconds and then said, “She is a
“A divorcee! My God! Such an enticing colleague by your
side and a divorcee. Lucky, you!”
"Don't be stupid," Ajay said giving a wry smile and then added with a broad grin, "Incidentally, she is an anaesthetist." I could not miss the stress on the last word.
"She is worth any thing yar. You don't live many lives. As it is, she need not give anaesthesia to the patients; a look at her is enough," I said smiling. And to press home my brimming exciting, I added, "Who would like to be anaesthetized? I wouldn't mind even if I was lacerated if only she remained in front of me.”
"You are incorrigible,” Ajay said and walked away to
attend other guests.
Now I had several ideas coming to my head to get myself introduced to the bewitching lady. She must have noticed me often talking to Ajay, I thought. And that could be the best plank to launch myself, I thought.
I called a waiter to follow me and started offering drinks to the guests. I noticed that she was watching me from the corner of her eyes. "Be brave", a voice spoke within me and propelled me towards her.
"Good evening,” I said and then with a slight bow I added, “Care for a drink?"
"No thanks. I just had one" was her brief reply and before I could think of any other appropriate address, she walked away. I was dumbfounded and hurt. Seldom had I experienced such indignation. I abandoned the host’s role mid way and walked to the other corner of the hall. I was musing and licking my wounds when Ajay appeared again from nowhere.
"Sad indeed! No?" He said with a wide grin.
“Shut up you bastard! Bloody sadist! And I don't need your sympathies,” I said looking at the ceiling.
“What does she think of herself? An out right arrogant and pretentious female,” I fumed.
"I don’t know that but I am happy you have met a match.”
I had to do some face saving. I gave a rather loud coquettish laugh and said, “Let's drink to those spicy, spiral curves.” And then I lifted my glass in Ajay’s direction and added, “And to the fiendish friends."
"May you go to the hell and by the quickest possible route,"
Ajay said and walked away.
I had forgotten the episode as one of the pranks of my wavering, lustful mind. It often happened with me that I fell in love with every beautiful woman I met. My imagination would run wild, weaving stories, chasing fantasies. For days together, I would be lost in my quixotic romanticised world till it petered off over the passage of time or in better circumstances, another exciting subject, real or imaginary entered the scene.
I once told Ajay, “Perhaps I am suffering from schizophrenia. I debate both ways on the superiority of virtues over vices but at the same time I believe that vice has the variety and that is all what matters to a human being.”
I was aware that I was perhaps carrying a label but it never bothered me, I wanted to live life my way.
I was a free lance journalist and I fancied writing stories and poems. A busy bachelor, travelling places and meeting people from different cross sections of society. Ajay knew me from my school days, we were neighbours. I was the only son of my parents. When eleven, I had lost my mother and it was only a year later that my father married again. That changed everything. Ajay had shared all my agonising moments. After schooling, Ajay took to medicine and I adopted a wanderer’s life.
“I wish I could convince you but I always feel there is some thing wanting in your life, you are running after the unrealistic, the non-existing, dwelling in a world of fantasy,” Ajay often told me.
“Ajay! Desire is a force that keeps you going. You ought not measure the longevity of pleasure; a few ecstatic moments in life may out weigh the entire life of comfort.”
“I don’t believe in frittering away life since I consider it precious. I want to feel the ground below me and unlike you, I don’t trust flimsy suppositions,” Ajay opined.
I could not emphatically deny his observations for I believed in him even if not in his words. This had happened often. We would sit together, argue and end up with status-quo.
It was after a few months of Ajay’s marriage anniversary that I got in to a problem. I had a new junior, a young girl, Lalita whom I had taken out for dinner. I was in my full mettle after few large whiskeys. We had out after dinner and walking towards the parking. I was holding Lalita’s hand for two reasons. First, that I was not in a position to walk straight and second, and more importantly for me, holding the hand of the young exciting colleague was giving me abounding sensuous pleasure.
As we were crossing the road, Lalita was knocked down by a speeding car and I too was thrown over. I managed to get up, summed up my wits and then rushed her to the hospital. I rang up Ajay. He was not at home. His wife replied that he should be back any time. I told her of the accident and requested her to tell Ajay to reach the hospital as soon as possible.
We were rushing Lalita to wards the OT when I saw Dr. Amita, the lady doctor I had confronted in Ajay’s wedding anniversary. I could hardly speak when she said, "Please do not worry. We will take care of your friend," and went in to the OT. I was not sure whether she had recognised me.
Lalita, the only child of her parents was lying on the operation table and I was worried of the impact of the story on my career. That it was past two in the night and that I was quite sozelled at the time of the accident would have made an exciting story.
Besides, I didn’t know how to break the news to Lalita’s parents. Never had I felt so remorseful in my life. Tears of anguish were burning me from top to toe.
It was after an hour that a nurse came out from the OT and told me that Lalita’s condition was stable and that the operation was successful.
I was tired and waiting for Ajay to come out of the OT. Depressed, I slumped on a sofa when Dr. Amita came over to me. I was not in a position to start any conversation. I wanted to thank her but words were failing me.
"Don't worry. Your friend is Ok now", she said.
"Thank you doctor" I managed to say.
“Let’s go to Dr. Ajay’s room. He will be joining us soon." Then smiling she added, “Why don't you have a cup of tea. You need one."
A cruel joke, I thought. To be in her company, I would have given up my one arm but here I was not in a good enough frame of mind to have a fulsome look at her.
I thanked Dr. Amita once again when she told me that she had informed the parents of Lalita. It was a big load off my chest. Ajay had joined us by this time and a few seconds later, I found my faculties soaring again as I saw the curvaceous hind side of Dr. Amita bending over the table to pick up a cup.
I feigned looking towards the ceiling when she surprised me, "Tell me is hunting females your favourite hobby?"
I was not prepared for such frontal attack. I thought the situation was still serious. Nor could I say that she was wrong. “Had she read my mind,” I was vexed.
"I don't believe in chasing anyone,” I said wanting to rest the topic.
"Now that Lalita is out of danger, I suppose you consider yourself absolved of all responsibilities. The file is closed, no?"
I was nearly stunned. She was not only outspoken but ruthlessly correct.
"Look! Don’t you realise, story of this accident can cause her immense harm at the onset of her career.
“Dr. Amita! This is a baseless insinuation, an irresponsible comment,” I was by then quite irritated.
“Isn’t it a fact? I feel sad for you. You are like a grasshopper keeping yourself away from the ground,” she said looking straight in to my eyes.
I looked away from her gaze. This female can never be my friend I thought. “Thanks for your observation and for the help and the rest perhaps we may talk it over sometime later.”
"Is that an invitation?" She asked grinning. I didn’t respond but her laugh had a contagious effect on me. I smiled.
“Be warned that I am an anaesthetist,” now she said with a bigger smile.
"You will need to give me an extra strong dose, I don’t faint easily.”
During that period I often met Dr. Amita to find out Lalita’s progress. I had intentionally not renewed the offer of invitation. Her words even in lighter vein had made me feel uneasy. I realized for the first time a pit in my stomach.
Lalita was discharged from the hospital. Her one leg was under plaster but she could walk with a support. A couple of days later Lalita was discharged from the hospital. week later she was I went with her parents to thank the doctors and staff attending her. Then I told them to wait in my car and went again to Dr. Amita’s chamber.
“Thanks a lot, doctor.”
"It is all right. I am happy to see Lalita’s progress. Take care of her and .......” she said giving me a searching look.
"Thank you," I said and as I turned, she asked, "Is the invitation still open?"
Was it a capricious suggestion, I couldn't make out. "Any time", I said and came out thanking her again.
I related the incidence to Ajay a few days later. His reaction was not as I had expected. I had expected him to pull my leg, pass some caustic remark or laugh it out as pure fantasy of my mind. Instead he was very sombre.
"What's the matter?" I was surprised.
He was quiet for some moments and then said, "Life is not what it looks to be. You have been flirting with life; your own and others but there are more pressing demands on life than mere flirtation."
I was about to react to his words but Ajay held me with a gesture of his hand and continued.
"Amita is so caring, putting other person at ease, never letting others know her troubles. Lost her mother about ten years ago and three years ago, her father and brother met with a serious accident. Both are handicapped. She looks after them with no time to think about herself.
She and her doctor husband were offered an UN assignment but she declined the offer to utter dislike of her husband who was very keen to take up the new job.
“You don’t appreciate the professional advantage of this assignment apart from the monetary benefits. We can engage a nurse to look after your father and brother,” her husband had suggested.
Dr. Amita was but firm. “I can not leave them in this condition. A nurse can not give them the psychological and emotional support they need. They need me here more than anything.”
“Both of them stood to their grounds resulting in their separation,” Ajay concluded.
I was quite shaken. I felt sorry for Dr. Amita and I decided to make amends.
I went to her house one evening. It was a quite unexpected visit. That has been the bane of my life. Unpredictable, that is what I have always been. I didn't care how she or her people would react to an unannounced visit.
"Hello Doctor!" I said as she opened the door.
"Anything is the problem?" she asked me with apprehension.
"Nothing. I just thought to call on you and talk to you."
She gave me a vexed look.
"Look! I owe you an apology."
"For my unfriendly, irresponsible behaviour."
"Don't be silly", she said in an unguarded moment and then realising the slip she hurriedly added, "Oh! I am sorry....I mean......"
Intercepting her I said, "Yes that is the way I like people to talk, frank and free."
She wanted to say something but withheld herself.
I went in and saw her father and brother, both were sitting in wheel chairs around the dining table. They were having tea and invited me to join them. I learnt that Amita’s father was a professor of History in the state university before he met with the accident and her brother; an engineering student was in his teens.
They were in a jestful mood, pulling each other's leg, irony of fate that both having none. Doctor Amita made tea for me. Words would not come out my mouth as I took the cup and I could not I look them in their eyes.
The father and son were discussing World Cup soccer that was the ongoing event those days and I was amazed to see their enthusiasm. Doctor Amita told me that both of them would sleep during the day time to watch the games during the night hours.
I was jolted to the core. To be honest, I was afire. How different was Doctor Amita than I? Wasn’t she right in saying that I was a grasshopper jumping all over, never touching the ground, never having the feel of reality? I felt belittled but lighter in soul. When I came out of the room, I had tears in my eyes.
"Thanks a lot Doctor,” I managed to say and ran towards my car.