This entry was originally written as part of Katha Utsav and has been published here in partnership with Katha .

*Point of View of a husband*

I laid my pen down to enjoy that silence. It was deafening me. The screeching silence of the valleys and the beautiful gorges of Faridabad. The lush blue waters with abundant fish awaiting their predators, Kingfishers. Rivers continue to gurgle.

Business could be better. It was difficult to earn a living by selling handicrafts by the luscious countryside. And this is why I couldn’t retire. Even after 13 years of those ‘farragous’ incidents. 13 years since I lost my Medha, my wife. And my children? Their precious childhood.

Tricolours adorned the city, the shops flooding with people. I set up my dull business in a corner. Preparations here, start a week back. A meek letter brought us here. Forced us to travel from Faridabad to Delhi. A perfectly descriptive address of my small house, amazes me. An invite to attend the Independence Day celebrations. But, were shopkeepers invited to set up shops? Was at an effort to miss my low lying shop? I wouldn’t know. Oh! A customer, he passes my shop silently. And yes, lost in my night muses. I suddenly remember. The sender’s address of the letter was the same as the monthly money order I would receive. Hamesha. (Always, in Haryanvi / Hindi)

The absence of Medha still haunted me. Her kind face; empathy filled. The last word spoken was 13 years back. But, the last tear shed for this very reason, was moments back. My younger son still hated the mother they didn’t meet. The one that left us alone. But, I knew that she was alive. In the musical chirping and twinkling moon light. But they didn’t trust me; Ke tu? (Do you? in Haryanvi)

I had finally managed to sell two pairs of Kangan (bangles) in a week. The celebrations were today. Jashne – Azam (grand celebration in Urdu). Feelings were strong. Tourists from Muscat, pass over shops. As I toured the city on foot, I notice flags held up pridely everywhere. Kindergarten students with beautiful tricolour representations on their tender cheeks and clothes. And some others with tattered clothes, selling these tricolours. I readily buy them all. A faint memory returns. Badnaseebi se (unfortunately).

When I sold flags to buy a loving gift for Medha and how I gazed at her like the picturesque landscape of winter in Faridabad during cultural programme, when all eyes transfixed on the stage. I shook my head vigorously. No. These thoughts won’t haunt me again. I can’t let them. But, then I realized. Wasn’t all this about money and business? Where was the empathy? Won’t the flags lay abandoned a week later. Patriotism was short lived. Celebrated only twice a year or when in a foreign country.

I missed the seething air and the wafting smell of daisies in the open countryside. My brown eyes were almost shut; My clock struck 11. I had to go to the venue. But I wanted just once, to visit the old brown school me and my Medha studied. Just to relive the beautiful memory of 6 years in 6 minutes. I didn’t know how to face it the smell of fresh varnish on those scribbled desks. Sunlight peeking through cracks in the coloured roof of the school. Our names etched on the walls. It was an abandoned school. As tears welled up, gunshots were heard. The grand celebrations began. An act of kindness.

“Rang saani gulabi chunniya ve, Mohe mene nazamiyan sawaniyan ve.

Pahani saani guloobi chunariya, Mohe mene nazar sawariya, Jao ji jao, kavo na bathiya”

(All the shawls are a shade of pink, I wait for a gaze of my beloved. We wear these shawls and wait for a gaze of our beloved. Don’t talk. Just come fast.)

The folk song of Uttar Pradesh rings in my ears. Shortly after this, A faint sound of Medha pierces my ear. I run fast tearing the rusty gates of the school open. Eyes hazy and vision blurry. I almost run into a streetlight from which hangs the tricolours. My cheeks wet and dust following me, I reach the venue right on time to listen to her name, nominated for the bravery award. But, what had she done to receive this prestigious award?

As the speaker continues blaring, the graceful dances, exit the stage. With staggering steps and numb feet, I ascend the stage with my shocked children. My children, once hungry for love, now empathy filled and pride stricken. It was all a haze. Firm handshake; Perfect appreciation; Glorious award received; and descended the stage not so gracefully. My mind still lost in thoughts of her last spoken words. “I need to fulfil my other duties. I need to go. Take care of my kids. My country needs me.” A light hug and with a last wet kiss on my forehead, off she was gone. I finally feel her.

The National Anthem shook me awake from my thoughts. I stood in attention. Goose-bumps adorning my skin. Hair at my neck, erect. Nails beaming into my skin. Chills run over me. I sang the National Anthem patriotically after years. As the event concluded various people in the crowds clear. Venue falls into silence Chains blue, dragged away and I sat there clutching my Medha’s price money. My small store could now be named called Medha store.

The award she awaited held in my hand. The money didn’t matter anymore. As my heart thumped against my rib cage, wanting to escape. This Independence day was a day of empathy. My hatred for her flew far away. I would rejoice the beautiful memories again. I would star gaze again. I was proud of my wife. She was an Independent woman of Independent India.

The stadium filled with Medha’s perfume. Her voice ringed in my ears. She was alive.