The Enchanted Land
Rihaan was mesmerized by Saanen, the pretty town at the foothills of the magnificent Alps, in Switzerland. He had come on a holiday with his wife Mira, and he was completely drunk with the beauty of this enchanted country. They were visiting small towns and were soaking in the complete experience. They were taking their time to walk around the whole place and were simply loving it. The white capped Alps all around, the clear sparkling blue water of the lakes, the fresh and lush green vegetation, plants and bushes with vibrant coloured flowers, made the town nestled amidst nature, a very generous treat to eyes. The houses had their own character. Each a different look, a different facade but the one thing common was that they all had some very cute decorations, small statues, various dolls depicting their mythology, fountains, etc., etc., which all gave a sense to the onlooker that the inhabitants loved their homes and tried to make them pretty in every possible way.
Climbing the rather steep gradient of the road, while enjoying the clean fresh air and the ringing of the church bells, indicative of some wedding taking place, Rihaan suddenly stopped. Mira was quite ahead on the turn. He let her continue and retraced his steps a bit to stop in front of the gate of a quaint little house. He stared at the statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, standing at different places in the front lawn of the house. He checked on the name plate. It read a non-Indian name! Rihaan was very intrigued to see such beautiful statues, usually expected only in Hindu households, to be beautifying the house of an European. He tried to see if he could find someone. As luck would have it, a gentleman came out from inside to go to his garage, when he spotted Rihaan standing there. With a smile, after a greeting, Rihaan pointed out at the statues, enquiringly. With a warm smile the man- Luke, as he introduced himself - asked Rihaan to step in. Doing so, Rihaan could not wait to ask how come he had such a marvellous statue of a dancing Ganesha, a beautiful Laxmi and also of the Lord Shankar? They were made of stone and marble and the carvings on them were exquisite. Luke then explained that he was a big fan of the country India. He had travelled the length and breadth of India, and was very inspired by its culture. Whenever he found such amazing pieces of artwork, he would pick them up and have them shipped to his home in Saanen. He took Rihaan through a small gate to his garden, where Rihaan was dumb stuck to see so many statues of elephants, frogs, tortoise, and even a horse. He could not miss the fabulous Indian artwork all around. Rihaan was overjoyed, to say the least. To find someone living thousands of miles away from India, and yet so much inspired by its art and culture, was a bit overwhelming for him.
“Luke, do we have any guest?” a lady’s voice, seemingly coming from somewhere upstairs, floated through the air.
“Yes, darling! We do have a very special guest, who I am showing our place around. Will it be okay if I get him up to meet you, and show him our art collection? I know you too would find him quite interesting,” Luke asked smilingly.
“Of course, please do get him up but just give me five minutes. I would love to meet him too,” came a welcome reply.
Rihaan walked up the cute, winding stairs after Luke, to reach an amazingly done up big sitting room. “This couple has real good taste” thought Rihaan, and he froze. His eyes were glued to a painting of a young girl, with her back turned, watching the gorgeous sunset from a window. The colours of the painting, surely looked as if no body could better them. The girl’s back spoke volumes; it spoke of determination and hope. He knew this painting. Rihaan simply could not move.
“So you are Rihaan, aren’t you? Simran’s friend?” Luke was asking in a voice that had surety as well as wonder.
“Hello Luke, let me meet our special guest,” suggested the lady who walked in with a charming smile. But the smile froze too, as soon as her eyes fell on Rihaan. The twenty years in between disappeared in a flash.
Simran, a girl of about nineteen years, had come to the hospital with her uncle who suffered from tuberculosis. The disease was in quite an advanced stage, and that had made her uncle extremely irritable. For no reason he would keep shouting at Simran, who he had brought up since her parent’s death in a natural calamity, when Simran was barely a toddler. He did bring Simran up, but being an alcoholic, could not give the love and happiness that every child craves for. Simran had reached college but had not grown up to be happy. Rihaan was a doctor and was treating Simran’s uncle. He had an extremely cheerful demeanor. For the past few months he had been noticing Simran and what had struck him was that, she never smiled. He always had a smiling welcome for her, to which she never responded.
One day, when Simran’s uncle had been taken for some tests, Rihaan tried to break the ice between Simran and himself. Jokingly he asked,
“ Do you have any problem with your denture?”
“No, of course not! Why do you ask so?” retorted Simran.
“Because I have never seen you smile.” replied the doctor.
“Stop making fun of me, Doctor. You know nothing about suffering and pain. Living in your cushioned world, it is easy for you to smile. Do you know that I don’t have either parents? My uncle has brought me up; this alcoholic, abusive uncle! I have no one else in this world except him, and yet I should smile, right?” came the angry outburst.
Rihaan kept silent for a while and then said,
“ Well, I hate self pity but let me tell you some facts about myself. I am an orphan and have been brought up in an orphanage. I have no idea who my parents are or were. I am grateful to God though, that He gave me a shelter in the orphanage, from where I studied in a municipal school. Then I worked at a tea stall to see me through higher school and later with hard work and the grace of God, scholarships saw me through my education and I became a doctor. I believe Simran, that at every moment each one of us has a choice, to either laugh or cry. I have always chosen the former and have paved my path accordingly. There is no use wasting a life as a victim. Please think about this.” said Rihaan, as he turned to her uncle who had just come in.
This conversation had a great impact on Simran, and her perspective towards life changed. She and Rihaan became very good friends and, slowly, it graduated to being more than friends. On one of her birthdays, Rihaan gave her a present. She opened it and could not believe her eyes. It was a beautiful painting of her own self, watching the sunset from the window of the hospital room. The painting was made by Rihaan. She had no clue that he was such an amazing painter. She was speechless. She just held his hand and Rihaan kissed them.
Shortly Rihaan went to London for three months, for a training. As luck would have it, Simran’s uncle took seriously ill and passed away. There was no way Simran could contact Rihaan on her own. After her uncle’s death, one of her aunts from Europe came and took Simran away with her. Simran’s heart was crying for Rihaan, but there was no way to reach him. They had been forbidden to be in contact with anyone to avoid distractions. So Simran left India with a weeping heart and an aching soul.
Rihaan returned to India with a determined heart to propose to Simran. But his dreams remained dreams, for he never could get a trace of her. After quite a few years he met Mira, in a conference, and in some time they tied the knot with each other. They had a good married life and now both of them had reduced their work load and were travelling a lot, seeing the world that they lived in.
Simran too had moved on in life and found love in Luke and they became life partners. They found friends in each other as well and Simran shared everything about Rihaan, with Luke. Rihaan’s painting, always occupied the most important place on the wall of the room, all these years. It was a precious and beautiful reminder of Simran’s love and Luke understood as well as respected it. Seeing Rihaan’s reaction on spotting the painting, Luke could guess that he had to be Rihaan. Simran and Rihaan both came out of their shock and then the three sat together to have some tea. Luke excused himself, and left them together to catch up with each other.
Remembering Mira to be alone, Rihaan took leave of the lovely couple. It was an inexplicable satisfaction that he felt, on way to his hotel. A warm glow filled him as he increased his speed, to share the details of this miraculous rendezvous with Mira. Simran too was thinking how blessed she was, to have found and experienced such beautiful love, not just once, but twice.