Hope (4)

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

He knew Sudha was aware of the news but at the same time she had expectations from him. She wanted to hear from him that the news was nothing but a mistake. He prepared himself mentally to face her and walked to her house. The moment she opened the door to him, he stared at her. He stared not because he loved her and was seeing her after so many days, yes, he did love her and was happy, if he was allowed to be, to see her but more than that he was shocked by her appearance. The only reason anyone could say she was alive was because dead people did not walk. Her beautiful brown eyes were dead! She moved around the house but the life in her steps was gone. He wanted to embrace her and take away her pain. She looked at him, and he thought he saw a ray of hope. All he had to do was lie to her that Raj was alive but he would not be returning home soon. But, all he did was, shake his head and Sudha collapsed on the couch. He sat next to her, not able to understand how to react to this awkward situation. Had Sudha been crying he would have at least tried to console her but she simply sat on the couch, motionless. He sat on the couch, next to her, motionless.
Finally, when it was dark, he left. He did not turn back and walked as fast as he could, staring straight at the road ahead, as much as he could see through tear filled eyes.
Two days later, Sudha called Aakash and said, “He promised me he would come back” and then she disconnected the call.
He held the receiver in his hand and started crying. He cried for her. Her tears in his eyes because her eyes were filled with hope! He wanted that hope to come true. He wanted Raj to come back. He prayed to God that Raj should come back. And, for the first time ever, God listened to him.

One day he received a call from unknown caller saying that he was Raj’s friend from the army and wanted to meet, but at the same time he requested Aakash not tell anyone about it.
Aakash went to the given address hoping to find some answers, unaware of what was waiting for him there. When the door was opened for him, the first thing he saw was the last thing he had expected. Raj was alive, in front of him, sitting in a wheelchair. It took some time for Aakash to register the facts but after gaining his composure, the first thing he did, or tried to do was call Sudha. He knew she would be really happy to hear the news. However, Raj’s friend snatched the mobile from his hand and pressed the end button before the call was connected. For a moment Aakash did not understand what had just happened, but when he looked at Raj and saw his expression, he understood the motive behind this. He was happy to see Raj alive but he did not think twice before slapping him. Everyone, except Sudha had believed Raj to be dead and now Raj was alive, right in front of his eyes. He knew Sudha had the right to know she had been right. Hence, he could not understand why Raj did not want her to know. It was understandable that Raj cursed his fate, wished he had died in war. It took time for Raj to accept he was crippled for the rest of his life but he was wrong to cut off everyone from his life, especially Sudha, who loved him so much! He tried his best to convince Raj to return home but Raj was adamant and said it was better everyone thought he was dead.
Towards the end of this weird meeting, Raj said something to Aakash, which he could not ignore.
I know you love her. You are the only person who can make her happy. Please, do this for her.
Raj had admitted knowing Aakash’s feelings for Sudha. He knew how much it hurt Aakash to spend time around her during the wedding. After returning to home town he had observed them, waited for Aakash to propose to Sudha. But, when he saw that Aakash had no such intentions, he knew he had to step in and that was the reason he had arranged for this meeting.

Aakash felt disgusted. He made up his mind to walk out of there and go straight to Sudha’s house to tell her the good news. It was for her to decide what was to be done. It was her responsibility to convince Raj, help him to live again.
Raj’s words followed Aakash out of the house –
I know you love her. You are the only person who can make her happy. Please, do this for her.
Aakash reached Sudha’s house but as he was about to reach for the doorbell, his mobile sprang to life. He received a text message from Raj saying that he would kill himself if Aakash told about him to Sudha. Aakash collapsed on his knees in front of the door. He did not know what to do. He wanted to tell Sudha about Raj. But, was it really worth if after knowing about Raj, Sudha decided to meet him and they went to the house only to find that Raj had killed himself. Was it not worth to let Raj be dead in a dignified manner? He also knew that Raj was torturing himself, he needed help. He had to come out of the negative thoughts. Crippled body was one thing but living with a crippled mind was another. Finally, Aakash walked away.

Succumbing to the pressure from Raj and to his love for Sudha, Aakash finally decided he would marry Sudha. However, he needed help and he told Raj that he would do whatever Raj asks him to do only on one condition. Raj should allow him to involve Raj’s and Sudha’s parents. Raj had to agree. Raj’s and Sudha’s parents promised they would try their best to convince her. When they had approached Sudha with the proposal, she had laughed.
Aakash knew she had laughed because she had found the idea ridiculous. He knew she would not agree to this.
Raj requested him to talk personally to her. When he proposed marriage to Sudha, she slapped him, walked to the bedroom and slammed the door shut. He waited for her in the living room for more than an hour. When she did not open the door, he walked out of the house. He had somewhat expected this. He knew Sudha would refuse, but he never knew she would slap him. Perhaps he deserved this. He decided to tell Raj to forget his plans. He had tried but it was just not meant to be.
Raj understood when he had said he was backing out. Raj had then requested him to take care of Sudha and simply be a good friend to her. Aakash was contented with that. He knew he would always take care of Sudha. Promise or no promise! Aakash had kept Raj’s secret but on Raj’s death anniversary he finally lost his temper. Though he could not talk to Sudha, he fought with Raj and as a result of that, Raj left town without telling anyone. Six months later, Raj’s friend called Aakash to tell him Raj had committed suicide.
He knew it was not worth sharing this news with Sudha. What was the use of telling her Raj had been alive all this while, he had been in the town, few blocks away from her house but had not wanted to meet her and now he was truly dead because he committed suicide after being fed up of his crippled state. He did not want to lose Sudha as a friend.

After his ‘misbehavior’ Sudha had been avoiding him, getting angry at him for no reason at all! Aakash knew it was because she wanted to keep up a barrier between the two and he was okay with it. He understood her state of mind. She wanted her space and he was ready to give it to her. But he also made it a point to be around her as much as possible. He had promised Raj he would take care of her. Even without the promise, she was his responsibility because he loved her. It was his fate. He had to be there for her, always. He was ready to give her the time she needed to trust him. Finally, it happened. She accepted his presence in her life. But the invisible wall still stood in between them. At least she stopped being angry. He was allowed in her house, as a friend.

Part Five