3

"When my elder brother's friend Shashisekhar graduated from the medical college, he became our family doctor. I had seen him before on many occasions by peeping out of the curtains. My brother was a strange person; it was as if he were incapable of looking at the world with wide open eyes; it was as if the world was not sufficiently empty to his liking. For this reason, he used to move away and try to take shelter in a corner.

"Shashisekhar was his one friend, and he was the only young man whom I often saw. In the evening when I sat in the garden and imagined that all young men had gathered at my feet, they would all appear like Shashisekhar. Are you listening? How do you find the story?"

I sighed and said, "I feel it would have been better if I were born as Shashisekhar."

"Listen to the whole story.

"One rainy day, I developed fever. The doctor came to examine the patient; that was the first time that we came face-to-face. I was gazing out of the window so that the reddish hue of the setting sun would camouflage the ugly tell-tale signs of illness from my face. The doctor looked at my face upon entering the room. I put myself in the doctor's shoes and looked at my own face - a flower resting on a soft pillow with the eyebrows over the large eyes casting a shadow on the cheeks in shyness.

"Doctor told brother in a gentle voice, 'I shall have to feel the pulse'.

"I extended a weary hand. I looked at the hand; if only I had been wearing blue glass bangles, it would have looked good. I had never before seen a doctor hesitating so much while feeling a patient's pulse. He felt my pulse with uneasy fingers, and gauged the extent of my illness; I, too, gauged the internal turmoil that he was going through. Don't you believe me?"

I said, "There is no reason to disbelieve; a human being's pulse does not beat at the same rate under all circumstances."

"As days progressed, I fell sick and was restored to health a few more times. I, then, saw that the countless admirers who crowded for my attention in my imaginary evening meetings had reduced, and only one remained. My own world became almost empty of people; there were only two persons - a doctor and a patient.

"Every evening I combed and twisted my hair into a low bun behind the head, adorned the bun with a jasmine garland, wore a lemon-coloured sari, and secretly withdrew to the garden carrying a mirror in my hand. I sat in the garden looking at my reflection.

"Why! Doesn't one feel tired of looking at her own reflection? You really don't, because it wasn't me who was looking at myself then! While sitting alone in the garden, I would become two persons - I would become the doctor and it was he who gazed at me, admired me, and loved me. But from deep inside me, a deep sigh would arise like the evening breeze.

"I was never alone since then. When I walked I observed how my feet touched the ground and wondered whether my gait would be appealing to the doctor. In the afternoons the sun would beat down harshly outside the window and there would be no sound excepting for the scream of an occasional kite flying high up in the sky and the call of a hawker who went around melodiously announcing his wares, 'Buy toys, buy bangles'. I would spread a white bed-cover and lie down while carelessly throwing one arm across the bed and imagined that someone had noticed this arm, gently held it in his two hands, lifted it, kissed it on the roseate palm, and was now slowly walking away. Well, how would it be if I ended my story here?"

"Not bad," I replied. "Of course, the story will remain incomplete; but I could spend the rest of the night trying to figure out the ending."

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  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
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  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
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  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
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  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
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  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu