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To Goggles


Ashwini Ahuja

Does Dr. Amit now relax?
Free from anxieties?
Liberate from tedious, cumbersome assignments?
Does Dr. N.K Sethi now let him delighting into his village home?
Yes, yes, yes. Thank you, professor, thank you, everybody. Amit expresses his delight after submitting his thesis to Philosophy Department. Does he obtain the receipt in back? Yes. Next month, they will call him for viva and then make him doctor. His bhua laughs while she talks to him over telephone, doctor, would you give me an injection? Neighbour girl- Geeta- a naughty, cries, bhua- he would say, open your salwar, I give injection. Shame...shame...bhua tosses herself into wild guffaws.

“No, our Amit is not a lucha (lecherous). Is he?” After moments, bhua grows serious.
“Putar, don’t mind ever” He clears, bhua- I am not an injection doctor. I am Ph.D. A degree of doctorate. Bhua understands.

“I know, putar, now you would wear gown and vice chancellor of your Allahabad university would confer you degree. The stage anchor might say, and next, I would feel honour call Dr. Amit to come up the stage...and then claps of thousands would welcome you. Doctor Amit ji. Great doctor” He rings off the call. Ah! Bhua is really great. She knows everything. What an incredible feeling to be addressed doctor sahib! Amit thinks. He is fantastically jubilant, the air on his face delights with sweetness of success. He is proud of his guide Dr. N.K. Sethi. What a master man he is, who had pursued him (Amit) to pick up rarest topic. In view of his rarest topic, popular periodicals and dailies began to demand articles from him. No doubt, thesis had taken four wearisome years but, was it easy to become great scholar?
Throughout the four years stint at university, did he ever visit his village? His wild devotion to work surprised all. His mother continuously shot letters to him. Did he ever find some time to scribble down her back? Had he not forgotten the village forever? All? Bhua? Naughty neighbour girl-Geeta? The previous night, after submitting his thesis, he had slept soundly as a woman rests forgetting nine months travails after giving birth to a baby.
He would catch the evening train, he decides. Morning, he would meet his sir and seek blessing. Till twelve at night, he had been meeting with friends, see you again, yaar, write letters, yaar. I must wait your phone call, are you going, Shaveta cries embracing him, we miss you, yaar

At evening, he invited no friend to rush to see off. He reached station alone and when the train dropped in at the platform, he hurriedly mounted on it and occupied window seat tossing his luggage inside through window. It was a passengers’ train crowding with low class travellers. As he relaxed on his seat, he saw a surprise. The girl sitting before him is Vandana. Why she did not see at him? Did she not recognise him? How could she recognise him, he was meeting her after four five years? Constant smoking had blackened his lips. Might be she expecting rosy lips out of him? Was she really Vandana, he stared at her again? Vandana, wearing big black funky goggles appeared to him as if a goddess of ritzy beauty. She looked like an English lady.
As he knew, she was the most beautiful girl of the village. And disgusting thing in her was that she was unable to express her heart to him due to haughtiness. Doctor Amit carefully noticed that the texture of her skin had lost its previous freshness inviting ugly wrinkles without the consent of her heart. Despite it, her haughtiness seemed not a bit waning. She seemed haughtier than before. She did not look at him. Did she really not recognise him? He would initiate the conversation, he decides.
“Hello” He gives her his smile. And, a smile in back greets him.
“If I don’t mistake, are you Vandana?”
“Thank you, you recognise me. I think you would have forgotten me” Vandana as if wanted to tease him, says.
“Where’re you going?”

“How is sarpanch sahib” She is the pampered daughter of village former sarpanch. She nods; it means that all things are fine. Upto graduation, they were classmates and got to Vivekanand college by bus. Vandana was no doubt, a haughty lass but she liked Amit. Amit too loved her because of her beautiful eyes. Once, he had penned down a beautiful poems on her eyes, what a beautiful poem, what a beautiful poem, Vandana herself had applauded the poem after reading it.
“Do you remember the poem which I had written on your eyes, Vandana?” At this, she gives him a grimace.
“Those were good days” An unwanted pain distorts her face. Amit tries to decipher her pain.
“Give me your goggles, please” He presses her hands.
“Why?” A strange question crops up.
“Your eyes are beautiful and I want to glimpse them” Another grimace crops up. She deliberately switches over another question

“What about your doctorate, Amit?” And tries to make smile.
“I’ve completed it” The answer is short.
And then, she cranes her head towards upper window. The train moves off whistling shrilly. The man who has come to see her off at railway station had walked off. Amit doesn’t know who he is. In college days, Vandana did not want to be escorted by guardians. She wanted to prove herself a brave girl and rode to college by 275cc bike. Lighting up a brown colour cigarette, Amit mumbles.
“Is he your brother?” She laughs.
“You know my brother? Rohit?” Amit embarrasses. How has he asked a silly question? He had been meeting with her brother since they were teens. He makes a smoke ring tossing it out.
“Sorry” And mouth makes a strange twist.
“In past, rarely I saw you in village. Didn’t you visit here?”
“Last year, when I visited village then you had gone to Pune” Amit recollects.
“It was then cousin’s marriage” She utters gravely as if delivering him a sad news.
“I know, sarpanch sahib told me” He informs thinking somewhat grave.
“How is Mohan Lal?” Vandana does not hope Amit would question about him
“He stupid knows better about himself, sir” She replies nonchalantly.
“Stupid?” Amit stuns. Last year, when he visited village to see parents, he had heard about her (Vandana’s) marriage with a landlord’s son- Mohan Lal. Now, he grows confused, stupid. Did their love marriage fissure? Sarpanch sahib personally had explained to him Vandana’s interest in Mohan Lal. What is the bewildering mystery, he puzzles.
“Do you speak such words about husband?” Amit admonishes.
“Who say you he is my husband?” She angers up her chin.
“In village, everybody knows- you are husband- wife” Amit said honestly.
“They all do lie” She yells and challenges Amit to stop this topic. Amit amazes hunting to know the whole story.
“What is the reality?” Last question breaks out.
“I am still single” She declares solemnly. Single, single, single.
The train stops at next station. Amit mocks- single? Train whistles, Amit taps his nose- single? Vandana does not grow angry. She smiles. Adjusting her specs, she unravels the mystery. In fact, I loved him madly. Later, I thought he was not a man of my acceptance and I denied him candidly.
“Why?” Question does not perturb her.
“It is very personal, but I would not hide from you” She breaks her laugh.
“In fact, I had another in my mind that time” It surprises Amit.
“Then why didn’t you get married to him so far?” Amit interrogates as if an official of CBI.
“He was busy in his study that time not wanting to stop it, whatsoever” And with it, she beams and necks out of the window.

Then train stops with a jolt. Their eyes meet and a smile on both faces shines.
“Oh, I see” Amit whispers.
A village. He reads the name and again mumbles- Narayan Pura. Two women clamour down, three wrapping themselves in rags, children lagging behind them, mount.
“Eat something?” He asks popping his eyes out of window.
“No” Usual denial. But Amit shouts out at vendor and buys snacks and popcorn. He offers her. Vandana fumbles into the packet as if searching something in dark.
Since college days, Amit had been fancying to be in love with Vandana. Those days, when she looked into his eyes, her face sparkled with love. Friends when asked, do you love doe-eyed girl? He always answered- yes, yes, yes. Now, why she does not show him her beautiful eyes? Why she wears goggles all time?
Sad! He could not then express his love for her. Even, when he had departed for Allahabad university, he could not voice her- I love you, my queen. My Venus De Milo (friends voiced she was as beautiful as Venus De Milo) In fact, he mistook that she might be a colossal hindrance in his way of earning Ph.D. How he could sacrifice his doctorate only because of lust?
Last year, he had visited village to see parents and got the news of her marriage with Mohan Lal. No doubt, news had shocked him and he resolved that he would forget her for always. Cheat! Had she not murdered his heart? Emotions? Loyalty?
“Take more” Amit shakes head trying to forget his past and offers her again.
“No, thank you” She forthrightly rejects adjusting goggles vaguely. He again compels her to take something. She dislikes his pressure.
“No, no, no” The train again whistles shrilly and stops next station. Why she does not eat popcorn? If he does any err to her? Why Vandana does not interest him? Haughty lass!
“Do you any problem, Vandana?” Amit asked gravely. No answer. He takes a flake of popcorn in hand and insistently pours it into his mouth.
“For the sake of our old friendship” And a little laugh crackles.
“Thank you” She munches with a grimace.
“For Heaven sake, please don’t ask me to take more” She begs further.
“I hate eating while travel” She continues. Amit recalls when they went for college together by bus, they devoured greedily. Those day, Vandana loved eating while travelling. Now changed? Why? He was unable to understand. After a short silence, Amit asks

“Might Mr. Mohan presently love you?” And his eyes focus on goggles, Vandana fumes.
“Don’t discuss that man please I have quite forgotten him forever” Her incisive expression deeply harrows Amit. Quite amazed, Amit embarrasses.
“Sorry” Silence lets them hearing the rattles of ironed-wheels. After ten minutes, it breaks.
“Still, I have another in my heart” She discloses honestly.
“Who is he?” Amit dares to question.
“It’s not a good time telling about him” A shy smile on her lips makes twists. Amit surprises, looks outside the window thinking if she befools him. The train begins to run faster whistling shrilly. Their faces crowd with coal-dirt emitting into the compartment. Intermittently, they mop up faces with their cotton hankies. A dreadful silence between them enhances the train’s clattering clamour.
“Really, you think, it’s not a good time telling about him?”
No prompt response. Amit repeats the question looking at the rag women sitting huddled on berths with their children into their laps.

“Shouldn’t we discuss this subject after getting to village?” Vandana requests politely. Village is now 30 km. away. Train is running fast. It might 25 minutes to reach the destination. Amit muses. Should he wait for 25 minutes snubbing his curiosity? Wait, wait, wait. He wants the train should run faster...fastest. He is excessively enthusiastic to catch the good time. When would the good time come? Might it really come or not? His darling old granny had asked him to rush as early as possible after submitting the thesis. He knows granny would be happy to see him and Vandana would good time tell him the good name of the man she has in her heart. After years, he gets opportunity travelling with her. He recalls the college day when they travel the next city to attend classes holding hand in hand chitchatting like a loving couple. Would Vandana now offer her hand to his hold? He smiles at the memory.
After 15 minutes, train stops next station. A tea vendor enters the compartment shouting.
“Hot –hot tasty tea, sahib! Very hot tasty, sahib. Cardamom and clove in my cosy tea make you refresh, sahib. Very hot tasty, sahib”

“Will you drink tea?” He asks. Vandana says- thank you. Usually.
“I think you need tea. Are you not tired?” And he signals tea vendor to give them tea. He pours and takes money. Vandana holds it with difficulty as if a patient of myopia. When the train steams off, he comes down- hot, hot, tasty tea, sahib. They prepare to step down next station, put their shoes, protect their bags. Amit runs a tiny plastic comb into his hair. Vandana pats her face gently with cotton handkerchief. Might she put off her goggles and show off her beautiful eyes? No. She does not put off it. He tries to recollect her, once he had written a beautiful poem on her eyes.
“Yes, that time, my eyes were really beautiful” Vandana answers unambiguously.
“It deserved poetry then” She adjusts her goggles without showing off her beautiful eyes.
“Vandana, if you don’t mind, could you please show me your funky goggles?” Another bait to get glimpses of her eyes. Vandana deliberately does not listen to him. He repeats then answer strategically erupts.
“Mine are not funky goggles, sir”

“For me, they are funky” Amit insists.
“Sorry, I can not put it off, sir because my eyes are susceptible to dirt. Doctors suggest me its constant wearing” Amit throws off a defeated smile and embarrassingly wipes out face with the back of his hand.
The train stops. Amit rises from seat, marches towards corridor. Vandana does not rise groping something beneath the seats.
“Come, come, Vandana. Train here stops for short time” She nods and movement to grope hurries. She takes wooden rod out from beneath seats and progresses to trudge on the way to passage with its support. Shockingly and unbelievingly, he holds her hands when she tends to fall at the steps.
“What’s problem? Have you any eyes problem?”
“No” But Amit understands that she is too hapless to walk without rod. He steps her down slowly. The train goes off. The setting sun resorts its hued red rays onto their faces.
“Please let me see your doe-eyed beauty” Amit takes off her goggles abruptly. Vandana as if a patient of hysteria cries in desperation.

“No, no, no” Amit trembles with fear. He struggles to control her- hold, hold, hold. She furiously pushes him down. Vandana’s eyes are partly shut, partly obscured, partly murky. No magic, no fascination, no appeal. Why he continues insisting to glimpse them.
“What is the problem; please tell me Vandana, dear? Amit asks anxiously.
“Nothing sir” She unashamedly lies.
“Don’t you think me your friend?” He grows emotional. A challenge.
“Why you hide something from me, dear? Please, I’m your friend”
“Promise, you would not weep to hear” She gives in.
“Weep?” He stuns, grips her both hands, caresses them
“I promise” He assures her.
“I have lost my eyes, sir” She declares.
“I am now a blind girl”
“Blind girl?” Amit feels his heart heavy, eyes floods with tears.
“How it happened?” He asks with difficulty.
“I had gone to attend a marriage where I met an accident”
“When? Where?”
“Last year, when you had met bauji (sarpanch sahib) I had then gone to Pune to attend a marriage of my cousin” And she takes goggles from Amit to wear on. Amit begins to weep. His heart pounds badly.
“No, no, no, don’t break off promise? You’ve promised me you would not be sad hearing the news, then why you weep, sir? Now, blindness is my companion, sir.” Vandana says happily. Amit takes her quivering hands into his and tends to kiss them.

“God is really callous Vandana dear. Really callous” He yells. Vandana gushes with emotions. Her eyelids shake as if want to open.
“I’d promised you that I would tell you about the guy who was then in my heart. Now the good time has come” Amit startlingly gawps at her. Vandana’s face ornaments with the jewellery of innocence.
“Would you want to know?”
“Yes, yes, yes” Amit utters with curiosity.
“Sir, it were you- only you sir, who were in my heart that time”
“Me?” Amit surprises- “Why didn’t you propose me that time?”
“I expect you would reject me” She says honestly. Amit laughs innocently.
“I too loved you that time but could not express my heart and again I had visited your home to see you when you were away to marriage in Pune?”

“Really?” Vandana smiles and drops into his arms. She shakes later.
“Now, let me live my own life. I am blind now but I am happy you loved me that time” Vandana sighs deeply.
“And I love you now also” Amit laughs with emotional delight.
“Do you love with a blind girl? Will you be happy, sir?” She weeps with emotions
“Blinds are always God’s emissaries. How can I see the God without her emissary- you?” Then he tightens her with embrace. Goggles seem him utterly ugly.

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