Karan had been sitting at the window in his dark room for over an hour, his eyes steadfast on the window across the street. The moon had come out over half an hour ago but she was nowhere to be seen. He had been watching every terrace that he could see from his Rajouri Garden apartment in East Delhi where women were doing their karwachaut Puja when the moon came out. But strangely her house was dark.
For eight years now that he had known her not once had she failed to keep the ritual. And for seven of those years he had also kept the fast with her, without her knowing. They’d been friends then good friends and then great friends. But always ‘just friends’. For eight long years.
When he first met her she was sitting on stairs of the fire exit in the office. He used to slip down the seldom used stairs to have a smoke rather than go all the way down to the smoking area. For some reason they sat there in the stairs that day and talked for ten continuous hours. They were both new in office and it was their first jobs. He remembered that the ten hours were spent mostly listening to her. She talked mostly about her college and that meant Rahul. A name that he then didn’t know he would hear a lot from her for the rest of his life. She was deeply in love with Rahul for four years in college but never had the courage to tell him directly. She just assumed that he would somehow realize it himself. But years passed in the wink of an eye without any confessions being made. And now he was halfway across the globe doing his masters. It was at one of those weak moments that overwhelmed her once in a while and she’d hide away at the seldom used fire escape that Karan chanced upon her. Her eyes red and with mascara drooping down her cheeks, she was a sight he’d never forget in his life. She looked like an angel just banished out of heaven.
They grew close within a short period. He didn’t have other friends in office and neither did she. They ended up being together all the time. He even moved into a house in her locality. They were together right from his morning wake up call to her goodnight call.
Soon enough he realized that he was falling for her although she was still just as obsessed about Rahul as the day they had met. Slowly it dawned on him that she would never think of him the way he thought of her but still he remained always by her side. Hope is often what sinks a man faster down into quicksand.
Seven years ago on a similar karwachaut day he was surprised to learn that she was keeping the vruth (religious fast) for Rahul. That meant not having anything to eat till the moon appeared in the evening sky. And Rahul wasn’t even her boyfriend in technical terms let alone her husband. He didn’t even know that there was a girl a thousand mile away staying hungry for the whole day apparently for his well being. That kind of made him realize two things. That her love for Rahul was deeper than he imagined and secondly that whatever he did she will never be his. That night when she called him up to say goodnight he asked her to confess her love to Rahul. She was dead against it as she believed that every girl deserved to be proposed to. But he knew that it was just another way to say that she was too proud to do that.
For several days afterwards their conversations would somehow turn to this topic and would end in the same way with her refusing to do anything like that. But slowly and slowly he managed to chip away at her wall of ego and pride. When Rahul came to India the next time after almost two years she met him and confessed her love.
Things moved really fast and the next karwachaut he watched from his window as with the rising moon she took the first morsel of her from Rahul’s hands. This time she was his wife.
Unknown to her, from the first time he had realized that he was in love with her, he had been keeping the karwachaut fast with every year. He wasn’t a religious person at all. But this somehow was different. He didn’t know nor did he care for the prayers but every year he would have his first meal after ensuring that she had had hers.
It was now almost two hours since the moon had come out and he knew that she wouldn’t have had anything. There was no light in her house across the street but he knew she was inside. The faint glow of an oil lamp in what he knew was the Puja room confirmed what he already knew.
At about 11 in the night he saw Rahul ring the bell of his house. He saw the light come in the Puja room and for a brief instance he saw her run towards the stairs and then the lights in the stairs came on and then the drawing room in the ground floor. And the door opened and there stood what to him was an angel come down to earth. But then her face clouded over all of a sudden. And he realized why when he looked at Rahul. He was almost too drunk to stand up by himself. He was propped up against the door frame and he staggered into the house. A little while later the light in the top floor room directly opposite his window came on. He could see from between the drapes that an argument was going on and she was almost in tears. Then all of a sudden Rahul raised his hands and hit her hard sending her sprawling across the floor.
The blood started to boil in him. He wanted to run across the street and pull her up. But he knew he couldn’t do anything. She was another man’s wife now. He thought if he was right in convincing her all those years ago to go confess to Rahul about her love. He thought if he would also have treated her had he been married to her. Perhaps. But something within him told him that it would never be so. She was just too precious for him and will always remain so.
He sat there inside the dark room thinking about all their times together; as friends. Him a little bit more than her. Then the door to her terrace opened up and she came out alone. She had a plate with a lamp on it and a mug of water. She did her prayers looking at the moon and then took tore a morsel of chapatti from the plate and brought it towards her mouth. But she stopped midway. Her eyes were a torrent. She looked across the street to the window where he was. Something told him that she knew that he was there although there was no light in the room and she couldn’t possibly see him. He just kept looking at her and prayed, perhaps the first time in his life, pleading to god to heed her karwachaut prayers and to keep her happy always.
PS: Today is karwachaut. And for all those who believe may your prayers be answered.