“I told him that I document love stories and let the world know about great stories that are happening in this age. He told me about you. Ranjan told me that you have been waiting for your love. I don’t see anything special in that. I’m sorry if I sound rude. But, I want to know more about you,” said Radhika, a journalist to Shalini.
Shalini smiled faintly. She looked like any other girl. She did not look too happy or too depressed. Her eyes suggested that she was always looking out for something. She had some impatience within her that she did not want the outside world to know. Shalini was draped in red saree and looked as professional as any other software programmer would look. She had the same worries about deadlines and releases. Yet, there was something that bothered her more than any of the regular teething problems of this generation.
She said, “You are right. There is nothing special about my story. He works for the army. He left for a war five years ago. We were in touch with him for six months. Suddenly, we lost contact. We’ve not heard from him again. I’m waiting for him. That’s pretty much the gist of my story. There is nothing special about it.”
Radhika was curious. She felt something was missing. She asked, “What happened to him? Did you check with the authorities? You are hopefully waiting for him. That means to say that he is safe somewhere. Isn’t it?”
Shalini looked outside the window. She got up from the chair and walked towards the window. She said, “Whenever I look at the path to this building, I get reminded of the last time he came running with a bouquet in his hands. It was my birthday. He wanted to take me out for dinner. But, he had to travel that evening. So, he came rushing to give me the bouquet. We hugged each other. I cried. He left. We talked for some time. I never heard of him again.
And, yes, we checked with the authorities. But, you will not believe whatever I’m going to say. Let me speak it out. The authorities told us that they never had an officer or soldier with the name Seetharam. He was about to get a gallantry award. Now, the army does not even recognize his name. Isn’t it ridiculous? It’s alright if you don’t want to believe me. I’ve tried convincing people in vain all these years. I know the truth. So, it does not matter any more about what the world thinks.”
Radhika realized that there was more to this story and hence Ranjan asked her to know about this romantic story. Though she felt curious to ask about what might have happened to Seetharam, she wanted to know why Shalini was waiting for him. Radhika said, “I’m sorry if I end up saying something rude that might hurt you. But, you are young. Anything must have happened to him. Why are you waiting for him? He hasn’t called you for the last four and a half years. Did you never want to move on? You have a life, too. Did you not think about it?”
Radhika felt bad for having said all this. But, she wanted to get to know how Shalini felt deep inside about her life. Shalini was used to these questions and perceptions. She said, “Absolutely true. I have a life. I need to think about it. But, let me tell you what happened when we met for the first time. It might sound cliched and melodramatic. But, it really happened.
On a rainy day, when I was driving to work, I followed the traffic signal and drove forward when it was green. A huge track started coming towards from the other side. For a moment, I thought I was going to die. It was coming at such speed I knew I had no chances of survival. I was expecting a huge impact from the right hand side. But, I received a jolt from behind. A jeep hit me suddenly and I literally flew with my bike into a garden. I suffered minor injuries and escaped the wrath of the accident. But, the jeep was badly hit by the truck. Fortunately, the driver of the jeep was alive. We rushed him to the hospital. When they were trying to find the details of his family members to call them, they found something in his wallet that surprised me.
It was my picture. I did not understand why he was having my picture. After an hour, his parents and sister came. They recognized me the moment they saw me. They knew everything about me. How did they know about me when I never met them before? Seetharam was madly in love with me for more than an year before that. He knew everything about me. He was always waiting for a chance to talk to me. But, he never got a chance. I never thought anyone would love someone so much as he loved him. Within a week, he recuperated fully. I met him in the hospital and asked him why he was so mad about me. He told me that he fell in love with me the moment he saw me. I told him that I never believe in such stuff. He did not force me to love him. He did not even talk to me about love or marriage. He asked me if he could be my friend. I already liked everything about him and the way he was mad about me. So, I became good friends with him. It took only a few months to realize what a wonderful person he is. I, too, fell for him and there was no looking back. Our parents were planning for our wedding when he got this call of duty. I told you already. He never came back. So, I’m waiting for him. I might find someone else in my life. But, I’m pretty sure I will never be able to find someone who will love me as much as Seetharam did. And, I cannot think of loving anyone other than him. I know you’ll find it foolish. But, let me keep going this way.”
Radhika felt sad after hearing the entire story. She was still not convinced about the future of this innocent girl. Radhika said, “I’m sorry for asking this again. What did you think of your future?”
Radhika felt confident she asked the right question. But, she was surprised to that confident smile on Shalini’s face.
Shalini said, “You should know more about Seetharam. He is not just a normal army man. He created history, not being part of the army, but by being a civilian. He hails from a rich family. He adopted an entire village initially to help them out by providing financial support. Later, he realized that the neighboring villages also needed help. He worked hard day and night to help all these villages. He improved the amenities of so many villages. He did all this while he was waiting for his call of duty. With the help of support from corporate people, he started an orphanage and an old age home. I see my future there. I want to continue in his legacy. Even if he never returns, I will take care of all of them and help people across. He started something very noble. Being his life partner, I consider it my responsibility to take it forward.”
Radhika felt embarrassed. She said, “I’m sorry I bored you with my questions. I cannot publish this story as part of my romantic series. This story needs wider audience and a better forum. It is about two people and their dedication towards the society.”
Radhika felt inspired after listening to their story. She stayed in touch with Shalini over the course of many years. Though they never heard of Seetharam again, many people in the country were getting help because of a dream that he could envision and initiate.