She stole a glance at the trees, on the rocks and at the sky, as she
continued to walk on the empty street under the celestial light. She knew
the roads were not safe, but deep within, she had a sense of security, a
strange feeling though. Everything had changed, yet nothing was
different. The under-constructed road, the poorly built houses by the
roadside, the sound of the cicadas and the clear sky. To visit this place
was the most beautiful of her dreams and the most painful of her
nightmares. Even today, the streets had no streetlights and she could
recall her father saying,” This place will never develop”. She smiled cause
what she cursed then, was what she yearned for now. She knew
development was poor but she no more felt the need for it. Time indeed
plays its part. Every now and then she would hear sounds, familiar
sounds, sounds which she knew did not exist, anymore.
There, she could see it. She was almost there. She was at the
place she never wanted to visit, but yet longed to see. The mere sight of
the abandoned place was enough to rejuvenate her tired feet. She could
feel herself pace up. She knew she was running and finally, she knew she
had reached. Her mother’s Aparajita garden. She remembers her mother
saying, “You are named after these flowers, blue and beautiful. Tender
but not timid”, whilst her father would argue,” Her name is what she is;
Undefeatable”. She would smile at them and continue her game of
badminton. It was not many years before she realised that her father was
wrong. She was not Undefeatable, nor was any other mortal on the
But she barely recognised the place she was standing at. It
was not what her mother had described, it was nothing like the memory
she had grown up with and it was not the garden which was imprinted
deep into her soul. Maybe the full moon made all the difference. But the
lunar light brings life, even to the lifeless. Then why did the aparajitas
look so dead. Where were all the flowers! Where was the garden she
longed to see! Where was the beauty, she feared to witness! She could
feel herself choking. The lush green vines were gone and what was left
seemed to be nothing more than death. She could feel tears building up
in her eyes and the next thing she knew was that she was crying, crying
hard, she did not know the reason behind her tears but her heart ached.
“Aparajita…Aparajita”, a familiar sound called. The call grew
louder and louder and reached her within no time. It was Masi, the lady
who meant the world to Aparajita. She had simple looks but to Aparajita,
she was the prettiest of all ladies, the kindest of all, she was the key to
her soul. She was the one who brought her up. The one who cared for her
while her parents were busy with their professions. The one she was
meeting after 20 long years. Two long decades, but today when Masi was
so close to her, it felt like just yesterday when she was pestering Masi for
a game of badminton. And in the glimpse of an eye, Masi hugged her. She
knew that Aparajita was crying and she knew the reason behind her
tears. This is the thing with Masi, she always understands Aparajita better
than anyone else, better than she understands herself.
“Dinner is ready. The place would look better in the
morning”, Masi said this with an unrealistic hope; the place had not
looked better in years. Every passing day only made it worse.
“Good night Apar, revitalize yourself. Then maybe we can have a good
game of badminton.” Aparajita reverted with a smile. Masi was 55 but the
young girl knew that victory won’t be easy. It has never been easy, not
for her at least. Closing her eyes she went back, years back, into the past
where the world today did not exist. And if it existed, it was beyond her
knowledge and imagination. She knew she was dreaming, for she has
seen the same dream for ages now, what seemed to her like an era. The
same street , the same garden, but this time, with flowers, beautiful blue
and white flowers, bell-shaped, what mumma used to say ‘the doorbell of
the Almighty’. This time there were people in the garden, there was
laughter and there was life. A young, petite girl of 15 with bright eyes and
dark plain hairs was fidgeting with her badminton racket, trying to figure
out if she could manage to reach the cork, stuck on top of her father’s
mango tree, which she had always been fond of, but today she shouted,
“Ma’s Aparajitas are way better than this huge Mangifera; at least they
don’t interrupt my game.” Ma passed a smirk at the old man who laughed
with approval, “Of course the Aparajitas are better, afterall they are
She woke up to the sound of the doorbell, which was still the
same, the irritating, persistent sound of a bird of some unknown species.
Apar had always insisted on changing it but Masi never approved and, for
some reason, Aparajita was glad she did not. Time changes a lot as it
passes, doesn’t it? She ran out to see if the uncle who delivered milk was
still the same, but to her dismay, he was not. She wasn’t surprised; he
was an old man when she had left. She did not ask Masi about him.
Maybe because she knew the answer, and did not want to validate it.
Very quietly she moved in for breakfast which was quite predictable. Masi
was ready with her ‘Aloo ka Paratha’ with buttermilk. The meal lightened
up her mood and, though Masi was unwilling, they left for the garden.
Her expression was predictable; Masi knew the daylight
won’t make things better. Afterall, the daylight wakes up the asleep, not
the dead. And the garden was definitely not asleep. The Mangifera was
not breathing and the bright, blue flowers were just not there. Masi did
not want her child to witness this. She turned pale, the hope she had
instilled in Apar’s heart was dead, dead like the garden.
“Is the racket and cork still there?” Masi heard a voice.
Apar was in the middle of the garden in her favourite position, what she
called ‘Victory Spot.’ Masi knew her words were not honest but ran into
the outhouse to fetch the rackets and a brand new cork. Apar knew she
had failed in her purpose, and that if at all anything was impossible, then
it was to conceal her emotions from Masi. But the last time Masi looked so
miserable was when they were leaving, leaving the house which Masi
inhabited before Apar was born. Masi was 10 years old when Apar’s
grandparents brought her with them and since then Masi and the house
were inseparable. Except for that one day, 20 years back, when Masi lost
her reasons to live in the house.
‘When we left, we lost our house and our town but Masi
lost us. This ever-chirpy lady cried for the first time. She had already
endured a lot, bore a number of losses and losing us was among her
worst nightmares that eventually came true. We shifted, but with our
family; She shifted, but to a family unknown. She moved to our relatives’
as we moved to a country where we adjusted and adapted but could
never belong to.’
Lost in her thoughts, unintentionally, Apar shed a tear
as Masi came back with the black and red rackets and the brand-new
cork. Masi unmistakably noticed her tear but spoke nothing of it. The
game started and continued for what seemed like an age. Time never
stops, but this time it did, it ceased for the two souls separated by time
itself. The game ended when Masi could no longer breathe, she gasped
for breath but could not help laughing. It was after years that she
laughed, that she lived and that she enjoyed. And it was after years that
Apar had seen something which she used to enjoy the most; she saw her
Masi laughing. Her Masi was to her what a mother is to all the kids. All
her important days were reported to Masi before her Ma. This time she
could not help. Apar burst into tears, straight into her Masi’s arms. Masi
was ready for this, she knew this would happen and somewhere in her
heart, Masi wanted this to happen. She wanted her life into her arms,
holding nothing inside herself. The two people cried that noon. They
laughed and cried again, spilling all their emotions on the ground that was
now barren. The slideshow of emotions came to an end with roars of
laughter. The last time such roars were to be heard on this ground was
two decades back, a week before the upheaval in their lives, a week
‘The house was in a rush, Diwali preparations were up
and the entire house was busy. Mumma was preparing the shopping list
and dad was busy shopping whilst Masi looked after the dishes. I was free
from all responsibilities and was hence responsible for all the random
mischief going on in the house. For the past few days, I could notice the
frequent arrival of some strange men who, for some reason, I did not
happen to like. Few days later I sat on sofa, with Masi, discussing my
future plans with her whilst she just smiled and kissed my forehead. I
recall my mother coming up to her and asking, “What have you planned
for Aparajita?” to which she said, “I do not plan didi. All my plans have
been epic failures. But as of now, I have planned a game of badminton
with her but only when she is done with her homework.”
Time is kind and time is cruel, but above all, time
spares none. It didn’t spare us either. I could see our curtains burning
and I could hear people shouting. “Throw her out,” was what they were
shouting. “Take Aasifa inside,” was what my father continuously said. I
did not know who Aasifa was. “Give her what they want,” I said crying.
Everyone was crying. The night was dark and it was long. But time is
kind. It was very kind to pass with all of us safe inside. The forces were
The next day, no one was allowed to visit the gardens. I
insisted but was scolded. I knew that something had seriously gone
wrong. Gathering courage, I asked my mother, “Ma, who is Aasifa?” She
did not answer, no one did. I went to dad and asked, “What were they
asking for? Why did you not give it to them?”’
Aparajita was glad that his family did not fulfil their
demands because if they had done so, Aparajita would not be here, crying
in Aasifa’s arms. Aasifa was her Masi. She was never told her name. She
never felt the need to know her name. Grown up in a religiously liberal
family, Apar could never imagine the upheaval that can be caused by a
name. She had never thought that names could determine community
and that the community could determine people’s right to live together.
Masi who was loved by everyone around, suddenly became the victim of
their hatred. The house which was a part of them, wherein resided their
souls, had all of a sudden become unsafe.
‘Dad decided to leave, he decided to leave the house, to
leave the mango tree and to leave the Aparajitas. He decided to leave our
souls within the damaged walls. I remember my mother watering her
Aparajitas for one last time with tears in her eyes, injuries on her soul but
an encouraging smile on her lips. Time had defeated us and our
Aparajitas. The vines looked sad, as if they could sense their fate already.
Time had defeated me and my family.
We left for the station, together. Boarded the train for
the capital, together. Deboarded, together. Waited, together in the
waiting room. After sometime, what then felt like ages and now feels like
seconds, I saw my aunt coming. She hugged us. But she was not happy.
Maybe she knew something which I didn’t. Masi hugged me. She was pale
and she was crying. This was the first time I saw her cry. She hugged me
tight as if for the last time. I laughed, “Why Masi, you are choking me.
Let’s go now.” As I started to leave, Dad held my hand and I held Masi’s.
Masi shove my hand and left. I could not process what had just
happened. Masi left, she left me. She left me for the first time in 15
years, the first in my life. She did not turn back. I cried or maybe I did
not. I do not remember but I remember my Ma saying, “We will meet her
soon.” She lied. We did not meet her. 20 years is not soon. Those riots
separated us, separated us for 20 long years.’
Today sitting in the garden, in her Masi’s arms,
Aparajita knew why her Masi never planned. The mortals don’t have the
right to plan. Mortals can just imagine. Those imaginations might or might
not come true depending on what the time has planned for us. Time is
almighty and omnipotent, and planning our future, in simple words, is
underestimating the Supreme. The past is gone and the future has never
existed. The only tense that has an identity is the present and planning
the present is what the wisest of minds do. Apar had planned to be a
teacher in the school in her locality. But the school, today, does not exist.
It was reduced to an abandoned building, years back while Apar was busy
adapting herself in her new place.
Today in her Masi’s arms, Apar knew that they were
not separated by the riots. They were separated by time and time alone
had united them, cause time is kind and time is cruel, but above all, it
spares none. After, what seemed like a peaceful night’s sleep, Apar
opened her eyes, only to witness an Aparajita bud at a distance. She did
not go closer but smiled and closed her eyes again, only to feel the
warmth of her Masi’s arms.
The life left behind cannot be lived again. It can only
be recalled and missed but the time bygone can never be brought back.
Apar’s happiness was ephemeral and she had to go back to the life that
time had chosen for her. Masi packed her luggage and a tiffin filled with
‘Aloo ke parathe’, they closed the door and locked their souls within the
walls once again. Once again they were uncertain as now none of them
planned. They set out to leave, but as they crossed the garden, Aparajita
looked back, maybe with the hope that the bud would blossom. It had
not. It was not the right time for it to blossom. Aparajita and Masi left the
place, together. They boarded the train for the capital, together.
Deboarded, together. This time Masi did not hug her. She did not cry.
This time Aparajita knew everything. This time no one lied to her.
Everything was the same and yet so different. Masi left for her
destination, Apar left for her’s, and the APARAJITA in the garden
blossomed, while no one saw it blooming. Maybe this is what time had
planned for it, a solitary bloom, cause time is kind and time is cruel,
but it spares none; neither the nature nor its beings.