That winter, gave me a story. Gave me a home. Gave me dreams to carry along... That house, is a legend.
There was a portrait that had always been there, conspicuously on that wall. Some said that it belonged to the man of the house. Some, said that it belonged to her lost love. But everyone had to agree upon one thing. The portrait had a soul and its vibrancy was palpable. And when one looks at it , one is bound to smile! The elegance and the poise. If this had been the man, who had captivated her heart, then he was bound to be worthy of her! There where he looked, no one could ever look… It was known only to him. His vision- as clear as that of an albatross! Strange thing, smile. One never knows why one smiles. And one is never able to understand why they are being smiled at. It's very simple. It's just smile. No thoughts. Only smile! She had drawn him. Prabhat, beautifully put that to me. "May be she put that life into that portrait, that she could never live with him- the unsung melody…" I don't know, why. But, I smiled.
All I wanted was truth. Is that true then, that anything, but truth is available to man? I wanted to find out about her life and her mysterious portrait. Prabhat had warned me, that it was never going to be possible. She never let anyone into her mind. But I was confident. There, I stood, watching that portrait. I knew then, that I could find something. A strange sense of belonging there. Prabhat spoke suddenly, "You do realize what you are doing, don't you? Why do you even want to try"? I couldn't answer at once. The portrait... I was trapped. "Avani"? I was startled! I realized that Prabhat was standing beside me, talking to me.. "Yes? ", I replied. But it felt, as though, the reply came from a distant land from someone whom I knew not. Prabhat was smiling..
That house was a legend. Each of its brick had a story to tell. So I had heard. And Prabhat was a wonderful guide. He knew what to tell me. And he told me just that. The gramophone on the mahogany table. A centaury old memory of muted music. Prabhat played a record. The music from it came from another era. The walls were changing. The walls of that house, I felt, were trying to re-live the past… Still, they tried- just to show us, how it used to be. As though to show us the right from wrong... I felt so. The walls were changing. The song was playing. Prabhat was looking at me. He had never looked at me, that way before that day. He was looking at me, as though he had been looking at me like that, for eons. The walls were changing. Prabhat came closer. He held my hand. He was still looking at me as though he had known me for ages. He spoke, softly, "I now think, you are ready to see her"…
The wood beneath my hand, perhaps realized that my pulse was quickening. They were trying to calm me down. But it was a long walk to the room above. Prabhat was helping me as I climbed the stairs. May be the wood beneath my hand had spoken to him. I felt better. I didn't talk much. In fact, I had not talked the entire while, we were at the house! It was not like me. I talked my life. Usually. But today, I was listening. For the first time in my life- I was listening to the house. The moment I entered that house, I knew that the house had recognized me. They were calling out my name as someone would call out to their old friend.. "Avani..Avani.." I heard my name, from all around. And that was why, I was listening. I had reached the floor above. And from here, I had stopped hearing my name. There was only silence. An eloquent silence. A silence that I did not feel like breaking. Prabhat was beside me. He led me through a door. I was entering into a new world…
Eyes, when closed- may seem just closed. But thoughts may fill in those eyes and mind. Mind- a mysterious non-being, or is it a being, for no one knows! Memories, coming together and forming a dream- that appears so real, that it seems to be the future! What is future? No one knows. Not even those who claim to know. Pretty sights of coloured walls! Whatever that means, one knows not. One only knows this- that she lay there, with her eyes closed. But her eyes, one knew- were filled with dreams!
Prabhat's voice was waking me up-"Avani is here, grandma".. She opened her eyes. I felt as though I was now being a part of her dream. She smiled...
Chandraprabha. I had heard a different story. A story of a woman, of heart as hard as iron. A woman whose life had been dedicated to build a home out of a house. But here, I saw a person, who was like any one of us. No. She was not like any one of us. She was as soft as the first touch of a new born. Prabhat had left my side and had sat himself on her bed. "Avani is here, grandma…”
She looked at me. And when she did, I felt I was all alone. I was there. And no one else. Her eyes were looking at mine. And mine only. It was nothing like one human seeing the other. There- her eyes, looked at mine- and mine only. There were no thoughts reflecting her mind when she saw me. Not like a misty outline of a stranger in front. But she was seeing a being. Someone deep inside me. When Chandraprabha looked into my eyes, I felt her seeing me. Me.
I tried to look at her. But I could not. May be it was the life she had lived until today. But all her thoughts were too heavy for me. I could not look at her. I looked at her feet, instead. And in that moment, she spoke. Her voice, as clear as the stream jumping over a few pebbles beneath its surface. "She's beautiful Prabhat.. Come here, child"…I moved closer, my eyes, never leaving her feet. She signaled me to sit on her bed. I did as I was told. She spoke again, "So, you wish to know my story? So Prabhat tells me…" I raised my eyes, to look into her's. Her eyes were smiling.. They knew, somehow, what I would say. I replied, "No. I don't anymore". Prabhat began, "But… you…" Chandraprabha spoke, "Good then. I hope you like being here, as much as I do"... I could now, look into her eyes- strangely. I said, "I am sure, I will". She said, “Now that we understand each other, better, I wish to be excused…" Prabhat, from the way he looked, I knew that he understood nothing. I spoke, "We'd take your leave, then". And we left her room. But her eyes followed me, till I had reached the door. I turned back to see them; they had the same look upon them. She was smiling. Her dreams had come back to her eyes. And now, I could see them too.
It was snowing outside. Prabhat had lighted the fire. We were sitting near the window, watching the snow fall on the window pane. It was sometime later; I realized that he was looking at me. I smiled. He smiled back. He said, "Thank you. I don't know what happened between the two of you, but I have never seen her like this before. Thank you". I did not reply. I looked outside the window. He was still looking at me. I turned towards him again. He spoke, again, "But you could have asked her, about the portrait. About who was the man in that portrait? For I felt that she would have told you.. Why didn't you ask"? I said, "I don't want to know anymore. So I did not ask". He, I felt, was not convinced. I continued, "Prabhat, whoever he may be, must have been a great man, who had seeped in her heart. And their relationship, defies discussion". Prabhat turned to look at the snow. I continued, "I can ask her, if you want to know it". He turned back to me. With a strange look in his eyes. The next moment that look was gone. And he smiled, and said, "No, you need not. I am convinced that I had brought you home".
That winter, gave me a story. Gave me a home. And gave me dreams to carry along. Chandraprabha, or grandma, as I may now call her, had passed on her dreams to me, that winter evening. The house let me in. The house, had probably spoken to her too, about me. Told her what they had told me. She preferred to rest. It was snowing, outside. It was now, next winter. The house was as elegant as ever. It's peaceful slumber, undisturbed by the sudden stranger who had entered into its life, a year before. For I was no longer a stranger to the house. The mahogany table with the gramophone, still played the same song from the other era. The wood beneath my hand, silently thanked me, as I climbed up the stairs to go upstairs. The portrait still lives. The only new thing in that house was a portrait of Chandraprabha, grandma, beside the portrait of the one, she had loved.
There is a love there- that exists- even when there is never anything said about it. It fills, only the heart where it is felt. There is never any questions asked. No answers given. It chooses to be that way. And it should remain that way. A few are able to understand that love. And a few are able to feel it. It gives no reason, no explanation. But chooses to remain, alive- as ever.
From above those stairs, I could see them both, looking delightful together on those walls… And I felt a tear drop from my eyes, as I felt her eyes on me, feebly thanking me. The snow had settled itself on the window pane, as she had left my side, to join him, on their portrait home...