My Noiseless Memories – Chapter 25


Present Day

I entered the hospital. Life was normal around, but to me everything seemed to be in complete silence. There was sense of shock. I approached the hospital emergency desk, told them that I was looking for my wife and her name is Zoya.

She checked her register and expressed her condolences. They pointed me to the room where she lay. I broke down at least 3 times before reaching the door handle. I opened the door, walked a couple of steps and with my trembling hands, I slowly moved the curtain… My mouth went dry in shock as I moved closer. The body was completely covered. I couldn’t find the courage to move the cloth. I trembled, cried, and punched the wall in complete resentment until my knuckles bled.

Rajesh calmed me down, made me sit on the chair. I told him I can’t do this. He took courage and said to hold onto myself. He slowly moved the cloth and revealed the face…

Their lied a body, so badly hurt and completely dressed in bandages. I couldn’t understand what was going on. She had a small mole on her left side of her collar bone but here it wasn’t there… I wiped my tears to have a clear look at the body. It was not Zoya… It was her friend, Sheetal… I was shell shocked. I couldn’t understand what was going on. Rajesh stood there confused without an answer. He went running to the doctor and said that it was not Zoya but her friend Sheetal.

‘I suppose somewhere the identities have been confused…’

The doctor took to us to the other patient in the intensive ward. She said, ‘…That poor girl suffered a fracture on her ribs and shoulder. Her vocal cord was hurt but was lucky to survive the horror. My chief has fixed her and he says that she would be fine in the next couple of months…’

She checked for her name in the patient list…

‘Patient’s name is…’

‘Zoya…!’ I said

I walked backwards to the wall, tears rolled out from my eyes, there was aridness in my mouth, I stammered to speak the words but one word kept coming to me again and again… Zoya… Zoya…

I smiled, I prayed, I cried, I thanked, I was speechless, I finally got back my Zoya… That was the longest day of my life…

I understood the reason for the accident. Sheetal and Zoya were on their way to the local NHS registration. Zoya was in a hurry and didn’t carry her bag. She gave the NHS card and her mobile to Sheetal. She kept it along with hers in her bag.

Sheetal was driving at an average speed. She lost control of the car when a smuggled car and its driver drove too fast to end up in a head on collision with Sheetal’s car. Zoya survived because she was sitting in the back seat with belt on and Sheetal succumbed to her injuries. It was heartbreaking to hear the news. The worst was over…

I remembered the old Arabic verse… A man passes through 7 shades of love… Attraction, Infatuation, Love, Reverence, Worship, Obsession and Death… To us it was a rebirth of our relationship…

It took 36 hours for Zoya to get out of her sedatives. I sat there patiently waiting for her to get back to her senses. She opened her eyes with lots of difficulty. She couldn’t move her head freely but was fine. She saw me and was overcome with emotion. She couldn’t handle the pain of her body but she didn’t show any sign of discomfort. She raised her hand and I held it with subtle care.

After holding her hand for almost 20 minutes, she felt comfortable. She then tried to speak but couldn’t. She wanted to say something but I couldn’t understand. I asked her to take some rest and not to trouble herself but she didn’t. I called the doctor to understand what she was gesturing but even she couldn’t understand…After her repeated sign languages to explain, I finally faced the horror…

I fell on the chair looking at her who was still trying to talk to me in sign language…I couldn’t understand what she spoke but the plight of watching her explain in sign language shattered me. I never wanted a lot of things to happen in my life… But I never wanted this for Zoya…I cursed myself that why it wasn’t me in her place and why it had to be Zoya…

I watched her over and over again trying to explain that it wasn’t her mistake and she was sorry for what has happened… She kept mentioning if I still loved her… I was broken… I was in tears…I took her hand into mine, kissed on her forehead, hugged her and affirmed that I still love her the same way as I always did…

Our first meeting, our first fight, the first date, our trip to Tennessee, those wonderful college days, our unending chats, those exam sessions, our late night cooking escapades, those inexpressible feelings for each other, her childish mischief, proposing her in Chicago, those burning desires, our heartbreaks, graduation, work, marriage, daughter… I could sense those beautiful memories rushing before my eyes…But they were different.

I could see the images but I couldn’t recollect the different sounds in them…There was no music… There was no sound… There was no chatter… There was no cheerfulness… The creation around was at peace but the images were dull…The world was silent…There was no noise…

My memories were noiseless…

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My Noiseless Memories – Chapter 24


Present Day…
 
En route to the airport, I wanted to pick up my daughter from the crèche… I was inconsolable. Rajesh did the bulk of talking and I stood their speechless. The school mistress promised me that she will keep my daughter safe until we were done with the formalities.
 
I saw my daughter come running to me, I held her in my hands…‘What happened papa…?’
 
What could I probably answer the poor little one? I hugged her, and kissed. She was all I had…
 
Not so long ago…
 
8 Months later…
It took 8 months for us to get married, from the day my dad called me to inform that he is ready to accept Zoya as his Daughter-in-law. To make sure, that everything was in tune with our parents sentiments, we arranged the wedding in both Hindu and Muslim traditions. Though Zoya’s dad didn’t make it to the wedding, he was happy that the marriage took place according to Islamic tradition (We didn’t share the Hindu styled marriage photos with him on the request of Zoya’s mother).
 
After 7 years since I first met her at the university apartment in Texas, we finally were man and wife. The journey was one hell of roller coaster ride with all the ingredients required for a love story!
 
6 Years later…
Any man can be a father but being a father to a girl is always a special feeling because ‘for a son is a son until he gets a wife; a daughter is a daughter for the rest of her life.’ It was an amazing experience to have a daughter. I had one…
 
Our first few months as new parents were ridiculously tiresome. We spent sleepless nights, changing her nappies once in every four hours, drooping on the couch and kitchen tables, finding no time to eat together but feed her whenever needed to, no time for entertainment or recreation… We were on skates 24×7!
 
Zoya turned out to be a great mother but that never stopped her on picking up fights with me. She was tired to switch between the role of a mother and then back to a consultant working on her sabbatical! Nor there was a deficit of those noiseless days we spent on each other’s shoulder while our daughter slept.
 
With every passing year, my daughter started to grow faster, smarter and cuter. A daughter is the only person who loves her father blindly. When Zoya would ask me to spare an evening for shopping, my tiredness and laziness used to give in. I used to turn a deaf year to her disappointed chatter… Predominantly, her chatter used to be in Urdu… I suppose…
 
‘Mom…! Tell me a story…’
 
‘Go, ask your dad!’
 
‘Papa… Please tell me a story…‘ Whenever my daughter puts her arm over my shoulder and asks me anything, for some reason, I just turn into a pat of butter in a hot frying pan! I guess it’s the same with every dad in this world!
 
My life was great with Zoya around. As every marriage runs through its bumpy rides and rough weather, there was never a time, I hated her. Though I had my own share of quarrels and fights with Zoya, she was still my Zoya and I kept falling in love again and again with her. She was just the girl God meant for me…And my daughter in a sense completed us…

My Noiseless Memories – Chapter 23


Not long ago…

4 Years later…
Zoya was working in Orange County and I was shuttling between Boston, NJ and Connecticut as my work demanded travel. My weekdays were hectic and my weekends were busy with Zoya. During our college graduation day, everyone from our batch made a pact that no matter what happens to us and no matter where we are, every year we would follow the tradition of spending the July long weekend vacation with our friends and their families. It was amazing…

Our parents finally started to understand the gravity of our love as well as our dedication and respect to them. One day, my dad called me to check if I was fine and whether I was taking care of myself. To my surprise he asked me something else…

‘Arjun…’

‘Yes Dad…’

‘Do you really like Zoya?’

I was speechless for few moments. I had never expected him to ask him this…Never! But he did ask and I didn’t know what to say. I took time to sink the question in and then said,

‘Yes Dad…I love her the way I love you and mom…’

‘Do you want to get married to her?’

‘I will not get married to her without you or mom’s consent dad…’

‘Then son, go ahead and marry her. We will travel to America to see our son get married to the woman he loves… I don’t know how long we have left to stay in this world. By stopping you from getting married to a girl whom you love, we are denying our own love. My denial was not because I hated you or the girl. My denial was because of the fear that we went through of what would happen to you or Zoya. I don’t see that anymore. You and Zoya have stood behind each other when it mattered, the most and not for a split second, you disrespected us. I guess I acted pretty hard on you and Zoya. I am sorry…’

couldn’t believe if it was my dad or someone impersonating by dad! ‘Dad…! Is everything ok?’ I asked in surprise…
‘Of course everything is OK you idiot!’ he said and I could hear him laugh loud over phone!

It just took my dad five minutes to drive me down the madness lane.

‘But listen son; will Zoya be happy to see us? After all, we broke her heart when she so pleasingly and desperately begged us…’

‘Of course she would be fine with it dad! Let me get her connected so that you can talk.’

‘No… Wait! An occasion of this magnitude cannot just go unnoticed. Surprise her… Give her a gift and then break the news! Once when you have told her, you can call me. We will talk to her…’

That was incredible news. I surprised Zoya by flying the very afternoon to Orange and broke the news. She was in shock, awe and at the same time, felt a sense of completeness. My dad spoke to her, apologized for his behavior. In return she asked him not to apologize to someone who is younger than her. What impressed him was that, she called him papa right from the time she met them during our graduation day 4 years ago…
My mom, who was already fine with my choice after a couple of years, was really happy that Zoya had picked up some Tamil and Telugu words… But frankly speaking it sounded Chinese to me…  For now, Mission Impossible – Part 1 was over…

After a couple of weeks, I secretly called Zoya’s mom. First she wouldn’t talk to me, not out of hatred but out of fear for Zoya’s dad. I explained her how much it matters to take her daughter as my wife. I promised her that our love for each other was more than religion and national boundaries.

It took the next 3 months for me to first become friends with Zoya’s mother. Then another month went by to showcase my Urdu skills and my love for her daughter. I even spoke broken Urdu to keep her interested in my conversations. She was old; she could sense the desperation in my tone to please her in accepting me as her Son-in-law.

5 Months later…
On a pleasant Sunday evening, I was at Zoya’s apartment and we were having a good time watching the Spurs play. Her phone rang. She took the call. It was her mom… Zoya had not spoken to her mom nor did her mother tried calling her in all these years. They spoke in length for almost 90 minutes. In between the talks, there were usual pauses, inconsolable sobs, surprise chatter and heartfelt laughs. It was reunion after all…

Zoya’s dad didn’t want to talk to her. His ego was hurt but at the same time, he didn’t stop his wife from talking to Zoya or letting Zoya’s mother travel to America to attend our marriage. I tried talking to her dad but he never answered. In a way, Mission Impossible 2 was a partial success…

My Noiseless Memories – Chapter 22


Present Day…
The flight touched Ontario airport and I held Rajesh’s hands even tighter. I rushed through the gates. I was nervous. I couldn’t figure out how I could stand this tragedy…

Not so long ago…

My dad and mom arrived for the graduation day. I picked them from the airport, arranged a nice hotel room close by to my university. They were really happy that I was finally getting graduated and for the person that I had matured to become in the last few years… They were excited unknowing to the story I was about to reveal to them. It was like the US would call it – WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction).

But first I had to get this girl back. I went to her when she was in the library; she slapped me for my act at the birthday party! I knew I was wrong so had to take it. I convinced her for close to 4 hours. She kept pushing my hand every time I took it closer to console her. At some point, I couldn’t control my laugh. Even she couldn’t but kept pretending that she is pretty serious.

So I finally let her know that my parents have arrived and they would be revealed with the WMD called Zoya in the next few days. We knew it’s going to be a hell of a weekened ahead and started to prepare for it.

I took my parents to all the places of interest in and around Houston. Rajesh joined us the next day. Finally when the time came, I and Rajesh arranged for a small get together for my mom and dad. All my friends came over to the party and I introduced everyone to them… There was Zoya as well…

Rajesh was astonished, my friends stunned, I was speechless. Would you believe it…? Zoya wore a sari and it was dazzling… My mom was easily attracted to her. Even though I introduced everyone, I played the waiting game before introducing Zoya. And my mom, after waiting close to 45 minutes, finally let it out… ‘Who is that girl?’

Friends… What do you think I would have told her?

I gathered cold feet and said, ‘She is a friend of mine from the university…’

‘Oh! She looks beautiful. Is she from Punjab?’

‘Punjab…?! Phew… Mom! You have no idea…but tell me, if I bring a girl like her tomorrow to you and dad and say that I want to marry her, would you be okay with it?’

Avale madri yenna da, avaliya kootitu va! Naan rombo santhosha paduven! (Why someone like her, bring her as our daughter-in-law and I will be more than happy to accept her!)’

I guess, the time was right and without waiting a second, I took my mom aside. I waved and signaled Zoya to come over. She came, touched my mom’s feet and then I said,

‘Amma (Mom)… She’s the girl I love. I want to marry her. Will you accept her as your daughter-in-law?’

My mom first thought that it was a joke, and then she realized the seriousness in my tone…looked surprised for a moment but within few minutes, she was happy… ‘Your choice is ours…  Go ahead! I don’t know what your dad would say but, I like her… Only concern… Does she know only Hindi and English…? I can’t talk to her every day in Hindi or English…’

She placed her hand over Zoya lovingly and asked innocently, ‘Why don’t you learn Tamil or Telugu?’ She just put her head down and said,

‘I will learn to speak Ma…’

‘Mom… Just don’t freak out what I would be telling you now…’

‘You have already given me a pleasant surprise. What else is it going to be?’

‘This wouldn’t be any pleasant to you I suppose.’

‘Kill the suspense and tell me what it is!’

‘If I had to tell you that she is from Pakistan and her religion is Islam, would yoy feel different from what you felt a couple of minutes ago?’

As expected, she was in a state of shock. She couldn’t go easy on what I had told her. She sat confused. She called me closer, told me that she always wanted good for me but she isn’t sure of what this is. She didn’t like the way I cornered her… My dad came over to my mom watching her sit in disbelief. She explained him what I had said… My dad wasn’t convinced with my mom’s version of the story.

All our lives, me and Zoya have been selfish in looking after our own interests. We sensed that it was time we acted responsible and convinced our parents about our love and how deep our understanding was – Way above religion, caste, creed, country…

‘Papa… I am sorry to be introduced this way. I know what you feel deep down in your heart and I respect it with complete reverence. I know it’s really difficult for you to accept me as part of your family but I can assure you that I am very much the girl you would want Arjun to get married to at some point of time in his life. I am not asking for a chance here… I am asking you to give us hope. I am asking you to accept and love me the way you love your children. Please…’ she said…

My mom was overwhelmed with emotion. Her eyes filled with pity were fixed over Zoya. My dad didn’t look at her even once when she spoke. He silently stood, took my mom, called Rajesh to advance their tickets as they wanted to leave for India tomorrow. We knew that we have not only broken my parent’s hearts but Zoya’s as well! I tried convincing them further but nothing worked.

On the day my parents left, I told my parents,

‘Dad…I will not get married to anyone other than Zoya. Nor she would get married to anyone other than me… But we will marry, only when you, mom and her parents will accept us…And we will wait for that day!’

My Noiseless Memories – Chapter 21


Not so long ago…

The story before the breakup… Continued

‘It sounds great and perfect… So where did it go wrong?’ asked Rajesh

‘It was all going great and there was no turning back. We had wonderful time together and those moments were simply amazing… And literally, we went crazy when we started as people in love in our apartment after the Chicago trip. There was no looking back until Tania and Zoya’s family happened.

First, Tania committed a mistake by posting Chicago trip pictures on Facebook. And to top that, she posted the photo in which I was on one knee proposing Zoya. And as you know, rumors take 10 seconds to reach and Facebook takes one tenth second to reach its destination…Her dad saw those pictures!
 
He went crazy…called her up, told her that everything between her and her family was over. She was a black mark in her family and things just went out of hand. She couldn’t convince them. I didn’t enter the video chats until she forced me to come over and convince them. The moment his dad saw an ‘Om’ locket around my neck, he went even madder!

It was mayhem and final exams were due in a couple of weeks. We didn’t want to take chances. I asked Zoya to promise them that she has broken up with me so that they are convinced and we can concentrate on our exams first.’

‘Ok! So did her dad believe that part?’

‘Naaa…He’s Zoya’s dad! His brain works sharper than Zoya’s… So he never believed us!

So as days passed by, we completed our exams. And thankfully everything went well. We got straight A’s in the final semester. She got placed in a business consulting firm in Orange County, LA and couple of weeks ago; I got placed in a design consulting firm which was based out of NJ. The design firm also had a branch in LA. And that’s when it went even crazier… She didn’t want me to take a job in NJ but stay with her and find another job in Orange.

Her inner fear superseded her practical thinking. I finally took courage and asked my dad and mom to visit me for the graduation ceremony so that I can lay my proposal in front of them once when I got graduated. She wanted to call her parents as well and invite them. But, they knew the story and didn’t want to even wish her.

I wanted to stand by her no matter what happens but as you know, she is always right when she is angry. So she started hurling and venting her anger on fate. That it is was my mistake to knock on her door that night and ask her for a coffee… Then the Tennessee trip and the allegations went on and on…

But I asked her to calm down and behave well before we went to Archana’s birthday party… We went, she couldn’t stand me, so we were in separate groups and the fight continued through stares at each other.’

‘So why did you suddenly go kiss her?’

‘Ah! That one… Ok! She hated liquor and I stopped taking it for almost 18 months. Now I had to annoy her. So I was bloody drunk after a long time and didn’t know what I was doing! I didn’t know what I was thinking but I just wanted to kiss her at that moment. So I kissed her… Completely my mistake but no reason why she should leave me…She even changed her status to single on Facebook!

Does it really make any sense? I mean, I do fight with my parents but you don’t see me change my status on Facebook to ‘Orphan’!’

Rajesh sat there in complete silence for some time…He just felt that there are still dumb people who could come to America, study, act liberal and yet never lose an inch of their senselessness. I placed my hand on his shoulders and asked him if he is ok with a smile…

 
He answered, ‘Do you guys ever realize what a nuisance you are to this world?’

My Noiseless Memories – Chapter 20


Not so long ago…

The story before the breakup… continued
I understood an important moral from that situation. To fight and conquer in all my battles is not supreme excellence. Supreme excellence consists in breaking her resistance without fighting. I loved her…I worshiped our relationship…I let her go…
So the day came…She left for Chicago…I left for Orlando…
After spending two wonderful years together as great friends, I felt better letting her go…For the first 10 hours, it was cool. I felt better that I had some more breathing space which I was missing in the last two years. It was a week long trip and the first two days went by with me missing her at rare occasions. Then came the day we had to go to Disneyland…I started the morning much more excited than any other. I bathed, woke up the other guys, we had breakfast, took off and reached Disneyland.
Thankfully we didn’t have to stand in the queue as Archana has already done the bulk booking. I started to walk towards the gates. I was walking along with Sumanth and casually looked others walking around us. Everyone was happy because they were with the people who matter the most in their lives.
What was I doing here alone? With every step I took, the stride became difficult. By the team, I reached the gates; I was in no mood to get in…I turned back and started to run…
Preethi and Sumanth stood their looking me…
‘What happened to Arjun? Why is he running to the taxi stand?’ asked Preethi.
Sumanth just smiled and let me go…
I took the cab, reached airport, boarded the next flight to Chicago… Reached Chicago, went to Tania’s place where Zoya’s been to… The door was locked. I didn’t call Zoya or Tania or Fatima…I sat on the door steps waiting for my love… It’s been more than 3 days since we spoke… But I couldn’t wait anymore…
‘What wrong babe?’

‘Nothing…’

‘Something’s been bothering her…She’s been this way all these two days?’ said Tania
‘Are you okay…?’ asked Fatima carrying her shopping bags…I stood in the dark waiting for her to come closer…
She saw me but couldn’t see my face; she took slow, short steps towards me… I walked a couple of steps so that the moon light could fall over me…
She saw me, dropped her bags in surprise…picked up her pace and finally came running to me…I missed her too much for too long and I couldn’t miss anymore…I stood there, wanted to touch her but I didn’t, wanted to hug her but I didn’t, I wanted to kiss her but didn’t…I wanted to make the move…
She was overwhelmed with emotions…She hugged me…Tears rolled from her eyes. She hugged me real tight…I could sense for the first time that she did have feelings and she missed me dearly! There was no better moment I could wait for to propose her… I went on my one knee, held her hand and said,

 
‘You are the only person that can make my heart beat faster and slower at the same time. I came here tonight because when I realized that if I want to spend the rest of my life with you then I want the rest of my life to start as soon as possible. It seems right now that all I’ve ever done in my life is making my way here to you. If I tell you I love you, can I keep you forever?’

There was surprise, shock from Tania, Fatima and the onlookers

‘Yes…’ She said in disbelief…

‘I love you…’

‘I love you too…’

I could sense the excitement in her; she couldn’t believe what was going around her until everyone watching us clapped and applauded to show their excitement… 

We were officially in ‘Love’

My Noiseless Memories – Chapter 19


Not so long ago…

The story before the breakup…

My GPA was pretty good. Zoya’s GPA was also fine. So there was never a question of studies or education.

‘Is it related to the story?’

‘No…’

‘Then please skip it…’

‘Ok… It was semester break. All of us were planning to prepare for a trip to Orlando and Miami. My plan was to propose her in Disneyland… I planned each and everything so meticulously that it was perfect. The plan was to put on a Mickey mouse (Zoya’s favorite character) costume, plan a carnival dance for her along with the dance troupe, so that I could dance around as one of the cartoon characters and finally when the dance is over, I as in ‘The Mickey Mouse’ would take her hand, go down on one knee, take off my mask, and propose to her…’

‘Dude… That’s epic romantic…’ said Rajesh…

‘Yeah… The epic romance costs, a goddamn $1500 and then an extra $300 per head for the arrangements and a candlelight dinner… ‘

‘Now that’s a lot of money for a career starter! So what happened next?’

‘Actually, nothing happened before to happen next…’

‘Beg your pardon?’

‘She said she doesn’t want to travel to Orlando and Miami…’

‘Where did she want to go then?’

‘Chicago…’

‘But why…?’

‘Her friends Fatima and Tania were studying in Chicago…I asked her why not plan for the Chicago trip the next time but she was adamant. She wanted to go. I didn’t want to reveal the surprise I had for her nor did I want to miss the Orlando trip…I went into a convincing drive for the next three days…Nothing worked. I was exasperated. I was vexed. I couldn’t stand her stubbornness!

This was followed by four days of endless fights… After every fight, I looked more and more like someone who was standing on the edge of insanity with one foot on a banana peel…’

Rajesh smiled…

‘And after every fight she would start crying.

And with her crying tantrum, she ends up winning every argument. I just don’t understand her when she is crazy… She would immediately start proposing the fact that she is single independent woman and she has a right to decide what she wants!

I sometimes counter argue on that point as well but in vain…

Rajesh couldn’t stop laughing… But was attentively listening to me…

‘So what finally happened…?’

‘She won the argument… She went to Chicago and I went to Orlando…’

‘Did you really go to Orlando?’
 
I looked at Rajesh, winked and said, ‘No…’