After a hot shower, Mini was searching through her cabinet, dumping clothes on the floor in search of well-coordinated and attractive nightwear. All she could find were enormous sweatpants and shirts; she did not know how they had ended up in her life, but there was nothing suitable to wear tonight. She went around to the far end of the dresser, where she stored her old clothing in a dresser unit, leaving the pile of garments on the floor.
She opens the top drawer unit and finds the rusted and battered tin box with her name in large black cursive writing and a little pink heart painted next to it. She had made it all by herself after college in a two-day carpentry session. She discovered the lid was about to break off when she picked it up, but the plastic bag inside was still intact.
The tiny bag was filled with sealed envelopes with sentences in place of addresses, the sentences addressed to her when she was in college. For her, the letters had become the most important thing in the world. Those were her letters, and no one else could read them. She used to conceal them from her family, sometimes beneath her bed, sometimes inside a book, until she created this box, and then they all went in it one by one. It was as though all of her finest memories were inscribed on these envelopes.
Varied moments when she felt as though she were living her dreams. She had entirely forgotten about them 10 years later, after marrying and moving into a new location and a new life, and had no clue where she had left the box until she found it. Before its discovery, she didn't have any recollections at all. And when we don't remember something, we rarely care about it either. If something fades from memory, it means it does not exist.
Just like when we leave money in the front pocket of a coat and hang it on the shelf to wear the next day. However, if winter dies faster than predicted, the coat will not be picked to be worn again. The money will be discovered the following season when the coat is brushed to prepare for use. Just like that, the box kept out of Mini's sight was long forgotten and had faded into oblivion.
Flimsily wrapped in a towel, she took each envelope and read the address line one by one. Few went like:
"Hey...beautiful! How’s my stunning, sexy, gorgeous, dreamy, loving girl doing?"
And another “I feel I will go crazy. I miss you, baby!"
And one that began as "I am just waiting for you and me to be together!"
As sadness and hurt welled up inside her, she wondered, `This guy was the love of her life, where did he go?”
"Where did that girl go?"In ten years, even she was gone! Her smile, joy, attractiveness, and attitude on life had all been replaced by an overworked wife and mother of two. The revelation hit her like a tonne of bricks, slamming into her delicate heart.
It wasn't completely her fault, though. That man didn't make her feel wanted, much less desirable. She witnessed the loss of his girl, the girl he had addressed, the girl he had married, as she opened each one and read the letters.
And even though she felt chilly, a shudder raced up her spine. She gasped and gripped her side, lying back on the pillows, forcing herself to breathe and think.
Those letters had always been given to her by hand, accompanied by a bouquet or a gift, and sealed with a kiss. In their five years of college, he had swept her off her feet with his companionship. Knowing that her father would never approve of an intercaste marriage, she eloped to New York with this guy. They married in the five months that followed. He was in his early thirties and she was just twenty-three.
She flipped through the letters again, tossing and turning. And there was his photograph. She held it up to the dim light of her bedside lamp. In semi-darkness, his eyes seemed luminous. Those eyes always had a ferocious intensity to them. She turned the photograph over to find something scribbled on it as well.
Last seen: At a high-profile Studio apartment on 5th Avenue, Manhattan, New York.
Name: Ishan Patel
Hair: Curly brown
Eyes: Dark brown
Please note: He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt and blue denim jeans. He had come to New York to celebrate his birthday with his girlfriend, Mini. If you are reading this and know where he is please, please contact at the free contact number set up for this purpose-001-000-800-001. I will be grateful.
Signing off-This is Mini, his girlfriend from the mystic land of India.
This was her writing, although she did not know when she penned it. She gazed at it, shocked, with no recollections. She continued to stare. Some believe that if you gaze at a photograph for a long time, the events in the snapshot come to life. Mini was doing just that. She was staring intently. He appeared to be young. The photograph was of the time when she was in college. And her mind was assaulted by flashbacks of her college days:
They were at a park, and it was pouring. They dashed for cover beneath a tree. He slid a strand of her hair away from her eyes, behind her ears, while they were huddled together in that little space. She had shuddered at that touch.
He was swaying to the music at a party as she stood back and watched him. She knew he was showing his skills. Not interested, she turned to go. He was next to her in two enormous steps, grabbing her wrist and pulling her to the dance floor. As she danced with him, he swirled and turned her in circles. She shuddered as his breath felt warm on her bare neck.
They were on a bus together, when a singer started singing, bending he whispered the lyrics in her ears “I want to know you, baby.” She had giggled. “This is such a cheesy line to say”, she had said. “So what,” he had replied, “I want to know you,” he had added.
He stared at her mouth. She stared at him. ... His gaze roved over her face before it came back to rest on her mouth... And then his mouth was on hers. She felt butterflies fluttering up to her throat from the pit of her stomach.
The memories were coming up to her in phases... They were now married...
He was gaining control of her by the minute, even when he was gone for the day on business. She was doing what, how much money she should be permitted to spend, who she should talk to, and what she should say. Anything to everything he would advise her... It was only the beginning.
She was having a great time with it all. Life appeared to be simple. Someone else was in charge, and she felt liberated. Her efforts were directed at making the house a welcoming environment. He too was happy with her and would take her for a drive or to a market to shop in his free time. He'd suggest to her which outfit to buy and what accessories to pair it with. The attention was overwhelming.
It was a happy life indeed until she started noticing the fleeting remarks that if she dressed the way she wanted, he would criticize her. If she spoke to strangers, he would point out that her opinions were on trivial matters. His criticism grew stronger as time went by. He didn't have a problem with just one or two things she did; he had issues with several of them. He would yell at insignificant things and refer to her as foolish. But as soon as she did what she was told, he would be calmer, quieter, and he would love her to the moon and back.
Then their children arrived, and she devoted more of her time and attention to them. Their discussions revolved around what she did throughout the day and how the kids spent theirs. He felt powerful because he was in charge of her while she was suffocating. She yearned for some independence. Although they were billionaires, she began working in an office. There was still no respite. He still had a stronghold on her and her purchasing power. He had complete control over where she went, what she did at work, and what she wore. She no longer believed it was out of love.
When she would try talking about it, he would get extremely angry, so that it made her feel like she had done something wrong by trying to bring it up.
Emotions swelled inside her. Snapping out she reasoned, " I'm blessed to have even this. At the very least, I have a ten-year marriage.”
She turned to the photograph again. The scribbled handwritten message stared back at her. She still had no recollection of why she would write such a message. Ishaan had never disappeared from her life. Never! And then, strangely, she saw the letters fade in front of her, practically illegible. But words here and there stood out with unexpected clarity... Ishan Patel.. wearing a white t-shirt and blue denim jeans…. to New York...birthday...
Her thoughts drifted as she struggled to remember when she had penned this text. And, just as in a movie, a scenario began to unfold in front of her.
She is being pulled into a room and as he stood tall in front of her; She is looking at him affectionately as he continues to be lost in thoughts. Her lips curl into a bittersweet smile as she knows how short their time together would be. The thought Snaps her out of her trance, and she informs him that two human bodies have been arranged for them. That the Supreme had them hidden in the streets of New York. That they'd be moved to New York in minutes and given human identities, Ishaan and Mini. Post that they'll forget they were Arjun and Draupadi, who lived on this earth as man and wife many centuries ago.
What was the matter, she wondered? Wasn't she Mini, and the man whose photograph she clutched in her hand, her husband Ishaan? She mentally re-read the message she had previously read several times. She allowed her thoughts to wander back to her time with Ishaan. Intentionally to the time when she had moved to New York with him shortly after graduating from college. They had moved into that apartment years ago after getting off the plane, and it was Ishaan's thirty-first birthday the next day, which they had gone to celebrate in a pub that night.
They had returned to the apartment, slept, and were about to have breakfast when Ishaan momentarily disappeared. She bolted up from her bed. She started back to recall again. But it was the same. Ishaan momentarily disappeared and then returned. Why had she not noticed the time lag then? Was her brain playing tricks on her? Were they or were they not Ishaan and Mini? She would wait for Ishaan to be back and answer her question. She knew it was going to be tough to get his attention on what she wanted to say, for that’s how things had developed between them. But she knew that if she shows him the scribbled message, the photograph will speak for itself.
Some helpful notes from the Author-
Arjun is the noble hero of the Indian epic Mahabharata and it was he who received the philosophical-religious dialogue, The Bhagavad Gita, from the Supreme- Krishna.
Draupadi also referred to as Krishnaa, Panchali and Yajnaseni, is the heroine of the Indian epic, Mahabharata. She was the common wife of the five Pandava brothers—Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjun, Nakula, and Sahadeva.
Some random notes from the author-
I wish I could have made Mini's life easier. I did not want to. This isn't her story, you see. But the story of millions of people who live their lives believing that situations will get better. Living through them allows one to gain a deeper understanding of oneself. One evolves. Everyone does, and Mini would have done the same. Only if she would have allowed herself to live that plain Jane life that every married woman does. But then, she was once Draupadi, that legendary woman who was born with an indomitable spirit.
So now what next?
Mini tossed and turned in her bed, desperately trying to keep her mind from drifting to Draupadi while she awaited Ishaan, but it wasn't working. She got out of bed and went to change into the shabby sweatshirt and sweatpants that were strewn-about-on-the-floor.
As she did so, she recalled episodes from the Mahabharata that she had seen when she was young... Much too young... Like in school days. In those days, children her age sat riveted to old-fashioned TV sets that were one big box sitting on equally old-fashioned tables to watch those episodes that came every Sunday morning. After each episode, the well-informed Grannys in India would draw their own conclusions.
Mini recalled how Draupadi was often a topic of conversation in their household. Draupadi was not only Shri Krishna's favorite but also Mini's Aunt, who visited them frequently. The Aunt considered Draupadi very informative and opinionated on anything and everything. Mini believed this was because Draupadi was observant also. Like the time when Draupadi accepted her co-wife Lord Krishna’s sister Subhadra. Only because, Draupadi had seen her mother-in-law and husbands seek help and guidance from Lord Krishna throughout their lives.
Also because, when “Vastra Haran” had been the worst incident in Draupdi's life, she sought aid from Lord Krishna. He had helped, although unnoticed.
Lord Krishna had become the go-to guy for Draupadi. And then it occurred to Mini that if she was Draupadi, Supreme could be her go-to guy.
Quickly slipping on her nightwear she sat down on her bed and closed her eyes tightly. She took the name of Lord Krishna the Supreme several times, just the way she had seen Draupadi do on TV during that notorious “Vastra Haran” episode.
“Hey! Hi…! Where have you gone? Are you able to hear me? Hi.. hello... hello” she went on.
She was startled to hear a voice! “The photograph was deliberately placed in the box for you to find. So that you and I could talk. Generally, humans don’t interact with me till I don’t create such situations. So, tell me... Do you want to keep your job and your usual home routine?”
Well... Sort of... My job is important to me, I am a doctor... My patients need me...” She couldn't finish because she was interrupted by his voice again that seem to play inside her head.
“Up and down, back and forth,... Aren't you fed up with it all? He exclaimed, laughing. She wondered if this was Lord Krishna, the Supreme speaking to her.
“All it takes is a simple three-letter word. So, right now, whisper that... See, they're shouting that to you as well,” said the Voice.
“Who are they that you are talking about?” Mini inquired. "Open your eyes slowly," said the voice. The visual was first hazy... Mini could only make out the shadows of three people at first, but after a few minutes, the image became clear: Ishaan, her husband, and their two children stood against a white snow background. Although there was no sound, Mini could read their lips as they said, "Yes.“Yes! Yes!" The images of her family faded until they could be seen no more…
“OK! YES! Said Mini almost shouting, closing her eyes again... Yes, she repeated, yes, she said again and added, Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees. I’m fed up with it all. There I said it. Now make it stop, the up and down, and the back and forth!”
“That’s a good girl! Because you just admitted so desperately, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do in order to make the mambo jumbo stop. So listen carefully…”
And the Voice that seemed to be playing in her head till now was whispering the plan into her ear. Mini contorted her face with every word she heard: first her mouth, then her eyes, and lastly her nose swelled as amazement penetrated her body even more... And she heard the voice fading off as it said- “You will get up and find YOURSELF in Riyadh!”
And with that Mini fell into a deep slumber like a dead leaf falling off a tree branch.