Do you know who I am? I am one of those ordinary faces you see in ordinary crowds.
Oops! That's generic. Let me be more specific. Do you see blue shirt guy with sandal pants and a funny kind of specs coming out of that top shot IT company? Yup that's me. Do you find it weird when I keep looking at the girls who walk past me? Well, am more interested in looking at the backside of girls than the front. I know am moving more towards the right side of the pervert scale. But hold your horses there. It’s just that i like looking at their hair.
Have you ever wondered “What a beautiful thing hair is?”
For me it is the object of wonder every day. I like all kinds of hair. The long shiny one, the shoulder length auburn one, the curly jet black one, you name it. One of these days I think am gonna do some 'man'ual release thinking about Katrina's hair.
I am 25. The dangerous age where aunts with daughters, keep smiling at you when you attend any function. When your parents try to dress up every woman above 18 in a bridal costume. All I had was one condition. The ultimate selection criteria. I wanted my wife to have real thick, black, long hair. I don't care she is slim or fat, fair or dark (I do care ... but not as much as the hair) but end of story I want her to have beautiful hair. And my parents had criteria of their own and often our opinions clashed.
In the end I am still single, still being publicly scrutinized and still have the freedom to ogle at all the woman with beautiful hair. And that is how I met Monisha. Like a ritual i was looking back at a woman and ran straight into my angel. Our unexpected clash made her lose her balance and drop all the heavy JAVA books on my foot.
'Ouch!' I yelled bending down to look at my foot.
'Am sorry' she said bending down to collect her books.
We were down and i straightened up exactly the minute she bent down. WOW!!!
Down fell the cascade of jet black hair, very thick, very shiny. I flowed like a river of black silk and I couldn't control the urge to touch the lovely locks. To feel them between my fingers. I touched it with reverence, feeling the funny tinge running through my veins, the effect of touching the silky mass of softness.
"What are you doing with my hair?" she jerked off moving away from me.
"Oh! Am sorry it was getting dirty touching the floor". I blabbered.
"Oh… Thank you … er..."
"Vijay. I am Vijay. I said taking her extended hand.
"Hi Vijay! Am Monisha"
It is then that I saw her face. And double wow there. She did not see have the ravishing beauty of a super model but she had a subtle kind of beauty with striking brown eyes and a very warm smile. What more does a man want?
"Nice meeting you” she said and smiled again.
We sealed our friendship with a handshake but deep down I know I want to be more. There began my mission. Mission Marry Monisha.
I learnt all about her from available resources, made friends with people in her project and replenished some of my old contacts. Made sure we were down for coffee breaks at the same time, went for lunch at the same place. And thanks to my tenacity and hard work. She became my girlfriend in 90 days. It was my dream come. I get to kiss her hair every day, fondle it, feel it in my chest and smell it every day.
Our parents did not have any objection in getting us married and we were all set to dream about the big day (Obviously I googled more about bridal hairstyles than she did).All was perfect till that particular Saturday.
I wanted to give her a magical proposal (I know it’s not Indian, but I liked that thing). Unlike the other men I skipped the concept of ring and went for something special- A beautiful, ornate tiara. It was made of white crystals inter-weaved with sapphire color stones, shaped like little stars. I know she'll burst into tears looking at this.
I booked a table for two in Park Hyatt and all through the day and all through the day I imagined about the minute I am gonna place that beautiful masterpiece on her head and ask her hand. I was at our table at 7.00pm and waited patiently for her arrival. She came in around 7.15. That was a first. She never does late. But that wasn't the only thing that was strange. She was wearing a scarf and it completely covered her hair. I couldn't see her back as she was walking towards me.
"Sit down gorgeous" I said as the waiter pulled her chair.Her smile was weak and she looked very nervous.
What's wrong with her? I waited for her to breach the silence.
Our soups arrived by that time. A delicious cream of mushroom soup that made my mouth water, but all along she looked uneasy and possibly queasy.
"What is the matter sweetheart?" I asked taking her hands in mine.
”Are you ill?"
"Is that why you're wearing a scarf?”I could see tears falling from her eyes and I was shocked. I've never seen her cry.
"Hey! Moni? What's the matter darling?" I shot out of my chair trying to get to her side.She shook her vigorously and motioned me to get back to my seat.
"I have some… something to tell you” she said after a deep breath.
"Tell me baby. Tell me whatever it is. I am here for you “. I said in a cajoling tone.In answer she lifter her hands from mine and slowly removed her scarf.
I tell you ... My world went dark and everything crashed. Anger, hatred and bitter bile welled up inside me and somehow I managed to control the last. I banged the dining table, not giving a damn about the people staring at us.
"SHIT", I swore aloud and moved out of the table.
I started walking away from her without another word. No Questions. No explanations. I didn't even look back at her. Why would I set eyes on a woman who has a clean shaven head? I went home and threw up. Violently. I kicked off my shoes and fell into my bed.
"How can she do that to me? How the can she?" I kept asking myself again and again.
I know she would try to contact me, and I was smart enough to switch off my mobile and go offline in all my social networking sites. I took out the tiara from my blazer; the sight of it now nauseated me. I flung it away and never bothered to see where it landed. It was all over.
I kept avoiding her the days after that, deliberately missing my coffee breaks and lunch. I felt betrayed, terribly hurt. That evening I wanted to talk to my parents about dropping the marriage plan. Ravi, one of our common friends came to my place and sat beside me.
"We are going to special place to day today evening dude. Be ready".
I wanted throw something at him. I tried real for politeness and ended up in a neutral tone saying "Am Seriously not in the mood pal. I am not…" Ravi cut me off in the middle with a shake of his head.
"Cut the crap Vijay, I know what's going on. You need a change, friend" he said softening his tone.
"Trust me. You won't regret it."I trusted him. He picked me up after work and we were off to the 'special place'.
"May be its a pub". I thought to myself gazing outside the window. I made a mental resolution to booze that night.Yes ..that should make me feel better. With these kinds of thoughts running in my mind it is no wonder i stood like a zombie looking at the place where the car stopped. It was
MIOT Institute of Cancer Cure.
"What happened da ? Why are we here ?" I asked Ravi, but he kept walking forward like I did not exist. He stopped at the reception and I heard him talking to the receptionist.
"We are here to see a patient named Nivedha. Can you tell us where is she ?"
"First floor Ward No.52 sir"
I was dumbstruck. What happened to that cute little angel ? Nivedha was Monisha's cousin, an exact replica of my Moni. Be it the smile, be it the hair... No . I don't want to go there now. I went in to the spacious room my insides clenched into an uneasy knot.
The scene that i saw broke my heart. Nive was lying there in hospital robes,her head shaven clean. I couldn't bear the sight. I came out heart brokwn , with tears pooling in my eyes.But what i saw outside her room wrung a soul crushing cry from me and i let my tears flow. There were loads of children like Nive in hospital robes and clean shaven heads, playing all around.around. Ravi came outside and touched my shoulder gently.
"Nive is going to undergo a radiation therapy.She went to great stages of depression when they shaved her head for treatment". I nodded between my tears trying to assimilate his words.
"Moni shaved her head for Nive da." I looked up at him utterly shocked.
"That was the only thing she could do to bring Nive out of depression. Because Nive thought her hair will never grow again." Tears fell like torrents from my eyes now.I heard something crack inside me. Is it my heart ? No I think its my Ego.
"Moni is a good girl pal" I heard Ravi say .
"Don't miss her in your life. I know you love her hair fella, but there are other other great things to love in her".
Ravi's sentence haunted me and I started walking around looking at the beautiful kids. In every smile I met I discovered every strand of Moni's beautiful,lost hair.I went back home very late that night.I looked like I had a round or two of Vodka,but my mind felt very clear. The first thing I did when I reached home was to search for the tiara. It was sitting on my angel's photograph in my computer table. As if it knows that is the right place to be.I smiled looking at it, picked up her photograph and kissed it with reverence. Next, I picked up my mobile and started making some important phone calls.
5.00 in the evening the next day , found me carefully hidden behind Nive's closet in her ward.I can observe things from that point with out being observed. Moni walked in few minutes later and it was like a breath of fresh air. I wanted to run to her,hold her close and say I am sorry. But all that have to wait a little longer.
"Hey Nive Baby!! How are you ?" I could hear Moni's sweet voice. God! how much I missed her.
"I should be horsewhipped".I chided myself for my stupidity.
Like i expected Nive took the red rose from under her pillow and held it in her hand. As on cue, all the children from the neighboring wards rushed in , each with a rose in hand. They all stood in a circle around her,their smiles bedazzling her giving me the time to make my discrete entry. I hugged from the back and gently placed the tiara on her head. She stood frozen to the spot and I could feel the tears in her eyes.
"Here is to my brave princess", I gently pressed my lips to her neck and turned her around.I looked into her eyes silently pleading her to forgive me. She blessed me with an answering smile and I grabbed that moment like my lifeline.
"Will you marry me Monisha ?" Her shy smile was all I needed and I pulled her to me hugging her close to me,trying to merge her with me afraid that I will lose her.
But my fear was unnecessary. She did not try to pull out, but stayed there content be in my embrace. We were lost in the moment in the shower of roses and dreams of the wonderful life that we had ahead of us.