Street Stories #3

“And what fate does to lovers is cruel yet so beautiful.”

Gulaabo was weaving sweaters on a February evening, making herself comfortable on the verandah with half of her vision residing less on the wool than on the people walking by. Her wrinkled pale face was like Kashmir’s serene white blankets of snow on rocky mountains. Her wrinkled hands were still young and her eyes still wore kohl. She beautified herself in her leisure hours. Gulaabo was the world’s best Ajji. She might have not given me world’s every best rich thing but she did give me love and stories and poems every day.

One evening, Gulaabo was sitting in the verandah and dreaming , when she heard a tring-tring which made her jump. She glanced at the old face and it was a Gulab-Wala( rose seller). He smiled at her and they exchanged few glances of uncertainty. “Gulaabo, today’s rose day!” I exclaimed and made her buy two roses which we both exchanged. We kissed each other and she embraced me into her arms. At that moment, I realised that I only had her.

The Gulaab-Wala, whose name happened to be Ali , crossed by our little house frequently. We all wondered from where he brought those fresh red roses.

Months later, I realised that Gulaabo had feelings for Ali. She would be found chit-chatting with him and God! The red on her cheeks never disappeared at his presence. She would pour him a cup of tea every evening when he went by our house.

Years passed by and one evening, as the sun ran down the hill, Gulaabo was no more. I never knew it was going to be my last sunset. Ali stopped coming since then. I remembered Gulaabo telling me that Ajoba never loved her. He never caressed her lovingly. He was hard-hearted. He didn’t value her softness. He didn’t realise her love. Gulaabo was happy that he left her to die. But Gulaabo was a strong young woman at that time. She worked as a tailor and made this small house of ours. She took me from a Bombay’s chawl. She saw me crying beside a leaking gutter. She took me for forever. Only to love me more than I could ask anything from the universe.

Gulaabo used to tell me that Ali was an angel. She would tell me how his roses never had thorns, how his hands were made to caress and not hurt, how his smile was the noor to her darkened life. She wanted to live even in her eighties. She wanted to love in her eighties. But their love was incomplete. She knew she wouldn’t last for it to last. She knew that life was over, that Allah had given her too much time, that she shouldn’t ask for more from him.

On the day of funeral, I saw Ali with his red eyes and wrinkled clothes walking towards Gulaabo’s pale, lifeless body. He showered roses on her as if he was showering his remaining love for her which he couldn’t give her. And believe me, it was endless. The flowers covered her whole body. Only that they were dry.

Maybe Ali forgave fate for this misfortune. Maybe Ali accepted death and accepted the drying of their love. Maybe Ali will never sell roses on railway stations, local trains, Marine Drive and any gully. Maybe Ali will be never seen as a ‘Gulaab-Wala’. And

what fate does to lovers, so cruel yet so beautiful.

“I remembered them when I knew this world wouldn’t, I remembered them like ‘ibaadat’ like never before and their smiles became the ‘noor’ of my darkened life, like never before.” – Heer


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