Metro Diaries: The Fragrance of Love
I sat there flipping the pages of a diary I maintained with my scribbling to pick up from where I had stopped the previous night. Just then a dried flower fell into my lap. I was used to such surprises. Every single diary or notebook which had been once used by me had to have a crushed flower inside. I don’t know what I enjoyed more; discovering them later and trying to recognize them from their smell, connecting the story behind it or locking away a moment from the present to be treasured in future. Nevertheless, such moments always made me smile.
I drew the flower closer to my nose for identification and in a moment every single cell of my body was awake. “Rajnigandha…” I exclaimed with sheer delight inhaling its divine aroma once again. Rajnigandha had a peculiar and strong fragrance compared to other flowers, making its presence felt long before someone could sight them. One of the reasons why I loved them was their distinct nature. Unlike other flowers, they grew in bunches. And a pair of sticks was enough to make the whole room aromatic. The other reason was that they invariably reminded me of the Desais. Rajnikant and Sumitra Desai to the world, Raj and Sumi for each other, Mr.& Mrs. Desai were someone who made me believe in soulmates.
“Lovers never part, they are always within each other. –Rumi”
Sumitra aunty happened to be my grandmother’s best friend. And that’s how I was privy to their beautiful story. Not many years ago a shy Raj Uncle had set his heart on a coy Sumitra Aunty who worked in his office. It took him months to muster the courage to talk to her and finally ask her out for a movie. The movie was “Rajnigandha” a poignant tale on relationships by master story teller Basu Chatterjee. That outing changed something in them. From being mere colleagues, they were now lovers… bound by Rajnigandha. He bought her those flowers that day, reminiscent of the fragrance of love she brought in his life. They went on to court briefly before finally getting married.
Long after they had kids, Raj Uncle continued to bring 3 sticks of Rajnigandha daily without fail. Be it rain or sunshine, a good day or a bad day, a fight or a birthday the flowers never ceased. Their fragrance helped them sail through all that came their way, Raj Uncle always used to say. There was another ritual he never missed. And that was whisking away Sumitra aunty a day before her birthday. He said, he reserved the first right to wish her before everybody else. They would be back in wee hours of the morning on her birthday for the party to begin. All was well, till Raj Uncle passed away in his sleep one fateful night exactly a month before her birthday. We were expecting her to breakdown but she didn’t. On the contrary she was the one who called us all out for dinner that night.
At the table I asked her, “Are you upset?” She looked at me as if I was talking gibberish and said, “Why should I be? It’s my 60th birthday in a month and he had promised me a huge surprise. He must be preparing for it up there in the sky. “She winked, pointing towards the sky. Before I could say anything someone else called out to her and the conversation was long forgotten. That was perhaps one of the first days she missed her fresh Rajnigandha flowers. First of the many to follow, I thought. But we were in for a surprise.
The next day onwards, Sumitra aunty began to receive the flowers daily. While we were all hesitant, she encouraged us to continue the preparations for her 60th birthday party. Some blamed it on age, some called it shock while some said it was a life well lived together. Whatever it was, she remained unperturbed by Raj Uncle’s untimely death. Soon, it was time for her birthday party. Time surely flies. We were all excited as she had chosen the unicorn theme for the party and we couldn’t wait to dress up like one. So typical of Desais, always full of life and colour!
Some of us had prepared speeches and songs for her, while others were going to dance. All in all, it was going to be a huge celebration of life and we were looking forward to it. Sadly, Sumitra aunty passed away a day before her birthday in her sleep exactly the way Raj Uncle did. That day, the florist delivered a huge bouquet of Rajnigandha, the fragrance of which lingered in the house till the next day. Strangely enough, the florist never came after that day. At the prayer gathering, while everyone talked about how she must have been sad from inside and that is what killed her too I remembered the conversation she had had with me immediately after Uncle’s death. Did Uncle really go before her to make the preparations for her birthday party tomorrow? Just like he used to do when alive, did he whisk her away from all of us to be the first person to wish her? Maybe. Maybe not. What I remember till date is the fragrance of love they shared and spread around them.
Leaving behind his beautiful song from the movie that brought these two love birds together: