The metro train from Gurgaon rattled its way as if a snake, entering the outskirts of Delhi. It was a hot evening and the bustle inside the compartment was at its apex, with the warm breath of others lingering on the back of my neck, and I knew, like every other day, I’ll be able to feel the trace of it, even after deboarding the metro. I stood beside one of the doors and had engaged my concentration on the roof of the compartment that followed mine, which seemed to rise and fall, owing to the motion, and appeared to be breathing, as if a living being. Chhattarpur was passing by, along with its colorful congregation of temples and mosques, that reflected the best of their beauty in an observer’s eye when witnessed beneath the color studded blanket of the Delhi sky. A voice blared out of nowhere, announcing that the next station was Qutab Minar but didn’t mention on which side the doors will open. Qutab Minar station was still due when the train receded its pace, jerked and halted and most of the people around sighed. Everyone seems to be in a hurry. They are in a hurry in the morning, they are in a hurry in the evening, their whole life is a chapter in a hurry. Owing to the halting, the compartment beyond had stopped breathing and I fastened my gaze at the evening sky. It was a beautiful sight and I noticed that some colors were beyond deciphering. An airplane surprised my vision, having just bid adieu to its tangential path and beginning its journey. I saw it melt its way in the sky, across colors and then into the white, surpassing my sight. Though there were murmurs all around, two distinct voices that were perhaps best audible to me, played host to my attention. Judging the tone of their conversation, I fairly noted that the voices belonged to that of a duo of a sister and brother, with the former being the elder one, as the latter was receiving a piece of her mind. From the corner of my eye, I stole a glance at them. They were standing beside me, accompanied by a suitcase, making their way to the New Delhi railway station. Through the excerpts that I stole from their conversation, I derived that the sister was going to see her brother off – the festivity of Rakhi had just passed by, with the doppler effect of it still persistent in the aura around. The brother wanted to stay a bit longer with her and that was the very reason he was receiving a hefty admonishing. He was already due in his college, his exams were lurking around in a ghostly manner and yet going back was doing nothing but disheartening him. I smiled. Some events run quite parallel to one another across time’s mysterious dimension and are relative enough to jolt one with binding surprise. My smile widened.
Everything reversed. Fours years ago I was traveling in the same metro train but in an opposite direction, towards the city that meant business, to Gurgaon. I was yet again standing by the door, my back supported by the steel rail, my hands sweaty with perspiration, my body dangling as if a skeletal suspended from nowhere. Huda City Center was approaching and I was tired and famished. It was a Friday, I had just freed myself from the hectic schedule of college and had decided to scurry off to my Sister’s abode and hole myself there for the rest of the weekend. But first I needed something to subside my broiling hunger. My sister was already waiting for me at the station. She had got off from work a little early and since she was quite familiar with the fact that I was a failed attempt at memorizing routes, she decided to come pick me up. After deboarding the metro, my mood escalated at her sight. She told me that I looked like hell and really needed to eat something – two spot on truths and I agreed. After gobbling down a sandwich and washing it down with some juice, we made our way to her place. En route she made me acquainted with something I had desperately forgotten amidst the hullaballoo of my college life. Rakhi had nearly arrived. It was next weekend. This very day. She informed, that for me, she has chosen a beautiful silver rakhi online and had also planned a day filled with nothing but fun and frolic. So, she told me to make sure to visit her even then, no matter even if a mountain of workload was about to come crashing down on me. I told her that I would. I knew I wouldn’t for I couldn’t owing to the tremendous amount of work load. Though, I thought that I would try to. It was near about eight in the evening when we arrived at her hub. We had dinner and talked – talked of our family, she told me about her work, asked me about my college and how I was faring and it was then when I realized that I had brought a few assignments with me to complete. I bid her goodnight and went into the sitting room and began working on them. It was at around one o’ clock in the night when I decided to put my tired self to the bed. The last time, before I went to sleep, when I witnessed myself in the mirror, there was only one realization that trespassed my stream of thoughts – I really did look like hell.
When I woke up the very next morning, a very unusual thought occurred to me- ‘I should have had been at home at this time’. I was still wearing my watch on my wrist and the tick of the time made me realize that I had overslept. My sister had already left for work. I tried to bring myself to sit up, straighten my spine, but it dawned on me as if entire energy of my body had been drained out. I placed my palm upon my forehead and discovered it to be burning. Workload had got the best of me. The thought of being at home, with my mother, again knocked upon. Whenever I was down with an illness of some sort, I started to miss my mother. It was a sort of a rigid thought that mother took the best care of me during such dire times and it was strengthening itself in my heart since the moment I was born. When I brought myself to stand on my feet, I I found a note on the refrigerator in which my sister stated the whereabouts of food, snacks et al. I knew it was going to be a long day, a mammoth ordeal. I placed my lethargic self on the sofa and tried to immerse myself in whatever that was playing on the television. It was after having my breakfast that I started drowning in the illness that was encompassing me. By the hour of lunchtime, I felt my eyelids bearing an impending heaviness, a runny nose had joined my rising temperature, and when I finally called my sister when I couldn’t stand the physical doom, I heard myself speak through a sore throat, with my voice sounding like crackling blaring out of a malfunctioned microphone. My sister told me not to worry and that she would be, by my side within moments. And she was. So was a parade of sneezes.
I was taken to the doctor who informed me that viral had caught me at my most vulnerable. He prescribed me an assortment of medicines and back home, my sister made sure that I had them on time. And though she knew that I was suffering from the tasteless food, that according to the doctor was the need of the hour, she made sure that I had the best varieties of warm soup, the expertise of the preparation of which, she thoroughly possessed. And though I was missing my mother initially, it was on Sunday’s evening, that it dawned upon me that the care my sister was portraying for me, was nothing short of motherly. But I was feeling better and I didn’t mean to burden her anymore by imposing myself at her place. Hence, I announced that I planned to leave, adding that I was meant to attend college from Monday onwards. And this very decision of mine was taking in regard by my sister with a concerned frown.
So that very day, after four years, when I was traveling the other way round in the metro train, having witnessed the jesting discussion of the brother and sister that stood beside me, I reminisce of the time when I fell ill during my visit to my sister’s place in Gurgaon. No, she didn’t allow me to leave the next day. No excuse of college, no explanation that concerned pending assignments were of any help to me at that time. And she didn’t allow me to leave anytime during the week that followed. She looked after me, cared for me until I was completely healed for good. As of then, Rakhi had arrived and I had to stay with her for the occasion. It was quite a fun-infused celebration. It was only after Rakhi that I bid adieu to her. I not only left for my college that day, I was also left with an inflating sense of love, gratitude and respect for my dear old sister. So, when I remember all of it, when I remember her, when I remember that she is now married and living in a far-off city, memories pass by as if the visions of the places that the train passes by – and as I waited on and on for my destination to arrive, I realized that it was the last Rakhi that we celebrated together, and since then I have always been receiving the sacred thread with a lot of gifts and lot of love from her, every Rakhi, every year – just like the beautiful one that I received on the Rakhi that had been celebrated the week before. The hope along with the enthusiasm of receiving her love every year is in itself – a sheer emotion of bliss and happiness – that shall probably persist forever like the beautiful evening colors that dissolve into the darkness of night, only to rejuvenate themselves all over again, the very next day, in the very same sky.