When I first met Aditi all that my senses could take in was the mild flowery fragrance of her perfume. I was blind in those days. A sudden fall from my second floor balcony in Amritsar had caused a massive bleed in my brain, paralyzing my facial muscles and hampered my ability to see, speak, hear and smile.
After the accident when I woke up I was very sore and very scared. I felt claustrophobic in my own body - No sound and no light. I was not sure where I was or what time of the day it was. And when I tried to get up, all I felt was an excruciating pain. But that I felt pain was a relief. It was a confirmation that I was alive. I tried to call out to my mother, but all I could do was exhale air and the effort made my chest hurt. After a minute or so I was so tired that I blacked out again.
Slowly as time passed I got more aware of my predicament. My mind was vigilant and I could comprehend the cycle of days and nights by the daily activities I did; or rather was assisted to carry out. Then one day, must be early in the evening for I just have had a tepid afternoon tea, I first came to know of Aditi’s presence, my speech therapist. For the time she was in my room, the room felt renewed. The stench of alcohol swabs, medicines and iodine did vanish mystically. And slowly that ornate scent too became a part of my cycles of dark and dawn. I started looking forward to the time when the tea would arrive, the precursory to her visits. For a good fortnight her touch and the perfume she wore were the only validation of her existence. Her touch was very tender, unlike the others who regularly poked me with needles or checked me with stethoscope and tongs and torches. My hospital stay was made endurable by the evenings spent with her. Thus my spirit rose with each sinking sun and the melancholy of my heart slowly dissolved into the nights that followed.
In my mind’s eye I made the portrait of her. To me she was having a beautiful oval face with dark dove eyes and having a radiant smile that oozed from a perfect set of pearly white teeth. I pictured her with a golden nose ring and a milky complexion. I imagined her having a silky smooth voice and hence was mildly disappointed when I heard her husky voice almost a month after the accident. My hearing was first to return. And slowly the enigma of her touch and fragrant existence diminished as I was now able to talk to her. While she did most of the talking, my end of communication happened with just a nod or shake of my head and with my hand gestures. She asked me to repeat alphabets and numbers and though I could do them in my head my voice betrayed me. She slowly started giving me exercises for facial muscle strengthening. Though there was a general improvement in my condition, my vision and facial paralysis did not improve much.
Slowly the day of my discharge came closer. During the final week of my stay Aditi started taking me to the veranda facing the hospital garden. That was the week when the monsoon started and she started reading to me stories by Kipling and Ruskin and for the first time in my life I realized that words could heal. That last week was rather good for my soul. There were rains, a dreamy world of stories and Aditi by my side to share them.
I still remember my last day at the hospital. I was to leave by the night train and it had not showered in last 48 hours. The day was sultry, the sun was at his shimmering best, the earth was dry once again and this did not help my inner upheaval. However by afternoon the clouds had gathered in the skies and a cool breeze entered my window. It must have had already rained ahead somewhere. When Aditi came to meet me for the last time it was raining. The earth outside was soaked completely and the soil emitted fresh earthy smell. Somewhere in the garden jasmine had blossomed and the sweet smell entered my room. She did not say much that day or I don’t know if it is my mind playing tricks because all I remember of that last meeting is the touch of her hand. If words were spoken my mind must have obliterated them; like it had obliterated everything else about those three months except Aditi.
I did not feel sad for parting with her. Some journeys are inevitable and this was one of them. Back in Amritsar I had a life awaiting and I did not waste no time in resuming the thread from where I had left. Almost a year hence my vision started to come back and within next six months a good 70% of my vision was restored. However my inability to smile and speak still remained.
Years later the internet made searching people easy and I was tempted to search for Aditi. But a strange fear gripped me. Fear that she would turn out different than what I had imagined her. My thoughts had made a person how I wanted her to be and finding the real Aditi, I am scared, would make me loose her. So far as she was in my world she was mine and I didn’t want to lose her to the real one. She still comes to meet me when the rains have drenched the earth and the fragrance of flowers have filled the air. She remains by my side holding my hands and then we have the most eloquent conversation – me and Aditi.