There is a different charm to the winters. Sweaters, mittens, shawls, the firewood and people around sharing life. I was but ignorant of this beautiful weather for a long time. However winter now makes me both vulnerable and nostalgic. The reason for both is Gaurav. He was the one who loved winters. We first met in winters, around a bonfire, as strangers. I along with some adventure junkies had decided to visit the mountains that year. A South Indian girl in Shimla, at -10 degrees, was but a bad idea. In 2 days My lips were chafed, my elbows cracked and there were fissures on my palm that were bleeding and aching. I had decided that this was my last visit to the mountains. However Gaurav then convinced me that Himalayas and him - both were good for me. When I landed at Chennai airport my Whatsapp messenger read.

खुश्क दरारों का क्या है वह भर जाएँगी
हमारी तक़दीर की तरह वह सवर जाएँगी

तुम हाथ थामे रहना मैं लकीरे जोड़ दूंगा
इस कायनात को हमारी ओर मोड़ दूंगा

हम साथ रहे हमे बस यहीं सहारा लगेगा
मेरी तरह तुझे मेरा शहर भी प्यार लगेगा

I missed a heart beat when I read it. Only he could do that to me. A crazy wanderer he was and had crazy ideas. Each year thereafter I would go to the Himalayas in freezing cold and we would see the ice gather on  the peaks. We wandered to godforsaken places. He liked to get lost and I loved getting lost with him. But I am talking about a different epoch.

I now live in Nagpur and winter here has been missing just like Gaurav. However my town this year saw the temperature dropping down to 3.6 degree Celsius and after many years winter was back as a topic of discussion. I hardly leave my town now. The busyness of a single mother and business has caught up with me. But I still make the most of my winter days even today. And my favorite stop still remains the tiny little garden of my home. With the coming winter the garden becomes a lush green place with red, yellow, blue and pink flowers blooming in abundance; and then there is this morning sun that makes me sit in the garden.

The green lawn is my favorite place on winter Sundays when I finish a hearty breakfast and sit with a book tanning my already dark skin. As the sun climbs the sky, the pages of the book shine so hard in my eyes that, I move under the shade of the mango. Keeping my head perched on a hammock pillow, I close my eyes. I dream a lot during these late morning naps. There are faces that my mind conjures. They are always those I miss the most. But sometimes I see people I hardly think of. They all come and go like a celluloid playing on the wall of my eyelids. Happy faces from happy memories or sometimes even no memories. I sometimes feel I make my own memories because these dreams are so real that I wonder if they really happened. And then they remain etched confounding and perhaps confining me as well. Oh yes I am a memory person and they are my confines. I preserve them, and my cupboard is full with these. Souvenirs, photographs, air tickets, travel journals and sketches that I draw of the special moments. Then there are poems and songs and plectrums and pendants and letters and crazy crazy diary entries.

One of these Sundays I sleep a little longer. I don't know for how long I sleep but when I get up the sun is almost over my head and I have a smile on my face remembering one of my just seen dreams. It was about Dhaval. I make a mental note to let him know about it later. I am completely under the mango tree shade now and Sara is by my side. She does come surreptitiously by my side at times. I look at her intently and realize that she looks way older than 3 year old doll that she is. She is asleep, her breathing rhythmic and her face calm. The garden, the neighborhood and the road outside - everything is very quiet - almost tranquil. I turn and stretch my lazy muscles. Now slowly as I am coming back to my senses I can smell the spicy and aromatic meals prepared in my own home and that of the neighbors. I am not hungry though. The breakfast was very heavy. I turn to look at Sara and I kiss her on her forehead. I lift her in my arms and she instinctively puts her arms around my neck. I take her to the bedroom and put her in the bed. She mumbles something and rolls to one side of the bed. I pull down the blinds of the window and cover her with her Mickey Mouse blanket. She snuggles cozily inside her blanket and a smile returns to my face.  I close the bedroom door and ask mom how long till the lunch is ready. She reminds me that it is not yet proper noon. She asks if I am hungry. I say no and return back to the garden. I lay prone at the same spot and slowly the tranquility of the moment seeps inside me. I look straight up and see the blue sky. The sky too is quiet, absolutely still. This tiny piece of the sky that I can see from my garden looks as if it is supported at the edge of the tiled roof of the terrace balcony of my home. I smile at my own imagination. That is Gaurav in me. After 4 years of disappearance that is all where he is left now - in me. And I won't let him go so easily this time around.

I am now ambling over the lawn and that is when I notice that there are umpteen weeds in the lawn. I sit at a place where there are quite a few and I start to uproot them. For some reason getting rid of weeds is a hard task. For some reason unwanted things in life need more efforts on our part. Dad walks in and tells me that the Gardner is on his way. A few mins later the gardener walks in and greets me with a nod and a smile. I have never seen this man before. He is short, portly and happy. He does a good job of keeping the garden tidy though. He keeps the mango, hibiscus, roses, jasmine and bordering tulsi all trimmed to size. The plants and trees in the garden are made to behave and look beautiful. Every Friday the gardener comes and trims them down to a size suitable for the garden and its beauty. The Parijaat and Karanj outside the house and the spinach and tomatoes inside the garden are however given a free will. They are not there for beauty. They serve a different purpose and hence await a different fate. Beautiful confines are not good - my garden has taught me.

My memories of Gaurav are but the beautiful confines I am happy to be chained to. They bring in the needed pain that keeps me alive. Dhaval though wants me to move on and is trying hard bring down the walls. He once gifted me a diary. He said that it was for the new beginning. On the first page he wrote.

नफसानी इल्म
रूहानी जहालत
अधुरा मिसरा
मुक्कमल गम
सभो को उतर जाने दे इन सफों पर
नए अहसासों के पुराने लिबास नहीं होते

That reminded me of Gaurav again and my heart missed a beat once again. Will Dhaval ever understand that only Gaurav can do that to me? I am incapable of loving anybody else but him. I now feel no strong emotions towards anybody. I am neither happy nor sad. I am not excited about tomorrow nor depressed about yesterday. It is like; when he left he took a part of me and left something of him in me. I am incomplete now and it is him that I need to complete myself.  Even in Dhaval, it is Gaurav that I like, or god forbid if I must say love. I know it is injustice on my part but I am not sure if I have a fair idea of what is just and what is not.

That is when my phone buzzes. It is Dhaval saying Hi. I decide that I should tell him of my dream. I thus reply.

Me: Hey I had a dream today. We were in a small, cozy library of a cottage. Comfortable yellow lights and lots of colors on the books and ivory laminated tables. You were accompanying me in the library, discussing about something, probably a story. I was only listening. There was a window at the top of the left wall, from where natural light would enter. And a small frame of the evening blue sky and trees, were visible. For all the warmth of the room my heart but felt stone cold. I suppose the library was halfway underground.

Dhaval: Cold heart huh! How cold?

Me: Very. इस साल के मौसम कि तरह (Cold like this year's winter season)

Dhaval: साल और मौसम तो बदल जाते हैं (Years and seasons do change but.)

Me: क्या यकीनन ऐसा होगा ? (Is it guaranteed?)

Dhaval: इंतजार तो किया ही जा सकता हैं। (We can at least hope so and wait it out.)

Me: We are on different plains Dhaval. तुम मौसम बदलने का इंतजार कर रहे हो, और मैं जिंदगी बदलने का। (You are waiting for the cold season to be over, and I for this cold life...)

Some winters do take longer.


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