(This is a true story, but narrated from my own view point. The descriptions are based on how I have perceived the story. )
They were a group of good friends. A particularly boisterous crowd, peculiar in the sorts of people it included. The peculiarity is what made them noticeable, making these bunch of talented oddballs stand out. They would go on to become some different people, entangle themselves in different situations, and face very different destinies. But back then, at that point in time, they were all students. More importantly, they were friends. And that’s all that mattered.
She was the laconic one. The loyal and timid follower. Prone to being overlooked, but contributing to conversations in her own ways. First glances can lie, however, because there was definitely more to her.
An emotional and tender heart is what she concealed, there was a purity and richness to her thoughts. She felt with deep intensity, and the heart of her stories had more stuff than most others. Hers was to be a perfectly normal life too—studies, marriage, family, kids. But anticipation found a place in her life, because she expected so much out of such experiences even amidst the monotony that surrounded her. The 1980’s didn’t hold too many opportunities, and yet, there was space enough to strive hard and make the most of it. Something to make for herself, a professional life to craft. She wanted a fairytale, extraordinary as her wishes. And they thought she wouldn’t have it.
Defeating many others to it, she studied engineering and was hailed an intelligent academician. They cheered her then, naturally happy for her achievement. She excelled, and then they thought that her future was falling in place, a secure and happy life was in store. Back then, it wasn’t hard to ascertain futures. More rigid rules, less flexibility allowed for most things to go as planned. A predictably hectic and pleasantly busy life was what seemed to be at the other end of the tunnel. That meant she was settling down. Those were the good times.
He, on the other hand was a different sort of a personality. He knew how to focus his energies, and there was a determined fervour to him. He could concentrate incredibly, on top of being impossibly intelligent. This could be the only explanation of how he made it to medical school. Dedicated and passionate, he worked hard. The group was happy for his phenomenal qualities, and proud that he belonged with them. Occasionally, the age old joke of how they could get free treatment from him if their health bothered them might have passed between them. They were a group of oddballs all right. But such talented oddballs. With such amazing influence, and an influx of diverse talent, there was little doubt that all of them would blossom. The future held promises of that.
They met, they talked, they joked like friends were supposed to. They dispersed into many fields, and kept in touch. For the laconic and shy one, the fairytale was coming true. Engaged to a smart boy from overseas, she couldn't possibly ask for more. She would get to travel the world, much of a big deal back then. Sweets exchanged, such a tempting proposal didn’t go back rejected. The friends cheered this time too.
“See,” they must have said, “Your life is going to be a fairytale. Much better than us.”
She married young, and married quick. Bound by the security that a wedding bestows, she allowed for her husband to fly away with his words of loving comfort and promises.
“You can come too, I’ll make sure you can come with me. Very soon.”
Yes, her life was in place. Just this little quirk. But the cloud would pass. She would get to see the world yes, and it would be a romantic affair. A fantasy was to be lived. She must have waved goodbye with those dreams clouding her eyes.
The friends were wiggling into different permanent relationships too. The years rolled, the invitations distributed, the kids born, the complaints discussed. Some had heartbreaks, some difficult love marriages, some bland arranged ones. Even the boy who went to medical school was a doctor now. And the smart husband still wasn’t back. The assurance still sounded empty. They were all still her buddies. The friends were old now, and hers became the only fairytale not realised.
No, she wouldn’t have it. She had always stitched together a perfect life for herself, excelling. She would find a way to get to him. Even if he was unwilling for that fate, she would try. She was a wife, rightfully is. She belonged with him. So she tried and found a way.
She visited her close friend. Her favourite in the crowd, the one who went on to become a banker.
“Parvathi, I’m going to be travelling finally! I will get to meet my husband and live with him.” She told her banker friend gleefully. The girl converted money to dollars and then she headed out the door, towards a welcoming future. Parvathi must have thought that.
There was no door. They heard of her suicide a few days later.
Parvathi and the rest of the friends visited the funeral, and the charred body told a sorry tale of shattered dreams. It was a fairytale that stayed incomplete. A phone call from the husband saying that he didn’t want her, the news that he was already secretly married to somebody else, the severe depression that the intense disappointment that it provided, some kerosene and a matchstick was all it took. The flames engulfed the dreams, the fairytale, the expectation, the incredible friend, the loving wife. They ate her away.
The doctor later received a body for post mortem. A charred corpse, the sorts he would see every other day in his medical career. The intelligent brain could accurately describe the severity of the burns.. Another dead body, another day. But this time, the burnt body meant a little more to him. He knew of this blackened inanimate form when it had a life, when it spoke to him. When it joked and participated in his conversations. When it was his dear friend. It wasn’t just another day for the doctor. It was agonizing to have fate lay a dead friend before him for medical examination. But he must have found the truth then, that a person is much more than a dead body. A friend, she would always stay. Out of the millions of cases that came to the hospital for post mortem, it was the twist of fate that one of his close friends must lie here before him, lifeless. As he examined her, her story came alive. It was hard to see her dead. Maybe her story wasn’t a fairytale, but it would be remembered. By the doctor. By Parvathi. By the friends. By me.
I heard it in between errands, in between thrusting sweets into tiny plastic covers and answering Ajji. I heard it without giving much thought to it, as aunt spoke to grandpa about it. It’s about a somebody I don’t know, about a somebody I never met. But it is a touching story about a friend, about dreams and about the interesting twist of fate.
And I thought it was a story worth telling you. Fate behaves differently with people, and differs as much as people do. Stories come and go, and times change. But some stories are remembered more than others. And such stories need to be shared. It is when I share these profound tales of human experience that I feel, as a writer, I have completed a duty. I hope that she will be remembered.
Because she deserved a fairytale. Because once upon a time, she was more than a charred blackened body with degree 2 burns that came for a post mortem one fine morning.
I know that the doctor will agree with me.