By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar
Nirvi hadn’t seen a better a sunset in her 26 years of existence. The sun was low on the horizon splashing yellow all over the landscape. A peacock perched on a nearby rock fitted perfectly with the backdrop of the sand outstretched in every direction that the eye could see. Nirvi cupped her hands to catch the fireball in the sky and stepped forward onto the glistening tar to adjust the frame.
“Whaaat? What happened Subhash?” Ruhan screamed having being jolted from his daydreams. “I.. I don’t know sir! There was nothing on the road!” a bewildered Subhash answered as he prepared to get down from the car. Ruhan followed suit.
It was a perfect road, newly tarred and gloriously shining to Ruhan’s satisfaction – he was the engineer liable for the creation of this lone silver track cutting across the desert connecting numerous random settlements along the way to the nearest city of Jaisalmer. The only alternative transport till now had been legs – one’s own or the camel’s.
Both the men surveyed the road and the surroundings thoroughly and tried to figure out what hit them so hard. No bumps, no rocks, no animals not even a dead bird lying around. They were about to get back into the car when Ruhan noticed the sky.
“Never have I seen such a beautiful sunset!” Ruhan blurted out unable to keep his amazement. Subhash felt a sigh of relief, hopefully sir will not be very cross with him given this changed mood. Though a good natured young chap – Ruhan was notorious for his short temper.
“Subhash I’ll just be here for a while.” Ruhan walked across the road towards the peacock that was perched on the nearby rock. “Careful Sir, they bite!” Subhash cautioned him.
Just as Ruhan reached the rock the peacock gave a shriek that sent Ruhan tumbling down to the other side – as he regained his bearings Ruhan noticed the magnanimity of the scene that lay beyond his eyes.
“This is too good to be real!” Ruhan murmured. “Absolutely mesmerising – isn’t it?” Ruhan turned to see a young girl glowing in the orange light. She looked like a sculpture clad in a Rajasthani traditional attire of long skirt and blouse, her long scarf was lying beside her.
‘Mesmerising indeed!’ thought Ruhan, ‘the vast undisturbed landscape, the magical light and a divine beauty – all to myself!’ He reached out to the long scarf and pulled it to himself. It had an intoxicating fragrance, he took it in his hands, made it into a ball and brought it to his lips.
Time had stopped; two strangers drinking the nectar of passion from the other’s eyes – eyes that glistened in the last rays of the surreal evening – slowly the dark descended on them rendering vision impossible on a moonless night.
Ruhan felt a chill through his linen shirt. Nights are cold in the desert. A breeze shivered his bones. He was suddenly aware of the long scarf in his hands – the girl – she had a lot of exposed skin. He tried to reach out to her – she had been sitting hardly two arm’s length away – though eyes couldn’t see he could feel her presence.
“hmmm…” Ruhan started to speak, realising that he didn’t know her name. As if by telepathy she knew what he wanted, “Nirvi” she said promptly.
Ruhan extended his arm, “Nirvi – take this, it is cold…” but before he could hand it over a loud horn shrieked as if through Ruhan’s body making him aware of his car and Subhash.
Ruhan got up, “Come Nirvi – I’ll drop you home.” There was no answer. His outstretched hand felt the rock but none else. He could not feel her presence any more. Ruhan called louder, “Nirvi?” coming out to the other side of the rock. He could now see the car with its headlights on and Subhash as a silhouette against the lights.
Ruhan walked anxiously towards the car, “Did you see a girl passby?”
Subhash gave a perplexed look, “Let us go sir. It is a long way to the city and there are no lights on the way.”
“Yes but what about Nirvi! We can’t leave her here!” Ruhan tried looking around. His mobile had died down long back in the afternoon while he was leaving from office and Subhash’s mobile didn’t have a torch, so all they had were the headlights of the car. There was no way of getting away from the road to search for Nirvi. Ruhan felt disconcerted. There was no way he was going to leave her here but how could he find her in the dark, why was she evading him.
Subhash was anxious to get away from this GOD forsaken place, but his boss was absolutely disorientated – speaking of a girl who seemed but a figment of his imagination. Subhash pleaded with Ruhan to sit in the car but faced only denial.
About an hour passed and then suddenly there was a full on blow of wind that knocked Ruhan down on the road, he lost consciousness being extremely fatigued with anxiety. Subhash checked his pulse and found him breathing – he somehow picked up the conscious less body into the car and drove off.
26 years ago one fateful evening Nirvi came to meet her beau at the rock quite a distance from her village – it was meant to be a romantic affair but turned out to be cruel – she was raped and then murdered; The beau hastily dug out the sand and dumped her into it.
But that beautiful dusk pacified Nirvi – her tormented soul found peace as the stranger, a young man almost rolled into her lap – in his soulful eyes she found love – happy and contended she gave a last look at the rock that had been her haunted home for so many years, put all her energies into forming a gushing wind to knock Ruhan unconscious so that he could live and vanished forever.
Ruhan never found Nirvi – but his search for her found her needs – she was one of the villagers – he became instrumental in setting up solar street lights, digging up wells, establishing caravan serai, education centers and medical facilities – it made him happy.