Present Day

Without uttering a single word, he kept on rhythmically nodding his head. The violin piece was of course a masterpiece. He held a Cuban cigar in his left hand and was dressed in a silk gown that hid his silvery torso hair. The piece came out of a small, old fashioned battery-operated radio set. He loved Paganini, and all his gilt-edged compositions. He began humming in euphony with the magnificent sound that the ‘devil’s violinist’ played in his beloved II Cannone.

Suddenly, a loud thud drew his attention away from the melody. It was quite bizarre to expect someone at the wee hours of the morning. He gazed at his antique wristwatch and noticed the time to be exactly 5:55 am. At least he didn’t barge into my room, he wondered and walked towards the wooden door. The thud came to a rest when he opened the door and welcomed the visitor.

“Aren’t you the stationery boy?” asked Nairitya in a weary voice.

“Yes, buwa. How are you doing?” answered the boy as he made his way inside.

Nairitya nodded his head feebly as his eyes were automatically glued to a festooned gift box which the boy had brought with him. It was perfectly wrapped in a flamboyant plastic-like paper that was crumpled up into a rose. The décor of the box was quite admirable. Before Nairitya could clear up the doubts about the box, the boy promptly handed it to him.

“This is for you, buwa. A lady came up to our store just a while ago and told me to deliver it to you.”

“Did you happen to ask her name?” asked Nairitya, with a frown on his face.

The boy shook his head and sauntered out of the room. The box was as big as the size of his fist, so he was sure the gift would be something miniature. A ring? A small watch? He wasn’t quite sure what he was receiving until he tore down the case and uncovered a note that was written in cursive. In a split second, he recognised the handwriting. Tears rolled down his wrinkled skin as he began to ponder over bittersweet memories, moments he could never let slip.

August, 1970

Life in med school was quite hectic. From early morning classes to long, languid evenings in the wards, time was like a prized possession. But even in those chaotic hours, love never missed its worth. It was the first time when Ileana saw Nairitya. Decked up in a clean ironed white coat, with a stethoscope around his blobby neck, his genuine smile was what she fell in love with. Nairitya wasn’t a well-built, attractive man. Anyone could recognise him from his characteristic large, chubby cheeks and a potbelly. But for Ileana, his smile was enough to give her butterflies in her stomach.

It was during the ward placement when she plucked up the courage to confess her love. Nairitya was very studious and he was the one everyone would look for to clear their doubts. Ileana knew she couldn’t gamble this opportunity.

“Can you teach me how to perform the shifting dullness test, Nairitya?” Ileana asked timidly.

Her soothing, high-pitched voice was unmistakable. Nairitya was taken aback by her hasty approach but couldn’t deny her request. But little did he know at the time, how soon he’d fall in love with her. As he was teaching her how to percuss the patient, Ileana handed a small piece of note into his hand leisurely and whispered: “Read it secretly.”

Nairitya was dumbfounded seeing her action as a myriad of thoughts began engulfing him. Later that night while he was making his bed, he took out the note from his pocket where he had kept, and unfolded it to fathom the missive. It read: “I lobe you, Nairu”, which was penned down in cursive with a tiny diagram of the brain drawn beneath it. And with time, Nairitya didn’t even realise how those beautiful pen strokes of Ileana had metamorphosed itself into a love philter.

January, 1971

“What is your greatest fear, Nairu?” asked Ileana keenly.

Nairitya was busy highlighting notes for the practical exam. Ileana poked him relentlessly on his left arm in disarray. Irked by her action, he gave a sarcastic smirk as a reply.

“Nairu, please answer me, will you?”

Sluggishly closing the textbooks, Nairitya stood up on his feet and signaled her to come with him. It was a chilly winter evening and the façade was spruced up by the sublime scenery of the setting sun. Nairitya and Ileana sat down on a rusty bench that was placed underneath the Jacaranda tree, which stood just a stone’s throw away from the college gateway. As the sun took its final breath, Nairitya finally put his thoughts into words.

“Do you know why people have fears?”

“What do you mean?” asked Ileana in bewilderment.

“From the day you were born to today, have you ever thought of something tragic that would befall you? I guess the answer would be a no. Just look at the sun, Ileana” said Nairitya, taking a big sigh.

Ileana stared at the setting sun as she began to feel a sense of tranquility plunge into her. Seeing her unperturbed, Nairitya continued.

“Look how the sun is happily bidding goodbye to everyone. Do you know the reason why the sun is jubilant? It is because it has served its purpose for this day, and with the same excitement and joy, it will again rise tomorrow morning and share its glee. So what I am trying to say is that fear is nothing but a void vessel inside one’s conscience that will always try to break down a person’s strength, confidence and inner will. If you conquer your fears and try to fulfill your purpose like the sun does every dawn and dusk, you will realise in no time that how your fears transfigured itself into your strengths. So Ileana, I don’t have any fears.”

With these words, Nairitya concluded his thoughts as Ileana relished the beautiful view of the sun down leaning her head on his flabby arm.

Present Day

Dear Nairu,

How have you been all these years? I know things have been a little edgy for a while now. Are you even taking your meds properly? I hope you are doing well. When you read this letter, I may or may not be in this world, but you don’t have to panic at all. Like you used to say, fear is just a void, an idle human emotion. And I don’t fear anything now.

During my bedridden days at the hospital, I was visited by my family and friends. And all I could see in their eyes was fear, the fear of losing me. Even when I realised how much my dear ones loved me, it didn’t break me. I didn’t fear at all and I understood the meaning of life, what my purpose was. And it all concluded to one thing: I lived a life showering unconditional love, the love that I would never ever regret giving, the love that I would want to preserve for lifetime. And love and fear don’t go together, Nairu.

I had the chance to love you and I showered you my love wholeheartedly. I still remember when you had planned how our 50th anniversary would be like, sipping champagne on a beachside hotel somewhere distant enjoying the serene evening sea breeze. But look how life became a rollercoaster for us.

This is not a farewell letter, Nairu. This is a letter to thank you for teaching me to always overcome my fears and turn them into my strength, a letter you would rejoice reading, a letter from your dear one.

Your beloved,

Ileana

Nairitya couldn’t control his emotion and rejoiced in happiness, as Caprice No. 24 kept resonating in the background.

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