Darkness At Noon

He was 26 and on his deathbed.

One year back the doctors had diagnosed him with AIDS, the result of an indiscriminate youth. He hated them, not for the diagnosis, but for the delay. He had loved and married when they announced the verdict. He didn’t regret his careless youth – he had little regard for life then, he regretted his love. He recalled the first time he had seen her on a dark moonless night in this very village. The lamp was held up as she opened the door and he saw only her face, bright with the glow, the flame flickering in her eyes, defiant and fearful. In that one moment of beauty he realised the waste his entire youth was. He proposed and she assented, as if she had been waiting for him all along. She was like that, calm and assured; her mind always made up. She accepted his AIDS as one accepts migraine. Just a lingering sense of pain, no recriminations and absolutely no regrets. This killed his spirit more than the illness. He wanted to die and free her of himself. Yet when death approached he wanted to die in her village, in the house where he had first seen her. It must have been well past midnight now and he felt his pulse slowing, and the breathing coming in gasps. She stood by the dead lamp, staring fixedly at him, the face defiant, but the eyes betraying her extreme sorrow. He saw through the façade. All his strength deserted him and he felt his breath stuck in his chest. Suddenly the lights went out and there was total darkness. In sudden panic, he gathered all his remaining strength and shouted ‘Nisha, Nisha’. There was a moment of total silence and then the lamp flickered, and he saw her face like he had seen the first time, bright with the glow, the burning flame dancing in her panic stricken eyes. He felt a sudden overpowering desire to live, to be with her always. ‘I want to live’ he screamed, the helpless, impotent scream of a loser who realises the futility of it all. ‘I want to live,’ he screamed, arching up from the bed. In a sudden, violent gesture she threw the lamp down. The flame glowed brilliantly for a moment and died out, and there was darkness again. ‘I want to….’, the voice trailed off and there was the sound of the body falling on the bed. She ran out sobbing violently. She had braved his illness, but she couldn’t see him helpless and futile in death. The dawn was breaking outside, and in the faint glow of the nascent sun she saw the lotus field he had planted for her. The flowers were in full bloom. It had been spring.

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