Earlier posts: The Meditating Shadow
After three days the doctor advised that my hair be cut and I may be given a shave. There was only one barber in the village. He was requested to undertake the task. The barber was an old man who had taken over their tiny barber shop when his father passed away.
After completing the work, he looked at me and said that I now looked great. I looked at him in his eyes. He knew everyone in the village. I hoped against hope that at least now somebody should recognize me. I had no idea if my physical features had changed after having been a shadow for eight years.
I signaled him that I wanted to look in the mirror. He placed the mirror in front of me. I looked carefully. Fortunately there were still traces of the old features. The barber in the meantime was watching me carefully. Suddenly he thought he had seen me somewhere. He, however, couldn’t place me anywhere. He was confused. He called Mr Shrivastava in. Shrivastava came in, looked at me and said, “Well, you have done a good job. Now he looks like a human being.”
The barber asked him, “Do you think you have seen him earlier?”
Mr Shrivastava was puzzled at this query and looked at him. Then he looked back at me. The barber’s query was a watershed for me. I prayed to God, “Oh! God! Please help him recognize me. Please, Please.”
Shrivastava came nearer and looked at me very intently. I looked back in his eyes. I tried to tell him that I am his old friend Vinay Sharma.
Suddenly there was a glitter in his eyes and surprise in his expressions. He probably couldn’t trust his eyes or senses. He came still nearer, took my hand in his hands, continued to look straight into my eyes and asked, “Uh .. Well .. Vinay .. Are you Vinay Sharma?”
I thought a lightening has struck me. At last here is some light at the end of the long tunnel. I didn’t know how to react. I pressed his hand in my hands and nodded my head violently so that he did not miss my affirmative answer even for a moment. Suddenly my eyes overflowed and two little streams told him he was right. Now he was more confident.
He asked me, “Aren’t you Vinay Sharma who vanished several years ago?”
I nodded my head again and again and looked straight into his eyes. I drew him as close to me as possible and embraced him as strongly as I could. He didn’t feel the strength, but he felt the emotion. He embraced me, too, and patted on my back. I suddenly realized he too was crying.
The emotional outburst I felt was too much for me to bear. I lost consciousness and fell back on the bed.
The doctor was immediately called. While the doctor attended to me, Shrivastava rushed out. He nearly ran to my home. He disclosed the invaluable news to whoever came in front of him.
“Vinay Sharma has returned.”
And the news spread like wild fire and also reached my wife. She couldn’t trust her ears or senses. Who wants to play such a cruel prank on her? It was then that Shrivastava came in. He was panting, having nearly run for more than two kilometres.
He told my wife, “Have you heard? Vinay has returned. He is in the hospital.”
She was still confused.
She said, “Yes, I heard that too. I don’t know who wants to play this joke on us.”
“No, it is not a joke. It is the truth. I saw him. I recognized him. In fact it was I who had taken him to the hospital from under the banyan tree where we found him three days ago.”
She looked at him stunned. This was indeed the shock of her life. The most pleasant one at that. She was in the kitchen preparing breakfast when Shrivastava broke the news to her. She rushed out in her nightie and uncombed hair. Only on reaching the road did she realize that she had a laden in her hand. She threw it away and ran to the hospital.
She was about to barge into the room when the doctor stopped her.
He said, “Wait. Wait, Mrs Sharma. Listen. Mr Sharma is very weak. He has difficulty in even moving his hands and legs. He cannot speak. Just be as normal as possible when you meet him. Don’t tax him too much emotionally.”
She heard and agreed to everything the doctor said. But nothing had registered in her mind. Each word bounced on her intense wish to see her long lost husband.
He also said, “In this condition I would not normally allow any visitors. But I understand this special situation. So you may go in, but remember what I told you.”
She came in with fear, apprehension, hope and towering above all, a heart full of love. She looked at me. I was, sort of sleeping. I had lost and regained consciousness several times during the past three days.
She slowly, silently sat on the bed and caressed my face. It was the tears that fell on my face that woke me up. I opened my eyes and looked at her. It didn’t take any time for my eyes to replicate hers. She passionately kissed me on the forehead. It felt like an electric shock. Eight years had passed since I met her, touched her, or talked to her. I tried to draw her closer as tightly as I could. But my hands were so weak that I could only hope that she would never leave me. Never, ever. She could not hold herself. She kissed me on my forehead, cheeks, and lips and embraced me like never before. No word came out from either of us. But we talked a lot. Through mere touch, the kisses, the tears, the embraces. It may have been ten or fifteen minutes when the doctor came in. He requested her to leave me alone for some time which she hesitantly did.
By then the whole village had gathered outside the hospital. They were all surprised and happy at the same time. They were very eager to have a look at me and hear my story. They had, however, to be satisfied by Shrivastava’s story of how he found me under the banyan tree in the village square naked and ill and took me to hospital. He also told them how he recognised me after I had a shave. He told them that I was so weak that I couldn’t even move my hands and legs, nor could I speak. I stayed in the hospital for three more days. By then I was able slowly to sit up, and move my hands. My wife stayed with me constantly. She didn’t sleep even during nights. If she happened to take a nap due to complete exhaustion and sleeplessness, she would wake up at the slightest sound. Any amount of persuasion from friends and relatives couldn’t make her go home.
I was discharged after seven days. I went home with my wife and daughter. Doctor had prescribed several exercises for restoration of the body functions and speech. Everybody was grateful to God that I had all my mental powers intact despite the pathetic physical condition I was in. In about a month I could talk a few words. After another two months I was able to talk normally, move around within the house, laugh, and attend to my daily chores.
It was a new life for me for which I thanked each and every God whose name I knew.