Sangita Saikia Pathak
After a long gap of nearly a decade Nihar had finally flown down from the U.S to his native State Assam……He was driving his Honda City car along the banks of the Brahmaputra River on that old M.G. Marg of that always overcrowded Fancy Bazar area of the ever bustling city of Guwahati……………..
The city had changed drastically over the years…….Quite a number of flyover had been built at several busy points of the city of Guwahati by the administration in an attempt to control the long hours of traffic snarls that had been a major factor for the delays in the works of both the citizens and the administrative authorities over the years. Yet what fascinated him the most was the statue of Bir Lachit Borphukon, the great Ahom General along with his comrades standing high on a pedestal amidst the dazzling waters of the Brahmaputra connecting its northern and southern banks.
And his mind hovered……back to those old days when he as a college- going boy would stroll along the footpath along the banks of the Brahmaputra with his sweetheart!!! Nihar was a Higher Secondary student of the Science Stream of the most prestigious institution of the State, Cotton College while Riya, his girlfriend was a year junior to him in the Arts Stream of the same college…..twenty years down the memory lane!!!
They had first met at the birthday bash of Saurav,Nihar’s childhood friend. Riya was Saurav’s cousin. Saurav’s father who was a business tycoon had thrown over his son’s birthday party at the Belle View Hotel, the city’s most expensive hotel of those times situated along the banks of the Brahmaputra over a hillock. Both Nihar and Saurav were the best of buddies throughout their entire school lives and had passed their school leaving examination with flying colors and had now joined the premier institution of the State with big dreams in their eyes!!!
It was sheer love at first sight!!!…….Riya wore a pink sequin top and a denims mini skirt. With her braided plants and her silver dangling she just dazzled that evening…..amidst the whole lot of girls….along the backdrop of the waters of the Brahmaputra…..that just xoubly shone with the reflection of the street lights over it!!! Later Nihar again met Riya in his own college premises but this time as a fresher…….Riya and her friend Loya had been surrounded by a group of boys during the customary session of ragging!!! Riya was on the verge of sobbing…..when the boys had asked her to sing a Bihu song……and she was unable to sing a Bihu song any…..!!! Just then Nihar appeared from somewhere behind her back and started singing the favorite number of Zubin’s———–
Gose bone Kylie maate…
Pepa dholor senate
Jaanmoni nasibor hol
Jaanmoni tumi je…
Jaanmoni tumi moromor
( The koel coos across the trees and grasses—-
To the beats of the Dhol and Pepa
It’s time to dance, dear damsel!!!
O’ Damsel, you are so beautiful
You are the adorable dancer!!!
You are from Bohaag!!!
You are so sweet!!!)
—– To which both the girls swayed their waists so lustfully with their hands floating in the air!!! Everybody clapped their hands joyously thereafter!!!! Years moved on ….and so did their lives….but their love for each other remained intact…..Nihar did his engineering from NIT , Wrangell and after an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad found a job in a software company in the USA. Meanwhile, Riya did her graduation in English literature from Cotton College and after completing her post graduation from the Delhi University was pursuing her doctoral degree. Much water had flown down the Brahmaputra….but their love got each other never dwindled………
They maintained this love relation through phone calls and messages. They would meet during vacations and go for a long stroll along the footpath that stood on the banks of the river Brahmaputra and thereafter have rolls, momos and chow -mein in the famous Reboti Chaat House situated near the Naakkata Pukhuri of the Panbazaar area of the city of Guwahati or The Breeze or The Sunflower Resatsurants of that locality!!! Or sometimes they would go for long drives in Nihar’s bike across the Saraighat Bridge along with their other friends and have lunch or xnacks at the famous Amritsar Dhaaba…..
One thing that Riya always practised as a daily ritual while crossing the Saraighat Bridge every time was that she would ask Nihar to stop the bike in the middle of the Bridge. She would then alight the bike….go near the railings of the Bridge….throw a coin into the waters of the Brahmaputra …..fold her hands….close her eyes….and murmur something softly in front of the Brahmaputra…..whom she considered as the Son of Lord Brahma, the Creator of this Universe!!! She was taught by this by her Aaita- Ma who followed this ritual while the entire family would cross the Saraighat Bridge every time they would make a visit to their ancestral village at the other end of the Bridge. This greatly amused Nihar…..He would turn his back at Riya when she was busy doing this ritual and laugh to himself ….Often he would say aloud to her—- ” O you mad girl…..Why you do this always???” to which Riya would retort with her best smile—- ” Let’s go now….dear….Come on….Start hour bike now!!! Let’s move……”
Soon it was time for their engagement. They would marry within a year when Riya would finish her doctorate. Immediately after the engagement Nihar would join his new job in the U.S. …The date and the venue of the engagement ceremony had already been fixed by both the families. Nihar had already arrived at Guwahati a week before for the engagement ceremony. Riya would fly fly down from Delhi the next week for the same…..
On the day of her arrival, Nihar decided to give her a pleasant surprise.He would go to pick her up from the airport…..Accordingly, he had left for the airport in the early hours of the morning…..But to his surprise….he found himself stuck in a heavy traffic snarl for a period of nearly two hours….. He did not understand the reason of that traffic…..Just then his mobile rang only to hear Riya’s mom enquiring very anxiously about Riy and himself…..He later learnt from her that serial bombs had exploded across several points of the Guwahati city and some districts of Assam that had massive casualties just an hour ago!!!
Nihar felt as though he would turn mad….there itself!!! Where was his Riya??? Was she safe and sound??? He had been trying go contact her for along time…..but there was no connectivity at all….He kept on guessing about the possibility….Riya was supposed to arrive at 10.30 a.m in the morning ……Where was she now???? Did she leave the airport along with her friend who had accompanied her all the way from Delhi??? Where could she possibly be now??? Did she reach her friend’s house she fell on the way to her own home??? Or did she reach Maligaon or Panbazaar when the bombs had exploded???? His Riya…..whom he had loved over the years….and now had reached that point in their lives….when they would tie the final knot….to be together for the rest of their lives!!! He just prayed and prayed….for his Riya…… ……….
When he reached his home in the evening, he tried to contact her….but all his efforts were in vain…..The entire mobile connectivity network had been snapped off for the next twenty – four hours by the administration as a kind of security measures…..Only Nihar knew how he had spent that night….on his bed….tossing from one end to the other!!!!
Luckily at 6 in the morning…..he found a message beeping in….To his heart’ s great contentment it was Riya at the other end…..” It’s me….Riya here….I am safe and sound dear….Just thank the Bridge dear….After moving from the airport along with my friend in a cab….something happened miraculously….!!!!!…. I somewhat felt like felt like going across the river just to have a glimpse of the new bridge that is under construction alongside the old Saraighat Bridge…Believe me…..this just saved me….The driver of the cab in which we were travelling simply took the turn and we had a narrow escape…..Ultimately the Bridge saved me…..I then spent the night at a friend’s place who lives in North Guwahati after learning about the serial blasts in the entire State…..I am completely all right dear…!!!”
It was as if Nihar had got a new lease of life altogether!!!! ….He now understood the significance of the ritual behind Riya’s dropping of a coin into the waters of the Brahmaputra and saying her prayers!!!… The river had been a witness to their love story right from its inception.Theirs was a kind of true love!!! Perhaps the river had listened to his sweetheart prayers!!!!!….And the Bridge across the river simply could not let the two hearts to tear apart!!!!… Nihar thought to himself…….Just then he heard the voice of Vernita, his six year old daughter from his behind who said,” PAPA, what has happened to you??? Why have you grown so silent for so long???? “….It was like waking up from a deep slumber for Nihar….Next he could feel the hands of his wife Riya across his shoulder as she held her body tight to him…..Far across…. he could see the two bridges that lay side by side…..They would now move across the new bridge for the first time in their lives…in their Honda City car…..for having their lunch at the Amritsar Dhaaba!!! Nihar simply came back to his senses and heaved a great sigh of relief.
Sangita Saikia Pathak has been writing poems, short stories and articles since her college days. Soulful Musings is her first poetry collection. She works in the Govt of Assam.