Laila and Shyam, deeply in love, desired to come together in matrimony. They were aware of the turbulent waves they would have to ride, before reaching calm shores of acceptance. They belonged to different communities. Laila knew how difficult it would be to convince her family members, who were considering eligible boys for her. Eloping seemed the only solution, to be with Shyam, forever. She coaxed a reluctant Shyam, who felt elders’ blessings had to be sought. Finally, he gave in.
Laila, feigned a migraine headache, to skip dinner and retired to her room early, to rest. She had packed meagre necessities in a bag. Shyam had suggested boarding the 6 pm train. The train would be crowded and it was wise to be seated, in the carriage. This way they would not attract much attention. Without being noticed, Laila slipped out, and melted into the fading evening light.
Laila, hurried towards the station, hoping she was not late. It was nearing 6 and she knew the crowded train would leave on the dot. She was almost there, a few quick steps and she entered the station. She expected to be jostled around, as she nudged her way through a sea of people. Instead, a deserted platform greeted her…not a soul, no train, just emptiness mocking her. Two rail tracks running parallel to each other, disappearing round the bend, were staring at her in silence.
She looked at her watch and realized that she had missed the train by a few minutes. She was numb with disbelief and all dreams of a life with Shyam came crashing down. Shyam would be in the train, trying to make sense of her absence. Had she got cold feet and decided to stay back or had she been caught red handed, leaving her house or had she missed the train. Many probabilities left unanswered. He would be furious, thinking he had been jilted.
The truth was that Shyam had got cold feet. They had fallen head over heels, it was love at first sight. Love, dances to the tune of the heart, blind to boundaries created by society. A few months into their relationship, Shyam perceived the deep rooted differences dividing them. He saw no hope of reconciliation between such clearly opposed families. They would be ostracised. Even more fearful was the thought of being tracked. He had heard real stories of caste wars, community wars and resultant ‘honor killings’, that clouded all reasoning.
Laila of course would hear none of it. The elopement plan presented an opportunity to part ways. If played right, the wound would heal in time. Shyam set Laila’s watch 10 minutes behind the actual time. Their love had to be sacrificed at the altar of peace. He would be content knowing that she was alive and well. Laila’s and Shyam’s aspiration of a journey together to blissful horizons had to end here. He boarded the earlier 5 pm train to move on.
Laila’s and Shyam’s names are synonymous with ‘night’ and ‘dark’. However ironical, on the other side, a new dawn awaited them.