Love vs. Love

Love vs. Love  "STORIES LIBRARY"

Rupam walked through the exit of Bagdogra Airport and stepped out in the bright golden sunshine. He was again visiting city of Siliguri in immensely popular hill station of Darjeeling, North West Bengal.

Being a professional photographer there was nothing more rewarding than coming to Darjeeling; where the nature’s blessings showcase the beautiful, breathtaking and the magnificent scenic beauty set in the grand stage of the highest mountain peak.

The span of majestic Himalayas, always awe inspiring, forever the photographers’ ultimate delight, greeted his eyes!

There was another reason for Rupam to visit Darjeeling after almost three years. He distinctly remembered his last visit; he had Neelima, his girl was with him! Would he be able to find her?

 His memories floated back; the last visit to Mirik, a small picturesque hill station with beautiful lake, surrounded by forests on all sides in the backdrop of Mount Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, nestled in Himalayas!

 Neelima, the local girl was initially the model for his photographic assignment. Her feminine charms and temperament had enthralled him; there was that attraction which he couldn’t ignore!

She had once said,”…more you see the beauty of nature here, more you will forget any other beauty, including me…” She had smiled, blushing!

Every visit, everything they did together was a dream; a never ending dream!

However the destiny had something else stored for them.

That morning, three years ago, he had left his hotel room; the early sun highlighting the regal natural splendour was mesmerising him; he was also going to meet Neelima in the eastern corner of Ghoom Monastery- surrounded by thick forest and abundant greenery! A state of sublime happiness had enveloped him!

 He had reached Monastery around 10.45 am, found no sign of her, reconciled himself to some waiting and sat down on the nearby bench.

Hours passed by … still there was no sign of Neelima! It was 1.55 pm and the sun was at its zenith. Rupam had been increasingly worried as this was absolutely unlike Neelima; he then decided to visit her house some five miles away.

On entering the house he was in for a shock. Neelima’s mother was crying and her father sobbingly had said,”Neelima has not returned since yesterday evening… we don’t know what has happened…” The entire family was grief stricken.

 It was a fruitless effort by the Police as she couldn’t be traced. Next two weeks had turned futile for him; he left no stones unturned to search her!

Perhaps she had left her home without informing her family! Even her parents grudgingly accepted that!

With a heavy heart Rupam had returned to Kolkata! He left all reminiscence of the memory behind him. There was no communication at all!

Years had passed but he couldn’t forget her.  His friends understood his angst but nothing could be done.

But Rupali, one of his friends, had supported him… “Please don’t be so upset… life goes on!“  She had implored holding his hand gently, her eyes turning moist and soft for her dearest friend. Possibly she wanted to be more than a friend!

Three years later, that day Rupam had again returned to the same place on another of his professional assignments.

Rupali, also a professional photographer, had also come with him. She was to join him later near the place where he had last visited- when he could never meet Neelima!  Ghoom Monastery!

He vividly remembered Neelima.

Slowly he walked towards the spot; his professional commitment continuing… taking pictures of various beautiful scenes.

On checking the photographs in his digital camera, as he walked, suddenly he noticed – one of the photographs of the northern hillside with a sheer drop at the edge had a faint outline just near the fall.

He squinted at the photograph thinking, “perhaps my finger has come before the lens or some technical fault… ”.  But on a closer look he found that it was not so… it looked like an outline of a human… could be a woman…!

He scowled as didn’t remember any female anywhere in his viewfinder while he was taking photographs. A sixth instinct made him bring the photograph closer to his eyes; with growing amazement then he realised that he could recognize the woman, it was, …as his palpitation started increasing, .. the picture of Neelima!!

He couldn’t understand. “Where is Neelima? How is she in the picture when I have not seen her?”  He looked around. “She must be here somewhere … I will ask her why she had gone away these years?”

He started walking towards the spot, at the edge of the cliff, of which he had taken the photograph, searching.

 He closely scrutinised the area hoping to see her…  it was bright and sunny open space with dense forest starting at least quarter of a mile away;  no chance of missing seeing any person before that! There was no body to be seen.

His breath was uneven in anticipation. Looking down the sheer long drop of the cliff, the green mass of vegetation clustered down below over miles; unexpectedly he felt his head swimming with a strange sensation of darkness enveloping his senses.

And then he felt falling! Unconscious mind was telling him that he was falling down the cliff, a free fall! He uttered a strangled cry! Nobody was there to save him and at that moment everything went blank!

He opened his eyes, his head throbbing. Gradually before his vision a form was crystallising. She was Neelima! The same Neelima who was lost to him so many years back, for whom he had craved but could never get.

He tried to get up, but his body was unyielding, he fell back on the ground and went into oblivion.  Before that he could feel that she had come near him, could feel her familiar scent and body warmth as if she was very near, touching him!

Opening his eyes again he found that he was on a bed in a room with an open window facing him, the curtains were swinging in light breeze, and sunlight had lit the foot of the bed. As he focused, he found that he was in a hospital room, a doctor was examining him – nurse was preparing a syringe for injection. Behind her, Rupali was standing… her face reflecting anxiety.

When the doctor and nurse left, Rupali came forward. There were tears in her eyes. She took his hand and lightly touched her lips on his forehead.

“Thank God you are all right… I would have died if something happened to you…” she whispered.

Rupam shook his head, “I don’t understand what is happening? How did I come here? I fell off the cliff … I thought I had died.”

She sat on the edge of the bed, “I saw you going near the end of the cliff…tried to stop you… shouted to warn you, but you were walking as if sleepwalking… totally unmindful of the danger… then you just toppled over…”

She got up and walked towards the window. “My heart stopped, my mind went blank for a moment, and I ran forward…” She turned wiping her tears. “I thought I had lost you, but when I looked down I saw that you had fallen on a small ledge projecting from the side of the cliff… you were deathly still… I shouted in panic… thankfully some passers-by ran towards me saw you and helped us!”

Rupam remained still… physically he appeared unhurt… but his mind was on the incident when he had seen Neelima

He spoke in very low tone, “But I saw Neelima when I had fallen…how, and where is she… bring her to me?” He tried to get up, speak but Rupali gently put her hand on his shoulder and restrained him.

“Today, Neelima’s father had come to meet you in the hotel after you had left.” Remaining quiet for some moments Rupali continued, “Neelima met with an accident three years ago when you wanted to meet her in these hills, her body could be recovered from the ravines after many weeks.”

She took his both hands in hers, “I don’t know how you could have seen her!”

Rupam looked at Rupali, his voice in wonderment, “She wanted to take me with her… but you brought me back… it was her love from the ethereal world against your love here and now… your love triumphed!”

Both looked out from the window towards the rolling hills of the foot of imposing Himalayas; what more mysteries lay there?