Raj was waiting for Geeta at Marina Beach.
He looked at his watch once again. What made Geeta late? She is always on time. What happened today? He was bothering himself with his line of questions. He had got a gift for her and he was filled with excitement to give that to her! He patted the gift slowly. He adjusted the ribbon over the gift once again and made sure that it looked perfect. He knew that Geeta would love that gift! He then placed it safely beside him and moved his gaze from the gift to the beautiful ocean in front of him. He silently observed the calm waves moving up and down kissing the shores. These waves brought him many memories. Some of which he wanted to forget forever. And some of which he even wanted to carry with him to his grave.
Raj was sitting at the less populated area of the beach. Ironically, finding such a private spot in the wide beach was difficult. It was five in the evening and the beach was already buzzing with people and activities.
Countless people lined the shores and enjoyed the chillness of the waves as it touched their feet. Some even dared to go farther into the sea and tried to jump higher than the waves as it bobbed towards them. The sound of roaring waves was subdued by the voices of people all around. Aroma of freshly fried fishes, peanuts mixed with raw mango pieces, tasty bajjis (fritters) would trigger hunger in everyone’s stomach!
Kids were busy building their sand castles or taking ride on ponies or playing in the mini giant wheels, friends and families were enjoying their time with their loved ones. Evening time joggers and walkers could be spotted in their track suits. Food vendors and other traders lined up their stall wherever they were allowed to. Lovers were busy with their dates and tried to ignore people who were staring at them. Stray dogs were roaming here and there to hunt for any left-over food. Many tourists and foreigners were also found in groups who had come to see this second longest beach in the world. Probably Marina beach was the only place on earth where the poor as well as the rich came for entertainment!
Raj wanted to be away from this crowd of people. He wanted to spend some time with Geeta in peace. He again looked at his watch. When he was about to take his mobile phone and call Geeta he saw her walking towards him in a fast pace. She was wearing a Green Kurta and Jeans. She hardly had any make-up on her, yet for Raj she was the most beautiful girl in the Marina then.
She was almost running as he neared him and sat beside him panting loudly and gave him a quick hug.
Raj in a scolding tone said, “Why did you walk so hurriedly?”
She said, “I am already late, right? I did not want to make you wait more. Sorry, I got stuck in traffic.”
Raj smiled at her and said, “No problem dear. I knew you would come anyway.”
“Of course, would I ever miss to come and meet you here? I wait every month for this day so that I can see you”, she said with a genuine smile brightening her beautiful face.
Raj held Geeta’s hand and said in a soft voice, “Thanks for your love dear. You are the only reason I live on this earth.”
“Oh oh, don’t talk senti stuff”, she said and playfully gave him a punch on his shoulders. She then spotted the ribbon over the gift beside him and almost screamed in an excited voice, “Oh God, what is that you have got for me?”
Raj smiled widely and picked the gift and held it in his hands and eyed Geeta showing all his teeth. Geeta immediately took the gift in her hands and kissed it. It was a baby Pug having a red ribbon tied loosely on his neck in the shape of a bow.
“Oh God, is this for me? It is so beautiful. Thank you so much”, she said to Raj and lightly rested her head over his shoulders. He patted her head and noticed that few drops of tears rolled down her cheeks.
He silently wiped the tears and said, “I know you feel lonely in your hostel room. So keep this with you. He will guard you and will always be with you.”
She lifted her head from his shoulders and looked at him. He appeared blurry as she was seeing him through her tears. She realized that Raj himself was a gift to her sent by her father from heaven. She smiled at him and said, “Thanks for this wonderful gift. I always wanted to have a dog. I do not know how you guessed it and got it for me.”
“You know what, I am smarter than you think,” he said with a playful smile.
“Hmmm. Is it so? You actually look very smart in this shirt”, she complimented him.
“Oh! This shirt is very special to me…”, he started.
They both continued their chat for about an hour. They did not even realize what was going around them. They were so much engrossed with each other. Later, Raj got Geeta an ice cream cone and watched her eating it like a small kid.
It was time for both Raj and Geeta to leave, so they got up. Geeta held the Pug carefully in her hands. Raj pointed to the dog and asked her, “So what name you have chosen for your new friend?”
She replied, “Sandy alias Sandeep. It was my father’s name.”
He said, “I guessed so.”
“So, why did you call this shirt as very special to you? This was gifted by your daughter I guess!” she asked him.
Raj looked at the shirt for a moment and said in a painful tone, “Yes. And that is why I have treasured it as new as I could even after a decade.”
They both smiled at each other and did their 2 minutes prayer as usual. On this date, i.e 26th, over a decade ago both Raj’s and Geeta’s life had turned topsy-turvy. Geeta had lost her father, who was the only person she had in her life to name as family and Raj had lost his only daughter to Tsunami.
Life was a bed of thorns for both of them after that incident. Raj, a 60 year old man holding a small textile business in Coimbatore lost his will to live. Geeta who was barely 18 when the tragedy happened, had to quit her studies and got into BPO job to get some money for her survival.
Both Geeta and Raj could not easily accept the fact that their loved one is no more in this world. Every month on 26th they used to come to Marina in their memory. They used to be complete strangers then. As days rolled by, Geeta and Raj observed each other and understood that the other was also having the same pain as theirs. Slowly they started to talk and shared each other’s tragedies and comforted each other.
Time is a great healer they say. It was proved right in Raj’s and Geeta’s case. Now, Raj had become a father figure for Geeta and Geeta had become Raj’s another daughter.
The same Marina which took away what they treasured the most in their life gave back the same thing to them in some other form!