He Saw The Lady In Red Everyday And Her Teary Eyes Always Made Him Feel Guilty But He Didn't Know Why

Vijay Shankar Vijay Shankar in Stolen Diaries on 5 March, 2017

“Ranjit!”

“Ranjit! Come give me a hand” Mrs. Rai was very busy today. She was preparing for Riya’s birthday party that Ranjit Rai and his wife have been planning for the last one month. Ranjit was tired after a full day of hard work. He hated being the security in-charge.

Life in the army was so much better.
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“No! I can’t be getting old” Ranjit said to himself as his wife’s shouts jolted him to reality. He quickly got to work, arranging the tables in perfect order and blowing balloons ready to decorate the hall. His little angel Riya was fond of balloons.

Ranjit felt like he was an observer. Watching people walk in and share pleasantries – he participated or so he thought! The ritual of giving gifts and cutting a cake to celebrate a by gone year, he reckoned.

Ranjit was not satisfied with his life. Ever since he returned from the war, he was a changed man. He could not participate in the day to day proceedings. He became a spectator in his own life. He hated his new self but no matter what he did, he could not turn back to being a part of the ritual. He remained a spectator in his mind’s eye.

The party was a grand success. His wife was a meticulous planner and she made sure everything went smoothly. His army discipline and manners ensured that the plan was executed to the last letter. Riya was more than delighted. “Every year we celebrate her birthday and she still seems the same age” he thought. “Is she not growing up or am I being paranoid?”

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Before he could ponder over the idea of his little angel growing up into being a young overachiever someday, he saw her again. The lady in red. “Why does she follow me everywhere? Who is she?” he thought.

Although she never communicated with him, he saw her at every turn of his life, ever since he returned from the war. Her teary eyes made him feel guilty – as if he did grave injustice to her. He just couldn’t figure out what he did or what she wanted from him.

“I don’t like her! Or do I not like the way she looks at me accusingly? No! I can’t stand the thought of her not appearing again but I feel so guilty every time she walks in front of me.” Ranjit never saw her face, just her eyes and his gaze would focus no further and the fleeting idea of that red dress she wore every time. “Does she not change at all?”

Sleep came over him in no time with a chill that reminded him of the cold nights at the barracks. It was as if the entire body just came to a standstill and he fell into sleep in no time.

His wife woke him up with kisses and hugs as she does every day. All the happiness she bestowed on him could still not get him through a full day of security issues and boring, meaningless meetings. He woke up, got dressed, ate and rushed to work. He worked at a big corporation and his job offered him everything an average citizen would want – a decent salary, perks and above all an opportunity to work in his hometown.

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But, he hated the morbid civilian world. He missed being on the front line. If only his limp was curable, he would have done everything in his control to get back to the front line.

Ranjit still vividly remembers the day he jumped into the trench to save his fellow soldiers from the grenade. Splinters from the Z-400 splinter grenade penetrated his flesh and bones as he jumped into the trench pulling his friend with him.

His friend was not as lucky. The moment they landed in the trench he felt warm blood from Vyomesh’s body drench his uniform.

Shila, his personal assistant and for all practical purposes his saviour in this boring civilian world, woke him up from his musings and reminded him that he was late yet again for the daily morning meeting. She always made sure he was prepared for the meeting and handed him the notes just in time for him to prepare and deliver a convincing case day after day. He wondered why she was not the in-charge and what purpose he served.

He still felt like a spectator. All these spreadsheets and power point slides were jibber-jabber for him and all so trivial in comparison to the noble profession he so wanted to get back to.

It was not for the lack of trying that he could not return to the army. He tried umpteen times but the army felt that he could at most perform a desk job, which was not good enough for him. Ranjit thought that if it were a desk job, then why not do it in his home town and catch up on all the family time he missed. 
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His thoughts drifted back to the real world as he entered the meeting room and he gave a crisp and clear presentation which was much appreciated as usual. He sat through the rest of the department presentations and his gaze shifted to the French doors in the meeting room and there she was — the lady in red again. The same teary eyes as if the eyes wanted to blame him for what he did.

He felt guilty again and he felt an intense pull towards her. He could not place the feeling. He wanted to communicate but his gaze never shifted from those deep eyes.

Ranjit ignored the meeting and rushed out of the office in an effort to make contact but the moment he walked out of the  door, he felt a chill in his spine and the sudden sensation of dizziness. He was losing control and was desperately trying to reach the lady in red.

He could feel her standing right next to him and shedding tears. Was she crying for him? Why was he so aloof from everyone but yet felt this attraction and love for her?

Was she blaming him for ignoring his family and going away to fight a war that was concocted by evil politicians? Was she just sad that he was unable to get over the grief that comes from war?

The hospital was not particularly buzzing with activity. It was the army hospital where injured army men were taken care of. Every equipment there was state of the art. Mrs. Rai was there by the bedside like always, hoping that her husband would wake up and speak to her one day.

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Dr. Shila patted Mrs. Rai’s back, "His vital signs are getting better and we are hopeful that Ranjit will soon see your lovely face. He is a fighter Mrs. Rai! After the head injury he suffered from the grenade, anyone else in his place would have left this world. He managed to save his fellow soldier Vyomesh from the explosion. You should be proud of him and the way he is fighting now to return to you.”
"Doctor! It's been 3 months and he is still in coma. Is there…" she could not stop her tears but she was the wife of an army officer. She could not show any signs of weakness – not when he needs her the most. “a chance of him surviving?” 

"Yes there is Mrs. Rai. He will return to this world – your world if not for himself, he will return for your unconditional love" replied Dr. Shila. Both of them knew those were just words of reassurance.

"I wonder why you wear this red dress every time you visit him?" Dr. Shila had to ask this question. Mrs. Rai looked down and despite the agony of watching Ranjit lay helpless on a hospital bed, it brought a faint smile to her face.

"Ranjit gifted this to me. The day he saw me in the dress, he was so impressed that he told me that if ever he gets gravely injured in the war, I should come see him in this dress and he will come back from the ashes." Mrs. Rai wiped a drop of tear from her cheek. "I am hoping the dress does the trick."