Hey, long time…
Let me tell you a story.
I once dated a guy who was stationed at Siachen glacier for thirteen months. We were one year old back then. The relationship was dead. But I had stuck through it for one year.Given the conditions that this guy was going through, I had to stick with him through this tough time. Once he’s back, I’ll finish it on mutually agreeable terms and leave.
The temperature on a daily basis was -20 in the summer which dropped to about -45 to -50 in the winters. I didnt have anyway of contacting him, so I wrote letters. There were days when the paper was so moist, the ink would run. Some days when the ink just vanished, the paper tore, the letters were misplaced. Sometimes, wrongly delivered. But mostly, they reached him.
When he reached the base camp, which was one step away from the final posting, he said he missed colour. The rugged terrain, the lack of vegetation, the silence, was bad enough, but colour was what he missed the most. The only thing he could see, was a hazy bright light everywhere. Yep, Siachen f**ks you up. It changes you. It breaks you and puts you back together like no one else can.
I wanted to do my part in holding his spirit alive. So I made it my business to bring back colour to his life. I poured my heart and soul into the letters I wrote to him. I wrote to him about warm orange sunrises on temperate summer days. I described the pink purple sunsets on the horizon in the evenings. I wrote to him of the bright sunshine that made the green grow greener. And the red roses I gifted myself from him on that Valentine’s Day that year. I told him about the blue sea water I saw at Trivandrum, when I was a kid and the deep chocolate browns of the new sofa we had ordered. I told him about the turquoise ring I bought. I explained to him how Magenta differed from Mauve and how orchids were not just purple and white. I told him how I learned that the human eyes could differentiate between the maximum numbers of shades of green, more than any other colour on the spectrum. I told him how the golden borders glowed, on the portraits of the British viceroy in Shimla, where I spent a few days with my family. And I told him how I had learned new hues of colour while writing to him. Thirteen months go by quickly when you immerse yourself into these beautiful colours. I decided I would tell him the truth when he met me. I would confess about the breakup thoughts and apologize. What the hell was I thinking !? Everyday between 4 and 5 was reserved for letter writing. I had learned to start loving this….
A few days before he left from there, he called me. He said over the telephone, in the calmest of manners possible,
“We are done”
“ I think its best we break up. We’ve been together so long and I don’t feel the same as I did two years ago.”
“B..b..bb…but why ?” I stammered like a fucking idiot.
“I don’t feel the excitement in this relationship anymore. You are very dull and unromantic. I think you’re a bit too immature for me.”
“And you couldn’t say this when we met ? After a month ? I have finals next month…And…”, I begged and sobbed like a moron.
“Please try and understand I cant spend another day in this relationship. I feel suffocated. I have jumped through too many hoops to be with you. My family doesn’t like you too much, but I went against them for it. Now I am done”, he declared. The only words I could utter were “Why now ?”
“I was relieved a few minutes ago. There was a blizzard last week that killed my fellow officer. We dispatched his body yesterday. You stopped writing to me….I was devastated. You have no idea how much I needed you at the time. Your letters kept me alive. And just when I needed them the most, they stopped coming. How selfish could you be?”
“Please reconsider this” I begged.
“I have made my decision. I am travelling back to base camp. It’ll take three days. I’ll call when I am home. Then, we will never speak again”
And just like that, all the colours were gone. Vanished into thin air. Everything was grey.Three weeks after the fateful day, he called again. Like a moron, I received the call.
“I was handed 3 small jute bags full of my letters today. They were back at base because of the blizzard. I got 47 of yours and 3 that mom sent. One belated birthday card from January. They prioritized food over mail for a month when they knew the weather was going bad. So I didn’t get them. I got our anniversary card today. I got the sunshine card you made. I got the glitter box you sent. “
Now it was his turn to stammer…..”I…I…Ii..I really don’t know what to say. I’m sorry. I cant take back the pain I have caused you. I think I was so disillusioned from the experience and (fellow officer’s name)’s death and we were so badly snowed in. We had no way of getting through to the world.”
Now, it was his turn to beg…” I am sorry. Please forgive me for all that I said that day. I was disillusioned with the mess. I was in shock. I will be home in 48 hours. I’ll call back then. But I am sorry for my behavior. I have no excuses and I will take any punishment you wish to met out.” Click and then there was static….
The colour was back. But I pushed it back again into the same corner where it had imploded itself into, after that phone call. I was used to the white, the murky black, the dull drab silvery grey that I related to, only very comfortably. I remembered the days when he just hung up on me, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to call back. The days I waited up till 3 A.M. just to speak to him. The days I spent, writing to him. The days I spent alone with no reply. The days I was ridiculed by him, his parents for not doing enough for him. The days I spent waiting in agony.
And there as I stood in the middle of a garden. Surrounded by as many colours the eyes can see and the mind can imagine, I became the grey block I know myself to be today. I went home and saw all the pictures from the time we had spent together. It melted my heart. I saw all the cards he had sent.
He called back.
“Hey, I’m home. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He said enthusiastically.
I cut him short and said, “ Hey,I was going through the envelope. The one in which I keep your letters and your cards. I went through all of it.”
“And you decided to give me a second chance ?” he interrupted.
“Yes. I realized that I sent you three jute bag worth of letters. Hand written, well worded, preciously crafted and tediously moulded letters. Some had tear stains on them because I missed you so much.
I have sent you 467 letters over the past three years and 323 having been just in the last 13 months. You got 47 of them later on…You have at least thirty bags full of letters in your house.
So much so, that your bed storage is so full, your mattress is getting dented. I have one giant envelope, which has a few letters, cards, one autographed picture and your cigarette lighter. The envelope is so small, I misplace it a million times. Or should I say, WAS so small. I burned all those memories…..people say that’s how you can forgive the ones who hurt you. So I burned them. I burned a flame on the lighter for thirty minutes straight and then tossed it in the Arabian sea. I didn’t wait to see if it came back. I walked away.”
He asked with his boyish charm that I loved so much, “ So can we please start afresh ? Give our hope a new opportunity and learn to love again ? “ (he was quoting a song I had loved all my life)
“Babe, It’s your second chance at love alright. JUST.NOT.WITH. ME.” The colour was coming back again.
“I cant live without you. I will kill myself” he threatened me.
“You wont.” I laughed.
“I will !” he cried.
HE GOT MARRIED, IN FEBRUARY THE NEXT YEAR (THREE MONTHS AFTER WE PARTED WAYS). HE NOW HAS A GORGEOUS CHILD.… (He stole the name from me)
He called me to tell me he named her Narayani and asked forgiveness for everything and confessed that he still loved me.
He called me again, after six months, piss drunk, and told me, “She doesnt write to me J. She says she cant find the right words. I long to read words poured from the heart. ” I hung up and went out on an amazing date.
It took five years for the wound to heal for me. And now, I can faintly smile at the memory of a distinct scar on my left hand where a blade went gushing through the skin while I was trying to sharpen a colour pencil. That song doesn’t hurt anymore. The sight of an inland letter doesn’t send my heart racing anymore. That took another 2 years. An Armed forces truck doesn’t pinch my chest anymore.
So, I take credit for the sanity of ONE officer for ONE term at SIACHEN…
So, dear Siachen, my letters came to you then. I wrote to you again today, centuries worth of experiences later. Probably one last time. Your name, will never be sacred. You will never stop hurting even though everything else has.
Our paths will meet again, in an Army related post on facebook or the national anthem being played in a theatre or some guy in the food mall talking about how tough it was to stay there in solitude and loneliness. You may pride yourself at being the highest military base in the world, but you took something precious from me. No wonder you are cold and barren.
You don’t know me, you didn’t know my story. So I thought I’d tell you.
You owe me, ONE, LOVE…
Until we meet again…