It was 3:30 pm when they left for Vivanta from the airport. If everything had fallen in place since morning, then Namrata would have been beaming, beaming at the prospect of the 20 km uphill drive to reach their decadent accommodation that happens to be nestled in the Zabrawan moutain range and offers picturesque views of the Dal Lake. But she was nowhere close to beaming. She was grumpy and the prospect of an hour long drive before she could sink in the bed added more to her exhaustion. Not once in the cab did she glance in Pranav’s direction, she simply looked out the window as if calling for assistance from nature to soothe her. However, not once in the cab did Pranav take his eyes off of her, as if calling out to her to let him soothe her. Somewhere along the drive, Pranav slipped his hand beneath her elbow to wrap it around her waist. She steered in his direction slightly and partially allowed her body to rest against his shoulder. When the serene view was complemented with the warmth of his embrace, it was only then that her world began to fall in place.
When the door had first opened to their room, Namrata could see it for the beauty it was. However, she knew she could appreciate it completely only once she took a bath so that she could cleanse her mind and body of the memory of the unpleasant morning. She removed her sneakers, stepped inside the bathroom, undressed, turned the shower on and stood beneath it. Pranav followed her inside, undressed and stood behind her. He took her in his hold, gentle yet firm at the same time. This was not about imposing him on her, this was about letting their bodies brush against each other, about caressing her hair and about kissing her neck softly. This was about bringing her to peace again.
She slipped into a comfortable pair of breezy pajamas and a t shirt and he into a pair of boxers and vest. They hopped onto the bed, he snuggled her closer and she rest her head on his arm. She told him that if their room had a bathtub they could recreate that scene from Pretty Woman where Edward and Vivian bathe and talk in the bath tub together. He laughed and cheekily replied that the hotel does have a piano so their hopes of recreating Pretty Woman have not been completely lost. He proposed perching her on top of the piano and making love to her beautifully. She poked her elbow into his ribs, his body jerked off the bed slightly, he coughed, she laughed, he laughed along as if her laughter was infectious and then they laughed relentlessly. For whatever was left of the day, they did not have a desire to step out of the room or the bed even. At some point, there was a Mediterranean Pizza and Greek Salad and wine and at all points there were conversations and laughter. That day was being snuggled in the warmth of their affection and in that day all else seemed no more than a blur.
It was 4 am when Pranav’s Fitbit had begun to vibrate slowly to put him out of sleep. It took a brief moment for the strangeness of his surroundings and his proximity to Namrata to sink in. He is more accustomed to waking up in solitude, waking up to find himself laid in the beige couch in the study, waking up to a tiny cheek rash from the couch’s fabric itching mildly, waking up to the feeling of soreness persisting in his body. He takes another moment to wrap his head around what had he just dreamed about, of being able to ‘talk’ and ‘laugh’ and ‘be in love’ with Namrata again. It had been months since Pranav had last longed for her touch. So it was eerie to have imagined in sleep a world where he could embrace her again. Because in the real world they had not even shared an eye lock since landing in Srinagar; she had hit the showers and slept while reading; he had bathed and then read her book as she slept and somehow succumbed to sleep himself. Maybe it was the undoing of having her lay so close to him in the bed, of feeling her breath in union with his. He tossed out of the bed, walked out to the balcony and lit a cigarette. The darkness of the night and the faint glow of the golden chinar reflected in the clear aqua of the Dal Lake. It felt as if the breathtaking sight before him deserved a much deeper moment to sink than all the ones that he has had since waking up.
As he inhaled the bout of smoke into his lungs, he thought of the Pranav in the dream. The next morning Pranav would have woken up to an inordinate desire to recreate the panoramic view of the Dal from where he stood, go on to reproduce it with Charcoal on as many sheets as it took before he could perfect the skill of tracing the brilliance and rawness of nature. For the next five years, Pranav would have arduously worked towards the pursuit of his passion. Unlike the present Pranav he would not have taken the bait of increment after increment that was thrown at him to keep him lured to his job. He would have not sacrificed his individuality, his liberty and the choices at his disposal to shield his ego, his status and his financial footing.
What did he want for to define his life, one may ask. What does it matter, he replies. All that matters is the contrast that has come to define his life, the contrast of what he sought his life to be and what has he made his life to be.