A collage of our favorite pictures, a room decorated with roses, candles and balloons, a bottle of champagne and glasses, two rings, dim red lights and two beautiful souls…
This must have sounded like that perfect scene from some romantic Bollywood movie, isn’t it? Well, at least the plan is to make it our day.
Shimla, 31st Aug, 2005: Vivan and his family had purchased a brand new villa in the outskirts of Mall Road sometime ago. With Vivan’s father, now retired, and Vivan an established entrepreneur at a mere age of 26, the family decided to quit the hustle and bustle of city life and retreat to the mountains and live there.
The villa that they purchased, was owned by some Mr. D’Souza. The locals say that Mr. D’Souza used to live there with his daughter. One fine day, the neighbors woke up and found the house empty. No one knew what happened or where they vanished. Vivan bought this villa with the help of a broker. With the house abandoned for over a decade, it definitely needed some renovation and fixing.
Vivan usually is always on the road. However, this time, he decided to get everything settled for his parents before he travelled again. He sought help from an interior decorator for the renovation and the work started in full swing.
After an entire day of hustle, that night, Vivan couldn’t sleep. He stepped out of his room and nonchalantly roamed about the house. The view from his rooftop was absolutely mesmerizing. He lingered there for a while and was returning back when something caught his attention on the second floor.
It was a room..a locked room. Vivan was curious as all other rooms in the house had no locks in it. He went closer. The door had a rusty lock. He gave it a thrust and was able to break the lock and open the room. The room was absolutely dusty and covered in cobwebs. The arrangements in the room seemed as though it was the room of a girl. There were paintings on the walls, books covered in piles of dust on the book shelves. It seemed as though whoever stayed here might have left in a haste leaving all their belongings behind.
Vivan switched on the lights. The room had deflated balloons and ribbons hanging from the ceiling, burnt candles on the floor, glasses and a bottle of champagne there. It seemed like people who stayed here might have forgotten to clean the room after celebration. He inched closer and picked the bottle of champagne, checked the date and then took a few sips from it.
With the champagne bottle in one hand, he took a few steps forward towards the closet. Vivan had an eerie feeling by now but he shrugged it off and opened the closet. The dresses, files, documents everything was still there in the closet. He slowly opened the drawer and found a picture of a couple there. He took the picture and when he was just about to close the closet door and leave, a tattered diary fell over him from above the closet. He picked it up, closed the room and retreated to his room. It was almost dawn. Vivan reached to his bed and fell asleep immediately.
He woke up late in the day. The workers’ had already arrived and were working. Vivan took a cup of black coffee and was flipping through the pages of the newspaper, when he suddenly remembered about the diary. He rushed back to his room and grabbed the diary to have a look at it.
The diary was tattered. He carefully opened it. It had the name ‘Pankhi‘ written on it. He thought maybe she would be the one from the picture he found last night. Vivan slowly flipped through the pages and was hooked to the diary. Each page described different shades of Pankhi’s life, right from her childhood, her first day at school, her first crush and more. Vivan felt as though he knew Pankhi from ages reading through the diary. The more Vivan wanted to stop reading, the more he grew curious to find out more about her.
Pankhi had described her first meeting with the man of her dreams in one of the pages. How they started as enemies and became good friends eventually, how he was the one for her? Vivan was now almost at the end of the diary. The page had scribbles from Pankhi about her plans of proposing to Jacob on the night of 28th May, 1997. It had mentions of ribbons, balloons, champagne and rings. Vivan couldn’t control himself and rushed to the room upstairs to look for the rings. To his utter disbelief, he was able to find both the rings decked under the bed of dirt on the floor. Vivan flipped to the next page but it was empty. He frantically searched through the diary to find if there was something else written. But, Alas! It was empty.
Vivan was restless. He just couldn’t stop thinking about Pankhi and Jacob and what happened to them. He needed to find answers. All this while through the diary,he felt connected to Pankhi and now suddenly, he was at a dead end. He had to find out about them. He decided to ask the neighbors about them, but none had much to say about them. Most of the families in the area were new and not from that time. They all had seen that house empty and had no clue.
Vivan had covered all the houses in that area and was now at the end of the street left with the last house. He had lost hopes by now to find any information about them. He mustered the courage and knocked on the door. An elderly lady answered the door after a few knocks. He greeted her and showed her the photo. To his surprise, her eyes had welled up with tears. She held him and enquired about the whereabouts of the photo. Vivan told her about the diary and pleaded with her to tell him about Pankhi.
Pankhi and Jacob grew up right in front of my eyes, my son- said the elderly lady. Anyone could see them and say from a distance that they were head over heels in love with each other. Honestly the whole town knew it apart from those two idiots that they loved each other- she chuckled.
They did realise after sometime that they were inseparable. Pankhi was a hopeless romantic and decided to propose to Jacob for marriage. She decorated her entire room all by herself and was beyond excited to meet Jacob that night.
Vivan: And then? What happened that night? Did he say no? I found the rings in the room too..I now own that house.
The lady took a deep breath. That night..that night was the darkest night of all our lives. Pankhi was at home all dressed up waiting for Jacob. Jacob usually came to meet her at 7 pm in the evening. But that day, he didn’t arrive. His phone was not reachable as well. When it was about 10 pm, Pankhi started panicking. Amidst all these, Pankhi’s phone rang. She immediately picked the call thinking it was Jacob. Somebody said something from the other side and Pankhi froze on the tracks. I was right there. I rushed to take the phone from her and put it on the speaker. The man on the other side said- “There has been an accident near the Suicide point. We traced this number from the emergency contacts listed during the car registration. We need you to come immediately.”
Pankhi’s father, I and Pankhi rushed to the spot. The area was crowded and the corner of the street was covered in blood. The car was gone, Jacob was gone. The police were able to recover his purse and a locket. Those were handed over to us as his only remains. We knew Jacob was dead by then. What we didn’t know was that we would lose Pankhi too. She took the locket from my hands and opened it. It had a picture of Jacob and she. Maybe Jacob too was planning to propose to her that night. Pankhi wore the locket, walked towards her father, looked him in the eyes and hugged him. And she was gone..
Vivan: Gone? What do you mean? Gone where?
In a flash, she jumped into the trench and was gone. She spread open her hands and let herself fall. The people around, even the police didn’t get a chance to react. Just within a second- she left all of us and embraced death. Mr. D’Souza saw his daughter slip away right in front of his eyes. He turned around and left and has not returned till date. We don’t even know if he is alive or dead. The proposal, the plans, the couple- all gone in just one night.
I don’t know if there is an afterlife, but if there is, I only pray to Lord that these two souls unite there, that they find their peace there- said the lady.
Vivan was in tears. He wanted to find out what happened but not in his wildest of dreams, did he expect to unveil such a tragic end to that half finished story from the diary. He hugged the lady, stood up and walked back to the house. He straightaway went to Pankhi’s room. He cleaned and decorated the room just as she described in her diary. He placed their photo on the table and the rings in front of them. He got a name plate from his decorator and hung it on Pankhi’s door and locked the room. The sign read- “Jacob & Pankhi”.
Vivan dedicated that room in the memory of Pankhi and Jacob. He decided that the room would stay just the way Pankhi wanted that day for forever. Vivan tried his best to find Mr. D’Souza for a long time but couldn’t.
It is ten years now since Vivan’s family moved there. Vivan is a married man now. Pankhi’s room still stays the same way as Vivan promised. Vivan believes that maybe in the late hours of the night every year on the same tragic day when they lost each other, Pankhi and Jacob still visit the room and relive that day that they had both planned for each other.
It is Everything. Being in Love, I Mean.