“Sure aunty. Is there any problem? I haven’t talked to Aruna for days” I replied.
“It is only about Aruna.She is behaving in a funny manner with a sullen face, not the jovial type we know. She hardly eats, does not spend time in the living room and is always alone in her room. She did not attend office for three days and when asked she does not tell anything. We are worried. Can you make it during lunch time? Make your visit look casual” aunty pleaded.
I know Aruna from my schooldays and we are close friends. We branched off to different lines after school with me becoming a doctor and she a management graduate. We met whenever we got time but spoke to each other frequently. I married a doctor and work along with him in a military hospital in the orthopedic wing. She had not yet married but has told me she was in love with Vinay, a young man in the army. I had even met him once in her company. He was working in the army base in the city where we live but was transferred to Northern parts about a year back. They have been steady for more than three years and had plans to get married.
When I reached Aruna’s place, her mom whispered she was in her room in the first floor and that I should find out discreetly what was bothering her.I told her “Don’t worry, aunty. I will ferret out from her and keep you informed”
I tapped Aruna’s door gently. There was no response. I knocked it louder. Still there was silence. I put my mouth on the key hole and shouted “Rohini here. Open the door fast”
The door opened immediately and there was a surprise in her swollen and red eyes. She must have been crying.”How come Rohini at this hour? Don’t you have hospital duty? Did mom talk to you?” she asked
“I had given a ring to your office yesterday. I was told you were on leave. I passed through your area and so thought would say hi to your mom and ascertain your whereabouts” I replied
“Come in. Let me wash my face and come” she said and vanished into bathroom
When she returned with a dash of make up, I asked her “Tell me without beating about the bush, why you were crying. I heard that you haven’t attended office for three days and was always locked up in this room. What is bothering you? Are you in touch with Vinay? Don’t hide anything”
“One second” she said and rushed to get a letter from her bag. She gave it to me to read.
It was from Vinay dated about a fortnight back.
Dear Aruna, Brace yourself for a shock. I had a narrow escape from death when I was in the border. My colleague and friend Pandey gave up his life by shielding me from a barrage of bullets by pushing me inside the trench but not before eliminating three terrorists. He pleaded with me on his last moments to go to his village near Batinda to inform his sister who was alone with parents long dead. He requested me to take care of her. Before I could even answer, he held my hand and breathed his last.
His sister has read up to class 12 and has no skill. She was living on the remittances from brother and had become an orphan now. It took me more than a month to pacify her and to make her face the reality. During this period she developed a liking for me and pleaded with me to stay ever with her. I was torn between you and her. Considering the sacrifice of my friend and her helplessness, I finally concluded that I can repay my debt of gratitude to my friend only by marrying her. I had accordingly tied the knot but aware that with your qualifications and charm, you can find another person of your choice. Please forgive me. I had no choice, Vinay”
I put my arms around Aruna and said “I can realize your plight. It is a betrayal whatever extenuating reasons he gives. He could have tackled the problem differently. Now that damage is done, I would suggest you just forget him and get along with your life. Go to office, come to my place, meet new friends, have some outings” Aruna heard me silently.
Two months later I had a temporary posting at Chandigarh military hospital. On the second day as I was seeing the files of the patients in the orthopedic ward needing immediate attention, I was surprised to find one file bearing the name Vinay Kumar. I called the chief nurse who said he is an army officer who had been injured seriously in a skirmish at the front and whose two legs had to be amputated and one hand still with a bad injury.
When I went to his bed he was sleeping. I could instantly recognize him.”How long is he here?” I asked the chief nurse
“Ever since he was brought from the front”
“Is there any relative or friend visiting him?”
“None. But he wrote a letter only once to someone.”
I wiped my tears as I realized his true love and sacrifice for Aruna.