Ranjan was posted in some unit of the army in some village like place in the North East frontier. There were occasional skirmishes and soldiers were engaged in safeguarding the frontiers. The situation was mostly calm. On an off day every week Ranjan visited the nearby small town. It had nothing to offer except a small bazaar and some eating joints. There was a temple on a small hillock nearby.
It was on one such visit to the temple he came across Rajwanti (Rajvi in short).As she was climbing down, she tripped and fell down. There were none seen around. She had sprained her leg and was in great pain unable to move. It was getting dark in the evening. Amidst feeble protests, he lifted her in his arms and brought her down to the road. He hailed a cart, thrust five rupees in the cart puller's hand and asked him to take her home. She never took her grateful eyes off Ranjan till the cart turned into a lane.
He could not forget her beautiful face with her narrow slit eyes and high cheek bones. She had a golden complexion and her hair was not entirely black but darkish brown. She had a small mouth with a permanent pout in her lips. On the next off day he came much earlier than usual to the temple looking for her. She was not seen and it was time to return. Disappointed much, he started coming down the hill. He saw from a distance a petite figure standing at the same place where she had tripped. It was Rajvi obviously waiting for him. He found a bandage in her ankle.
"Aren't you ok? Why the bandage? Do you have pain when walking?" he asked.
She nodded her head in affirmative and said "It should become alright in a week. Thanks immensely for the help. I was shy to talk to you before the cart puller" she replied.
"No thanks are needed. In fact I enjoyed carrying you in my arms. You are so light in weight" he said with a mischievous twinkle. She giggled in turn
"Sit down by my side if you are not in a hurry. We can talk for a while"
"Not here. Let us sit behind the big boulder” she said
Soon they fell in love after a few meetings and ended up getting intimate. He promised to marry her and every off day they met. He gave her each month a good sum to live in comfort with her parents. Life was full of joy for both. He found her a simple and good natured girl and wished to take her along with him once he was transferred to civil station and marry her. Two years passed by in no time. She confided to him one day that she desired to have a child. He counseled her patience till they moved to plains and is married.
Suddenly he stopped coming and there was no news of him. Rajvi came almost every day to their haunt but there was no trace of him. She was sure he would not have deserted her and as weeks passed by her parents seeing her disconsolate condition advised her that this was common amongst the army men. Her dad said “Your man seemed good and was paying you every month as a husband would do to a wife. The others did not even pay but ditched after being with women as long as they wished. Let me go to their camp and find out”
A week later her dad said “I learn from someone there that one Ranjan Pande was seriously hurt when fighting and was taken away to some distant hospital. He doesn’t know whether he is alive or dead now. No point in crying always. Wait for six months. If he does not come in search of you, forget him.”
Her mother added “Thank god, he has not burdened you with a child. Many are left behind with children”
She was not reconciled. She knew he was an honest guy and truly loved her talking about the future of their children and family. She was worried whether the worst might have happened. It was four years since he had vanished. Much water had flown under the bridge in the village stream.
Rajvi was sitting with her two year old boy near the boulder that brought back old and fond memories. She had a bulging tummy being in an advanced stage of pregnancy. She came here frequently. As it was getting dark, she got up to go home. The little boy ran ahead of her in the slope. Afraid he may fall down she hurried her steps and fell down. The little boy was crying by her mom’s side. She could not get up.
It was then a bearded man with long hair and a crutch approached her and said “Would you permit me to lift you? You can hold the crutch and get up if you don’t wish me to touch you.”
She grasped the cane and got up with difficuly.He held the boy in his hand and slowly they climbed down to the road.”Can you now go on your own with your boy or do you want me to accompany you?” he asked her gently
“No, I can go on my own. Thanks immensely. You are godsend” she said and thinking of similar incident in the past trudged her way home limping
Ranjan in beard with wooden leg and a crutch wiped his eyes as he saw her fading away in the distance and his plan gone awry..