Vimala was deeply hurt from the last encounter. Her self-confidence had completely died out. Raghuraj and Kusum saw more men, but there very few whom they liked. And the ones they liked, they did not like Vimala. Slowly Vimala was falling into the dark pit of depression. She was rarely seen smiling now.
People advised Raghuraj to lower his expectations. But Kusum still retained her original aim. She was sad to see the state of her daughter, though.
One day, Menaka visited and invited Vimala to join the group of friends to go on picnic to Rajdari waterfall. Vimala refused but joint efforts of Menaka and Kusum overpowered her resistance.
Vimala stayed detached from her group at the picnic place. When her friends were busy cooking at a corner, she sat on the edge of a large rock hanging her feet in running water lost in her thoughts, mostly sad thoughts.
Then occurred a great coincident. Raju was also at the waterfall with his friends that day. He saw Vimala sitting on the rock. Recognised her instantly. He had seen only and photo, but could not forget the face. For a moment he felt an urge to go talk to her. But then decided it was not proper thing to do. He sighed and turned back to walk away.
But a sound of scream passed through him. He turned to find Vimala in crisis. She had slipped and landed into the stream of fast running water. The stones under the water were covered with slippery moss. Vimala couldn’t stop herself, and stream of water ran her towards the edge of the cliff. Falling off the cliff meant little chances of survival. Raju made his decision within splits of seconds. He ran towards Vimala. Stream was taking her fast towards the edge. Raju ran and swam as fast as he could. For a moment, it seemed that struggle of Vimala was about to come to the end. But that sight injected a mysterious energy into Raju’s muscles. Just a couple of yards from the edge he managed to grab Vimala. He carried her carefully to a safe spot. Vimala was still in shock. By this time, there was uproar at the picnic place.
Raju tried to relax her.
“Vimala, rest here without worry. You are safe now.” said he.
Hearing her name from stranger’s mouth, she looked at him and tried to recognise with her big dizzy eyes.
Raju disclosed, “My name is Raju. You don’t know me. Once your father came to my house for your marriage with me. But my village family didn’t impress him.”
Vimala felt embarrassed. Raju looked around. People were trying to cross the stream to reach where they sat. Raju remained thoughtful for some moments. People were getting closer. He said quickly, “You must be married now. Although I cannot see sindoor, but that would have washed away in the water. If you belong to someone now.. then stay happy.. if not, remember my number if you will..”
Raju saw people were almost there.
“9415..” he uttered his phone number quickly.
7. The Change
Kusum observed a change in her daughter. Vimala’s sadness had disappeared and a kind of anxiousness had taken place. “Well, picnic did a good job it seems.” concluded the mother. The story of the accident was kept hidden.
And Vimala, she was excited with what had happened at the waterfall. She remembered Raju’s telephone number very well, but she hesitated to call him. “What would people say!” she thought.
Raju was also excited. He was anxious if Vimala would call him. Few days passed but there was no call. Raju’s hope began to fade as a week passed.
That evening Raju was lying in a cot on the rooftop of his house when his phone rang. He looked at phone. It was a call from an unknown number. His eyes shone. He pressed the call accept button immediately.
“Is it Raju ji?” a soft female voice enquired.
“Yes it is.. Who is it calling?” he replied while he knew very well who it was.
“I.. I am Vimala.”
“Oh, how are you? ..now?”
“I am fine.”
“How are you?”
Raju opened his mouth to say something. But before he could let out a word, she said, “Ok, I will go now.” And she disconnected the call.
Vimala’s heart was racing and she could not think of anything else to say. Raju’s heart was also racing.
There was an uneasy peace for next two days. On the third day, Raju’s fingers were itching to call Vimala. He couldn’t resist and called back the number. His heartbeat rate was increasing with number of seconds being passed. Finally a husky feminine voice said, “Hello”.
Raju was startled because it was certainly not Vimala. He didn’t reply and disconnected the phone. It was Kusum on the line. Vimala later saw the number in call-log of the phone and recognised Raju’s number. She still had no courage to call him back.
Next day, Menaka visited her. Vimala hid identity of her rescuer even from Menaka. But that day she couldn’t stop herself from chatting about the latest happenings. Such matters always interested Menaka deeply. At the end, she said, “Alright, your job ends here and mine begins.”
Vimala shuddered, “Menaka, don’t you do anything or tell anyone!”
Menaka giggled, “I will do what I have to do and you cannot stop me. Now give me his number quickly.”
8. The Phone Call
Menaka called Raju in the evening of the same day. She introduced herself and asked howabouts of Raju. Raju was slightly nervous.
“Do you like Vimala?” she asked.
Raju thought for few moments and said, “My liking or disliking doesn’t matter. Her parents have already rejected a village idiot like me.”
Menaka had an urge to laugh at the term ‘village idiot’, but she remained serious. Then she said, “I have heard you worth billions of Rupees. You have so much money that no one has in the area.” She encouraged him, “You have so much money that any man parents of Vimala have seen yet, cannot earn in their lifetime.”
“I cannot buy sense of good lifestyle from money. I have to live in that house that was probably built in the time of emperor Akbar, which might fall on my head any day. The house with the front-yard decorated with muddy and dirty buffaloes instead of a lawn with plants and flowers. Nope. I am not good enough for Vimala. I need a village idiot like myself.” said the upset man.
Menaka couldn’t hold her laugh this time. Then she said, “If you can realise the situation, then why can’t you try to change it? Build a new house at least. It’s not like you are going to take all the money with you after death.”
“This isn’t my money. Not yet, at least. It’s my father’s. I am just penniless for now.”
“Aren’t you a man? You are the only child of your parents and you have nothing? I am telling you this. Raghuraj uncle isn’t unimpressed of your lifestyle. He just doesn’t want a man for his daughter who lacks backbone.” Menaka said in light mood. She then turned serious, “Instead of breaking the bed at home, try to do something. Start a business. You have nothing to worry about money to start with. You are a man. Show some manliness. Then who is this Raghuraj Singh who could even look into your eyes!”
Raju was offended at first, but soon realised the truth.
“I’ll try.” he said.
Menaka said at the end, “Try or not, it is your wish. I will only remind you that you don’t have much time if you like Vimala.”
This one conversation turned Raju’s life dramatically. After this moment, he was rarely seen at home.
9. The End
Six month later, it was the opening ceremony of ‘RH Tractors’. Raju had named his tractor show-room on his parents’ names: R for Ramdei and H for Harilal. People believed that six months was too little time to plan and build a marvellous heavy-vehicle showroom like that. The opening ceremony was itself an event to remember. Raghuraj Singh was also invited to the ceremony. Raju’s eyes kept searching for Raghuraj Singh in the crowd of the guests. He was worried whether he would come or not.
In the other side, Raghuraj Singh was in confusion. Raju had himself delivered the invitation card to him. Kusum was not in favour of her husband attending this ceremony. After refusing Raju for marriage, it was not proper to go to the opening ceremony of his showroom. But after a long debate, decision came: Raghuraj Singh should attend the ceremony out of courtesy and stay only a minute or two.
Raghuraj Singh was shocked to see the showroom building. He could not believe that the marble and glass clad splendid showroom was built by the man whom he had declined for his village lifestyle and planlessness. He felt embarrassed thinking that Raju had possibly invited him only to show him down. When he went back to home, he described everything to Kusum. Kusum regretted that they had missed such a bachelor.
Next morning, Rajaram arrived with an ear-to-ear smile. He was visiting on marriage business. He had marriage proposal from Raju’s family for Vimala. Raghuraj Singh and Kusum could not believe. But when they believed, Rajaram experienced the most fabulous hospitality of his life.
The day of engagement ceremony was decided within few days. Raju and Vimala were to be engaged on the sacred day of Vasant Panchami.
When 82 years old Vimala told this story to her granddaughter Sakshi, the young woman found it exceedingly interesting. To her, it was like the very old two dimensional screen movies.