“Is it that beautiful?” she whirled around at the baritone voice.
“Is the painting that beautiful?” the voice belonged to a well groomed middle aged person. She looked at him with a guilty smile.
“I know I have been staring at it. It is beautiful” she replied. He was quite tall, so she had to look up to meet his inquiring gaze.
Now she was at complete loss for words.
The painting in question was a part of a week long art exhibition that was organised in the Seema Art Gallery. She, being an art dealer, always attended the exhibitions. The painter Avik Gupta was a name which was gaining a quite popularity in the circuit. He was known for his post impressionist influences in his contemporary style. His paintings used vibrant colors unabashedly often irritating the critics with his non-conformist ways.
Raya, on the other hand was a biased observer. She had always felt a curious attraction towards his paintings. As if they were trying to communicate something to her, a feeling, or some thoughts. She often experienced a rush of emotion whenever she had seen some of his work, and this one in particular had absolutely mesmerized her. She would often try to guess what he was like in person. At times, she felt as she had known him for a long time. All the landscapes, events, objects, were nothing but a part of her imagination to which he had lent his colors.
This in particular was a painting of a woman, arms extended towards the sky, as if asking for something, set in the backdrop of vibrant hues of dawn. It was completely inexplicable what she had felt towards the creation.
“I can’t explain, it’s too beautiful. I really can’t explain” She smiled at him, and turned towards the painting again. But this time her whole being was aware of his penetrating gaze scanning her back. She felt uneasy.
“I think I understand. You have been visiting us every day, same time; same painting and then you leave.” He looked at her, directing his gaze at her profile. “I guess I was just curious, care for a coffee?” the tone was casual .She turned to look at his eyes, his deep penetrating eyes. Something was pulling her towards him. She was uneasy but plain curiosity made her blurt out, “I don’t mind”.
They walked together to the corner coffee shop and took the corner table. By this time she was completely wired to his movements. He pulled out a chair for her then sitting in his chair, again looked at her and smiled. This time it was a soft beautiful smile which lit up his eyes.
Raya was rooted to her chair. Why on the earth was she reacting to him in such a childlike manner? She pretended to glance through the menu card. Blur. “Well, milk, sugar? Coffee Indiana...whatever that might mean” baritone again. She nodded, looked at him. He seemed oddly familiar like an old song. Maybe somebody in the Gallery, or a visitor like herself.
Raya looked at him and smiled, “I often come to the Gallery. I am sorry but I did not catch your name.”
“I never mentioned it. Is it really very important? Let’s talk about something else.” He looked directly into her eyes “You have not answered, what is so special about the painting?”
“The woman, the posture, fighting, reaching out, independence, I don’t really know...I wish I could reach out to the sky like that.”
“You can, you know. You just have to wish it hard enough” He picked up a tissue,his fingers brushing her hand. She recoiled, electrified. “You have to close your eyes and only feel yourself and then will be able to fly, light as a bird.”
She was mesmerized by his tone, the words spoken resounded in her heart. “I don’t think that’s possible. How can we think only about ourselves? We are but the extensions of our surroundings. It’s impossible”
“Of course it’s possible. For example we are sitting here chatting over a cup of coffee. This is reality, we are right now separated from our identity, so we can be ourselves just here and now, let ourselves be free and reach out just like the painting.” He picked up the coffee mug, eyes twinkling over the rim. “Tell me your dreams.”
“My dreams? Let me think. I have never thought about it,really”
“Anything, come on let’s not waste time, think, think. What is it you dream about, often?”
“Dream?” her eyes lighted up. “Mountains. A cottage, fireplace, a swing, you know the jute swings, a book on my lap and cuddled up with a special someone, light snowy drizzle outside. A light massage...” She popped open her eyes. What was she doing? Blabbering about her innermost dreams to a complete stranger. “Who are you?” she croaked.
“Does it really matter? So mountains .Hmm” He was touching her with his eyes, her gaze was transfixed. “Come, drink the coffee”. He smiled the knowing smile. It was then he touched her hand. She looked at him, alarmed.
“Relax, just relax”. She could not pull away. She felt his warm palm, slowly messaging her fingertips. It was a wonderful feeling, her whole body responded. It was here and now, nothing else mattered.
“Just close your eyes.” His voice was now a whisper. “Come follow me, let’s go to the mountains. Beautiful white ranges surrounding us. It’s an English cottage, red bricks, and fireplace, warm room. We enter; I am holding you close to my body. Pace by pace, walking slowly up to the swing in front of the fireplace. We sit on the swing, there is a book lying on it, its ‘Rebecca’. You pick it up, and open at a marked page. You start reading; I lightly stroke your arm, touching your body like a whisper. ” She was absolutely helpless, pliant and soft. She was in a to and fro motion, the printed pages in front of her.. They sat down curled unto each other.
“This moment was safe though, this could not be touched. Here we sat together; Maxim and I, hand-in-hand, and the past and the future mattered not at all. This was secure, this funny little fragment of time he would never remember, never think about again…For them it was just after lunch, quarter-past-three on a haphazard afternoon, like any hour, like any day. They did not want to hold it close, imprisoned and secure, as I did. They were not afraid.”
“We swing together. To and Fro, to and fro. I touch your hands, curled up in mine, holding you from behind, and the fire burns. You feel me, comforting, caring. The swing in motion. Drizzle and snow continue like white speck of starlight against the window. Just relax...” his voice was in seductive whisper.
She was all feelings now, her hand a complete captive in his, he was playing with her palm now, soft massaging touch...she was on that swing lightly moving, his body comforting her, making her senses reel..
“Madam, aap aur kuch lengey?” Her eyes snapped open. She looked blankly at the face in front of her, “Aap aur kuch lengey?”
She looked at the vacant chair in front of her, still unable to believe. Where was he? Who was he? Questions were hounding her in multitudes. “Saab?”
“Saab to chaley gaye. Bill detey bakht,apko yeh deneko kaha.” The waiter held out a tissue paper.
Raya glanced at it, scripted in neat and beautiful hand were the words “Dreams have their roots buried in the reality, follow your heart and you will live them. Just be brave enough to dream on....A”