The Jasmine Trail

She stood on the little balcony, taking a deep breath. The moon was shining with a blue hue, in a clear summer night sky. There was something magical about tonight, but what was it? Ekanya wondered. Before moving to Mumbai, she had stood at this very spot every night, during her growing up years at her maternal home in Bhopal, but had never felt this way. Then she realised  – it was the smell of jasmine. Somebody had planted a tree here while she was away, and the fragrance of the flowers was almost intoxicating.

She had come to her hometown to break the news to her parents that she was leaving her husband. It was not an easy decision at the age of 38, but she no longer wanted to be stuck in what she thought was a loveless marriage. Ekanya could herself never understand why she could never love Nikhil, a good husband, and a caring father to their 8-year-old son. She knew she was being selfish, but all her life she had searched for a love, a fulfilling relationship, she has never been able to find. It was as if a part of her was missing, which she needed to discover.  

A new job offer from a Hong Kong based financial company, seemed like a perfect opportunity. Ekanya has been constantly trying to assure herself that she was doing the right thing. She was sending her son to a prestigious boarding school, and the distance will make things less complicated between her and Nikhil.

Later, as she lay down on the bed, tears trickled down her eyes. The moon, the balmy breeze, the fragrance of jasmine, all seemed to overwhelm her anxious mind ….

The smell of jasmine is stronger at this end of the blue verandah. As she approaches him, he looks up from the book he is reading while waiting for her. There is a bandage on the right side of his forehead. She knows he was injured in an attack by the police on a group of young freedom fighters in the bazaar. A common occurrence in early 20th century Bengal, in British ruled India. She also knows that the only love that surpasses what he feels for her, is his love for the motherland, and his mission to free his country.

She can almost read his thoughts – their love is doomed, but even death cannot keep them apart. The intensity of his feelings has always terrified and excited her, and she can feel her heart being drawn into a vortex.

Next, she is running around the blue verandah with the book she has snatched from his hand. He is trying to catch her. There are creepers on the walls, and as she places her hand on a branch to steady herself, she pricks her ring finger. He takes her hand and puts the finger in his mouth, sucking the drop of blood and easing the pain. As she looks into his dark eyes, she knows she can never love another man ….

Ekanya sits up on the bed. What a dream – it almost seemed real, the old heritage building, the blue verandah, the creepers on the walls, the intoxicating smell of jasmine.

She goes to the balcony. The air had become cooler, but she could not see the moon now. The smell of jasmine seemed stronger … the only thing which was common from the world of her extraordinary dream.

Or was it something more. As she sat on her bed, she realised her hand was paining. She switched on the bedside lamp, and saw that her ring finger had turned pink and was throbbing. Then she noticed her wedding ring.

She kept awake the whole night. Next morning she told her parents she had to return to Mumbai for some urgent work. She never mentioned about Nikhil. But she did know that she was not leaving him, and had to make some major amends.

Ekanya herself could not understand how the dream that drew her into a magical world of love, changed her. Who was the man? Was he her lover from another lifetime? Or her subconscious mind?

Somehow she felt the dream had made her break a pact with the past, and she was free now – to live and love.

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