“It is all in the mind” read the last line. Maya stared at those words and slowly closed the book. Does it really apply? She thought to herself as she looked out of the window. It had stopped raining but given to Manali’s usual temperature, people were freezing. This was one of the reasons Maya stopped by the coffee house and decided to steal an hour all for herself. Maya casually gazed away from the window and looked at her table; she had completely forgotten to eat the cupcakes which she had ordered. Looking at the leftover cakes in a clueless manner, she packed her bag and started to leave. As she passed by her table, there was a tap on her shoulders, she turned back and saw a man looking deep into her eyes. He was neatly dressed with well kempt hair. He seemed to be in his mid-forties but his attractive looks made him look much younger. “I think you forgot to take your bag”, said the man. Maya looked at the man and then at the bag he was holding. “I am sorry?” she frowned. “Your bag ma’am”, said the man holding the bag up. “I saw the bag gentleman that is not mine, now if you will excuse me”, she said in a cranky tone and started to leave. “But”, he started to say something but then realized that the crowd was now looking at them and things might turn bad owing to the tone in which the lady had replied. He moved back and sat on his table with the bag and was looking at Maya as she left. Maya walked down the stairs of the tiny two storied coffeehouse and moved towards the entrance unaware that his eyes followed her. No sooner did she leave the building than he got up and started to follow her with the estranged bag.
Maya wore her overcoat, put on her ear plugs and started to walk; following her at a distance was the man with the bag. She walked casually, ignoring the hustles on the road and enjoyed her music thoroughly. After a while, she sensed strange gaze and turned back, to her horror she saw the man following her. She was scared but kept her calm just that now she was walking briskly unobservant of the fact that the man was matching her pace. Maya tried not to turn back again to avoid any eye contact with the man. As she was walking someone held her hand and pulled her back, she turned back and saw a lady smiling at her. “The signal is red, dear”, you cannot cross the road till it turns green, please wait here with us,” she said. Maya looked at her and smiled back as she was too occupied to oblige in words. She slowly turned around to locate the man with the bag but couldn’t find him she was relieved, probably I was mistaken, she thought and smiled to herself. Maya started to walk as she saw the remaining people standing with her at the signal did. As she reached on the other side, she noticed the man standing on the pathway. As expected by Maya, he started to follow her again, this time, a little closer than before. After about 5 minutes he was exactly behind Maya trying to hold her hand. She turned around and spoke to him in a stern tone, “Excuse me! Gentleman, May I please know why are you following me?” she said. “I am sorry Ma’am, I am not, I just wanted to return your bag,” he said holding up the bag. “Are you mad? What bag are you talking about? Please stop bothering me”, yelled Maya in the middle of the road. “Ma’am, please calm down, you left your bag at the coffee shop”, said the man calmly, looking deep into her eyes. His looks were growing intense, his face turned red but he was considerate of the surroundings and the people who looked at them on the busy pathway. “Listen, man, I don’t know anything about the bag, about the coffee shop and about you!” she told in a flat tone and without waiting for any response, she turned and started to walk away. The man watched her go away, his eyes were glued to her, there was something he knew about her, there was something he wanted from her, and there was something between them which needed an end. He wiped his face and rubbed his eyes; he finally gave a sigh and dialed a number.
“She just crossed the signal pathway and is going straight”, he said, “No, I couldn’t, she did not even listen to me”.
Maya was constantly looking back to trace the man as she walked towards the main road. “Maya! Wait”, a feminine voice called out from the crowd. Maya turned back to see an old lady with some medicines in her hand, “Oh Mother”, you scared me, said Maya holding her mother’s hand. “Why are you so tensed? Is everything alright?” asked her mother. “Mother, there is a man following me, please take me home”. Her mother looked confused she held Maya’s hand and said “Relax, dear. Come, let’s go.”
Maya collapsed onto the couch as they entered the house; she was too tired for the day. “Freshen up dear, I will make some coffee and it’s also time for the kids to return from school. Maya looked at the photograph that lay on the side table beside the couch. It was a family picture of Maya, Ajay, and their two kids. She smiled and looked at the photograph. Ajay was the best thing that had happened to Maya. Their love story was not any different from a fairy tale saga. They met at work, fell in love and got married without any glitches. In 10 years of marriage, they were blessed with two beautiful kids, Ananya, and Jai. “Mother, did Ajay called? When is he coming?” said Maya. Her mother smiled and said “In the evening dear” as she placed the coffee mugs on the table. There was something which worried Maya, she stared at the table blankly. Her mother looked at her and before Maya could say anything, her mother interrupted “I think you are tired, please take these tablets and take rest”. Maya took the pills and without a word lied on the couch, after staring at the ceiling for a while she drifted off to sleep. There was a sudden shrug on her shoulders, which woke up Maya. She got up and saw her kids playing around. “Hey, Mom! How are you now? Grandma told us you are unwell” said Jai. “I am completely fine dear”, said Maya as she got up to sit. “Why did you….” Maya was about to say something when her mother called out for the kids to come and have their snacks. Maya smiled at the kids as they kissed her and left. Maya tried getting up but to her surprise, she was actually feeling weak though did not feel as she was tired or unwell. She managed to drag her body to the window and stood there watching the little garden they had. Ajay has always been fond of a garden and wanted to have one. She looked around the area and suddenly something caught her attention at once, she saw a leather bag lying on the ground and at a distance was a man smiling at her.
Maya turned away and covered the window with the curtain. She stood there numb, not knowing what to infer from the scene she saw. She took a deep breath and started to walk towards to the main door. As she opened the door she tripped to fall but there was someone who caught her. “Maya, be careful”, said a male voice. Maya looked up to see a good looking man. He was in formals with the blazer on his arms and tie loosened up. “Ajay, good evening dear”, said Maya’s mother as she greeted him. Ajay smiled at her and looked at Maya. “What happened, why are you in a hurry?” She looked at Ajay and then peeped out. She was probably not sure if Ajay saw someone out or not. Without saying a word, she turned and started walking upstairs. “Is everything alright?” asked Ajay as he sat down looking at Maya walking upstairs. “I think she is stressed, I have given her the tablets; I think she needs little rest too”, replied her mother as she followed Maya upstairs. Ajay nodded his head as he removed his wrist watched and adjusted himself on the couch. After a while he got up and walked up to the main door, unlocked it and went out in the garden, he smiled and picked up the bag that lay near the flower pots. He came in inside and carefully placed the bag on the couch so as to be visibly noticed.
“It felt like I slept for eternity Ma,” said Maya as she lazily got up and sat on the bed. “No worries darling, you need rest, of late, things were not going down very well with you,” said her mother caressing Maya’s hair. “Come down, let’s have our dinner”, she said as she kissed Maya on her forehead and left the room, closing the door behind her. Maya got up and went into the washroom; she splashed her face with cold water and closed her eyes feeling the cool water wash down her face. After a moment, she heard her room door being opened. She came out of the washroom and looked around but did not find anyone. She ignored her gut sense and opened her wardrobe, she took out a towel and patted it on her face gently, her eyes felt cool and she was feeling fresh now. As she closed the door of her wardrobe, she saw someone standing behind her from the mirror image on the wardrobe. She turned at once and shouted, “Who are you?” “Maya!” said the man as he approached towards her with a wary smile on his face. Maya moved back and picked up a book from the side table and threw at him, the man now moved forwards at once and held her by her arms. Maya’s mother came up running as she heard her daughter’s scream. She came up to see the man holding Maya as she screamed. He jolted her and pushed her on the bed. She became unconscious and lay on the bed. The man looked at Maya’s mother who was standing there numb with tears rolling down her cheeks. “I guess it’s time to take her,” said the man looking at Maya’s almost lifeless body. “But Ajay, are you sure about this?” asked her mother. “Yes I am”, he said as he left the room.
Maya opened her eyes pretty unaware of how much time. She felt weak, very weak. She was lying on the bed of a room which was all painted in white and blue. It was neatly arranged with one bed and two couches, there was a television and a refrigerator placed in the corner. The curtains on the window were down allowing the sun rays pass through them translucently, mercifully ventilating the room. She got down the bed confused as to whose house this was. She moved around touching things and trying to identify them. The door opened and entered three people, two men, and one woman. In all the probabilities, Maya knew none of them and gave them a puzzled look. “Hello Mrs. Maya!” said the first man with a bright smile on his face and sat on the couch. He was tall and fair. He was in his formals with a white coat. Maya looked at him and smiled, not able to fathom why people surrounded her. “Can you please tell me who are you? Where am I?” asked Maya as she moved back and sat on the bed. “Oh sure, lady”, said the man as he got up and walked up to Maya. “I am Alex, your doctor,” he said as let out his hand to give a handshake. Maya acknowledged it hesitantly as they were other queries building up in her now. “He is your husband, Ajay and she is your mother”, they brought you here, he said pointing to Ajay and Maya’s mother. She looked at the other man and the woman standing at a distance and looking at her with deep concern in her eyes. “My husband?” but I don’t know him. “Oh yes, I know you don’t know him. Anyways, we can sort that later, tell me how are you feeling”, said Dr. Alex. “I am feeling very weak, I think I need some more sleep”, she said and lied down on the bed.
“I told you, Ajay, with Alzheimer things will only worsen,” said Alex leaning against his table as they were seated in his cabin. “I know a doctor and that’s the reason I brought her here, I did notice changes in her day-to-day activities too,” said Ajay in a low tone. “Did you track down the incidents as I advised?” asked Alex. “Oh yes doctor, I did. I followed her yesterday since morning. It all started at a very minute level as before. She forgot to eat her cupcakes in the coffee shop, she forgot her bag, she did not understand the signals on the road and of course she forgot me”, said Ajay as he broke down. Maya’s mother held his hand and patted it. “She even failed to recognize the kids”, said her mother. “But before she could ask it out, I called them to have their lunch. I did not want the kids to know about it”. Doctor moved back in his chair and after a while, he said, “Ajay, I think you should get her admitted here. Keeping her in the house will be a pain for her and you as well. You can meet her on a daily basis. And the day she remembers you, will be your day”.
5 years later,
He carefully knelt down, let out his hand and said “Will you marry me?” he said with the boyish smile on his face. “Stop it, Ajay! We have been married for 17 years now” said Maya as she held his hand with a girlie blush on her face. “Oh yes! We are but I want to etch this moment again and again in your mind so that you remember this even if you fail to remember the rest of the world.” He said as he got up and hugged his dear wife as the remaining patients sitting in the lawn admired them.