We were strolling on the road-- she and I. The breeze was pleasant and the moon lit our path. For a long time we had been silent. Perhaps waiting for the other to say something. I was struggling to put my feelings into words. She was looking beautiful today. The moonlight brought out a glow on her face that I had never noticed before. Needless to say, all this was making me restless. I suggested to walk to the beach. She nodded.

Being a full moon night, the waves were high. Occasionally a wave or two wet our feet. The breeze here was colder. She kept her hands close to her body. I took off my jacket and made her wear it. she smiled in reply. The silence was eating me up. I stood at the edge of the water looking far at the spread of the sea. Lost in my thoughts, dreaming of the future. She stood beside me. I hadn't noticed it before but she was holding my hand from the very time we had come to the beach. I stole a glance at her but she too was gazing far away. I stood there looking at her face. The serenity, the innocence, the fragrance was intoxicating.

So lost was I in her dreams that I didn't even notice that she too was looking at me. "Why are you looking at me like this?" she asked smiling. "To see you." "Haven't you seen me many a times before?" " No, never as beautiful as now." She blushed. She tried to turn away but I held her face in my hands. the beads of perspiration looked like dew drops an a rose bud. She was shivering, not because of cold but emotion. She removed my hands and walked away. Going a short distance she stopped and turned her face to look at me. She stood like that for a few moments and then she was gone. Without saying a single word, she was gone.

Next night I was walking down the roads, alone. I had to this day never felt lonely before. From my childhood I had always kept to myself. I had seldom had friends. I didn't require them. My pen and my books were the only friends. And what other faithful friends could I find! But today walking alone brought back all those years of loneliness which I had always felt but had refused to accept. That emptiness I could feel now. I turned towards the beach. The sea gave me comfort. Standing in the middle of the water with waves dashing at the feet helped to relieve me of these feelings. I had always felt that I am surrounded by friends. And all of my sadness, disappointments for years together were being deposited in the sea's womb. But the rule of the sea failed me today. It is said that the sea never keeps anything for itself. Whatever you give it, it gives you back. And honestly speaking, I felt lonelier still. For today I realized what I'd been taking for real was merely an illusion. I was alone, desperately lonely. That is why I had sought the company of the waves.

Suddenly the moon came out of the clouds. In the distance I could see a figure sitting on the edge of a rock, looking far at the horizon. I was surprised. It was for the first time I had noticed anyone on the beach so late. Usually it was only I who spent the night mapping its extent. I walked towards the figure. I stopped short a few steps behind the figure. I was shocked. What could she be doing out here so late? Certainly I must have been mistaken. But no, she was very much there. For a moment I thought of talking to her but decided against it. Let her solve out her own problems. I turned to go back. But it was too late. She had already seen me and was coming towards me. I ignored her. She started to run and finally caught up with me. "I was waiting for you since evening. I couldn't locate you anywhere else. I knew you would come here." "Waiting, waiting for whom, why? Waiting for a person whose dreams were shattered and his heart broken and that too not once but twice."

"I know you are comparing me with Pooja, and believe me I don't blame you in the least." Why did she have to take that name. And the fact was she was right.

Many a years ago, I had made the same mistake. I had loved a girl. We were good friends and I realized there was something more to our friendship and the day I dared to tell her, she walked out of my life without saying a word, just as she had done yesterday. And that day I had spent the whole night at this very place, roaming about aimlessly. I had been coming here daily since then to find out the answer to my question I had asked that day. But only silence answered me. Today again the question began to echo through the waves. I could sense my fists clenching and then the explosion. The sound reverberated through the night. She sat still holding her face in her hands.

For a few moments she glared at me, her eyes red. She was making an effort not to show her tears. "Thanks. Thanks a lot," she said. There was nothing amiss in her tone. It was devoid of any anger or satire. It was her natural, calm, sweet voice. "Now you understand why I walked off yesterday. You still haven't forgotten Pooja. How could you love me? All this time you've been seeing her face in mine, hearing her speak whenever I talked to you. Searching for her in me. But I am not Pooja. I am myself and I can't be Pooja. Don't you understand this. I don't know whether she was right or wrong for I am not to judge what happened between you two but I have the right to live my own life and I am not going to let anybody else tell me how to live. You may dream your own dreams but how do you expect others to dream the same?" She stopped. She looked at my face and shrieked. My face was all red with blood. She ran to me and in a moment was bandaging my hand and my forehead which had a deep gash due to a pointed rock. "You are mad. Why, you could have killed yourself," she chided. "You are right. I am mad. And who wants to live anyway." She opened her mouth to say something but checked herself. Her eyes told it all. She went on bathing the cuts, looking up at me once in a while.

"I'll tell you why I hit you. It wasn't because of what you said or have been saying so far, there might be some truth in it, but this time you took Pooja's share. Probably you are right. I am mad. I was searching for happiness that was not real. It was all a mirage. It wasn't what I thought it to be. And maybe Pooja was innocent after all. It was again my fault. I should have known we were companions for a few steps. We couldn't have been partners for life. Today I've found the answers I've been looking for all these years. But it has told me one more thing and that this time it is not a mirage, not for me at least. I am not being carried away by my loneliness or my yearning for a companion. I am no poet to put my feelings into beautiful verses, I can but mouth them as honestly and deep from my heart as I can." All this time I was looking at the horizon. As I stopped, I looked down at her. She was smiling.

"This is what I like about you. Putting out your bitterness and your anger as a fault of yours. And I hate it too. Why do you want sympathy from others? Why do you need a shoulder to help you not to stagger? Why show that you are weak? I can very well support you. I would do anything to save you from falling. I want your happiness. And I want you to be strong. Strong enough to take things as they are. To face difficulties and to come out of them on your feet, without anybody's help, successfully. I know you are capable of it and perhaps that's what made you fight all these years after she was gone. And then I came along and destroyed you. I don't want to destroy you. I love you. I've never loved anyone as much. I am sure that you will fight as in the past and emerge victorious but I am not too sure of myself. But I am going to wait for you. Wait till eternity."

The next evening I was standing alone on the rock. Occasionally a wave or two gave me company, but I knew what I had for the future. And I had brought it upon myself. I knew these waves were friends of mine and they would be giving me company. And for the first time in my life I saw the Sun slowly disappearing amongst the waves.

Dr. Nishant Kumar.

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