He woke up with a start. Not knowing why. Bathed in sweat and wondering why. He had been having these dreams for quite sometime now, it was the same dream and nothing had seemed to change till now. He had dreamt of making love to a girl so fair that she could hardly be Indian, a girl so beautiful that he had really wondered if he could ever possess her. This dream had been recurring for many weeks and months. It was the same dream and the same girl but what had woken him up in such a sweat was the variation of the dream for today he had seen the same dream with a lot of people watching him. The dream had always been the same; a dream of him making love to a young girl who was the fairest of them all but today the recurring dream had varied for today the dream had shown the girl making love to him in public. He had seen his parents witnessing their making love to each other in public; he had seen his friends and colleagues witnessing the act of their making love to each other in public. Little did he know the interpretation of dreams, for then he would not have been excited but being a lay man who could not read his dreams he was indeed excited.
He was just a poor administrator; a clerical kind of guy, who handled the logistics in a National Advertising agency. He would co-ordinate with the clients and with the folks in charge of production, but he was still considered a clerk dealing with logistics. The logistics clerk being based in Chennai had always wanted to grow and learn more of his trade by being sent to other cities and the production centers where the work load was heavy and the money was big.
However, the logistics clerk did not stop having those dreams of his. The same old dreams with the same old girl. A girl much younger than him who was fair and pretty; a girl much more beautiful than he could ever have dreamed. It was the same recurring dream that had aroused him. Aroused his manhood but today it was different for the dream had portrayed him making love to that beautiful young girl in public; with his parents, relatives, friends and colleagues looking upon them making love. Little did the poor lad know about the meaning of that dream.
Many people may think that the administrative clerk in the advertising agency was a pervert or a retarded guy but in truth he was neither. In fact, he was a simple God fearing guy and was well mannered, pleasant and friendly. Rajan, for that was the feller’s name; was thirty five years old and loved his parents very much.
Rajan’s parents wanted him to get married but he had been avoiding marriage since he was apprehensive that the woman who would become his wife may ill treat his parents in their old age and therefore did not wish to get married. His parents tried to assuage his feelings & told him that not all women were bad. They even found a few brides whom they considered suitable but when Rajan went and met them he found them artificial and very superficial.
Rajan was troubled by his recurrent dreams and even went to a renowned Pandit who promised him that his poojas would stop the dreams from recurring. However, the dreams continued to torment him. It was at this point of time that his head office in Mumbai decided to promote Rajan to the position of Administrative Manager. Not only did they promote him but they also transferred him to a very important branch in Delhi.
When Rajan informed his parents of his promotion and transfer they were dismayed. They did not want to go along with him to Delhi and neither did they want him to go to Delhi. They tried their best to dissuade him but Rajan did not want to give up his job at this juncture for the promotion and new posting would entail an increase in salary of almost fifteen thousand rupees. Rajan had his tickets booked and within fifteen days he had boarded the Tamil Nadu Express which was a thirty six hour ride to Delhi.
Rajan enjoyed his ride for he had never ever traveled out of Tamil Nadu. Every small town and village thrilled his heart. From Andhra Pradesh into Maharashtra and then into Madhya Pradesh, the train took him searching for his dreams. Finally after thirty eight hours Rajan landed in Delhi in a tired and bedraggled state. But this did not deter him for the fifteen thousand rupees raise was all the he had was focused on.
On reaching Delhi he called up his local contact in the advertising agency who helped him find accommodation for the night in a boarding house near the New Delhi Railway station. The next morning Rajan went to his new office and reported for duty.
Rajan was led to a beautiful looking cabin where he was supposed to work and then he was introduced to the team at Delhi. While going through the ranks he came across his own team who were dedicated to serve him and him alone. Wonder of wonders he found that one of the girls who was a clerical cadre employee was the same girl he had seen in his dreams many a times.
Rajan was thunderstruck as it were. He could not believe his own eyes. He pinched himself to check if he was dreaming or awake. Even as he tried to come to terms with the actual presence of the girl, he was being introduced to her by the HR Executive who was introducing all the staff. The HR Executive not realizing the magnitude of the situation was parroting, “This is Swapna, the new executive who has recently joined our office”. In a daze Rajan stretched out his right hand to shake her hand and a wave of electric current coursed through his body as his hand came in contact with hers and grasped it gently. Rajan had only heard of dreams coming true but here he was really experiencing a dream coming true.
Swapna however seemed unaffected by the enormity of the moment. She smiled demurely at him with downcast eyes on being introduced.
Rajan took quite awhile to come out of his trance like state. He then began to feel an excitement mounting within him at having come face to face with the heroine of his dreams. He could not believe that she was indeed named Swapna for Swapna did mean ‘a dream’. Was it a mere coincidence that she was called a dream or was it the work of a superior destiny unfolding the drama of life? Being a God fearing person Rajan was bound to believe in the later option.
Rajan was curious to know much more about Swapna. Who was she? Where did she hail from? All these and many more questions came rushing into his mind and sought answers. However he knew that it would be inappropriate for him as a Manager to show too much interest in one of his subordinates. He therefore kept his curiosity in check and allowed time and circumstances to reveal more about her.
From the rather talkative office attendant he came to know that she hailed from a large Malayali family. Her father had come to Delhi to serve as a clerk in the Railways and had begotten six children of whom Swapna had been the eldest. Swapna had done her honours in English literature and as was the custom in her family, she had been married at an early age. At the age of twenty one, immediately after passing out of college she had been married into an affluent Malayali business family which was into catering and hotels. Her husband was twenty seven when he had married Swapna. While the office attendant did not know much more about her personal life he knew that her husband had passed away within two years of their marriage forcing Swapna to return to her parents’ home as a young widow at the age of twenty three.
Rajan’s heart went out to Swapna and his eyes brimmed with tears upon hearing her sad fate. He wished to know more and therefore began to probe for more information about her from a female colleague who seemed to be rather close and friendly with Swapna. The colleague then informed him that Swapna had lived for sometime with her parents, taking care of the younger children when her father soon had a stroke and was forced to seek voluntary retirement as he remained bedridden.
Upon this unforeseen incident the entire Mallu community of Delhi had started whispering amongst themselves that she was a jinx. First she had killed her husband & now had made her father bedridden. Tormented by the local people and their open whisperings about her, Swapna at the age of twenty four had decided to seek a job as she was burdened with the responsibilities of raising up her five siblings as well as taking care of her invalid father and simple mother. As a result she had joined Rajan’s company a couple of months before his posting to the Delhi branch.
Time passed by as it is always won’t to do and Rajan soon settled down to his new job. Initially on arrival from Chennai, Rajan had stayed at a small motel near the New Delhi railway station and had commuted to his office in Jangpura by bus or auto depending upon the availability of time on his hands. However with the help of his office attendant he soon found a small flat nearer to the Nizamuddin railway station from where he could walk down to his office in five minutes flat.
Rajan was not the dominating kind of a superior and his subordinates soon established an easy and cordial relationship with him. Swapna who was initially a bit aloof soon began to loosen up and started conversing him. From her he learned that Swapna and her family lived in a small asbestos roofed house in Katwaria Sarai, where she stayed along with her bed ridden father, old house wife of a mother and five college as well as school going siblings.
Everyday, Rajan would somehow find a reason to finish work and leave at the same time when Swapna left office. With mind in turmoil and senses all excited he would walk along with Swapna to the bus stop where she would board her bus to Katwaria Sarai before he proceeded to his lonely Nizamuddin apartment.
One day Rajan mustered up the courage to invite Swapna to his flat in Nizamuddin for a cup of coffee since it was raining heavily and the bus stop was flooded. After hesitating a bit, Swapna agreed to accompany him to his flat and thus bloomed the prettiest flower of a relationship.
When Swapna visited Rajan’s apartment she found a typical bachelor’s pad; upswept and uncared for days on end. The first thing that Swapna did on reaching Rajan’s apartment and witnessing the sad state of affairs was to clean up and sweep the floor. She found that Rajan had a huge pile of unwashed clothes and therefore commanded Rajan to go pick up some detergent powder from the nearby store, while she started cleaning up the place.
Within an hour, Swapna had completely transformed the single bedroom apartment into a neat and tidy, hospitable home while Rajan busied himself in the kitchen making tea for Swapna in his role as the host. Rajan was truly thankful to Swapna for transforming his house and after a cup of chai, Swapna told him that it was getting rather late and that her parents would be searching for her.
Rajan therefore accompanied Swapna to the bus stop but the rains continued to pour down unabated. After waiting for about fifteen minutes Rajan felt that bus services had been disrupted by the rains and therefore called for an auto to take Swapna home. However, Swapna was scared to travel all by herself in an auto with the dusk having settled into darkness. Rajan therefore, told Swapna that he would come with her in the auto rickshaw after which he would return to his house. Swapna, hesitantly agreed to this and Rajan went along with her to where he dropped her at the corner of a galli at Katwaria Sarai before returning to his pad.
Soon this became the routine of both Rajan and Swapna. After office, Swapna would first stop over at Rajan’s pad where she would clean, wash and cook for him before Rajan accompanied her back to her home in an auto rickshaw and then return to his place. This routine went on for six months.
During these six months Rajan noticed a lot of things about Swapna. First of all, he realized that Swapma was a rather sickly kind of character for she was always consuming medicines of different hues and colours all the while. The second thing that Rajan noticed about Swapna was her devotion to her family. The third thing was her commitment to work and her not absenting herself from work even for a single day even if she was unwell.
This routine continued until one evening when they came to know that a very famous Neta and popular politician had passed away and that as a result his followers had burnt buses and sabotaged cars and other vehicles including auto rickshaws. After somehow trying to escort Swapna home, Rajan decided that there was no point trying to make Swapna reach Katwaria Sarai and therefore asked her to spend the night with him.
Swapna balked at the idea but soon realizing that there was no other alternative agreed to spend the night with him in his small apartment. Before doing so Swapna called up her parents on her mobile and told them that the situation on the streets was rather grim and that therefire she had no other alternative but to stay at her office for the night. The parents who were aware of the hooliganism unleashed by the neta’s death asked her not to try to come home that night and insisted that she spend that night with her office staff at her office for her own safety.
Rajan was overjoyed with Swapna’s decision to stay at his place for the night. Swapna prepared a simple supper of rotis and panneer bhurji from what was available in Rajan’s refrigerator. To Rajan it was the tastiest meal he had ever eaten. That night since there was only a single bed in his house, Rajan made Swapna sleep on his bed while he slept on the floor.
At midnight that night thunder struck with a roll. Swapna leapt in fear and landed near Rajan on the floor. That night Rajan and Swapna made physical love for the first time in their present lives. It was the sweetest thing ever for both of them and was just as Rajan’s dreams had promised him it would be.
Early next morning Swapna was in tears. She was really scared and Rajan comforted her that it was alright and that she need not worry. However, Swapna would not be comforted. She felt sorry that he had not used any protection while making love. Rajan again comforted her that he was prepared to marry her and that she need not feel guilty if she conceived because of their being together. Swapna was also guilty of what her parents and family would say if they came to know that. Rajan again tried comforting her that he was willing to come meet her parents and propose marriage to her but Swapna was horrified. She would not have any talk of the same and kept mumbling that she was a widow and that her parents needed her support.
The morning dawned bright and gay. Swapna seemed to have reconciled herself to their physical union and was happily humming away to herself as she prepared breakfast for Rajan in the kitchen. Rajan indulged himself by sleeping more than was usual for the day happened to be a weekend and a holiday at the office. By mid-day the situation in the city seemed to have normalized and after the funeral procession of the Neta had wound its way to the ghats, the traffic returned to normality. Rajan then took Swapna back home and dropped her off at the end of the Galli where she lived with repeated promises that he would not forsake her.
The entire colour and texture of life changed for Rajan after he became physically intimate with Swapna. Swapna would visit Rajan at the end of each working day and would perform the household chores for Rajan before uniting with him in bed. By eight every evening, Sapna would leave his house and Rajan would dutifully escort her back home in an auto rickshaw while they held hands and kissed briefly and surreptitiously without the knowledge of the auto rickshaw driver; or so they at least thought.
By then, Rajan had informed his Mother back in Chennai that he had found the right girl whom he planned to marry and his parents were indeed overjoyed that their son was happy. They asked that they be shown at least a photograph of their future daughter in law but Swapna cautioned Rajan to wait. She wanted to first obtain the consent of her parents before she could commit herself. Rajan suggested that he could come over and talk to her parents if need be but Swapna asked him to hold on until her younger brother completed his college and found a job; for he could then take over the responsibility of fending for the family.
Thus did their relationship and their clandestine meetings continue for almost an year with no one at their office coming to know of what was happening, though a couple of colleagues who were close to both of them had begun to suspect that something was up.
It was a Monday morning in the month of October and Rajan was waiting impatiently for Swapna to report for duty. He was restless for he had not seen Swapna on Sunday. Since Sunday was a holiday Swapna could not leave her parents and be with Rajan on Sundays. Rajan usually moped and fretted on Sundays because it was the only day of the week when he could not hold his dear Swapna in his hands.
Last night had been rather bad and Rajan had tossed and turned in bed. Towards dawn he had the same dream of Swapna and himself making love to each other while all his family, friends, relatives and well wishers watched on. However, this time the dream was slightly different for during the middle of their love making the onlookers began laughing loudly and mockingly leaving Rajan suddenly awake and alone; bathed in a cold sweat.
It was past nine thirty in the morning and another busy day had commenced at the office but still there was no sign of Swapna. Rajan repeatedly tried to call her up on her mobile to find out what was delaying her but was only informed by a recorded message that the mobile had been switched off. Rajan could not concentrate on his work and wanted to rush to Swapna’s house to find out what was wrong with her. However, propriety and his responsibilities at the office held him back.
Tuesday too followed the same course as Monday and Rajan was rather anxious for it was unlike Swapna to be without calling him. By the end of the day Rajan was literally blowing his top and called his attendant and asked him to go to Swapna’s house and check what was wrong with her and why she had absented herself from office without informing the office.
The attendant returned within the hour to inform all those who had gathered at the office that Swapna had passed away on Sunday afternoon and her body had been cremated by her family on Monday morning. He did not know how and why she had died for none of her family members had any information about the same.
Rajan turned to stone as his entire body turned chill and rigid. He appeared to be in a daze as he walked out of the office never to return again and proceeded to the funeral ghats where the office attendant had informed that her body had been cremated.
Rajan returned to Madras and kept to himself at home. It was exactly a year now since Swapna had passed away and it was only yesterday that the Doctor had delivered the final crushing blow to Rajan. Rajan was now suffering from HIV and had but a short time to live. A wonderful anniversary present indeed from Swapna.
Rajan now knew that it was not worth chasing all your dreams for dreams were not what they appeared to be and could not be taken at face value. He kept mumbling to himself, “Don’t go chasing all your dreams” as he stared vacantly into the distance.