One evening with Maria

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By Dr. Dhrubajyoti Bora

Maria was from Uman city of Ukraine. Samiron had never thought he’d fall unexpectedly for a foreign girl, that too within a short span of fifteen days. But love brings the most unexpected feeling into anyone’s heart; nobody knows when and how it strikes at anybody’s life. Samiron had met her in the Hornbill festival of Nagaland. She’d been accompanied by another two girls- Nataliya and Daniela. But they had already left for their country. Today was the last day of Maria at Majuli.

Maria had wished to visit this famous river island and she’d told about her hope to the tour guide while in Nagaland. As Samiron was from this renowned river island, he was entrusted with the task to show her all the important places here. Samiron had started the job of a travel guide for a local travel agency, recently. He’d already passed some pristine moments with her till now and in the end, he felt a strong adoration towards her. Words were just insufficient to describe his feelings. The memory of the last evening was about to end in a few minutes, and Samiron felt badly restless inside. Her departure was nearing; he felt a strong urge to confess to Maria what was inside his mind.

Maria was pedalling her bicycle along the bumpy rutted tracks of the river bank and a few yards. Behind her was Samiron huffing and puffing to keep up with her amidst the spiraling dust left behind by her ride. Samiron wondered how this girl was so much energy with never-ending enthusiasm! A winter wind was picking up from somewhere, and the long reeds danced synchronously as if they’d been captivated by nature’s orchestra! The evening sun was casting an orange-red hue all over the western sky and it was reflected on the vast water of mighty Brahmaputra. Far away, a ferry was seen as a tiny dot on the distant horizon. Rows of egrets were flying in flocks to their nests. A few fishermen were folding their fishing nets echoing the distant air with their chatter and laughter. Samiron was thinking of enjoying this beautiful ambiance with Maria as time was slipping away, and so he shouted at her.

“Maria, wait!”

“C’on Samiron, this is my last day here. Let me cherish it.”

“But it is going to dusk, better we should return.”

“Don’t be afraid, we’ll not face any trouble. The people of this place are nice.”

All of a sudden, she stopped, without a hint, supporting her bicycle on one leg. She looked back. Samiron had to brake suddenly and it skidded a few yards over the dusty ground before coming to a halt.

“Are you afraid of the dark?”- Maria smiled, and as she smiled her cheeks dimpled a little and her eyes sparkled catching the dazzle of the western sky. Her smile again struck a chord in his heart.  He stared at her, but she looked away.

“I mean we can sit somewhere and talk, and enjoy this last evening.”

“Really? Talk about what?!” Maria giggled. She resumed pedaling.

Samiron’s face turned serious, said, “I had a few words to share with you.”

She stopped again. Looked back. For a moment, she became thoughtful, said, – “Okay.”

There was the wreckage of a ferry lying idly over the sandy shore by the side of the river bank. Its tin roof was missing; it must have been blown away by the merciless storm of the last summer! They put their bicycles on a stand over the grassy land near a patch of thicket blooming with white and pink wildflowers. Samiron first jumped over it. Its wooden floor creaked under his feet. He extended his hand to grasp Maria’s hand to help her jump over it. Then they entered the passenger cabin. Its benches were dusty, cracked, and moth-eaten for having been lying unused for a long time. Samiron dusted one of its benches with his handkerchief. They both sat down.  The sun was amusingly bright red and large.  A cool breeze was blowing softly. Maria was marvelling at the spectacular scenery with her intent eyes. And words of excitement automatically came out of her mouth,- ‘‘Wow!’’

Samiron faked a cough to break the silence. He needed a response from her so that he could expose his heart before her. She looked at Samiron, quizzically.

“Did you like our place?”- Samiron started the conversation.

“Oh yeah, it’s very nice.”

“And what about the people?”

“They are just amazing, so friendly, so nice! I feel like spending the rest of my days here. It’s such a lovely place with so many good people!’’

Her last words made him bold. He asked her impulsively – “did you like my company during these days, Maria?”

“You are a nice person.”

She was staring at the distant horizon. Samiron felt jubilant at her reply. This was the kind of reply that he’d been longing for the last couple of days. Whether it was just an infatuation or real love Samiron didn’t know, but he’d developed an intense attraction towards her. Gathering some courage, he asked her, ‘‘If I say you to stay here forever, are you going to stay?”

Suddenly her face turned rigid like a lifeless portrait. Her smile vanished instantaneously.  ‘‘What do you mean?”

“No, I mean” Samiron stammered, he couldn’t complete his words.

“Samiron, what do you know about me?”- Maria was serious.

“You are a girl from Ukraine. You are on a holiday vacation, and tomorrow you are leaving for your home, perhaps forever.”

Maria sighed. She fixed her gaze at the distant horizon. A wave of deep sorrow rippled over her sweet face. Samiron could sense that.

“You don’t know about me, do you?”

Samiron felt silent. He didn’t want to interrupt her.

Maria said, “You are wrong. First of all, I’m a divorcee.”

Samiron felt a sudden jolt inside his heart. He tried to read the face of Maria in the ensuing dimness.

“I’ve some bitter memories that I always tried to forget, and I didn’t want to disclose it to others. But now I think,’’- she sighed in between- “it would be better to tell you about my past life.’’

The sun was about to go down in the west, and just a crescent of it was visible above the water surface. The whole atmosphere became unexpectedly hushed except the sound of the rustling of the reeds and the tall grasses by the river breeze.

“I lost my father when I was five. Two years later, my mother married another man. But as I attained the age of twelve or thirteen, he started exploiting me.  I suffered almost five years of severe mental and physical agony.”

Maria cupped her face with her fair hands, wiped her eyes, continued, “One day, out of frustration and desperation, I left my home. I surrendered myself to an orphanage. There I studied, pursued my nursing degree. After passing out, I joined one hospital where I met Dmytro. We did living together for two years. I became pregnant, delivered a baby girl. Dmytro, whom I trusted the most, deceived me at last. I was shattered, heartbroken. Whom would I believe to? I lost hope, moved to another city, joined another hospital, handed over my angel to an orphanage. I want her to grow in such a way that she should know that girls must learn to survive alone in this cruel world. I need nobody by my side. I’m comfortable all alone. Before coming to this tour, I resigned from the post that I was holding, and after returning from here, I’ll join another hospital, which will accumulate enough money for both of us. I’ve already decided the course of my life.” Samiron could feel the shaking of her voice as she went on telling about her miserable past, and when she stopped, Samiron felt helpless.

It was growing darker. A few fireflies were flickering over the riverbank in the thickets. Samiron couldn’t see the beads of tear collecting at the corner of Maria’s eyes. She was calm, like the mighty Brahmaputra flowing in front of them.

Samiron, deep inside his heart, felt a pang of unexpressed guilt for what had happened to Maria. He decided that he would never tell Maria what he had felt for her. Some feelings are best left unexpressed.

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