“Are you done? How long would it take to shampoo your hair? And I don’t understand why shampoo it now when you know it’s going to get dirty on the drive, anyway?” he was banging impatiently on the washroom door.
“Just shut up, and pass the hair dryer to me, will you?” she yelled back from behind the doors, which was slightly left ajar.
He could hear the splashing of water from the washroom as he checked his newly acquired Nikon D90’s memory card and began to scan through the hundreds of wedding photographs that had occupied most of the space.
“Have you downloaded the wedding pictures? We need an empty memory card for the trip,” he shouted over the sound of water falling from the shower.
“Can you not wait till I am out? I can’t hear a thing. I am almost done,” she raised her voice in return.
He imagined she would take at least another half an hour to dry her hair, wear make-up and doll herself up before they could actually start the journey he had been waiting for all his life.
She looked beautiful in all the wedding photographs, her usual wild and chirpy self draped in a coy and traditional look in an off white and gold trousseau and the red vermillion dot shining on her forehead.
The sudden thought of his newly-wed bride, now wet and innocently beautiful in her stark white bathrobe, stepping out of a steam bath filled up his senses. He pushed open the door and before she could say a word, pulled her into his arms.
“What?” she asked him with half-a-smile lighting up her radiant face. Their eyes met and held each other’s glances for a moment. “Not now, love. We’ll be late,” she whispered softly, blushing and pulling herself out of his arms. “Go down, and start loading the car boot. I’ll be there in 10 minutes. Have you gone through your check list?”
“Nopes. It’s not my job. You ramble on, and I’ll match and do one final check,” he replied.
“Okiedokie, hon. Water?”
No, two. Baby, no one carries so much water from home. We can pick up a whole carton from the store at the gas station.”
“Fine. Camera. Cell phone. Batteries. Chargers…..”
“Yes, yes,…. no.”
“See, I knew you would forget the chargers. Stuff it in the knapsack. Oho…not there with my night crèmes. The zip at the front, love,” she said peeping out of the dressing room.
“Ok, done. Next?”
“Cash. Credit cards. ATM cards, Cheque book.”
“Honey, we are not going for shopping! For heaven’s sake, it’s our honeymoon. And it’s deep in the dense woods, not in some glitzy shopping mall. They don’t accept credit cards.”
“Even then, take them along. You never know what catches my eyes. I might fancy buying a tiger instead of a rock on my fingers,” she said with a naughty smile on her face! “Shove them into your wallet. No arguments, no negotiations.”
“Yes, your highness. What else?”
“Mosquito repellent mats?”
“Nopes. Got Odomos. In that kind of a place as I am told, nothing works better. For all you know we may not have any electricity, my uptown girl.”
“Hmm… good! We can play darkroom when we are tired of grazing around the woods all day. Candles, torch, matchsticks, and lighter then,” she suggested with a giggle, picking up her brown leather boots.
“I have them in the car boot with all the other stuff for the tent. What else? Should I carry my laptop? I didn’t wish to stay away from my MacPro Book.” After her, it was his most precious possession.
“No way, you are not going to work!!!!” She threw a cushion at him.
“Ha..ha! I might write a travelogue while you sleep,” he laughed and added. “And call it sleeping with the enemy, part two!”
“Grrrr…” she growled, imitating an invisible feline outrage and broke into a smile.
“I love that smile,” he said turning towards her.
“And I love yours..” she replied twitching her nose as she always did when she said those words.
How beautiful she looked in a light beige cotton shirt, tied at the waist and khaki capris, the long and slightly wet hair let loose over her shoulders touching her waist and the sunshades over her head keeping the hair from falling on her face! “I am a lucky man” he confessed to himself looking at the love of his life, his soul mate, and now his wife.
Taking a sneak peek at the reflection on the mirror behind her, she observed his tall handsome frame running around her, matching her list to his needs and felt blessed that she belonged to him, and that they were finally together. “Okay, we are done then. Get, set and go……,” she broke into a childish giggle picking up their favourite music CDs for the car stereo.
He was hurrying down the narrow staircase with the baggage, when he looked around and didn’t see her. “Now what? Where are you, baby? We are running late. Remember, we need to touch at least 500 kms today,” his voice rose a bit with a hint of edginess that he regretted immediately. She came out hurriedly looking guilty. Whilst her hands were full with baggage and other things essential for the trip, his guitar was flung over her shoulders. No, she hadn’t forgotten his best friend.
He took the guitar from her with a smile, happy to be in love with his “love absolute” and planted a tiny kiss on her cheek. “Thanks love. What would I do without you?”
“Nothing. You’ll never be without me again,” she said with a smile glued on her face.
The weather was perfect, the setting was perfect. Elvis Presley was crooning “Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you,” as they joined in happy hearted like two little children miserably in love, thrilled that their dreams were all finally falling into place. After everything, they were man and wife, their vows were more sacred than ever now, their commitment more officially eternal than before and they were off to their honeymoon, to that place in their long awaited dreams and fantasies….
En route, occasionally, he stopped for a smoke. Where they crossed a spring, he stopped to pluck unnamed wild yellow flowers for her. Where they spotted a rainbow, she made him halt on the road shoulder, and jumped over a deserted railway track to capture the frame on their camera. “Can you ever touch a rainbow?” she asked him. “Yes, and I can try getting some of it for you,” he said, making a gesture as if he was picking a piece of heaven for her, and they both laughed. He drew her close walking back to the car singing in her ears… “Like a river flows, surely to the sea, darling so it goes, some things are meant to be; take my hand, take my whole life too, for I can’t help falling in love with you.”
The sun had taken its last bow at the western horizon when they neared a factory area on the borders of a neighbouring state. Heavily loaded trucks were zooming past them, often blinding his vision with the headlights. “When will these rogues learn to use a dipper?” he grumbled and looked sideways for a supporting statement from his wife. She was fast asleep, her head tilted slightly on the headrest, lost in a wayward dream smiling to herself like a baby. Her innocence made him smile in return and he looked back at the dusty highway again. Just a couple of hours and they could spend the night in a lovely hillside resort they had booked in advance for the stopover. The honeymoon suite was already occupied, the manager had regretfully apologized over the phone. But he had been promised a “great view from the balcony” room in the resort.
He was trying hard to concentrate on the road, manoeuvre through the unruly traffic when a huge lorry came head on from nowhere, apparently lost control of the brakes…and before he could swerve, came crashing down on them. Startled from her sleep, she screamed, he shrieked at the impact…their whole world had enveloped in a deafening noise, all he could see was one cannon of light and fire thrown at him, splinters of glass flying into the air….. and then there was nothing!
“Wake up, love! The car’s burning,” she pulled him out of the ravaging fire and enveloping pain.
“Are you okay, honey?” he asked looking up at her. She had a slight cut on the forehead but looked perfectly at peace, more beautiful than ever before, he thought. “Yes, I am fine. Are you alright, baby?”
She touched him on his cheek and said, “Come, let’s go.”
He walked slowly, up to a moss coated culvert on the roadside and sat down recapitulating the accident as it occurred, when she pointed out to the distant honking of a lorry. Her eyes lit up and from the wild twinkle in them, he knew what she was thinking.
“Hellooo…..hello…wait..wait…lift,” they flagged down a lorry stacked with poultry driving uphill.
The driver, who looked like an old wise man with a long white beard was hesitant at first but gradually got lured by the money they offered to share space with the birds on his truck.
Having found a way to continue their journey, the happy kids instantly forgot their trauma and the sufferings of the accident and hopped into the haystack and bamboo cages singing “Cock a doodle doo…” to the disinterested birds! Night was falling quickly in the tropics and as the temperature dropped with the moon rise, the two headed off to their destination honeymoon under a brilliantly lit symphony of stars.
It was in the wee hours of dawn that the driver halted his truck and woke the love-struck couple sleeping huddled in a corner of his vehicle.
“We are almost there. The rest of the journey, you’ll have to cover on foot through the forest” he told them.
Between the trees, a little feral brook gurgled alongside them, breaking out in tiny rapids over forgotten moss covered boulders and forming miniature eddies swirling in yellow and brown leaves of grass, frail branches and twigs and remnants of the track it had followed to reach this far into the wilds. The water was sparkling clear and sweet and they decided to soak themselves in its pristine touch. The air was unusually quiet, the ambience was divine in a rather mystical way.
“There’s something about these woods. Do you see that strange bluish light?” he asked her pointing towards a beam of sun emerging out of the green undergrowth. “Where? I can only see some dark tones weeping in the bushy corners and few bright dots of yellow teasing the leaves,” she said in return. Like two little children mystified in the wilderness, they were trying to read a poetry in green, blue and gold hues conducted in a mysterious riots of colours flaming the early spring landscape of a tropical rainforest.
“Look, they are the same wild yellow flowers you had picked for me along the way. I like this place. But how far is the resort?” she grumbled.
Forest mornings are always very poetic and so naturally blessed with tranquillity, they are almost sacred to an extent. With the light changing colour, the entire ambience had undergone a quiet and deliberate metamorphosis. The air was now heavy with a strong forest smell, and the sound of the wild had shifted from the noise of insects to chirping of birds. Rustling over moist leaves, they came to the end of a trail and looked up at the first sign of artificial lights within the territorial area of a few hundred acres.
“That one. We are here, honey,” he said grabbing her hand and forcing her to keep pace with his excited footsteps.”
The manager, half awake and dewy eyed, signed them in. “One good news, Sir. The guest who had booked the special room cancelled the reservation. You can have the honeymoon suite,” he said grinning.
She noticed a bunch of the same wild yellow flowers at the reception desk and asked him its name.
“Parijaat, Madam. The flower of heaven,” he smiled.
Next to it, one little corner of the morning newspaper read. “Couple die in car crash. Lorry driver missing….”
They picked up the keys and with feet as light as feather, sauntered happily to their desired suite. He was holding her by the waist as she rested her little head on his shoulders, humming close to her ears…
“Like a river flows, surely to the sea, Darling, so it goes, some things are meant to be. Take my hand, take my whole life too, For I can’t help falling in love with you…”
Today, they had no pain, no trauma, nothing to lose, expect or deliver. Not another finishing line in sight. It was their perfect honeymoon…for eternity.