She was laughing. So was he. Two gray haired kids were
making merry of their amateurish effort at gardening, often
by splashing mud and sprinkling water on each other.
“In a couple of years when our gallant efforts fructify
–” She dreamily uttered.
“We’ll be back to square one – a barren tract and few
odd goats grazing.” He quipped.
“Come on, dear! Don’t be that pessimistic, at this
tender an age.” She feigned hurt. Then they once again
giggled, as the setting sun reddened their jubilant
Ravi and Anila – they had a chance meet a year ago. Anila,
a middle aged rich widow as they say, was driving to a bank
that she used to visit only occasionally. As she neared,
she saw a bit of commotion around an elderly man who had
apparently passed out. A Good Samaritan, she stepped out to
inquire and was shocked to know it was Ravi Kumar, a Hindi
screen idol of the yore.
“See how he’d destroyed himself, just by drug and
booze!” A passer-by commented.
“Does anybody know where he stays?” Anila anxiously
“Oh yeah, it’s just a few blocks away.”
“May be I can then drive him home. Will anybody please
By then Ravi had just barely recovered but was still in a
daze. Bablu, a local boy helped him into the car and
directed Anila to his house. It was a small bungalow that
bore the sign of neglect all over. Near the entrance there
was a stone pillar with ‘Twilight’ inscribed in it. The
weather-worn letterings had become hazy.
Once they managed to escort tottering Ravi into his living
room, she asked, “Who all are there in the house?”
“None, except my old servant Sambhu.”
“Your family –”
“His wife had left, with his daughter. Who’d withstand
such a big loser forever?” Bablu uttered with disdain.
“Many thanks, Bablu. You may now make your move. I’ll
settle him a bit and then go.” Saying so, she then handed
over some money to the boy who left overjoyed.
Her heart was pounding. It would be an understatement to say
that there was a time when Ravi Kumar was her crush. The
truth was that whether a maid, a wife or a widow, her sole
love and passion had always been this movie idol. And now
the very same man, completely ruined and deserted, was
sitting in front of her!
She took some spot decisions and summoned Sambhu who, it
seemed, was not too unfamiliar with such situations except
for the presence of a ‘decent madam’ in Ravi’s
“Is there a doctor nearby to examine Saab?”
“Yes, but his visits –” Sambhu eyed Ravi
“Well, my coffer is empty right now and that’s why I
went to the bank. But then – anyway, I’m feeling better
and don’t need any medication.” Ravi told
Anila opened her purse and handed over some money to Sambhu
who dialed a number. Soon the doctor arrived.
“The usual,” he said with despair, “Boozing and utter
neglect. I’m giving something that’ll keep him up awhile
– but how long? What he needs is strict vigil and
sympathetic nursing. With none at home, that could’ve been
arranged in my nursing home. But after frittering away most
of his savings I’m not sure if he can afford that
“Thanks doc, I’ll take care of him.” She smiled
“But you –”
“A close relation who’d just bumped across him.”
After the doctor left, she handed over some more money to
Sambhu and passed some instructions authoritatively, while
Ravi meekly watched. Then she said in a firm note, “I’m
leaving now, but will be back.”
And that she did. She came back the next day, the next to
next day and then kept on coming. Slowly she took over the
management of the hitherto uncared for household and its
master. Initially confused, Sambhu finally reconciled to
this changed scenario rather gladly, as now there was a
semblance of order in the wretched house and no more he had
to play a magician to make both ends meet. Sambhu’s master
was less confused, probably because he no more possessed the
mental ability to get confused. Only once he asked Anila,
“Why are you doing all these for me?”
“Just as I please”, was her curt reply.
It was then a matter of time that she would bring her
essentials and lodge at ‘Twilight’ permanently.
Initially she was staying in the guest room. But one night
after doing Ravi’s bed she quietly stepped on it.
In her hot embrace Ravi fumbled and said, “Sorry dear –
I mean – I’ve lost it. I used to take substances, you
“Never mind”, she comforted her, “I just want to be in
bed with Ravi Kumar, the man who has always been my sole
love and passion.”
That night onwards, she was no more ‘Anila ma’am’ but
‘Memsaab’ to Sambhu. And he was glad to address her so,
as he saw things changing and changing for the better in
that goddamned place. The house was cleaned, the junks
discarded, new furniture bought and the walls repaired and
painted. The small turf outside was cleaned too and prepared
for gardening. And all the while, she managed to drag
reluctant Ravi in.
“Why are you doing as much? He would occasionally protest,
“I’m no more in money and you shouldn’t force me to
change my lifestyle like this.”
“It’s no extravagance. I’ve just tidied up your habits
and believe me, you can still afford that. I’ve neatened
up your financial instruments too. Do you remember you’ve
invested in some shares long back? Well, you don’t. Now
some of those forgotten assets aren’t even worth the paper
they’re printed on. But there are few others which had hit
the moon. With a decent portfolio management, you can live a
“But I’m no more capable of putting myself together to
do that sort of work.”
“Well, leave that to me.” She said assuredly.
Then the flowers they’d planted started to bloom and
shoots came out of the mango and guava trees. One evening
when they were watching that in childlike enthusiasm, Anila
asked, “Why did you name the house ‘Twilight’? Isn’t
that gloomy? Don’t you think Dawn or Sunrise would have
Gazing at the distant horizon Ravi said, “I love twilight.
It’s when the real is slowly getting fudged by the unreal.
It reminds me of my days in front of the artificial lights.
A bright morning is too stark dear, too stark for my
In his dreamy eyes Anila could find a trace of that famous
stare of the bygone that would send thousands of damsels in
reel. The artist and the romantic in the man hadn’t
But try as she might, she always had the nagging feeling
that she was fighting a lost cause. She had arrived wee bit
too late. The man was physically or psychologically beyond
salvage and they were just biding time. But then isn’t
that true for life as such? Isn’t it an endless struggle
against the ultimate inevitable, punctuated by a series of
reprieves that we so much cherish?
“People tell things about our relationship.” He once
lamented, “But I’m sorry that for all that you’re
doing to me, I can’t give you the minimum dignity you
deserve. That bitch, you know, had walked out on me, but
didn’t give me divorce.”
“Never mind” she consoled him, “and no expletive
please for your wife.”
It was coming. She knew it. He knew it too. Even the doctor
who was happy that finally Ravi was being cared for, had
cautioned Anila, “But don’t be too optimistic. The long
abuse and neglect had already done it to his system and
anything can happen any day.”
And it did happen. One night he collapsed while visiting
washroom. She immediately raised an alarm and managed to
admit him to a decent nursing home without delay. But he
didn’t regain consciousness. The doctors diagnosed it as
heart attack. But the standard procedures didn’t revive
him completely. Anila urged the doctors to do everything
possible without bothering about the expenditures, although
she knew it would stretch her resources to the limit. But
the doctors were afraid that he was heading for a multiple
Throughout the night, Anila sat there. Then the news somehow
leaked through. From morning the media people started
thronging in and the news that Ravi Kumar, the famous movie
icon of the yore was mortally sick was flashed in all news
channels. Amid the commotion and at the receiving end of
uncomfortable questions, Anila remained composed and stayed
Then she came. When Ravi Kumar had married Delilah, she was
just an aspiring starlet. The marriage catapulted her to
stardom, albeit in second rate movies. But with the falling
fortune of Ravi Kumar, she anchored herself to safer harbors
and settled for steady but less glamorous roles in small and
big screens. She glanced at comatose Ravi awhile. Then
glaring at Anila who was sitting beside him, she hissed,
“I hope you appreciate that our family has an honor to
defend. With media around, it won’t look nice to find him
in the company of a woman of suspicious character.”
Widowed while young and with a substantial amount of
property to defend, Anila was inure to stand her ground
against adversities and slanders. But now she remained quiet
in the face of Delilah’s rap and merely requested the
nurse to call the doctor. When he arrived, she told her,
“Meet the patient’s wife.”
“Glad to meet you, Delilah madam.” The doctor bowed,
“Anila madam had done the needful and paid the deposit.
Don’t worry – he’s being looked after.”
“Now onwards it’ll be my responsibility. This is my
card. Please feel free to contact me anytime you wish.”
Delilah said. Once the doctor departed, she turned to Anila
and said, “Thank you Ms. whatsoever, now you may ease
yourself off. And yes, I’ve heard you’re permanently
camping at our house. I’m not being rude, but I’ll be
obliged if you please –”
A man in black interrupted at this point and told her in a
low voice, “Not now, madam. The bungalow is in his name.
Don’t create legal complications now. Just wait till he
So far Anila accepted everything heaped on her with stoic
composure. But now the mere suggestion of Ravi’s demise by
these unkind creatures made her blood boil. Advancing
forward she glared hard at them like a tigress on prowl. For
awhile she saw panic in Delilah’s eyes. But the next
moment Anila regained poise. Packing her overnight bag she
had a long look at his man, possibly for the last time and
then slowly departed.
Sambhu was anxiously waiting. “How is Saab?” He asked
with bated breath.
“Not well, not at all.” She shook her head. He looked at
her in utter disbelieve and mumbled, “But Memsaab – is
he alone there?”
“He is in good care. I’m no more required.” Startled
Sambhu looked at her face and for the first time found the
eyes of that iron lady moist.
She spent the day just lazing and ambling. She was being
torn by indecisions. She was dying to rush to the nursing
home but was sure that with Delilah in charge, she won’t
even have a glimpse of him. And wasn’t it time to pack off
from this damn place as well and go back to where she came
from? But looking at the freshly painted walls, the
blossoming flowers in the garden and the art objects
meticulously collected by them, she couldn’t somehow
reconcile to the idea. This is where I belong, she thought.
Well, everything is not yet lost. The doctors said he was
bad, but never said he was hopeless. Suppose he recovers and
walks back one day and not find me? How can I ditch him when
he needs me the most?
In the evening she sat on the garden bench where they used
to sit together to watch the sunset. Twilight was descending
in its most mystifying aura. She remained engrossed at the
horizon where the red globe was slowly disappearing, leaving
the earth to the care of the artificial. When it was night,
she turned the TV on and surfed the channels aimlessly.
After nibbling a bit of food she went to the bed that was
laid the day before but remained untouched. She had a very
disturbed sleep and woke up several times in confused
Throughout the night, she was waiting for the morning. But
daylight hardly brought any relief to her restlessness. She
spent the day without doing anything meaningful. Again the
night came followed by another day and the two inmates
continued to bide time in the very same nothingness.
It finally happened on the fifth day. In the evening
bulletin she heard that Ravi Kumar Sharma, the veteran
superstar of Hindi screen had passed away following brief
illness. Homage was showered. The tearful close-ups of his
wife and daughter were repeatedly focused. The movie
channels started airing his oldies.
It was strange that she didn’t react. Her mind was vacant.
Sambhu rushed in and saw ‘Memsaab’ sitting in stony
silence. “Aren’t you – going there, Memsaab?” He
“No Sambhu, your Saab has an honor to defend.” She
whispered, as tears finally trickled down her cheeks.
There was a knock at the door. Sambhu opened. It was that
man in black she saw at the nursing home.
“I’m the attorney of Mrs. Delilah Sharma. You must be
aware that after the demise of her husband, she and her
daughter are the lawful inheritors of this property. She
wouldn’t have bothered, but for the nostalgia –”
Nostalgia, my foot! – She mused – Land is gold here! But
aloud she said, “Tell your client that there’ll be no
problem to that effect. But considering that the great actor
had spent his last years here, my earnest plea is that as a
tribute to him please don’t give the property for
redevelopment. Please keep it as it is.”
“Thank you ma’am, I’ll convey your feeling to my
client.” The man bowed and departed.
That night when she went to bed, she was no more restless.
There was a kind of numbness but hardly any anxiety or
It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He
was gone. And soon this bedroom, the house in whose eastern
corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled
old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had
planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was
the strangest feeling ever.
She came out and looked at the shining sun. It was too
stark. Unable to stand, she covered her eyes. Well, the
earth is round. If it’s morning here, it must be twilight
somewhere else. In sync with the revolving orb, Anila’s
mind was ambling through the endless sky towards that zone
where the imaginary was taking over from the real.