The writer muses about a friend’s persistent fascination for her
I was amused to find that my perching on the steps in the afternoons, with Manu beside me, attracted a group of roadside Romeos.
Manu said they perhaps took me to be one of the Radheshyamis of Harabari. She also sounded a note of caution.“It’s not desirable for you to sit on the steps facing the market. A gang of young men from Mathura loiters around to stare at you,” she said.
I did not heed her advice as I was determined to bring in realistic details of the place in my novel. However, the thought that I could possibly be mistaken for a profligate widow abandoned at Vrindaban was very painful to me.
One day, as I was sitting on the stairs, Hit Kumar startled me by appearing there all of a sudden. Manu and I were puzzled, but as my friend was full of courtesy and tact, she showed him utmost civility and took him to their temple (which was not yet sold off).
It was a very old temple. There were endless cracks on the walls. The wooden railings, too, were about to crumble. The lighting inside was inadequate. The small rooms remained dark even during the daytime.
The three of us took our seats in a corner that could be called the poreh. In the course of our talk, Hit Kumar turned towards me and said, ‘You need not ever leave Vrindaban. I shall have a temple raised in your name.”
But that was not all. More was to follow. In Manu’s presence, he boldly declared that he was attracted to me at first sight, and that he was prepared to do anything for me. Then, pointing to the tables and chairs of Manu’s room, he asked, “Would you like me to supply you a new set of sofas'”
I felt too embarrassed to say anything to him. I only looked in amazement at the face of that man who was the father of five children. But I did not have much time to waste in that man’s company. I was too busy in my research work to idle away precious time.
By and by, Hit Kumar’s love for me became the talk of the town. Some students of Gopinath Bazar area were even prepared to teach him a lesson, but I did not know about it then.
One day, he came again. Manu, with her characteristic politeness, welcomed him and took him inside. Soon after, after making tea and snacks for us, she called me in.
The main gate of the temple is clearly visible from the first floor verandah of the temple house. I saw a group of young men gathering at the gate of our temple. I also spotted my teacher among them. It was quite clear to me that the group suspected that Hit Kumar’s visit to the temple was prompted by an evil intention. To forestall any possible mischief on his part, they gathered there with sticks in hand and aired their misgivings to my teacher. I feared that they would beat up the man any moment.
I had no doubt that it was an irresistible attraction for me that had led Hit Kumar inside the temple. I felt nervous and ran out by the back door to my teacher for protection.
The hooligans were standing near Dasrath Akhara. Seeing me, my teacher said: “I was sure that you’d rush out!” Then, turning to the boys, he said, “You had better disperse. It’s not necessary to be here anymore.”
I bore Hit Kumar no grudge. When I visited Vrindaban again, he offered me all help as a friend. Later, I thought that his attraction for me was more than casual. At the time he felt drawn to me, he was aware of the conflicts in my troubled heart. He was one of the several persons who offered to help me start life anew.
After 25 years, Hit Kumar came to my house in Delhi and said: “I have come to see you. I am a cancer patient, but I still hope to build a temple for you in Vrindaban...please fulfil my desire.”
I could only watch with amazement.