It was really a celestial joke when the things that made you fall in love with someone started to become the things that you grew to abhor in that very someone. What was the problem with love? Why could it not stick around? Why did it have to be slippery, so.. so undependable?
Alok and Shubra had tried everything to keep their marriage together but nothing seemed to work. No amount of counseling or interventions by loved ones. Alok wanted “space” and thought Shubra was too controlling. Shubra wanted him to be responsible, “Space” did not mean behaving like a bachelor and forgetting that he had a wife at home.
“I suggest you guys take a holiday, stay with each other, away from the pressures of an everyday life. You might rediscover love,” Nana suggested to the both of them. Shubra’s Grandfather had been the only non-partisan member of the feud that was brewing between the two of them. More of out of respect for him and less out of any hope, they decided to take a holiday.
Shubra chose a lonely town in the South West of England. Alok would have preferred London but Shubra reminded him that the idea wasn’t really to live it up but to live together. He agreed.
In the various leaflets that crowded the quaint reception desk of the old Victorian Hotel Alok found one that screamed, “Visit the Haunted Lighthouse!” His eyes widened with excitement, this was going to be a fun place to be after all.
“You must be out of your mind Alok, I am not going to visit any haunted lighthouse,” Shubra cribbed.
“Come on! We are supposed to do the together thing, that’s why we are here, I promise to take you to the sailor’s market tomorrow’” Alok gave her his best boyish smile and Shubra gave in under protest.
It was midday when they got to the lighthouse and the lack of visitors gave the tourist guide nothing better to do than to feed the seagulls. He was more than happy to show them around at a fat discount.
The Guide explained to them the legend of the lighthouse as they made their way up the rickety wooden staircase. “Her name was Julia, she lived in the town, a young beautiful lady. They say that her lover was a sailor and went away on long voyages. One stormy evening she received news her lover’s ship had been sighted on the horizon. They say she waited, a candle in her hand for her lover’s ship to come into port but as the morning came she found that the ship had hit a rock in the storm and gone under. She was so devastated by the news that she threw herself off the lighthouse and fell to her death. A lot of people have seen a woman with a candle on the lighthouse.” Alok was fascinated and Shubra sufficiently disgusted. “We haven’t come all the way from India to hear this horrific story,” she whispered into Alok’s ears.
Shubra booked a table for two at a charming little restaurant off the pier. It was candlelit and romantic. It did not go well though. Shubra wanted to talk about the relationship and Alok wanted to have a drink to celebrate their togetherness.
There was no togetherness Shubra reminded him, Alok was quick to retort that it was because she always had to control him, why could he not have a drink? All hell broke loose; Shubra began to cry and walked out of the restaurant. Alok decided to stay and drink, he was going to do exactly what he wanted and no one was going to tell him otherwise.
Now, it was passed midnight; Alok was walking back to the Hotel when he chanced upon the lighthouse. He stopped and in his drunken stupor wondered if love like that really existed, where you would jump off a lighthouse and kill yourself. All he could see was Shubra jumping at his throat.
It was at precisely that moment that he saw her with a candle in her hand, the spirit of Julia. She was looking at him from the lighthouse window. She was beautiful, dressed in a charming early Victorian gown. It was a clear night and even from such a distance he could see the sorrow writ large on her face.
He stood paralyzed, unable to move. And then he saw her fall off the lighthouse right in front of his eyes. The candle blew out somewhere mid-fall. Alok wanted to scream but his scream remained stuck in this throat. All he could do was throw his arm out in horror watching her crash to the ground and then disappear as the waves crashed all over her, becoming one with her lover, in the watery grave.
Alok staggered back and sat himself down on a milestone by the side of the road. He did not realize when morning came.
When he got to the Hotel he found Shubra waiting for him, she had been crying and looked most anxious. She came charging at him, crazed, “Where the hell have you been all night and why have you not been answering the phone, I am just sick….”
Then she stopped. She had come close to see the expression on his face, there was deep anguish. Something had jolted him out of his everyday reverie. “What is the matter Alok?” her voice grew soft and the concern had a touch of affection mixed in it.
Alok and Shubra stood at the very spot that Alok had stood the night before watching the lighthouse. It was a cold foggy night. The road lay quiet; the last car had passed them by an hour ago.
It was past midnight and there was no sign of Julia’s Spirit.
“You were drunk Alok, you could have been mistaken,” Shubra whispered.
Alok shook his head. “No Shubra, she will come, I know, I believe.” Shubra sighed, “Ghosts don’t exist Alok, there is nothing to believe…” “There!” Alok whispered loudly. Then Shubra saw her too, candle in hand looking at the two of them, the waves crashing under her. Then like the night before she threw herself off the lighthouse. Shubra screamed and buried her face in Alok’s jacket. When she looked back Julia was gone, only the waves remained, lashing at the shore. They stood there for a long time after as the fog approached them from the sea.
“What we believe exists and what we don’t believe exists too. Its existence doesn’t change based on our belief,” Alok whispered.
“Like our love,” said Shubra gently.
“Yes, if we believe then it hasn’t gone anywhere,” replied a teary eyed Alok.
As the fog enveloped them in its loving embrace Alok and Shubra kissed like they had never kissed before.