It was the night before Christmas…. 50 years they had been together. Roy had no regrets…. well maybe the thought that he could have should have had a fling or two on the side…. but then that was not exactly a regret just a thought… Kyra was in no way inadequate on the contrary she had been the one who had rescued him from certain disaster in more ways than one, turned his life around multiple times and always for the better… in fact only last night she had given him a haircut… It was probably just that remanant of an animal instinct which sometimes flared up and made him wonder what else could’ve been. Even at 75 years of age Roy and Kyra had not really lost touch with the world…. the parties, specially the year end one around Chirstmas, were the ones friends even 50 years younger to them actually looked forward to…. the ambience helped… this warmly lit cozy yet comfortable, accomodating, adequate house with a swimming pool and a fireplace, parking for at least 6 cars with an unobstructed view of the mountains…. but more than anything it was the stories that Roy told once he was suitably trussed up in his lazyboy out on the patio nursing his third vodka and tonic. This year there was no party though well at least not today… you never knew with Kyra she might feel like it tomorrow and then he would have to get on the horn with everyone get them to show up… but then that did not mean that the story wouldn’t be there now did it?
It was a cold cold morning thiry five years back… Roy was a young man coming off a train. Vishangarh a sleepy hamlet from the seventeenth century that had not been touched so far by the wheels of progress. Well except for the train that stopped for a couple of minutes every morning as if it had come to check if there was any change any sign of life. Roy had been dispatched off to this back of beyond place on a punishment posting. He was to setup a primary health care facility for the tribals and villagers in this remote outpost. Of course the supervisors who were feeling so smug about their decision to send him here had no clue how much Roy was looking forward to this assignment. Roy had been a rebel all along, some said he was a rebel without a cause. His sole alliegance lay with his work and he respected nothing else. Over the years Roy had built a formidable reputation, that of a superlatively brilliant doctor who could solve the most convoluted of medical puzzles but was extremely volatile and uncouth when it came to respect for authority. This latest episode was a result of the latter part of his reputation…. Roy had thrown out a politician from the ICCU. His logic was that the bed could be better used for genuine patients rather than by fat slob complaining of chest pain just so he could stay out of jail while his crows fought the case in some court. Unfortunately the fat slob managed to wriggle out of the court case, win an election and then influence the medical board. So here he was, doing “grunt work” as the slick doctors back home called it.
Roy was met by the local liason, a primary health care worker, and the headman of the village where he would be setting up base. Kyra had agreed to stay back and focus on her own work, well for the first six months at least, this was not going to be an easy assignment. The trek up hill to the village was in one word liberating. It was a precursor for the next six months as Roy worked with the locals, networked with the actual people on the ground and setup the clinic. The sheer joy of living in a secluded, un-polluted, tough region of interacting with simple, un-corrupted villagers of solving logistical and infrastructure problems of studying the region and deciding where best to locate the primary health care center…. it was that much needed reboot that Roy needed. It helped him decide what he wanted to do long term with his life. He did miss Kyra but then there was always the alternate weekend to look forward to when she would come visiting. They would go trekking in the mountains, pick wild flowers, drink from the fresh water streams, roast jungle fowl over an open spit by moon light and go to sleep under the stars…. he of course did not dare smoke that habitual single cigarette on those weekends. Not because he dd not want Kyra to find out but just because he had better things to do with himself on days when she was around. Roy never did anything to please anybody, never, he did whatever he felt was going to make him happy. Of course with Kyra he ended up doing whatever made her happy as her happiness is what eventually constituted his state of mind…. a grumpy Kyra was not going to make him feel happy so if it meant being courteous at dinners with colleagues… he was courteous.
And just like that an year was up. Roy had setup not one but two health care centers using the funds and resources that the government had sanctioned for just one clinic in the hills. He had made life long friends with all of the tribals and villagers. They all had been touched by the loner from the city in some way or the other. As Roy began to make his way to the rail head to catch the curious train back home he was joined by crying, thankful people forming a huge procession behind him. He was leaving behind three doctors who had been posted at the health centers. These were newly graduated doctors who had to do a mandatory stint at health care centers in the villages. However these three had been so well oriented by Roy that they actually looked forward to the stint. As the procession reached the station Roy turned around to shoo away the grateful mass of humanity behnd him, heck he could stand for elections and win easily…. if only he was a soulless politician…. He thanked them for all their help and told them that whenever he could he would try and come back to visit them. He never did manage to do that. Just as the train was squealing to a halt the bent over old midwife who had been Roys biggest asset in making inroads into the hearts of the population came rushing out of the crown and handed him a package. Moist eyed she told Roy “you have made a difference, we are all indebted to you, yours is a blessed life now, this is a charm that I have just handed over to you… the day you feel you have done all you could have and that there is no more you can do with your life just finish the charm…. the end will be peaceful”….. well the lady was rumored to be a shaman as well so who knows…. Roy tucked it away in the backpack and forgot about it….. Kyra asked about it when he got home and stored it away safely… it was a perfume bottle. An extremely unusual thing for a place like Vishangarh….. but then again
Today, 35 years on Roy sat on the patio looking at the evening sky the sun setting in the distance over the mountains…. the perfume bottle in his hand. Kyra had not wanted a party today, she had in fact not wanted anything since morning…. she hadn’t even wanted to wake up. As he took his hands off the plunger on the perfume bottle releasing the last of the exotic other worldly fragrance into the cold December air he realized he had forgotten to turn on the lights… never mind he thought…. it’ll soon be all peaceful and dark anyway…. and he would be back with Kyra on the other side…. their will would take care of everything else….