"What brings you here Ma'am?", I asked, keen on diverting the subject of conversation from my marriage. She smiled and replied, "Why do tourists come here?"
"They have their reasons. A friend once told me how 'staring at the sea' helped him 'reclaim his life'.", I said.
She laughed and said, "I have something like that in my mind as well. Though I find the word 'reclaim' a little too polarizing."
The waiter informed us of the distinct possibility of a storm and asked us to head back to our hotel rooms as soon as possible.
I nodded while the lady kept staring at the sea. Strangely, I could sense 'joy' in her face. Anticipation coupled with freedom. The look of a prisoner who had been freed.
"I've been married for 28 years. Today, for the first time in my life, I walked out.", she said while twisting her cup of coffee. I remained silent but did not take my eyes off her. She needed a listener and I did not want to disappoint her.
"I should have done this a long time ago. But I was too scared.", she said. The sea was beginning to look more intimidating now, as waves thrashed against the human made barriers. Some of the tourists got up to leave while the more seasoned campaigners stayed on, knowing perfectly well that they had at least half an hour more before the storm started moving in.
"I was raped on my first night by the man my parents had found me. 'Lack of knowledge' the families had called it. But to be honest, my husband had problems that needed to be treated. Going to a psychologist was considered taboo in an upper class family but domestic violence wasn't. The fact that my husband was regarded by many, as the finest gentleman in politics, did not help me either. To the public he was Mr. Charming. To us, including our kids, he was nothing but the devil."
She was not looking at the cup of coffee anymore. Instead her gaze was fixed on a deep, long scar on her left wrist. I had spent too many sleepless nights at the 'Emergency' ward to not realise what it was.
"Did you try calling the police?", I asked.
"I never had the courage. Police stay away from politicians for obvious reasons. It would've been..suicide.", she said, volume dropping a little.
"The family said things would get better with a baby. And it did for sometime. I delivered him a baby boy like everyone had wanted. After an year he wanted another. I did not think I was ready but my vote did not matter. We had another boy, only this time my baby was autistic."
She looked at the sea again. The sky had gone remarkably dark and there were flashes of lightning in the horizon accompanied by long rumbles. She was crying. Tears running through her cheeks until gravity pulled it to the napkin on her thigh.
The glass window of the coffee shop reflected her sad eyes. Her face, now highlighted by the dark grey clouds in the background, told a story of a woman who had lost her motive in life. It was highly likely that her son had passed away recently. She wiped her eyes with a tissue paper, pointed at the clouds and said, "Aren't they beautiful?"
The news channel had reported a storm. People were being moved to regions of the city with higher altitude. Schools had been set up as emergency camps for the under-privileged.
At the hospital, we had moved all the electronic instruments to safer heights and were busy shifting the patients when I spotted one sitting on a bench in the park, next to the rehab center.
She was bald, due to a recent chemo, and was looking at the clouds when I reached there. She smiled, pointed to the sky and said, "Aren't they beautiful?"
I looked at the sky, like I had then, and succumbed to the sheer magnificence of what lay above my head. What some of us never sees in our lifetime.
(To be contd..)