The lawn garden was transformed into a dance floor. Music filled the intoxicated air.

The pineapple and cheese piece broke through the small pick and fell to the ground from Madhu’s hand. Being clad in a tight skirt , she kneeled to clean up , it was at the feet of a middle aged woman, in a long blue gown. The lady had the kindest smile and saddest eyes. She was drinking white wine. Madhu sat next to her and made a brief self introduction. When she heard the word doctor, she gulped down the entire cup, and then asked Madhu “Can you fill me another cup?” Madhu walked across the lawn to fill that cup, Rake looked on. She went back to the lady in blue gown, in the dimness of the lights of the hall, the ruby ring on her finger looked like a blob of crimson blood. Madhu thought if sorrow decided to wear a dress, become a woman, and look beautiful, this is how it would look.

The atmosphere got warmer with subtle loss of control, sofas were sunk, here and there some alcohol was spilt. Madhu asked her “What do you do?” The lady looked at the shining surface of the full wine cup “To live or die? You should be on the dance floor child, you are wasting your smiles on me” Madhu was hurt. The lady touched her arm,

“ I am sorry, I am not doing much these days” Madhu did not want to talk now.It would seem rude to abruptly walk away, she saw a mosquito sitting on that lady’s free hand, she saw the lady just watching it, as though she wanted some one to suck her blood, there was no withdrawal reflex. There was a will to invite hurt they locked eyes

“My three years old daughter was eaten alive by a hungry tiger, in the Brindavan National Park, two years back, you may have read it in papers”

Madhu remembered, it was a gruesome accident, the tiger had jumped on the grilled jeep, dragged the baby out and nothing much of that small body had remained. Madhu did not think such grief could be consoled away, she was silent. “She was so mangled, even the face was damaged. The pink dress she had selected. She was quite scared of tigers, I don’t know why that day she put her head out, I keep asking that, like other mothers I did not even encourage her to be brave or anything, I told her they were not nice, they are carnivores” dried up tears caused it to be, just a  bald statement. The glass was empty, she pleaded with Madhu, “Please fill it for me will you?”

Madhu knew she should not be drinking any more, however justified her grief was, as though defying Madhu’s concern “Don’t ask me to feed orphans, do social work, do art of living, Vipassana blah blah, lot of people have told me all that” Madhu had to think quickly, the song blasted

“Love, I just died in your arms tonight, must have been some thing you said*”

Madhu kept aside the glass held her hand and dragged her to the dance floor, she could not stand, so Madhu pretended to be a guy, and slow danced with her, making her laugh.As she smelt that fragrant long swan like neck of the lady in her arms, Madhu felt a tenderness similar to what that lady must have felt for that tiny torn three years old girl. Everyone was probably very gentle with her out of concern for her, and respecting her grief. She needed a man who understood, but would not let the sympathy intimidate him, who could love the life in her, affirming it more than the death which hovered behind. She peered over her shoulders and said……………………..

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