Love is Reciprocal, That’s the Truth – Tuberose!

“Get real, my friend. Love is Love when it is reciprocal.
And the rest is just a waste …”.

सच मेरे यार है, बस वोही प्यार है जिसके बदले में कोई तो प्यार दे बाकी बेकार है, यार मेरे …

Mannu Bhandari’s famous short story “Yehi Sach Hai“(My true feelings) was adapted on screen as “Rajnigandha” (The Tuberose Bouquet) , where the protagonist opens her heart to reveal her vacillation between two men as she tries to determine ‘her true feelings’ . Love triangles on silver screen are routinely settled using the aforementioned wise words by Javed Akhtar where the third character must make way, sometimes by laying down own life, to bring the other two together. ‘Yehi sach hai’ is unlike such typical love triangles. Here the heroine has to choose between the two men in her life who have ‘touched’ her heart. She settles on one when the other man leaves a lot unsaid in the reply to her love letter.

Rajnigandha is a rare mainstream film where the plot features nothing besides the dilemma of a woman. It is the story of Deepa, not Chandani or Simran, who eventually discovers her one true love, but only after taking sufficient time to weigh it against her “पहला प्यार” – first love!

Mukesh won the National Award for Best Male Playback Singer for this song penned by lyricist Yogesh who summarises the plot with the lines किसको मीत बनाऊँ, किसकी प्रीत भुलाऊँ (Whom do I choose, whose advances do I shun?). Directer Basu Chatterjee has shot this evergreen number composed by Salil Chowdhury to cinemtaically depict a moving paragraph in the short story.

“स्काई-रूम!” निशीथ टैक्सीवाले को आदेश देता है।
‘टुन’ की घंटी के साथ मीटर डाउन होता है और टैक्सी हवा से बातें करने लगती है। निशीथ बहुत सतर्कता से कोने में बैठा है, बीच में इतनी जगह छोड़कर कि यदि हिचकोला खाकर भी टैक्सी रूके, तो हमारा स्पर्श न हो। हवा के झोंके से मेरी रेशमी साड़ी का पल्लू उसके समूचे बदन को स्पर्श करता हुआ उसकी गोदी में पड़कर फरफराता है। वह उसे हटाता नहीं है। मुझे लगता है, यह रेशमी, सुवासित पल्लू उसके तन-मन को रस से भिगो रहा है, यह स्पर्श उसे पुलकित कर रहा है, मैं विजय के अकथनीय आह्लाद से भर जाती हूँ।

आज भी मैं संजय की बात नहीं कह पाती। चाहकर भी नहीं कह पाती। अपनी इस विवशता पर मुझे खीज भी आती है, पर मेरा मुँह है कि खुलता ही नहीं। मुझे लगता है कि मैं जैसे कोई बहुत बड़ा अपराध कर रही होऊँ, पर फिर भी मैं कुछ नहीं कह सकी।

यह निशीथ कुछ बोलता क्यों नहीं? उसका यों कोने में दुबककर निर्विकार भाव से बैठे रहना मुझे कतई अच्छा नहीं लगता। एकाएक ही मुझे संजय की याद आने लगती है। इस समय वह यहाँ होता तो उसका हाथ मेरी कमर में लिपटा होता! यों सड़क पर ऐसी हरकतें मुझे स्वयं पसन्द नहीं, पर जाने क्यों, किसी की बाहों की लपेट के लिए मेरा मन ललक उठता है। मैं जानती हूँ कि जब निशीथ बगल में बैठा हो, उस समय ऐसी इच्छा करना, या ऐसी बात सोचना भी कितना अनुचित है। पर मैं क्या करूँ? जितनी द्रुतगति से टैक्सी चली जा रही है, मुझे लगता है, उतनी ही द्रुतगति से मैं भी बही जा रही हूँ, अनुचित, अवांछित दिशाओं की ओर।

टैक्सी झटका खाकर रूकती है तो मेरी चेतना लौटती है। मैं जल्दी से दाहिनी ओर का फाटक खोलकर कुछ इस हड़बड़ी से नीचे उतर पड़ती हूँ, मानो अन्दर निशीथ मेरे साथ कोई बदतमीजी कर रहा हो।
“अजी, इधर से उतरना चाहिए कभी?” टैक्सीवाला कहता है मुझे अपनी गलती का भान होता है। उधर निशीथ खड़ा है, इधर मैं, बीच में टैक्सी!
पैसे लेकर टैक्सी चली जाती है तो हम दोनों एक-दूसरे के आमने-सामने हो जाते हैं।

“Sky Room!” Nishith ordered the cab driver. The meter went down with the sound of a “ting” and soon the taxi speeded up. Nishith carefully sat in a corner, leaving enough space between us to ensure that even if the taxi stops suddenly, we will not accidentally brush one another. Breeze blows the loose end of my silk saree in his lap. He does not remove it. I think, this silky, aromatic cloth drapes both his mind and body filling him with nectar. This touch has delighted him. I am full of the unspeakable joy of victory.

I fail to mention Sanjay again. Despite my best intentions. I fret about my helplessness but my mouth just fails to open. I feel that I am committing a crime and yet I do not say anything.

And why is Nishith so silent? I absolutely detest his sitting stoically in a corner. Suddenly I get reminded of Sanjay. Wouldn’t he have wrapped his arms around me, were he here? While I detest any public display of affection, I want someone to hug me close. I know it is wrong to feel this way with Nishith sitting next to me. But what do I do? The faster this cab moves, I feel, I too am getting blown at the same speed in inappropriate and unwanted directions.

The taxi stops suddenly and I regain my senses. I quickly open the gate on the right hand side and get off hurriedly as if Nishith was taking advantage of me in the car.

I realise my mistake when the taxi driver says – “Oh, why would anyone get off from that side?” Nishith stands there, I am here, separated by the taxi between us. The taxi leaves after taking payment. Now we remain behind, standing face to face.

The film is a fairly faithful adaptation of the short story with a few changes catering to the commercial film audience. Nishith, an uncommon name, becomes Navin. In the short story, Deepa meets Nishith in Patna when her father was still alive. After their breakup and her father’s death, she moves to Kanpur, on her own, renting a place. She is rarely in touch with her brother and bhabhi who remain behind in Patna. Renting a place alone in Kanpur gives her the luxury of taking a daily evening stroll with Sanjay. The ‘bold’ character of Deepa is toned down in the film. Here, Deepa is adored by her elder brother and his wife. They live together in Delhi. Sanjay is her former classmate who visits Deepa at home often in the presence of her bhabhi. He declares his plans to marry Deepa in front of her sister-in-law thereby conforming the patronage enjoyed by their blossoming love. Sanjay is shown to take a job soon after graduation whereas Deepa continues to study and stay in the same city with her sibling and his spouse. Deepa’s brother and bhabhi leave for Patna to attend a marriage during the period of her vacillation, thereby leaving Deepa alone, thus making the film consistent with the story as she waits and waits for the reply from Navin.

Deepa’s romance with Nishith/Navin is platonic but her affair with Sanjay is not. In fact, touch plays a major part throughout the narrative. In the opening act, Deepa comforts herself with the thought that she has forgotten her first love with these words:

संजय, यह तो सोचो कि यदि ऐसी कोई भी बात होती, तो क्या मैं तुम्हारे आगे, तुम्हारी हर उचित-अनुचित चेष्टा के आगे, यों आत्मसमर्पण करती? तुम्हारे चुम्बनों और आलिंगनों में अपने को यों बिखरने देती? जानते हो, विवाह से पहले कोई भी लड़की किसी को इन सबका अधिकार नहीं देती। पर मैंने दिया। क्या केवल इसीलिए नहीं कि मैं तुम्हें प्यार करती हूँ, बहुत-बहुत प्यार करती हूँ? विश्वास करो संजय, तुम्हारा-मेरा प्यार ही सच है। निशीथ का प्यार तो मात्र छल था, भ्रम था, झूठ था।

Sanjay, just think, if at all there was anything (between me and Nishith), would I ever, despite your fair and unfair gestures, surrender myself to you? Would I lose myself in your hugs and kisses? Do you know, a girl does not give such liberties to anyone before marriage. But I have given this right to you. Is it not because I not only love you but also because I love you very very much? Believe me Sanjay, our love is true love. Nishith’s love was just a trick, an illusion, a lie.

Deepa and Sanjay are looking forward to a blissful married life once Sanjay gets his promotion. Sanjay is her caring anchor who fails to notice the efforts that she puts in to look pretty for his sake. He is unable to say no to his friends and wastes the time that could be spent with her. He is also the person who has gifted most of her possessions in her room, the wall clock, her green curtains, the book shelf, the table, her pen and that vase. Once she passingly mentions her fascination for the smell of tuberose (रजनीगंधा) and he makes it a rule to fill that vase with a bouquet of tuberose every few days. In his absence, the flowers become the umpteen eyes of Sanjay that watch her, stroke her. indulge her! And she feels coy by the sheer thought of being continuously watched by these innumerable eyes. There is another rule that he follows – to embrace her and plant a kiss ( बस, बाहों में भरकर एक बार चूम लेता है। यह भी जैसे उसका रोज़ का नियम है।)

Deepa gets a call to be interviewed in a different city. Sanjay encourages her with the assurance that he too will get transferred to his head-office in that city, if she succeeds. But he is unable to take a few days off from work to accompany her for the interview. She decides to take help from Ira, her only friend in a new city. Sanjay reminds her that Nishith also lives there but she is unwilling to seek any help from a person she despises.

पर संजय को कैसे समझाऊँ यह सब? कैसे उसे समझाऊँ कि निशीथ ने मेरा अपमान किया है, ऐसा अपमान, जिसकी कचोट से मैं आज भी तिलमिला जाती हूँ। सम्बन्ध तोड़ने से पहले एक बार तो उसने मुझे बताया होता कि आखिर मैंने ऐसा कौन-सा अपराध कर डाला था, जिसके कारण उसने मुझे इतना कठोर दंड दे डाला? सारी दुनिया की भर्त्सना, तिरस्कार, परिहास और दया का विष मुझे पीना पड़ा। विश्वासघाती! नीच कहीं का! और संजय सोचता है कि आज भी मेरे मन में उसके लिए कोई कोमल स्थान है! छि:! मैं उससे नफरत करती हूँ! और सच पूछो तो अपने को भाग्यशालिनी समझती हूँ कि मैं एक ऐसे व्यक्ति के चंगुल में फँसने से बच गई, जिसके लिए प्रेम महज एक खिलवाड़ है।

How do I explain this to Sanjay? How do I explain that Nishith has insulted me, an insult that makes me angry even today. Did he ever tell me my offence that resulted in our break-up? Why did he give me such a severe punishment? I swallowed condemnation, contempt, ridicule and pity offered by everyone who knew us. Betrayer! The wretched one! And Sanjay thinks I still have a soft spot for him. Damn! I hate him! And truth be told I consider myself fortunate that I did not fall for a man who thinks that love is child’s play.

In the book, Deepa bumps into Nishith at a cafe and introduces him to Ira. In the film, Ira is unable to pick Deepa at station and hence sends Nishith whom she already knows well, perhaps from their college days. In both the versions, unlike Sanjay, Nishith takes time off from his work to help Deepa get that job. On the first day, Deepa is very unhappy to meet Nishith who has remained unmarried and goes to bed thinking about Sanjay. She decides to inform Nishith about her plans to marry Sanjay, very soon.

The next morning Navin arrives punctually. Deepa gets reminded of Sanjay who is habitually late making excuses for his time away from her. Her old boyfriend is very organised. He gets most of the information on phone. He spends the day with her affably but talks only about her job. Deepa is grateful that her married life with Sanjay will benefit owing to his dedicated efforts and gets over the resentment she felt on the night before. That night she goes to bed thinking about the missing flowers and Sanjay:

ता नहीं संजय, तुम इस समय क्या कर रहे हो! तीन दिन हो गए, किसी ने बाँहों में भरकर प्यार तक नहीं किया।

Sanjay, I don’t know what are you doing at this hour! I have not been hugged and loved for three days.

The next day, Deepa is very nervous during her interview. Nishith assures her that she did well and is likely to land that job. Deepa thinks he is going out of his way to compensate for the hurt inflicted earlier. He suggests that they celebrate the occasion but Ira opts out. Deepa gets ready for the party dressed in Nishith’s favourite colour. Unlike Sanjay, who does not pay any attention to her looks, her outfit, the time she spent to get dressed for him, Navin is very quick to compliment her. Deepa is disappointed with Sanjay. She feels that Nishith does not have the right to compliment her. That right belongs to Sanjay. She decides once again to inform her old friend about her plans to marry Sanjay.

During the dinner at a restaurant, after that taxi ride, Deepa is unsure again. He does not bring up the past but she feels that he is seeking her forgiveness. The silence during the meal reminds her of the intimacy during their time together:

मेरे सामने तो पटना में गुजारी सुहानी सन्ध्याओं और चाँदनी रातों के वे चित्र उभरकर आते हैं, जब घंटों समीप बैठ, मौन भाव से हम एक-दूसरे को निहारा करते थे। बिना स्पर्श किए भी जाने कैसी मादकता तन-मन को विभोर किए रहती थी, जाने कैसी तन्मयता में हम डूबे रहते थे ए़क विचित्र-सी, स्वप्निल दुनिया में! मैं कुछ बोलना भी चाहती तो वह मेरे मुँह पर उंगली रखकर कहता, “आत्मीयता के ये क्षण अनकहे ही रहने दो, दीपा!”

I recall the beautiful evenings and the moonlight nights spent in Patna, the hours we spent sitting close, quietly looking at each other. The strange dream world where we remained engrossed in the intoxication that filled mind and body even without touching each other! If I tried to utter a few words, he would put his fingers to my lips, “Deepa, let these moments of intimacy remain unsaid!”

Before going to bed, she wants to remember Sanjay but it is Navin who forges ahead.

On the next day, they visit a lake. Nishith expresses his happiness about the time spent together and looks forward to her return to his city.

मेरी साँस जहाँ-की-तहाँ रूक जाती है आगे के शब्द सुनने के लिए, पर शब्द नहीं आते। बड़ी कातर, करूण और याचना-भरी दृष्टि से मैं उसे देखती हूँ, मानो कह रही होऊँ कि तुम कह क्यों नहीं देते निशीथ, कि आज भी तुम मुझे प्यार करते हो, तुम मुझे सदा अपने पास रखना चाहते हो, जो कुछ हो गया है, उसे भूलकर तुम मुझसे विवाह करना चाहते हो? कह दो, निशीथ, कह दो! य़ह सुनने के लिए मेरा मन अकुला रहा है, छटपटा रहा है! मैं बुरा नहीं मानूँगी, ज़रा भी बुरा नहीं मानूँगी। मान ही कैसे सकती हूँ निशीथ! इतना सब हो जाने के बाद भी शायद मैं तुम्हें प्यार करती हूँ – शायद नहीं, सचमुच ही मैं तुम्हें प्यार करती हूँ!

I hold my breath to catch his next words, but there are no further words. I look at him, cravenly, yearningly and pleadingly as if telling him that why don’t you just say that you are still in love with me and want to spend your life with me, that let the bygones be bygones, forget that and marry me? Tell me, Nishith, just tell me! I am begging you, I am desperate to hear these words! I won’t mind, I will not not mind it at all! How will I mind, Nishith! After all that has happened, perhaps I still love you – no, not perhaps, I genuinely love you very much!

Next day, Deepa catches the train to return home. At the terminus, she asks Ira to leave early, confident that Navin will come to bid adieu. He arrives just in time making small talk about her journey. She is upset that he does not put words to his affection. She waits as the clock ticks by and it is time to leave. As the train departs, he keeps up with her for a few steps slowly pressing her hands.

मेरा रोम-रोम सिहर उठता है। मन करता है चिल्ला पडूँ-मैं सब समझ गई, निशीथ, सब समझ गई! जो कुछ तुम इन चार दिनों में नहीं कह पाए, वह तुम्हारे इस क्षणिक स्पर्श ने कह दिया। विश्वास करो, यदि तुम मेरे हो तो मैं भी तुम्हारी हूँ, केवल तुम्हारी, एकमात्र तुम्हारी! पर मैं कुछ कह नहीं पाती। बस, साथ चलते निशीथ को देखती-भर रहती हूँ। गाड़ी के गति पकड़ते ही वह हाथ को ज़रा-सा दबाकर छोड़ देता है। मेरी छलछलाई आँखें मुँद जाती हैं। मुझे लगता है, यह स्पर्श, यह सुख, यह क्षण ही सत्य है, बाकी सब झूठ है, अपने को भूलने का, भरमाने का, छलने का असफल प्रयास है।

I am shaken to the core. I feel like screaming at him- I have understood everything, Nishith! All that you failed to communicate in the last few days has been revealed in this fleeting touch. Believe me, if you belong to me, I too belong to you, and you alone! But I am not able to say anything. I just watch him moving with the train. As the train speeds up, he presses my hands slightly before leaving them. I close my tearful eyes. I feel, this touch, this bliss, this moment is the truth, everything else is a lie, an unsuccessful attempt to forget, deceive, betray oneself.

She returns to an empty home to find a small note from Sanjay that he is out of town complaining that she did not keep him posted. She wonders whether that departing touch from Nishith was more intoxicating than the several kisses with Sanjay. Her first love was the real love. She was on a rebound and mistook Sanjay’s kindness during a difficult time, away from home, soon after her father passed away, to be a feeling of love. She writes a letter to Nishith that she has forgiven him for the past and has understood everything that he wanted to communicate through those unspoken moments. She posts the letter in a beautiful envelope and waits. That night she goes to bed looking away from the empty vase given by Sanjay.

It is a long wait. For five days she is all by herself. Not a word from Navin. The evenings pass by. She forces herself to take an evening stroll, without Sanjay, wandering aimlessly. She gets a telegram from Ira confirming her appointment. From Ira, not Navin. What about all those unspoken moments of intimacy? Was that an illusion? Of course not, I felt that touch. Oh, he is unable to pen his thoughts and will write soon.

The expected letter arrives eventually. In a few words he acknowledges her letter and congratulates her on success.

इस सफलता के लिए मेरी ओर से हार्दिक बधाई स्वीकार करना। सच, मैं बहुत खुश हूँ कि तुम्हें यह काम मिल गया! मेहनत सफल हो गई। शेष फिर।

Accept my heartiest congratulations on your success. Really, I am very happy that you got the job! My hard work has paid off. More later.

That’s it. That is all he has to say. “More Later”. Is their more? And if yes, why didn’t he write that? Before she can compose herself from the devastating disappointment, Sanjay appears at the door, smiling at her with her favourite tuberose bouquet in his hands. She rushes at him like a deranged person. She starts crying and asks him why he went away. Sanjay misunderstands it as her failure to land that job and tries to cheer her up. She does not utter a word. She does not want to say anything.

मेरी बाँहों की जकड़ कसती जाती है, कसती जाती है। रजनीगन्धा की महक धीरे-धीरे मेरे तन-मन पर छा जाती है। तभी मैं अपने भाल पर संजय के अधरों का स्पर्श महसूस करती हूँ, और मुझे लगता है, यह स्पर्श, यह सुख, यह क्षण ही सत्य है, वह सब झूठ था, मिथ्या था, भ्रम था।
और हम दोनों एक-दूसरे के आलिंगन में बँधे रहते हैं- चुम्बित, प्रति-चुम्बित!

I just keep hugging him, tighter and tighter. The smell of tuberose slowly overpowers me. I feel Sanjay’s lips on my forehead, I experience his touch and then I realise, this touch, this bliss, this moment is real, that was an illusion, a lie, a deception. And both of us remain locked in an embrace – kissing and kissing back!

The story ends with the words – प्रति-चुम्बित! – kissing back. Deepa has understood herself after an arduous journey and the importance of being loved.

Yogesh wrote two songs for this film. One of them was about her dilemma shot during the taxi ride. The other one acknowledges her true love depicted during her courtship with Sanjay, before her interview.

रजनीगंधा फूल तुम्हारे महके यूँ ही जीवन में। हाँ यूँ ही महके प्रीत पिया की मेरे अनुरागी मन में।

Let the fragrance of tuberose fill our lives. Yes, exactly like the ‘fragrance of my beloved’s love’ saturates my devoted heart.

It is an apt summary of the short story using beautiful words. Deepa has a devoted heart (अनुरागी मन). Sanjay loves her. He is imperfect. He ignores her. He does not notice her outward appearance. But he loves her. That love fills her heart like the fragrance of flowers that fill her room.

PS: A year after this post, Wenger said, “The club loves him and he loves the club and reciprocity in love is the most difficult thing to find”.

One thought on “Love is Reciprocal, That’s the Truth – Tuberose!

  1. alokjoshi

    Very well written piece, Milind.
    Its difficult to slice emotions precisely, more so, when it involves the not so trivial matters of the heart. Also, harmonising the story and the movie it bore is ardous. You have managed both these aspects flawlessly.


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