The valley was full of beautiful flowers. Occasionally, a butterfly flitted past. A chirp and the hum of a busy bee gathering nectar were the only sounds that broke the silence.
Such profound peace is in itself overwhelming. It fills the heart, but a broken heart? A damaged soul? The colors -- green, yellow, pink, violet -- all fuse into a dull gray.
He remembered the days when there was light in his life and with that memory, everything else came flooding back. He remembered those carefree times when he could frolic in the valley without a care in the world but bygones were bygones.
"Now I must face the reality in my life," he told himself sternly.
Then the floodgates of the dam of his memories opened once more and for the umpteenth time he recollected how his multi-color dreams and his hopes were dashed to pieces in a day.
He had always been a leader -- one whom people looked up to for inspiration. His father had brought him up single-handedly, as his mother had died when he was very young.
At the age of sixteen he met her. She was one of the most beautiful damsels in the valley. She was marvelous in every conceivable way and he was sure they would make a fantastic couple yet he never expressed his feelings.
A year flew by and soon it was time to leave for further education -- to fulfill his father's life long dream that he graduate out from the most prestigious college This meant giving an entrance exam and going away from home as well as his love.
He decided to pour his heart out to her before he left. That day as she was walking home from college he told her all that he had ever felt for her.
"When you come back, I'll be there," she had said in a voice that he would never forget.
The next day while he was leaving, all his friends came to see him off but his eyes scanned the crowd only for her. Her absence increased his agitation and he began to wonder whether she had really meant what she had said.
Then he saw her standing there -- in a corner away from the crowd smiling shyly. It seemed to take a lifetime to reach the spot where she stood.
"Bye," she said through her tears. Do not forget me there".
"Can I ever?" was all he could say as he left her standing there hurrying past everyone to get into the train.
He kept waving out until he could only see the sunlight glinting off her hair and finally, that too became a mirage.
Mumbai to him was a city of promise. The entrance exam was a breeze .He was confident that he would one day have what many wanted but few got -- an engineer's degree from the most renowned institution in the country.
Then after four years he would go back to marry her. He dreamt of their life together and four years did not seem like a very long time. It was like a vision of the future.
"I think we can go back to the village and come back when the results are out. We have not reserved our tickets so we might as well travel in the unreserved compartment," his Dad said.
The rest of the day was spent in a state of reminiscing and how it would feel like to see her again.
That fateful day, he had told his father,"You get the tickets while I reserve the seats."
When his father returned with the tickets, the train was already there. As he looked carefully, he saw a small crowd gathered near the unreserved compartment. He was searching for his son in the crowd. He hated accidents but something drew him to the crowd; something that people call intuition. There was a young man lying there, his right leg smashed to almost nothing and the face -- that of his own son was deathly still.
Of the next few days, he had no recollection except that when he regained consciousness, his right leg was gone. He spent the whole month recuperating. On reaching home finally, it took him a long time to accept the fact that he was now handicapped for life.
She had been avoiding him and one day when he finally confronted her, she said "Don't be stupid to think we have a future together. I can't spend the rest of my life with an invalid," she said her eyes cold and defiant, "I do not want any part of your life now."
At first it seemed unreal. Didn't she realize that his life would become meaningless? How could she shatter him? The aspirations that had once been his driving force became a retarding influence and they haunted him and mocked him 'till he thought he would surely lose his mental equilibrium.
It took him a long time to accept reality and by then he had joined a nearby engineering college. His work absorbed him and his I am at war with the world and the world is at war with me attitude began to change and he began to help everyone around. Soon, his mental strength returned.
It was during the semester exams that he met her -- she was so different from his old flame still, he felt her smile light up the entire room. The exams themselves were not a major hurdle for him and that evening, he realized with horror that he was falling in love yet again.
On the last day of the exams, the fans in the classroom were off and he could make out that she was sweating profusely. Nobody was concerned enough to switch on the fans. He walked the whole stretch on his crutches to switch on the fan. She looked up and dazzled him with her smile. He knew that he would never ever see her again after this day and it was better that they parted as strangers. He did not know if he could take another rejection.
Three years flew past and soon it was the first day of his job with a prestigious firm offering him a fat pay package. As he came home, his feelings were mixed; he had everything -- money, education, a stable job -- yet he had nothing.
He was listlessly glancing through some magazines when his father gave him the news, "I don't know how to say this but believe me, I am as shocked as you will be."
"What is it Dad? Is there any bad news?" he was used to it.
"No. In fact, you have a marriage proposal"
He was sure that this girl must be handicapped in some way. Who else would accept him? He decided to meet the girl anyway on the following Sunday.
He had mentally prepared himself for the shock of seeing an ugly creature in front of him. Nothing, however could have prepared him for what he saw.
He got the shock of his life, for here was the girl whom he had met during the exams. All that he had prepared himself for was lost somewhere, all the sermons and the carefully rehearsed speech were soon lost from his mind without a trace and all he could do was listen as she said
"Physical appearances are deceptive. Life can ruin anyone physically but what matters in the end is the mind. You proved that day in the exam hall that even your past had not dampened your enthusiasm and for me that's what matters the most .Do not worry about one rejection. There are always narrow minded people in the world."
They were married a month later and the valley turned colorful
yet again and soon he was content to see his children frolic in the
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