Scripture verse, Psalm 18: 15, 16.
“Thou O Lord art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. O turn unto me and have mercy upon me; give Thy strength unto Thy servant.”
One morning, I drove to the edge of the forest. It was miles away from home, and my husband Kiran was not expected until the following day. The sun was out in all its glory. But in my heart was a chill I couldn’t shake off. I was floundering in a sea of dark despair, and all I wanted was an end to a life gone awry. From the bench where I rested, I could see the river below. Its waters beckoned, enticingly.
Four years of misery is a very long time. I was then a young nursing officer in the Army. Being a good pianist, I was often invited to play at our Mess parties, along with a group of officers, who were proficient with other instruments. At the Republic Day Party in 1991, I looked up from the keyboard into a pair of dark, captivating eyes. Earlier, I had seen this dapper young squadron leader walk into the Mess with a swagger. His late-coming was intentional. The idea was to create an impression, and bask in that moment of glory, when all eyes were turned on him. In his presence, the women grew starry-eyed, and the men, envious of his good looks and charm.
“Some people have it all,” they grumbled. He was also the youngest test pilot in the country.
“Do you play requests?” he asked.
“Depends on the kind of request, and who made it,” I replied.
“Squadron Leader Misra – that’s me. Pleased to make your acquaintance. My request is for a very old favourite – ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow.’”
I laughed. “Doesn’t suit the occasion. We’re geared up for fast numbers to which the crowd can dance. They’ll be baying for our necks if we break into a dirge.”
“Okay, you’re turning my request down at your own peril,” he warned, as he broke into a bewitching grin and walked away.
“Hm,” said one officer, “So the elusive bachelor has been smitten by your charms. That’s quite an achievement, Nina. You’ve earned a pat on your back.” They all thought it was hilarious. But just a week later, I was the nursing officer on duty when Kiran Misra was wheeled into Emergency, after a flying accident. Though in great pain, he smiled and said, “I warned you. Now everytime you look at me, you’ll have a guilty conscience because you didn’t play my request.”