It was now one year since Aparajeet and Garvitha Chopra were married in great splendour in the fabulous city of Mumbai . The hills and dales of Kerala, with their luscious green vegetation and miles of tea plantations amidst a cool and temperate climate, provided a romantic backdrop for the young couple to celebrate their first year of marriage. As they stood hand-in-hand on top of a small hill overlooking a vast swathe of tropical rainforest, Aparajeet and Garvitha had the feeling of being nothing less than masters of all they surveyed. The hustle and bustle of Bombay with its bright lights, high-rise buildings, hypermarket chains, spaghetti tangles of motorways and all the forms of ultra-modern facilities which the year 2050 could provide, seemed so far away as to be unreal.
Aparajeet had finished his PhD in rocket science two years previously and now held a responsible position as a rocket engineer with the Indian Space Agency at their new research facilities on the outskirts of Bombay . Garvitha equaled her husband in academic achievements and would severely scold anyone who introduced her and Apareejat as ‘Dr. & Mrs. Chopra,’ for with her doctorate in pharmacy, she held the post of Senior Consultant at Bombay Pharmaceuticals, a world leader in pharmaceuticals and medical research.
Aparajeet and Garvitha were, no doubt, what many in India aspired to be. Apart from their brilliant academic qualifications, they had all the physical attributes of their respective genders. Aparajeet was tall, dark and handsome; years of playing cricket and soccer had given him a muscular build and a stamina which few could equal. Garvitha was a tall, slim Indian lady whose well proportioned body ensured that she carried herself with a feminine grace and with a dignity which rendered unto her the most regal of appearances. Being of the Brahmin caste, Aparajeet's and Garvitha's vegetarian diet was a contributing factor to their physical and mental well-being.
It would surely seem that this paradisiacal life would be the envy of most; the couple were secure in their occupations, secure in their home and assured of a brilliant future. Yet, as they looked out over the forest while standing atop the hillock and surrounded by a sea of flowers dancing and swaying in the gentle Kerala breeze, they were constantly aware that there is no rose without a thorn and that every paradise has its worm.
It was in fact a ‘worm’ that was eating away at Aparajeet. Three months previously he had been diagnosed with an unusual form of cancer; in fact it was a disease that was peculiar unto him and to him alone, for medical science had never seen anything like it.
“It’s so unfair,” Aparajeet would say to Garvitha. “Why me? There are over one billion people in India and over seven billion in the whole world and this new and strange disease had to choose me. It’s so damned unfair!” ‘God’s own country,’ the accolade so often attributed to Kerala, kept running through his mind as he viewed the gorgeous beauty around him and the gorgeous beauty standing next to him. But where was God when this disease struck him? In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had lost favour with God, but he, Aparajeet Chopra, having eaten of no forbidden fruit from any tree off-limits to mankind, felt unjustly singled out to die in the prime of life from an unknown disease.
As they descended the knoll, Aparajeet took hold of Garvitha’s hand and squeezed it tightly in his. If this disease should prove to be of a terminal nature, then he would give Garvitha all the love he could give her in the short time allotted to him in this mortal life. They walked back to their car hand-in hand and drove to their hotel in Idukii.
They walked into the charming surroundings of the Maharajah Restaurant of the Grand Palace Hotel and sat at a table laid with the crockery and cutlery of the finest gold and silver India could offer. A waiter, in traditional Indian attire bowed to the couple as he handed them each a menu whose contents they perused in silence. A few minutes later, the waiter, having taken their orders, bowed again as he took the menus from them and poured some fresh Kerala spring water into their crystal glasses. For an hour, the young couple ate their meal in silence, trying to appear as happy as their circumstances would allow. They did not wish to contribute any air of melancholy to the place of happiness in which they now sat, for the restaurant played host to others who had come to enjoy the splendiferous beauty of Kerala. At one table sat a young couple lovingly gazing into each other’s eyes – it seemed clear to Aparajeet and Garvitha that they were newlyweds on honeymoon. At another table sat a middle aged husband and wife – perhaps celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary. Relaxed and at ease, they contemplated each other in a manner which suggested that their years of married life had not erased that love which had, so long ago, brought them into the ties of wedlock. And there was a table with a family of four – father and mother with their teenage son and daughter. Though nothing was conveyed in words between Aparajeet and Garvitha, they seemed to emanate a telepathic communication between their so-alike loving and caring minds an understanding which if articulated would say “who are we to spoil this beautiful atmosphere made by and for such peaceful and charming people.”
"Garvitha dear," said Aparajeet at the end of their meal, "I want to return to the knoll."
"Why do you want to return there, my love?" inquired Garvitha.
"I don't know. Something is drawing me back there; perhaps it's because I want to see a Kerala sunset."