Red Roses in the Courtyard

 

Tahir Mehmood

 

She was always pleasantly amused and mystified by his gestures of love and affinity.

It had almost become customary for him to send her red roses and a matching cake on his own birthday. The number of red roses he sent every time varied depending on the meanings he wanted to convey. During the initial years of their friendship, she had to ask about the meanings attached to the number of roses, and he explained by adding a line to the birthday flowers. Once she asked him why did he send her flowers on his own birthday instead of expecting a birthday gift himself. His reply was, “This shows our deep affinity, a kind of kinship and oneness that we are not separate.” His ways of showing his love were somehow queer. He spoke through the language of roses. 

This year on his birthday he had sent a bouquet of ten red roses early in the morning, and the message read, “You are perfect for me.” She was enthralled and felt a great desire to converse, but she knew that she would have to wait till supper as his days were devoted to his friends who never felt tired of the work related to the affairs of men and women of their land. This reminded her of their first encounter. She had intended to visit an art gallery located in a far corner of the city, but while on the way she found herself caught in the middle of a procession. He was delivering a speech amidst cheers and slogans. She heard him saying to the crowd: “Look, we all love life, peace and prosperity. I wish life were to exist only through the eyes of a poet, a painter, a musician and a scholar who advocates and believes in the power of pacifism. I wish only virtue were to prevail in all the lands, instead I see vice everywhere. Nature is both evil and good; denying anyone will be denying Nature. I wish the ways of the world were different and this was a weapon-free world. But what other options are we left with when I see my neighbourhood piling up means of waging war? Today they are threatening us and tomorrow they will invade us. They are arrogant and powerful, and remember, power follows its own course. Friends, there are times when everyone has to rise to the occasion.” And then, with a voice filled with a great force of conviction and vigour, he spoke, “Shed away the self-doubts, discard the fear, and come out of the confusion that convinces you more of the power of enemy than your own faith in a just cause, courage, and ceaseless power of suffering and sacrifice. The enemy is knocking at door, and your Motherland’s honour is at stake, your identity is in danger, and your character is challenged. Fight, not as you are sure of victory, but fight as you must as men of honour do when their resolve is challenged! The enemy shall flinch at your undying will to fight. Comrades, respond to the call of time, and if nothing, remember, martyrdom is nothing less than a victory. Fight and die valiantly. History of your Motherland shall remain ever proud of your courage and sacrifice.” 

She was a quiet character, but in some strange moments of patriotic fervour and power of destiny, she raised a slogan at the top of her voice. While she felt a little embarrassed which further reddened her face pink, he looked at her with a feeling of rare joy. Their eyes met, and that was the beginning of a long bond of affinity.

He continued with his fiery speech and on that day she forgot to visit the art gallery. 

…………………………

When she reached the café for supper that night, he was already waiting for her. She was wearing his favourite colour, black. He told her once that the black colour possessed the magic to add charm to the power of red. The colours on her face often varied from pink to crimson to red, and it all added to her striking beauty. She remembered when he had sent her three red roses, and the accompanying message read, “I Love You.” By now she was getting familiar with his self-founded ‘rose language’ that depended on the number, colour and combination of roses. Roses of various colours he had sent always meant love but with subtle variation of meanings. The colour of red, cardinal red, carmine red, fiery red, burgundy, white, yellow, coral, orange, pink, peach, lavender and many more depicted his various colours of love – all intense and pure.

As in the morning, the roses spoke to her, “you are perfect for me,” she felt overwhelmed by the magic of love. She asked him to knot this ‘perfectness’ in a ‘perfect union’. 

In his words, that appeared cold, but with the warmth of love in his eyes had melted and swallowed her, he said: “The perfectness in love is a sublime bliss; a rare gift of Nature and Time, as both keep oscillating on the path of Life. This perfectness is the power of a moment, and if captured to the fullest, it lives forever as an unblemished memory. The moments occur in continuity and that makes the infinite line of Time which to most appears as a continuity. But in reality, each moment has its own character and memory. The movement of Nature is a bit slow as it passes through evolution, but the moments that compose Time, are a fast-fleeting phenomenon. The moments jumbled together in close vicinity do give a sense of continuity, but in actual they bear a continuous degree of change that is rarely noticeable. Look at the growth of children who continuously change, but no one moment can capture the degree of change they had undergone.”

He paused for a moment and she asked almost in a trance, “Why shouldn’t we perpetuate the continuity of jumbled moments and become one forever?” He gave her a smile that was wide like the sky, deep as the oceans and as pure as divine, and continued, “The process which is called ‘struggle’ is in fact the result of our innate desire to dominate. The man and woman are also locked in this intrinsic desire of domination which mostly seeks a change in others. God has created man in His image, and then man is doomed in his struggle to see other man in his image. In homes, it breeds a continuous struggle and strife between man and woman, and in the world outside, it has caused ceaseless wars and revolutions to change others.” He held her hand softly and uttered the words that she barely understood, “I want to perpetuate this moment of absolute unconditional love. This moment is the paragon that only few can grasp, and here I surrender to the power of love. Tonight I do not exist. I am you breathing in me. I perish in this moment of bliss to animate the love in posterity.” He left her hand, kissed her softly, and went away in the magic light of the moon and stars. 

She also left the café, almost in a trance of a perpetual love.

They did not meet for many of the following years, but he never forgot to send her red roses on his birthday. They did not converse for long either but she also learnt to speak the language of roses. 

………………………………

For many years of their lives, they moved in their own orbit. He, in his quest for truth, justice and prosperity in his land. And, she, to live the life with all its colours and charms. She symbolised the life in ordinary sense, and he had found meanings of life in an unending struggle for the people of his land. She occasionally read his articles and listened to the speeches he made to ever-growing cheering crowds. To his surprise, she had also started sending him red roses in various combinations on her birthday. Each time they received the roses, they felt as if they were living in a heavenly oasis that was blissfully found in a vast scorching desert of life.

One night, as she listened to his speech in a video recorded by their one mutual friend, he appeared thin and weak but his voice was still full of vigour. He spoke to the cheering crowd, “We, as a nation, today stand for the power of action. We have the finest of ideas but they are waiting to be put in motion. Remember, it is the power of ‘productive work’ that plays a vital role in the life of nations. Words alone can never feed the hungry, slogans do not clothe the destitute, and mere dreams never give life to the lifeless wretched souls of millions who are equal sons of Motherland.” Then he spoke in the tone of a solemn pledge, “We stand for freedom, but our freedom will never amount to anarchy. We will protect our identity and values, yet never shy away from the positive change that is bound to come through the process of continuous evolution. Our goal is prosperity, but our distribution of wealth will not come from snatching away personal property, but giving all of the men and women equal opportunities to work. The work and riches will be regulated in a way that haves do not become the lords of exploitation, and have-not be treated as scum of the earth. My dear comrades, all is a construct and possibility in ways of Nature except perfect equality. That will be fooling you, as sheep and lion, and a mouse and a cat are distinct, and so are we as individuals who are distinct in our power of work and creativity. But we humans have also the faculties to lessen the pains of unprivileged through the fruits of love, kindness and empathy. Remember, these virtues unless translated into systems, remain sporadic acts of nobleness that do not have the power to change the fate of a nation. Friends, dig deep in details, leave no space for unseen and discretionary, build systems of checks and balances. Patriotism is but the rule of law by obeying the agreed upon rules and procedures. But beware, limit not the man from flight of his imagination, and power of creativity.” She felt spellbound when he uttered these words, “I stand for universal values of peace and justice, but what to do with the power of prejudice that defines a distinct motherhood to nationhood? Every mother loves her children more than others, and every nation promotes interests of its citizens at the cost of others, so what options are we left with except to remain aware of evil, and construct a world of possible virtue through deliberate acts of war and peace. I love my Motherland, and I am proud of this prejudice, but I am not against others till they do not snatch away my right of life and property.”

On that she felt tears brimming in her eyes as she thought about his weary face and a weakened body. 

Every woman carries the soul of a mother in herself and that makes her love the man in different forms. 

On her next birthday, when she sent him six red roses with the line ‘I miss you’, he responded with a bouquet of 100 red roses. She knew what it meant, ‘I am devoted to you’. 

At supper time, sitting alone that night, she smiled and wept more than once. 

…………………

Few more years of their lives had passed. A lasting peace had been constructed among neighbours, and internally, through the synchronised use of action and idea. Justice had been fairly regulated in the lives of both powerful and the powerless. These were the times of union and happiness. 

And, one beautiful morning, she received a bouquet of a hundred and eight red roses. Her heart beamed with an infinite joy. “Will you marry me?” were the words she repeated numerous times during the entire day. As the evening approached, under the unseen spell of love, she wore his favourite black dress, and headed for the café. As she entered, she saw him already sitting there. She took no longer and put two fully blossomed red roses on the table. He knew the language of the rose, and the two embraced for long.

He had learnt that Life is not only living for one moment but also the jumbled moments that depict a continuity. 

Change shall come in our lives, but it can be smoothened and harnessed through the magical power of love!

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