As I walked home on a hot scorching day in Delhi, I stumbled on a wallet that someone had dropped accidentally in the street. Immediately I bent down; picked it up; opened it; and looked inside to find some sort of identification which would help me trace its owner. But the wallet contained only 3-one rupee notes and a crumpled letter that appeared to have been there for several years.
The envelope was tattered and all that was legible was the return address. I opened the letter hoping to find some clue of the receiver and the sender. The date on which the letter was written was marked as 13.12. 1957- Yes it was written about 60 years ago.
The beautiful hand writing appeared to be that of a lady and it was written on a pink stationary paper with a small flower on the right-hand corner. It read ‘Dearest Anurag’ that told the recipient that the writer was not in a position to see him any more as her mother was totally against their love affair and forbade her from meeting him anymore. . She continued to write that her love for him was eternal and hence wrote this letter without the knowledge of her mother. It bore the signature of the letter as Preeti.
It was a lovely letter, but other than the name Preeti there was no other way by which the owner could be identified. Probably if I could contact the telephone operator in the Telephone exchange, that person may be able to help me with the phone listing of the return address, if the address is still traceable after 60 long years! It was just a chance, which I was taking!
I dialled the telephone exchange and on hearing a lady’s voice, “Madam, Good morning! I have a very unusual request and hope you will be able to help me with it.”.
“Yes Good morning, go ahead please”.
I began, “I am trying to locate the owner of a wallet which I found on the roadside. Would you be able to tell me whether there is a telephone number for the address that is written on the envelope?”She urged me to speak to her boss who would be in a better position to help me out on this matter, who, after a minute’s hesitation, ‘Well, we do have a phone listing at the address specified by you , but sorry I cannot divulge the number as it is against the rule.’ He continued that as a courtesy, he would place a call to that number and explain the situation and ask them whether it is alright if he connected the call to me. Looked like the answer was in the affirmative. I waited a few minutes, and he continued to speak to the person on the other side, ‘The person is right now beside me and I will hand over the line to him.”
“Hello, good day! I am Anoop. I have a query, “said I. “Do you know of anyone by name of Preeti who could have stayed in your present house long long ago.” The person heaved a sigh, “Well when we bought this house about 30 years ago, they had a daughter called Preeti. But that was long time ago! “
‘Would you be able to tell me where the family is residing now?”?
‘I remember that Preeti had to place her mother in a Senior citizen home some years ago, as she needed constant attendance’ said the woman at the other end. ‘Maybe if you got in touch with her mother she might be able to give you some details about her daughter.’ So saying she gave me the number of the Senior citizen home, where Preeti was supposed to have left her mother in the good caring hands of the staff there.
Thanking her profusely for the help rendered by her, I dialled the number of Vishranthi retreat for seniors. The people there gave the information that the lady had passed away some years ago but they could give me a number, which they thought could be the number of Preeti. After thanking her, I started walking. On thinking about this for some time, I found the whole thing to be a futile and aimless exercise. I thought to myself-Why was I making such a fuss over finding the owner of a wallet that had only three one-rupee notes and a letter that written nearly 60 years ago?
Nevertheless, I called the number, “Good evening Poorna Senior Living, how my I help you?” I enquired whether one Preeti was residing there .The receptionist who took the call confirmed, ‘Yes, Preeti is staying with us.’ Although it was nearing 9 pm, I asked if I could stop by in another 10 minutes as I lived not very far from Poorna. ‘Well,’ he said fluctuating a bit, ‘if you are prepared to take a chance, she might be asleep by now or watching television.’
My curiosity got better of me and I drove over to Poorna. The security guy greeted me at the door. I explained my purpose of coming there. After meeting the receptionist, both, the security staff and I took the elevator to the third floor of the large building. In the huge hall, the attendant introduced me to Preeti. She looked sweet with a twinkle in her eyes. With her silver hair tied in a bun, she welcomed me with a warm smile. I divulged to her the purpose of my coming and showed her the wallet and the letter found inside it.
The moment she saw the pink paper with that cute little flower on the right, she was excited; and took a deep breath and continued, ‘ Young man, this letter which you are holding now is the last contact I ever had with Anurag.’ She turned her head for a moment and was immersed in deep thought and then continued softly, ‘I was deeply in love with him. But I was only 16 then and my mother did not allow me to meet him as she felt that I was too young for love and wanted me to study well. Oh, how can I ever forget him? He was so dashing and looked like actor, Rajesh Khanna.
‘Yes, Anurag was a wonderful person. If you happen to meet him do pass on the message that I think of him very often and,’ after hesitating for some time, biting her lips, ‘please do tell him I am still madly in love with him. You know something,’ continued Preeti, smiling as tears slowly began to well up in her eyes, ‘I have not married till today, as I feel no one ever matched up to Anurag.’
Having thanked Preeti, I exited as I waved Good-bye to her. I took the lift to the first floor and as I stood by the door, the security guard, Ramdoss there asked, ‘Was the old lady able to help you?’ I told him she had given me a lead.
“But I think I’ll let go of it for the time being. I have spent considerable time trying to locate the wallet’s owner.”At least I have a name-Anurag-to look for.” I took out the wallet, which was a simple black leather case with gold lacing on the side. On seeing this, the guard remarked, “Hey, just a minute! That appears to be Mr. Anurag’s wallet. I can identify it anywhere as he keeps losing it very often and asks me if I happen to see it anywhere. I have found it for him thrice in the hall below. “
“Who is Mr.Anurag ?” I enquired anxiously. “Well, he is one of the old residents who lives here on the 9th Floor. He would have lost it during his morning walk today. That is Mr. Anurag’s wallet for sure.’
Thanking the guard, I quickly ran to the receptionist and told him about my finding the wallet and the guard’s confirmation that it belonged to Mr. Anurag. The receptionist sent an attendant with me and we reached Mr. Anurag’s room and I prayed that Mr. Anurag would be still awake.
The light in Mr. Anurag’s room was still burning and the attendant continued, “He is a voracious reader and must be reading some book. He is gem of a man-Very kind and gentle. “On seeing the attendant, Anurag smiled. The attendant asked “Did you lose your wallet today Sir?” Immediately Anurag put his hands in his pocket and exclaimed, “Oh ya, it is missing. I did not notice so long.” “ This kind gentleman found your wallet and brought it to us. Our security guy, Ramdoss immediately recognized it and so here we are to hand it over to you.”
Anurag appeared to be thoroughly relieved, “Thank you. It’s mine. I want to reward you young man, your name please”
“ Anoop” said I. “No reward, thank you Sir. I have to tell you something which would probably be a pleasant surprise to you. I read the letter inside the wallet hoping that it will be of some use to trace the wallet’s owner.”
The smile soon Anurag’s face suddenly faded away. “Did you read that letter?”
“Yes Sir and I think I know the whereabouts of Preeti Madam.” Anurag turned pale and, “Preeti? How is she now and is she still as pretty as she was. Please please tell me all that you know,” implored Anurag.
“Oh, she is doing fine and….. and pretty, no doubt!”said I softly.
The old man’s face radiated and he smiled with anticipation writ large on his face. He asked excitedly, “Can you please tell me where she is. I want to call her right away. But no, it is pretty late now……may be tomorrow early morning. You know something Anoop. I was terribly in love with her during my younger days and when I received her letter my heart died and I never thought of another lady….. probably because my love for her is eternal. But….she must be married by now…..”
‘Sir, please come with me now”. We took the lift to the third floor. Dim lights were burning in the hallways and a small light was burning in Preeti’s room where she was sitting alone and watching the television. The attendant walked over to her and called out softly” Preeti Madam” and pointing to the door way where Aunrag was standing, continued,”’ Do you know who this gentle man is?’
Preeti adjusted her spectacles a bit; looked for a minute without uttering any word. Anurag, almost in a whisper said, “Preeti, this is Anurag. Do you remember me?”
She gasped, “Anurag, is it you, my dear Anurag! I just can’t believe my eyes. Oh my dearest……I have been waiting for you all these years. I just could not imagine anyone in your place”’ He walked slowly towards her and they embraced each other. With tears streaming down our faces, the attendant and I walked out leaving the couple to each other.
“Look, these are the ways of God. If it is to happen, it will definitely happen. That is destiny! “said I.
A month later there was a call from Poorna, “Mr. Anoop, wonderful news for you. Preeti and Anurag are tying the knot at Laksmi Mandir next Friday! Can you please attend the wedding, which would not have been possible without you.’
It was a lovely wedding attended by all Poorna residents, beautifully dressed for the occasion. It was a joyful celebration with everyone enjoying the function. Preeti wore a beautiful pink sari and Anurag, a dark blue churidhar with a matching waistcoat. Both of them hugged me and had no words to express their heartfelt thanks to me. I, on my part, was highly elated for being instrumental in uniting two romantic hearts.
With the blushing 78-year-old bride and the protective 79-year-old groom, the wedding ceremony was nothing short of unison of two humans still very young at heart and very much in love with each other. A perfect and magnificent ending to a 60-year old love affair!