C: I listen to this for hours when I go mad; it helps me calm down. I get up every day at 2am, listen to the music for two hours and then fall asleep again.
The soft notes of the piano floated out into the forested valley. The sun which had just come out from behind the steep ridge warmed our backs. An all-encompassing silence overpowered the music. Time stretched hypnotically.
Me: Isn’t that a wedding ring on your finger?
C: It’s a long story. I was a father once.
A bird shrieked somewhere.
C: We ran away from home.
C: Shrugs his shoulder looking away
Me: Were you both from the same clan?
C: No. I think we were so much in love that we couldn’t be apart. We ran away to Kohima. I met her in school, we were in the same class. Both our families eventually accepted the situation and accepted us as well. We were so happy together and had planned out our future. She was pregnant when she fell down and fractured her skull. Three days later she died.
C raised his head and looked at me. The silence of the hills seemed to carry his sorrow across like a physical presence. Tears were threatening to spill from my eyes. I look away.
C: I often wonder why this happened, but I do not get any answers. That’s why I go mad sometimes. The past keeps pulling you back.
Me: Sometimes there are no answers.
C: I want to travel, get far away from Nagaland.
Me: You must go to the Himalayas then.
I looked back at the forested ridge. The sun had already shifted in the sky and fell at an angle over the trees creating orbs of light. It was magical; as if the spirits of the forest had gathered around and also listened. In the distant valley, we could see the ‘hidden’ village of Khonoma, sharp against the beautiful rich sunlight on the first day of a new year.