Not long after my wedding in April 1971, I had to leave my wife, Malabika, with my parents and sisters and go for training at the Administrative Training College in Mussoorie in the northern state of Uttarakhand in July, following which I went to the Indian Revenue Staff College at Nagpur in November, where she joined me. After months of training in Nagpur, it was time for the departmental examinations. It was now the summer of 1972 and it was extremely hot as it usually is in that part of India with temperatures touching 45 degree Celsius. I spent the whole day in gruelling lectures, studying and sitting for examinations, a good night’s sleep was my only escape and relief.
One night in the middle of deep sleep, Malabika woke me up and I found her looking ashen and trembling. She wanted to share her dream which I thought was very strange at that hour. As if the onslaught of heat wasn’t enough, this seemed to me, another torture. Being so newly wed, I couldn’t lose my temper even though I wanted to scream at her. I beseeched her, literally with folded hands, to excuse me and went back to sleep, without letting her talk.
As it turned out, this was not a one-night affair but continued for the next few consecutive nights. Each night, she would wake me and I would shut her up, not realizing how much pain I was causing her. Then one night a different story emerged, amazing and uncanny. Malabika shook me awake and this time she didn’t plead but rather vehemently forced me to get up and listen. She looked sad and palpably scared. I too was in daze as I had had a peculiar dream which passed by as if in a flash.
When she narrated her dream, I was stunned as I could barely believe my ears. I had just woken up from mine in which I saw myself holding a girl’s hand and it was evident that we were sweethearts. It appeared to be in the precincts of a fort with high carved walls and a moat, a scene reminiscent of forts that we see in Rajasthan. We stood on a raised platform adjacent to the wall of the fort and then we jumped, seemingly to our deaths. In my dream, I saw both of us jumping and felt the motion of going down as we started falling. I was awakened, my heart thumping wildly. It seemed a scene from a historical tragedy was being enacted.
As if that wasn’t enough, Malabika narrated the same dream sequence. This time I listened to her with bated breath. What she said, seemed unbelievable. Apparently, for the past six or seven nights, she had been dreaming a sequence of events involving a girl and a boy which when woven together culminated in the dream we both had the same night at the same hour. The visions she had were akin to a film in black and white, with the images – shadowy and unclear. But each time, she felt a sense of fear, gloom, and deep sadness when she awoke. The episodes revolved around a young boy and a girl, like I had seen, who appeared to be madly in love but had faced severe opposition to their union from both their families as they were related. This was anathema and clearly earned strong disapproval. Both of us had the same question – what happened thereafter? However, after that night none of us dreamt of that incident ever again.
The memory of the dream haunted us. Later in our lives, we talked to some monks who explained that it could have been an incident from our previous lives. A psychoanalyst opined that a strong personality could transfer one’s dream into another person and that is what may have happened. I am not sure whether it’s a re-enactment of the past or a mere coincidence but I’d like to think that in this life we have been together and that our desires have been fulfilled, and nightmares laid to rest. Yet, after being married for close to fifty years, we still cannot forget those dreams and the mental agony that they had caused us. They remain vivid in our minds.
Sudeep Roy is a retired bureaucrat. He is now a public speaker and lives in Kolkata.