Thursday, May 28, 2009

Same Time. Same Place.

Heavy gray clouds blanketed the pink summer skies, but they could not steal the warm tingling feeling which the rays left in their wake. A strong wind blew swirls of dust into the eyes of the disillusioned pedestrians, making them quicken their pace. A storm was brewing, and true to their instincts, no wise human being wanted any part of it.

He stopped at the glass door and turned his back on the wind blown chaos. Once inside, he would have to weather a different kind of storm. A storm he both feared and welcomed. It would be the same as it would have been for the last fifteen years.

She would sit at the same table; she would sip the same brand of wine. She would wear yet another shade of blue and once again she would sit there without uttering a single word, till it was time to get up and leave.

Like he had for the past fifteen years, he would sit right behind her, three tables away. He would watch her elegant fingers wrap and unwrap around the stem of her glass. He remembered that gesture so well. She would always do that when she was mad at him and was struggling hard to reign in her ebbing temper.

“It’s safer for the world, if only one of us were angry at a time,” she would kid him; hours after their fights had blown over.

He missed her so much, it was unbearable. Yet, he would bear it through the four seasons spread across the three hundred and sixty four days, to endure the sweet torture of just watching her from this sacred distance, today. Once again, he would toy with the idea of approaching her, for a million times in every second. Once again echoes of the past would chain him to his chair.

Her screams would deafen him to the voice of the speaker. Memories once again clouded his vision as he traveled fifteen years back in time.

“He is not answering the phone!” she half screamed at him. He understood she was not really screaming at him. She was annoyed about feeling helpless.

“Its ok, honey,” he reasoned with her, “look his breathing is stable. We don’t want to jump the gun and raise false alarms, do we?”

“False alarms?” She hissed at him, hen took a deep breath and ran a trembling hand through her ruffled hair. She sat next to their four month old baby and placed a gentle hand on his chest. Tears flooded her eyes and she looked away.

“His temperature is still rising,” she whispered, still not looking at him. “Please call the doctor, he’s your friend after all!”

“Ok,” he said, “ Let’s check his temperature once again. If its high, I promise I will shake the doc out of his sleep. But if all’s well, we meet him in the morning, ok?”

When she still seemed reluctant he pointed out, “ Morning’s only four hours away!”

They recorded his temperature to be a decent ninety nine. While it was not normal, it was not something to panic about. He breathed a sigh of relief. Both of them had not slept in three days. Doctor’s could not figure out what was wrong with their four month old baby, but they promised they were trying their best. She would not last an hour without her son and he would not last a second without her. He would kill himself before he let anything happen to their son.

“He is shivering!” she tugged at his arm in an alarmed whisper.

That was it. He rushed her and their baby to the car and headed to the hospital. While she hugged their son to her and sniffed soothing words in his deaf ears, he called doctor after doctor telling them he would be at the hospital in five minutes.

They were five minutes too late.

For a week after that she did not speak a word. The mourners had come and gone. The house loomed large like an over decked cemetery. There were no signs of life. Two dead bodies, he and her, floated endlessly between the walls.

On the eighth day, she was standing outside the door, with her packed bags stashed in the boot of the waiting taxi.

“You killed my baby,” she said and closed the door upon him.

Today, after fifteen years, those doors still remained shut. He watched her as she stood up and walked towards the exit; the ghosts of a painful past embracing her graceful gait.

“See you soon,” he whispered and raised a silent toast in the direction of the doorway she had just departed from. “same time, same place… next year.”

*****

She shook her head in an attempt to shake away the pain. It was futile.

She knew he was there. Like always she had sensed his presence the minute he had walked in. She knew he sat somewhere behind her. She was always afraid to look.

Would he be alone?

Would he be with someone?

God! If he was with someone, she would never be able to bear it. She still loved with him with every aching memory.

She regretted every word of what she had said that fateful morning. She wished she knew how to say sorry. She wished he didnt hate her. But he had to. Else why would he come here, year after year, and not talk to her. Not once, in the past fifteen years.

She squared her shoulders. She would not think about it. She was grateful to him that he loved their son enough to come once every year to attend the annual meet of the charity organization, they had put together in his honour. It was something she had always respected and loved about him – his sense of responsibility.

She watched as the gray clouds parted without a hint of rain. Dots of crimson colored a pale sky. Soon it would be sunny and unbearably hot. But right now? Right now everything was just perfect.

She would be with him again. Soon. Same time. Same place. Next year.




Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wedding invitation

“I am sorry, but if he is not coming, then I am not getting married,” she said her arms crossed over her chest and her face sporting her most indignant expression. Her mother opened her mouth to counter this decision but was silenced with, “The decision’s final. I am hearing nothing more about it.”

“This is ridiculous!” her father fumed and hurled the newspaper on the floor. “What do you mean by there is no wedding without him? You get married in two days! What’s the point of this tantrum? Look around! You are not four anymore!”

“Exactly Pa!” She said her stance getting more defiant. “I am not four. And this is my wedding. So I get a say in who’s invited and who’s not!”

“Invited?!” her father repeated disbelievingly. “Of course he is not ‘invited.’ He is not even welcome.”

When she did not react to his statement, he prodded, “You hear me girl?”

“Loud and clear,” she said with controlled fury. “Then I am not getting married. Simple” She countered looking him straight in the eye.

“What rubbish? What utter rubbish? Do you want marry Kunal or Veeru?” her father blasted.

“Why don’t we all calm down,” her mother interrupted afraid what her daughter might throw as an answer.

“Why don’t you call Kunal and speak to him?” She asked her daughter, “see what he has to say?”

“Its not his decision to make!” She said flinging her hands in the air. She could not understand why her parents were being so adamant about something they knew meant so much to her.

“Call him! You are about to get married to him! For heaven’s sake at least know what he has to say!” Her father said settling down on the couch once again, secure in the knowledge that he would have his future son-in-law’s unconditional support.

“Fine” she said looking from her father to her mother and back to her father. “But what he has to say, changes nothing about how I feel about all of this. I want Veeru here.”

She fetched her cell phone from her denim pocket and dialed Kunal’s number.

“Hey gorgeous!” Kunal screamed in her ear. “Can I call you in fifteen?”

She could hear massive chaos in the background, almost fifteen people seemed to be hushing each other at one time.

“Where are you?” she asked curiosity momentarily winning over the ‘veeru battle’.

“Oh…err.. ummm…,” she heard a lot of prodding at the back and knew she wasn’t going to get a truthful answer, “Out with friends, you know?” he laughed nervously.

There was more background noise. Scampering feet, ‘idiot’ being hissed from clenched teeth, ‘ouch’ and ‘aws’ and ‘hang the fuck up!’

“Honey, cant I really call you in fifteen?” Kunal almost pleaded.

“Actually not.” She said extremely curious about what her future husband was currently up to. “I need one question answered now.”

“Put the phone on speaker!” her father said from over her shoulder. She was first startled and then rolled her eyes at him. She punched the loudspeaker button.

The room was filled with weird sounds, mixed with muttered curses.

“Sweety,” Kunal’s voice echoed in the hall, “do we really have to do this now?”

“Yeah,” she shouted at the phone. She wanted to be sure that Kunal heard every word, “Is Veeru invited to the wedding or not?”

“Veeru what?” Kunal asked in a half-distracted voice. “Why do you want to invite Veeru? Ah hell!! Crap!! Beautiful I have to call you back. Bye.”

Just like that he cut the phone.

“Why do you want to invite Veeru?” her father repeated. “That does not sound like – Oh sure, let Veeru come! I have no objections!”

She slid the phone back into her pocket with a frown. How could Kunal do this? He of all the people understood what having Veeru at the wedding meant to her. How could he then let her down like this? Was marrying him going to turn out to be a mistake after all.

Her father returned to his newspaper with a smile, quite content to accept his daughter’s silence as an acceptance of Veeru’s absence at the wedding.

Her mother looked at her retreating back, as she headed for the stairs leading to her room. She understood, but she would never argue with her father.

The doorbell rang loud in the silence.

Her mother rushed to open it.

“Veeru!” she screamed with pure glee and rushed with open arms towards the door.

“Woof!” he barked with equal glee and rushed towards her, slobbering her with his happy tongue. She put her arms around the massive dog and hugged him tight.

“Surprise!” said Kunal from the door.

She left the dog and hurled her arms around him.

“But you said we don’t need to invite Veeru to the wedding..” she said looking into his eyes with half gratitude and half joy.

“You don’t invite family!” he said tucking a wayward lock behind her ear.

Marrying him wasn’t going to be a mistake after all!