Sunita logged into her Facebook account and found an unread message. When she opened the messages screen she missed a heartbeat. It was from a person she had not thought about for a long time. She clicked on the message to open it. First sentence was a surprised comment, “I did not know you are on Facebook”. The next was a question. “Let me know when you come online, so we can chat.”
She was about to close the tab when the sender of the message, Subhash messaged again.
Subhash: Hi, where are you?
Sunita, with a frown on her face : I am in Mumbai
Subhash: Perfect, I am in town for 3 days. Can we meet at the Springfields tomorrow.
Sunita: I will let you know by tonight.
At Springfields, a beautiful girl of 19 years and a boy perhaps in his late 20’s sat facing each other, looking at the menu card. The girl observed something. She touched her boyfriend’s arm, who then looked in the same direction. Subhash in his 50’s was walking into the Tunga with a lady who looked about the same age. They both took their seat. Subhash was dressed in a simple shirt and black trousers; Sunita in a saree.
“How come you are in Mumbai?” Sunita started. Subhash scratched his grey beard and then moved his fingers through his hair which also had gone grey with age. He rocked his chair back as he always did, and sipped some water. He kept on looking at Sunita who had now started getting a little anxious.
“What happened…say something….is there a problem?” Sunita complained. Subhash smiled. “No problem, just observing. Your eyes go small when you smile. There are a few wrinkles added on your cheeks, but the dimple has survived and you still look beautiful.” The waitress approached the table for the order, allowing Subhash to take another good look at her. Sunita quickly continued as the waitress left. “Nothing has changed in you too. You keep observing girls, the show off attitude, you are still a emotionless flirt…”
Subhash only smiled in response. They talked about their families and about things that had gone by in the last 25 years. When they met outside the hotel some time back, Subhash couldn’t recognise her. Sunita actually had to walk in closer and reintroduce herself.
Sunita had a question hovering on her mind. She wanted to ask Subhash from the moment they met but she was not able to find the right moment. She looked at her plate. She was almost done with the salad. She looked a couple of times towards Subhash, who was busy, checking an email on his cell phone.
“Subhash, can you tell me something….,” she finally made an attempt. Subhash locked the keypad quickly and placed the cell phone quietly in his pocket. “Subhash, what you did to the gifts that I returned when we broke up.”
Subhash rolled his eyes sky wards and showed no signs of understanding the context of her question. He slowly began saying, “Gifts! Which gifts? Gifts…..” he repeated the word at least 10 times. Sunita was now upset. “See, you don’t even remember the gifts. I hate you Subhash, I really do.” Again there was silence for a good 10 seconds.
Subhash smiled finally. “Sunita, yes I do remember now. Three weeks after you left the office, I resigned too and the gifts remained in my drawer. Wonder who was the lucky one to get those books.”
“BOOKS!” Sunita screamed and coughed immediately, as age was not by her side anymore to scream that loud. “It was a black wallet with a diamond shaped lock.” Suddenly her voice went low. “Book! What a jerk you are!”
Subhash still smiled. “Who remembers so much at this age?” He was about to say something more when his cell phone rang. Subhash talked with the person at the other side and hung up. “Sunita, I was going to attend a conference in Banglore tomorrow. I was looking for a flight tomorrow morning, but instead got one tonight. So I need to leave. Very sorry, hope you understand.”
Sunita tried not to let her disappointment show. “Go. Even today work is more important for you.”
After returning home Sunita saw her husband on the stairs. She looked at her watch. Her meeting with Subhash was hardly about 25 mins. She walked fast towards him. “Any problem? Why are you standing out? Are you standing out because you got yourself locked out again?”
Her husband kept nodding his head in disagreement. “I am here to welcome you, sweetheart. I have made veg spring rolls with a twist.”
Sunita could not stop smiling. After meeting Subhash she loved her husband more. To find him welcome her this way just made her feel luckier about her choice years ago. With a naughty smile she said, “My mother said, marry a chef and eat good food all life.”
Both husband and wife went inside. As Sunita closed her door, she once again remembered the day and felt blessed. 25 years back Subhash broke off with her since he could not go against the wishes of his parents. Sunita felt, some anonymous well-meaning force prevented her from spending the life with a gutless, spineless jerk.
Few miles away, a hotel room opened to lights. Subhash was speaking on his cell phone. “Yes, I did meet her and thanks for letting me do that. Bye honey, will see you in a couple of days when I will be back home. Will discuss the rest then.” Subhash kept his cell phone down and then went for a shower. Just then another call brought him out. He came out and sat on the bed, to talk. Beside him was his travel bag. It had a pair of trousers, shirt, a red file, a pen, some tissue papers, a small stapler, a laptop battery and a small usb stick. Beside the usb stick was a black purse with a diamond shaped lock.