A fete of yellow lights flickered in the dust. She remembered scampering into all those fetes and fairs she used to talk her sister into. Her gaze was fixed at the cityscape outside the window that otherwise seemed bleak in the chaos.
Sitting at an elite Japanese restaurant in South Delhi, she played with the rice balls in the bowl placed on her bone china plate. A chill ran down her spine and she wrapped her stole tightly around her. With a fleeting look at her friends who were engrossed in conversation, she gulped down the remnants of Sake.
The evening lights danced in her eyes and she closed her eyes, as if to hold the reassuring warmth reminiscent of that day in October the previous year when her parents had come over to see how she was coping in her new flat, her first ever, in a new and vicious city. The more they had chatted, the less words she had uttered; their mere presence had filled her with an incomparable comfort that had only left behind qualm after they were gone.
She could have told them about him. That they were living together. ‘Whom are you kidding?’ she had thought with a derisive laugh as she had seen their car leaving the driveway.
She had called him back the next day but the guilt consumes one sometimes. They had fought; he had no qualms about letting his parents know but neither of them wanted to settle down, to commit. But wasn’t living-in a huge commitment in itself? Her parents would have been ashamed of her, ”of God knows what,” like she thought.
As they silently decided to let time take its course, they somehow stopped making efforts to bring a smile on each other’s face. Those sticky notes no longer cluttered the fridge. Baking for each other after a long tiring day became out of question. Those dream destinations were no longer a priority and money was spent shopping and on momentary pleasures. No goals but career benchmarks remained static.
Love was never given a chance. Before it could waft into their flat like freshly baked bread, love walked out like them who seldom stayed home now.
As she looked at the glittering lights in awe, she knew that very moment how she had stopped seeing the sunshine all around her, the warmth that she used to await every time he smiled at her. ”You smile for the camera, smile for me,” she used to tease him. They smiled now whenever they took out time for each other and were able to avert fights. But the laughter had ceased.
He had looked at her and told her, ‘You make me feel that I can be a better man’. Then, he had drifted off holding her hand on the couch while watching television.
‘Hadn’t that been enough for me? What went wrong?’ She thought while sitting in the restaurant looking at her upbeat friends.
They will start planning for their dream destination once again, she would make him. She would not ask for forgiveness but would give them a chance. “A chance is harmless, I‘ll take as many chances as possible,” she thought.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries with her newfound friends, she took a cab home with a newfound excitement as well.
She rang the bell and smiled after what felt like a lifetime of burden. After precisely three minutes and 24 seconds, she took out her key and opened the door with careful precision to avoid waking him up. But she would talk to him in the morning and just snuggle in with him in the comforter for now. She tiptoed in the darkness and reached the refrigerator. She almost tripped, cursed herself and turned on the night light of the living room.
She resisted a whoop of joy as her arm brushed against a paper held in place by a magnet on the fridge door.
A22, Boarding Gate 03, 23A. New Delhi to Kuwait. 01:30 a.m.
A FAMILIAR HANDWRITING
”We let time decide for a long time. Someone had to take a decision. I took one.
We had something special.
Maybe someone was saving after all.