For a while she stood near the window. The open bay window of her room overlooked a Gulmohur tree, spreading branches all around her, giving a leafy shade, far enhancing the beauty of the leaf-strewn lane. For a while she kept looking at her and wondered how old should she be. The long summer sun still lingered above the tree tops, each evening was same now, each afternoon bound by the same routine. Today it was a bit different. She just wanted to linger a while, a little longer than usual and remembered the first time she saw this room, this house, the quiet shady surroundings of the bungalow, the gulmohur, the eucalyptus, the tamarind … and wondered how people lived here surrounded by such quiet and tranquillity. Her ears accustomed to the usual din of the city, felt quite awkward. She totally dismissed the idea of ever-shifting here from their tiny apartment in the heart of the city. But now, eight years after, she just couldn`t imagine staying anywhere else. Last time when she went to the city for her mother in law`s operation she grew restless, wanting to come back to her quiet abode, to its peace and serenity.
Usually the last Saturday of every June she would be awfully busy, frequently going to the market, carefully picking up the largest prawns, choosing the best chocolate cake, buying return gifts, cooking the mango chutney with fried panchforon or rustling up some pasta or adding finishing touches to the payesh. For the last twenty years they were celebrating their daughter`s birthday on the last Saturday of every June. She suddenly moves away from the window, looks at the mobile checking how many days she is away from Rimi’s birthday. She remembers not only this year, for the last two years this day has lost its usual charm. Rimi is miles away from her now, pursuing her undergraduate, majoring in Economics at the University of Alabama. She remembers the years of careful preparation and planning, Rimi taking SAT twice and improving her score every time, how tensed she was those days, how worried whether she would get the university of her choice, what would be the percentage of scholarship, how long would it take to get the visa, and more. All these kept her so preoccupied, so jittery, that she couldn`t spend quality time with her daughter. Last few months before her board exams, she and her husband had stopped going to all
parties. Looking back now from the objectivity of her position, she ponders whether it was all so necessary!
Rimi is settled now. She often Whatsapps the snaps of her serene and peaceful campus, the large cafeteria, the shady trees forming an overhead canopy, the imposing structure of the main building filling her with a sense of satisfaction. Rimi has achieved what she couldn`t, but she wonders is she happy?
Suddenly the message tune of her cell brings her back from her retrospection. She quickly opens her WhatsApp account to check if Rimi has anything to say. It must be time for her to leave for her classes, she promptly calculates the time difference. The message is not from Rimi. After a long silence of what seemed like ages, she readjusts her glasses to check if the name shining in bold black letters on her WhatsApp page is really Anirudhha. She feels her fingers shaking from excitement and expectation. She clicks on the message. Anirudhha is coming to the city for two days next week; he is eager to meet her. She stands indecisively for a while, unable to think or respond, her mind racing back to those crazy days of their university, bunking classes, sneaking out from the campus, attending concerts together, watching Ray or Kurosawa in Nandan.
Anirudhha was always a bit different from other boys of his age, a bit too impulsive, quickly flying into a rage, then running after her, calling her up, pleading with her to make amends. She would always be drawn towards him for his irresistible charm, they were madly in love those days. They would often plan how to break the news to her orthodox family. Aniruddha’s parents were far too liberal and they would often meet in their house when Anirudhha`s busy parents were away in their office. She can still recollect those dreamy afternoons, the two weaving their dreams of future. Then one day suddenly, he declared he would like to meet her parents and arrange their wedding as he would be going away to Mumbai where he had got a job. She protested as she knew her parents very well. They would never accept it, that too in such haste. Every day they fought over it and finally broke up the day Aniruddha said, “Fine, it seems more than your parents, you are unwilling to get married. You don`t want any commitment so early, right?” She was hurt. She only wanted to buy time to convince her parents and he misunderstood her. For days they didn`t speak or meet, finally one fine morning she received the news of him leaving the city from a common friend.
Anirudhha has always been like that, unpredictable, inconsistent, yet crazy in his expressions of love. He was always like a fresh whiff of breeze that blew over her, comforting her, refreshing her so much. She always looked forward to meeting him. She was so heartbroken when she heard about his marriage. He didn’t even bother to call her up even once, she wept on solitary nights waiting for a phone call or a message or a letter from him. Years rolled by, she was happily married now. Her husband, a busy doctor, is quite liberal and they have good compatibility. In the early years of their marriage, she told him about Anirudhha, very cautiously with a lot of trepidation, but her husband was fine with it. He went a step ahead and told her, why didn’t she try and renew the contact. She laughed it away. Her new life after the marriage, new responsibilities, in-laws, her little bundle of joy kept her so busy, so occupied, that she thought she had forgotten about Anirudhha. But the name Anirudhha still made her heart beat faster. She decides to respond to his message. Anirudhha has texted her that he has a lot to share with her, the upheavals in his life, how his hasty marriage ended in a disaster. He said he was too eager to meet her. She hesitates at first, knowing him very well. She is too afraid to look into her own heart. Why is she so excited, she scolded herself. But the more adventurous voice from deep within suggests, after all, did it really matter if they meet for a while in a coffee shop and relive their past for a brief moment. Her husband wouldn’t even come to know, and even if he did, he surely wouldn`t mind.
Suddenly the doorbell rings and she is hurled back into reality.
Her mind seemed to have strayed a bit longer than usual. She deletes the message and rushes to open the door. She would be busy now, preparing tea, serving snacks, sharing the day with her husband. She plans to come back to her solitary musings at some other time, some other day.