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Disclaimer: This is pure fiction and imaginary, resemblance to any person dead or alive is purely coincidental. No post-mortems required.

I knew she was lying , for social media/ messengers app always makes sure the footprints of her being online is marked all over my timelines in terms of each like/comment/tweet. And yet she had no time for me, she had been busy. Busy my foot!! For what was more important than me, the least I was expecting was a message, a reply was that too much to ask for? A phone call was something I had given up all hopes of ever receiving.download

Yes we were in love, at least I still was!! It is another thing that she was the one who made all the moves. But now I was head over heels for her and was she over me?? There was no shortage of professing our love for each other but when doubt sets in what is the remedy. Maybe I was expecting too much but what is love with boundaries?? It was difficult to contain the emotions I had for her, my reservoir of love what up to the brim.

I longed to hold her hand and longed to listen to her talk inane stuff. I wanted to be called upon, I wanted her to come meet me. I wanted her to make an effort to do all the above. For weren’t we always meant to be together.

I just wanted our picture as her dp, wanted her to profess our love in her status, we did that and much more but I didn’t know when to draw the line. I wanted more, I wanted her, and I wanted her like now, in my each waking moment.

And like all love story ours would also have a closure and I wanted it to be for the better and not for worse.

Illusion…

What the hell is going on between my husband and that bitch?’ Maya’s patience was at its lowest ebb and she was ready to burst.

Sanjay knew that she was serious. ‘Look, Maya. There is nothing going on between the two of them. Just a little bit of healthy flirting, I’d say.’

‘Flirting? Healthy flirting? Really Sanjay . . .’ she rolled her eyes in disgust. ‘That’s what you men call it? There is nothing healthy about flirting, Sanjay, not for a married man.

Healthy flirting is a term introduced by perverted men who want to lend legitimacy to their extramarital dalliances. Flirting invariably has a sexual connotation to it.’ She got up from her seat and walked around the room gesticulating and muttering something to herself. Suddenly she stopped, turned back, looked at Sanjay and asked, ‘Did my husband sleep with her? You are his friend. Did he ever tell you anything about it?’

What was Sanjay to say? After all Maya’s husband Anurag was her buddy from school. They had grown up together in a godforsaken place, studied in a school that was filled with teachers of the bygone era. Teachers who were mostly of the Anglo Indian descent for whom the independence of India was a piece of History they all detested. The grandeur of the school building was just a facade beneath it was a decaying school, in shambles in terms of both the quality of education and the student profile.

Anurag and Sanjay families were neighbours for generations and shared the same ideologies and religion. Their families were idealistic to a fault, a fault they both detested having seen the opulence bought in by the dilution of values, for some of their not so honourable neighbours. For them the lack of resources and the basic luxuries were something that shouldn’t be comprised with. This was their driving factor in the life the motivation that took them from their hometown to the big bad city of Bombay in the late eighties. The city like the rest of India was yet to fall in the not so real spirit of cultural renaissance of reclaiming past glories some of which were part real and part imaginary.

Once in Mumbai they both started to achieve their dreams of making it big to make the moolah they both so badly wanted. They slogged their way to their colleges, lived in dingy accommodation survived on pittance received from back home, and did odd jobs to supplement their always exhausted pockets. Their memories from childhood were in pairs. Their experiences, their dreams, their thoughts were alike and seemed surreal. One knew what other was thinking. The city further added to their experiences from the fulfilling the first flushes of adulthood, to trying and experimenting with what they had to offer to each other and the city. Over the next 7 odd years they had learnt the ways of the city, they did have their big group of friends from college, office or socially. But in the end what mattered was the two of them together for each other.

They were the keeper of each other secrets, they knew each other inside out, from the ones each had bedded , the liaisons , the heartbreak were all out in open for them. Surprisingly there wasn’t ever a felling of possessiveness that creeps in such a close relationship, they were confident sure about each other.

download (7)Over the years the questions of marriage was regularly raised by both their families. Anurag to get over the incessant family demand had proposed to Maya who he was then dating. If not for the family pressure Anurag would have easily waited as till them he wasn’t yet sure of her. Their liaisons were agreed upon by the families and they were soon married with a reception at the Kohinoor Hall opposite the Siddhi Vinayak Mandir the deity like all Mumbaikars (the city had now seized to be Bombay anymore) Maya and Anurag worshipped. Sanjay had been the man behind the show, managing everything; he was someone that even Maya had continued to rely on intrinsically.

As the years flew, the idea of Sanjay’s marriage also flew out of the window, he was ready with a reason to postpone his wedding on one pretext or another and gradually everyone gave up on him. He was content with life.  Anurag and they had moved in the same building albeit on different floors. So they offered each other space as well as were close when need be. Everyone got along ahead in their careers Maya, Sanjay and Anurag with compensations that ensured luxurious lifestyles that each had imagined and strived for!!

After two miscarriages they had stopped trying and would not object when the term DINK (Double Income No Kids) was regularly used for them for who would they tell that it was more out of compulsion then choice. Whereas Sanjay continued to have temporary liaisons to fulfil his carnal pleasures for he wasn’t looking for anything emotional out of these doomed relationships. Like him Anurag too would falter at his wedding vows and Sanjay’s Pad was a mute witness to these escapades.

So when Maya asked him about the ‘bitch’ or had her husband slept with her, what was he to tell her that bitch was none other than the latest  fling of her husband and someone they both were sharing for some time now. For whatever Maya trusted Sanjay with, she knew for sure that he would never betray her husband or spill the beans on him. She didn’t ponder beyond a point for she knew it was an exercise in futility to get anything against her husband from his best friend.

“Anu, you need to be careful, flirtation with that woman cannot go on beyond a point, do not stretch it too far. Maya was upset and you certainly can’t afford that. Hope you are not getting emotionally attached to her?? We both know what kind she is , she will wreck your home and getting involved with your office colleagues is too complicated for your to handle!!” warned Sanjay.

Anurag looked at him and knew that he has his best interest in mind. He had always been there for him no matter what ever since he could remember. For taking the blame for breaking Mrs. Robinsons fountain pens in school, to supporting him to escape their hometown the unconditional support that he offered was something that he had yet to come across anyone he had ever met in his life. Be it his mother, his affairs or even his wife. He could open up to him without being judged no matter how wrong he was. Such was the nature of Sanjay and they had shared everything in life joys, sorrows, heartbreaks and even some instances women without a second thought.

download (6)“Anurag is taking me for a vacation and guess what to my favourite destination to Wildflower Hall, Mashobra. Did u tell him about my rant against that bitch that night at the party??” asked Maya. For whatever u told him or didn’t he has been extra smooth and generous with his love ever since that stupid flirting that he was doing that night. Ohh!! Sanjay he is the best, i m so glad i have him. The hills, the snow, the walk in the forest it feels we are taking our honeymoon all over again” gushed Maya.

“Sanjay i m sure Maya would have already updated you with our vacations, we will be gone for a week, please can you drop us at the airport? Do you need anything from that side? I have heard they have excelled woollen wears that side.” Said Anurag.

Sanjay looked at him declined that he needed anything, “where am i going to wear the woollens in Mumbai?? And you know i hate travelling and to go to a place where the temperature dips enough to make me want to wear what you propose to get, is strictly not happening!! You both go and enjoy this much needed quality time and make up for all that philandering that you have been up to lately”

So on a hot humid October morning Sanjay drove the coupe on their second honeymoon from their swish South Mumbai surrounding to the airport in suburbs. With Maya giving out instructions to Sanjay about the things that he could plan in his alone time and the list of events of interest  happening in and around Mumbai, the possible date he could go on with this advertisement woman who had always shown such a keen interest in him. Anurag as usual was the one busy on his smartphone emailing, texting or whatever that a phone like this is supposed to keep one busy with.

Maya kissed him goodbye and while Anurag hugged him and said their farewells. Sanjay saw them going inside the terminal to cooler greener destination while he was there standing wet with sweat in the heat and anxiety of seeing them go away . Maya walked ahead while Anurag following her looked back and saw Sanjay waiting for the one last goodbye before being engulfed by the fellow travellers…

Monsoon ……

download (3)“What is his ailment??” an innocent question from another harried parent and I was at a loss of words. We both were waiting in the hospital taking care of our children, he of his daughter and me of my son.

On a Rainy monsoon evening which if not for the medical condition of my son would have been something that i would have looked forward to. But sitting in a hospital waiting made me desolate and gloomy. The question bought back memories of marriage, parenthood and the lack of control of my destiny.

Coming from a privileged old money background, I had my life all sorted out by my parents. The comforts and the luxuries were provided for, education in the best boarding schools with a Post Graduation from a prestigious foreign university taken care of. A well paying job in a MNC albeit procured by pulling the strings by my well networked family.  I was ready to face the mundane realities of everyday world. Well so the world and I thought.

The chink in the armour was the lack of relationship stability and the choices I made as far as my love life was concerned. Falling from one relationship to another that was not only emotionally taxing and toxic that always took away part of me and the part that always walked away was the one I was proud of. Ms. Perfect took away my thick skin; Ms. Manager took away emotions that left me a bit cold and a loner. Well between these two there were few others that too dented and scratched away some of my personality away.

“Beta you are turning 30, it is time you settle down” announced my mother for the first time one evening over dinner. She was my emotional anchor who knew me inside out. She who had faced the ordeal of a physical abusive husband, she who took it all in her stride for walking out on an abusive marriage wasn’t an option ever available to her. She wasn’t financially independent where could she go, who would provide for??  She belonged to the day and age where the upholding the family honour was her domain and responsibility. I was the bearer of her secrets, her inner demons.

The marriage question was definitely a mother’s instinct to strike at the right time I said “Go find yourself a suitable daughter-in-law and i shall marry anyone of your choice.” Well she was ready with a probable list and after the initial meeting and brief courtship; Priya and me were tied in nuptials knots in what was a simple wedding. Priya was the kind of girl who was an ideal Bahu, wife and a mother belonging to an upper middle class family from a relative small town.

The married life was normal but boring. The initial flux of emotions gave way to reality. We realised we were different and destined never to find a common ground. How could love survive such an onslaught of differences? Gradually we started drifting apart; there was nothing left to bind us together. Each flaw was highlighted and stored. There were showdowns and a silent undercurrents. We both were perfect to the world; we knew each other inside out but lacked emotional empathy. We spoke only out of necessity and never addressed the elephant in the room i.e. the parenthood: initial years of marriage flew away before Priya realised that her body clock was ticking away.

With this came the urgency and the visits to the fertility clinics , quacks and finally after two  years of timing ovulation, moon and sex she conceived and amid the din of incessant rainfall supposedly the highest in that decade we were blessed with a boy. When we both held him for the first time he was crying and so were we. This outpour of emotions in the room and the rains outside washed away the angst, unspoken words, regrets. Life was back and sprouting all around us. The shades of green, the smell of rains and the joy of Shantanu, yes that was his name. Our Shantanu. My Shantanu…..

From the day he was born, he lit up our home. The love showered not only from us but also the Grand Parents. Every whims and fancies were taken care of. Our life revolved around his schedule. We slept when he did, laughed with him and cried with him. And he too didn’t disappoint us. He was a perfect child!! He could spend hours playing by himself would take care of his everyday things. No fussing or fretting over. The way he smiled lit up everything around him, those dimpled cheeks that twinkle in his eyes what more we could ask for. Life was perfect and back on track, or so we thought!!

“Baiji where is Shantanu, haven’t seen him since in a while now?? Please go and look for him.” Shantanu was 5 now, studying in the new and upcoming High end school in our city.

images“Yes Maa, what is it?? U called for me?? “He entered the house all wet and shivering. He was playing out in the garden with his pet dog a lovable Brown Irish Setter. The rains had arrived a bit early and there he was drenched to the core. The canine’s hair on his clothes, the paw marks on his white school shirt, the black school shoes and white socks lost in the mud and dirt. The innocence of the child and the protective feeling of the mother all came at the same instance. It was sight that made Priya both angry and loving.

After a quick warm bath and change of clothes, he was again at his playful self.  I entered home late that evening, and Priya updated me of his antics and the slight fever that Shantanu was down with now. The family doctor was sent for, he assured us that there was not much to worry about and it was just a seasonal flu that was to go away in a couple of days. The fever refused to go away for another four days but what definitely went away was his cheerfulness, his laughter. He was an ideal patient; no complaints, no crying just lying in the quilt watching his favourite cartoon channels with the pet dog by his side.

The doctor on his next visit asked us to get some tests done to rule out everything. The seasonal flu couldn’t go on for so long. What were to know that it was just the beginning of the visits to doctors? The tests proved inconclusive and so with it the diagnosis. Shantanu was fighting fit one day and meek and weak the other. There was no specialist left whose opinion wasn’t sought.

With the use of latest medical treatment, the services of all other alternate therapists were involved. Visits to the temples increased so did the treads around his tiny writs. Dietary habits were changed so as not to harm any living being. Godmen and Pandits were approached; prayers conducted all done to have a soothing effect on Shantanu.

images (1)After an excruciating time gap, he was admitted in the hospital, holding me, confused, and looking for a reassurance from my side. What could I tell him? I too was looking for one and yet to find answers to my questions. The needles seized to hurt him anymore, the pills weren’t bitter anymore. The birth of Shantanu that brought Priya and me together, his illness further bonded us. For who else could understand our pain and sorrow. We could cry only in from of each other. We had to be strong outside and inside we were emotional wreck.

Then came the ‘C’ word that we all had dreaded for so long. One evening the doctor called us to his room and suggested us another round of tests and MRI’s to test for CANCER!! The word shattered us; the doctors assured us that it was just a diagnostic test. But to a parent there is nothing scarier then to have a child test for Cancer.

He was prepared the next day and in walked the nurse to take him with her. “Chalo Shantanu Baba, time for some final tests and we will be back in a jiffy!!” said the nurse in her trendy hospital uniform and a smile that hung between genuine and forced.

I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…”

Outside the room from a window the rains could be seen that was in its final retreating phase. The final shower before they seize for the year for they had completed their task and replenished the water bodies and life along its way…..

PS : All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.