The phone on Deepa’s desk kept ringing but she did not pick it up. The phone rang again, but Deepa was still inattentive. Someone knocked from the other side of the cabin as a signal to pick up the phone and to drag Deepa back into the material world, a world of BPO operations, where she worked as a Support executive. A place where Deepa had bagged the ‘executive of the year’ award three times in a row, she was ranked amongst the best professionals at her workplace. But that was sometime ago. Today, though she is physically present at the office desk, her mind wandered at an unknown horizon from where she kept gazing cluelessly; as if trying to find out if the green land at a distance is for real or just a mirage in the desert. Her body had become lifeless; her dry eyes were bordered with dark circles, her lips were as if bitten mercilessly by sorrow. The only thing alive in her was probably her heart that did not miss a beat.
Looking at the pitiful state of Deepa, Shikha, her friend and a co-worker decided to have a chat with her.
“Deepa, My dear, its going to be ok. Don’t do this to yourself…” Shikha tried to start a dialog with her but Deepa didn’t utter a word.
“You listening to me? Deepa?” In a sudden fit of action, Deepa rouse from the Coffee table and walked off.
On reaching her desk, she tried to busy herself with work. In an attempt to find something, she opened the drawer of her table and froze for a minute. A sudden transformation took place. She smiled. The drawer had a photograph of Amit that, until recently, was placed on her desktop. She couldn’t remember the reason why the photo was placed in the drawer. Whatever it was, it was now forgiven and forgotten. She placed the photo back on her table and looked lovingly at the smiling picture of Amit.
“Stupid! Was that a reason to pick up a fight?” She spoke to Amit through his photograph.
“Don’t worry, I will set things right today…” She said defiantly and walked to her manager’s cabin.
“Mr. Rao, I am sorry, but I want a day off today. Can I?” She spoke in a confident tone.
“Why not, sure…” Mr. Rao said, surprised at her behaviour.
“and listen, don’t rush…take your time to settle and get back. There are more important things than work alone.” He said with a hopeful smile.
Deepa happily left office and waited at the bus stop for her bus to arrive. The bus stop, she noticed, had not changed much since she had first visited it. She was happy then, and she is happy now. It was a rainy day then, and it is rainy now. A memory in her mind started re-playing itself and Deepa allowed herself to relish the feelings of first love.
It was a day, four years ago, very much like today. The overcast sky was about to break into droplets of water. Deepa was hurrying to reach the bus stop. And that’s when she rammed into Amit. Loosing their balance they both fell over. With Deepa in his arms, they were locked up in an endless gaze and the sky thundered. They were strangers to each other but a moment later, they knew that they have found their partner for life. It was love at first sight.
To this day, Deepa remembers the first touch, the first smile and the first word that Amit said to her
“You are beautiful!”
The loud horn of the bus brought Deepa back to the present. As the bus waded through the city, Deepa recollected the joyful bike rides with Amit. The roses that were sold at the traffic signals reminded of the many times that he gifted her with one.
“Anything for you, dear!” He said, when Deepa asked him reasons for surprise gifts. In a short span of time, Amit filled Deepa’s life with his love. They decided to tie the knot of holy matrimony.
It was a successful marriage but there were also petty quarrels among them, but it happens in every relationship, is it not? Deepa had unfathomable trust in Amit but she was also aware that her nature was short tempered. Many times, she would pick up a fight on petty issues, but Amit would coolly listen to her frustrations and tried to resolve the conflict. That was the sweetness of their relationship; when one overpowered, the other one stepped down and most of the times it would be Amit. Deepa knew deep inside that her temper may not be healthy for their relationship, but her anger was, at times, out of her control.
As the bus entered the market lane, it reminded Deepa of the last fight with Amit. She was sucked into the moment and rolled into her mind like a movie with lights camera and action.
They both had just returned from the market. While sorting the groceries, Amit raised a topic that usually annoyed Deepa. It was ‘Family’. Amit wanted to bring his younger sister to stay with them so that she can pursue her education in the city but Deepa was dead against it.
“I TOLD you a hundred times before…why don’t you UNDERSTAND?, it will eat up our private time.” Deepa erupted.
“But Deepa, we cannot be alone forever, we will have kids, a family for ourselves, we have to take up responsibilities…” Amit tried to convince her.
“KIDS!! AMIT! Please, you know I don’t want to take any responsibilities right now”
“Deepa, you see, I am a son and a brother too… if you treat family obligations as burdens, that’s your problem. But I cannot wash my hands off my responsibilities.” Amit spoke defiantly and it enraged Deepa.
“AMIT, if you want to stay with your sister, then you better stay away from me” She spat angrily. Little did Deepa know that she had crossed the line with that last sentence. Amit was not of the type who yelled and shouted, but that was only until then. He shouted like he did never before.
“OK, FINE….if that is what you want, I AM OFF…I am not a private property of yours to keep.” he angrily left the home and drove off over his bike.
A sudden jerk made Deepa aware of the present. She realized her mistake and resolved in her mind that she would never ever quarrel with Amit. She would take all that it comes, but never speak a word aloud to his love. Now it was her chance to show how much she loved Amit. She decided to give a surprise to Amit tonight and she would clear all the differences they had.
Deepa walked down the market lane and gathered all the required groceries for the surprise Dinner. Puri, Aloo Sabzi, Egg fry and Dal-Rice. This was the super hit menu of the house. Most of the time Amit would make it for her but that day, it was her turn. She bought some scented candles too and was walking back home. Just in time, her eyes fell on a wonderful shirt on display in a garments shop. She picked it up and had it gift wrapped.
Reaching home, Deepa engaged herself in the kitchen. It was 8’0 clock already. She had everything set up just right. She wore his favourite dress, the dishes were prepared, the table was arranged neatly, the gift was ready, scented candles were lit up and there was Deepa waiting for Amit to knock the door.
The time went very slow. She said a million things to herself, she dreamt a thousand dreams for the evening, she rehearsed the way she would receive her love and say sorry to him. And the most awaited knock was heard.
The glitter on her face was something that she herself was unaware of. Her waiting eyes wanted to see none other than Amit, she was restless to take him in her arms and express her love to him. Deepa jumped at the door to open it.
“Hola!” she said, expecting it to be Amit.
Her excitement was suddenly doused at the glimpse of the unexpected visitor. It was Shikha. The threshold of the house separated them. Shikha was surprised to see Deepa in such a mood but Deepa was engrossed in waiting for her love.
“Shikha, so nice that you visited me…but this is not the time. Please. Will see you at office tomorrow.” Deepa was about to shut the door but Shikha resisted. She pushed the door open and slapped Deepa tightly on her cheek. Shaking her vigorously, she shouted and cried at the same time
“AMIT IS DEAD DEEPA…HE WILL NEVER COME BACK….” She slapped her again and repeated her statement.
Deepa got infuriated. She pushed Shikha outside and slammed the door. For a moment she could not think anything. It was a complete blackout; all she could hear was the ringing sound in her ears which was getting louder and louder, her body started to shiver and cold sweat poured out of her skin. Slowly as it happened, she recollected that the night they fought and Amit left home angrily, He met with a fatal accident. He was dead a month ago. But Deepa could not accept it. She was, as if, trapped in a vicious web of time. She believed that Amit would return in the evening and she will set everything right. But suddenly, tragic visuals invaded her mind. The people who brought the news, the scenes of the hospital and dead body of Amit, they all drilled into her into her memories and poisoned her heart. The scent of the candles suffocated her breath, the romantic setup for the evening infused more pain. It was time for her to vent it out. Her nostrils expanded, heart pumped twice as faster, she leaned against the door and slowly slipped downwards and broke into wails, loud enough that they were heard outside the door.
Shikha still stood at the door and wept bitterly. But she was now hopeful that her friend had finally returned to reality. Seated at the doorstep, she waited for her friend to open the door.