Betrayal was the last thing in his mind. But when she broke her decision to him, peppered with some trumped up accusations, he was torn apart. He’d never in his wildest thoughts had imagined that girl he loved so dearly would do this thing to him. He used to be shy and reticent guy, especially when it came to the matters involving either sex, and it was her who opened him up freeing him from the shackles of his wariness. But it was now herself only, who could plunge him back into his reticence.
It was a day in the month of August. The city has being almost inundated by heavy downpour; scent of wet soil and rattling of frogs were giving a great compliment to the seemingly cooler atmosphere. The sky was grey and was slowly setting into the evening. The city lights along with their reflections in small pounds created on the potholes and water droplets suspended on the window panes filled the void of created by absence of stars. Though the rain had thrown the traffic into a chaos; the cool breeze and twinkling lights only made the atmosphere more romantic. The haze, which engulfs the city most of the time, was conspicuous by its absence. The weather was clear and visible. It was in this serene setting when Sanjana asked Pranav to meet her at their usual place; a Self Service Cafe tucked in the middle of the District Shopping Centre, surrounded by the office complexes, in the western district of the city.
Questioning Sanjana was out of question for this 25 year old lawyer, after all she was the one who made him a man enough to ask questions, to grill a person black. He knew Sanjana for 8 years now. They first met at the college, they were in same course and both aspire to pursue law. He was just another below average person then, shy, reticent, and somewhat spineless. But somewhere inside of him there was a fire, a fire which was fueled by Sanjana. The fire which made him what he is today, a swashbuckling lawyer working in one of the best firm of the country. The fire, if not fueled, would have remained dormant making him just another lawyer in the street. Sanjana gave him what he craved for most love, attention and self-confidence. These were the things which were denied to him in his tender age. Things which his step-mother refused to give him. A void, which Sanjana filled after 10 years of his mother’s death. Their professional way parted when Sanjana opted to work for an outsourcing company; which her father, rich businessmen, advised. Nevertheless, she encouraged him to go in for the law; along with the part time job he was doing from his college days to fund his education. Though they never confessed their love for each other, they also never denied it. And whenever, he wanted to meet or she wanted to meet him, they started from the same place, the usual, the place first introduced to him by Sanjana. Earlier, he couldn’t afford anything there, it was Sanjana all the way, but now times have changed and so does he; he never let her bother for anything. He ordered flowers to be delivered to his office. He wanted to fill the wet day with the fragrance of flower, for his love. He can never question her, he can only love her.
The grimness on her face didn’t surprise him. She was under extreme work pressure for last few days. Although they met few times during last month, but it was their first meeting in two weeks. He gave her the flowers he ordered for her. He was dressed in his black trousers along with white shirt and black tie; he felt he is rather inappropriately dressed for the date. She was in her usual dress, a white top with jeans, she kept her beautiful long hair open and free. Though her face was grim and her sockets were showing signs of wrinkles, an imprint of extreme hard work, nevertheless her beauty can hardly be hidden from these small bumps. She didn’t apply any make-up, she never liked them anyway. The flower did produce a hint of smile in her face. He went to fetch their coffees.
The sky was dark outside, the wet pavement, cool breeze and lights of the complex were adding to the magic of the already beautiful atmosphere. The aroma of the freshly brewed coffee, the scent of the flowers and humming activity of the place were effectively eclipsing the effects of hot monotonous summer that had passed. There was more hot coffees than the cold one, there were more admiration of sky, more demand for window sitting than any other day. They sat in their usual window seat, overlooking the empty space in the middle, around which the building housed shops. There were iron benches and few barrows in the empty space, selling sugar candies, momos and other such knick-knacks to the students, lovers and office goers. Her face still had the grimness, he decided to talk.
“Hey! What is the matter? It seems the work is taking toll on you. Your eyes are receding into your sockets.”
“Nothing serious, just something here and there. You say, how are you doing?” She said, while stirring the sugar in her coffee.
“Hmm…Your face is grim today, and yesterday your voice had a tinge of sadness. Today, also there was some seriousness in your voice. Is everything fine?”
“Yes, everything is fine…Why are you repeating the same thing again and again.” She snapped back.
“Alright Alright!” He spoke trying to calm down the things.
They both looked outside the window, to the people outside gravitating to the magnetic force of mannequins and atmosphere. After few sips of coffee, she started.
“What were you doing with that lady yesterday at the café?” she said the word which almost appeared to be whispered.
“What were you doing with that lady yesterday at the café? After your office hours”
“Oh! Ms. Singh, she is a legal Director of one of our client, we were discussing her company’s case. The forex one I told you earlier which is keeping me busy these days. Quite a complicated one.”
“So meeting was necessary after the office, especially after the office”
“It was necessary, some filing to do, regulatory compliances you know. Could be done from the office. However, we were only two left in office and she insisted for some bites, so there we were. You were there, you should have joined us.”
“You were with her alone in the office”
“No, we left, as soon we were alone, why didn’t you join us then?”
“That is not the point here”
“Point! You need a point to poke me” he smiled.
“A day before yesterday you were dining with the same lady at the at the restaurant”
“Official function, I told you that day”
“But with the same girl. Whom are you fooling Pranav?”
“C’mon, stop pulling my leg. She is just a client, nothing more than that”
“You were going out with her regularly. Isn’t it something fishy between you two”
“Fishy! Are you fine, there is nothing; why should I hide anything from you? I tell you everything”
“Not your DATE”
“DATE…that was no date, just meeting and discussing business, that lady is engaged for god’s sake” Pranav still was unable to grasp the situation.
“Business meeting doesn’t involve fancy restaurant after office hours. It is only something must be going between you people. And you know that the old man she is engaged too”
“She is engaged to an old man?” he remarked trying to calm down the situation. This might be a very good prank, he thought.
“Look! Stop fooling me and double timing me. I know you people are in a relationship. I have seen you people myself in the café and restaurant.”
“Yes! On official meeting”
“Stop lying on my face Pranav, I also have proofs that you people are more than involved.”
“What? Are you accusing me of infidelity? C’mon girl. Look there is only one girl in my life and that one is you. Rest, are just friends or colleagues”
“So! There are rests? How many are there Pranav?”
“C’mon, you know our common friends and few are my colleagues and client. What is it with you today?”
“The question is not with me but with YOU? Why are you double timing me? Just simply say no if you are fulfilled with me”
“What! Fulfilled? Are you alright? Why in the hell I’d say no to you. You’re my everything; why are you digging up such stupid baseless accusations?”
“I am not digging up things, I have proofs” He tried to protest but she continued “and I am not suppose to answer you on these, I am not your wife”
“But you are my life”
“No, I am not, there are many others, and you know it much better than me. Look I didn’t came here to argue with you. I have observed your behavior for last few months and have concluded that you are behaving like an infidel, an unrepentant philanderer”
“Philanderer! What? But..”
“Don’t interrupt me and raise your voice. It is you who is at fault, you have hurt me”
“Just for going out for official lunch with a client!”
“I said don’t interrupt. Now listen carefully, I have came to a decision, it is not possible for me to continue with you anymore, I am breaking off, I think you have got yourself replaced by your own infidelity”
“What..Break off..” he lost his words. He was stunned. He turned ice cold.
“Yes, break off, I cannot continue like this anymore. Now I will be changing my numbers, don’t dare to call me or follow me to my home. I will expose you to the bar. You know and I know I can do it”
He was speechless. For the first time in many years he felt he has a loss for the words. This girl who gave him another life now was stabbing him from all fronts. Thoughts failed to cross his mind; her words kept ringing in his ears.
“I must go now, you are free. Do not dare to call me, I will be getting engaged to another man within few weeks. He might not be young, but he is rich and faithful. Good bye Pranav”
These were her last words. She snatched her purse and darted off the café.
Pranav sat there upright. He still hasn’t recovered from the shock he’d got. His whole life came crashing by before his very eyes. His eyes followed her. But she didn’t look back. Evening has given its way to the night; grey sky had turned blackish red. He gathered himself and walked out towards the empty space.
There were many people walking there, enjoying the best times of their life. Even though he saw his death in front of his eyes, breeze hadn’t died yet. As he walked through the empty space, with his eyes and mouth wide open, it started raining. Almost everyone ran for the cover, except him. His eyes turned towards Music stored, a poster was canvassing for the new DVD series of Charlie Chaplin movies; it read ‘I love to walk in rain as no one can see me crying”. Tears rolled down from his eyes, but the drops were not alone, they were lost with raindrops.
He walked slowly towards the parking. Life must go on, he said to himself.
© Tarun Mitra
PS: This is a three part story. Do leave your comments and expectations.