Durga puja over… Today is the last day… Dashami morning…
Maya took off her specs, kept it aside and sipped her cup of tea which Reema served along with some biscuits. Reema is her elder daughter-in-law, wife of her elder son Satya. Both of them were married two years ago, now staying abroad. Maya’s younger son Som also got married to Nishi 6 months back and both of them are working abroad. None of her sons have any plans to come back to India, rather they are all trying to settle there only.
Maya, at the age of 67, stays alone in her 1 bedroom apartment in Kolkata. After her husband Anant left her alone, she decided to stay on her own, though her sons wanted her to stay with them turn by turn. But Maya was completely adamant about her stay in her own country, in her own home, preferring her own comfort zone. She visited her sons’ places once. Didn’t find it that interesting, rather felt too much confined and suffocating. Maya and Anant were staying separate for the last 10 years. Maya had no whereabouts of Anant, and she never tried also.
Reema’s mother was severely ill and she was counting her days. As soon as Maya came to know this, she immediately called Satya and they arranged for Reema’s visit to her mother in her last days. Luckily enough they got the ticket and Reema flew down to India. She arrived last night only and today afternoon she will be leaving for her parental abode in Jamshedpur. The tickets were all done beforehand through the net and that was a blessing for her.
Reema was obviously very upset, in a very bad state of mind. She was unusually quiet. Maya, being a mother could empathize. Reema was about to leave in the afternoon. Maya wished she could accompany her. She was reluctant to let Reema go all alone in such a crisis hour, that too in such a vulnerable state of mind…
Both of them had their morning tea together. Maya shared her tea time with someone else after a long time. She became habituated to welcome her morning hours with her cup of tea alone in her balcony, talking silently to and staring helplessly towards her pot-plants, creepers, and the freshly bloomed flowers. She was feeling good for herself yet sorry for the girl sitting beside, who was more of a daughter than a daughter-in-law. They didn’t talk much with each other, apart from some small yes-and-no’s……
Jamuna, the maid didn’t turn up. She took a leave for the day. Both Maya and Reema shared the kitchen chores together and obviously they finished them pretty fast. The daughter’s young hands were very swift compared to that of the mother’s. Maya was relaxed as she was getting tensed thinking about Reema’s departure. Whether she would be able to match all her household chores along with the ticking time, so that Reema leaves for the station on time.
Reema embraced Maya, Maya hugged her dearly and both shared some silent tears, both knowing very well exactly what was going to happen in the coming days. Maya said while wiping her moist eyes, “sorry beta.., I had to leave you alone at such an hour when you needed a strong hand to hold on to the most…. but you know if I would have gone with you, I would have been an extra burden for you all due to my own disabilities.” Reema held her hands and pleaded, “You need not be sorry for anything Maa, I know very well, what and how you feel for me. I know, you will always be there beside me, Maa. Take care. It has been a tiring day for you, please take ample rest, I had called up Jamuna and she told me that she will be coming in the evening and will prepare your dinner. She told me not to worry at all.”
Saying so, Reema left …………………..
Maya was left all alone, once again…. She lied down on her bed, with a book.
No sooner did she start going through the lines, her cell rang. An unknown number it was. She didn’t accept the call. It rang again after a few seconds. This time she picked it up. She felt, it may be a call from Reema’s home.
Maya – “hello..,”
Male voice – “hello, is it Maya there..?”
Maya – “yes, speaking… Who is it..?”
Male voice – “Hey ya, Dhruv here… remember any Dhruv from your college..?”
Maya – “Ohh my god, Dhruv…. Youuu…?? ”
Dhruv – “Yesssss….!!!! Thank god, you got me…”
Maya – “I still can’t believe I am hearing from you..!! Where from did you get my number? ”
Dhruv – “Got it from Shilpi.”
Maya – “Okay, Good… But, can’t talk over the phone like this anymore, we have to catch up very soon. Drop in to my place some day and yes, don’t forget to bring Nutan with you too… It has been long since we three met. Where are you calling from now…?”
Dhruv – “Correct you are. Sure, will bring Nutan. She is damn excited to meet you too… we’ll drop in some day and hijack you to our place then… Nutan only got your cell no. from Shilpi and forwarded me today… I’m calling from my office now… ok then, rest when we meet, take care, bye for now.”
Maya kept her cell on the bedside table. Got up from the bed, went to the balcony. Sat on the rocking chair and started to rock on it like a little girl, lost in her ‘wonder years’…
“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.
Dhruv knew that she was serious. ‘Look, Maya, there is nothing between the two of them. Just a little bit of healthy flirting, I’d say.’
‘Flirting? Healthy flirting? Really Dhruv…. ‘She rolled her eyes in disgust.’ That’s what you men call it? There is nothing healthy about flirting, Dhruv, not for a married man.
Healthy flirting is a term introduced by perverted men who want to lend legitimacy to their extra-marital 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 Dhruv and asked, “Did my husband sleep with her? You are his friend. Did he ever tell you anything about it?”
Just then the doorbell rang….. Once … twice …
Maya got up from the rocking chair slowly. Reached the main door, opened it to find Jamuna only. It was a great relief. Jamuna entered with a big grin. Maya was not at all in a mood to smile at her. Still gave a tiny smile and went back to the balcony… Sat for a while… got up again… she was feeling terribly restless. The sudden glimpse of those terrible days were in front of her eyes again… it brought back her anxiety, her bewildered self, her trauma of losing her beloved……. She wanted to forget them, but the more she tried to set them aside, the more they appeared in front of Maya’s eyes….
Dhruv’s call, after so many years, made her feel so good but, again… side by side, it brought back many bitterly battered memories of her upsetting days with Anant. She hated the memories of those not-so-memorable moments. She stared blankly through the railing, at the sky.., at the newly planted rose plant, at the dream-filled, blushing-pink freshly bloomed rose bud.., just like a newly love-stricken teenage girl, waving Maya with the green leaves around her… as if it wanted to wipe her tears with their soft touch…….
Three days passed…
On the fourth day Dhruv and Nutan finally came to visit Maya. All three of them were college mates along with Anant. Dhruv, Nutan and Maya were missing Anant very badly, but silently within… none of them expressed.
Finally Dhruv took out Anant’s name, though Nutan tried to divert it in many ways. Noticing this, after much reluctance, Maya gathered herself and thought it’ll be better not to escape from the topic, rather to face them and help clear out the chokes from people’s throats. So she directly asked Dhruv if he wanted to know anything about their separation, the reasons and anything under the sky, regarding their split, he can go ahead.
Dhruv queried, Maya replied….. Both of them went on and on……. Just to get the gist of the split.
After their long drawn discussion on who did what, who was wrong and who was right, what happened next, and what would have happened, suddenly, Dhruv went for a long pause. Then he informed something which was somewhat shocking for Maya, all of a sudden.
Dhruv – “Do you know Maya, why are we here?? Where is your, rather our Anant these days?
Maya – “He was and may be is still your friend, you must be knowing. But let me tell you one thing, I am least interested.”
“No Maya, I think, this time you should know where is Anant, and how he is……”
“I told you, and I repeat, it’s none of my business, let him be happy where he is …”
“He is admitted in ICU in a nursing home, struggling for life and death. Do I need to wait for you now to ask about him, or you permit me to say something more about him?”
Now…….., total quietness….. Maya’s eyes fixed, without a single blink.., instantly turned pale, with a blunt look, asked, “what happened and how…?”
Dhruv – “He met with an accident last month.., doctors have left all hope. After much treatment, care and heaps of medicines for the whole month, have told us to inform his near and dear ones. He wants to meet you. Would you like to visit him once?”
Maya broke down…….. Forgot all her grudges, complaints… said, “Yes Dhruv, I will…”
It was decided that they will go immediately as it was already 4:30 pm…. All three of them headed towards the nursing home where Anant laid in a semi-conscious state. They were permitted by the hospital authority to meet him as his condition was not at all good. Maya went inside the ICU cabin. There lay her beloved, who, for the sake of another woman, left his first ‘love’, to live her life alone and lonely… amidst a strange maddening world with two teenage kids……
Dhruv followed Maya, knowing her well, she may hesitate to call and talk to Anant, after so many years of distance and misunderstanding.
He called, “Anant, open your eyes, see… who’s here…?”
Anant opened his eyes very slowly, looked at her, his eyes glittered for a second, but again closed it, while forwarding his hand gradually towards Maya.
Maya held his hand with both her hands…. Her uncontrollable tears touched and kissed Anant’s pale flickering fingers…
Anant – “Don’t cry Maya… you are such a brave woman, such a bold lady you are… tears don’t suit you,… well… just a smile for me… Please… would you please listen to me now… without saying a word dear… “
Maya – “Yes… “
Anant – “I never wanted to clarify or justify anything for any of my actions to anyone, you know that, right…?”
Maya – “yes”
Anant – “But now I want to… I waited for you for all these years, giving you the space to realize your fault and come back to me on your own, without my clarifications. I had faith on my love for you… You always thought you loved me more and in that process you started doubting me… your insecurity, your doubt took us far away from each other… Ask Dhruv and Nutan, I have never done anything wrong which may break us apart the way it did.”
Saying this much, Anant started to fumble and his dismantled words started to lose their bindings…
The doctor was called and Dhruv and Maya were told to set the patient free for that day.
On their way back home, all three were totally silent… no one uttered a single word. Dhruv and Nutan took Maya to their place. After some time when Maya felt a bit normal, she was told about the whole incident, which led to Anant-Maya’s misunderstanding. Nutan used to go to Anant for help regarding some turmoil in her marriage with Dhruv. They were having a very bad phase in their relationship which Anant was trying to resolve. But Nutan didn’t want Maya to know this. So she took a promise from Anant to keep their whole issue a secret.
On the contrary, Maya started to misunderstand Anant for having an affair with someone else, which brought Anant under tremendous pressure… His ‘love’ for Maya was terribly hurt and his ego took a vow that he will never disclose the actual fact on his own. Dhruv – Nutan’s issue was solved but they were warned by Anant that they will never ever tell the truth to Maya, or else he’ll disconnect himself from Dhruv and the rest of the world. Thus, this whole misunderstanding messed up the ties between the two and it aggravated… incidentally they got separated. Anant finally decided to leave Maya on her own and live separately.
Another week passed, Anant’s condition deteriorated… He went into coma.
Maya was left devastated after she got to know the truth. Merely a misunderstanding on her part and ego clash on Anant’s part tore them apart forever. Had she been succeeded in keeping this much faith on her love, that much respect on her beloved, this mess could have been easily avoided. She could have easily bypassed that tiny twist in their life and could have stopped it from becoming such a big issue. She wouldn’t have deprived her sons from missing out on their father’s love, staying as a broken family all these years.
Now, every day she went to the nursing home to visit Anant, sat beside his bed silently, holding his hand for hours. Again came back home in the evening… This way, as if, she wanted to make him feel her love and respect for him, that she will be with him till his last breath.
One day, early morning, Maya’s phone rang… it was a call from the nursing home. Her phone rang again and again… no one was there to receive ‘the news’… around one hour or so… neighbors broke open the door. Dhruv, Jamuna bai rushed inside the house. Maya was found lying on her favorite rocking chair in her balcony, in the midst of her flowers and plants, in their love-fully silent, ‘ever-green’ lap.
Dhruv took a long deep breath and kept glancing towards the vast blue sky, some birds flying… He looked back at her… her lively eyes wide open, yet so calm.., staring still towards a far-away white cloud floating by. He observed her subtly smiling lips, as if she had nothing more to say, or to hear, but only to wish a silent good-bye to the young pink rose-bud beside… how she wished, she could fly with the birds one day… she used to say that in a very poetic mood during their college days, which Anant often played pranks with… Dhruv remembers………..
Yes, she finally flew… quietly, peacefully, soulfully….. She didn’t have to hear that Anant had left… as if, she knew, that Anant wouldn’t leave her alone this time… as if, she knew that she would be accompanying her beloved…
Life separated them, but death bound them… eternally……