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Monsoon Series 2: Blink

posted Mar 2, 2012, 7:34 AM by Madhuri Sen   [ updated Oct 28, 2014, 10:05 AM ]

She stood at the balcony watching the boys merrily splashing around in a game of football below. The rainwater lashed her face. She occasionally tilted it up with her eyes shut and a hint of a smile on it. Every few minutes she would glance at her watch. She heard a boy call out to another below, “Jatin, be there in a minute.” The dark rain clouds had dimmed the daylight a long time before sunset.  But the quick cloak of complete darkness falling around her said it would be night soon.

He hadn’t called yet.  He always called if he wasn’t going to be home on time. Should she call him?  She decided against it. What if he was on his bike now? He always got irritable when she fretted over even a few minutes delay. She got a good telling to every time she had called when he was riding, as he couldn’t answer the call anyway. She knew however, that deep down, regardless of what he said he liked her fussing over his getting back on time each day. It was just that smiling to acknowledge that or even saying it in words was not his style. She had to read his pleasure and appreciation of her through his frowns, and how he stood just that wee bit closer looking down at her face.

She heard her mother-in-law call out from the living room, “Beta, your phone.” She turned around and quickly ran to the phone, almost slipping over the rain water drenched floor.

“Hello,” she spoke into the receiver. Why had he called the landline? .... she wondered. But the voice on the other side was not his. “Hello, madam. I have a message for sir. He forgot his wallet on his desk when he left in a hurry early today. He may worry, so I thought I should leave a message for him here since his mobile is unreachable.” Shruti felt the blood drain from her face and her breathing became shallow. “I hope, madam, that he made it on time for your special occasion.” “Ok, thank you. I will let him know about the wallet.”

Shruti’s mobile lay on the same sidetable as the landline phone. She dialed the last dialed number. “This phone is either switched off, or out of coverage area. Please try again later. Ya wedi….” She disconnected, before the drone could tell her the same thing in two other languages. She sat staring at the phone, willing it to ring. “What special occasion?” she wondered. Images of his bike skidding rushed in involuntarily. She shut eyes with her eyebrows knitted together in an attempt to shut them off.  She hit the call button on her mobile again. This time she let the drone repeat her message a couple of times in all three languages as the images flying around in her mind changed. Didn’t he always speak a little too fondly of that pretty girl who worked in the same team? She had her number as well from the couple of times that Valmik had left it with her as a back up to checking in, in case there was trouble getting through to his number. He had said that they had adjacent workstations. She scrolled through her contacts list to Misha. She got the same drone…telling her that this number was switched off as well.

Her mom-in-law emerged from the kitchen. “Beta, I think it may be a good idea to make bhajiyas today. Just the perfect weather for it. What do you think?” Before Shruti could respond, she saw her face, “Whose call was that?” “From his office,” said Shruti. “What did they want,” came the follow-up enquiry. “Just to leave a message that he had forgotten his wallet there,” she responded. “Hmm, so the bhajiyas…?” “Ma, I am feeling a little nauseous right now…I think I ate too much for lunch. Acidity maybe” Shruti said.  Her mom-in-law at her face, started to say something and then decided against it. She instead picked up the TV remote and started to surf channels.

The sound grated her ears, so Shruti picked herself up and walked into the bedroom. She picked up a book and then sat staring at her mobile, with book open in front. It was fifteen minutes since the time he was usually home. No call yet. She switched on the PC to see if she could find anyone to chat with. Signing in on invisible mode on both Yahoo and MSN, she could see a couple of friends online. Picking up her phone he dialed his number again. And then Misha’s number again. Same results for both as before.
She started as the doorbell rang twice - like he always did when he got home. She stubbornly sat there till she heard her mom-in-law call out, "Beta, are you getting the door." With a sullen "Yes, ma," she walked slowly to the door to open it. Valmik walked in dripping water all over the floor all the way to their bedroom. "Shruti I am totally famished. Could you get me something quickly while I shower and get changed." "Get it yourself," she snapped, walking up to the wardrobe quickly pulling on her jeans and tee. He looked up surprised. "Where are you going?" "None of your business," she snarled. Tugging the windcheater out as well, she stomped out of the room and Valmik heard the front door slam shut after her.
Frozen for a second, with the puzzled expression plastered on his face, Valmik ran after her - but the elevator was already half way down by the time he got to it. He could discern her turning the corner of the road towards the seaside promenade by the time he got to the gate. Walking at as fast a pace as he could to not attract unwanted attention, he followed her swiftly.
She seemed to have disappeared when he turned the next corner, until he noticed her standing leaning against the street light, staring out into the sea. He came up from behind and laying a hand on her shoulder, whispered, "Shruti!" She turned to him with her face streaked with rain water and her own tears. "Shruti, what happened? Why did you run off like that?" "How do you care?" she retorted bitterly. "If I won't care, who would?"
"You can go ask, Misha that!"
"Misha??? Where does she get into all this?"
"Oh - so, now you can't even bear to have her being mixed up in "all this"?"
"Shruti, talk sense. What exactly do you mean to say?"
"Of course I only speak nonsense all the time. I am not as smart as Misha is. I am only a dumb housewife you leave back in the house."
This time there was a hint of annoyance in his voice, "Shruti, please tell me what the matter is."
"Where were you all this time?"
"Is THAT what all this is about?.....if you have to know, I had gone to get tickets for a play next weekend for our anniversary. It was meant to be a surprise. But not much left of that anymore is there?"
He pulled out the soggy two scraps of papers and let them float away in the puddle, the street lamp lighting its way."
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