Autumn is a season of nostalgia. Autumn is when the harsh summer is gone, and reminder of spring sets in right before winter seeps in your bones. Of course growing up as a non-resident Bengali, there was this added excitement around autumns – Durga Puja. Autumn always took Raghav back to his childhood days and invariably brought a smile on his face. Today was a little different. Today has been one of the toughest day of his life and he had a feeling there will be more such days. He thought he had left that chapter all behind, but as his Innova sped over the Pune expressway, he couldn’t help but reflect upon the other such journey.
“Are you sure this is OK”, asked Neha. “I tried leaving a message before I left. I hope she gets it”, Rohit said, checking for the cars in the rear view mirror. There was this familiar silence they kept settling back into. There has been a lot between them, more than they cared to admit or remind themselves of. But today was different. Today there was this little glimmer of hope in her eyes, but his forehead lined up under the practicality of their situation. Rohit has been noticing this white ambassador, which had been always two cars behind them. At first, he thought it was just him being paranoid, but when he slowed down to let that car pass, the car oddly enough hid behind a slow lorry and ignored this free passage. Something was amiss. He has been steadily picking up pace since then, and increasing the distance. He knew the sharp turns coming up ahead, and an exit to the highway right after. He knew if he could take the turn quickly enough and take the exit, he would be out of sight of the car behind before it even realised. He dove on to the turn taking the inner side, and quickly moved to the outer side. It all happened in an instant. His car tyres skidded on the puddle of oil on the road and swerved out of control. It went and hit the divider and jumped on to the other side of the road. He braked hard and was able to stop the car, right in the middle of the wrong side of the highway. “Phew, that was close”, Rohit said. He couldn’t hear Neha’s reaction. A trailer truck carried them for next 100 metres before it stopped. The white ambassador passed from the other side, slowly.
Raj entered his flat only to find it dark and missing a wife. He has been expecting to walk into such a flat for a while now. It has been getting worse with time; however eventuality of his situation still hurt. He had been feeling a tone deaf man trying to play a harmonica when it came to love. Love is easier to write about than live through day and night. He had lived through it for last five years, watching his life slip from a rosy honeymoon to a trying pit of fire. He poured himself out a stiff drink and wondered if this wasn’t what he was looking forward to- a silent exit. Two friends parting ways silently, without any false promises or obvious accusations. May be he can make this work after all. It was right then that he got the call. “Yes speaking! Yes she is my wife. When? Where?. Where do I come?” It seems that fate didn’t like a silent goodbye after all.
It was around 5 pm, when the Piyana got the call from police station. She tried calling Sohini on her office number, but no one picked up. She couldn’t find the strength in her to face her alone, but she couldn’t wait for her husband (Sohini’s brother) to return from work either. She called her home number but no one picked up there as well. She reached Sohini’s gate only to find her son Raghav outside sitting on the stairs.
“Why are you waiting here? When did you come back from school?”
“20 mins back. The door doesn’t seem to open. I am waiting for mom to come back”
The door was not locked from outside, which is what Sohini would have done if she had gone out, instead it seemed to be latched from inside. Alarm bells rang in Piyana’s head. She started calling Sohini’s name loudly and knocking on the door. Within five minutes a small crowd had gathered, including the security guard. With some effort they were able to push open the doors. It all seemed quiet inside. Raghav was sure he was going to get into trouble for breaking the latch, and right then he saw bundle of his mom’s clothes hanging from the ceiling fan. His aunt came up from behind and closed his eyes and broke into a loud wail of tears. He first didn’t realise, and then he didn’t want to believe it. He struggled to breathe. He wished he could close his eyes and when he opened them back, world will be where it was in the morning. He wanted his dad. He wanted his baba to come and set things right, turn back time. That was when his aunt told him.
That was 15 years back. It is not today. It felt like yesterday. Everything rushed back to him like a river over a broken dam which took years to build. His world was spinning out of control. He stopped the car by the side, and stepped out. He walked up and down the road slowly breathing in and out- walking meditation as his doctor called it. He needed some time to absorb this. He needed to sort his story out straight. More than anything else he needed some answers.
… To be continued