Two Years

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Chapter 26

Where Are You, My Love

Ten minutes, and still no auto. I am getting tired and almost give in to the temptation to ride back home. I hesitate because I feel my legs trembling. As I turn into the gate, Vijay comes out and is surprised to see me there.

“Are you lying in wait for me!” he exclaims and then laughs at his own joke. I look away, embarrassed and point to the road. “No autos.” I walk to my bike.

“You aren’t going in that! Come with me.”

“I am not walking back,” I said firmly, though I wanted to make it sound like a joke.

“I am dropping you,” he said, narrowing his eyes.

“Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“Only meet my parents. That can wait. At least he will be pleased that I am helping a lady,” he said, bitterness creeping into his voice.

“You don’t know how lucky you are to have a father who thinks something!” I snap, unable to take it any longer.

He looks at me and walks ahead. I bang the door shut as I slip into the passenger seat. “Phew! Is it safe to get into the car? Is my door in one piece?” he asks, bending to look at me from near the doorway.

“I am sorry,” I tossed it at him indifferently.

He sits and looks at me again. “You are like some dead volcano coming to life!”

“It’s my dad’s anniversary, Vijay. I am just not myself, please,” I said crisply, wanting to just go to bed and shut the world out.

He silently starts the car.

I change into a nightie the moment I reach home and lie down.

All that looms in front of my closed eyes is my father’s face. But it’s not his face. I can’t remember the exact contours of his face. His nose, his eyes – everything blurs and I remember similar faces, but not his face. I don’t have a picture of him, I realise almost simultaneously!

It unsettles me.

The very walls in the room press in on me. I so desperately want Karthik then. To talk to him, to have him hold me. I finally give in to tears.

That evening, Rekha and Vijay surprise me with a visit. She is so warm and comforting! Just her presence soothes me.

“Vijay told me it was your father’s anniversary and I got the feeling you are alone…” she asks, looking around.

I make coffee for them and keep her engaged in other topics of discussions. Seeing Vijay get bored, I ask him about what system to buy and he tells me about configurations and capabilities with enthusiasm that leaves me untouched.

They leave in a while, and my loneliness rebounds. I take courage to call Karthik.

“Hello!” he says, surprise evident in his voice.

“Hello…how are you?” I ask.

“How are you?” he replies with a question.

I say, “I don’t seem to have a photo of my father’s with me…I was wondering if I left it behind.”

“You didn’t take it with you? There are some 2-3 bags that had all of your father’s papers, photos…documents…”

“No…” I hesitate. What bag is this? Where is it?

“OK, I will have it reached to you…?” How will he reach it to me? “Anything else?” he asks.

I want to tell him about my visit to the house, but am unable to speak about it. I feel choked. “Nothing…” I say softly.

“What about the house? Have you found a tenant?”

I struggle with emotions.

“Okay, bye,” he says dryly just as I speak. “I went there this morning…I …can I…should I sell it?”

There is silence and I wonder if he has disconnected. “We should have done it then…,” he says simply. “Do what you think is best,” he puts the ball back in my court in a kindly but detached tone.

Another silent pause. I wait for him to disconnect. He asks, “Kalpana?” My heart flips and I suppress a sob. “If you need any help… let me know.”

I close my eyes. “Thanks, I am fine,” I say with an effort.

“I see… Fine… Bye,” he says and ends the call.

What does he see? I bury my face in my hands. Does he still think… that I am with someone?

I can’t bear the thought… I want to call back and clarify.

Oh get a hold on yourself, girl. You both are done with each other!

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