This is a story I submitted for the manohar kahaniyan section of an e-zine - 21fools and those foolish people published it! Don't believe me? See for your self - Lost, Found... and Lost Again! Now, would I lie to you?! :P
And now you can read it right here as well... just scroll down!
He couldn’t believe his eyes. She was standing there... right in front of him. Just inches away. She was engrossed in looking at some flowers on the trees and hadn’t noticed him yet. He was confused. What is she doing here? He saw a guest at his hotel come and stand with her. Oh, she is with the wedding party. He was seeing her after three years but she looked the same... she still looked beautiful. He noticed that she had lost weight. She had also cut her hair that he loved so much. In an attempt to move on, I am sure. She was smiling at something her companion had said but he noticed that her smile did not reflect in her eyes anymore. And then suddenly, without warning, she turned and looked straight at him.
He couldn’t move. It was as if her gaze had locked him. Their eyes met and she stopped smiling abruptly. She stared at him for another couple of minutes. He could sense many emotions...shock, confusion, hurt, anger, pain... pass through her face but her eyes were dry, yet. He wanted to touch her, stroke her cheek, hold her in his arms but wasn’t sure if that would be okay. He hesitantly took a step towards her and she took a step back. He reached out to her, said her name softly, “Mukti” “Stop. Don’t!”, and with that she hid her face in her hands and ran away.
Her companion looked at him with suspicion and then followed her. He stood rooted to the spot. I am sorry, Mukti. I am really sorry. I wish I could take everything back, but I can’t. I hope one day you will forgive me. He knew he meant every word. He knew that he would never be able to tell that to her face; that nothing could be the way it was before. He knew that he has lost her... forever. He looked down and walked back to his office. He shut the door behind him and cried silent tears of remorse... all alone.
She had come to attend a friend’s wedding. She hated weddings but her friend had insisted. ‘It would be good for you. It’s happening at this beautiful resort in Shimla. You would love it.’ and she had agreed. She sighed. She was feeling so out of place here. Everyone was so happy but she had forgotten how to smile. She had forgotten what it was like to be truly happy. She came out in the lawn to take a walk. She saw a beautiful tree in full bloom and stopped to admire it. She tried to reach and pick a flower when her friend’s cousin came out.
He had been flirting with her, pretty uselessly, for the last one hour. She sighed and put up a fake smile in place. He started talking about weddings and how he loved attending them. She was smiling politely but wasn’t really listening. Suddenly she felt someone staring at her and turned to look at him. She froze. She couldn’t believe that it was him.
Raghav?! What is he doing here? She stood transfixed. She didn’t know what to do. What to say? Should she stay? Should she talk to him? But what will she say? She hadn’t spoken to him in three years but not one day had gone by when she hadn’t thought of him. She remembered everything... in excruciating detail. She saw him move towards her, say her name. In that instant she knew, she was not ready... not ready to reconcile, not ready to forgive him, not ready to forgive herself...not just yet.
“Stop. Don’t,” these two words just opened the flood gates. Her eyes, that hadn’t shed a single tear in the last two years, welled up. I can’t do this right now. She covered her face and ran back to her room. Once inside, she bolted the room and cried her heart out. I wish I could turn back time, Raghav. I wish I hadn’t lied to you. She could hear the banging on the door, but she didn’t care... she wanted to grieve and grieve alone.
His & Hers... Three years before
Things weren’t right for a long time and Mukti could feel it. They had known each other for five years and she couldn’t understand what had suddenly gone so wrong. Their shy smiles across the room had stopped and so had the holding of hands while walking; saying ‘I love you’ and ‘I miss you’ after every conversation, calling each other 20 times a day, and all the other idiosyncrasies that one associates with being in a relationship.
In the beginning, she was worried. What is happening to us? Are we falling out of love? She had a talk with Raghav who said, “I still love you but now you have to understand that we are married. The responsibilities have increased. Things have to change but nothing to worry about. It’s all good. Sweety, can you hand me that file please? It is on the table outside.” Mukti wasn’t convinced. She still missed their long drives, eating out sessions, his phone calls, but she stopped complaining.
After one year of marriage, she also fell into the daily routine of household chores and office work. They hardly spoke, because both of them were too tired after working for almost ten hours every day. They hardly went out, as their work schedules kept them pretty busy... sometimes even on weekends. Even though both felt it and missed each other but neither complained to the other. They both adjusted.
Another year passed and nothing changed. Raghav got a promotion and he had to put in more hours than before. He was always stressed out and irritated. He would leave before her and would come back late at night. Most of the times she would be sleeping when he walked in... Exhausted. Mukti wanted to have a baby but he was too busy to even have a discussion about it. Two years and eight months later, she conceived a baby. Mukti was nervous. She decided to tell him over a romantic dinner that she would cook for him. She got busy preparing all his favourite dishes. It was meant to be a surprise. She got dressed and waited for him to come home. At ten, when he didn’t turn up, she called him up.
“Raghav? Where are you? I am waiting for you for dinner.”
“Why?” he couldn’t understand why she was waiting up for him, “Go to sleep. I will be late and I have already eaten.”
She was angry, “why didn’t you tell me? I have been waiting for you.”
“Mukti, what’s wrong with you? Why are you acting like this? Have I ever told you before when I am getting late? I thought you are used to it by now.”
“I don’t want to be used to it! I am your wife damn it! I am not some roommate you live with!! You need to tell me when you are going to get late!” she didn’t realize that she was screaming.
“Jeez Mukti!! Relax and stop shouting. I don’t have time for this right now. I am busy. Eat something and go to bed. I might have to stay in the hotel only.” He said.
“Do whatever you want.” She hung up. She stared at the phone waiting for him to call back. He always called back after a fight, but this time he didn’t. Tears welled up in her eyes. She wiped them and put the food in the fridge. She changed and went to bed. She kept lying there in the darkness and reflected on their marriage. She realized that she didn’t like the way their loving and caring relationship had turned into a marriage of convenience. She decided that she would talk to him once he came back. She touched her stomach trying to feel the growing life inside... she couldn’t feel anything and that scared her more than it should.
She again stared at the phone. It had not ringed.
We’ll never go to bed angry with each other. We’ll always make up before sleeping.
She remembered the pact they had made when they first starting seeing each other. She called him up. He saw the phone ringing but he didn’t pick up. He was also angry at her. He was not out having fun, he was working. She should understand that. He put the phone on silent and went to meet the guests at the party.
She stopped calling after 4 times and went to sleep.
The next evening, she was lying on the couch when she heard him walk into the house.
Without any preamble, he asked, “you didn’t go to office today?”
“I was at the hospital”, she said.
“Why? What happened?”, he asked washing his face.
“I had an abortion.” She said without any emotion.
“What?!” he looked up at her, “you are pregnant?”
“No, I was. I had an abortion in the morning.”
“What the hell Mukti? You didn’t even tell me that you were pregnant?! How can you go and have an abortion without me?! It was my baby too!!”
“You don’t tell me stuff so why should I?”
“You are equating me not telling you that I am coming late to getting an abortion without telling me?! Do you hear yourself? Have you gone mad?!”
“Look at us Raghav. We are not ready to have a baby.”
“You can’t decide that alone!” he was yelling now and moving towards her.
“We don’t have time for each other how will we manage a baby? It’s been ages since we sat down and had dinner together. Who will take care of a baby?!”
“Mukti, I understand that we have not been able to spend time together but that doesn’t mean that you go ahead and have an abortion! You could have spoken to me; we could have worked it out!”
The fight continued and all old wounds were opened up... you don’t have time for me, you don’t tell me important stuff, I feel like I am living alone, I am lonely, you are not supportive enough, you don’t believe in us... etcetera.
“You don’t bother about me! Do you even know what do I do when you are not here? What if I am having an affair? I bet you wouldn’t even care! What if the baby was not even yours? You would never find out!!” Mukti yelled not thinking what she was saying. She was that angry.
The next instant she felt his hand on her cheek. He had slapped her. She fell on the table and felt an excruciating pain in her stomach.
“My baby” she screamed.
But Raghav wasn’t listening. He was standing there like a zombie. he was astonished at his reaction. He had slapped her. He had hurt her. How could he do this? He looked at his hand. How could he be so angry? She forced me!
He heard her cry again and saw her doubled up on the floor clutching her stomach. He went and picked her up and ran downstairs to his car.
The doctor told them that she has had a miscarriage. He was dumbstruck.
‘I never had an abortion. I was just so angry with you that I lied.’ she had said, ‘I can’t believe you would hit me. I can’t do this anymore Raghav. I just can’t.’
He had just stood there, tears streaming down his face. She moved out and he didn’t stop her. She stopped all communication and he let her. None of them filed for divorce. It was too painful.
Now, three years later, they had come face-to-face and all those emotions rushed to the surface. For the last three years they had been coping alone with all that had happened... but they didn’t know that both of them were still together... even if it was in pain.