Shocked silence greets her from the other end of the phone, and she sighs inaudibly.
“You mean your husband…he…he’s…?” Sanjana leaves the sentence incomplete, her trembling voice perhaps not strong enough to speak any further. Or maybe she believes that by not saying it aloud, she can also ignore the fact that he was no more.
“Gone”, Nikita completes the sentence for her, swallowing the lump that was slowly forming in her throat.
“When?” she whispers from the other end after a long pause.
“Well you disappeared, didn’t you?” Nikki continues, grief seeping into her tone. “You haven’t shown your face, called, emailed, or done anything to keep in contact for the past 3 years…how would you know what happened in our lives?” Now irritation was starting to creep in as well. She had locked him up in a secret corner of her heart which she never wished to open again, but Sanjana had to mention him!
“Nikki, I’m sorry. You know I’ve been busy…I was just too deep down in things to…” she sighs in rejection. “Just tell me, Nikki. Please. I was his friend.”
“Two years ago”, she replies shortly.
“Nikki I’m really sorry to hear that…I should’ve been around, I’ve been a terrible friend, I know…” she is almost in tears, and Nikki’s heart pains hearing that.
“Its okay, Sanju. Life goes on and…you can’t grieve forever. I’m sure he wouldn’t have liked me being sad…he always said I look better when angry”, an involuntary smile graces her face as she says this.
Nikita had never thought she would have the strength to say this. Two years back, she had been lifeless…she had lost herself without him. Every moment, every second had felt so lonely.
It was somehow understood that the conversation was at a dead end. They said their goodbyes and cut the call. An involuntary sigh escaped her as her mind went into flashback…reliving the moments she had spent with him.
They weren’t fresh memories, really. Today, they cease to provide her the comfort they so easily could give two years ago. Or maybe she doesn’t need the comfort. They are too detached. Too…passive. It seems unreal that she had moved on so much. She never even thought of him anymore. The colours have faded…it was all black and white. And scratchy, like old reels of film.
She remembers the way he held her…at times he’d hug her tightly enough to suffocate her. But it still felt so nice. Everything would seem right when she was in his arms.
Hectic days at work would all be worth it when she came home and saw dinner ready for her on the table, set nicely, with candles and all.
He would always reach home before her, and he ensured she didn’t have to do much once she was home. Even though she missed waking up with him as he was out of the house before her, hence he had to get up earlier than her as well. Yet she loved how he always made up for his absence in the morning.
They never really fought much…except for the remote. They would end up arguing over the TV remote every evening. He wanted to watch the boring news channels…and she would do anything not to watch it.
The numerous pillow fights they had had…when he had refused to get up and open the door for the milkman. She had actually pushed him off the bed once, pillow and all. And he had been grumbling all day about his poor back.
He was always so sweet…when they had a big fight, he’d gift her with a bouquet of beautiful red roses and a sappy romantic card. She had always teased him about the cheesy messages he left on the table, scribbled on a nice piece of paper, lying under a red rose used as a paperweight.
He’d take her on romantic dates all of a sudden, and they used to have so much fun there…every moment had seemed so precious. She had never wanted to let go.
That was until he went away…the cancer…it killed him. She had always imagined growing old with him, and laughing at him when he lost all his teeth. But he had lain on the hospital bed, held her hand in both of his, and told her not to cry.
She had burst into tears on hearing that, but he had wiped away her tears and said that he’d always be beside her…as her guardian angel. But he never wanted to see tears in her eyes. He wanted her to be happy again, find someone to love, to cherish, to dream with, to grow old with…just like he had dreamed of doing with her.
But then…crying was never going to help. He had always hated tears…he kept saying she looked far better when she was seething and occasionally poking carrots in his chest while glaring at him in the kitchen.
“Promise me you’ll fall in love again…and that love will be deeper than anything you ever felt for me”, he had said, looking into her eyes, even as she gazed at him in disbelief, wanting to say something but the lump in her throat preventing her from doing so.
“…you’ll love him so much that you won’t have to think of me again…that way you’ll never be sad”, he had smiled.
She was shaking her head vigorously in the negative and had just opened her mouth to say that it was impossible when he had cupped her cheek and said softly, “You don’t have to think of me…but just don’t forget me.”
The tears streamed down her cheeks upon hearing that. “But…” she somehow spluttered through her tears.
“No…you promised me. No tears”, he smiled.
She hadn’t kept her promise. She had cried and cried for an entire week after that…it had been too hard to grasp the fact that she would never see his face again.
She had known that she needed a change in her life. Something, anything…one that would take her away from this place that she knew so well.
Zindagi bewafaa hai
Yeh maana magar
Chhodkar raahon mein
Jaaoge tum agar
Chheen laaunga main
Aasmaan se tumhein
Soona hoga na yeh
Do dilon ka nagar
Changing her job was the best thing she could have done. She hadn’t believed his last words but she had found love again. In the most unlikely place ever.
He is so different…quiet, sensible, sensitive… Though she missed the familiar constant chatter near her ears, somehow his silence soothed her. It provided the much needed space for her to heal.
He doesn’t like excuses. Always gets mad at her when she’s late for work. He keeps fighting with her. Every day, every time, every moment. But she knows he does it intentionally. Just to irk her…just to get her to flare up and yell at him, because he likes her that way too…he never said it, but she can see clearly in his eyes the intensity that burns when she is angry.
He doesn’t pat her soothingly on the back and whisper stupid things in her ear to make her laugh when she cries. He holds her safely in his strong arms, and rests his chin on her head. He doesn’t say a word. He lets her get it out. His heartbeat always calms her down.
He isn’t romantic…not with red roses and scented candles and sappy romantic cards and frills and violins. Sometimes she wishes he would do those things for her. But the thoughts fade away when he takes her on a surprise long drive somewhere far away, light music playing on the background.
She loves his silent presence. It is everything she needs. She just wants to know that he’s there, beside her.
She loves the way he argues with her at every little thing, and then pouts cutely when he doesn’t get his way. She loves the feel of his arms…his soft hair, his deep, dark eyes in which she nearly always loses herself…
But above all, she loves the way he loves her. Like there is no one else in this world but them.
The contrasting pictures of the two most important parts of her life don’t bother her…she never feels the need to compare. Because they were both special, in their own way. He was still in her heart, locked away into a deep corner only she could reach. No one could take that away.
And he has made a new place in her heart…solely for him. He has filled her with warmth, love, laughter, happiness and most importantly, life.
She never needs to think back, to wonder why what happened, happened. She can truly live in the present now. She had fulfilled his last wish…perhaps even for her own sake. She had found love.
A tap on her shoulder shakes her out of her thoughts. She turns her eyes to her handsome boss…now, her husband.
“Thinking?” he asks quietly, pulling her close.
“Of you”, she answers, and sees the light blush creep up his cheeks before he lowers his face to hers and plants a soft kiss on her lips.
“Really, Mrs. Nikita Modi?”
“Yes, Dr. Abhimanyu Modi”, she smiles, and he twirls her around as she giggles happily.
Ho humsafar na tera jab koi
Tu ho jahaan rahunga main wahiin
Tujhse kabhi na ek pal bhi main judaa