Rahul experienced the weariness in his eyes. He was on the computer for couple of hours without a break. Quite recently he had read about the computer vision syndrome. The article had pointed out the prolonged use of the computer would lead to strain in the eyes, blurred vision, and head ache. He shifted the view and massaged the eyelids. The sense of relaxation comforted him.
“Bye sir.” Vikram peeped in from the cabin door. He was working under him as an audit assistant.
Majority of the office staff had left. Rahul had the penchant in working for late hours. Being the head of the internal auditing department the job was demanding in nature. He was nearing the deadlines of statements insisted by the finance director. Working for late hours was not an issue.
He had no reasons to be bothered by the delayed departure from the office.
Rahul had no one to wait at home. Almost every one in the office would glance at the clock during the evening hours and the sense of urgency was visible when they rush out. Rahul was relieved from such compulsions for quite some time.
His father had died when he was still in his college. Geeta his only sister was seen married off about eighteen months back. It has been since last seven months living all alone in a plush apartment in city’s upcoming swanky locality. He had come up in life the hard way. They were from the low income group and had lived in the slums for many years. Once turned successful after his post graduation they thrived and their life flourished on the financial front. But actually his dream transformed into reality after his marriage with Jyoti, almost seven years back. Her persistence to move to a better home had made him to book the apartment.
His marriage with Jyoti had not lasted for too long. Why did they prefer the separation? He leaned forward to lift the glass and then swallowed the water. The bitter taste lingered within.
Rahul rested his weight to the flipside of his chair. He was not enthusiastic to dig the past. But today he had reasons to over power the emotional obstruction. They had lived unconnectedly for last 3 years. Initially he had struggled hard to overcome the trauma. He was tortured by the ordeal. The self centered attitude was the key factor which kept him away. The hauteur did not allow the heart to soften. Jyoti stayed with her mother. Both of her brothers were living abroad and had shown no signs to return back. Father was no more. Her mother was retired school headmistress. Jyoti had perhaps become the sense of security to elderly mother.
Rahul somehow believed that Jyoti’s mother had used their separation to her advantage. If not why did she not send her daughter back to her husband? It appeared as if she had exploited the situation to her interest. She had needed someone to be with her and Jyoti’s arrival was a blessing. Perhaps the mother was least bothered of her daughter’s future especially after her death.
Three years had flown rather quickly. How could Jyoti forget the good time they had together during first four years? She did not call him to check his well being. She could have at least called and wished him on his birthday, seasonal and festive celebrations. The message was clear. She had no interest in him.
It made him difficult to believe that she could be so unsentimental. Perhaps from her view he was the nastiest. Hence he had been rejected……. Rahul inhaled lungful of air and pulled the drawer. He removed a document and pushed the drawer. He rested his head back to the top of the seat.
The document was given by the lawyer that explained their willingness for annulment with no terms attached. His lawyer wanted their signatures to file for divorce. A Couple of days back he had spoken to Jyoti over the phone. She had agreed to sign the paper without any anticipation of compensation. Rahul had informed his intentions to meet on this day at 7:30 pm. Her undemanding acceptance to sign the papers indicated her keenness for the divorce. Was she already dating some other guy? Was he foolishly living all alone?
This was not the right time to be repentant. They were not in contact with each other for 3 years and now all was over. The dreams, expectations and emotions had come to a halt. He placed the document in his office bag and got up from the seat. How to face one another after such long gap? He felt weak in his legs.
About six months back once they had bumped into each other. That was in the temple. He was stepping down after the prayers. Momentarily she had encountered his eyes while getting inside the car. He was motivated to stop the car and greet her. But the car had moved off. His shoulder had dropped down.
Rahul gripped his leather bag. It was 6:30 pm. He had to reach Jyoti’s house by next one hour. The normal driving time from the office was not more than twenty minutes. But it was not easy during the peak hours. Bumper to bumper traffic had become a common sight. He rushed out from his office cabin and locked the door.
The office boy was perhaps waiting for his departure. He wished him on Rahul’s way out to the elevator. The lift halted at the basement parking. He tossed the bag at the back seat and turned the ignition after settling on the driver’s place.
The car was bought soon after his wedding, almost seven years back. It reflected some very pleasant and amusing reminiscences. They had wandered all over the city. Attending the parties, picnics and dining at the best of the restaurants was great fun. The aura of excitement had its moments. Jyoti had always loved this car.
The car entered the open air road from the basement. On his front he could see the super market. The way to his apartment was on the left. The street to Jyoti’s residence was on the right. While turning to his right his eyes caught the glimpse of Vikram who appeared from the super market. Vikram was walking towards the bus stop. The car was slowed down.
“Come on in.” Rahul invited him after the lowering the glass. “I am driving towards the public library. I will drop you.”
“Thank you, sir.” Vikram accepted the offer and sat in.
The traffic flow was heavy but still not highly congested. While looking at the moving vehicles he believed that he could reach in time. He had intended to reach by 7.00 pm. Jyoti used to carp when ever he had made her to wait. At least for today he did not wish to give any scope for grouse. The circumstances were dependent on the out flow of the traffic.
If any child was born during their four years of wedded life perhaps the parting would not have had taken place. He had regretted more than once. Initial two years with Jyoti were the best. Other than the petty niggling they always had loved each others company. Actually the minor wrangles made them to be playful rather than serious bickering. During the course their relationship had blossomed. The attachment had turned thick and strong.
Rahul shifted the gear from second to third. The gear got stuck in between and resulted with the clatter. He pressed the clutch and moved the gear to proper position.
“Is something wrong with the car?” Vikram questioned him.
“Nothing is wrong.” Rahul was irritated. He did not like the functional aspect of the car was being questioned by a third party.
He should not have had offered the lift. Vikram was known to be intrusive. Actually Rahul wanted some one to accompany him to get diverted from the stress factor. The anxiety of the eventual separation was catching his nerves. Vikram was taken in by his choice which he could have had avoided. So why was he complaining?
If he was upset by Vikram interference on such silly issue how and why did he tolerate when others meddled in their married life?
The preliminary round of criticism came from his Mom and Geeta when Rahul and Jyoti began giving too much time for each other. Some where he had read that when the boy is married and gets closer to his wife it affects the psych of mothers and sisters. He knowingly ignored the campaign.
But his limit was tested when he was sent to London by his office for a six month training schedule. The first complaint came in form an email from Geeta. ‘Jyoti has gone to her Mom’s house without mother’s consent.’ The grievance was communicated.
Rahul had found it difficult to regulate his annoyance. He had called Jyoti’s house to give his mouthful. He had instructed her to return home without any delay and if not, not to return forever. A sobbing Jyoti had kept the receiver down without any explanation.
Geeta’s next email was a shocker. ‘Jyoti has not returned as on date. When I took mother to City Nursing Home for the check up I saw Jyoti in a car with unknown man. A common acquaintance told me that during the college days she used to be friendly with a Keralite boy. There could be chances that the boy is back in her life.’
A panic stricken Rahul’s sweat glands had become active in London’s frosty weather. Who was this Keralite boy? Why did she go the Nursing home? Was she expecting? Countless questions had exploded in his imagination. He was plainly shaken.
He was helpless that too thousands of miles away. There was no point in screaming over the phone. He had dialed Jyoti’s number with the coolest possible psyche.
“My Mom was unwell.” Jyoti’s speech had shivered. “I asked your mother’s permission to spend a week or two with my Mom. She refused. I was left with no other option but to revolt. I did what I thought was right. Mom’s sister’s son Akash was here on a business trip. He helped us. My Mom was down with blocked arteries in the heart. She has been discharged after the angioplasty. I would prefer to stay with my Mom until you return from London. As you know my connectivity with Geeta does not hit off very well. Your mother also has greater trust in Geeta than me.”
Why didn’t Geeta bother to check who was Akash before dubbing him as Keralite boy friend?
Rahul had felt relieved after knowing the truth. But then he was saddened by the situation at home.
He was quite engrossed by the past and when he realized the traffic jam on the front he was left with very small margin for error. The front vehicle was too close and he applied the breaks. The motor cycle on the back crashed onto the car bumper.
“A bike rider has hit your car.” Vikram was unduly excited. “Let us not leave him.”
Rahul pulled the hand break and came out to check the damage. By then Vikram had rushed towards the bike rider and caught his collar.
“Vikram….” Rahul yelled in anger. “Do not touch him.”
“I do not know how these guys manage to get the driving license.” Vikram got involved. “There is a dent. Let him pay the compensation.”
Vikram’s meddlesome act was going beyond Rahul’s limit of tolerance. ‘It is my car. I will decide what to do.’ Rahul was clear in his mind.
“I am sorry.” The bike rider apologized.
The collision had obstructed the traffic on the road. Rahul looked back. Vehicles had lined up. The honking sound was jeering the ears. He could not see any dent, except for couple of scratchy lines. Bike rider’s expressions looked pitiful. Rahul patted his shoulder and came back to his seat.
“Why did you leave him off the hook?” Vikram retorted in frustration.
“Why are you so upset? I do not owe any clarification. I do what I think is right.” Rahul’s reply was firm.
There used to be times in life when he had struggled to deal with nosy characters. In the recent past he had learnt to make the meddlers to mind their own business. ‘Human life is some form of traffic jam. The intruders would make their way in if they are not regulated. The unwanted invasions always created suffocation.’ Rahul knew it.
He dropped Vikram at the public library. The road was still gridlocked. It was already 6:45 pm, Could he make by 7:30 pm? When they lived together he had not experienced this kind of fretfulness to reach in time. Then why was he so nervous today? Did the anticipated divorce exhilarate him? Or was he stressed by the combination of fear and anxiety?
He was stuck in the congestion.
Rahul got flustered when he looked at the dash board. The temperature gauge was creeping towards the red zone. He found space to park from the main road and turned off the engine. He came out and opened the bonnet. The engine had heated up. The smoke mixed super coolant was gushing out from the radiator cap. He waited for the engine to cool down.
He gazed at the fleet of vehicles on the road. Jyoti had stayed with her mother until he returned from London. Once he was back from London he had checked with City Nursing Home. The truth was reconfirmed. Jyoti had not lied. Her mother was treated at the nursing home for heart ailments. His sister Geeta had fabricated the stories against his wife. Jyoti’s homecoming injected resentment in his mother’s and Geeta’s behavior. Rahul did not have much choice but to manage tactfully.
He was cautious in dealing with the relationships within the house but not discreet enough with an associate at the office. His fascination on newly appointed receptionist Raveena turned explosive and dangerous. He was passionately caught in the tempest.
Raveena was strikingly beautiful. Rahul was strongly intoxicated by her gait, the attire and charismatic talk. He was smitten by the craving to hold her close. The more he dreamt the urge turned huger. The guilt was masked while slithering into the temptation.
It began with the chit chat. He was attracted which paved the way to flirting. The invitation for a coffee and the lunch sessions in the restaurants became the common sight for the observers. Rahul was sure that he had trapped her. Once he was convinced he made the offer to drop her to the hostel after the office hours. It was a showery stormy evening. While stopping the car outside the hostel gate he lost control and had pulled her face close to his lips. Raveena used her all strength, pushed him back and had stormed out of the car.
The very next day she not only resigned from the job but also had managed to get Rahul’s residence number. Raveena called Jyoti and revealed the story. She could have just disappeared after the leaving the job, but why did she inform Jyoti? The situation had gone out of control. The truth prevailed when Rahul had failed to fake it. He was deceived by Raveena’s demeanor.
Rahul had accepted his fault. But Jyoti did not any heart to forgive him. She had packed her bag and moved out as if waiting for an opportunity.
He came to his senses when someone honked at him. An exquisite sports car was parked beside him.
“You seem to be having some problem with your car.” A charismatic gentleman on the driver seat showed concern. “Do you need lift or some help?”
The help had come from an unknown quarter. He was tempted to accept the offer, that too a lift in dazzling sports car was a pleasing opportunity. At least he could reach in time. The problems of his car could be sorted out on his way back. He almost decided to jump into the sports car and then changed his mind.
“It is okay. I can manage.” He saved himself from the enticement.
The owner of the sports car nodded and moved a head.
Rahul inhaled lungful of air and picked the can of water from his car. He removed the radiator cap and filled the container. The cap was tightened, the bonnet was pulled down and the empty can was placed back. Rahul rushed back to his driving seat. He felt good to be dependent on his own car. The sense of satisfaction was stimulated by pride and self respect.
Rahul drove back to the main road. The road was congested and it was not easy. The dawdling movement made him frustrated. He came close to the building where Jyoti was staying, but disappointed as he failed to find a place to park. He shook his head with annoyance and helplessly clamped his fingers on the wheel. Time was running out.
The traffic disruption had caused the delay. Rahul looked around. Something struck his mind. The ongoing traffic had bottlenecks, but the vehicles were freely moving on the other side of the road. He did not think twice when he was close to the U-turn. The vehicle was turned right at the curve and he was on the other side. The U-turn gave him the much needed relief. He parked the car on the opposite side of Jyoti’s apartment. He picked his bag and locked the car. While crossing the road he was bothered by the weight of the bag. Was he unsettled by the heaviness of the divorce document?
Rahul quickly gathered his strides towards Jyoti’s house. By the time he reached the door he was panting. He puffed and pressed the bell.
“Hello….” Jyoti opened the door.
“Hi…” Rahul felt frostiness in his feet.
“Please come in.” She invited.
Rahul made an attempt to remove his shoes at the entrance.
“Let it be.” Jyoti advised.
Earlier when they lived together jyoti had always objected the walk in with the shoes beyond the entrance. The priority was emphasized on cleanliness. She would always oppose the filthiness and encourage purity. Rahul’s sister Geeta was awkwardly caught a few times while breaking Jyoti’s rules. Geeta had found hard to follow them.
“It is okay.” He was detached from the shoes. “I do not want the house to be dirty.”
She did not reply.
“I am sorry for the delay.” He apologized. “I was caught in the traffic.”
“You are late by just ten minutes. It does not make any difference.” She did not complain.
He failed to recall any instance in the past where he had admitted his fault when he was late by hours. What was he trying today by asking for forgiveness?
“Mom is not around?” He asked.
She consumed some time to respond. ‘Lady Hitler’ was the nickname he had given to her mother. How could he get formal by calling her Mom?
“What did you say?”
“I can not see your Mom.”
“She has gone to the dentist, she may return by an hour or so.” Jyoti replied.
This could be the appropriate time to pull out the divorce documents from the bag. The best option was to vacate the place before Lady Hitler’s arrival.
“Do you like to have some coffee?” Jyoti continued.
Jyoti had knack to make the best coffee. Once aroma had gone missing after her departure from his life, he had promptly shifted to tea.
She moved towards the kitchen. Rahul inhaled the whiff of the flavorsome food items which must have had been made ready for the supper. She returned with a cup of coffee in her hand.
“Your kitchen smells yummy.” He took the cup.
“Could I serve some chicken jalferezi?” She smiled. “This is prepared by your lady Hitler.”
What was happening? Rahul had come with the objective of signing the divorce document. He felt awkward to accept the food. She did not wait for his comment. Jyoti went to the kitchen and came back with a tray containing vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies along with unleavened bread. Rahul could not refuse. He smacked his lips. He had been yearning for proper home made food for quite some time. His sister Geeta after her marriage had been busy with her own life.
“Your tummy flab is coming out. Don’t you workout?” She asked with plenty of concern. She used always caution him.
“Once you left the workout came to a halt.” He sounded emotional. “You seem to have put on weight. Don’t you follow the diet courses?”
“I have lost the motivation.” Her eyes turned moist.
He ate the delicious stuff, drank the water, got up and stepped inside the washroom. He came out with the clear intention to open the bag. There was no point of wasting the time. He had come here to get the divorce documents signed. Was it the appropriate moment? Why didn’t she ask? It could have had been quicker and easier.
“The traffic is so much.” Rahul went on without knowing what to talk. “The gridlocks cause suffocation.”
“Yes. The obstacles make the journey difficult.” She replied.
“Do you know what happened today?” Rahul’s voice vibrated. “I was not aware of the congestion on this road. I have not driven on this road during the peak hours for long time. Over and above it was my stupidity that I offered lift to Vikram who works in my department. I thought he could be a good company. He irritated me to no ends. Then there was a small accident. Vikram tried to interfere and I told him to shut up. Now I have learnt how to show the exit for people who meddle in my private life without invitation. After Vikram was dropped my car got heated up and I stopped it for a while. When I was waiting for the radiator to cool down a stranger in a very appealing sports car offered me a lift. I was attracted and tempted to leave behind my old car on my way to the destination. I declined the bait and waited for my car to cool down. The radiator tank was filled and then the journey was continued.”
What was the point in narrating the tale? Was he left with no topic to talk? When would he exhibit the divorce documents?
“Then what happened?” She was curious to know.
“I was still stuck in the traffic as I lost the hope to reach in time.” Rahul stood up. “Most important there was no place to park the vehicle. At this critical moment I was left with no option but to take a U-turn. The U-turn made it possible.”
“You made the right decision.” Her tone wobbled.
“We lost the direction of our existence without realizing the traffic scenario of our lives.” Rahul was inspired by the newly found fortitude. “I am ready to take a U-turn to earn you back in my life. What do you think?”
He laid his hand on her fingers.
Jyoti was overwhelmed by the emotions. The self restrain was ripped as the tears rolled down. She moved in to his open arms. She was delighted by the warmth in the embrace. The U-turn had given them back what they had missed in their life.