Atul was tensed by now. It had been a week since Sanika left for her job assignment in Switzerland. There hadn’t been a single day in which they hadn’t spoken with each other. But from the last two days, Atul had been sensing something weird in the manner of Sanika’s conversations with him. He had not thought too seriously about it, waving it off as mere work pressure.

But, today Sanika had not responded to his calls since morning. “Sweetheart, please call back when free”, “Sani, are you alright?”, “Please please call back or at least drop in a message so that I’ll know that you are fine” – the number of such messages that Atul had been sending since morning had reached 53 by now.

Thoughts of different types had started filling Atul’s mind by then. What if she has met with an accident? What if she was very unwell and had to be hospitalized? What if she had been attacked by somebody? Afterall, she was in a foreign land and she had to make the trip alone as her colleague dropped out citing personal reasons.

Atul’s head had begun to spin by then. He loved his Sanika dearly and so did Sanika love him. The thought of being separated for three months itself had been tough for both of them to come to terms with. But in the face of job compulsions, neither had a say. In the end, Atul readily took charge of the house, himself and their children Anshul who was seven years and Anika who was five as Sanika prepared to leave.

It had been nine years since their marriage, but for their friends and relatives they had been exemplary lovebirds all through – not only outwardly, but deep in their hearts as well. They had a profound love and respect for each other and that helped them to agree to disagree on many issues thus maintaining their peace and retaining their love for each other.

Sanika had taken quite some time to come out of the crude shock that Pranay had given her the day he broke the news of his upcoming engagement with a girl of his parents’ choice. How much had Sanika reasoned, begged, pleaded and cried urging him to rethink and reminding him of their sweet moments together, but to no avail! He had left her devastated that day and had never turned back.

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Faith from all relationships had been wiped off from Sanika’s slate that day. After all, she loved Pranay above everyone else and had dreamt of a wonderful future together. For days together, she had shut herself in her room crying her heart out day and night. Her parents were apprehensive that she might harm herself. But Sanika though docile, was a fighter.

It was on one of those days that she was lying on her bed with her head deep inside her pillow, shedding painful tears that one of her older cousins, Hema had dropped by. Hema was not aware of what Sanika had been going through. So, on entering the house she straight away headed for Sanika’s room calling after her.

Sanika’s swollen eyes, parched lips and pale cheeks took her by surprise as Sanika sunk into Hema’s arms with a fresh gush of tears. “What has happened, my dear, would you even tell me?”, responded Hema. Hema was Sanika’s favourite cousin and so she poured her heart out to Hema amidst unconsolable sobs.

Hema didn’t say a word. She just gave her a long tight hug and held her for quite some time. After a while, she succeeded in convincing Sanika to wash herself and get ready for a cup of coffee at their favourite coffee shop. It was there that Hema spoke words of solace and comfort to Sanika.

“Cry your heart out, mourn your loss, but then dig a grave, bury your past and move on. Yes, Pranay is your past now. He was a part of your life”, she said with emphasis. “Whether you would want to have anyone else in your life is absolutely your choice. But remember, do not end up victimising yourself for someone else’s misdeed”, said Hema. “Take your own sweet time, gather your emotions and look at life from a stronger point of view now”, she added.

“I can’t. I just can’t imagine moving ahead without him holding my hand. All seem dark and bleak to me. Let’s go home”, Sanika mumbled.

Those wise and comforting words of Hema, however, had gone on to strengthen Sanika. And eventually after a year and half, Sanika had agreed to marry Atul. Though she had to wade through initial months of arduous emotional struggle after marriage, Atul’s love had taken away all her pain and Pranay was soon just a name long lost in oblivion.

But, the sight of Pranay in the market in Switzerland that day had sent current shocks down her spine.