Even a cactus can grow up
to be beautiful with all its
prickly thorns and
thick petal flowers,
alone in the desert
with no nurture or
refreshing water showers.
With no gardener
to take care of it,
or some bird to
come and sit on it.
No animals to
gnaw on its leaves,
no prayers to be offered
Around, with any beliefs.
Strong and alone in the
barren land it stands,
taking in all it can get yet
happy playing with hot sands.
Even the most beautiful
tchotchke seems unnecessary
at times, feels like it’s just
taking up space for something
better, something nice.
But all it is doing is beautifying
the corner, not expecting
to be admired all the
time in spite of being a loner.
Even a festoon gets
unnoticed albeit hanging
on top of the main entrance,
just dangling, looking
beautiful, not causing
anyone, any hindrance.
Not bothering if anyone
pays any heed to it ever,
nor expecting to be
witnessed on some
auspicious occasion, never.
Sun, rain, wind or cold, any
weather not causing it to
bow down low,
on the top, the glossed
over festoon hangs,
with pride aglow.
Even with a worthy life we
tend to astray from our path,
not trying to move forward,
clinging on to our inglorious past.
Loving, cherishing the present we
ought to live despite any strife,
standing tall and moving forward
with all love’s glory in life.
Sanika was looking at him intently as if she is concentrating on something very seriously. Her heartbeats were rapid. She was feeling extremely vulnerable. ‘Oh, how much she needs someone to hold her tight and give her strength.‘ She thought closing her eyes as her mind took her back to those years when both of them were romancing. The first time when he proposed her and wanted to kiss her lips… she was excited and was literally shivering yet she allowed Pranay to kiss her lips, and he made her stable and calm. That feeling was so beautiful…
‘Arrrggghhhh… what is she thinking…?‘ She opened her eyes wide and looked at the man who dumped her years back and now came with a bouquet of flowers, hoping her to go back to his arms again. ‘I need strength, oh God… I need strength to counter my own emotions…help me… help me please…‘ She mumbled a quick prayer.
“What are you looking at? Are you lost in thoughts and remembering the glorious days that we had long back?” Pranay asked enthusiastically. Sanika could not respond to him immediately. She lied when she shook her head. She did think about their past – ‘oh yeah, so called glorious past‘. And then her phone beeped. It was a text from Atul.
Pranay was restless as she looked into her phone and started to read the message:
“Sani, I am sorry, I was a bit upset with you a day ago. I screamed at you. But I think it’s okay to have memories and we must live with them but we must ensure that these memories don’t spoil our present and future. I trust you fully and I KNOW you haven’t cheated on me. I just want you to do one thing when you meet him and talk to him today. Yeah, I want you to face him eye to eye. Have a heart to heart talk. That is the only way to overcome your guilt and fear that I could very well feel even when I am here so far away from you. I trust the love between us and I am confident that there is nothing in this world that can keep you away from me. Just go and face him Sani. I wish you the best and trust you can do it without being vulnerable. I will be waiting to hear from you.”
“Bingo!!!” Sanika said in her heart as she immediately felt a calmness encompassing her whole being and she didn’t feel vulnerable anymore in this foolish man’s presence. But when she looked at his over ambitious face she started laughing hysterically. Even the flower bouquet fell down on the floor from her lap as she was in a fits of laughter. Tears came into her eyes laughing. She looked at his surprised and bewildered face which made her laugh all the more…. She felt pity on him and felt she is ready now to face him.
“Ar..are you alright Sani?” Pranay asked feeling little weird.
“Absolutely I am… I was so desperate to meet you for the moment like this Pranay and it’s so fun meeting you finally…” Her surprising statement made Pranay startled though her laugh irked him a bit.
“Now stop that laugh for some time and tell me why you wanted to meet me and who’s text were you reading? Was it a joke that someone sent to you? Are you seriously desperate to meet me… Your Pranoy?” Pranay again weaved flowery dreams in his mind as he asked excitedly.
Sanika calmed herself down and replied firmly “It was a text from Mr. Trihan… Mr. Atul Trihan, the husband of Mrs. Sanika Trihan… not SANI for your kind information… Actually he wished me the best to meet with you Mr. Pranay whatever.“
Pranay was choked hearing those words. He was fancying Sanika was the same old girl, soft as clay on whom he can engrave whatever he wants to… He felt a fear for the first time facing this woman – Mrs. Sanika Trihan. He feebly asked, “What did he wished you so?“
“He wanted me to face the dreamer for good and close the chapter with him forever…” She said taunting him and continued speaking without allowing him to utter even a single word.
“I wanted to to meet you, face to face to overcome my guilt, my fear! Ever since you dumped me, I feared of any relationship. I feared that I will never be loved. This fear was so deep that in spite of meeting a person who loves me and respects me to the core, I feared that someday he will dump me. We got married later on. Fear started taking a back seat and guilt started taking over. I was guilty that in spite of having a husband who is just so perfect, I would still secretly think about you often, in ways like, its Pranay’s birthday, oh, this is Pranay’s favourite colour, Pranay’s favourite dish and what not. After few years, we were blessed with a baby boy. Life was beautiful again. But I would often think about how the things would have been if you had not dumped me. You had made such a deep impact on me. I feared all my life until now that someday, this impact will show up and will spoil my marriage. I was groped by fear and guilt at the same time. To add to the turmoil, I happened to meet you here. Although I ran away from facing you, I was very very disturbed by this meeting. It brought back all the memories I tried forgetting all these years. I couldn’t take this burden for long. And I gathered some courage and planned to face you today! If I am able to walk away from you today, there will be no looking back. I shall be free of guilt of having you on my mind and also from the fear of you spoiling my present relationship. Atul, let me say – My Atul taught me how to stand on my own feet being standing by me all the time and now standing for me even when he is so far away from me… I think you should learn from him the quality of respecting a woman and standing beside her… I pity Tanu who’s husband is a coward and isn’t standing beside her.”
Sanika saw Pranay’s pale face and lowered head. She got up from her chair and walked upto him. She placed her hand on his shoulder and said politely, “Pranay, grow up. You probably never learned anything about Tanu till now. Try to learn about her in a newer way. Though that’s upto you. I have nothing to say about it but I am done with you forever. You won’t be even in my wildest thoughts also now on and I am so happy about it that I could bring a closure to this chapter. Now get up, take this flowers and go away from here.”
Sanika never even allowed Pranay to respond a bit even as she went to the door and opened it for him to leave right then. He didn’t have anything to say. He was looking lost and pale. He got up, gathered the flower and left without uttering a word or looking at Sanika even once.
Sanika closed the door taking a deep breath of relief and jumped on her bed giggling away as she saw Atul’s name flashing on the screen.
“Hey baby, my love… What a timing! Were you watching us?” Sanika joked.
“Yeah, I was actually… couldn’t know about him but could feel your heart stable and connected with me. Could you do it my love? Is he gone?” Atul asked desperately as his heart was racing.
Sanika expressed her joy replying excitedly, “Yeesssssss… I did it and he is gone forever, from here and from everywhere.“
Sanika put on her earplugs and wiped her eyes. She wanted to look normal to Atul; she tried to bring back the same stability to his heart that they always had between them. The call was through, and Atul’s face filled her phone screen as she tucked a loose hair lock behind her ear.
She waved one finger at him, “Hello Stranger!” She said with a faint smile.
“Hey”, he replied and Sanika couldn’t help but notice his tired eyes. His hair was unkempt, and stress was written all over his face. Her heart ached to see him like this.
“Honey! Why you look so fatigued?”, she couldn’t help but ask.
Atul combed his fingers through his hair and massaged the back of his neck, sighing. “Why do you think?”, he asked almost condescendingly. Sanika was a bit taken aback by the brazenness and gulped.
“Atul, there is nothing fishy happening on this side. Don’t you trust me? Just because there are a few hundred miles between us that doesn’t make us someone else for each other. I am still the same woman you have married and loved, and I will remain the same. Seeing a part of my past did catch me, and I was unnerved for a while, but now I am okay”, Sanika said in one breath, a desperate attempt to calm down Atul’s fears.
“Yeahhh!!???” Atul asked with acidity, “Then you are done with him. What then is the need to meet him again?” His tone was accusatory.
Sanika took a deep breath and tilted her head to the side, “Baby…. have faith. I have retrospected a lot these days, and I have concluded that even though I moved on, there was a gaping hole in my heart where my past was still waiting to pounce on me. It all happened because I never got the chance to close that wound. I never got closure. I want that. It’s my unfinished business.” Sanika said seeking approval subconsciously.
Atul crossed his fingers under his chin and nodded. “I understand. I have faith Baby, but when it’s you, I have that fear of losing you too. It’s driving me crazy.” He told, and Sanika gave a rueful smile.
“You…Are….IRREPLACEABLE!!!” She said punctuating each word with a tear. He nodded, and Sanika could tell he was struggling not to cry too.
Atul was about to say something when Sanika interrupted and said, “Now, no more talks… You are looking very tired and you need to sleep as it is very late there in India. Wish me, so that I can end the matter forever tomorrow. Good Night!” Atul nodded and they hung up.
The very next morning Sanika woke up really early with a purpose. After she finished her morning routine she was about to call Pranay to fix an appointment with him when she hear a knock on her door.
Sanika went to open the door, and she could hardly contain a groan when she saw Pranay standing there, not alone but with a bouquet of the most beautiful White Calla Lilies in his hand. He remembers! She raised her eyes in question, and he cleared his throat.
“Good Morning Sanika! May I come in?” Pranay asked politely, and Sanika nodded stepping aside.
Pranay stepped in, and Sanika showed him to the seating area. They both took opposite chairs, and Pranay placed the flowers on the round table between them.
“They are your favourite I know, saw them on the corner shop and couldn’t help but buy,” Pranay said pushing the flowers towards Sanika.
Sanika picked up the bouquet and ran her fingers delicately on the flowers. “Why do you still remember? What was the need to bring me flowers?” Sanika was in a confrontation mood.
Pranay gave an impish smile, and Sanika noticed he was wearing the watch she had presented him during their courtship on his birthday. She rolled her eyes and sat back with baited breath, ready to hear what he had to say.
“Not just the flowers, I remember it all. You might have moved on and wanted to believe that I too forgot everything very conveniently, but I remember it all just like it was yesterday.” He told boldly, looking straight into her eyes as he went on, “As for the need to bring them to you was pressing. I have come to tell you something that I never had a chance to say before.” Sanika was stunned at his audacity, but she wanted to hear it all.
She cradled his bouquet in her lap like a baby and looked at him; he took it as a gesture to go on. “I know what you think. You think it was effortless for me to choose Tanu over you and dump you like that.” He loosened his shirt collar, “But you need to know that I had to do it. I had no other option.” He looked at Sanika for a reaction, but she gave none.
“My dad’s business was falling apart, and we were in dire need of investors, no one else was interested except Tanu’s father, and that too was an offer if I agreed to marry Tanu,” Pranay told pinching the bridge of his nose.
“You don’t know Sanika, but I have suffered a lot. Tanu was my compromise with life, and as fate would have it, we never had any children. Our marriage was neither cemented by love, nor reinforced by kids. It was bound to fail, and that’s what it ended in – a bitter court brawl, a tug of war”, Pranay said with desperation. Sanika could tell he had been bursting to tell her all this.
She maintained an impassive look as Pranay went on, “Sanika, I could never forget you. If I had chosen you over Tanu, I would have been in place of Atul, having a lovely wife and two beautiful kids. We both would have taken care of the money but…..” His voice trailed away as his forehead covered in sweat beads.
Sanika looked for remorse and guilt in his face but what she saw were hope and purpose. Sanika was startled as Pranay suddenly went on one knee and held her hand in his. “Sani, My Love, I have missed you so much. I didn’t even realise how incomplete I was until I saw you again in the conference. One look at you made it clear what I had been lacking. It’s You, Sani!!!” Sanika shifted uncomfortably in her chair.
“Come back Sani, Come back to me. It’s not too late. We can start from where we left. I love you so much, more than Atul ever can. I will even try to be a good father to your kids. I know you want me too, I have seen it in your eyes. It was not in vain that you were wasted in the club that night. You were fighting the urge to be with me.” Pranay got closer, and Sanika scooted back.
“I know your right place is with me. Atul is just your compromise like Tanu was mine. You still love me very much. You miss me. You think of me. This is our time Sani, come, take my hand and come with me. Let’s start afresh.” Pranay had said it all; he had told the unthinkable, the unspeakable.
There was a heavy silence that hung in the room between Sanika and Pranay as he looked at her hopefully with a reassuring smile.
“Wait Sanika… I have left my earphone upstairs in the kids room. They must be already sleeping. I will be right back.” He hung up and went upstairs. And as Sanika was waiting for Atul’s video call her mind made her to loiter in the past…
“It’s been five days Pranay, where are you? No news! Have you spoken to your mom and dad? For God’s sake reply!” Sanika was quite hysterical in her messages too. But there was no response from the other end. There was no clue of Pranay. Tired of waiting for a response, she decided to visit Pranay at his place.
She could feel butterflies churning in her stomach and could hear her heart pounding really fast as she was inching closer towards his house. The house was all decked up. Pretty happy faces pacing up and down and all around. Sanika was anxious to know what was going on. Maybe she had made an entry in the wrong time, if it’s a family function and Pranay was busy with this. But what stopped him from even dropping a hint of something like this? Many questions were doing the rounds before she finally enquired of the watchman “Kya ho raha hai bhaiya…” (what’s happening brother?).
The watchman’s reply made her heart skip a beat “Pranay baba ki sagai hai memsaab…” (It’s Pranay Sir’s engagement, Madam).
Sanika’s dreams, her world came crashing down before her eyes making her leave with heavy heart and blank mind.
Pranay at last made an appearance. “Hi Sanika, I am sorry, I have news for you. I got engaged to Tanu. It’s something out of my control. Please try to understand. I simply couldn’t say NO to my parents, it’s their choice and I am left with none. But we can still be friends, right?“
Sanika was bewildered. His audacity drove her mad with rage. Wiping her tears away and putting up a brave face, she said, “I am sure this is not something you were not aware of to say the least. Why then you didn’t let me know? I am sure not every couple have a happy ending culminating into marriage and I understand this, but you should have at least shown the courage to let me know instead of disappearing into thin air like a coward“, and left the place.
Tears were her companion for long. Her heartache refused to go for she had been in love with such a jerk till she married Atul, and rest has been history.
Atul was a person of strong personality of his own with a soft demeanour as compared to Pranay who loved to boss around with no spine to show in the crucial matters. She remembered how Atul stood against his own family when an objection was raised against Sanika’s decision to work after delivery of her first child, especially in their case as they were economically sound. But he stood rock solid for her before his family finally accepted and embraced her decision. Such family pressures can normally be passed off to the woman of the house so as to make her succumb, but he didn’t. That made him different.
And while she was lost in her thoughts her phone vibrated vehemently, and it was a Skype call from Atul….
Sanika dialed the numbers and disconnected the call almost within a second. Her throat was dry, she was nervous, she thought, “how will I start? What to ask or tell him? Will Atul approve this idea? How will he react? Is discussion with Atul, an option?” She thought she should call Atul before calling Pranay. Before she could finish her thinking, her phone rang. It was Atul! She picked up his call saying, “Hi! I was just thinking about you and was wondering what you might be doing now? Have you had dinner? How are the kids? Have they taken their dinner? Are they in bed yet?”
“Slow down honey!“, Atul replied, “Yes, dinner done and kids are in bed now. They were sleepy and have gone to sleep.” Sanika asked, “So, what about you?”
“Me! Nothing, was finishing my chores and was getting ready to sleep,” replied Atul.
Sanika could feel that Atul was disturbed. She asked him, “Do you have something to tell me or ask me dear? Because I can feel that something is bothering you.“
Atul replied getting little frustrated, “You! You and your ex-boyfriend are bothering me. And this botheration has led me to call his house too. I know this is mad, but I am desperate here. I have no idea what is going on there. I have no clue about both of your feelings. I feel lost. Why now? Why he?” Atul gasped for breath and without even giving a chance to Sanika to speak, he continued. He heaved and said, “This is the first time you left me and went so far and somehow you met him. You tell me, how secure will I feel? You talk about me being supportive and caring, but when you are with me, near me or within my reach and I know you will be fine, then I can control things. Even my emotions have gone out of hand. Moreover you are so far away. And accidentally Pranay is there and then he… Listen! Hello…“
Sanika was shocked, dumbfounded and couldn’t even speak. For the first time, she saw Atul desperate and hyperactive. She never knew he was so emotional, when it comes to her. She said painfully, “Yes, yes, I am listening! But…!“
Atul continued, “One thing I am very clear about is, I love you and if I lose you I might give up everything I love. I hope no other love stands stronger than ours. Somehow, because, somehow I think, I am.. NO. I can’t bear the fact that, he has come back into our lives. Constructively or destructively, I have no idea. But, but it is killing me. Even a simple imagination of you both standing in one place gives me chills. This time, baby, I am unable to hold it together. I just want you to come back to me now. I want you here now. Please. I don’t want to see you with someone else, who has hold an important place in your past.”
Sanika was sobbing uncontrollably but silently by now. Atul’s words had flooded her emotions, so much that breathing wasn’t even possible. Too much suffocation, too much tension and too much to think. She then tried to calm herself first. She then replied, “Atul, please… please don’t be so hyper, don’t break as you alone are my strength. Everything I have done, do or will do is because my power comes from your trust and love. Trust me when I say, – I am blessed to have got you as my husband, my partner for life. I not only love you but respect you much. Our kids and our family is all that matters now to me Atul. No other person be it a stranger, friend or a popped up past, it will never affect our life adversely. You have been my support in this matter since you have known about it. It’s now my turn to remove this matter completely out of our lives. Maybe, to remove it, I would have to talk to him for one last time.”
“What…What more do you have to talk? Didn’t you shout at him?? Isn’t your anger over yet? Isn’t it enough to end it??” Asked Atul.
“It’s not about that Atul, it’s about not-being-affected by him anym….” Sanika could say this much when Atul interrupted and asked desperately, “Can I see you right now? I want to see you right now… wait I am calling you…”
Sanika was sipping coffee at the breakfast table, alone. She felt much better after talking to the kids. Just the sight of Anika and Anshul revived her wholeheartedly. She felt so complete and relaxed now. Just thinking back about the idea of getting drunk the way she did looked really stupid to her now. Only if she would have just taken her mind off Pranay and spoken to her kids and husband – maybe she wouldn’t have been in such a mess today.
She was much calmer and felt much wiser now. Thoughts of Pranay kept appearing in her mind all throughout the day while she was at work – but she could keep the thoughts away and focus on her work completely.
In the evening, while returning back to her hotel, one question kept popping up in her head – “Why now? Why did fate get me face to face with him now? I got over him. I found a wonderful husband and have beautiful children, why would God do this to me?” She is a strong believer and always knows that things never happen out of nowhere, they always have a reason (a good reason). Life is always throwing challenges at us, always teaching us something new.
“What is life trying to teach me by making me confront my past? I cannot not see any good reason behind all this. Everything is so chaotic. I feel miserable and Pranay is acting like a weirdo. And in all this poor Atul is suffering immensely.”
She opened her hotel room and sat on the armchair in her balcony.
“Pranay must also be having a similar life. I know he got married to girl named Tanu. She was one of his father’s friend’s daughter. Oh yaa, one of those typical business cum arranged marriages. Maybe they have kids together. Maybe he is happy with his family. Or maybe he is not!”
“What is life trying to tell me? What part of this Pranay episode incomplete for me?”
Suddenly she just stopped still. It was as if she saw something transformational. Yes, it was indeed transformational. “When Pranay rejected me so painfully, I was hurt. I did all that is possible to get him back. And some time later I realized that the biggest cost I am paying for all this is losing my self-respect. I gave up. I stopped hoping that he will ever come back. And when I met Atul, life became easier. The only thing that was not complete in all this is the Closure. I never got the closure with Pranay. That is the reason I was panicky when I saw him. I don’t have any feelings for him anymore. But I need a closure with him.”
With these thoughts she got reminded of her satirical remarks towards Pranay the earlier day. “Good that I spit my anger on him, it made me feel better. But now it is also a time to give myself some space and talk to Pranay. It is high time that I get over him completely – my love for him has just turn into hatred. But I want him to be just another person in my life – no love, no hatred, no anger just nothing for him. That is when I will get closure.”
“But talking to him could mean a lot of other things. I will need to make it clear to him that we just talk it out. I need to know why he did what he did. I will forgive him and move on with my life. I cannot carry this baggage of painful past on my marriage anymore. Then maybe I need to admit it all to Atul as well and then the past would be rightfully in the past.”
“What about Pranay’s life? What about his marriage? Does he really love his wife?”
With these thoughts Sanika too opened up Facebook. She typed in Pranay Kapoor and hit the search button. There he is. Ok, so he is quite active in updating his DP’s. She browsed over his albums looking for his pics with his family. But none! There were no pictures of his wife. She quickly went and checked his relationship status – Empty. “Why would somebody who is so active on FB and is happily married put his relationship status as nothing? Or was he happily married or even married now?”
Sanika’s head again started going all around. “Oh no no no, if he is single – then maybe it is not a good idea to get in touch with him at all. What if, he talks me into his emotions? C’mon, I cannot be that weak. I just thought so clearly about forgiving him and getting the freedom from this forever. Why am I worried? Do I really have any feelings for him? What difference does it make if he is single, it doesn’t matter. I will call him and meet him tomorrow.”
With these thoughts she took the number of the guy who called the hospital doctor last Saturday. Her hands on the phone were trembling now.
Atul went inside and saw his children were talking to their mom through video call, using laptop. He hesitated to step inside their room and preferred to be at the door entrance, eavesdropping . He felt foolish, but didn’t want to talk to Sani at this moment.
“Mumma loves you both and will come soon. I will try to get all the things that you have told me. Just be good and don’t trouble your dad much.” Sani spoke to the kids.
“We love you mumma. Bye.” The kids shouted in unison.
Atul moved away to his room. Lost in thoughts, he sat down to read the newspaper. One of the headings caught his eye:
“Most men wish to rekindle romance with old flame”
One in five people and as many as a quarter of all men pine to get back together with their first love, a new survey has revealed. Some 21 per cent have said that they are secretly planning a reunion with their first lover.
He slammed down the newspaper. He loved Sani and trusted her, but he also knew that she was emotionally weak and would believe anyone easily. He believed whatever his mom had said.
Picking up his mobile phone, he opened the search engine and typed Pranay Kapoor. It was easy to find him. His latest photo as guest speaker in Switzerland for Sanika’s company was flashing on the screen. Atul quickly searched his official contact details and called up at his office.
“Hello! ABC Associates”, a lady said.
“Ya, Hi! This is Sam, Pranay’s ex- colleague. Actually I am trying to contact him on his mobile, but he’s not reachable. I know he’s in Switzerland, but I have an urgent work with him. Can I have his alternate number?” Atul asked.
“Umm, sorry sir, but I don’t have his alternate number either.” The voice replied.
“Oh man! This is really urgent. Can I have his residence number?” He sounded desperate.
“Sure sir, just a moment.” The lady gave his residence number to Atul.
“This isn’t right”, the voice inside him said. But, Atul ignored the voice of his conscience and dialled Pranay’s residence number.
“Hallo”, a male voice came.
“Hello, may I speak to Pranay please?” Atul asked.
“Pranay baba isn’t here. Who are you?” The voice demanded, sounded like a caretaker.
“I am his school friend and wanted to meet him. I am trying to call him on his mobile, but can’t get through” Atul said.
“He’s gone to Ssswitzland, will come after 2 days.”
“Oh,” Atul sounded surprised. “So, Bhabhiji has also gone or is she at home only?”
“Arrey beta, don’t you know?”
“Ya, ya, I know, but still asking.” Atul was feeling bewildered.
“Yes beta, we can only hope, but they are not going to come together. Now the date of court hearing has also come.” The caretaker said.
“Oh!” Atul was in deep shock. “Ok, thank you so much. I will try to call him on his mobile again.”
“Arrey Beta, what’s your name?”
Atul disconnected the call without answering him.
The picture of Sani and Pranay together was flashing in his head and he felt his head throbbing hardly.