I was caught up in the sudden October shower on Thursday evening when I happened to meet Sanjay and his friend near the Elite Bar cum restaurant. I had a pile of newly bought clothes for my children in both hands. So I blurted a loud ‘Hi’ to Sanjay from the pavement of the shop.
---“Hello Gita, how are you?” Sanjay hugged me in ecstasies.
---“Sexy and beautiful as ever”, I shouted in my excitement. We were best friends from college and met like the thunder and lightning of an October shower.
---“Meet my friend Rana” Sanjay introduced me with his friend. I said a dry ‘Hello’ just the way I behave with stranger men. Rana shook hand courteously.
---“Gita you know you are my Goddess and you got to help us out and you are not going anywhere, but coming with me.”
Sanjay pulled the bags from my hands and almost dragged me by my hand inside the bar. “I will be late Sanjay, my kids are waiting.”
He did not listen to anything. We sat on a corner table, when the drinks were served he raised a toast, “This lady is my hi-school best friend, and I cherish those fond memories”, his words made me feel so warm and loved after years. After a drink was over I said, “ Sanjay I will make a move, my kids are waiting for me and their festival presents”.
“No…Gita, I will drop you home. We have a car. Don’t go now please”.
---But my kids are waiting for me dear.
---Give them a call, they are not kids anymore. They will understand. Just for your best friend, one evening you can’t?
---“Okay! Okay! Okay!” and I agreed.
I gave a call to my home landline nobody picked the call. I called in the emergency mobile thrice and on the fourth time, my Daughter picked the phone.
---“Yes Maa, when will you be back? I returned home just 10 minutes back, was caught up in the rain on the way back from school”, her words were like peace notes to me.
---“I shall be a little late beta, I happen to meet my old friend from college. You ask Sandhya Mashi for some noodles for you and your brother. I will get something special in my way back from the takeaway”.
---“Done Madam?” asked Sanjay in his old Karaoke tone. I nodded a “yes”.
Sanjay grabbed me by my hands and said, “You got to help this man out”.
I was startled. “How on earth I can help him?” I asked looking bewildered at Rana.
---“See Rana had a different plan in his mind until yesterday evening when Maya proposed him a divorce”, Sanjay narrated. “Maya wants a divorce on petty grounds of inattentiveness of Rana, he is in a great distress. I am his friend I cannot help him. His wife is a very strict lady.”
---“Well, well, wait,” I asked for a pause, I looked at Rana “do you love your wife?”
---"Yes…" Rana almost whispered and broke down like a child, as if he was deprived of his favorite doll.
I felt envious of Rana’s wife. She is blessed to have a husband who cries for her. But alas! She wants to get rid of him.
---“Ok Sanjay, I can only take the case if my client speaks to me everything”. I declared professionally.
Rana was still sobbing hiding his face.
---“But he doesn’t want to take a divorce. Can you help?”
---“Then how can I help him if it’s not a legal matter ” I just blurted out, as I saw 8:30 pm in my watch.
Rana was drunk by then, Sanjay understood the urgency of the hour. He pooled Rana out of his couch to the exit and asked me to hold him for a while till he brings the car. In a while, my ordered Kababs and pulao were delivered at the takeaway counter. I turned to pay for the food, Rana fell down on the floor, I had no other option than to pull him up. I wondered if husbands really felt so broken before the divorce.
---“Maya, you are the only woman I ever loved, cared for. For whom all these wealth I have amassed?” blabbered the drunk Rana. Sanjay pulled him into the car, but Rana was holding my hand. I felt pity for the middle aged broken man. I moved in with the back seats of the car with Rana.
Sanjay was embarrassed, humiliated and confused. I looked at him through the rearview mirror. His frown was conveying his helplessness. I saw the drunk man lying on my lap, holding my hand like my son. I was drowning in a deluge of past memories. Rishi left me like this, a sudden divorce with a girl too small to understand the meaning of separation, always crying… I did not get the scope even to aggrieve my divorce. In a few days, I discovered I was pregnant.
Krichkkkkk…. Sanjay applied the brakes hard, and I was back to the reality.
---“Sorry, Gita. I gave you much trouble”.
---“Sanjay, don’t get so articulate. I know your troubles. Thanks for dropping me” I was about to go out of the car when Rana held my hand again, “Maya, you are the only woman I ever loved, cared for, don’t go, please… Please, Maya…”
I was trapped in the situation.
---“Sanjay bring him in. Park the car in the parking lot and bring him in”.
The watchman was startled to see two men with me. He gave me weird looks. I hid my eyes in embarrassment. A divorced Lawyer is also looked upon with questions if she is out of her routine world.
Sanjay pulled Rana into the lift. He was still holding my hand in a firm grip.
The lift walls were choking and making me weak for the man who has been holding my hand for past forty-five minutes. I was unprepared to face my children. My adolescent daughter would be misinterpreting the situation, my son would be demanding my time. Maid Sandhya would be expecting a bonus for the Durga puja. Beads of perspiration were soaking and dripping off confident lawyer in me.
---“It’s okay buddy, you are not here for the semesters”, Sanjay tried to loosen the tight air around us.
The lift reached to the fourth floor and opened. I rang the doorbell when Sandhya mashi opened the door.
---“Sandhya, they are my friends, they will rest here for some time,” I told and took Rana to the sofa.
---“ Maya, you are the only woman I ever loved, cared for, please don’t leave me”, Rana said again.
---“Okay! Okay! I won’t leave you…please leave my hand.
He ultimately left my hand. Rehan, my son came and grabbed me by my waist, “Mamma you are back”. I pulled him inside the bedroom and showed fingers on the lips. “Come we will have some Kabab for dinner”.
---“Maa, who are those drunkards in the drawing room?” asked my daughter in a cajoling tone.
---“Mimi they are friends, don’t talk weirdly” I did not appear like Mimi’s always friendly obedient mother.
---“You are changed so fast Maa”, she got angry and went, like a typical single parent’s daughter.
---“Didi, I gave coffee to them”, maid Sandhya was here to report me the current situation. “I think the drunk man is sick now, you come and see once”, she reported and departed.
Rehan looked confused and stared at me.
---“You are mamma’s good boy, you will not come out until I call you. Come on, play with the mobile, and mamma will be back”
Rana was sick with over drinking. “Sandhya di, give some lime water fast”, I hurried. Sanjay was looking like a helplessly lost child. Suddenly Rana was on the verge to puke. After the worldly ejection, when he settled down with his half perishing body I saw a known shadow in him.
---“Sanjay, just update in Facebook about this boozing evening. Don’t forget to tag me and Rana in it”
---“ But? Why?” He looked bewildered with my reaction.
---“Just do it” I commanded and left to the kitchen.
---“Sandhya Di serve the dinner, the kids must be hungry”, I ordered. “Open the guest room for them they will be staying tonight”.
I was risking my reputation in the social media. Sanjay hesitated to post such an update like youngsters. He again asked me on the dinner table, “Are you sure that we should update?” I nodded in affirmation. “Are you helping us out?” I giggled like my college days. So he updated, “Chilling with special friends and celebrating a negative day, with a new positive start”-feeling loved with Rana and Gita.
Rana was made to sleep in the guest room when we were dining. Rehan and Sanjay good well with each other. Sandhya’s doubts were off after a small conversation with Sanjay. The only rebel of the house had shut herself in the room and has revolted with a hunger strike. Sanjay went up to her door, knocked.
---“I am your mom’s childhood friend. Won’t you talk to me, young lady?” Sanjay called in the most alluring tone of his. After some time, Mimi opened the door.
---“Who are you and that drunkard? Why are you here?” I felt so exasperated by her overt behavior.
---“He is a friend and he is sad and sick. Please forgive us mamma”, we won’t drink again.
Sanjay made friends with Mimi too.
They went to sleep one by one. I took to my chamber. Sat down on my chair and leaned back, contemplating my mistakes. Gust of thoughts came in and out of my mind. I was living a ruined, loveless, deprived life within myself, I conclude myself to be a loser. When suddenly Sanjay rushes into the chamber.
---“Its Maya in the phone, she is calling me”, Sanjay informed in an awe.
---“I am a psychology manipulator Sanjay. Forgot about my counseling classes?” I replied in a confident grin. “Take the call”. I observed the clock, it was 1:30 am.
---“Hello”, said Sanjay putting the phone in the loudspeaker.
---“Where is Rana? He has not returned home”, Maya sounded tremendously anxious. “I saw your Facebook update Sanjay”… she continued.
---“Tell, I don’t know”, I whispered from behind. “Tell, hasn’t he returned?”
---“I don’t know Maya, hasn’t he returned?” Sanjay reiterated the same as I spoke.
---“From where he should return Sanjay?” She asked in an interrogative manner.
---“Well, he went to the lawyer for your divorce”, Sanjay took the lead, now he concocted his own story. “He must be there”.
---“Give me the address, I will go and bring him back now.”
---“Well, it's near Ruby Park Towers in the Eastern Bypass area, don’t risk at this wee hour Maya” Sanjay cautioned.
---“I will see how he is getting a divorce from me I am going right now”, Maya was shouting over the phone and disconnected.
---“She will call back again”, I told Sanjay.
---“Tell me your address”, asked Sanjay.
---“25/B Parimal Sarkar Street, Ruby Park, Kolkata-84”, I dictated as Sanjay jotted it down in a piece of paper.
In a while the mobile rang again, Maya called again, “Tell me the name and address of the lawyer now”.
Sanjay just told the direction, my name and address to the hysteric wife of Rana for whom he was holding my hand and confessing his love for her. “Maya I am also coming, don’t worry,” he said and disconnected.
I asked Sanjay to go to the reception and sit in the sofa, I knew she will again call him. She called him again after fifteen minutes. “What does that bitch think of herself? I won’t give him a divorce. Tell me where are you? Are you coming?” Sanjay replied a “Yes”.
---“Sanjay go, she can be here in no time” I hurried. He got out, went down. Sat on the sofa waiting for Maya.
I was standing on the open lobby and went till the first floor just to see the reactions of the wife. I peeped from behind a pillar. Maya drove in fifteen minutes. The guard room asked for the appointment token, the night watchman called me and asked if I know anyone named Maya Mohanty. I asked them to keep her in the reception while I was watching the entire game from just a floor above, and could hear her quite loud and clear. I had asked Sanjay to keep his mobile recorder on so that her words could act as evidence later.
What the hell is going on between my husband and that bitch?' Maya's patience was at its lowest ebb and she was ready to burst.
Sanjay knew that she was serious. 'Look, Maya. There is nothing going on between the two of them. Just a little bit of healthy flirting, I'd say.'
'Flirting? Healthy flirting? Really Sanjay . . .' she rolled her eyes in disgust. 'That's what you men call it? There is nothing healthy about flirting, Sanjay, not for a married man.
Healthy flirting is a term introduced by perverted men who want to lend legitimacy to their extramarital dalliances. Flirting invariably has a sexual connotation to it.' She got up from her seat and walked around the room gesticulating and muttering something to herself. Suddenly she stopped, turned back, looked at Sanjay and asked, 'Did my husband sleep with her? You are his friend. Did he ever tell you anything about it?'
---“Now come on Maya! You asked for a divorce!” Sanjay exclaimed
---“So? He will sleep with that bitch lawyer?” She shouted.
I could only recall a night similar like this some six years back. Rishi slapped me hard on my ear. I asked him if he was dating someone! I had asked for the reason of Divorce. His slap was an awakening to me, from the soft subtle slumber of dependence. Since then my soul has not slept. But Rana was sleeping in the guest room snoring. His wife was hysteric about her loss. She screamed loudly when the watchman, guardroom people all came out and started hurly burly.
I reached the spot immediately.
“Mrs. Mohanty calm down please, it’s a residential complex, and it's 2:30 in the morning”, I calmed the situation.
“You bitch”, she was about to attack me when Sanjay and the guards stopped her. “You slept with my husband and now behaving like a pious woman?”
“Shall I call the police Mrs. Mohanty? Please calm down, or I will have to call the Police”. I spoke in a commanding tone.
She stopped, startled with my robust words.
---“Come up through the stairs, and take your Husband back home”.
Maya and Sanjay came to my flat in a while, I guided them to the guest room. Rana jumped up from the bed when he heard Maya’s voice. He was so happy to see Maya.
---“Come back home, I don’t want divorce”, Maya broke into tears on seeing Rana’s smile. The quivering load of saline was full in Rana’s eyes too. They hugged each other when I came out of the room. Sanjay followed me.
I heard Maya whispering to Rana in her, “Don’t leave me for this Bitch. I love you more than my own self”.