Drinking the most expensive cocktails available in a lonely bar at 2pm in the afternoon is not everyone’s idea of spending time in his home city after a span of 5 yrs. But so it was for Kaustav after having a row with his wife Sakshi for the amount of tip to be given at the hotel. Kaustav was in his hometown Guwahati for a business trip as part of his company’s expansion program in the north-eastern part of India. He worked in a big marketing & advertising company based in Mumbai.
After his initial posting in Mumbai, Kaustav being the only child, his mom and dad shifted along with him to Mumbai. There he met Sakshi through a common friend and although they didn’t love at first but slowly they began to like each other’s company and due to similar family backgrounds they married. Today was supposed to be the last day of his 4 day sojourn to Guwahati. Kaustav’s mother was recuperating from a bout of jaundice so their parents didn’t come with them to Guwahati, only Sakshi came along with him. Surely Kaustav was a bit overworked from his daily meetings and conferences but lately his difference with his wife has been rising in the past year or so.
Kaustav paid the bartender and but didn’t offer any tip.
Contrary to what he had expected he was utterly left disappointed after drinking. The cocktails although expensive did nothing to help his mood. Discontented at the poor quality of cocktails and frustrated at having wasted so much money he went to his car and looked for his chauffeur who was having a nap in the car parked beside the road adjacent to the bar. As he was going he suddenly happened to notice a known face amongst the crowd.
His heart pounded very fast for he was seeing Riya after about eight years. Riya was his first and perhaps till now his only love. They were both college sweethearts but when he went to study in Singapore, Kaustav on the apprehension that Riya might find someone better than him or perhaps she would cheat on him in a long distance relationship broke up. Kaustav was then okay with it although he felt a little bad but Riya was completely heartbroken at Kaustav’s attitude. He had recently heard that Riya had married a professor and was now working as a lecturer in IIT-G. Seeing her walking across the other side of the road made him realize that he still loved her and after all these years he still couldn’t forget her.
Kaustav at once wanted to cross the road and talk with Riya, for Riya was once also his best friend, now he hardly had one friend only acquaintances. He wanted to enquire about Riya, how she had been all these years, did she miss her, how her husband was and what not. But he also wanted to look at Riya more closely. He wanted to look at the face that had been eluding him for so many years, the eyes where he could be lost forever with joy, the voice that seemed more pleasant to him than any other music record in the whole world. He wanted to rekindle the old love and friendship he had with Riya.
But he stopped, because reality suddenly dawned on him. What if Riya becomes angry seeing him? What if she says something bad that he wouldn’t be able to forget? Besides he also doubted that even if Riya liked seeing him after all these years and somehow if they are able to rejuvenate their love, it would be tremendous injustice to throw their relationships with their respective spouses in jeopardy. He could not think of cheating on Sakshi and even the thought of it made him feel guilty.
So he watched Riya walk through at the opposite end of the road. Riya didn’t look a year older to Kaustav when he had last seen her at college. The road made it seem as though Riya and Kaustav were two parallel lines, close but yet not intersecting. The distance of the road separating them must have been about 16 meters but their hearts were worlds apart. Riya didn’t seem to notice Kaustav, maybe because he has changed in these years and Kaustav felt it was only better that she hadn’t.
Kaustav didn’t awake the driver for he didn’t want to be interrupted while seeing Riya walk. He silently took out his cigarette, lighted it ever so carefully and smoked absentmindedly. He watched Riya slowly fade into the crowds of people coming in from the other side as the smoke from his cigarette faded into the polluted atmosphere. But still he could make out Riya’s face amongst the crowd. The crowd began to disperse as he took another puff from his cigarette and Riya was again visible to him. But as the smoke from his last puff began to fade away into the air Riya seemed to have disappeared in the horizon.
Disappointed Kaustav threw away his half smoked stick of nicotine and stomped on it as though trying to kill away the happy memories he had with Riya. As the light of the cigarette butt died down he felt as though a part of his also died with it. He was about to curse himself for having left such a nice girl as Riya but was stopped short by the yawning of the chauffeur who was rising from his short nap. Kaustav also was awoken from his sudden despair after noticing Riya. He hopped into the car and asked his chauffeur to drive to the hotel quickly.