It was still 5. Shivika was getting restless in office. Her office timings are till 6, but her eyes were glued to the office clock. Her boss had a flight to catch so even she was leaving early. But precisely at what time, she didn’t tell Shivika. She hoped that there is no last-minute request to do something.
Though her work was over by 3, she was browsing over the various recipe and home décor websites. Not that she was a compulsive shopper or a great foodie, but she didn’t know of any better way to kill office time. Eating through eyes and virtual window shopping certainly keeps the waist tight and pocket right.
By 5.45 she lost her patience. She picked up her green tote bag, stuffed newspaper, and her laptop. She was careful not to make any noise as it would attract attention from her colleagues. She hurriedly ran towards the stairs, nodded to the gatekeeper and signed the attendance register while making a quick exit.
She took a quick few steps towards the main road. There were plenty of autos, but none seemed in any hurry to go anywhere. That’s typical of Delhi autowallas.
But she didn’t have much time in hand. At 6:15 she had an appointment at a beauty salon. She had to rid of all those body hair and those long, dark and pesky hair on her chin. Aman often teased her, ” Your lawn needs to mow.”
Aman was coming home tonight after a three-month research project to Central Asian countries. His flight was at ten at night, but a lot was to be done before that. She had planned to make a south Indian platter today for dinner. Aman relishes south Indian cuisine for its seasoning and visual appeal. He loves the crackling sound of mustard seeds in the hot oil. As soon as she rang the bell, her six-year-old son, Hriday opened the door gleaming, ‘Papa has come, Papa has come”, he chimed and hugged her as soon as he saw her.
She looked at her watch, and it was five past seven. Aman was coming out of the kitchen with his favorite blue coffee mug in his hand.
“You came early,..you didn’t tell me,” said Shivika. Was your flight early? I would have taken a half day from work! Anyways there was nothing much to do. My boss is going to the USA to meet her family..what a relief”!
Aman sat down on the reclining chair, as if unaware and unconcerned with his surroundings. He silently sipped his coffee.
“I made Chinese style poha in the breakfast. Are you hungry? I was planning to make south Indian for dinner today. Sambhar and tomato chutney is ready. I didn’t get fresh coconut. Otherwise, I would have made your favorite chutney too. Give me a few minutes, and I’ll steam idly and make dosas side by side.
When did you come? You didn’t message me”.
Hriday informed that papa came to pick him up from school in the afternoon.
“Did you come in the morning”? Shivika sounded irritated and little annoyed.
“I came back a month ago. Funding for my project was canceled”, said Aman.
“One month ago?” Shivika almost screamed.
Shivika had so many questions in her head, but her thoughts were blank as the moonless night sky.
“Where were you?” she screamed, but her scream had no noise and no words.
Her heart was thumping with fear, with the fear of unknown.
Every day they chatted on Facebook messenger during her office hours. He sent hundreds of pictures from the bazaars of Samarkand, Tabriz, and Shiraz. And those fantastic pictures of rose farms in Kashan. He had promised to get pure rosewater and saffron this time for her and also beautiful hand-woven carpet. Carpet she had declined as she said there was no space for another one in their two-room apartment.
She insisted he should get a silver necklace from the streets of Bukhara. Just two days ago, he had sent her a picture of two handcrafted dolls from Uzbekistan.
Shivika met Aman almost eleven years ago where both worked as research assistants. Aman was a year senior to Shivika. They became friends on the very first day. With no time, the friendship metamorphosed into love. How and when they started feeling for another, it cannot be said. Like caterpillar transforms itself into a butterfly, their marriage it seemed was destined.
There was nothing extraordinary about their marriage. It was neither spectacular nor grandiose. It was a rhythmic marriage where two people learn to live with each other in the same room. Once the aroma of romance fades away, there is a whole life to be lived and understood.
But today she was stuck in the sleep paralysis, with her mind and body frozen. She wished that she was sleeping, but she was awake.
Aman revealed that he was seeing another woman who was assisting him. He stayed at her flat for the last one month.
Aman was emotionless, and so was Shivika. Her face had no expressions as if she was detached from the moment, from Aman. She didn’t ask anything further. There was no time for theatrical histrionics. Whole life was to be lived and understood without him. Her heart, mind, body, and soul had not wasted a single moment to arrive at this decision.
She threw the main door open, gesturing him out.
As she sat on the reclined chair, she closed her eyes.
Some ten minutes later she heard the door banging, car engine start, and then the car moving out.
Then there was a silence which seemed to go on forever.