The Agent10 mins 327 10 mins 327
It was two weeks since Dinesh Nair died from an overdose of sleeping pills. No one had an answer.
Akanksha took off her glasses and placed them on her desk. She massaged her eyes and relished the transient darkness – a momentary escape from turbulent reality, into peace. She stretched out her hands and yawned. Her eyes led themselves to the bottom right corner of her laptop screen. It was eleven, just an hour into work. She was drained – already.
“How about some coffee?” she pinged Seema on the instant messenger. She locked her fingers and cracked her knuckles, awaiting a response.
“Just finishing a review,” said Seema. “I’ll need a minute. Come over."
Seema’s desk was at the North-West corner of the office block – a two-minute walk from Akanksha’s cube. Akanksha stepped out. She was a personification of elegance, dressed in a light-blue formal shirt and dark trousers. With her large, dark eyes and pretty, oval face, she looked much younger than most thirty-six-year-olds. Her feigned composure and stoic demeanor veiled the labyrinth of disconcerting thoughts, which eroded her from within.
She walked down the aisle, straight, eyes lowered. She felt some of her colleagues gave her those furtive glances – an amalgamation of curiosity and sympathy. Embarrassed, she sincerely hoped that this was a figment of her imagination.
Seema had completed her work by the time Akanksha reached her desk.
“Let’s go,” said Seema. She stood up and moved towards the cafeteria. Akanksha followed her.
“How are things, Akanksha?”
“Well, trying to get on with life.” Akanksha took a shallow breath. “You, pretty much, know what’s been happening.”
Seema placed her palm over Akanksha’s, on the coffee table, and looked into her gleaming eyes.
“Akanksha, it’s good that you’ve joined back. There’s no point in staying at home. You’ll continue to be entangled by negativity.”
Akanksha removed her palm out of Seema’s clasp. She sneered deep within, at the matter-of-fact piece of advice from her closest colleague at Bluecap Infosystems. She wondered if staying at home could ever be an option. What was the need for Seema to reiterate the obvious? But, after a fraction of a second, Akanksha realized that her anger did not have any substance. She regained her composure, having appreciated that Seema only wanted to start a conversation and help her confront a touchy and awkward situation.
The cafeteria filled up with groups of Bluecap employees taking their mini-breaks. Akanksha’s discomfiture increased with each passing minute, each additional person entering the cafeteria. Seema sensed this. Before long, she emptied her cup with a quick gulp and got up. This signaled the end of their unusually quiet coffee session. Akanksha did not lose a moment to scurry through the somewhat noisy bays, back into the safety of her cube.
It was devastating for her to muse over how her life changed in a fortnight. She tried, in vain, to focus on the piece of code that she was working on. Her mind evoked a train of thoughts.
Dinesh’s death was an anticlimax. Akanksha was clogged with a blend of emotions – anger, desperation, sorrow, and cynicism. Was she being naive all this while; oversimplifying her life, blind to some vital facets of it? Why did she not pre-empt this eventuality? But then, how could she? She did not have any inkling; not even in her weirdest dreams. She had felt that they were there for each other through thick and thin, sharing their highs and lows. She was wide of the mark, struggling for answers.
“Let’s have lunch.” Seema’s voice cut through Akanksha’s clutter of ruminations.
It was half-past one. Akanksha was exhausted. She looked at Seema for a moment, and then, back on to her laptop screen. She had barely written two lines of code. Her long eyelashes covered her striking, but fatigued eyes. They were moist; a teardrop threatened to roll over her dimpled cheek. The subtle mascara that she wore was unevenly smudged below her eyes. That added a whiff of inadvertent earthiness to her beauty.
“I’m going home, Seema.” Akanksha packed up. “I’m done for the day; too tired to continue.”
“What about lunch?”
“I’ll manage. I’m not feeling hungry.”
Seema nodded. She was in two minds. But, she decided to leave Akanksha alone. She felt that it was the best she could do.
“Take care,” said Seema, her voice, cracked; her eyes, moist. “Call me if you need anything.”
Akanksha nodded. She was pale, her forehead creased. She popped in an Aspirin and gulped some water. Her eyes closed, she took a few long, exasperated breaths before she swung her bag around her shoulder and rushed out of the office building.
She drove towards her home, in the Vellayambalam area of the city. After a day of respite, it drizzled again. Akanksha maneuvered the potholes, puddles, and traffic, typical of the Trivandrum monsoons. Her mind was blank. She wanted to reach home fast, take a shower and hit the bed.
The drizzle changed gears – first into moderate rain and then into a full-fledged downpour. The wipers of Akanksha’s car were in full swing and the headlights were turned on. However, she could not see even a few meters ahead of her. The traffic crawled and snarled. An aberrant gloom descended on to the city. All the forces seemed to be working against her. She clutched the steering tight and went through the motions.
She turned the radio on, for some positive distraction. However, the triad of music, ad jingles and the didactic blabbering of the RJs, felt like noise. Within minutes, she turned it off. She yearned to move on from her state of agony, but time had come to a standstill. Her vulnerability got over her. At a traffic signal, she banged on to the steering. She wailed, desperate for some support, some answers, and some “next steps”.
She took more than an hour to reach home.
The company accommodation was beautiful – a row house with a small garden provided by Perfectum Systems, where Dinesh was the Chief Operating Officer. They had stayed there for more than eight years, ever since they moved to Trivandrum, from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai. The movement was a consequence of their quest for a full life – one that was filled with space, with time, with happiness.
In a few months, they were convinced. This was, indeed, the life they had wanted. Soon, Akanksha joined Bluecap. Then, Sana was born. Life was bliss.
Akanksha parked the car. The rain had subsided. She opened the gate and scampered along the pebbled walkway towards the house, her thick waterproof soles creating a splash with each step. The garden on either side was lush and full. The orange hibiscus and pink balsams drooped, soaked in rainwater. Drops fell off the green leaves and wooden branches of the lavender and golden shower trees.
Akanksha and Dinesh were enthralled when they first saw the piece of land – an out-of-bounds luxury when they were in Mumbai. This euphoria gave rise to a common passion. They spent a lot of time together, landscaping and nurturing the plot, now a beautiful garden.
Akanksha scrambled through the garden – now, alone.
She reached the door and pulled out the bunch of keys from her bag. Her eyes fell on the stylized nameplate that read:
A-3, The Nairs
Dinesh, Akanksha, Sana
With Dinesh gone, it had lost its relevance. She entered the room and glanced at the large family photograph on the wall opposite to the entrance door. It was taken four months back. There was Dinesh with his intense eyes behind a pair of dark-rimmed glasses that she had gifted him on his last birthday. He was smiling – the impeccable lover, the ideal husband, and the doting father. She was so blind in her love of him.
Six-year-old Sana looked beatific. Her little angel; how would she be coping with this loss? She had gone to stay with Akanksha’s parents. She would be with them till things trudged towards a semblance of normalcy. Akanksha wondered, when.
She continued to look at the photograph and closed the door. Her eyes froze on it. She took off her footwear, plunged into the sofa and cried. She was hysteric. Unable to control her tears, she lifted herself, pulled towards the bedroom and threw herself on to the bed. She was too exhausted to change and wash. It was almost 3 PM when she embarked upon a shallow, disturbed sleep.
It was dusk when she woke up. The lights were dim. She stared out of the window into the garden, and further into the hills far away, which she could barely make out, fading into the dark and cloudy sky. In the distance, she noticed a majestic flash of lightning, followed by a subdued sound of thunder. This was followed by a few more. The flashes were beautiful – sharp, careless, strokes of white over a black canvas. She felt hollow and sucked into oblivion, haunted by fleeting thoughts of the futility of life. She dreaded to think about how difficult it would be for her to continue to live.
With Dinesh’s death, Akanksha was the loser in more ways than one. She had lost him. She had lost her peace. The unnatural nature of death made her lose her social standing and her relationship with Dinesh’s family. Soon, she would need to move out of the house into a listless apartment. And the garden, which they had nurtured as their own, would no longer be hers. She would not be able to stay on – to cherish the memories of the beautiful times with Dinesh. She was the loser – most certainly, so.
But then, was she, not the loser even before Dinesh’s death? Was she not the one who was naive – possessive and proud of an inveterate cheat?
It was very late. Akanksha grabbed some dry fruits from the fridge and sipped some water from her bottle. This satiated her fledgling hunger and soothed her nausea. She felt much better after a warm shower and stretched herself back on the bed.
It was on the same bed where, two weeks back, Dinesh was found motionless and still, with dollops of froth emanating from his mouth, by an overdose of her sleeping pills that Akanksha had mixed with his food that night.
She had had enough.
How could she reconcile to the fact that she had seen him together with this woman for the third time in a month? And this time around, she could sniff the passion even from the distance. Their murky images walked hand in hand in the mall, chatting and laughing. Akanksha’s impeccable lover, her ideal husband and the doting father of her daughter, was making the most of those gratifying moments. The tryst was intimate, bordering on the obscene. It was punctuated by Dinesh’s intermittent tapping on the woman’s full hips amid their hearty conversations. He caressed her straight smooth hair – perhaps, slipping unconsciously into its sensuous, addictive fragrance.
Oh, for the ardour...their chemistry! They did not want to be disturbed...by anyone...least of all, by Akanksha. Akanksha closed her eyes in disbelief. Dumbstruck and devastated, she left immediately.
Dinesh got for himself what he deserved. Akanksha was only the ‘agent’. It was unfortunate that he deserved this, and it was regrettable that it took Akanksha so long to find out what he deserved. Akanksha did not regret what she did.
Did she really not? What about Sana? What about herself? And then, did Dinesh actually deserve this end?
For the present, she wished that life had a ‘Reset’ button that would erase that moment of indiscretion. But it was too late. Life was complex; far too complex to get reset by the click of a button.
All of a sudden, she sat up and opened the drawer of the bedside table. She took a tablet out of the strip of an antidepressant that she had dexterously protected from the reach of the police. Her psychiatrist had prescribed this for her last month, as part of her treatment for the extremely delusional Othello Syndrome.
She waited for the inevitable. She wondered what it was and why it was taking so long..