Suchitra was an artist. All artists are supposed to be temperamental, and whimsical, who acted by their moods, so it was with Suchitra. Early in the morning, as she munched her crisp toast made from freshly baked bread from Flury’s, and sipped her steaming hot coffee, with the smoke going up in spirals, she was deep in thoughts. But some memories from the past trespassed on her sole ownership of solitary reflection, and brought a sad smile on her lips. Her husband Sanjeev, would never understand why she was so particular about buying bread from Flury’s. For him, it was a mere wastage of money. A Modern Bread was even softer, and more pleasing to taste. “Why spend the extra money”, was his objection.
Suchitra drove out the unpleasant thought with a flourish of her hand, throwing back her shoulder-length, soft, unruly hair, and got back to the business of the day. As she sat, enjoying her frugal breakfast, which was deliberately kept light, to maintain her slim girlish look, she was deciding on some important essentials. She would immediately change the décor of the sitting room, as it did not seem right anymore. She would go to Big Bazaar after breakfast, and do the needful. The upholstery on the sofa looked too bright. A subdued color would be better, and the curtains were too garish. She stretched, and seemed to be content, and satisfied. Now she was free, free as the birds, she just had to take wings, and she would get her heart’s desire. It gave her immense pleasure to dress up the flat any way she wanted. Again her thoughts took her back six years, when anything she wanted would be countered by her husband, as he would say that she was being too extravagant. There was so much fun to be able to do just whatever she took fancy to! It was a good thing that they had decided on parting their ways.
Sanjeev and Suchitra were doing their post-graduate from the Calcutta University. Later on, he had taken a job in Exide Ltd. Then, after a year, he started his business in manufacturing and selling batteries. When Sanjeev had proposed marriage to Suchitra, her parents had vehemently opposed the wed-lock on the grounds that she would never be happy. Sanjeev was from a middle-class family, whereas Suchitra had an affluent background. But she was deeply in love, and would not be cautioned. Later friction arose, as she was dissatisfied with whatever was not the best. Her husband felt that as a wife she should be happy with what her husband could afford. The expenses at the beauty salon seemed unnecessary, and buying of expensive artwork, he could not tolerate. But as Artists are supposed to be temperamental, at the heat of the moment, after an afternoon of violent exchanges, she had rushed out of the house, never to return.
Suchitra got into an Air-conditioned car, and in no time was at the Market. It took her all morning buying the material, as she could not get what she wanted. At last at the fag- end of a tiring morning, feeling famished, she went into the adjoining restaurant, Illusion, for a good lunch.
The restaurant was dimly illuminated, while a few fancy lights served as the décor. Soft music was being played, and as she entered, a young waiter guided her to the table. It was laid with transparent glasses, sparkling cutlery, and fancy crimson napkins, in the shape of decorative fans. After her hectic shopping, she had become tired. She breathed a sigh of relief when she was able to relax in the welcoming sofa.
She looked through the menu card, and ordered a Sweet Corn soup and a Mixed Chowmein. As the waiter informed her that it would take about twenty minutes to serve lunch, she looked around to see the other customers at the restaurant. At the next table she saw a couple, who seemed to be very much in love, sipping beer, and feeding each other the tit-bits. A little further down, was a family of four; the two children talked animatedly, competing with each other, so as to who could put in the most. At the corner table, the guest seemed to be an aged man. He had his head down and was looking blankly at the table mat. Despite his age, he looked quite distinguished, with a crop of salt and pepper hair. He was wearing a grey shirt, which went well with his hair.
At that moment when she was trying to reflect on why he looked so familiar, he looked up, and their eyes met. She gasped with surprise. His face lighted up. He got up and without an invitation, came and sat down at her table. It was Sanjeev!
Suchitra could not believe her eyes. His hair had nearly turned grey in the last six years. He looked thin and emaciated. After the preliminary questions were asked, and answered, which were about their matrimonial status, they continued about the commonplace details of their work. As Sanjeev narrated about his life in the past six years, Suchitra noticed he had an expensive Iphone in his hand, and the shirt and trousers he was wearing, must have been bought at Raymond’s Show Room, or any other expensive joint. He informed her that currently, he had a flourishing business. He had so much money that he could provide whatever a woman might desire. But he had loved only once, and since the person went out of his life, he could neither sleep, nor eat. He knew he looked old, but his grey hair was the result of his constant pining for her. He was asking her to remarry him again, for there was no one in the world like her. According to him, a wife should be able to adjust, if the husband was going through a bad phase. A husband and wife should always stick together through thick and thin. The modern girls went at supersonic speed to get a Divorce. He considered it not womanly at all, for a wife should have deep love to sustain through, and endure hardship, and have the tenacity to be a companion all through the difficult journey of life.
Suchitra listened without interrupting as Sanjeev expressed his soul-stirring words, sometimes pausing to study her reactions. Suchitra noticed that despite the air-conditioning, he was drenched in perspiration.
Suchitra looked at him for a very long time. The suspense made Sanjeev clasp and unclasp his fingers like a teen-ager in front of the Principal of the School. Slowly Suchitra gave her decision. Sanjeev, both of us have walked a long distance apart. The roads can never meet. Sorry to tell you that your riches have no attraction for me now, as I am earning fabulously, by selling my paintings, which are now greatly in demand. Besides, I love my independence. I would never sit in the house, if I felt like going on an excursion to Puri, when you were tied down with your work. If I wanted to have the air-conditioner on in the bed room, and you were feeling cold, I would not be able to make the necessary sacrifice.
Sanjeev got up slowly, looked at her with his eyes nearly brimming up, and with a sad parting smile left the restaurant.
As Suchitra saw the last of the salt and pepper head leaving, not knowing what she was doing, acting again in a surge of emotions, she rushed after him. “Sanjeev, don’t leave, I want to tell you that I had made a big mistake once, and I am about to repeat the same. Suchitra the Idiot, nearly made me give up the greatest riches in this world, which is your invaluable love, for trifling factors like ego and selfishness”. Without any further word, Sanjeev held her by her hand and drew her close to him.