“Is that you, Sanjay?” Maya saw a skinny, well groomed man with perfectly trimmed stubble and a frameless blue colored spectacle. He was seated in the food court of Oberoi Mall, located in Goregaon East of Mumbai, with his little lunch and a cup of green tea placed on the table. He generally eats very less and drinks more tea. One can easily tell by looking at his physique and face. Maya was crossing the food court when she saw Sanjay there, sipping his tea.
“It’s been a very long time, Sanjay. How have you been?” she said pulling the only chair left in front of Sanjay, sitting right parallel to him, without seeking any permission. She is bold, quick and crazy. Spontaneous, as she does whatever she decides. She doesn’t need any permission for anything. If she chooses to do something, it will be done without anybody’s knowledge and advice. She is a woman of her word, once committed; it is like carved on stone.
Sanjay was flabbergasted with the sudden encounter with Maya. He never thought of meeting her again, and that too here in Mumbai after what had happened seven years ago. He was iced, not a muscle moved, his eyes were fixed on Maya as she adjusted in the chair, keeping all her handbags on the table. She was talking continuously as Sanjay watched her. He suddenly started feeling sweat running down his neck and chest. And when she looked at him, Sanjay moved his gaze from her, as if he was looking somewhere else.
“What brings you to Mumbai?” Sanjay finally spoke breaking his silence, after gathering some guts to speak to her.
“Don’t tell me that you’ve shifted here?” he said with a worried look. A part of him was happy to meet her again after such a long gap, but he then remembered what he can never forget, what he cannot change.
“Actually, Mukul asked me to come here. It’s been five years of our marriage and we have been away most of the time.” She observed Sanjay’s adversity while talking to her.
Mukul is Maya’s husband, and Sanjay’s friend. Sanjay never asked Mukul about Maya. She had been Sanjay’s best friend once, but that was 7 years ago. In the past 7 years, he had not contacted her.
But now, Maya is back, sitting right in front of him. She was awaiting his response. She knew that he’d not speak to her. He was aghast.
“I should be going now.” She understood the situation and decided it’d be better to leave now.
“This is my contact number. I hope to receive a call from you soon.” She held a card in her hand, giving it to Sanjay. She knew he will not contact her but in case, if he wants to, she gave her cell phone number to him.
Sanjay noticed the silver ring in her middle finger of her right hand while taking the card. He remembers that ring. It was still there with her. She had kept it for so long.
“I will certainly make a call soon.” He said looking at the card which he held in his hand now, which reads Maya’s name on it, “Maya Saxena (Lawyer).” He studied the card from both the sides before putting it inside his shirt pocket.
“See you any time later, Sanjay. Keep in touch.” She collected her handbags from the table and stood to leave. She had never been so formal with him, but with time relationships change, people’s character change, and what does not change is their heart…
As she was leaving the table, she stopped, took a deep breath and turned around. She saw Sanjay’s baffled movements, suddenly looking here and there with an expressionless face, as if he had been caught red handed while committing some crime. Maya knew that he was looking at her, but she did not react to his obvious gesture. She knew what he is like and she still remembers that day when their world changed its path. Ignoring his sudden ignorance she said, “Sanjay, I have missed you.” And she left the court before he could take her last words and draw its meaning.
Sanjay stood motionless and perplexed between the void of the table and the chair. He felt happiness. Those last words from Maya came like monsoon clouds after a very long summer, yet to shower rain.
“Thank you, Maya. I’ve missed you too.” He said softly to no one around him, but to himself. He was happy after 7 years, his heart throbbing madly. He’d never smiled whole heartedly in those 7 years, but today he could not stop himself.
A pair of black leather boots were laying on the floor when Maya opened the door of her two and a half bedroom flat in Oberoi Springs, located in Andheri west of Mumbai. The flat was small yet spacious enough for its two occupants. The presence of boots made her realize that her husband Mukul was home. She had been away for a long time.
When she came to the living area of the flat after closing the door, she heard no sound and no movement in the flat. It felt like nobody resides here but the reality is different, Mukul was present in the flat. “He must be in the study.” She thought, because he spends most of his time at home in the study, either reading or writing something.
As she moved to the half bedroom of the flat which was Mukul’s study room, she smelled something burning. She understood it was her husband smoking. She hated this part of Mukul, his chain smoking. And some other habits of him.
The ash tray lay on the round table with three stubs and some ash in it. The fourth cigarette was in his right hand between his ring finger and middle finger. Not like others, this was his style of smoking. A book was held in his left hand and his eyes were taken by the book.
“You did not tell me you were coming early?” she said entering the study and reaching the window to close it.
“I am on a new assignment for which I have to read certain books.” He said and kept the book on the table admiring his wife. He saw Maya maneuvering happily in the little space available in the room. She was arranging things properly in the room. There was something different about her today. She talked nonstop, sometimes louder and sometimes just whispering to herself. Whenever she is happy, she behaves like this.
“So what is the reason behind your happiness today?” he asked pulling her closer and making her sit on his lap.
“I bumped into Sanjay today, at the Oberoi Mall.” She changed the course of her eyes and looked at the book shelf. “We exchanged some words and I gave him my contact number.” She said as she stood from his lap and went near the book shelf to arrange the books.
“Did he say anything to you?” he asked her completing his fourth cigarette and throwing the stub in the ash tray. He feared that Sanjay might tell her about his life in Mumbai. Although, Sanjay did not know much about his personal life, yet he was frightened.
“No. It was just a formal meeting. For most of the talking I did and he talked very less.” She said walking towards the door. She felt uneasy talking about Sanjay with her husband.
“I will go and prepare for the dinner.” She winked at him and left for the kitchen.
Mukul started reading the book once again, almost ignoring the conversation he had with her.
Maya was standing in the balcony, in a blue gown, taking the fresh air after dinner. She was looking at the vast city and its infrastructure with lights everywhere when she felt the touch of manly arms wrapped around her. Mukul embraced her from behind pulling her closer to his muscular body. He kissed on her neck and behind her ear. She smelled the smoky breath of him, which is common with every chain smoker. She felt the warm and heavy breathe of him on her neck which happened whenever he felt aroused. He drew her even more close and moaned.
Maya sensed what he wanted and she immediately withdrew her body, unwrapping his arms from her shoulders. “Not today. I feel sick.” She murmured in his ear and left.
“Congratulations on your 5th marriage anniversary Maya and Mukul.” Mr. Basu said while he was escorted by Mukul into the flat.
A small and simple celebration party was organized by the couple with a very little gathering of few common friends and colleagues. The flat was already occupied with Maya’s colleagues when Mr. Basu entered with Mrs. Basu and Tanu. Mr. Basu is the Director and Tanu is the Editor at the publishing house where Mukul works. No other person from Mukul’s office was invited to the party.
Tanu wished Mukul with a formal hug and whispered in his ear, “I wish this is your last anniversary with her. It soon ends.” She pulled herself back when she saw Maya approaching. “Congratulations Maya.” She said while shaking hands with her.
Maya doesn’t like Tanu at all. But Mukul always talks about her and even now also he is busy with her. She doesn’t like her husband getting closer to any other women, and especially to Tanu. She was once told that Tanu is divorced. She feels insecure and jealous when Mukul talks about her.
She was standing in front of the main door, facing the living room when Sanjay entered the flat and greeted her. She felt relaxed after meeting Sanjay.
Mukul approached Maya for a dance. A romantic song was playing in the room. She refused to dance, as he expected. Maya once wanted to be a dancer, but she dropped dancing forever, after joining law. Mukul did not mind on her refusal, because he knew about her commitments.
Mukul then approached Tanu, and she agreed to dance with him, without any hesitation. He took her to the center of the living room, and the couple started moving their legs. Rest all joined the couple to the dancing area, leaving Maya and Sanjay in the dining area.
Mukul started getting closer to Tanu, and Maya was getting anxious watching him. He puts his hand on Tanu’s belly, and suddenly she starts blushing. They both looked extremely happy with each other. Maya kept staring at them, her anger increased with every move of her husband. She felt envy for her.
“They’re just dancing, like all others.” Sanjay said looking on the couples dancing in the living area. He could see Maya’s anger, and jealousy. He could understand her feelings, when no one can predict her possible behavior, Sanjay is the one who can tell.
She left the dining area and went to her bedroom. She was upset with her husband, with his flirting, with Tanu. Sanjay followed her to the room, because he knew that she needs somebody to support her, to control her anger.
“I know my friend, Maya. He is just enjoying the party. Nothing else.” He said entering the room where Maya was sitting on the corner of her bed.
“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?”
Sanjay was shocked by Maya’s such prediction about her husband, turning his face towards the door, he said, “You know that we don’t talk much, and nothing we share about our personal life with each other. But I seriously don’t think he is physically involved with that woman.”
“Did you notice his behavior with her on the dinner table? Do you call it flirting or something else?” Maya howled. “Do you think a colleague deserves such behavior from a married man?” Maya looked at Sanjay for an answer.
“We both are aware of the fact that my husband is a women lover. You are his friend, you have known about his relationships with girls in past. I know that flirting is his passion, but why don’t he understand that now he is a married man?” Maya’s eyes were wet. She had always been strong in every hard situation, but tonight, she couldn’t control her emotions. She feared of losing her husband. “I have been told by a friend of mine, that he was seen at a café with her. They are meeting after office hours. Are you aware of that, Sanjay?”
Sanjay slithered in the room and said nothing. “Answer me?” she demanded.
“Nothing was hidden from you. You were well aware of what he was, and what he liked. You’d a choice, Maya, 7 years ago. And you chose Mukul.” Sanjay suddenly lost his temper, and unleashed their past, which was buried in his heart from 7 years. “Mukul has nothing to do with that woman. He is just flirting like he does with every other woman.”
“We were good friends, and we are still good friends, Sanjay, I’d told you then, and I’m telling you today also. Friendship is above all other relationships in this universe.” Maya said moving towards the balcony of the room. “I’d my commitments with Mukul, you know that, I don’t break my promises.” She said, turning back, she found Sanjay staring at her.
“Friends don’t kiss, Maya.” He finally spoke what she never wanted to remember again. “You’d said that, we had a moment, and that kiss was a mistake, yet it never felt like a mistake to me.” He said looking into Maya’s eyes.
She did not utter a word. A silence ran through the room. Sanjay stood near the door, frustrated with Maya’s silence.
“I am sorry for this, Maya.” He said breaking the silence. “Mukul is a nice person, and a perfect husband. He will not let you go, ever for sure.” Sanjay said with disgust, and left the room. He left Maya. She was all alone again after 7 years. Sanjay is gone.
Maya pushed the door close, and wept.