Darpan Gupta, a friend of mine looked a bit under the weather today. He had lost a lot of weight since I last saw him. There were dark – circles under his eyes and he looked famished. His hair was unruly, and a thick beard wrapped up most of his face.
“At least have a sandwich, Darpan.”
“I’m not hungry, Ved.” Darpan was sitting close to Vedant who was his cousin and my colleague.
“Hi guys, how are you?” I tried to sound pleasant.
“Hi, Shivani” Darpan smiled rather ruefully.
“What happened, Darpan? Is everything okay? How is Ankita?” I asked as I sensed something was terribly wrong with him.
“He is deep trouble, Shivani.” Vedant pointed.
“What’s the matter?”
“My wife accuses me of having an affair.”
“What?” I was speechless for a moment. “Why? What has made her think so?”
“I don’t know, Shivani. We haven’t talked for a while.”
“Then, try to talk to her and sort the mess out.”
“I had tried a thousand times. But then, she starts assaulting my character and I end-up losing my temper. So, I have stopped going home now. I spend nights in the office, itself.”
“Shivani, please help them.” Vedant said.
“What can I do, Ved?”
“Please, meet Ankita and talk to her about the issue.”
* * *
“Oh Shivani! What a pleasant surprise!” Ankita answered the doorbell herself. Her eyes were swollen because of crying.
“How are you, Ankita?”
“Well, I’m fine. Let me make some coffee for you.” She tried to excuse herself.
“Let’s get straight to the point.” I held her by hand and asked, “What has happened between you and Darpan?”
“He spoiled my life, Shivani.” She hugged me and sobbed bitterly.
As she recovered, I made some coffee for both of us. She took a sip from her cup and closed her eyes as if she were meditating. Finally, she opened her eyes and said, “He had been spending a very little time with me for the past few months….”
“May be, he was busy with work. What’s the big – deal?”
“Let me finish, Shivani.”
“I had also assumed so. But lately, I started feeling that he has entirely lost interest in me. As if I don’t even exist for him. When we dine together, he is always busy talking over the phone which provoked me to check his call – list. Most of the calls were made by his secretary, Rubeena. I consoled myself, that those were official ones and nothing personal. But nearly a month ago, an incident happened that changed my belief. It was late one night, when Darpan’s phone started ringing. He jumped out of the bed with his phone and tip – toed out of the room. He turned back to look at me, but I pretended to be fast asleep. As soon as he was out of sight, I followed him. He was talking sweetly to someone, in whispers. But I over- heard him, saying, ‘A Ruby for my ruby.’ I could not sleep that night, Shivani. I kept wondering, what does that mean?”
A week later, he went on a business – tour to Australia. The next day, I got a call on our landline from some jeweler’s. The receptionist told me that Darpan had placed an order of a ruby studded necklace. His order is ready, but they can’t get in touch with him. She requested me to convey the message to him. My astrologer had warned me against using ruby and Darpan knows about it. So, it’s obvious that the necklace was not for me. Then, I thought about his conversation on the phone the previous week, when he was talking about ‘ruby’. The remaining pieces of the puzzle fell into place when I remembered his phone calls to Rubeena. Don’t you get it, Shivani? ‘A Ruby for my Ruby’ means - a ruby studded necklace for Ruby which is short for Rubeena. He is having an affair with her!”
“Oh my God!” I grabbed my phone and ran out to call to Vedant.
The next evening, I was standing by the window of my bedroom watching the raindrops hit the glass- panes and slide down slowly leaving a watery trail behind. Suddenly, a thought crossed my mind. We are also like these raindrops. We come into existence; live an entire lifetime and then retreat, leaving behind a trail of memories. My phone buzzed and Vedant’s smiling face flashed on the screen which halted the train of my reverie.
“Shivani, call Ankita and ask her to come to your place right now. We are also coming.”
“Why, Ved?” I panicked as his tone seemed to be urgent.
“Please don’t ask questions and do as I say, immediately!”
“Okay, fine. I will.”
Vedant and Darpan were already having coffee in my parlor when Ankita arrived. Ankita’s face became flushed on seeing Darpan. She ignored him and asked me, “Why have you ask me to come here, Shivani.”
“I had told her to do so.” Vedant said
“We would like to listen to your version of the story, Ankita.”
“I have already told Shivani.”
“But, not us. We would also like to know.”
I handed her a cup of coffee. She sat down and calmly narrated the story once again.
“Fine. Now we will listen what Darpan has to say.”
“My parents had died at a very young age.” Darpan’s agonized eyes were fixed on the wall opposite to him. “I have a sister who is almost 10 years younger than me. As my parents are no more, it’s my responsibility to take care of her. Her studies are almost complete, and I wish to get her married. I was quite busy for past few months looking for a good alliance and buying ornaments for her. My secretary Rubeena, who is also a good friend, has helped me a lot with it.”
There was pin – drop silence in the room as everyone listened attentively to Darpan.
He sipped a little coffee and resumed, “Now, let’s come to my statement ‘a ruby for my Ruby’ which is the root cause of the whole mess. All I have to say is Ankita has completely misinterpreted my words. I didn’t say ‘Ruby’ but ‘Rupy’ which is short for Rupali – my sister. Rubies are her favorite. So, I decided to give her a necklace studded with rubies as a gift from her brother and sister – in - law on her wedding.”
Both Vedant and I looked at Ankita, who’s face was contorted with remorse.
“Why hadn’t you shared your plans for Rupali’s marriage with Ankita?” Vedant probed deeper.
“From a very young age, I’m habituated to shoulder responsibilities all by myself.”
“But now you have a partner, Darpan. Spouses should not keep secrets from each other. They should learn to trust each other and share the gloom and glee. She is an inseparable part of you and you must accept the fact.”
“You are right, Ved. I will always keep that in mind.” Darpan said with down- cast eyes.
“And Ankita, don’t believe anything blindly and jump into a conclusion.”
“I’m sorry Ankita, for keeping you in dark.” Darpan said with his face turned away.
“No Darpan, it’s me who should say sorry.” She hugged him tightly.
Love and remorse flowed from their eyes in the form of tears.