Mrinal sat in the car and looked around .Different types of flowers. The greenery…the surrounding made his heart mellowed down. He took a long breath and could not help feeling a bit emotional .How much he loved this place once! He still recalls when his uncle asked them to shift to Delhi permanently. He could not sleep for a few nights thinking how he would live away this place.
‘Sir ,have you ever come to Assam?’ Driver’s question brought him back to reality.
Mrinal laughed, ’Of course. Perhaps I know Guwahati better than you. How long have you been here?’
‘Seven years, Sir. ‘ The driver is quite curious. Mrinal does not look like a guy of this part. But the way he is speaking Assamese, it has made it clear that he is quite familiar to this place and the language. Usually Mrinal likes to talk to new persons irrespective of their ages …but today he preferred to keep silent and let his mind roam on the memory lanes of his past days. He asked the driver to turn off the AC and opened the window. Soft breeze touched his hairs….he felt as if he is loitering on the bank of the river….How many years have passed? Fifteen?... Mrinal felt a lump in his throat. After all these years he is back to the place where he spent the best years of his life. It’s not like that he never thought of coming back to this place, but each time he thought of planning some kind of pain gripped his heart. He lost the energy to revisit this place. But this time he overcame that pain and now he is here…at last.
It’s true that he has seen success in his life. He has visited most of the places of the world …but the excitement that he is experiencing this time cannot be compared to anything else. The moments he captured in this place remained in his heart as a treasure forever. Working long hours…spending time with different types of people …enjoying all the luxuries of life could not change him at all. Each night when he keeps his head on the pillow, the moments which he tries to store deeper inside his heart starts disturbing his mind. After fifteen years he has gathered enough courage to deal with it. His heart often betrays his mind and in his solitude he becomes restless to see this place…actually it is not correct. He craves to meet them…his long lost friend, his….
When he told his brother about his plan, his brother was surprised. Because all these years, Mrinal always avoided any discussion about this place. Even when they sold their house…his brother asked Mrinal if he wanted to visit for the last time. Mrinal refused. Naturally Abir was concerned ‘Where will you stay ?’ ‘Don’t worry …there are lots of hotels in Guwahati’. Abir knew something has been haunting Mrinal all these years. He did not utter a word. Mrinal secretly felt pain in heart. He wished he could stay in their own house. But there is no house to call their own. Mrinal planned to see their old house where he spent so many years of his life.
’Sir, we have reached’ Mrinal suddenly jolted back to the reality by the driver’s voice. He got down from the car and went inside the hotel. The city has seen tremendous growth, everything changed.
After completing the formalities Mrinal went to the room. He looked through the windows…Wow… the breath-taking beauty of the river Brahmaputra made him nostalgic. He recalled the days of his college …how he used to go to the bank of the river with her and stood there hours to watch the sun turning into orange ball and merge into the mighty Brahmaputra. ’Mrinal, we will come here till the day we can walk.’ Mrinal blushed feeling her love…her words conveyed so much meaning. His lonely moments were filled with her words. When he had to live with his father for his treatment Mrinal’s strength was her words. He could not come back for months and at last when they decided to sell their house Mrinal became dumb. He could not help his family with money. So he could not say anything against selling.
Mrinal controlled his emotions. He took a deep breath. He thought after all these years he has the control over his memories and emotions…but nothing has erased from his mind…not the pain. He is feeling so lonely. He needs company. He remembered the managers words…’Sir anything you want, just give me a call’ Mrinal knew his meaning. Reaching his room he called the Manager and gave necessary instructions.
Mrinal has changed so much. It is nothing strange for him. While travelling different cities he used to yarn for company and he always got. He is no longer that Mrinal who once uttered ‘I can’t even look at other girls…you are the only one for me’ Now he enjoys the company of different women. But no one has captured his senses. Mrinal kept his thoughts away. He needs to have bath. He kept the door open and went to washroom. He does not want the girl to wait.
After taking bath Mrinal is feeling fresh. He saw the lady standing near the window…looking towards the river. She was so engrossed into her feelings that she did not feel the presence of Mrinal in the room. Mrinal felt a little bit restless. He decided to make her aware ‘Hello. You are on time’
‘Yes.’ she replied without even looking at him.
Mrinal wanted to see her. ‘May I know your name?‘ This time she turned….and Mrinal just froze. He became numb. Words did not come out from his mouth. He kept on looking at her with wide eyes…standing like a statue. And she stammered….’Aaahhh…how is it possible…you are here?’
‘Everything is possible in life…I was waiting for a call girl to give me pleasure and see who is here…’ Mrinal became sarcastic. He could not believe his own eyes. How can it happen? She has stooped down to such level? But what about Bibek? She betrayed Mrinal for Bibek, and now… Mrinal lost three persons in that crucial year…his father …his lover and his best friend. He was about to lose his mental balance. And now here she is in his room like this…He cursed her to die but never cursed her to go to hell!
Both of them stood frozen. At last she asked ‘You have changed so much. Why have you come here again?’
Mrinal became attacking. ’To see your degradation. How long have you been doing this ? Siihhhh!… I am so ashamed of you…’
Nimisha did not say anything. She just looked outside.
‘What is Bibek doing ? Are not you still married ?’
‘Yes, we are …we have a daughter ‘ She is composed…as if no storm can shake her. ’Now, let me go.’
‘No, you can’t go away like this. I can’t let you go without knowing why you are behaving this way…for pleasure??’ Mrinal shuddered…He loved this woman more than himself once!!
She betrayed him for his best friend and now he has discovered her character! She has betrayed Bibek too! Mrinal got very angry, ’I feel like slapping you.’
‘I will be happy.‘ Her cool and calm voice made him angrier. He lost his temper ‘Get out …leave my room immediately.‘
She took her purse and without uttering another word went out. Mrinal could not move. He stood like a frozen tree. He heard her steps in the corridor. Suddenly he got his sense back. He can’t let her go away like that. He wants to know everything. Mrinal ran behind her. Where has she gone? His heart sank. He spotted her near the hotel gate. He ran ‘You can’t let me remain in darkness. I will go with you.’
She did not protest. Inside the taxi they remained silent. Mrinal’s mind was in turmoil…He was so eager to know everything about Nimisha. But he is too full of mixed emotions to ask her anything. She betrayed his trust. Still he was not this much heart broken. Today, the way he has discovered her is beyond his imagination. She has crossed all limits of decency…but why!!
‘Taxi, stop here’ she asked the driver in such a cool voice that Mrinal got shocked. ‘Will you come.‘
Mrinal was waiting for this moment only. He tried to keep pace with her fast steps. Even though Mrinal spent all his younger days in this city, he never saw this place before. At last they reached a house. She opened the lock. ’Does she live alone! Where is Bibek?’ Mrinal thought inside his mind. ‘Come’ she went inside and he followed.
She did not ask him to sit in the front room. ’Come here’ Mrinal was hesitating. They entered another room. Mrinal saw a man lying on the bed. ‘Have you come back ?’ the man asked in a feeble voice.
Mrinal felt his heart was losing its beats. He felt a lump in his heart …a sharp pain …God! He knows this voice. Bibek…..what have happened to him? ‘
‘Yes, I have come; and I have brought someone to meet you.’ Mrinal could not move. He stood like rooted. The man also did not move…but his eyes turned….they captured Mrinal even in that deem light…’Mrinal!’ he cried. Mrinal lost all his hatred at that moment. He ran to his friend ‘How?’ ‘What happened to you?’
Nimisha gave him a glass of water. ‘Don’t get excited…I will tell your friend everything.’ She indicated Mrinal to sit down. Mrinal sat like a dumb. He is paralysed. It has been seven years now. He can’t even move from his bed.
‘How ?’ Mrinal’s voice came out like a whisper.
‘Accident...I need a lot of money for his treatment and for our daughter’s education’
‘Mrinal…I have died many years ago…My mind is dead…only my body is alive ‘
Mrinal looked at her and saw a very strong woman…Suddenly he has come to know …this woman can’t cheat anyone…then what happened?
’Nimisha,…tell me why didn’t you wait for me ?’
‘When you went for your father’s treatment and did not come for many months. I could not wait.’
‘But why?’ Mrinal’s voice became louder.
She whispered, ’Because I did not want to give birth to a fatherless child….’
‘Whaaaaattt?’, Mrinal shouted.
‘Yes…you made me pregnant. I waited and waited …You did not come back. Then I told Bibek everything. We could not wait any more…we had to marry.’ Mrinal was jolted to the extent that he could not utter a word. He had seen Nimisha crying for the first time.
They heard footsteps outside…’Papa…Papa…we have won the match.’
A young Nimisha came inside. She hesitated a little bit. Then shouted…’Uncle! Papa’s best friend? At last you have come? Papa speaks about you all the time. You were college badminton champion na? See, I also play badminton’
Mrinal could not control his tears. He hugged her and whispered ‘My daughter!’.
’Hiya, go to Papa …He is waiting.’ Nimisha is again cool and composed. Hiya ran inside. ’Mrinal, I have forgotten the night when we created Hiya in our passion…but I can never forget all these years how Bibek has made her his life …Hiya is his breath.’
Mrinal looked at
her…he felt so much peace… After all, life has not
betrayed him…He smiled with tears in his eyes.