At 47th year of your life you are already familiar with most of mid-life crises. Becoming a pale shadow of your younger self, lower self esteem, higher ego, dysfunctions of several physical kinds to name a few. And to escape all this for a man like me who is quite considered as successful in his life the usual refuge is some extra marital affairs. It secretly accommodates the rot inside and gives a false sense of glory even if the gestures are fake and responses hardly truthful.
A humid afternoon of August can hardly be considered the right atmosphere for an ideal date, particularly when you are both married to different persons with kids.
I reach the top floor of the house facing west and ring the call bell. For few minutes there is no response, then I decide to knock but the door is opened by a small girl may be 8 or 9 year old. This is first time when I saw daughter of Sangeeta, although she always had guest appearance during our tasteless conversations. She definitely does not look like her mother. I ask her to tell her mom that Mr. Ghosh has come. She without even looking at me goes back into one of the inside rooms not even bothering to say Okay.
After a few minutes Sangeeta appears with her all best efforts however unsuccessful to look beautiful and young. More than being pleased at my arrival, she appears apologetic and explains “Sara was not feeling well so today she did not go to school.” It almost sounded like when she gives reasons for a missed dead line. After mastering all the tricks of your professional life, you also tend to replicate them in your personal life.
Another proof of that is that no one knows about our affair in the office or elsewhere, as we all know how to handle matters of confidential nature. But it was not something I had expected and told her that I will have to leave in 30 mins as I see no hope for fulfilling the purpose of my visit while her daughter is around. But Sangeeta too knew the implications. She whispers to me, "its not a big deal” - and then she calls Sara and she comes without raising her head up. She touches her hand and says, “there is no fever, and do you have headache?.." Sara does not answer.
Sangeeta takes her into her arms and says, “why don’t you go and watch that animation movie playing in the theater across the road, that will sure change your mood meanwhile me and Ghosh uncle has some important official work to complete…she does not answer to that too. For a moment I wondered if she is not able to speak at all. She hands her over a Rs. 100 note and says don’t take cold drinks but you can have cookies and chocs and kisses her on her forehead. “My good gal”, that’s what she says.
Sara changes her sleepers and her mother follows her out and waives hand from terrace until she disappears into the theater.
As soon she locks up the door from inside, we start the usual procedure of our unofficial meetings. There are fake protocols, fake gestures, we say things we don’t mean and do things which we later regret but that for the moment its all that we do. Just two regular middle aged people trying their best to hide their ugliness or just giving each other a false sense of being alive.
Its almost one and a half hour. We try to restore our normal physical state. She goes and open the door and then we realize that there is very heavy rain shower going on. “How Sara will come back in such a rain?” She murmurs. “Don’t worry I will bring her back," and ask her to hand me an umbrella. I go downstairs, cross the road and reach the theater. As per the show timings there was no show for an animation movie in the theater. I check with the box office guy and ask if a small girl had come to buy the ticket. He waives me off. I could feel the sweat on my forehead, the rain was still on. I looked in all nearby shops and find no signs of her. As I was not familiar with the area I thought I should better let Sangeeta know about this.
I once again climb the stairs to her top floor house but before entering I notice someone on the swing in the nearby children’s park. In such a rain, it was very unlikely for anyone to be there and then I remember the color of her frock which I can still guess despite poor visibility. I almost jump down the stairs, enter the park and walk towards the swing. I had never felt so weightless in my life. I stop the swing and ask her “why did you not come back home when no show was going on for the movie?”
For the first time I hear her voice ,sweet and crystal clear “I did not want to disturb you!”