They remained close, almost indistinguishable, so similar were their interests and attitude, yet they fought, sometimes bitterly, like two rivals trying to score debating points.
He had lost her on a rainy evening. Since morning the clouds had hung overhead, holding together, swelling and roaring… threatening to burst any moment. But they did not, till she left.
It was a Sunday. Tarun had lazed in bed for a while, cuddling Pupun, his three year old bundle of joy. Nisha was on the terrace listening to Jagjit Singh’s log har mod pe ruk ruk ke sambhalte kyon hain, itna darte hain to phir ghar se nikalte kyon hai. Jagjit’s soulfullness permeated the room like a mountain mist brooking no barrier.
He was wide awake now, but there was a heaviness in his head; and in his heart too. He had a fight with Nisha last night and the hangover hurt still. The fights were becoming monotonously regular even though they needed each other every moment.
It was that need which had made them hurriedly enter the marital troth and they were perfectly matched mentally, emotionally, even physically… the dream pair as they were to the entire world!
Marriage did not taper things off. They remained close, almost indistinguishable, so similar were their interests and attitude, yet they fought, sometimes bitterly, like two rivals trying to score debating points. It was strange that two persons could agree on so many things and yet plunge into unsuspected dimensions of disagreement. He was a Leo, a past-master at casuistry and she a Gemini who loved to join issue. Both were proud, inexorably so.
Nisha came in, her face grim like an overcast sky and moved to the kitchen. Tarun looking for the olive branch found none as he was completely ignored and was miffed. The stage was set again for yet another fight.
Everything presaged yet another storm and it came soon enough. There were many sore points; Tarun’s parents were to visit him in a couple of days.
It was something Tarun said that got the wind blowing menacingly. Words flew about, tongues struck out like lightening lacerating them. Tarun went to the studies licking his wounds and aeons descended on the house, grim and foreboding.
When he came out it was almost lunch hour and Pupun was playing with Jeetu their boy-servant. There was no sign of Nisha.
“Shall I serve you food saab? Memsaab has not returned,” he asked Tarun. Not returned? Where has she gone? He wondered but presently he drove her out of his thoughts, played with Pupun and asked Jeetu to serve lunch.
He returned to the studies to have a nap. When he got up it was late afternoon and the house stood sullen and still. He went to the bedroom. Pupun was asleep. There was no sign of Nisha still. For the first time he felt something sinking in him. Did she tell where she was going? Was there any call or anything?
Jeetu had no answer. He was worried now. She had never left like that. Where could she be?
He called everybody up. There was no trace of her. Nobody knew where she was. He was getting panicky now. He dashed out of the house scouring the city, the city of his moments with Nisha. But she was not there and everything was beginning to look terribly unfamiliar.
He combed the railway station, the bus terminus, the airport. He contacted his friend, a police officer, and inquired whether there had been any untoward incident reported in any police station. There was nothing; the city was perfectly calm.
By the time he came back home the cloud had burst and rains lashed his house. A vacant house with a lonely son. Pupun jumped into his arms and on an empty stomach and a hollow heart he hit the bed.
It rained through the night and in the wee hours of the morning. Pupun woke up and asked for ‘mama’. Tarun fought back the tears pricking his red swollen sleepless eyes and clasped him tighter.
In the morning a call came from her place five hundred miles away. Nisha had gone to maike. She did not talk to him. The voice that came over the line was of her father, curt and gruff.
He tried to reach out but she remained elusive. He felt as if a chasm was growing between them, a chasm that seemed to become more formidable to bridge with every passing day. She never talked to him, never came back
She had gone out of his life, just like that. She did not want anything, not a formal divorce, not even Pupun.
Often he lay on the bed, his sleepless eyes tracing out the silhouettes of the trees in his garden. Moonlight crept through the window and lay there by his side keeping him company like Pupun.
A decade and a half passed.
Today Pupun left for Delhi. He had got admission to St. Stephen’s. He was left behind to face life without him, without the moonlight and the memories of the old city where Tarun was trapped beyond recall.
He drove slowly on long windswept roads, dust and dry leaves swirling about and blocking his view.
His house soon came into view standing forlorn, a little spooky, awash with the neon light. A vacant house, just a vacant house. He had hardly entered it when the rains came pouring down. He changed and went to bed and the rains pounded incessantly, almost in a frenzy, for two hours keeping pace with the eerie whoosh of the wind.
After two hours the rains retreated and floated away with the clouds. The wind curled up and slept somewhere. Tarun lay on bed waiting. Moments passed, agonizing moments. And then the moonlight came gingerly crept onto the bed enfolded him in her soft bosom. He fell asleep.
This short story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).
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