Joined: 22 August 2011
Joined: 12 June 2012
Joined: 12 June 2012
It was the fourteenth of February. The little gallery of "Flowers for all occasions" had been modified so much so that it looked as if it had been draped in a cloth of red. Roses, bright and vibrant, were present in every nook and corner. The shop was packed with customers. Most of them were young men. Perhaps they too wanted to do something special for their girlfriends or their wives. Perhaps they were trying to woo that one girl they had had a crush on since ages. Perhaps they were trying to win back a hurt and dejected lover. Valentine's Day was important in a very special way.
Shubham was perhaps the only exception among everybody present in the shop. He wasn't very sure if he even believed in Valentine's Day. He wasn't that much of a romantic. Yet, he too had come to buy flowers. He had passed by the shop on his way to work and he had been consumed by a strange urge to stop and look around, on his way back home.
"That will be three hundred rupees," the shopkeeper replied. He brought down the bouquet from the window pane and placed it on the counter. About five or six roses were arranged together in a neat bunch, wrapped in a glossy, transparent sheet. A beautiful, pink ribbon adorned the bouquet. Placed among the other lavish bouquets, this one was a tad bit "pale" in comparison. But Shubham had eye only for it.
He fidgeted around in the pockets of his trouser and pulled out his wallet. Handing over three notes of hundred to the shopkeeper, he picked up the bouquet and pushed open the door of the gallery. Then, suddenly consumed by a fleeting thought, he pulled the door back and turned towards the shopkeeper again, who was then busy attending to the other customers.
"Bhaiya?" he called out. "You don't have a small message card or something, do you?"
Apparently, the shopkeeper had not heard a word amidst the commotion. It was only when Shubham had shouted again and he had looked over at him in an irritable glare, he pulled open the drawer near the counter and fished out a small greeting card. The words, "With Best Wishes" were printed on the top-left corner of the card.
Shubham reached for the pen in his breast pocket. Holding the pen with his right hand and scrunching his eyebrows together, he appeared for a moment to be in deep thought. Then, pulling open the cap of the pen with his left hand, he began to write-
He wondered if he should put in a small, romantic quote. He looked around at all the fellow customers as if they could help him out. He fiddled around in his mind but couldn't come up with one single quote. Then he thought he might just simply write "I love you." But even in his mind, he wondered if he sounded sincere enough. Finally he decided to write the only thing that seemed to make sense at that moment.
"Auto!" Aashima waved her hands wildly in the air. The autorickshaw sped past her, oblivious to her shouting or waving. Darn it! She cursed. She had been waiting for the past fifteen minutes to catch an auto. But it seemed to her that all the autorickshaw drivers in the city had strategized something against her. Either they wouldn't stop or they would not want to go to C.R.Park. She wished, for the nth number of time, that she could drive. But then I would also need a car because he drives the one we have to work, she thought hopelessly.
Aashima turned around when she heard a familiar voice calling her name. It was Tuli. She was waving furiously at her. Aashima was taken slightly by surpise for a moment and then she grinned broadly. They walked towards each other and both the women hugged.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Tuli asked excitedly.
"God, Tuli, you look like you haven't seen me in months!" Aashima laughed. "I came here to shop. Now I am just looking for an auto so that I could go home. Anyhow, what about you? What are you doing here?"
"Nothing important. I was getting kind of bored stuck at home. So I just took out my keys and said to myself, "baby, let's go for a ride!" Oh, by the way, I am dropping you home so you needn't wait for an auto. No, actually, that's a bad idea. I am taking you to my place. And then we'll have a nice chat over coffee until our husbands return from work. Sounds cool?"
Aashima broke into laughter once again. What she wanted more than anything at the moment was to reach home and lie down on the bed. But she knew there was no arguing with Tuli. She nodded her head, causing Tuli to feel extremely pleased at herself.
When Aashima had met Tuli for the first time, the first impression she had had of her was wild. Never before in her life had she met so bubbly, so full-of-life, so enthusiastic a woman. They had met at their wedding. Ashima, Shubham and all their friends who had attended the wedding had stayed up all night after the marriage ceremony was over. For about six hours at a stretch they had chatted and sang and danced and entertained each other in comical, almost weird ways. Tuli had been the life and soul of the little party. Aashima had immediately taken a liking to the impulsive, outgoing and wild young woman.
"Aashima, I do have a bone to pick with you," Tuli said as she helped Aashima load her belongings in the backseat. Aashima looked up at her. Judging from the expression on Tuli's face and from her own intuition, she had a sickening feeling that she knew what Tuli was going to talk about.
"Really? What?" she asked.
"Get in the car first," Tuli said and held open the front door for her to get in.
"Why the hell did you not come to my birthday party?" she immediately asked once she had started the engine. "Everybody came. Everybody! What on Earth happened to you?"
Aashima knew this was going to go just like the conversation had gone with Raima. She was going to have to hide the truth.
"Oh, that! Tuli, I had this sudden migraine attack. I couldn't even get up from the bed. How could I come to the party? I think I must have slept like a dog when Shubham left for your place. I guess he didn't want to disturb me. You know how it is," she added. "Migraine makes a mess of a fine, healthy woman."
"Aashima, let me remind you that a device called as "phone" has already been invented. You could easily have called me once telling me that you could not come. I would not have felt half as bad as I had felt. And, my dear, I never knew that you suffered from migraine!"
I never knew it myself, Aashima thought sadly.
"Yeah, well, it is recent. I just didn't feel so well, okay? I am sorry I could not inform you. I just didn't want to upset you. It was your birthday!"
"Yeah, okay. But it just wasn't done. It was my first birthday party after your wedding. And you were absent."
Aashima placed a placatory hand on her shoulder and said, "I am sorry, okay? When it is my birthday party, I'll allow you to skip it. Sounds fair? That would be the best revenge."
Tuli laughed reluctantly and then shook her head.
"That's not it. Not only did you not come, Shubham wouldn't even utter a word. When we all asked about you, the only thing he said was, "she didn't feel like it." And then, nothing. He went into complete mute mode and nothing any of us said would have any effect on him. He wouldn't even let us call you."
Tuli stopped suddenly. She pushed the brake and brought the car to a halt. She placed her left hand on Aashima's right hand and looked her in the eye.
"Is everything all right?"
Aashima could see plainly that Tuli wasn't looking for a story to gossip about with other friends. She knew that she was only concerned about the well-being of her two friends. For a second, she even contemplated telling her everything. For a girl who had lived all her life in Kolkata, the move to Delhi after marriage meant that the city was a complete stranger to her. And although, Tuli and she weren't exactly best mates, she was the only person in Delhi she could somewhat genuinely call a friend.
Yet, what could she tell her? That her own husband didn't tell her about the party? And that it was impossible that he could just "forget" to mention it to her? What would Tuli think?
And I haven't talked to him myself, she thought. How can I discuss it with Tuli without discussing it with him?
She finally decided on the safest course - Subtly ignore and then change the subject.
"Of course everything's fine. Come on, start the car. And you didn't tell me. How was the party? I guess you had a lot of fun."
Tuli peered at her with protruding eyes as if trying to scan her mind. Apparently, she thought it was best to drop the subject for the time being. Starting the car, she launched into a series of anecdotes from the party.
Aashima slouched on the sofa as soon as she entered home. It had been a tiring day and she longed for a few minutes of rest. She let her mind drift back to the afternoon at Tuli's place. She hadn't mentioned her absence at the party again. Nor had she mentioned anything in relevance to whatever was going on between Shubham and her. It had been a casual afternoon. But something in her mind was constantly nagging her.
Perhaps it had been the mention of the flamboyant gifts that Tuli had received from Arnab, her husband. It had very nonchalantly skipped from Aashima's mind that the date was the fourteenth of February and that it was Valentine's Day. It wasn't that she cared much for Valentine's Day. Otherwise, she was strict about dates. Yet, why it was suddenly causing her such disturbance was something she couldn't really comprehend.
She looked at the wall clock above her. 7:30. He should be back from work any time now, she thought. I should go and prepare the tea.
There were certain things Aashima was particular things. Things that should be done no matter the turmoil that was raging through her mind.
Just then the bell rang.
She opened the door and Shubham stood there standing on the other side, smiling and carrying a bouquet of roses. Aashima was taken slightly by surprise. For a moment, she just stared at him.
Before she could utter another word, he thrust the bouquet in her hands and said,
"Umm…Happy Valentine's Day!"
Joined: 22 August 2011
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Joined: 12 June 2012
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