Early November chill had set in . It was late evening . The golden glow of dusk had yet to go . It lent a radiance to everything around . In Bengal , we call it “Kone dekha alo “—perfect lighting to see the bride to be !!
Nandini was in her twilight blue mood , despite the golden glow . She always hated this time of the evening . Especially when alone in a huge sprawling empty house .
Felt “claustrophobic “in huge spaces!! Life seemed to stand still . She wondered … the biological clock was fast ticking away , temples had started greying …
Yes , son settled , daughter about to join a job .
A grandmom…. she didn’t feel like one . Her little darling about to take on wings ..
How times had flown .
Noo. “I won’t let depression take over ”
Her husband was away on a business tour . Nandini was alone in her huge villa of a house .
She decided to settle down with one of her favourite books . Best idea !!
She drew the curtains . Lit the lights and stood admiring the family portraits and other choicefully decorated knick -knacks on the mantle piece .
She always had a fetish for a fireplace , English style and had got a decorator to style it that way for her parlour . It was warm &cosy despite the chill outside .
She pulled the burgundy and cream raw silk kaftan (a two piece one) closer to her body , settled down on the sofa to read her favourite novel . Engrossed in it , she did not realise the passage of time .
Suddenly , there was a rap at the door . “Who could it be ?”she wondered . Quickly pulling the matching stole over it and adjusting her hair absent mindedly , she rushed to answer the call at the door .
Still a bit wary , she opened the door slightly and looked outside .
“Hello Nadini . Remember me . It’s been a long time . Was passing by . Have been here on an official tour . Came to know , that you live here and was audacious enough to drop in !”
Nandini , stared , trying to adjust her gaze in the failing light . Had stupidly left her progressives on the table . Getting old , after all .
Slowly , a smile curved the corners of her lips ..
“Oh my God , Amit da . What an unexpectedly pleasant surprise !! Do come in . ”
She stood aside to let him enter, as she shut the door again .
Amit stood there , taking in everything in one appreciative glance .
“Chocos , you haven’t changed much . Let me see , yes , a slight greying , perhaps a little widening of midriff , …
No . Don’t be embarrassed . Actually , you are still very beautiful Chocos . Your skin is still so radiant . Remember , I always loved its smooth texture . And that coy smile of yours . ”
Amitda , stop calling me Chocos . Well , you were the only one permitted that liberty .
Please , stop acting formal . Sit . Let me cook up a quick dinner . Want some steaming coffee ?
Don’t smirk . I know , you are an exceptional cook . But , I am not so bad either .
Nandini , quickly left him admiring her parlour as she got him his favourite mocha and some crispy potato fritters .
“Wow, Nandini (he smiles at her) , what a tastefully done up house and the coffee is great . You haven’t forgotten my choice in all these years .
When was it we last met ?? Before I took up my assignment in Sydney , wasn’t it? ”
Nandini nodded vacantly , a faraway look in her eyes . .
Both sat , enveloped in a shroud of the past , unsaid words .. So much to catch up on …
Nandi , it’s really been a looong time . How have you been , dear ? You know , you were the favourite of our family . Was very sad to learn of your dad’s untimely demise .
Mashima is with your brother , isn’t it ? And what about your naughty little sis . ?
Nandini muttered under her breath — (stared at the carpet ) ‘Liked . But , my dusky complexion came in the way . Not good enough ! ‘
But , aloud she said . “Yes .. a long time . My little sis , is a grave young lady and the mother of a nineteen year old son .. No mischief or climbing on your shoulders or hiding behind your legs! ” ( surreptitiously , she brushed aside a tear . )
Suddenly , the light dimmed . Trying to evade the awkward moment , Nandini , picked up the tray and empty coffee mugs and rushed to the kitchen .
Amit sat , looking at her departing back .
“Enjoy the magazines . Give me twenty minutes , will get your favourite biryani ready , then we can catch up on old times “Nandini called from the kitchen .
Amit called back – Chocos , don’t bother . Your only biriyani , will turn out to be a five course meal . You have inherited mashimaa’s cooking expertise ‘, he said and laughed
After half an hour , Nandini returned , with her steaming , aromatic chicken biryani , Russian salad , vegetable fritters , moong dal with coconut , bhetki fry and thick caramel custard .
“Nandi ! This is amazingly awesome . How did you manage it so quick ? Or did you order from somewhere ? ”
… ‘No , only a few things I prepared now . Others were ready and in the fridge . Microwaved them . All your favourites , if I am not mistaken.”
Amit smiles and remarks -“Ashokda , is sure a lucky guy to be fed such delicacies everyday !”
“No , Amit , not always . With his diabetes and cardiac problems , very bland food most days .’
Amit looked at her .. a lingering look .And she looked away , embarrassed at having forgotten the epithet “da “in addressing him and by the intensity of his gaze .
They sat together enjoying the dinner . She only picked at her food , her heart too overwhelmed and full of unasked questions…
While enjoying the dessert , lights flickered off . She quickly lit the candle which lent a surreal romantic glow to the room .Nandini , got up flustered to get more candles , but her feet got entangled in the carpet and she nearly fell , before long she was grasped by Amit .
“Take care Chocos… ! “”… The sentence couldn’t be completed . She could feel his pulsating heart and his heated breath . Her heart was playing a crazy tune . She felt like a tautened wire . Her eyes dimmed , body went limp .
Outside world was a rigmarole of chaotic images . The room was a blur .. Time stood still. Amit took her in a firm , yet gentle embrace . Like two magnets they melted into each other . His lips found her parted quivering ones . She shuddered uncontrollably . The surge of emotions was beyond her control . His grip tightened . Her head span . Tears rolled down her cheeks . Stole and outer doublet fell off ! . She surrendered herself to the intensity of the moment .
Freed her hand to tentatively touch his receding hairline . Kiss away the sweat from his temple . Felt the same “kada” on his wrists . The one she had gifted years ago .
He kissed away the tears on her cheeks .
Then realisation dawned … She pulled herself apart . Still quivering and fluttering like a leaf in the wind .
… Nandii . Oh God .. Why ? … ”
….. With a voice choked with tears , Nandini muttered under her breath and collapsed on the sofa –” Amit , you are 38 years , too late …. ! ”
Amit , turned and left without uttering a word . Violent sobs racked Nandini’s body .