It was about midnight when the black Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350X made its way with a thunderous sound into the compound of the housing complex. The ear-splitting decibel of the horn made some of the irate neighbors open their windows and swear a few words to the man riding the bike. Roshan Kaka, the caretaker looked at the wall clock. It read 12: 20 am. With a sigh, he went into the kitchen to warm the dinner. Manish Kumar, having a broad frame with a fair complexion, sharp nose and a height of about six feet entered the house and went straight to his room and closed the door of his room with a thud.
“Come out, Baba…have your dinner. See, I have made your favorite Matar Paneer. Manish…” Roshan kaka repeated his call.
“Why the hell do you not let me live in peace? At your age, you should just retire from the world. Why do you even bother? Ahhh… Matar Paneer, can you prepare it like her? No, you cannot !!So don’t even try !!Do not disturb me. I repeat, DO NOT CALL ME AGAIN, you old man!”, Manish said with a strong sense of reproach in his tone. And the door shut with a bang again. Roshan Kaka opened his mouth to say something but he could only manage to shed a tear.
This had been a routine affair for the last three years since Manish had shifted from Delhi to Mumbai. He never liked the Maximum city where everything, but peace was in abundance. He craved Delhi, his city, the epicenter of every political hue, the melting pot of old and new flavors of cultures, “Dilwalon ki Delhi” as some say it! But Delhi had made him feel suffocated. And when one needs air to breathe, nothing else matters. Absolutely nothing!
The office tales were no different. He was one of the finest managers who had the skill to close any complicated deal for the company but the only issue with him was his anger! When he lost it, he lost it completely! And today of all days was the worst of all. During a formal presentation, when his superior tried to corner him by asking deliberate worthless questions, instead of handling the situation diplomatically, he roared like a tiger with his bit of justification and ended up proving his boss wrong. Not to deny, jeopardizing his promotion due to such an ill temper!
“Hey buddy, let’s go down for a fag.” Rameez, his only well-wisher in office, took him by his arm and almost dragged him down the stairs. They went down and as the spirals of the smoke took twirls in the air, Rameez said,” Hey man, what’s wrong with you? Why do you become a shade darker with each passing day? The other day it was the client and today it was the boss!! How long can the company put up with you? Are you forgetting that nothing is irreplaceable? Come back to your senses before it’s too late! It’s been three years Manish, three long years. You have to move on. You need to loosen up!”
Manish could never answer back Rameez because he was the one who had helped him settle in Mumbai after he abruptly quit Delhi. As always, he kept quiet and looked towards the clear sky through the open window.
“O God, you and your famous silence! Nothing doing. You are coming with me tonight. That’s it. I can’t see you lose yourself every single day.” Rameez declared.
That night, after office both the friends, went to the narrow by lanes of the maxim city. The dingy serpentine passages gave it a spooky look and Manish wondered if this was part of the so-called fantasyland, Mumbai!
“Where the hell have you brought me, Rameez?”
“Shhh… how long has it been, Manish? For God’s sake just go upstairs. I have already made all prior arrangements. Just go, man. You are going to thank me later!” Rameez said and quickly waved him goodbye.
Manish, aggrieved from the day’s happenings and too tired mentally, instead of putting up a fight which he normally does, just did as directed. He went upstairs through a narrow space. A dimly lit central hall having green window glass panes greeted him. In the middle of the hall, sat a woman in her late fifties on the sofa, with jasmine flowers in her hair and with a thick pan stain at one of her mouth corners. She wore a red-colored semi-translucent chiffon saree with a matching blouse. The heavy layers of makeup, however, could not hide the wrinkles that lay beneath.
“Hello Sahib, you have come right on time! Well, I was waiting for you. Your room is there! ” She said while pointing her finger to her right. “The best of the lot is for you Sahib. Your friend is very good. He paid in cash and everything in advance and so the costliest Item is for you.” She said with a mischievous voice expecting a reaction from his guest.
Manish was still in his numb zone. Without the slightest hint of any expression he went inside the room and the doors behind him closed quickly. A red light was blinking in the room and that gave it a spooky feel. A young beautiful girl, hardly in her early twenties or maybe less, sat on the bed. She wore a green blouse and a pink skirt covered with sequins. The size of her blouse was probably two sizes smaller than what her body needed. Her discomfort was far more visible than the intended skin show. She had a thin frame and had put on loud makeup with a blazing rosy shade of lip color. Her pitch-black curly hair was open and added to her sensual appeal.
She slowly stood up and walked towards Manish, who stood still near the entrance. She, then put her arms around his shoulders, and yet, there was nothing that Manish could feel! Then, she smiled at him. A smile that was probably forced and fake just as the world, that she belonged to! Her eyes clearly looked sad hiding an ocean of pain within. She continued to mirthlessly smile at her customer. Something within Manish’s heart moved. An immense pain tugged his heart! He could as if see the reflection of his pain in those brown-colored eyes. The beauty that stood before him was ironically only for sale and not for love! His heart chocked as thoughts unfolded in his mind rapidly during those few moments.
He slowly released himself from the arms lock of the girl and banged the door as a signal to open it. The door opened and the lady asked,” Sahib, what happened? Did she not obey? Tell me. She is new and needs a good thrashing if she did not oblige.” Manish took out his purse and gave all the stack of money inside it to the girl. He hurriedly left without saying anything and headed straight to the taxi stand.
“Bhaiya, Cuff Parade!”, He asked. The taxi went on full speed to the destination on the wide roads of the city; roads that witnessed several life journeys quietly every single moment. He reached Cuff Parade and started walking towards the Marine Drive with his hands in his pocket. He felt a gentle breeze flow within his hair. The queen’s necklace looked beautiful with the lights on the horizon that resembled fireflies in the sky. The sea seemed calm hiding the depth within just like his heart that was quiet but had layers of roaring emotions. He reached Marine drive and took out his Smartphone, went inside the gallery that had just one photo. It was Trupti, his deceased wife whom he had lost due to a complicated pregnancy when she was about to deliver their first conceived child. Both the mother & child had lost their lives and Manish had lost the meaning of his life. Trupti was not only his better half, but she also was the love of his life. Manish had a part of him die, the day he performed her funeral ceremony! With tears in his eyes, he let out a loud cry and called out Trupti’s name while looking at the photo! Soon the morning sun came up with all its glory. Manish did not know when the entire night had slipped away. All he could remember was the presence of Trupti near him, telling him to move on!
The next week, Manish finalized the adoption of a girl child as he had always dreamt of having a loving daughter. The moment he took her in his arms, the pristine smile on the baby’s face broadened and it was as if a bundle of magic that Manish had received. He named her Shanti. Hoping that just like Trupti, Shanti would bring in calmness in his life. And true to her name, Shanti did help in bringing back the lost smile on Manish’s face. He slowly felt calm and mellowed down in contrast to his angry young man image. He loved his adopted daughter with all his heart. He had realized very quickly that it was not the lack of sex that made him vexed but rather the lack of pure love. Shanti filled in that empty space just rightly.
Four years have passed by now .
Today was Shanti’s first day at school and she did not leave Manish’s arms. After multiple sessions of persuasion, she finally stopped crying and went inside the school premises. Manish waved at Shanti with a big smile on his face. Standing beside him was Dipti, his second wife, whom Manish had met in his office and had discovered over time that Dipti would be the perfect mother for his little piece of heart, Shanti. Dipti, on the other hand had agreed instantly at the proposal, for she always had a soft corner for him and eventually became the part of Manish’s little world.
Roshan Kaka had also accompanied them today. There were tears in his eyes. But this time, they were of happiness as his ‘Manish Baba’ as he fondly called him, had come back to life, just like the barren lands come to life with every spell of fresh rains!
Anger, sometimes is nothing but hunger for pure unadulterated love!
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