When I came to know about the meeting in Pune on Friday, my heart danced from the excitement. I had to prepare for the workshop – it was going to be a face to face, but before anything my intolerant fingers sent a text to Nandita almost immediately, ‘Are you free this weekend? I am coming over for a meeting.’
My phone beeped – ‘yes’, almost instantaneously. I smiled and got back to work with a dose of adrenalin. I knew even if she had plans, she would cancel them and spend the time with me. She was a source of happiness, inspiration and freedom to me, little of which left in my corporate job and a cold marriage – that was held together by the safe heaven called home under a roof, without which our son Aarav would be a difficult wagon to pull otherwise. Every day life was tightening the noose around my neck as I would gasp for a mouthful of fresh air.
For Nandita, it was quite the contrary. Her husband being in army, she hated the loneliness of freedom – she was vivacious and was tired of giving away her charm. We poised each other. When we met about a year back, we knew, something clicked.
We mostly talked, chatted, occasional emails – and every message, it would open the window to let in some fresh air, for both of us. No, it was not clichés like ‘Oh! I love you’ or ‘Oh! I miss you’.
I once asked her, ‘do you think we are in love?’
She said, ‘Love is not the word, I’d choose.’
‘Why?’ because it certainly caught my interest.
‘It is such a strong word. I’ve used it twice in my life and would like to leave it that way.’
I respected her from that moment. She gave me the ideas I was never prepared for and it made sense. At thirty eight, I didn’t need love.
With my mother-in-law staying with us, I didn’t have much problem at home and anyway gone was the time to fight over trifles. Sakshi packed my overnighter with a night’s clothing – I had excused of the Saturday as well in the context of an intensive strategy workshop, which was going to be a vent out in Lonavala, to which Nandita had agreed. I told her I wanted to hold her my arms; it had been on my list for long.
It was almost 7, by when I finished my meeting, loosened the knot slightly and started my car. Nandita was already waiting. I picked her up in another few minutes and then raced up.
She was soft and silent, “You know – it feels awkward.”
I swallowed and nodded. Given the emotional quotient of women, I knew I was stepping into a very sensitive area. I whispered, “It stops if you say no.”
She smiled, “I know what it means for you and who doesn’t like to be hugged?”
I raced up the car. It would be a good hour long drive. Music started flowing as I saw her recline and trying to sooth herself. A life in a fashion magazine was no less irksome. We didn’t speak much before stopping in front of a decent hotel.
In the reception, there was an old man – but very distinctive appearance. He greeted me warmly. “We have a beautiful en-suite double room, Sir.”
I nodded and took my purse out – wanted to pay for this on cash, thought of a different name for signing in as well. Nandita waited in the lobby and turned pages of a magazine.
After everything was done the receptionist handed over a nicely wrapped box to me, “This is for you, Sir.” I was surprised to see a parcel with my name on it. Of course, it was the false name that I signed up with.
I raised eyebrows and enquired, “Who is this from?”
“From your wife, Sir – of course.”
“What nonsense – she doesn’t know I’m supposed to be here.” I realized what I have said, but it was too late.
“Now, is that so Sir?” the man asked me politely.
I swallowed, embarrassed and cleared my throat, “She isn’t my wife”, glancing at Nandita.
“We have beautiful single rooms with garden view, Sir. Would you like to book two? They are special for sunrises.”
I nodded and ended up booking them; told Nandita that I changed mind and book two rooms instead. She somehow responded in a way that meant it was a right thing to do. Before walking up to my room I turned back to the reception and asked, “If no one sent that parcel where did I get it from?”
He smiled ear to ear, “It’s a game, Sir – which I love to play, if I see a couple. I keep such boxes prepared and write the name after the guest signs into the register.”
“Oh! If it is some compliment from the hotel, you could say so – right?”
“I could, but where is the fun in that. If people are really in here with family, then they don’t ask back and are rather happy that their wife has a surprise gift. In other cases, like you Sir, it is a bite of conscience that we offer – saves homes from destroying. Also rent of two single rooms is more than a double room, so hotel business goes well.”
Pretty amazed, I looked at him – “And if they still go for it after all this, I mean with the false pretense?”
“The game comes in different levels Sir – surely you don’t like to know?” He smiled suggestively.
Already enough embarrassed, I shook my head, face flustered. It had already been a long day. The first thing I was going to do next morning was to go home. Incidentally, that night, I missed Sakshi after a long time. My in-controllable fingers sent her a text, “I miss you.”
“Come home and I will make it up to you”, my phone beeped. I was sinking into the way bed thinking about a new day.
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. This time your entry must contain, ‘I was surprised to see a parcel with my name on it.’