Read part 2 here “Shalu, I am resigning” she announced to a shocked Shalu one day. “I cannot carry on like this anymore.”
Shalu knew it would be useless trying to convince Aditi once her mind was made up.
“Did you tell Anup?”
“I haven’t spoken to Anup in ages now.”
“Won’t he mind if you quit without telling him?”
“I don't think so. At least he won’t have to think about me seeing Rohit every day, if it’s playing on his mind, that is.”
But quitting the job was no solution. Anup still seemed light years away from her. He had been working more than ever and had become quiet and withdrawn. She decided that she could not let their relationship fall to pieces like this. She had to do something to save it.
After Anup had left for work, she took out their photo albums and started making a collage. And underneath each of the pictures she wrote her thoughts in a neat handwriting.
“The first time we met.
At Neetu and Dilip’s wedding. I remember how everyone commented that we actually looked like a couple, though we had just met! We were always the ‘made-for-each-other-couple, isn’t it?’ ”
I am so sorry I selected one size too small for your engagement ring! But you still made sure to squeeze it in somehow! It showed me how much you loved me.”
“Our first outing together after our engagement.
You managed to sneak me away from the whole bunch of our relatives for a photo session. I thought that was incredibly romantic.”
“The big day- our wedding.
People could not stop raving about what a lovely couple we made. I cannot forget how you had sneaked in fruits and secretly met me, making me eat it! Mom was so mad at me later for breaking the ritual of getting married on an empty stomach! But you knew I could never go hungry for such a long time. You worried more about me than any ritual in the world.”
“The best gift you have ever given me- our son.
You couldn’t see me in labour and almost yelled at the doctor for not easing my pain. I still remember the tears of joy in your eyes as you held Abhi for the first time. I know that you have not only felt and lived my anxiety through the nine months of my pregnancy but the pain of labour too!”
“Our perfect family.
Me, you and the symbol of our everlasting love-our little Abhi.”
She broke down as she wrote the last lines.
The perfect family.
It wasn’t perfect anymore. She had ruined it all. She continued writing her eyes blurry with tears.
“There are so many other pictures that could not be in the album, because they are in my heart. The picture of the smile on my mother’s face as you comforted her when Dad was being wheeled in for surgery, the look of content on my dad’s face when you held his hands and told him you will always be there for him and for us, the gratefulness on my brother’s face when you were along with him for his college admissions, and the love on my sister’s face as you took the entire responsibility of her wedding, like only an elder brother would.
You have been my biggest support, and I want to tell you how much I love you. I promise to never hurt you ever again, please forgive me one last time like you always have."
She decorated the border and left it to dry in her room. She hoped it would remind Anup of the love they shared and how much he meant to her. She hoped he would forgive her.
Anup had stopped eating at home for a very long time now, and so she decided to carry lunch for him to office that afternoon. She made Anup’s favorite ghee rice and korma and packed it along with some carrot halwa, dropped her son at her mother’s place and went to his office. She was standing outside his cabin door and about to knock when she heard Anup talking to his best friend and colleague, Ashok.
“I have to tell you something Ashok,” he started, his voice choked with emotion. “I want to file for divorce.”
“I suspected something was wrong with you, you haven’t been your usual self for quite some time, but divorce? That sounds too drastic. What happened suddenly?”
Anup told him about the phone call that had changed his life, which had brought his life to a standstill and had destroyed his faith in love and marriage.
“How can you take such a hasty decision, Anup? I suggest that you talk it out with her. Just keeping quiet is no solution.”
“There is nothing to talk anymore. Trust is the basis of any relationship, and when that is gone, there is no use pretending that everything will be ok. I don't know if I am feelinng angry, cheated or just sad. Maybe all of it." ”
“Have you told Aditi?”
“I will, tonight.”
Did he say divorce? He surely didn’t mean that, did he? She panicked. She wanted to go in and talk to him, beg him, not to leave her like this. But maybe she deserved this, she thought. She went to the reception and left the lunch box with the receptionist and walked away.
“I still think you should talk to her first” Ashok said, “Think about Abhi. He needs both his parents, isn’t it?”
“How will I ever be sure this will not happen again, or has not happened before?”
“She could have chosen to keep the secret from you, but she didn’t. Doesn’t that show how much she loves you and how much she has regretted that moment of weakness? You cannot punish her for being so brave. Cross your heart and tell me, would you have had the courage to confess if you had been in her shoes? Everyone is entitled to be forgiven once, and I think Aditi deserves to be forgiven too. The last few weeks have been punishment enough for her.”
Just then the receptionist called and informed him that his wife had visited and left lunch for him at her desk.
“See what I mean? She loves you, man, and is wallowing in guilt, forgive her” said Ashok. “Life is like a game of naughts and crosses, at each naught that life plays, you must know where to add your cross, if you have to win. Remember, three naughts in a row and game’s over.”
She could not bear the thought of having to live without Anup. She took a cab and went to sunset point, the place that was witness to so many of their happier memories. It was Anup's favorite place in the world.
She had been a little too early to witness the sun god make his downward descent. She sat on a rock, unable to look at the sun still shining brightly over her head. ‘I can neither face you nor Anup’, she thought, ‘you will leave me in a few hours from now and so will Anup.’
She wondered if she had done the right thing in not listening to Shalu. A cloud of gloom and depression was beginning to descend on her and she decided that she would see the sun go down one last time.
Anup rushed home to talk to her. She wasn’t there. He went to his room and saw the beautiful collage she had left to dry. His eyes welled up as he saw each picture and read every beautiful sentence beneath it. ‘How could I have been such an idiot’ he thought. He called her mobile and found that she had switched it off. He called her mother.
“Did she tell you where she has gone, ma?”
“No, is there anything wrong?”
“Nothing. I’ll call you later.”
Then he called up Shalu.
“No, Anup, she’s not with me. Is she ok?”
“I can’t find her, Shalu,” he panicked, beads of perspiration starting to form on his forehead, “can you come over?”
Shalu had dialed all of Aditi’s friends’ numbers on her way to his house but without any luck.
“Where do I find her now?” Anup’s voice trembled as he paced across the room nervously cracking his knuckles.
“I suggest we go to the police, after sunset it will be too dark to even search for her” said Shalu.
Then it suddenly dawned on him.
Sunset.Yes, there’s where she could be, at sunset point.
“I think I know where she is” he said.
He rushed to their all familiar place and was relieved to find Aditi watching the sunset.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he said walking to her side and putting a loving arm over her shoulder.
“It wasn’t until now”, she said resting her head on his shoulder, suddenly relieved that a big load had been lifted of her chest, “But now that you are by my side, it has become as beautiful as it always was.”
He had put his cross in the right place and knew that the game was now theirs.