It was the winter of 2009. The chill crept inside through the pores. You could not breathe without a sip of hot coffee. And the number of times I made tea that week is numerous. The feet inside the woollen socks were freezing. It was comforting to cook for once. The heat from the stove warmed it up a little. The electricity was cut. The heaters weren’t working. The bell rung. I could have easily escaped company. I got up with heavy feet. Not wanting to entertain any salesman, though it was a peculiar atmosphere for a salesman to be on rounds, I went to the door. I passed through the photo frame in the corridor. My heavy feet became heavier. It has been seven days. Actually, it was the seventh day that very day. I walked towards the main door. I tried to breathe down my quickened heart beat. I wanted to make sure beforehand that I knew how I would react on seeing him. I didn’t want my indecisiveness to be his comfort again; a reason he could meddle with my feelings and life. Hmm. I was by the door. It was just a second before I unbolted the door. I tried to hear any sound I could from the other side. Didn’t know what I was looking for- sound of his breathing? Or perhaps, his footsteps moving to and fro; he has a habit of walking up and down when he is nervous. But nothing. It was dead silent. Then, the smell of a smoking cigarette rose into the air. It was enraging. We had fought over it so many times that now I think had it not been for his smoking addiction, we might still be together. Weird how we start to link up small things into big... don’t know if it’s just in our mind or in reality as well. I remembered the time when I first came to know that he smokes; about ten years from then. He had been standing on the opposite side of the road in a leather jacket and blue denims, wearing a purple bandana around his neck. A pair of goggles had hung from the collar of his yellow t-shirt which peeped out a little from the open chain of the jacket, from under the bandana. He had been really far off on the other side, I wonder how I saw the pale skin of his neck, in between the folds of the bandana and the hung goggles where the t-shirt crumpled a little towards the inside. And then, he took out something from the pocket of his jeans. A cigarette pack, it had been. A friend of his lighted his cig and he went on to smoke away his life slowly and slowly. I was just a young girl then. Still deciding my views and coming to know that my views mattered and they don’t have to be just adopted from elders. I felt weird seeing him smoke. I could not decide if he looked hot the way he tilts his head to inhale a puff or not; if it should enrage me he is putting his life in danger; if it is even my business that he is smoking; how far can I thrust my wishes and opinions on others, and how much can I expect others to respect them. I had been indecisive then, and – ting tong- it rang again. Oh! I ran a quick hand through my hair, adjusted my specks, smoothened my top and gave one last look at the photo. I decided just then what I’ll say or how I’ll react. I went a few steps backwards and turned down the photo frame. I was determined now.
I unlatched the wooden door. Now a net door stood between me and him- and ten years of misunderstandings and fights and a clumsy marriage on the verge of divorce. Hearing the door open, I saw he quickly dumped down his cig and stamped on the butt. We had an eye contact for several minutes. I know it sounds very filmy, but the way it ends in happily ever after, I don’t think it is anything short than a Karan Johar movie. After getting really inundated with emotions by the eye contact, I opened atleast one door that was separating us, and later all of them. “It is freezing outside,” he said, and then took a step forward into the house; I had a very straight face and was not welcoming, he added, “and inside. A cigarette was the only thing that could have given me some relief.” Ah- the sound. His voice. How I missed that. That tinge of rustiness. That ruffle in his voice; I could hear the words which conveyed that he was apologetic, but it was not present in his voice. The roughness. The manliness. It was another thing of his that melted me every time for the first few years. Then I got over it. And it was back again. “Okay,” I heard myself saying. He moved a step further. I could smell the cologne-his favourite-Hugo. It always melted me. But no! Not this time. I moved away. We both silently walked through the corridor to the veranda. I noticed he saw the turned down photo frame. We both kept moving, saying nothing. He sat on the couch. I went into the kitchen and made him coffee. It was time to call the attorney, but it was pretty cold and inhuman to call anyone to come from a mile apart for a business reason. Yeah, our marital life is business for some people. How beautiful it sounds, huh. So we just sat silently for some time. It was two hours, I think. But the clock, at which I had looked a zillion times in those two hours showed it to be twenty minutes. But unlike most silences, this was not awkward. It was just silent, but in a normal way. Maybe I had gotten used to his silences, maybe I had gotten used to him being around saying nothing. So after two hours/twenty minutes he took out a nicely folded paper from his pocket. Ah, then I remembered I hadn’t completed my assignment. I bit my lip. But my heart raced to know what he had written. He kept it on the table for me to pick it up and read. I did so. It was-oh-it was beautiful. He had written not one thing positive he feels when we are estranged; he had written that there are positive things that happen to him when we are not together, but he doesn’t feel good about them. He gave the list and told his routine of the day at two different situations. And the one when he is with me seemed a little dull-coloured where he had mentioned he has to buy vegetables three days in a week and had to do laundry and other stuff for half the time (We used to share the chores, infact we still do) than the other column which gave a colourful view of his getting food home-delivered every day and spending night clubbing. I read the complete thing. He was looking around at the house all that while, as though remembering something- or moments we had spent there together. “Where is yours?” he broke into my thoughts abruptly. “What?” I ogled stupidly. “The note” he said, with a straight face. No hint of emotions could be deciphered even if I went on with a sound magnifier. “Yeah, I’ll just get it,” I said and moved quickly into the room, trying to remember what bad habits of his had I mentioned. I couldn’t find it, and quickly took out another piece of paper and began writing things I had missed about him when we were apart and how that made my day sullen and depressing even though nothing bad happens. I was actually concentrating on the assignment, when I heard a sound- he stood by the door of the room, looking at me. I bit my lip. I do that when I’m nervous- or excited, I guess. What if he saw that I had not written anything yet? Would he feel that I did not even care about the silly assignment from the attorney? I realised I did not want to do it without knowing how he felt. He had always crumpled away my feeling when I felt we needed to be together. This time I wanted to be sure I didn’t come along as a pathetic loner, craving for his company. But now that he wanted the same, I was game. He took a few steps and was by the table and could see the paper I was writing. I bit my lip again- and it was no more freezing inside.
Now, four years later, I ring the bell; I give the door a push. It is already opened. It’s the season of fall, and I could smell a delicious aroma of chocolate cake. I run to the kitchen to find him in an apron and a chef cap.
You can hear my giggle from outside the window of the kitchen. And imagine the ‘tana-nana-nana’ of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in background. With the view getting more detached and extensive, you can see the slanting roof of my house and then the whole community and in the end it is a wide view where my house is one little dot in a beautiful backdrop of fallen leaves and benches in a garden.