This story is my entry for FINISH THE STORY contest conducted by Cafe GingerChai where we sip thoughts!To get updated on future contests,register at Cafe GingerChai.<
It was a warm night, neither humid nor too hot- in fact just right for a stroll. But it was 11.30 pm, not late by metro standards. But in the suburbs where the company township was situated, it was way too late. The highway was about ½ km away and occasionally the hum of heavy vehicles passing by, could be heard but other than that , it was quiet with only the chirping of the cicadas in the background.
Ranjan hurried along the small lanes of the VIP quarters, isolated and further away, in the moonless night, frequently giving furtive glances around him. He seemed tense but strode ahead with purposeful steps, until he reached a particular bungalow. He stopped in front of it and stared at it for a few minutes. The senior level executives were issued spacious bungalows with lawns while the junior and the mid level executives were assigned one bedroom and two bedroom apartments, a fact that did not go well with them , after all the divide was quite unreasonable they thought. But this was not the issue at the moment. He was here for his own personal reasons…
It was quiet and dark on the other side of the wall. One notable thing was that the street lights were few and far between and most of them were not working. The spot, where he was standing was shrouded in darkness, which suited him just fine. There was no sign of any activity inside the rooms of the freshly whitewashed bungalow of Mr. Gupta. Only a dim red light flickered through the curtains of a room, most probably the master bedroom. He scratched his head and tried to remember if Mr. Gupta had a dog and, No! No dogs, no watchman, so nothing to be afraid of. Yes! Everything was going according to plan. Mr. Gupta was out with the executive board members in the Company Club house entertaining the overseas client trying to secure the coveted deal, which meant that he will not be back before 2 am. That left him with enough time to accomplish whatever he had come for.
He gave another glance towards his left and right and also the two bungalows flanking it, but all was silent. It would be a fool who would be out at that hour leaving the comfort of a bed and wife to roam about here and there. He smiled at the private joke. He touched the gate gingerly. It was an iron gate. He tried to move it but it gave a low audible creak and he stopped.
“Damn! Asha, my sweet little fool… Why does she have to wish for near impossible things?” He could not afford to make any noise. He was dressed in track pants which also served as his night suit and rubber soled shoes. He realized with alarm that he did not have his cell phone or any identity proof with him.
He decided that the best and fastest approach inside would be to climb over the low brick wall.
“ Asha! How you bewitch me!” He sighed, “All for love!” The brick wall was not high but it still disrupted the normal functioning of his 37 year old body for a few seconds, after he climbed over and jumped onto the other side clumsily. But thankfully the grass was thick which carpeted both his fall and the noise. He panted. His heart was beating at the rate of 100 per minute ( more out of anxiety) and he was experiencing strange sensations at the pit of his stomach. After all it was the first time he was trespassing someone else’s property.
He nearly gave up and retreated, but then he calmed himself, took some deep breaths and sat on the soft grass for a few moments.
“ No snakes, I hope” he thought peering in the darkness. He had to do it today. He was not going to get a better opportunity to come here.
He hated his ex boss Mr.Gupta very much and the fact that he was doing this to him gave him additional satisfaction. Mr.Gupta fitted the description of a monster boss to a T. Ranjan first came across him eight months back when Mr.Gupta was transferred from their
He looked at his watch. He had sat there lost in thoughts for almost 15 minutes. He stood up, smiling, he turned towards the verandah!
“Asha! Its your birthday and I want you to be happy”, he chanted in his thoughts. He felt the air cooler comparatively, on his way back home. Was it so late? He again looked at his watch and then his eyes went to the ‘package’ he was holding. Tenderly, he shifted the banana leaf holding ‘it’ slightly. He smiled, pleased with himself, his face glowing with satisfaction. He did not feel the least bit exhausted after his nightly caper. His step was light and springy.
He smiled again when he reached his apartment block, but his smile disappeared when he saw the watchman napping in a chair near the lift. If he was seen, it would give him away instantly and there would be a big scandal. As it is, it was a small town and things spread fast over here, be it news, fire or illness.
“What do I do now?” he thought shifting restlessly. There was no other way out.
He had to take the stairs, but for that he had to walk through the well lit lobby and down the corridor. He looked up at the window of his apartment on the third floor.
“All for love”! He sighed and started stealthily towards the back for the staircase. He gave a last timid glance at the watchman before disappearing up the stairs. “Thank God! He is asleep” and stifled a chuckle at the irony. He started climbing the stairs slowly. He wanted to run but it would prove too much for him and he did not want to make much noise. Panting and out of breath he reached the door of his flat. He took out his key and silently opened the door. When his eyes adjusted in the darkness, he walked past the drawing room to the bedroom. He stared at his wife from the door. She was still sleeping. She looked so innocent and angelic in the dim light. He walked in, sat beside her and touched her cheeks tenderly. She stirred in her sleep. He was still holding the ‘package’ and he started for the bathroom, when, she woke up.
She was fully awake within seconds.
“Ranjan? Where had you been so long?”
He froze and then turned around slowly- smiling broadly.
Asha, his wife of 7 years was still very much the one and only love of his life. He was sometimes very awed by the way his heart still beat for this demure face with the dark honey coloured mole on the left side of her chin. Those almond shaped eyes were flashing like searchlights now and a sea of emotions seemed to flash all at the same time. How that young
He decided to break the ice-cold silence with a warm hug and planting a kiss on her broad temple Ranjan wished her a “ Happy birthday my beautiful sweetheart!”
When he was extricating himself from the hug, he was wishing in the back of his mind that she hadn’t noticed the packet. But do women ever miss out on anything? Asha hadn’t missed noticing that Ranjan had been behaving unusually quirky and was still panting like he generally does after training at the Gym. Asha was quick to realize that the package he was trying to hide had something to do with this!
“ All for love, Asha!” he exclaimed having realized that he’d been caught and it was time for him to come forth with facts. Though he had meant to and would have loved to hand over this extraordinary birthday gift in the light of day, Ranjan spoke up, “ Asha my love, I had to get you the birthday gift you’d wished for, didn’t I?”
“.. but Ranjan you went for my birthday gift at this unearthly hour? Have you gone insane?”
“…but Asha how on earth should I have procured it in broad daylight?”
“ What are you talking about Ranjan? Now stop making a puzzle out of it and show me! What kind of a gift is that which you couldn’t possibly shop for by day? Why do you have to lie like this? I wouldn’t have killed you if you’d owned up that you’d simply forgotten!”
Still holding the packet behind his back Ranjan pleaded “…But my darling Asha I hadn’t forgotten. That’s why I had to plan all this. This sneaking out and back at this hour is especially because this gift couldn’t have been secured any other day at any other time!”
Asha just stared back at Ranjan in disbelief. “ You don’t believe me, do you?” said Ranjan with an obvious hurt in his voice. The love struck hubby saw mistrust and doubt well in Asha’s eyes and he couldn’t take it. He couldn’t let Asha’s tear drops roll after so many years of trust and loving companionship because of his silly idea of a unique birthday gift. Especially NOT on this special day! The clock struck 12 and their 5 year old daughter sprang from beneath the quilt at Asha’s side. Little Aaryaa had started singing in a high pitched voice, “ Happy Birthday to you….”
anjan and Asha could not help but break into a fit of laughter. Now that the air seemed lighter, Ranjan decided to present the packet to Asha.
As if when disappointment, dismay and rebuke are brewed together but the concoction is too bitter to swallow down, Asha’s face went red. She had obviously expected much more than this quaint little cold bundle of a banana leaf placed in her hands!
Later Asha had repented that she’d been so rude for her immediate reaction was “ What’s this?”
Curious Aaryaa peeked over her mother’s shoulders and looked peeved at the poor sight of the banana leaf packet.
A saddened Ranjan started to explain, “ What’s inside is important and I’m sure you’ll like it. I clearly remember you had wished for it!”
As Asha started to unwrap the bundle, Ranjan continued, “ Remember you’d mentioned last year that your friend Nanda from
Asha had opened the folds of the leaf now and saw that she was holding the very horseshoe that had been adorning the arch over Nanda’s front door, just last week. How she had eyed that lucky charm each and every time she’d visited Nanda and her kids! How she’d yearned for the life that Nanda enjoyed!
Asha was speechless. Her eyes welled with tears. They were tears of gratitude, love and hope this time. She already felt far luckier than Nanda that she had a husband who really cared for all her needs, whether rational or impossible!
She found her voice after the emotions had swelled and ebbed, “ You took on such a big risk to fulfill a near impossible, silly wish I’d made? Ranjan, with a hubby like you, do I need this horseshoe to give me a life I dream of?”
Ranjan was now secretly rejoicingover how he'd successfully stripped that vicious Monster Mr. Gupta of his lucky charm and had ensured his downfall for good.
And then Aarya quipped in “ Mommy say Thankyou!”
“ Thankyou Ranjan but sweetheart why did you have to do such a dreadful thing for me?” said Asha guiltily imagining how her husband had put his life, job and status at stake to get her an ideal birthday present..
“ All for love, my darlings, all for love!” exclaimed Ranjan happily.