5:25 pm……. 5:27 pm……..5:45 pm….. 5:53 pm…….5:58 pm….. I had looked at the watch more than a hundred times in the last half an hour. I couldn’t wait for 6:30 pm; I had to get out of the office. Had to be somewhere by 7:00pm. I got up and went into the lady’s room, washed my face, and stared into the mirror. I was pretty and I knew it. I adjusted my kurti and re-did my hair. Looked at myself again in the mirror and walked out of the lady’s room. I got back to my desk and sank into my seat in the hope that no one finds me to dump work on my table. I just had to leave at 6:30 pm. It would be another twenty minutes to that. I waited, checked my e-mail, posted a few messages on facebook, and looked at the watch again. Now it would be another eight minutes before I could leave. I would need five minutes to get the car out and then depending on the traffic would need another thirty minutes to get there.
I had waited enough, the minute the watch showed 6:30 pm; I got up and walked straight towards the door. I had a smile on my face, didn’t bother saying bye to anyone, lest they delay me by talking. I got into the lift and could almost hear my heart pound. I was turning red, I just couldn’t wait. I got into my car, switched on the radio and drove out of the basement parking, smiling. The traffic seemed easy. I was enjoying the drive, the music, and was looking forward to the rest of the evening.
I drove into the much too familiar lane and frantically looked around for a parking spot. I found one almost immediately. I parked the car and looked into the mirror, tucked the hair strand behind my ear, wore my best smile, and got out of the car. A sudden feeling of adventure surged through me. I walked into the housing block with such confidence, walked straight towards the lift and waited for it to get to the ground floor. I was in no mood to make small talk with anyone, all I wanted was to reach the eighth floor, and reach it fast. An old man walked towards the lift and smiled at me, I smiled back hoping and wishing that he wouldn’t start a conversation. “Hello, are you new here?” he asked. I wish I could pretend I didn’t hear, but alas, “I am visiting a friend here Uncle”, I replied as politely as I could. “Oh which floor, whom are you visiting?” he went on to ask. “Do you know everyone who lives here?” was my immediate retort. My statement was uncalled for but he provoked me into saying it. I think he didn’t appreciate the tone and the manner in which I replied. The ride upto our respective floors went past in complete silence. Thankfully he had to get off on the fifth floor. I heaved a sigh of relief as he got out on the fifth floor. I quickly straightened my clothes and looked at my face in the mirror. I smiled at the reflection.
The lift door opened on the eighth floor, I stepped out, turned left and headed towards the doorbell that I had rung so many times before. Yet, everytime I got close to that bell my heart would start beating loudly. I stood there for a few minutes, waited till my heart beat had returned to normalcy, and rang the bell. I waited patiently for the door to open. After what seemed like an eternity, he opened the door. We smiled at each other and I stepped into the much too familiar space. We hugged each with such fervour that it amazed me. I walked in and put my bag down on the sofa, walked into the kitchen and put the milk to boil. He liked the way I made tea and I needed my evening tea. I poured it into our mugs, which we had picked up at a sale a few weeks ago. We sat together in the balcony with our mugs. There was never any need to fill the silence with words, we enjoyed the silence, and it felt comfortable. A few minutes later I started talking about my day, whom I had met, what I had eaten, the work I had completed, and also the work that I had conveniently not completed. He listened patiently and smiled when he heard of the work I had not completed. “How was your day?” I asked. “I managed to write a few chapters today”. “Oh great, so the plot is falling into place,” I exclaimed. “Have you spoken to the publishers yet? When do they want the draft by?” I had so many questions to ask him. “They are willing to wait for another three months”. Three months – three months is all the time I would have with him. After the completion of his book, he would leave the city. He would go back to Bombay, back to where he came from. “Good, good. Three months is good. I am certain that you will have the draft by then.” We continued to talk and when I looked at my watch it was already 8:30 pm. I got up in a hurry and picked up the mugs and went into the kitchen. I had to leave, had to get back.
“I have to leave,” I said. “Hmmm… yes I know,” was all he said. I walked up to him and hugged him again, looked into his eyes, and kissed him. “I will be back tomorrow, same time.” I tried to say it as cheerfully as I could. I hated these goodbyes. I hated the fact that I had to leave him every day and go back. I walked to the door, opened it, and stepped out just as I had stepped in a few hours ago. I never turned and looked at him once I was out of the door; I walked straight towards the lift, got in and got out on the ground floor. Walking out every day from his house was such a clinical procedure. I would open the car door, sit inside and look for my mangalsutra in my bag and slip it over my neck. I would take out the little sindoor box I carried with me, look into the rear-view mirror and apply it. I would start the car and drive away. Ten minutes on the road and I would pick up my phone and call Dhruv, my husband. “Hi, have you reached home?” I would ask, and I knew the reply even before he said it. “Yes love, am home and am waiting for you.”