It was a very cold night. The downpour hadn’t ceased for a couple of days. The routine life of the people had reached a standstill. Every nook and corner of the city was flooded and the Government had declared a holiday for the next two days, which would probably extend until the rain ceased.
Asha had just returned from her night shift. There had not been much work, but she was tired after having waded through the rainwater to find the way back home. The holidays had been declared only two hours after she had reached her workplace, Bluebay Soultions, where she worked as the Project Manager. Her husband Vishal had been lucky. He worked as the Chief Engineer at a chemical industry and had unfixed and unscheduled working hours. He had an afternoon shift and now he wouldn’t have to even wake up.
She opened the door as quietly as possible with her set of keys. She marched straight up to the bedroom, dropping her bags and other accessories on the sofa even as she went past. She walked up to the cupboard and picked up a fresh set of clothes. After a shower, comfortably dressed, she went to the kitchen to put together a breakfast. Only then she realised that milk had not arrived owing to the rain. She rummaged the shelves for a packet of noodles, but realised she had none in store. She went up to the fridge for some bread. But even that was unavailable. Vishal and she had got quite used to eating outside that she hardly paid any attention to the food available at home. Now she knew she neither could order any breakfast, as the entire city was drowned in the floodwaters and all shops were closed, nor would she be able to borrow something from her neighbours as she hardly knew them. She suddenly wondered, even as a kid, she knew all the aunties and uncles living close to their house and used to regularly visit them, especially their kitchens where all of them would present her with the most delicious snacks- she was the favourite kid in her apartment. But now, she hardly knew the face of the next door aunty. She sighed, probably some of the evils of her job.
At last she managed to find some rava and made some upma for herself and Vishal. Everyday she used to have her breakfast and leave his portion on the table before she went to sleep; today it would be different. She wanted to eat together and so went to the bedroom to wake him up.
He was sleeping deeply, snugly under the blanket. She looked at his face. So innocent and helpless, like a kid, she thought. His hair was tousled and made him look boyish. She suddenly had an urge to touch his hair. She raised her fingers to his hair, they were trembling. It had been long since she had any physical contact with him, not a human touch, infact they hadn’t even exchanged a smile for quite sometime now. Nervously, her fingers touched his hair. She ran them softly across the length of his hair. The feel of his hair made her blush. She had enjoyed doing this even from college. They had been the most wanted and famous pair of their business school. Both were all-rounders and were among the hottest people. Their parents had been informed about their love affair quite early and both the sides had easily agreed. No one could debate the fact that Asha and Vishal were made for each other.
His movement under her hands suddenly brought her to the present. She quickly withdrew her hands and called out his name. He opened his eyes partially with quite some effort and looked at her. “What’s the time?”, he asked in the most sleepy voice. “It’s 9.15, but you don’t have to go to office today, the entire city shall remain closed for the next two days owing to rains.” Now he opened his eyes completely and looked at her in astonishment. “Really? Two whole days?” “ Yup”, she nodded.
“Then why are you waking me up at all?” he was complaining now. He always loved to sleep, especially a few extra hours in the morning. “Let’s have breakfast together, one day, please”. “Arey, no need of any breakfast, let me sleep”.
“Please Vishal, once, for me, please?” she was pleading now.
He reluctantly sat up on the bed and looked at her. She was tired, still she was as attractive as she had been at college- the same expressive eyes, the sharp nose, easily paving way for a small mouth with its curved, sweet smile.
He knew it was not of much use resisting those beautiful eyes, and that sweet pleading voice. Even from college days, that was how Asha used to win over him in half the arguments they had. Otherwise it was not easy for anyone to face his arguments where he put forth his views quite harshly and arrogantly, if required, but most of the time he was right.
After a brief shower, he joined her at the table, where she was waiting for him. “Oh upma?” he retorted. It was certainly not one of his favourites. But of course, today it did taste good. After a long time, they had a meal together. Neither spoke. Each was lost in a world of memories. How much fun they used to have at college?! They couldn’t remain parted for even a few minutes. How many movies, picnics, long drives would they have shared!! Now their ambition had taken them mentally and physically apart from each other. They had different shift timings, most of the days being unable to even look at each other. For the past six months, they had remained indifferent to each other’s existence. Life had been only all about projects and more projects.
Today was different. By this time, they should have been straining their brains to work up a solution to some HR crisis or something of that sort, but now the whole day was stretched out in front of them without any such job. “What to do now?” Asha was the first to reflect the thought that was on both their minds. “Perhaps we could watch a movie? A thriller?!” Vishal smiled mischievously at his own suggestion. Asha was always scared of thrillers but she couldn’t resist the idea of watching one. And Vishal loved to convince her into watching one and then scaring her right through with some extra pranks of his.
Asha knew what exactly was on his mind, still she agreed. She had always been the adventurous type of girl. So there started a search for a suitable movie. The entire shelf had come down on the floor in the process. After an hour or so of search they zeroed down on one dvd. By this time, the entire house was in a mess. So they decided to clean it up first. One leading to another, they ended up cleaning up all the rooms, throwing out all the unnecessary stuff, removing the cobwebs, giving the entire house a vacuum, scrubbing the windows and the floor. It was evening by the time they finished. They were tired and famished. But the afternoon had been fun. They had spent time together, helping each other in some productive way and that was more than satisfying.
There was nothing to eat. Asha pledged that the first thing she would do after the rains would be to buy and stock all the groceries. But for now, she couldn’t think of anything other than the neighbours. The rain showed no signs of stopping. She went up to the next flat and rang the bell. She waited nervously, thinking of how she would introduce the conversation. The door was opened by a fat lady who beamed surprisingly looking at her. “Hello Asha! What a surprise! Please come in.”
Asha was really surprised. “Thanks, Thank you aunty, but how do you know me?”
“I know everyone who lives in this apartment. I sure didn’t expect to see you here today. But believe me I’m really pleased.”
“Oh…Thank you aunty, actually I was just wondering if I could borrow a packet of noodles if you had some. Our supplies have run out, and the shops are closed…”
“Of course you can have it. Even better, both of you could have dinner here tonight if you wish.” The invitation sounded really warm.
“Oh no aunty, that’s really kind of you, we could probably have it some other day. We wouldn’t want to trouble you so much. Thanks a lot aunty.”
Asha came back with a packet of noodles in her hand and tears in her eyes.
She went upto the kitchen quietly and made the noodles. Thoughts swarmed her mind even as the floodwaters were filling up the entire city. What a meaningless life they had been living for the past few months- not useful for anyone, nor for themselves. Was this what they had wanted? Was this how they were going to lead the rest of their lives? No way, not at all.
As they had their dinner, she spoke out all that had been going on her mind to Vishal. He heard everything silently. At last he said, “You think I have not been thinking about all this? These thoughts have been frequenting my mind for quite some time.” So they agreed that from now on they would spend weekends with each other and for each other. They even decided that they should revisit old friends and refresh the cherished memories. And then that night, the plain noodles brought more taste and fulfilment to their dinner that several five star hotel dinners had failed to do.
After some days, the cyclone had departed. The city got reintegrated into its busy schedule, and so did Asha and Vishal. But they never forgot small things like wishing each other a good day, eating out on weekends, and kissing each other good night. And their nights were always good…:)