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Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Parting Gift


It is a terribly feeling to be reminded, however subtly, that you are past your prime, that you have outlived your utility, so to say. Kabita, sat dazed and hurt. It took a lot of time to sink in that she was intentionally snubbed by the one she thought she knew so well.
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‘Maa, are you coming!’ howled Nitesh not realizing how untimely his request was.
‘leave me alone, will you ? Can’t you manage it for yourself? Do you think I am here only to attend to your whims and calls? Don’t I have the right to live for my own self even for a second in this house?’

Nitesh looked at his father; Mahim raised his eye brows and gave a half smile and bent down again to solve today’s crossword in the Statesman. Angry and frustrated Nitesh started throwing his things in the open suitcase. He will be catching the night train for Jamshedpur.

Kobita , usually a vibrant and jovial soul, always ready to help out people in need, going out of her way to make things easy for others was equally active in household matters. With Kobita around nobody in the house thought of moving his little finger for anything. It was not his fault that Nitesh never took care of his own things, for even if he did try, Kobita was sure to rearrange the whole thing, making all previous exercise futile.

What is it ma? How many times would you make the same mistake? Why don’t you understand, it is no use being a sentimental fool. People don’t take your attitude in the same spirit. When will you grow up!

Nitesh, I am your mother, don’t forget that. And what do you mean by ‘same mistake’. What do you know about it ?

Ok maa, I don’t know anything. But then tell me. Why should you fret and sit with a long face the whole day long. Wait , wait, and why are you home even? You were supposed to collect your books from office , so far I know! Correct ?

This went for the whole evening, till dinner was served and Nitesh left home, happy and smiling with the suitcase nicely packed by Kobita,.

It was early November. It was becoming cooler, the air being a little heavy and misty. The street lights became dusky with the advent of night. Kobita stood before the window looking out into the deserted lane below. A few stray dogs were fighting over a food packet thrown down from any one of the high rises. How can people be so callous, so selfish…

……………….

Kobita went there all right and she had indeed collected her books but she wished she did not. It was nearly after three months that she visited her work place that was an indispensable part of her life for these long years. A place she spent her youth, a place she made friends and foes, a place she had grown to love with all her being. She realized with a heavy heart that she would not be walking down this familiar road from the metro station to the steps that led to the building she knew so well. The chowkidar recognized and greeted her while she went inside. She took the lift to the top floor, she was not going to ignore a single one of her colleagues irrespective of their status. She went from floor to floor meeting her colleagues and wanting to touch every single brick that held the huge building, the place that almost became her second home so long. As if she was silently and secretly bidding farewell to the soul of her office.

By the time she came to her very own work place, she was happy and sad for being greeted so well by one and all even after she left the place. She kept her most dear colleagues waiting, only to be with them for the rest of her time today. Her heart missed a beat to see someone strange sitting at her place. She stood at a distance looking at the girl and it seemed the picture was not right. It seemed as if she had witnessed herself seated at the desk as a disembodied soul. The young girl looked up with a questioning look but could not ask anything as Binoy almost burst into the place. Giving Kobita a cursory glance he started discussing some official matter in, it seemed to Kobita, a very affected manner. Was he deliberating ignoring Kobita! But why should he; Kobita was at her wit’s end. She stood a few seconds feeling vulnerable like an intruder, an outsider and then came out in the corridor.

What a pleasant surprise!
Kobita wheeled back and found Arindom laughing down at her, his mischievous eyes dancing and shining with the familiar light.
Come you must have a cup of coffee with me!
Well not really I just had tea with Rupali…. Kobita tried to protest.
So what ! I am not offering you tea.
The next ten minutes Kobita laughed like old times, gulping down the hot coffee. Sudeshna and Tarun joined them shortly and Kobita felt like she was still one of them.
At last she called it a day ”No I must push off; you guys have work to do.”
Don’t forget us yaar, must come once in a while, we are missing you terribly!

Kobita pushed back her chair shook hands and came back to her place and knocked and stood hesitantly at Binoy's door. He was at his table ,as usual, eyes fixed to his computer screen, he looked up, smiled and indicated a chair.

I thought I would take back my books.
Oh of course, sorry I should have sent them to you
No no, it gave me a chance to come and meet you all. How is life!
Well nothing special and with you!
There has been a sea of change .
Hmmm! The new girl is good, have you met her.
Really , that’s good, no I did not have the opportunity.
Well here you are. Binoy pushed a packet containing a few books that belonged to Kobita.

……………
Mahim was fast asleep on his bed. Kobita looked at his sleeping face affectionately and switched off the light and tiptoed back to the window. She found herself crying hopelessly and cursed herself. Pull yourself you fool, she murmured sternly. When she took her farewell three months back, she did not feel the punch . Everybody including Binoy were so emotional ;said such nice things about her , she was really overwhelmed. Yes, she felt sad but she did not realize the loss , like she did today, while standing at the door and looking at her replacement, busy with her computer, her desk, work that was singularly Kobita’s till three months back. She never realized she was so attached to this place, so proud of her role, so fond of her job. She fondly remembered the days she and Binoy would spend hours together discussing tight situations and trying to find way- outs. How often she had to restrain Binoy from taking rash steps. Kobita had the knack of feeling the pulse of the office and Binoy would seek her opinion before taking any major decision concerning the staffers. She thought of the days before the crucial meeting, preparing the notes together and sipping tea. Binoy, like Kobita was so fond of literature and they would never tire of talking about books and authors, sharing their treasure chests.

Kobita looked deep inside, does she want to go back! Not really! She is perfectly happy to be back to where she belonged, her home and her family. But she felt somehow empty, as if a great portion of her life has been chucked off, as if a part of her being had been severed and was lying out of her reach.

She had just lost her most valued friend and colleague, but why, what went wrong , is it because she has lost her utility, because she is of no use to him any more, that he chose to hurt her so, or is it that Binoy was not even aware of her feelings! She doubted it very much.

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