After taking a sabbatical,here is a short story.
He stood still looking helpless, totally stymied by what had happened. It was so unexpected…so sudden…life sure can throw unpleasant surprises at you, he thought miserably. What can he do now? Nandita wanted to move out….ASAP. He had never thought this day would come. He had been happy as a bachelor and had assumed Nandi was too. After all, he was approaching 40 and Nandi was just three years younger. Their lives were half over. He had assumed the arrangement would go on forever. He had been totally comfortable living with her. There had been no awkwardness, no discomfort. And marriage was one thing that both had sworn to stay away from. They both had felt very strongly against it. Naveen had been a witness to his parents’ constant bickering; he had made up his mind long ago that the fringe benefits of matrimony weren’t worth it. Nandi had seemed to be of the same mind in this, hence their arrangement had worked out fine. He had insisted they find another place to live; his parents’ old flat reeked of disharmony and hopelessness.
They had found a nice two bedroom apartment in a good locality, close to the travel agency where Nandi worked. And the hospital wasn’t too far away either. It helped because of the erratic hours his job demanded. Being a surgeon was no cakewalk. But he enjoyed it - it was what he had wanted to do all his life; it gave him an ecstatic feeling when he picked up his scalpel and made the incision. The thrill was there even now after all these years. The only part of his job he didn’t like was dealing with the patients’ relatives - the explanations, dealing with their tears and fears. He couldn’t handle emotion; that’s why Nandi had been the perfect companion for him. She was as placid and cool as he was; she didn’t bother him if he decided to spend the night out with his friends and didn’t ask questions as to where he had been if he stayed out late. And she took away the monotony of living alone.
The reassurance that there was someone home waiting for him gave him an incentive to come home from the hospital. Nandi would smile at him as he came in and lay his dinner out - not talking unless he wanted to, so completely understanding him and his needs. He often thought they could communicate without talking. She seemed to read his mind so completely. And he liked her company. They had a lot in common - their love for classical music, old movies. They would spend lazy Sunday afternoons watching their favorite films, lounging on the couch, munching some home made snacks. That was another thing he was going to miss - Nandi’s cooking! She was a dynamite cook - boy, the kheer she made was something to die for….and her cakes could give Tarla Dalal a run for her money!
He had disregarded the snide remarks people made and the sly, covert glances that met them often as they went out together. He had thought Nandi had too. But now he wasn’t too sure. What if all the gossip had affected her? He had never talked to her about this; he had just assumed that everything was hunky dory.Perhaps Nandi cared more than she let on. Why hadn’t she talked to him? What did she see in Jaydeep? He was after all a divorcee, and had a daughter. He had thought she had been totally content…but this guy had whisked her off her feet and now she wanted to marry him…Good lord! Was she turning senile? He thought…at her age?? What was the guy after? She wasn’t very good looking, her hair had begun to turn grey, she would touch it up with hair-dye every week. The only thing glamorous about her was her job…where she met all these rich, flamboyant people ready to throw away their money on a stupid cruise or a vacation to some far away place.
She had often asked him to plan a trip with her, but he had never felt the need to take a break. She didn’t seem to mind, but now thinking back at all the times he had seen her wistfully gazing at the colourful holiday brochures, he wasn’t so sure. Is that what Jaydeep had offered her? An overseas vacation? No, of course not.. she said she loved him…! She wanted to marry him, spend her life with him. He was going to take her away to Pune, where he lived…Naveen would be all alone…he had never imagined he would have to be one day! He had taken for granted that Nandi would always be with him….but he had been so wrong! Jaydeep had offered her something magical…Love…How would you imagine practical, logical, level-headed Nandi would succumb to its charms one day!They had lived together 10 years now, and he had grown so accustomed to it. Now he would have to get used to life without her…"What’s the matter, Naveen"? Nandi’s voice shook him out of his reverie. "What are you brooding about so intensely?""Oh, nothing" he mumbled. "So when are Jaydeep’s parents coming"?"On the 19th. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, Naveen," said Nandi, ruefully…"What will you do? How will you manage?""Oh, I’ll get by. Don’t worry about me. Jaydeep is sure a lucky guy. Hope he appreciates what he’s getting," said Naveen, smiling and going towards Nandi. He looked at her and felt suddenly as if all the affection he had for her had come bursting to the surface. He awkwardly put his arms around her. "You deserve the best, Nandi. Forget about me.. I’m just an old, boring guy anyway. And I have Cleopatra for company." Cleopatra was their cat. Nandi’s eyes suddenly brimmed with unshed tears, exhibiting a rare emotion so unlike her. "I’m going to miss you so much. And Cleo. I wish it didn’t have to be this way," she said."Of course it has to be this way," said Naveen, smiling and giving Nandita a hug. "And I’m going to see to it that you have the grandest wedding you could imagine. It’s the least a brother can do for his sister."
P.S:This is a short story written by Suproya Sudarshan in a column in MSN