by KParthasarathi 14 Oct 2008
Ranjana felt honestly that her husband should have remained a bachelor and not married her at all. A good man, no doubt, he was not cut for married life .Wedded to office and a workaholic, he spent long hours in the office and with the mobile, whenever at home talking office-matters. In these fifteen years of married life, she could remember only three occasions when he took leave from office to take her out. One was immediately after the wedding, taking her to the various temples that passed for a honey moon and the other two, when her parents had passed away. But he gave her a lot of freedom to do what pleased her, ample money for running the household and for buying dresses and jewelry that she desired. But he never accompanied her nor did he insist her accompanying him to office parties. It is not that Ranjana was not good looking or not highly educated. She was a tall and very beautiful woman with an all-India rank in professional accountancy examination. The problem was his world was very small and revolved around his office. Unfortunately they had no children to provide occasions for them to be together. It is not that he did not love her. He had a warm affection and high regard for her. But he lacked the finer sensibilities of pleasing the woman and had to be reminded even about their wedding day or birthdays. She diverted her mind to literary pursuits and had a couple of novels to her credit. She wrote for all leading magazines and was widely read. She however nursed a deep hurt in her heart at the wooden nature of Ravi despite the mechanical conjugal life they led devoid of demonstrated love.
It was 4pm on a Saturday when the phone rang at Ravi’s office. It was Ranjana reminding him that it was their wedding day and that he had promised to come earlier than usual. He looked at his watch and the note-sheets before him. With a frown on the face and affected tone of warmth he said “Ranjana, I am on the verge of finalizing the report to go to the Board tomorrow. I will surely come early but may be held up a little. Get dressed and be ready. We will have our dinner outside. Thanks, darling, for reminding me.” He took two hours to finish it and ignored meanwhile the calls from his residence. By the time he left, it was 6.45 p.m. and it was drizzling outside.
The parking lot in the basement was deserted as most of the people had left. It was dark when he reached his car. He fumbled for the car keys and found to his dismay that the door would not open. He tried several times and jabbed the door when he heard a voice behind him “Hey, excuse me, you seem to have a problem.” Startled Ravi turned to look at the slightly aged man, big built, in tattered clothes and three days’ bristle smiling at him in a twisted manner revealing his yellow teeth. He looked a bit unusual and a chill ran through Ravi’s spine. He said “Yes the door lock is jammed. I am in a hurry to go home as it is our wedding day. But I haven’t seen you here all these years”.
The man came closer and said “I have been here for a very long time and even before you joined here. You have not seen me but I see you daily as I see others. I make myself visible only when everybody had left. You are foolish to have stayed this long especially on this day” Struck by fear by the uncomprehending words and his unnatural demeanour, Ravi stood immobilized when the old man said “Move away a little. Let me open the door. Keep the keys with you.” Ravi immediately moved away looking at this strange man placing his strong hand on the door.
There was a sudden noise of the door ripping away from the car. He looked at the car with its front door missing and could see neither the old man nor the missing door. He had just vanished in a jiffy even as he heard the sound of laughter a little away. He quickly jumped into the car, started the ignition and sped away to the safety of the road. He was sweating profusely with goose bumps all over. When a cold hand touched him on his shoulder, Ravi blabbered, “Please do not harm me. My wife would be waiting for me. I have never taken her out for long. After a very long time, I have promised to take her out and make the day a memorable one. Please, I beg you to leave me unharmed.”
As the cold hand pressed him further and shook him violently, he started howling till he heard Ranjana, “Ravi, what is this you are blabbering in sleep? You have been sleeping from 3 p.m. ever since you came home. It is getting late. Get ready for the dinner at the hotel.” He opened his eyes and saw her beautifully dressed standing before him. There was no sight of the fearful strange man or the car park. He pulled her towards him to embrace her tightly and kissed her till she pulled herself away telling that the maid was there in the house. “Ranjana, I have been a fool all along. I thought my life would be over today even before our celebrating the wedding day. I realize what I have missed all these days. I promise to give you lot of my time and make our lives a very happy one from this moment.” She threw her arms over him and sobbed “I am so happy today. I was afraid we were moving apart. I thank your dream for opening your eyes at last.