My husband and I enjoy sitting daily in our spacious balcony in the late evenings on the fifth floor of our building complex. We had a panoramic view if we looked up of the dark sky and the shimmering stars and if we looked down the landscape of the busy city illuminated with lights of various hues from different buildings advertising their products some in marquee, some in changing colours and some in blinding constant light. The variety was baffling and innovative.
“I have something to tell you. Do you remember one Suresh who studied with me in IIM and went on to join a MNC?"I said.
"Yes, I know, Savitri. You had also mentioned that he fell in love with you and wished to marry you. What happened?" asked my husband Murali
"Your memory is sharp. True he loved me and I was also initially not sure whether I loved him or not. There were certain things about him that put me off. He was highly opinionated and had extreme views on most subjects and never allowed room for dissent. Slightly abrasive on that score, he was not very popular. Otherwise a perfect gentleman, chivalrous and helpful by nature. he helped me a lot with study materials and in the project work"
"Agreed and you also had a weakness for him till something went wrong and you moved away from him. Where is he? Did he talk to you by any chance?"
I laughed and said “How did you get that impression that I had a weakness for him. I knew he can be a good friend and never a partner in my life.Anyway, he did talk to me. He has come to the city on some work and wondered whether we could meet for a quick lunch at Samrat tomorrow. I just wished to keep you informed."
"Why should I be kept informed? Do you think I am a suspicious type or what? Healthy friendships do not cease after marriage" Murali said
It was the next day and as usual we were in the balcony. It was Murali's turn to broach on the meeting with Suresh.
"Savitri, I thought you would yourself tell me about the luncheon meeting with your class mate. Did you both meet? What does he say?"
"Sorry, I wished to tell you but we had just settled down in the balcony. You seem to be thinking about it all the time" I giggled as Murali made face at me
"Yes, he came on time. He is bloated and pale looking not the healthy guy he was years back. With receding head, he looked older for his age."
"I am not interested about his looks. What did he tell you?"Murali asked impatiently
I noted the asperity in his tone and said nothing special was discussed.
"Come on dear, you must have been together for an hour at least. Where is he now, how many kids, about his wife, his job and things like that" prodded Murali
"He has not married and works in Delhi. He was telling he had not been keeping well. When I pressed on what was ailing him, he brushed aside the question. His parents it seems are in village and have become old. He felt sorry he could not be of much help to them except financially. He is in a senior position, President or some such thing. He talked about common friends, professors and also asked about you." I said
"That is sad about his not keeping well at this young age. You could have called him .for dinner. When is he leaving for Delhi? Invite him for breakfast tomorrow. I can go late to office. I would also like to meet him."
"Are you sure?" I asked with disbelief.
"Certainly, why not? Ring him up right away"
I tried his number two or three times and then said to Murali “it is ringing with no response"
"Try his hotel number where he is staying" Murali suggested
"Good idea" I replied and rang up
"What are you talking? I met him this afternoon. How can it be that he had not checked in? He told me he was leaving tomorrow evening" I told the receptionist at the hotel.
When the lady repeated the same thing, I gave the phone to Murali and said “They are blabbering some nonsense. You talk to them ".
"What is the problem in connecting to Mr. Suresh?” Murali asked the receptionist
"Sir, he had booked the room from Delhi but he did not check in at all. When we contacted his secretary at Delhi, we heard the sad news of his heart attack in the plane. His body was being flown back is all the information we have. I did not tell the lady who spoke with us now this sad news" said the receptionist politely.
"Are you sure about the factual correctness of what you are telling?"Murali asked
"Hundred percent.I can give you his secretary's number if you wish"
With utter disbelief and confusion writ large on his face, Murali told her of what he had heard.
I let out a scream and cried"Oh no, it cannot be. Who was that sitting with me at the hotel then? Believe me Murali, won’t you? He was talking to me happily and was glad that he could meet me after so many years. Who was he then?"
Murali put his arm around me and led me inside.