Sunanda could see the pale cold winter morning spread across the neighbourhood. The view from her second floor one bedroom flat wasn’t much, but she loved it. It showed her the Kolkata, as she knew it. Dirty winding lanes, deep conversations at the chai stalls, children playing, people bustling about and much more. She loved Kolkata and couldn’t imagine her life anywhere else.
The letter lay untouched on her desk. Sunanda stared out of her window. She knew exactly what was written in the letter, it was same as the last one and the last to last one and even the ones before. The letter had nothing but apologies, more apologies, begging her to be with him. She picked up the letter, and ran her fingers over the stamp, Edinburgh. Girish was so far away yet the pain was so close to her heart. Ripping the envelope Sunanda brought out a bunch of papers. His letters were getting longer, even though Sunanda never replied to a single one.
Without even reading the letter, she threw it back on the table.
Dr. Sunanda Roy pulled out her medical bag, and checked it once more. And without a second glance to the letter went out. She had a long day. First she would go to the Shyambazar Blood donation camp, in the afternoon she had to see patients in the outdoor ward. And in the evening before she returned home she’ll have to visit the local red-light area to speak to the girls about safe sex and sexual health. She didn’t have the time for the man who lied and ran away from his responsibilities.
But this is only the mornings, at night when she is alone; she pulls out all the letters Girish wrote to her. She never reads them, fearing her heart might get weak. Soft, silent tears wet her nightgown reminding her how much she still loved him. It’s been almost two years, yet the wound; the deep throbbing raw wound never heals.
Sunanda and Girish had dreamt so many dreams together, of working together, of staying together. They were the brightest minds on campus. The professors knew they would shine, together they were unstoppable. Sunanda never realised Girish’s dream was something else, something she never dreamt of. Girish wanted to go abroad, earn money, settle there, live a comfortable life, while Sunanda’s solace was in the grubby streets of Kolkata, the muddy lanes leading to the murky health centres, she couldn’t dream of leaving Kolkata behind her, leaving her duties.
It was early one morning, when Girish had come by, had told her he was leaving. He said he would arrange for her to join him as soon as he could. Sunanda’s ears were bright red with the fiery poison she had just heard, her heart felt like as if it was stabbed. Girish, her Girish, had been pretending so long. Pretending that he too wanted the life that she wanted; Why didn’t he tell her the truth before, his real dreams before? How could he just leave like that?
The beautiful morning breeze felt suffocating. She wanted to scream at him, but had no voice left. She wanted to hit him, but had no power left in her hands. She wanted to run away, but her legs wouldn’t move. Struck with the lightening of grief Sunanda hadn’t moved for a long time. She was hurt the most at his lack of responsibility. He loved her alright and she still loved him, but they had failed to realise each other’s dream. Girish, oh Girish, she had cried, remembering his kisses, his promises, his eyes, his smile. Her whole body had burned with the agony of his words, his lies. He lied to her, about his dreams. He knew so well that Sunanda would never go abroad; she took up medicine to serve her county.
And now, the deceiver, the lover had gone, leaving her with this agony, this pulsating resentment. This couldn’t be love. Sunanda promised herself that she would never think of him, obviously would never join him abroad, and sever all ties with him unless he came back to India, to her.
Sunanda used to dream of Girish coming back to Kolkata, to her. Soon she began to realise no matter how much they loved each other, the choice of the life to be lived was not negotiable. One day she stopped believing the false hope that Girish would ever come back. Somehow Girish never lost hope, his letters kept coming. Sunanda stopped reading his letters as she knew no amount of apology could persuade her to leave Kolkata, Girish was to be loved but never to be with.
Sunanda was busy typing up her records, which she had to submit that afternoon, when she heard the knock on the door. Thinking it was the peon, she said ‘come in’ without even looking up. Meenakshi her college friend and now colleague entered,
“Are you busy sunu?”
“A little” Sunanda kept typing “Is it anything important?”
“It’s about Girish”
Her hands froze midway for a while, and then resumed with renewed vigour.
“You need to hear this sunu,” Meenakshi continued
“What?” she snapped
“Girish is in town. He called me last night. He couldn’t get through to your phone, I told him you changed your number, but didn’t give him the new one.” Meenakshi paused to check the expression before she continued.
“And” Sunanda said without much of a flicker of emotion.
“And I don’t know anything else. Just thought would let you know.”
Meenakshi was unsure of what to do next; she drew up her chair and sat across Sunanda, waiting for her to respond. Sunanda kept typing for a while and then stopped.
“What do you want me to say Meena?”
“Did I ask you anything, am just sitting across you watching you type.”
A smiled swept on Sunanda’s face. “Meena you know me too well, I fear. But really I can’t get excited or worried or swoon over someone or something I don’t care about”
“Stop pretending Sunu. Save the lies for someone who does not know you, not me. Anyways I have million other things to do, so am going to go. I just don’t understand why you left Girish, all he did was to pursue a career abroad. May you and your self inflicted agony have a great time together.” Meenakshi left.
Sunanda sat still for a while, So Girish was back. He will surely come by to apologise, or will he. Maybe he was just back to get married to someone who was willing to move abroad with him. Suddenly she was angry with herself, that she was allowing herself to drown in Girish’s thoughts. He is in the past.
That evening back at home, Sunanda kept jumping at the tiniest noises from outside. Every laughter, every step made her feel Girish was walking up the apartment stairs. Girish came, not that night but the day after.
As Sunanda was parking her scooty she spotted him. Standing tall, amidst the parking lot with a smile which felt like spring in the middle of winter.
“Ma’am” Girish mock bowed.
Unfastening her helmet Sunanda lowered her eyes, fearing his smile would bring out the love she has been hiding so long. She stood by her scooty, not knowing what to do next. Girish was by her side in no time, took her into a warm embrace. “Ahhh, sunu I’ve missed you so much” Still sunanda couldn’t say a word. A pain in the eyes, an ache in her heart told her she was crying, uncontrollably. Girish held her tighter, buried his face into her jasmine hair. “Sorry, sunu, am sorry” he kept whispering. Sunanda pulled herself out from the embrace, and wiped her face. Gaining her composure, she walked back towards the outdoor ward. Girish’s voice trailed behind her, “don’t go sunu, wait.”
Her walk transformed into a run, she ran, she ran across the corridors, across the wards, away far away from Girish. She didn’t want the pain, she didn’t want her love aroused knowing full well Girish would leave in a few days, and his pleading letters would continue. He would ask her move to Scotland with him, and this time from the fear of losing him she might say yes. So she couldn’t stop running, she wanted to move away far away from Girish. That embrace, that one embrace had reminded her what it was like to be in love with Girish. The two years of agony, anger had melted away. No she couldn’t get her heart broken, not now not ever.
Sunanda had disappeared from the city to a relatives place in barrackpore, no one knew where she was. After two weeks Sunanda returned, returned to her flat. A solitary letter was waiting for her, as she opened the door. It lay on the floor. Someone must have pushed it in underneath the door. Sunanda knew what it was, must be another letter from Girish, another apology, another pleading. Today she felt like reading it, she picked it up. It was handwritten, not posted. It was not from Girish, it was from Meenakshi.
Where are you? Why is your phone switched off? I have terrible news for you. Girish was hit by a car as he was chasing after you that day. He was admitted to the hospital immediately but unfortunately he couldn’t be saved. His dying wish was to see you, and I couldn’t fulfil it. We couldn’t find you anywhere. He came back to tell you that he loves you and he was going to move back to Kolkata, to you. You never gave him a chance. And now it’s too late.
Call me if you ever come back.
Sunanda fell out cold where she was standing, the ground underneath her feet seemed to have melted. She lay unconscious on the floor for a while. When she came round, it was past midnight. Still clutching Meenakshi’s letter she stumbled across towards her desk.
She pulled out a white paper, sat down and started writing a letter. A letter in reply to all the letters from Girish. He needed an apology, a pleading from her, he needed a reply.