The phone rang. “It’s for you” said Amit. “Me..?” Anjali was surprised. Who could this be? She pondered. Ever since she had left college, Amit and she had common friends, as is the way in most Indian families. “Hi dear! How are you?”… Anjali skipped a heart beat as she immediately recognized the resonating voice.
“Hey Jai, ….my God, what a pleasant surprise! Where are you calling from?” Her heart began to beat faster and her excitement was evident in her voice. “In your city baby, I am here on some business. I want to see how fat you have grown in these years.” Jai hadn’t changed in all these years, she thought. He always got a great thrill out of teasing her. “I want to catch up with you. So see you at the Retreat Restaurant near Bandra Railway Station tomorrow for lunch at one. Don’t be late and yes, I look just the same, so you can’t miss me.” Without giving her a chance to say anything, he hung up.
Anjali sat down taking a deep breath. Jai was the last person she expected a phone call from. He was her classmate at college. He was very handsome and intelligent, and almost every girl in the college had a crush on him at sometime or the other. She wanted to tell Amit about it, but he was immersed in reading his news paper.
Her mind was moving at the speed of light. Fond memories of college days and times spent with Jai started to form pictures in her mind. She vividly remembered the first day they met. It was very filmy. “Hi, I am Jai, we’ve never been formally introduced.” He held out his hand to her. “Hi, I am…Anjali…nice to meet you..” she could barely finish her sentence. Jai had some kind of an aura around him. He was very boisterous and had a friendly nature which made everyone feel at ease. She remembered how at the college trip, when she hurt herself, Jai had gone out of his way to make her feel comfortable. Also the bunking of boring lectures to see old Hindi movies in shoe string budgets as money was always so scarce, or the hanging out at the chaiwalla near the college canteen doing nothing but just fooling around. Those were the days my friend….she remembered the beautiful song.
It all seemed not too long ago, yet it was more than fifteen years ago. The memories kept coming back to her and she was in a very upbeat mood. While humming a favourite tune, her daughter remarked, “Wat’s up Mom? You look very happy today.” She just smiled.
The scorching heat of Mumbai was unbearable and the drive in the cab to The Retreat was taking time because of the traffic jams. Anjali had not accounted for the traffic conditions in Mumbai at that time of the day. “I am going to be late” she thought. When she reached the Retreat, Jai was patiently waiting at the door. “Hi Anjali, you look so gorgeous,” he said with a warm handshake and an enchanting smile. She smiled back, thinking that it was quite a compliment from someone like Jai. He was right when he said he had not changed in these years. He looked very smart and his friendly nature just seemed to have matured a bit. They both conversed nonstop about the “good old days.” After lunch, he took out two movie tickets from his pocket. We are going to see the new movie at the multiplex. I wanted to see the place around and spend time with you. He did not give her a chance to reply. Anjali got reminded of the college day movies when they sat like two lovebirds watching some melodramatic movie and she always got emotional and he always laughed and made fun of her.
Walking bare foot on the sand at the beach with waves lashing at them was very soothing. Jai and Anjali sat on a rock watching the sea. The rise and fall of the waves, and the sun setting in the horizon was looking very beautiful. The shades of orange and blue gave it a look of an artistic painting. Anjali felt very relaxed. It had been ages since she had just sat on the beach doing nothing.
In one afternoon, they had caught up with each other’s lives. Both of them were happy and well settled in their respective lives. The only thing they lacked was close friendship, someone to whom they could pour their hearts out to without fearing the consequences. Jai told her that he always wanted to keep in touch with her, but feared how she would take it, given the Indian society norms. He also told her that he would have loved to marry her and he was heartbroken when she told him she was engaged.
The sun had set and the stars began to shine. The moonlight and the surroundings of the beach made the place look very romantic. “I really must leave now, it’s getting late” she said. “No way, you are having dinner with me. Can’t you give one day of your life, to a long lost friend?” How could Anjali refuse that?
They had a relatively quiet candlelit dinner in a restaurant close by. There was a live band playing. Jai dedicated a Jagjit Singh Ghazal for her. How sweet of him she thought. He still remembered her favourite song.
On the way home both were silent. Anjali had enjoyed her day very much. But then suddenly her thoughts went to Amit. Would he object to her day out with a male friend? In Indian society, once married, a woman going out on a date with a male friend is unheard of. How she wished she was a kid again! No explanations required for playing and having fun with anyone. She missed her freedom. As if reading her thoughts, the radio jockey played the song “Una paloma blanca, I’m just a bird in the sky…over the mountains I fly, yes no one can take my freedom away”
Jai hugged her and said, “Thanks for the lovely day!” They promised to keep in touch and took leave of each other with a lot of warmth.
With mixed feelings, Anjali let herself into the house. She was surprised to see the kids still up. “Where have you been Mom?” they came running to hug her. “Umm…, it was Mummy’s Day Out!”, Amit explained.