Her mobile phone rang. She saw the name and missed a heartbeat. “Hi Sarita, Welcome to Hyderabad!” The voice she had been waiting to hear! And now, why was she so nervous? “I’ll pick you up at your hotel at 9.30.” “Asif, I can take a taxi, you need not …..” but before she could finish he had already disconnected the phone.
Sarita was an urban Indian woman, working in the corporate world. She had a cushy and rather uneventful life till a few months ago, when her world just came crumbling down. Her husband of five years, Arun, had one evening come home and told her, “Sarita, this is just not working. I think we should reach a compromise. I promise our child Sonal will never feel my absence….” “Who is it?” she had tears in her eyes. His behavior had been suspect for some time, but then she had put the thought away. He was behaving very indifferently with her. Her life, sorrows, successes did not have any effect on him. He kept coming home late almost every day and cribbing about his office or about how tired he was.
“Hi, what a pleasure to see you again! Did you have breakfast?” Asif had not changed at all, she thought. Ever so loving and caring. “Asif, I could have gone by a taxi, you needn’t have taken all this trouble.” “No problem at all. I am off work today, so the whole day is for you. If your interview finishes soon, we can spend time together catching up,”
“But why do you want to leave such a big company and join us. You know we may not be able to match the salary you were drawing there”, she knew this question would definitely come up. “I am separated, and want to be away from my hometown.” “Do you have anyone here?” the interviewer asked her. How did that matter, she wondered. Indian mentality, never give an equal status to a woman, she thought. Why do they always think women need someone to lean on! “No” she replied. Or was that right, why had she chosen this place? Why not Mumbai which was much closer to her home town and her parents? She knew the answer, but ….
“How was it?” his smile was so enchanting she thought. She got reminded of her college days, when she would come and tell him her result and he would hug her. “Great, they are offering me a position which I think I will enjoy. Which means I will be troubling you much more now!” she said with a broad smile. She realized that it was a long time since she had felt nice and care free.
“So let’s celebrate. There is a nice restaurant close by that serves authentic Hyderabadi food. What say?” She was very hungry, she had lied to Asif that she had breakfast at the hotel. They had so much to share with each other. They caught up about old friends, and old time stories. Both looked like two kids, enjoying themselves thoroughly.
Sarita had avoided one thing. Telling him about her husband and the real reason why she wanted to leave her hometown. Asif also told her very little about himself. He just said that recently he had been promoted to Vice President Sales and it involved a lot of travelling. He did not mention anything about his family. She had not heard about him except that he had left for Hyderabad and not kept in touch with any of the friends in their group at college. Sarita also always avoided asking anyone personal questions.
They roamed around Hyderabad city. The museum, the zoo, the Hi-tech city. “I too have not gone to all these places in ages. The daily grind leaves no time for anything. Also you need a sweet companion like you for such things,” he grinned at her. She was taken aback with that remark.
“Please show madam something exclusive, something special” Asif was telling the shopkeeper. “Why did you do that? It is such an expensive set. I am not used to wearing that kind of jewellery”. Sarita was feeling very uncomfortable. “That is for you to remember me. Last time I did not give you anything and that is why you did not remember me for so many years!”
Time just flew and she was at the airport. “What a wonderful day. See you soon. Just let me know when you are coming” he fondly hugged her. They bid each other bye, but both knew that the day had changed their lives forever. Or was she just imagining things?
‘Thanks for all the beautiful moments today. Your friendship is treasured, see you soon’Her phone had this SMS.
Sarita’s first day at the office was equally eventful. She opened the letter given to her by the HR manager. When she saw the name of the person she had to report to, she could not believe her eyes. She almost ran down the corridor of the Corporate Office. For a moment looked at the name board, knocked the door and opened it. “Why did you not tell me that day?” she was almost shouting at Asif. “Well if I did, would you take the offer?” Sarita was still not able to comprehend why Asif had not told her that it was his company where she had applied for the job. “You once rejected my offer, I did not want it to happen again!” his voice was almost breaking. “But you know Asif, my parents would never accept a marriage outside my religion. I also suffered a lot after that. Many times I thought I should have never said ‘no’ to you.”
“Now ma’am let’s start to work. Otherwise both of us will be sent home!” he said in his usual joking way. Sarita seemed to have forgotten her past and was enjoying her work and life in Hyderabad. Sometimes she felt she was in college again, and she was spending time with her best friend Asif. She did not realize it was already two months since she had left home. She had left her daughter with her parents not to disturb her education. Soon her daughter would be joining her after her exams. “Asif, do you know any crèche around? My daughter will be joining me here and I would need to keep her at a crèche after her school till I go home. “What if I tell you that my house has a crèche?” he said. “Oh wow, does your wife run a crèche?” she asked almost excited. “No, my mother. I don’t have a wife yet!”
Sarita had her mouth open, “How come?” she could barely say. “When you fall in love with someone like you, you don’t need to have a formal marriage. Your memories kept me busy all these years!” he said hugging her closely. “I feel all this is a fairy tale, and I am like Cinderella who has found her prince charming!” she said.
“You were always my pretty princess! I am asking you once again, will you ……..?” Had she finally found her happiness? She was not sure, But…..
Now she understood the meaning of the words ‘Unconditional Love!’