"Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights.”
“Hello, can I talk to Mr. Peterson?”, Akanksha called up Jennifer’s dad the next day.
“Hello. May I know who is this?”, the female voice on the other end asked.
“Actually I am a friend of Jennifer. Jennifer Peterson. I don’t have her phone number, so I was wondering if I could get it from you”, Akanksha said politely.
“Really? And may I know who’s calling”, the lady replied.
“Am I speaking to Jennifer?”, asked Akanksha guessing the lady would be Jen.
“Yes. I am Jennifer. And your name please?” she asked.
Akanksha wasn’t expecting Jen to respond. She just intended to take the contact number from her and push Pratham to make a call. She did not know what to say next.
“Jennifer. I am Akanksha. You don’t know me, but I do”, she started, all abruptly, not knowing how to take the conversation forward.
“Alright. And how do you know me, and what I can I do for you?”, Jennifer asked.
“I want to meet you”, Akanksha proposed.
“But why? I don’t even know you.”, Jenny sounded confused.
“I am Pratham’s wife”, Akanksha spoke slowly, putting in a lot of efforts and audacity.
Jen went silent. She exactly knew which Pratham Akanksha was talking about. Jen knew only one Pratham. She wondered what to say, but she realized that the person on the other end, Pratham’s wife, was expecting a reply. She finally spoke.
“Is Pratham ok?”, Jen asked, mulling over the reason why Akanksha would have called.
“Yes, he is fine. Can we meet you Jennifer?”, Akanksha asked.
“Why? What’s the point? I don’t understand why you've called me now”, Jennifer had many more questions.
“I don’t know Jen. All I know is Pratham needs to see you, as much as you need to see him”, Akanksha spoke.
“I don’t need to see anyone, Madam”, Jennifer replied.
“I would appreciate if you please give it a thought”, Akanksha said.
“There’s nothing left to think. Moreover I am in the middle of something really important. Please do not consider calling me back. I hope you understand. Thank you very much”, Jen spoke in a straight tone and hung the phone.
Akanksha had nothing more to say. She did not know what could be done. She considered going to Delhi and giving a visit to Jennifer, directly without intimation. But she thought how she would convince Pratham.
The Mumbai rains were unexpected, yet soothing. Pratham walked in the premises of his building and felt the rain falling directly on him. The raindrops fell straight on his body, soaking him entirely. The rain seemed comparable to his guilt, as it drenched him completely, and he, willingly allowed himself to drown deeper into the guilt.
He washed his feet in a small pool of water that was accumulated near the gate. He stood there as he saw a car pass over another pool and splash water over him, dirtying his apparels. He smiled. He felt humiliated, but that was the worst that could happen to him. After a damp introspection he finally appeared a bit uncomplicated, and seemed resolved about something. He was totally oblivious of Akanksha’s efforts.
He went up to his apartment and opened the door. Akanksha saw him all drenched. She smiled and said, “Unexpected rains… huh… Splendid, nonetheless”.
“Hmm”, Pratham added and sat on the chair.
“Here, towel”, Akanksha offered.
Pratham looked at her. He kept staring at her until she came near him and wiped off his face, and dried his hair. Pratham’s head reached Akanksha’s chest as she moved her fingers through his scanty hair. He slowly rested his head on Akanksha. She put her arms around his neck and bent down to plant a kiss on his forehead. The intimacy was coming naturally to both of them.
“We are leaving for Delhi tomorrow morning”, Akanksha whispered.
Pratham turned around, letting himself off from her arms, looked up and gawked at his wife. He kept looking until Akanksha asked “What?”, fearing he might not like it.
“Nothing”, he said and seized her tightly holding her by her waist. She could feel Pratham’s bare skin, as she felt his wet clothes soaking her clothes too.
Pratham realized that he was making his weakness very apparent. He immediately moved behind and asked Akanksha ,”Did you talk to her?”
“What did she say?”, he asked.
“Nothing. We are going to see her tomorrow. Ok?”, Akanksha said.
“I don’t know, Akshu”, Pratham said, though he desperately wanted to meet Jennifer, confront her and finally be at peace.
“Change, and go to sleep Pratham. We leave at 7 in the morning”, Akanksha declared and left.
Pratham wondered how his life had changed, all of a sudden. A few days back he had almost given up looking for a reason, a purpose, trying to discover himself, and now he was being forced into a totally unexpected revelation. He had no clue, whether this was another chance to feel powerful or was this just an illusion. He thought, had it not been for Akanksha, he would have not been able to go this far. He felt like a loser again. But thought, that probably, people like him do require a push in life. He accepted the little help that he was getting and decided to take it on alone from this point.
He decided to speak to Akanksha.
“Akshu”, Pratham called out.
“Ya”, she replied from the other room.
“I am going to Delhi alone”, he said.
“But..”,Akanksha looked clueless.
“Please, let me do this alone”, Pratham said.
“Ok. Jen’s at her father’s place. Hope you have the address”, Akanksha said wondering whether Pratham would take it prudently.
“Alright. Thank you so much, Akshu. I mean it”, Pratham looked into her eyes and spoke.
Akanksha smiled and said “Please come back soon and stay connected”
Pratham took in Akanksha’s apprenhension and gave her an assurance that she needn’t be worried about him. He said, “Bring back Sania and Soham. I’ll get something for them from Delhi. I’ll come back on Sunday. ”
Akanksha trusted Pratham and felt secure. She had nothing more to lose at this point. She bravely allowed her husband to go and seek his long lost love.
Pratham landed in Delhi, headed straight towards Kalkaji, where Jennifer's father stayed. He picked up a bunch of white lilies, her favourite. He had no clue, how he would greet her. He was confused whether he should feel happy, tensed, or sad. Amidst all the confusion, he knew one thing - he felt lighter, in his mind and heart, both.
He reached the given address and saw the name plate "K.G.Peterson". He saw a cross on the door. He was an atheist, but at this point he wouldn't have minded a divine intervention.
He took a deep breath and rung the doorbell.
As per his expectations, Jen attended the door.
"Jen. Hi..", Pratham said.
Jennifer knew Pratham would turn up. She stood there still, and kept looking at him. He had changed a lot since she had last seen him. He had put on weight, his dressing style had changed, he looked older, and his face had lost the spark.
"Jen", Pratham called out her name sympathetically.
Jennifer gave him a tight slap on his face. Pratham was shocked. He took sometime to gain back his senses.
"Asshole", she said.
Pratham smiled shamelessly, travelling back in time, recollecting how effortlessly Jen used expletives. This was the Jen he was looking for since long, and finally he knew, where he would find his peace.
…to be contd
Onto Chapter 12: Hope and Chance
Back to Chapter 10: Joining the Dots