Ritesh switches on his home computer. Every evening around 9 o’clock it is his habit to see the emails and reply if required. He checks the sender’s addresses and if it is from a known source, he opens the mail otherwise deletes straightway. These days majority of mails are junk mails. In spite of setting a filter to keep off the junk mails, it enters like the fine particles of dust into the computer system. Do whatever you like, you cannot stop them. While checking the mails he finds a mail coming from aparna with an attachment. Ritesh is very cautious about opening any attachment. He had a very bad experience of opening an attachment earlier. It stalled his computer programme completely as it carried some dangerous virus. Ritesh feels this name Aparna is quite well known but he is not able to place her. With a cautious mind he clicks the mouse twice and there it comes.
You may be wondering after 30 years why I am remembering you. It is simply in my own interest. I know you cannot turn down my request. My son had gone to U.S.A. to study and on 25th March night he is returning to India. He is arriving by Air France. I would have very much liked to be present at the Delhi airport to receive him but for my official appointment with a delegation of students from Europe under the exchange program, I have to be in Calcutta on that day. I being the head of the department of international politics of the university, I cannot escape this.
Moreover my son is coming via Delhi to meet the Resident Direct of an American Company. He has been appointed to be the next Resident Director and will be based in Kolkata. He will take charge from him and then only the present Director can leave for U.S.A. Delhi is new to my son. When I thought of a person who could help my son, you name came to my mind. I was not sure that you are in Delhi. I put your name on the Google search and I found not only the name of the company you are working for, your address, telephone numbers, emails etc. Then I decided to write to you. I have also attached a photograph of my son with this email. You will definitely find a similarity between my son and myself. I am sure you have not forgotten my face as I have not yours.
You have to receive him from the airport and keep him with you that night or put him in a good hotel near to your house. Next morning that is on 26th he has an appointment to meet the Director at 10. a.m. I would be grateful if you could accompany him for this appointment. Then you can have a lunch with him and around 5 p.m. put him in Rajdhani Express bound for Calcutta. Your work will be over. In the mean time you have to buy a ticket for him. You can buy it through internet, my credit card number is : XXXXX 2246 and the expiry date is 02/12. My son’s name is : Saibal Chatterjee, age: 26.
I will be ever obliged to you.
Ritesh again and again read the letter. He finds the same depth of affinity that Aparna used to feel in those days. Does she want to come closer to Ritesh? He is afraid to think about it. What a change has come over to him! Such show of love during the college days would have made him mad with excitement. Today he is scared! What has happened to him! Ritesh consoles himself saying the times have changed. He is no more that young lad as he used to be. Now he is confined to the ‘Laxman Rekha’ of marriage and bound by societal morality. He cannot dare to break away from it. What a life? Ritesh laughs at himself.
But how can he control his mind that wants to run back 33 years before! The first day of their meeting is still fresh in his memory. Ritesh was in 3rd year commerce and Aparna in first year Arts. There was a debating competition in the college. Ritesh was arguing in favour of higher education for women. The hall was full to the capacity. The faculty and the students were all present. Ritesh argued so eloquently that there was no doubt that his team would win. Aparna was present with her first year students. Throughout Ritesh’s argument Aparna was listening to his point of view intently. Ritesh read in the book by Dale Carnegie that while you speak look at the eyes of such people who are attentively listening to you. Ritesh found Aparna suits that definition. Once the debate was over Aparna came herself to thank Ritesh. That was the beginning. For the next three years they came very close to each other. Not even a single day would pass without seeing one another. The college ground, the lake, the park still haunts Ritesh whenever he goes to his native place with his family. But the destiny willed it otherwise. Ritesh had to come away to Delhi and Aparna to move out to Kolkata. While Ritesh changed his place in search of a good prospect as in his native place no suitable opening he could find, Aparna had to move out after her marriage. Being far off from sight things went out of hands as Aparna’s family could not wait for Ritesh to settle and marry Aparna. They had a very good prospective groom, an Indian born American citizen having his own consultancy firm in Philadelphia. Aparna could not go against his parent’s wishes because she knew with what difficulty she was brought up by them. Aparna could not afford a luxury like a love marriage unless her parents agreed.
At that time Ritesh was also struggling in Delhi to keep himself afloat, the problem of language, climate, a good accommodation, a good job all kept him so busy that he could not think of marrying immediately. On the other hand, Aparna’s family could not wait. Moreover when such a lucrative match was offered to them, they simply could not say, no. “Are you coming?” Enquires Shristi, my wife, from the bedroom. “I am through. I am going to bed”
“Yes, I am coming; let me close down the windows. Ritesh is in a fix. Should he reveal that Saibal, son of Aparna is coming to their house for a day. He argues with himself. Although Ritesh already told Shristi how close they were. But for her it was all in imagination. But when Saibal comes in flesh and blood will Shristi be able to accept him? Can any women feel at ease when past connection of her husband stands before her as the present? Ritesh cannot think. Or will that create a new fissure in her mind? The relationship Ritesh and Shristi has been cordial overall, except she cannot take any comment against her relations. Understanding this psychological aspect, Ritesh always has been cautious about talking of her relations. The warmth of love which Ritesh experienced with Aparna was stored deep down into his memory and it is impossible for him to forget it completely.
Aparna’s letter has opened up that old memory box.
P.S.: Saibal did not come finally. Ritesh got a call in his office that Saibal had to change his program and decided to stay on in USA itself.