Maheshwari: “Hello!” Gary: “Hey, it’s me!”
Silence. Gary feels ill at ease for having made the call. Why is Maheshwari so uncommunicative? She wasn’t always like that, but that’s what she has become, he reckons.
After a few minutes: Mahi: “I know. All well?”
Gary: “Yes. Yes. So, I was calling…”
Mahi: “Yes Gary, I know you are–the question that leaps to the mind…”
Gary: “…is why. I understand. Can I call you tonight? I mean again?”
Mahi: “No Gary, I’m not in tonight. I’m busy. Can we just get on with it?”
Gary : “The thing is…Mahi… the…”
Mahi: “There’s always a thing Gary, there’s always a thing. Please tell me what you need now. Had I known… ”
Gary: “You wouldn’t have answered had you known; that’s why the landline. Alright, I’ll try. Myra is getting married.”
There is no response from Mahi. Gary shifts uncomfortably in his couch. He wonders if it had been a mistake calling Maheshwari suddenly out of the blue. Maybe he should have written to her first, or e-mailed her. He had forgotten how tough and hard she could be. The days when their romance was flowering, when he could predict her moods, when…well, those were long gone. He shrugged nonchalantly, awaiting a response, holding on to the receiver of the old landline, fervently praying that only good would come out of this impulsive call.
Gary: “Mahi, please, don’t disconnect. Myra has tried reaching you several times.”
Mahi: (Stifling her sobs) “I’m happy for Myra. Was that all then?”
Gary: “Don’t be that way, Mahi. I promise you she tried yet….”
Mahi: “And you could reach me but she hasn’t been able to, is that right?”
Gary: “That’s the truth Mahi, whether you like it or not. The fact is, you’ve kept us all at arm’s length Mahi.”
Mahi: “Have I now! It’s interesting to know you’re saying this after you took off the way you did.”
Gary: “I didn’t take off Mahi, I didn’t. I had to leave for the money. It’s possible for things to go wrong when you gamble your life’s earnings on property Mahi, it totally is.”
Mahi: “Those were OUR life’s earnings Gary, which you gambled away upon a property that I had… Oh, what’s the point of all that now? So when’s the wedding?”
Gary: “Glad you want to come, Mahi. I’m sorry about what happened, I truly am. But let’s meet up and talk. The wedding…”
Mahi: “I didn’t say I shall come, all I asked was when the wedding is.”
Gary winces. The silence that follows is deafening. A child is heard yelling in the background. There is a sound of papers rustling and someone drops a glass that jangles loudly, hurting his nerves.
Gary: “Just a second, Mahi.”
On the side: “Here Beena, just give this to your mom.”
Back to Mahi, “Oh, wouldn’t you want to give her away? Please Mahi, can’t you just let it all fall, let it all go?”
Mahi: “You’re the one to talk. When Gayatri begged for you to be there for her, you insisted that you’d be back in time for her marriage. Then there was Rohan – you never forgave me for letting him go horse-riding with your rival company, and then….”
Gary: “Stop right there Mahi, you and I both know we have got a long list of unforgiven moments, a tired past and a confused present. The last time we met, we had decided not to meet till we’d gone past this. We obviously haven’t. I mean you haven’t, I know I have.”
Mahi: “I had till you called. I believed I had. Your voice brings it all back too fiercely. Have you, really, now, now, have you?” Silence once again.
Gary: “Mahi, can I come over?” Mahi: “You mean, like right now?”
Gary: “Yes, I’m at the hospital; it’d take me an hour to get to you.” Concerned, Mahi ventures spontaneously, “Why are you at the hospital? Is everything all right?”
Amused, Gary laughs into the phone.
Gary: “Yes, I’m fine Mahi, I’m fine, thank you. Some work. May I?” A very long pause follows.. Mahi then says, matter of factly, realising she has shown concern in spite of herself, “All right.” An hour and a half later, a flustered Maheshwari opens her front door.
Mahi: “You’d said an hour Gary.”
Gary: “I had indeed.”
Mahi: “Do you want to come in?”
Gary: “Actually, no, I don’t want to. I’ve come to fetch you. Lock up won’t you!” Gary’s tone is unmistakable, and Maheshwari follows him into his car after locking up.
Mahi: “What’s up? Aren’t you going to tell me anything? I’m not up for any more squabbles tonight and honestly, I don’t like being surprised anymore. I know there must be an excellent reason why I’m sitting by your side in your car headed to some unknown destination. “
Gary: “Thanks for trusting me. Continue to do so till we reach.”
Mahi: (muttering to herself) “We already had, years ago.”
Gary: “Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
Mahi: “Not important. Some hint would be appreciated Gary.”
Gary: “Not telling. For a change, I’m in charge. Oops, wrong comment.”
They both laugh out loud. It’s a moment when both are themselves, unguarded and fully at ease and comfortable with each other.
Mahi: “Okay. I’m gonna try and guess.”
Gary: “Stop right there. There’s no way in hell you’ll guess, so just relax and enjoy being driven around, as rare as it is.”
Gary is grinning at his own comment now. He turns on the music. They both relax and ahead, the hospital lights are seen burning brightly.
Gary: “Here we are, brace yourself.”
Mahi: “What on earth! Who, I mean what… I mean who’s here? What’s up? Please Gary, this isn’t funny at all.”
Gary: “And not meant to be. Let’s go in.”
They park and go to the fourth floor, to the maternity ward. There, in the aisle are Rohan, Gayatri with her spouse Ram, and her other daughter Meera.
“MOM!!! Finally… hurry, Myra’s had a baby boy!” they say in unison. Maheshwari stops to take a breath. She’s in tears, and her children rush to her side as she sways in disbelief. “I thought Myra was…”
Gayatri: “Yes Ma, she is. But only next year, once the baby’s six months old. We’re thrilled she even wants to marry. And before you ask, she is marrying the father of the child mom, so relax.”
Gary: “So, was it worth waiting to reach and find out for yourself?”
Maheshwari: “Yes, I’m relieved above all, Gary. How and when did you pull this off, getting the family together?”
Gary: “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow night? I can fill in all the blanks you would want me to, I promise.” After a long pause, Gayatri, Rohan, Meera, cry out together: “Aw come on Mom, it’s dad after all! Say it…” “Yes, and I’ll leave yesterday’s baggage where it belongs, all of it, that’s a promise I’m willing to make.”
Gary and Maheshwari look at each other, their eyes misty. Gary opens his arms wide for Mahi to reach out to him if she will. She lets her guard down, smiles through her tears and returns his tight embrace. It seems as if all is forgiven and forgotten.
By Kamalini Natesan
ILLUSTRATIONS: PRAMOD JOSHI