Ranikhet express reached Haldwani an hour late. Bhudeb was not happy. He chose the slow coach for its arrival time, so that he could check in when it is still dark. “Who knows, who will see him now? This blessed land is so full of people!” Irritated, Bhudeb boarded the chauffered driven car for hotel and moved straight to his room. For important guests like Bhudeb, hotel did not bother scrutiny at the reception. All formalities were taken care of online, Bhudev walked into his room. Bhudeb also was a good spender and tipped well.
In his spacious suite, Bhudeb sat by the large french window over-looking the mountain. Tomorrow, he will be among the mountains with Suhani. Bhudeb had met Suhani a few years back. Bhudeb was sitting alone in breakfast table. Suhani came and asked if she could join him. Both hit of almost instantaenously. Similar outlook to life, similar sense of humor, similar taste in food and music. They took off for the hills to spend more intimate time. They persisted with the ritual year after year. Today, it is part of Bhudeb’s yearly calendar.
Bhudeb enjoyed his time alone with Suhani. They would watch sun hide behind clouds and reappear to kiss the snow clad mountian peaks. Together, they will inhale fresh air smelling of flower carpeted meadow. He would walk holding her hands like a young teenager and love to get soaked in monsoon rain. At least, once a year, Bhudev would not mind losing his balance and falling in the mud. All because of her company and how eagerly he will wait for her hand, extended to pull him up, and drag her in the mud to join him. He became a kid in her company. In the evening they would watch the moon comeup from behind mountains, enjoy the quiet evening with ciccadas playing background music.
Normally, Suhani arrives by noon in her own car. Today, she did not show up till six in the evening.
“What is the problem? Did she have car trouble? Did she meet with any unforeseen accident? What will happen to their plan?”
Anxious thoughts flooded his mind. Eventually, anxiety replaced anger.
“Women! Can they ever be reliable! Is it easy for Bhudeb to take break from busy schedule? Who is he doing all this for? Ofcourse for Suhani. How she reciprocates!”
At last, he could not bear it any longer. Bhudeb, dialled the personal number that Suhani had shared with him for emergencies. After several rings, a male voice pickeup the number.,
“May I speak to Ms. Suhani please?”
After a bit of hesitation, the voice answered, “mother is no more. She breathed her last this afternoon. Are you a friend of hers? Please come to her fourth day ceremony.”
Bhudeb was stunned and speechless. He hung up the phone. Packed his bag and left for Delhi in a car.
“Afterall, he is a family man. He cannot be touched by such mess. How will he face his wife and children? What is he going to tell them? God is great!”