Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Never To Return - A Short Story by Arin Paul

Shekhar & Rimi were sitting at this quaint restaurant sipping their drinks. There had been a silence between them which seemed like eternity. Rimi broke the silence at last. “It’s difficult for life to go on this way”, she said. Shekhar replied “It was what it was because they had chosen it to be that way”. Rimi looked at him hard. She recalled their strong friendship during college days. They had done everything together. Right from exchanging notes, getting involved in college politics to watching good theater to sitting in the library reading two copies of the same book and exchanging thoughts through looks as they would be asked to leave if they spoke. And now they were both married to their respective spouses and settled in life.

Shekhar and Rimi were settled. Both had their respective family, their home and most of the basic things they could afford. Yet something had been unsettling them over the last few months. They were not happy in their marriages. Shekhar’s wife Chandra was a housewife. Shekhar’s ordinary government job and meagre salary could not afford the luxuries which are offered nowadays to the so called middle class. Chandra would be envious of their neighbour’s possessions and vent her frustrations out on Shekhar. This had become an everyday affair in Shekhar’s household. Their six year old son Toto was witness to his parents’ everyday squabbles and helplessly accepted this sad reality crying silent tears secretly once in a while. Things were not very happening in Rimi’s life either. Rimi’s husband Arnab had his own business and was a very busy man. Rimi herself was working with an MNC and had a hectic schedule. But she still managed to find time for home and family, expecting Arnab to be able to do the same. Arnab however had never been able to mange that and had never given it a thought either. Rimi was an introvert and never expressed her feelings regarding the matter. As a result, in due course of time, monotony had gradually set in to their marriage. They hardly got to meet each other and whatever little they did, hardly any words got exchanged.

Under these circumstances, both Shekhar and Rimi were wanting to get away from it all forever. But a sense of commitment had always held them back. So one day, although they had almost lost touch with each other, they decided to meet up to share their feelings and experiences about their current existence. After a few drinks, both were a bit high and emotions had started pouring out. They finally decided that they’ll end all this agony and run away somewhere far off. Somewhere – where nobody could reach them, find them or hurt them. They would sit for hours on end and chat like they used to during college days and spend the rest of their lives at peace. It was decided that right at the beginning of the following week they would push off to some quaint unknown place in the hills and settle there. They decided to rent a car so that no one could track them through the ticket reservation programs in railways or airports.

The following week, as planned, they had hit the road. As they drove along, the two talked about their respective marriages and recalled many an incident that had made their marriage so sour. Down the winding road the car flew as the two shared their painful lives which the two were today desperately running away from. As they stopped for tea, a middle-aged gentleman Sankar Ghosh asked for a lift in their car for a short distance. Shekhar was initially hesitant, but Rimi told him what would be the harm in helping this stranger since this poor man would be stranded in the middle of nowhere, where nothing but this shanty serving tea stood. So Shekhar hesitatingly agreed and continued their journey with this stranger in their car.

As they realized soon, this stranger was extremely talkative. In fact, not only was he talkative, he basically talked of meaningless things and had strange stupid opinions about everything around. What was even more irritating, was that whenever Shekhar and Rimi started talking amongst themselves, he would intervene and had some point he wanted to make relating to their conversation. And in most cases what he had to say seemed meaningless and extremely stupid. As this man went on blabbering, he would sometimes get into these philosophical bents of mind which was even worse because his philosophical thoughts, though extremely hilarious and weird at times, could bore one to hell. Shekhar and Rimi were starting to get more and more irritated as time went by and were desperately wishing this man would get off soon.

Thought it was quite a while before Sankar ultimately got down, his getting down came as a big relief to both Shekhar and Rimi. As they continued to travel, they now had the chance to discuss this strange man and have a big laugh over it. As they did so, they started pondering over the stupid things this man had been saying and started looking at his stupid thoughts and statements from a different perspective, thereby looking at their respective marriages from a whole new perspective. As they started doing that they started remembering the good moments of their marriages which they had never given a thought to amidst the hustle and bustle of their chaotic lives. Maybe their respective marriages deserved another chance. Maybe they could try and mend things and start all over again looking at life from a completely different angle. Why not? Why should they leave and run away from something that still had the potential of becoming something so beautiful. They decided to return and try again, this time more dedicatedly and passionately.

They asked the driver to turn around. As the sun set across the horizon spreading a soothing red glow across the heavens, Shekhar and Rimi could feel the last glows of the setting sun lighting up their lives again. Their day was not ending. They were simply returning to a new beginning.

Never To Return - A Short Story by Arin Paul | WBRi Online Magazine

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