The wind outside had been blowing softly. And the rat-ta-tat of the train not bothering the pace of their conversation. For an outsider they looked to be best of friends or perhaps sisters in certain cases, but nobody could guess that Srishti and Zoya had met only an hour back. On the station waiting for their train to Mumbai. And now after quick cups of tea and overflowing conversation they had practically read through each other’s life stories.
“Is something wrong? Are you waiting for someone’s call?” Srishti had constantly observed Zoya’s nervous looks towards the idle phone. And it was her fifteenth glance that got her to ask this impertinent question finally.
“It is my husband. I forgot to inform him before leaving,” Zoya replied sheepishly.
“He must be trying to call you. It is the weak signals on train journeys making connectivity impossible,” Srishti could sense that there was more to the emotions etched on Zoya’s face. Perhaps she was desperate for a return of call or something else.
Zoya smiled and dismissed the topic as quickly as it had arisen.
“But you are not planning to get married are you?” she asked a visibly younger Srishti.
“Well there is a man, of course only time can tell if he is the one,” Srishti replied, deep colours of embarrassment and love shading her cheeks.
“How far ahead are you in this relationship?” Zoya continued asking.
And Srishti’s answer was cut off by the sudden halt of the train and screeching noise of the alloy wheels.
“It is a station I believe, perhaps this will have better signals,” a rather shaky Zoya hurriedly got off the train with her phone.
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And after five minutes of desperately waiting for some connection, Zoya returned to the compartment.
“There does not seem to be any signal whatsoever,” her face paled at the sight that met her. She could feel her knees wobble and suddenly she sensed her whole world going upside down.
And in that moment she slumped onto the opposite seat.
“Are you okay?” Srishti suddenly reached out for her. 
Handing her a glass of water she observed Zoya constantly staring at the new man in the compartment. 
“Sudhanshu, the man I was talking about minutes back,” Srishti replied, smiling him denoting her sense of companionship.
“Because if you do not want to live in this house, you are free to leave,” his last words still rung in Zoya’s ears. The man whose call she had been desperately waiting for the last one hour was sitting right there in front of her.
“Hi,” she spoke quietly.
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With the occasional hushed voice of the two, Zoya had practically gone silent. She watched them together and sensed an emotion she could not describe. She knew her marriage had come to an end but watching the final nail being hit was hard on her.
And it wasn’t like it was easy for Sudhanshu. But the decision to remain quiet had been Zoya’s. He was waiting for her outburst, for her to tell the truth to Srishti. But with each moment her silence became more comfortable and her constant stare, less demeaning. She was accepting the change slowly but surely, he thought.
Beep Beep. Suddenly all three phones in the compartment rang.
“Thank God for the return of signals!” Srishti exclaimed.
“Honey there is an emergency meeting planned in Mumbai. Kids are at mum’s place. Love you miss you, Zoya. P.S forget the morning fight before I return. Sent 6:55 p.m” Reading the message Sudhanshu could feel his throat choke. 
“It is my mother’s message. I really need to speak to her,” Srishti announced this to no one in particular and left to place the call.
They were now alone. All these years there had been times they were left to each other’s company all day and had never mustered to say a hi sometimes. But now in that moment the presence of one another felt overbearing. Funny it was on a train journey where he had met Zoya, he remembered. She was a simple quaint girl from Lucknow back then, traveling to Mumbai for the first time. He had fallen for her right then and only a couple of coffees later he had proposed her.
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“You have been unusually quiet suddenly. Tell us more about your husband here,” Srishti’s peppy voice broke the seemingly stagnant silence.
Zoya looked up here eyes invariably moved over to Sudhanshu. His dead pan face like most of the times, did not indicate any answer. And so it was now up to her to make a choice. She looked at Srishti again. Her happy face and an almost young set of eyes made Zoya conclude rather quickly.
Zoya welled up inside. She didn’t know what to say and what not to say. She closed her eyes and smiled. “We have been married for now seven years. We met on a train journey and after two years of courtship we decided to get married. But our parents didn’t decide that. We eloped. A one room converted into kitchen drawing room bedroom became our first abode. We didn’t have anything back then. Over the years money flowed in and peace of mind out. And now our kids fill the gap that has been created between us due to our busy schedules”

“But you never told us his name” Srishti spoke innocently.


“Uzair”, Zoya replied softly. And her reply caused a ripple of memories to surface out of nowhere.

“But they would never accept a Sudhanshu in my life” Zoya repeated said these words.

“I’ll change my name honey, tell me your parents’ favourite name…nah nah don’t laugh I will change tell me I will I will” Sudhanshu’s youthful voice flawlessly caused her to relax under humour. 

“Its Uzair my mother’s distant relative’s sons name- also a prospective groom for me,”Zoya remembered replying.

“Zoya this is Uzair will you marry me, your mom seems to think I’m a prospective groom,”bending down on a knee with a wilted rose in his hands, Sudhanshu had spoken to those words to her seven years back.

For years they had laughed on this name, remembering the times they believed their love and not destiny to decide their life’s course. Parents, relatives friends and well-wishers all had abandoned them but yet their choice to be together had never. And to recall the pivot of this very choice tonight made them feel more uncomfortable. Knowing that what years of love and care from their parents couldn’t break was finished by the simple drudgery called life.

“I met Sudhanshu in a seminar in Mumbai,” Srishti spoke happily.

She locked her arms with the man on her side. Narrating the simple days he met her for coffee and how in those stolen moments of happiness she made him decide to move to Bangalore.

“I have spent my whole life here in Mumbai. How can you drag us out of this city in a moment of decision?” Zoya had screamed hearing his decision. 

“It is not you alone I need to think about. My life, my career such things still hold good for me,” his voice had gone a tone up with every passing sentence and minute.

“And where do I fit in your plan? I left my parents, my whole being for you. I created a home here and now again you are uprooting me for your own choice,” Zoya had found it appalling that he had not even considered her opinion in the matter.

“The move has already been made. I am leaving tomorrow. If you wish to follow me I will make arrangements for you to arrive by next week. Otherwise, I will be too happy to leave you to your own life,” his final words had broken her stand ultimately.

She looked up to find Sudhanshu staring at her. Zoya knew that he could sense what she was remembering. The clear reflection of her emotions was mirrored in his own eyes. She wondered if now looking back at all those days she was thankful for the presence of Srishti. So that she could have a guilt free pass out of her marriage.

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“What is it that makes people repel the idea of marriage?” Srishti’s innocent question caused a flurry of emotions both sides.

“Don’t talk to me like that. I work 10 hours six days a week, if every living Sunday you are going to nag me I might as well make that seven days working” Sudhanshu’s voice had scaled its maximum volume.

“You please do that Sudhanshu, because guess what all you have become for me is  life’s one problem I just can’t seem to get rid of- your one Sunday working would help me too” Zoya had snapped with an equally matched tone.

Zoya was snapped back to the present by something Srishti was asking her.

“What do you think?” Srishti seemed to be saying it twice over.

Zoya denoted incomprehension.

“Sudhanshu seems to think that marriage is the worst end to a great love. And it is often a bone of contention between us. I don’t know if he is comfortable with me saying it out in the open, but he is not so much in for the long haul commitment. And that is an issue. You tell me Zoya, after seven years of marriage what do you think?” Srishti spoke in a rush.

The rat-ta-tat of the train and the soft hum of the conversations in near-by compartments formed a slightly comforting background to Zoya. They denoted to her the average buzz of the world outside which made a very strange contrast to her own turmoil.

After seven years of marriage, she found her only love sitting across her hand in hand with another woman. A woman oblivious of the realities Zoya knew, today asked her a question whose answer only she was.

“When we are in love, we think about that person day and night, we imagine what life would be with him or her. We have heartaches because we dread that every moment spent away from him. Marriage is the remedy to all those heartaches and sleepless nights. But then we begin to take all those things for granted. If one day in the middle of your marriage you feel the same pang and same insecurity, you would come to know that the love is not dead but only dormant. Such wake up calls are important. But only if they are only wake up calls and not the end.” her voice couldn’t continue any further. It was as far as she could go in speaking her heart out.

Speaking her heart out, she had not done that in a really long time.

Sudhanshu felt a weird sensation run through his heart. He knew that every single word spoken by her was resonated in his mind too.He knew what she was saying was exactly the same thing he was feeling. All those years she was there and he never missed her. Sitting in that compartment only a couple of inches away, tonight he missed her. He feared he may have to spend his life without her.

And watching her take all of this so seamlessly he learnt the million reasons why he loved her so much, all over again.

But he knew he would ask of her way too much, to continue the marriage after tonight.

“Mumbai station,” a cheerful Srishti announced the end of the ordeal the journey had posed for the other two.

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And after two days she returned to Bangalore. She walked up to the house and was struggling to open the door when suddenly it flew open. There in front of her stood her two kids and Sudhanshu.

“Mumma,” the two of them quickly grabbed her for a hug.

Putting them down again she subtly acknowledged Sudhanshu in the hallway with a smile and went inside.

She never spoke a word about that night. She behaved like they were strangers who had met on a journey and gone seperate ways. She chose to remain quiet, she chose her need for him over the guilt of his crime. She convinced herself she was doing it for the sake of kids. But then in those weak moments, when no amount of convincing worked she quietly accepted how much her love had made her weak.

But he too on his part changed, he had started to come home sooner. Spent more time with kids, showered gifts on her. And even made efforts to help her with cooking. She thought this was his apology talking but sometimes the attention she entertained did make her hope against hope that this could be a reversal of fates. And in the next moment she remembered Srishti, moving her mind back to her life swiftly.

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“Zoya,” she heard someone call out her name. Turning around she saw Srishti.

“Hi,” Zoya found a weak voice leaving her mouth.

“How are you? We didn’t even exchange numbers that night!” Srishti’s voice still held the same spark.

“I am good,” Zoya replied softly.

“I got married, to someone else,” Srishti spoke in a hushed voice.

And moments later a young man walked to her side.

Zoya only nodded slightly and smiled. She was stunned to hear the latest development.

It was only after he went back to the billing counter that Srishti began to talk rather quickly ,” That morning in Mumbai, Sudhanshu called it off. I have no idea what got into him. But then he never called me after that, ever. I always wonder if there was something I said that night which ticked him off. He so much alright before that. Do you think I should not have mentioned that his commitment was an issue for me?” Srishti’s soft face coupled with a worrisome expression did mellow Zoya for a while.

Zoya shrugged her shoulders in response.

“Well who am I to say right? I am very happy now. Perhaps whatever happens, happens for our own good,” she replied happily.

This is an old plot which never turned out to be as I had expected. I refined and wrote it again. Here’s hoping you enjoyed it. I know it is rather long and must have gotten boring at some places..

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th-14th December 2013 and this post has been written for Day 6 which has the prompt as people.

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