A stream of memories filled her as she looked at them.
It was almost two years ago. It was at Marine Drive, and late in the evening. The sun was sinking slowly over the Arabian Sea, a large refulgent ball of flaming fire slowly being engulfed by the endless expanse of crimson stained water. The whole stretch of Marine Drive, from the Jawahar Bal Bhavan until the road ended abruptly at the Nariman Point was a favourite haunt for lovers, young and old, straight and gay. In the midst of such a multitude of couples, sat the couple in mention.
She was inspecting one of the bangles that he had handed over to her. It was one of the four that he had held in his hand. They were heavy. They were made of iron, it seems. He explained to her. Bengali women were supposed to wear a piece of iron touching their body all the time and so this bangle was created. Iron, which was then heavily worked in gold to make a bangle. He had told her its Bengali name, but she forgot. The bangle was beautiful and she held it up against the setting sun. the ochre of the bangle blended into the crimson of the sunset and it looked as if she had captured the sun for a moment within that little circle of hers. She felt the intricate handicraft work on the bangle as she ran her fingers through it and smiled at him.
“ These were my grandmother’s bangles. She had willed that these should pass onto my wife. I had picked them up from my mother last week when I had gone home to Kharagpur. Mother was reluctant to part with them, always worried about my gift to misplace valuables. But finally she relented. I thought you should them wear them. They belong to you now”.
Joy spilt onto the boulevard that hugged the sea. She embraced the gentleman. She was never the person to talk much, reticent and almost petrous in her emotion, and even now she expressed the gratitude by a tender squeeze alone. He moved close to her and planted a kiss on her neck, gently adjusting her hair backwards as he moved in to cuddle. A few couples saw this brazen expression of romance and smiled. A woman walking her dog stopped to watch, another woman dragged her kids ahead. An old man raised his fist in mock reproach. The couple in question didn’t seem to care.
Her mind whirled ahead, sifting through her memories, struggling to find peace and struggling to separate the layers in her mind and zero in on the particular evening which she wanted to remember. It was the monsoons and Bombay’s monsoons were always ruthless. It was the same couple, but the situation was different. They were sitting in a dank and damp café facing Marine Drive. She had always felt safe in this particular café, which served only vegetarian food, a lifestyle choice influenced by its propinquity to a large Jain housing society. Although Bombay had altered her in innumerable ways, it failed to shake her strict vegetarian dietary habits.
The gentleman was no longer gentle. He had suddenly assumed the role of a demonic nether-creature who was ripping her life apart deliberately. She had just returned the bangles to him, rather ruthlessly banged them on the countertop. She wanted to fling it at him, but she didn’t want to create a scene. She figured out that she had already drawn enough attention to herself . Her blood red eyes would certainly raise a few eyebrows. She knew the waiters well here.
“ Take them back. Give them to whichever whore you are sleeping around with right now. I don’t want them anymore. I just realised that these were not bangles. These were handcuffs. Handcuffs by which I had bound myself in some sort of a mental prison, pledging undying fidelity to you, while you sleep around”
“Paddy…!” he interjected, visibly flustered by this violent demonstration of hate.
“Don’t call me Paddy! You bastard! I hope you are dragged through Vaitarani and that you burn for a million years in the depths of hell.” She had lapsed into Tamil. She stood up and pushed the chair back with such noise that half of the café was now looking at her. She just didn’t care. She was tired of it all. The waiter had walked upto them. She recognised him as her regular. He tried to smile, unable to say anything.
She passed him a 1000 rupees note and said, “Don’t give the bill to that son on a bitch. Keep the rest as tip. I am not coming back to this place ever again”. She just walked out of the door into the evening rain. That was last year.