It was raining outside. Sunil sat in his cosy armchair and vividly went through all the newspapers he gathered through the week. Sunday had its own charm for him… no office, no meetings, no sales figures, no targets. A cup of tea, a pack of cigarettes and heaps of newspapers made his d-day. And today was no exception, except for the fact that his maid was less likely to come. The weather was pretty bad. So, Sunil had no option other than to preparw the breakfast himself.
Sunil worked as a sales manager in a private limited company. He came here last month, taking charge of his company’s sales office. Still a bachelor, he stayed alone in a rented bungalow. A maid looked after his housekeeping and kitchen. His mother and brother stayed in Kolkata.
When Sunil picked up the frying pan in the kitchen, somebody knocked at the door. He went to the balcony and saw a girl waiting outside the grill gate, holding an umbrella. On seeing Sunil she said, “I’m Juhi; Nitu has sent me. She won’t come today. I’ll do the work for her.”
Sunil opened the grill gate and let her in. Then explained what she had to do. First she prepared the breakfast and other meals for Sunil, then cleaned the few utensils lying in the kitchen. After washing a pair of socks, a shirt and trousers in the washroom, she cleaned the floor of all rooms with water.
When she finished, she entered the living room and said to Sunil, “I’ve finished all the works. Can I leave now?”
Sunil said, “Yes, you can leave.” Then he looked outside through the window and said, “But I don’t think you will be able to go. It’s raining heavily; you better wait here. Let the rain stop, then you can go.”
Juhi was reluctant. She looked down and said softly, “I’ve my umbrella. I can go.”
Sunil asked her, “Do you have any other work?”
Juhi just nodded her head, which meant ‘no’.
Sunil said, “Then why go out now! Wait for some time here; I think it’ll be over in an hour.”
Juhi stayed back, eagerly waiting for the rain to stop. She sat on the floor and looked out through the front door.
It had been over half an hour but there was no improvement in the weather. Sunil lit a cigarette, went to the balcony and stayed there for a few moments. Then he returned to the room and said to Juhi, “It’s getting worse you know!” He sat on his armchair and asked, “How far is your house?”
Juhi said, “Not much.”
Sunil said, “Who stays with you?”
She said, “I stay alone.”
Sunil was stunned. He asked, “Why? Don’t you have parents?”
Juhi said, “I have, but they don’t stay here.”
Sunil asked, “Didn’t you marry?”
Juhi replied “No.”
Sunil carried on, “But you should’ve been married by now!”
Juhi said, “I know…”; and she looked down.
Now Sunil was inquisitive. He asked, “So… when you know, why aren’t you doing it?”
Juhi said, “Ten years back, I stayed with my parents in Noamundi. I was only sixteen then, and studied in a local school. It was for both boys and girls. I had a classmate called Ravi. He was my best friend. As we grew up we came closer to each other and our friendship turned into love. It was so intense that we couldn’t stay without each other for long. So we promised to marry. But one day Ravi and his parents left Noamundi. When I got the news, I secretly met him. He told me that wherever his parents are taking him, one day he would come back and marry me. Even I promised that I would wait for him. It’s over ten years now, and I’m still waiting.”
By now the rain came down to drizzling. Juhi got up quietly and moved out. Sunil covered his face with his hands and remained seated on the arm chair.
After sometime, Nitu, the original maid came. Sunil saw her and said, “What happened? It’s all over. Juhi has done it for you.”
Nitu exclaimed, “What! Who’s Juhi?”
Sunil confidently replied, “Why? You only sent her… she said you would not come today.”
Nitu couldn’t relate much. She said, “Who said I wouldn’t come? I got here late because of the rain.”
Sunil got up from his chair and asked Nitu, “You really didn’t send her?”
Nitu was out of words. She couldn’t make out what was happening. Anyway, she moved to the kitchen. Sunil lit another cigarette and sat on the armchair. Nitu came out of the kitchen in surprise and asked Sunil, “Who did all the work?”
Sunil kept quiet. And Nitu went away.
It was twelve noon. But for Sunil, time had stopped flying. The grill gate remained unlocked. The rain took its force. Black clouds covered the whole sky. Suddenly, it turned so dark, so gloomy. Sunil rested his head on the upper edge of the back rest of his armchair. He closed his eyes. Outside there was thunder and lightning. And inside, it was agony and regret.
In his sleep, Sunil went some fifteen years back. It was also a damp and gloomy day. He was just sixteen, sitting on the steps of a palatial building with his best friend Reema. He asked her, “Will you miss me?” Reema kept her head on his shoulder and said, “Yes, I’ll miss you.”
Teenage Sunil then caught Reema’s hand and said, “Believe me Reema, I really don’t like to leave you here and go. But I’ve no other choice. My father does a transferable job. He keeps on relocating. But I’ll come back one day and will take you with me. And we’ll stay together for the rest of our lives. I promise.”
Reema looked at Sunil’s innocent eyes, kissed on his forehead and said, “I’ll wait for you.”
Suddenly, Sunil woke up to a loud noise of thunder. It was a tumult outside and inside as well. The dream made him mad. He soliloquised, “No… I’ve no right to trifle with a girl’s life. I’m selfish. I haven’t kept my promise. I’ve deceived Reema. She must be waiting for me there. I must meet her, I must.”
The very next day Sunil set out for Raipur, where he spent his childhood with Reema. There he visited the house where Reema and her parents stayed. But he didn’t see Reema or her parents. The house owner told him that some five years back Reema’s father succumbed to a massive heart attack. After that Reema and her mother had to go through a tough time. One day they left Raipur and went away.
Sunil came back. He was frustrated but determined to find Reema. He searched the internet, online telephone and mobile phone directories, social networking portals, but couldn’t find her. After some futile attempts, he decided to stop. Now, he tried to find Juhi. It was only she who reminded him of his dreadful past. Her plight coincided with that of Reema’s. But nobody could guide him towards Juhi, and she forever remained a mystery.