For the next seven days Feroz visited the hospital and stayed with Sandhya for an hour or so. She looked forward to his calls more than from her other acquaintances. She did most of the talking and he listened silently, often interjecting to make the conversation livelier.
“So, why journalism? You could have joined your father, by passing the IAS exam,” he asked her.
“Someone has said ‘ Bureaucracy kills people’s ability to try new ideas. My mind is filled with ideas, I want a platform to express it,” she said.
“Will it be future Barbara Walters or Gloria Steinhem?” He asked.
“Neither, only Sandhya Misra?” She replied.
His cousin and her apartment mate Salma joined a firm in Boston leaving her to live alone. She had friends but they were comfortable in their apartments and townhouses. Feroz dropped in once in a while and they went out for coffee or walks.
“Why have you taken up an MBA and not something more creative?” She asked him as they sat sipping Coffee at the Starbuck store.
“What’s wrong with studying MBA? I can always get cracking with a Start Up,” he replied with a smile.
“You require IT knowledge for that,” she said.
“I am a B Tech in computer science,” he replied.
“Any ‘ideas’ that you are playing with?” She asked.
“Many,” he replied.
“OK, tell me one! Would love to hear,” she spoke enthusiastically. He looked at her with a whimsical smile and took out his mobile.
“You are aware that this mobile has a number of applications which we use for various purposes. I am going to develop one which reads your mind, records your thoughts and stores it. This application would easily be downloded on all smartphones and when a person’s eye contacts it at a reasonable distance, it starts doing its job ” he said.
“Wow! Really! I will have to always wear dark glasses, even at night,” she said and laughed.
He kept looking at her as she laughed, shook her head, wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand and smoothened her hair.
“Liba!” He whispered.
“What? Say again,” she said.
“You are Liba. To the world you are Sandhya, to me you are Liba,” he said looking into her eyes.
She frowned and lowered her head, and after a while faced him with a jesting look.
“What does Liba mean?” She asked.
“Much better than, twilight, evening, expiration of an age or yuga and so on and so forth,” he replied.
“Yes, that is Sandhya. But what is Liba?” She persisted.
“Ah Liba! The most beautiful lady on earth and in heaven!” He raised his hands and exclaimed.
Tears rolled down her eyes, she bent forward, held his hands and kissed them.
“You do lie sometimes!” She told him.
The frequency of their meetings increased, it was more or less everyday and unannounced. Many times Sandhya dropped in at Feroz’s residence and they cooked the meal together. Feroz very often brought the groceries for her on weekdays. On weekends they either spent their time at the multiplexes for movies or visited some famous landmark in New York. Often Sandhya invited him to her apartment to assist her in her project studies. They spent late night hours resolving the minute details, however Feroz never stayed back.
The years passed quickly, their examinations had ended and they were eagerly awaiting the Convocation ceremony, for which both had invited their parents.
“Will you marry me?” Feroz asked her when they were returning after watching a movie.
“Yes. I was afraid you would not ask me,” she said.
“If I had not asked?” He enquired in a soft voice.
“I was going to ask you,” she said and snuggled close to him.
“I will ask my father to give the proposal to your parents,” he said.
“That will be nice,” she said.
The mobile phone ringing disturbed his thoughts and he came out of his reverie. He looked at his watch; it was 5 am. He picked up the mobile and noticed that Sandhya was calling him.
“Good morning, where are you?” He asked her.
“I am at home. We are about to leave to catch the flight to Delhi,” she said.
“We?” He asked in a worried voice.
“Yes, my parents have told me to return with them. What should I do?” She asked.
He remained silent, the shock numbed him and despair seized him.
“Tell me what should I do?” She repeated.
“I..I am tongue tied. I just can not think. Lend me a while,” he said. She kept holding the phone while Feroz attempted to bring in a resemblance of normalcy. It was after quite some time he collected his nerves and spoke.
“I do not want you to do anything for which you will repent later. I had not visualized that this religious issue will divide and separate us. I was mistaken, I should have married you when we had agreed to. Now it appears that there are many lives and relationships at stake. My parents have agreed though reluctantly. Your parents are adamant, not realizing that they are playing with our lives. We have as much right to live our lives as they have. Religion forms a very small issue in our lives; we are so busy with many other worldly matters that very often do not even realize its necessity and ignore it,” he spoke with a heavy heart.
“Should I leave my parents?” She asked.
“The answer lies in your question,” he said.
“Yes you are right. I should be there with you and not asking questions!” She said and cried.
“Farewell my Liba! Do not cry. We were good friends and let that remain. Think of the future, the past remains in the past, to be remembered only for the good happenings in our lives,” he said with a loud sigh.
“Yes, let us become strangers again, not knowing and not meeting each other,” she cried out.
“Yes, let us become strangers again. Now go and join your parents,” he pleaded.
“Thank you. Good bye,” she sobbed and disconnected the call.
Feroz informed his parents and told them that he was prepared to marry any girl of their choice after two years. Sandhya joined a College in New Delhi as a lecturer. Whenever her parents spoke to her about her marriage, she asked them to give her some more time.
To be continued ,,,,,,,