Anu and Sanjib’s party continued past midnight before they all decided to call it a day. Harry accompanied Swapna to her apartment at Napean Sea Road. With Natasha away studying in Houston, the flat was vacant. Khush took Aneesha home and Shamiq went along with Anita.
Once in the car, Swapna came up with an unexpected query. “Where’s Sonal now?”
“I have no idea,” replied Harry. “I last met her more than fifty years ago. We’ve had no contact.”
“Were the two of you in a relationship?”
“We loved each other’s company, and we both got serious about our studies. I was studying engineering in Baroda and gradually we lost touch. There were no mobile phones at that time.”
“Did she get married?”
“I hope so, though she was not the marrying kind. Her dad had made enough money and left enough property for her. He lived in the hope that she would get married, but alas, he did not live that long. She’s an independent sort and very stable. She would correct me in many ways when we lived together for a year and a half before she went to her aunt in New Jersey for her graduation. At Sydenham College she would attend the lectures she liked but did not complete her B.Com. course. I could see that she was working hard for something she did not tell me about. She used to be highly critical of doctors and medical researchers for not finding a cure for cancer. She would echo her dad’s views that a doctor’s job is to teach, not treat. Suppressing the disease is all we know. It amounts to a money-making racket for them, drug manufacturers and researchers. Drugs with multiple side effects suppress the disease but it revives with a vengeance.”
“She seemed to have made an impression on you.”
“Yes. She was intelligent, interesting and loving.”
“How many affairs have you had?”
“Not many, after we had to breakup after a decade.”
“That was tragic but we outgrew our attachment, and what remains is pure love. I love you because you love the world.”
“Muhabbat sirf ek se kyun, Khuda to hum sab mein hai. Muhabbat Khuda hai, ye elaan har mazhab mein hai.”
“Wah! You’re such a pet.” Swapna hugged Harry and he responded by kissing her.
They spend the night together in bliss, entangled under a quilt. After a late breakfast the next morning, both set off for work.
Tragedy struck the following morning. Harry was in the shower, grooving to the music playing at full blast when he slipped on the soap, hit his head on the shower mixer tap and fell unconscious on the floor.
A little later Anita and Shamiq came to the house to collect Anita’s personal effects. They came unannounced as Harry wouldn’t answer the doorbell nor answer the phone. Anita went about packing her clothes in her bags. Shamiq noticed water gushing out from under the bathroom door. They banged on the door but to no avail. Anita opened it with the door key and screamed her head off at the sight inside.
Shamiq came to the rescue. He turned off the tap and called Khush. An ambulance was called for. Khush and Swapna arrived and between all of them, they carried Harry to his bedroom. Khush pumped him back to life. The ambulance arrived soon. Swapna grabbed on to Harry, whispering in his ears, as tears trickled down her cheeks. There was no reaction. All seemed to be over. Harry was dead to the world.
To be continued…