1. This story happened 45 years ago in the 1970’s much before the advent of internet, emails and mobile phones – and at that point of time – writing letters and sending them by post was the normal mode of communication which happened at “snail’s pace” unlike the Instant Messaging, WhatsApp, Zoom Calls etc. in vogue today.
2. In the story – I have used names of cities prevalent at that time – in the 1970’s – Mumbai was called Bombay – Chennai was called Madras – Kochi was called Cochin – but – Pune was called Pune – the name of Pune had been changed from Poona to Pune – a few years earlier – in the 1960’s.
It was a “spur of the moment” decision – to “break-journey” at Pune.
The time was around 11 PM – late at night – as the Madras Bombay Mail approached Pune Railway Station.
And suddenly – I felt a desperate yearning to meet Nisha.
So – I went to the Train Conductor (TC) and told him that I wanted to “break-journey” at Pune.
The TC came with me down the corridor to the First-Class coupe compartment which I was occupying alone and asked me for my ticket.
I handed him my Military Railway Warrant and Check Soldier Ticket (CST).
“Cochin Harbour Terminus to Bombay VT via Madras Central…” the TC said to himself – as if calculating something – and then – he said to me: “Sir – you have travelled more than 1500 kilometers – you can break journey for 48 hours – 2 days…”
“I want to stay one day in Pune – that’s all…” I said to him.
“No problem, Sir – you can stay longer if you want to…” he said.
The TC endorsed “Break Journey at Pune” – wrote the date – and time (2300 Hrs) – on the reverse of the Railway Warrant.
I quickly rolled up and secured my “hold-all” which was spread on the berth – then – I pulled out my steel trunk from under my seat – and – I picked my handbag from the overhead luggage rack.
Soon – the train stopped on the platform – and – the TC sent a porter to my compartment.
I deposited my steel trunk and “hold-all” in the left-luggage cloak room – and with handbag around my shoulder – I walked out of Pune Railway Station – hailed an auto-rickshaw – and told the driver Nisha’s home address.
Though I was visiting Nisha’s home in Pune for the first time – I knew Nisha’s home address by heart – I still had in my wallet the chit she had given me in Cochin – and – I had written so many letters to her in the last three months.
Nisha’s 2 BHK flat was in a residential society not far from the railway station.
I rang the doorbell of Nisha’s flat – and – I waited for the door to open.
The door remained closed.
Maybe – Nisha was asleep.
I wondered how Nisha would look – disheveled – woken up from her bed at midnight.
But – I knew she would look good – because she was a natural beauty.
And – of course – if you are desperately in love with a woman – she always looks beautiful to you.
I rang the doorbell again.
The door opened.
It was a man who opened the door.
I felt puzzled.
I had expected to see Nisha – and instead – a strange man was standing in front of me.
“I wanted to meet Nisha…” I said to the man, “does she live here…?”
“Yes – she lives here…” the man said, “I will call her. You wait here…”
I noted that the man had not asked me to come inside – he had asked me to wait outside.
He went inside.
A few minutes later – Nisha emerged – along with the man – who stood next to her.
When Nisha saw me – she looked at me as if she had seen a ghost.
“What are you doing here…?” Nisha said, “you had written that you would be joining your ship in Bombay…”
“I have to join ship on Monday morning – so – I decided to “break journey” at Pune and spend the weekend with you…” I said to Nisha.
“Oh…” Nisha said to me – still looking a bit befuddled.
Then – she looked at the man standing next to her – and she said to him: “You go inside…”
The man went inside – to another room.
“Won’t you ask me to come in…?” I said to Nisha.
“Yes. Yes. Please come in…” she said.
“You don’t seem to be happy to see me…” I said to her.
“It’s almost midnight – I was in deep sleep – and suddenly – you land up here out of the blue – unannounced – so – obviously – I am feeling a bit confused…” she said.
I went inside – I kept my handbag on the table near the door – and – I walked towards the sofa in the living room.
In front of the sofa – there was a table – on which there was a half-finished bottle of whisky – an ash-tray full of cigarette stubs – two empty glasses – and a jug of water, ice-bucket and a bottle of cola. There was also an empty carton of a famous brand of pizza.
“Having a party…?” I asked Nisha.
“No – we just ordered a pizza…” Nisha said, “why don’t you sit down…? Should I get you something – a glass of water…?”
“No…” I said, sitting down.
Nisha sat down on the sofa opposite me.
“I didn’t know you smoke and drink…” I said to Nisha.
“Not me – it was him…” Nisha said.
“Who is that man…?” I asked Nisha.
“He is my husband…” Nisha said.
“What…? He is your husband…?” I said, taken aback – then – I looked at Nisha and said, “You told me that you were divorced…”
“I meant ex-husband…” Nisha said, “Yes – I am divorced…”
“Are you properly divorced – or are you just separated…?” I asked her.
“We got divorced one year ago…” Nisha said, looking anxious, “Do you want to see the papers…?”
“No…” I said, “but – I want to know what he is doing here…?”
“He came to visit our daughter…” Nisha said.
“He divorced you – what is the need for him to come here to your house…?” I said angrily.
“He has got visitation rights – I have got custody of our daughter – but he can visit her on weekends…” Nisha said.
“But – why does your ex-husband want to keep seeing your daughter even after divorcing you…?” I asked her.
“He is her father – he loves our daughter – he has got every right to meet her…” Nisha said.
“He can meet her outside…” I said, indignantly.
“Where outside…?” Nisha said, “He lives in Delhi – he flies down to Pune once or twice a month to see our daughter – this time he has come after nearly a month…”
“If he loves your daughter so much – why doesn’t he take your daughter to live with him in Delhi…?” I said, agitatedly.
“What are you saying…?” Nisha said, looking distraught, “My daughter is just 3 years old – that’s why I have got custody…”
“But – he will keep visiting you to see your daughter forever…?” I said, brusquely.
“He is her father – he has got visitation rights…” she said.
“Stop saying the same thing again and again…” I said curtly, “forget about the legal aspects – you just tell him not to come – you firmly tell him that there is no need for him to visit your daughter now that you have divorced him – tell him to move on in life – maybe he will listen to you if you tell him firmly…”
“Please be reasonable…” Nisha said, “a small child needs the affection of both parents – my daughter loves her father – and he loves her too…”
“I am very uncomfortable seeing him in your house…” I said to Nisha.
“Actually – it is his house – he owns this flat – after our divorce – he moved to Delhi – and – he let us stay here…” Nisha said.
“But – why the drinking – smoking – and sleeping inside…?” I said, snappily.
“He is sleeping in a separate room – my daughter and I are in the main bedroom – and he is in the guest bedroom…” Nisha said.
“So – there is no place for me…” I said, tersely.
“We will manage – first – I will make you some coffee – or – would you like to have a drink…?” Nisha said, looking at the bottle of whisky.
“I am going…” I said, “I made a mistake – breaking my journey in Pune to see you – I should have gone straight to Bombay as planned…”
I got up from the sofa.
“Please stay…” Nisha said, looking distraught, “if you want – I will ask him to go – he can go and stay in a hotel or something…”
“How can you ask your ex-husband to go…? He owns this house – doesn’t he…?” I said, sarcastically.
I walked to the door and picked up my bag.
Nisha came to me and held my hand.
“Please don’t go – please – please – please – please – please – I beg you – please don’t go…” she beseeched me.
I could see tears well up in her eyes.
I shrugged off her hand – and – I turned around.
Then – I opened the door – I walked out – and – shut the door.
I walked towards the railway station – the long walk helped me calm down and compose my thoughts.
I decided to close this “Nisha” chapter of my life – and move on.
A few months later when my ship berthed in Cochin – I had a visitor – Nisha’s brother – my course-mate.
“What happened…? Nisha wrote so many letters to you – but you didn’t reply. You didn’t reply to my letters too…” he said, “we thought you would marry Nisha – you knew all about her – you said you were ready to accept her daughter…”
“Yes – I am ready to accept her daughter – but – I am not ready to accept her husband...” I said to Nisha’s brother.
“Didn’t you read Nisha’s letters…? She has told her ex-husband that she wants him totally out of her life once she gets married to you – she has told him that he cannot visit his daughter – and – he has agreed…” Nisha’s brother said.
“That’s a cruel thing to do…” I said, “A child has the right to affection of both parents – she needs the love and care of both her mother and her father…”
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