“He promised me a hip chain for our first anniversary.Its been nine years now and there is no sign of even a chain”.
Though Devi was laughing when she said that, Renu could see the tinge of sadness in her years.
“I’ve heard of flowers, romantic dinners, diamonds and chocolates A hip chain? Now that’s a first”, chipped in Sunitha in her characteristic, no nonsense style.
“Oh, Rajesh would have decided to deck up a favorite place of his”, everyone laughed out aloud. That was Arun , who seldom bothered about where he was and what he was saying. Renu joined in the banter, but it was as if someone had pushed her into freezing cold water. She knew her husband too well to ignore it as an innocent remark.
The get togethers were a monthly ritual. Their husbands had started it as school kids and continued it through their college years and later. The fact that the wives caught on like wildfire was an added bonus. The only dampener lately was the growing distance between Rajesh and Devi. Their barbed comments to each other were getting more frequent these days.
Arun waited for a few days before making the move. He knew he was taking a chance, but then he was always a gambler at heart. He had always enjoyed the journeys more than the destinations. Not one for small talk, the question was straight,” So, you want a hip chain?”
He had expected at least a moment’s silence, if not a banging down of the phone. He wasn’t totally surprised though, when the answer was equally straightforward, “Why not?”
Monsoons started that evening. Renu’s fascination with rains almost boredered on obsession. She could smell it in the air much before the clouds started turning grey. There would be a slight turn in the wind, an almost imperceptible coolness to the breeze that brushed her cheeks, a whiff of the scent of earth that wafted up to their tenth floor apartment and she knew it would rain in a short time. She would take her place on the antique easy chair on their balcony, a mug of steaming hot coffee in her hands and her eyes searching for the first sight of the sheet of rain that would come running her way over the sea in a short while.
Arun had come into her life just like that first shower of monsoons that drenched you all of a sudden. You knew it would rain, but something stopped you from taking cover under an umbrella. She had sensed the inevitable turn their friendship would take.Just as she let herself go in the rains when no one was watching, she had let the gale take its course and blow her to where it wanted to.
“Life resembles the rains, doesn’t it Arun?” More than a question, it was a thought that had hopped out without actually meaning to.
“What is with you and rains?”, the answer was another question, as always.
“Hmmm…, maybe because I was born in the middle of an especially hot summer, as my mother used to say. Her longing for a respite from the hot and humid days and nights must have passed on to my soul”, she said with half a smile on her face.
The soft flutter of the breeze was turning into a sturdy blast. Gentle rumblings that were far away a few moments ago were rolling nearer. The faint beep of a message on Arun’s phone was almost drowned in the first blast of thunder. She shuddered as if the accompanying lightning had gone through her. As the faint rhythm of the rain changed over to a mighty beat on the red stones on their balcony, she watched Arun’s eyes glow with a strange yet familiar anticipation.
“I am going out”
“In this rain?”
Do all marriages turn out to be like this after a couple of kids and some years in between, she wondered as Arun went inside without answering her. After a few moments she heard the clatter of the car keys and the firm click of the front door.
The fury of the first rain had now turned into a slow and steady rhythm. The lightning had found another target and took the thunder along to accompany another session in another time and place.
She could see the silver rivulets on the window pane take the shape of a gleaming hip chain.