I was screening the medical records when I stumbled upon a file that caught my attention. It
Patient’s name: Aditya Raj
He had been registered in the hospital only a month back and was being given antitubercular treatment. I was confused. Who could this person be? Could it be him? The
person I knew by this name had migrated to the US a long time back and we’d not been in
touch for the past thirty years or so. This was during my new job in a private hospital—I’d
recently taken it up post my retirement from a multinational. I was supposed to develop a
software that would facilitate displaying patients’ complete data online.
Out of sheer curiosity, I took the address from his file and, on the following weekend,
found myself standing in front of a DDA HIG flat with his nameplate on the gate. A maid
responded to the doorbell. She let me in. I saw a man sitting in an easy chair in the front
room. He looked weak, unshaven, unkempt.
‘Yes? Who is this?’ he asked.
A thirty-year gap. Obviously, he had not recognized me. But it was indeed him. Disease
had aged him beyond his years. but his trademark boyish grin was just the same. I decided
not to disclose my identity. Using a fake name, I introduced myself as a social worker from
the hospital, and said that I was filling a pro forma required for the follow-up of TB
patients. Like any other lonely, elderly person he appeared eager to talk—particularly to a
woman—and he furnished me with all those personal details that were not really asked for.
He told me that he and his wife had returned to India about a decade back to take up a job
in Delhi. He described in detail what happens when a loving life partner of many years
dies. His wife had died a year ago, leaving him both physically and mentally drained.
Thereafter he’d neglected his health totally. It was during that time that he had contracted
TB. His only son, a worthy one, was settled in the US, and had wanted Aditya to migrate
there to live with him; but this had been delayed by one year owing to Aditya’s medical
treatment. He hoped to get completely cured of his disease while still in India.
I felt sad and returned with a heavy heart. The last time I’d seen him was when we went
to the airport to see him off.
My memory went into a flashback of the time when Aditya and I were classmates in
MBA. Our friendship had slowly blossomed into a love affair. Fortunately, our parents also
did not disapprove of our relationship.
After passing out, we got employed in two different companies in Delhi. While I liked my
job, Aditya was dissatisfied in his. He changed his job at the first opportunity and went to
Three years passed and my parents started insisting on marriage. However, Aditya was
not prepared, because neither was he liking Bombay nor was he feeling settled in his second
job. He also wanted to try his luck abroad. In fact he had already fixed up with some
company in the US and had decided to migrate. I did not seem to fit into his plans—at least
for the time being. In any case, being the only child of my parents, I was not eager to migrate
in a hurry.
Months before he was to leave for the US, he came back to Delhi, so that we could spend
some quality time together. Our parents performed a small engagement ceremony. The
process of getting my passport made was also initiated. After completing his formalities at
the passport office, we went on a short pleasure trip to Simla.
Merely a few days after he’d left, I learnt that he had given me the most unacceptable
parting gift! I panicked and wanted to get rid of the unwanted burden as soon as possible.
Thanks to liberal abortion laws, I got it done on the sly, without having to explain anything
to the doctor. Half an hour’s job at the hospital and two days of rest was good enough to get
me back to my routine.
I decided not to tell anyone about my pregnancy, not even Aditya—firstly, because I did
not want to bother him at that stage, and secondly, because I was the one who had actually
messed up with the baby pills and therefore felt solely responsible. No one, not even my
mother, suspected anything. And I also forgot all about it afterwards.
In those days, international calls were very costly. Therefore we stayed in touch with
each other mainly through letters. But with the passage of time, I found that our demanding
jobs and long working hours were slowly taking out much steam from our long-distance
courtship. I had no choice but to wait for him till he got somewhat settled.
On the other hand, my professional life was good. With no responsibility, and with all the
pampering from my parents, I was doing much better than many of my colleagues who had to
look after their families along with their jobs. I was giving my hundred percent to my work
and was suitably rewarded too. I realized that once I married and went to the US, I would
definitely be missing my job here. After all, the husband’s job had to be given a priority.
It was at that time that we learnt through someone that Aditya had married. I clearly
remember how, in complete disbelief, my parents and I went to his parent’s house to inquire
about the truth. It was not a rumour. He had indeed married an Indian-American girl. My
father fumed at his apologetic parents and called their son’s behavior totally opportunistic
It was a big blow to all of us. For me the humiliation of rejection was much more than the
loss of love. The unscrupulous fellow had dumped me without even giving me an
explanation. I hated him! Even then, it took me some time to move on.
However, things gradually began to return to normal. My parents started looking for
matches for me, but somehow, nothing worked out.
After facing disappointment in love, and with the kind of responses we received from
proposals that my parents were negotiating, I felt extremely frustrated. I was also
experiencing a change in my attitude towards life, particularly towards the institution of
marriage. Widespread marital discord was apparent among my contemporaries, not only in
arranged marriages but equally in love marriages too. I was alarmed by the increasing rate
of divorces in my peer group—particularly amongst the so-called metrosexual couples. So,
by that time, I became so disillusioned that I decided not to marry.
Frankly speaking, I was so busy with my job that I did not have any time to think about my
single status. Moreover, I had no opportunity to mingle with men with whom I could have
thought about marriage—some of the men I liked were already married while others were
not the marrying type. My social life was limited to my parents and a selected few
Years passed by. My parents’ health was deteriorating. Frequent hospital trips—and the
growing realization of living all alone when they were gone—depressed me.
While I still had five years of service left, both my parents passed away. Life was not the
same after their demise. The loneliness was excruciating. Luckily, my habits of regular
exercising and yoga kept me physically fit and mentally sane. During those days, I often
thought of my unborn child and sometimes imagined caressing my baby in my arms. How I
wish I had told Aditya about my pregnancy and forced him to marry me—not for anything
else but for the sake of our child.
I retired in due course of time and, thankfully, soon after my retirement I got this hospital
job, which I not only liked but which also kept me gainfully employed.
Then this Aditya episode happened.
I made it a point not to meet him when he visited his doctor next. But, as the luck would
have it, during his next monthly visit, he came looking for me in my room. Entering, he
pulled a chair, sat down in front of me, looked into my eyes and called me by my name,
I was shocked.
He laughed, ‘I’ve done my homework well and know that there is no social worker in this
hospital. I had a doubt, after you left my house, but it was not difficult to find out the truth.
Why did you have to hide from me?’
Then he almost forced an invitation out of me. He announced that he would visit my house
on the coming weekend, and then left without even waiting for me to react.
He came as expected, but brought with him a big bouquet of flowers and a basket of fruits
and other eatables. It was evident that he had taken special care to dress well. I was full of
anger and pain, and got very irritated with his remorseless, aggressive attitude. He was like
an intruder, not welcome in my house. I needed an explanation. Why did he ditch me in the
first place? And now, why had he stormed into my life again? Stunned at his behaviour, I
kept sitting rigidly, avoiding his glance.
All of a sudden he squatted on the floor in front of me, cupped my knees with his hands
and put his head on my lap and started sobbing. ‘I have wronged you. I am an offender. Still,
I want to share the circumstances which forced me to behave like that. My job contract had
expired and I was not getting an extension or another job. I was facing deportation. I hated
to come back as a loser. I already had a marriage proposal from Ria, who was an American
citizen of Indian origin. It was tough for me to decide. Besides, I could not see you marrying
a person with such low self-esteem. I was not worthy of your hand, I thought. I became
selfish and opted for the easier route. I married Ria to escape deportation. I could not
muster the courage to talk to you directly, so I sent the news of my marriage through
someone else … However, I could never imagine, even in my wildest dreams, that you
would remain unmarried. As for me, I was lucky to get a wife like Ria, who had a
traditional Indian upbringing and was intelligent, loving and caring. I was blessed with a
son and a happy married life.’
After he finished his explanation, he gently took my hands in his and said that he was
ready to do anything and everything that would make me happy. He repeatedly begged to be
forgiven. I did not respond. With tears in his eyes, he left.
He phoned me the next day and again expressed his wish to see me. I could not refuse. An
opportunist he surely was, but he did not pretend. He was genuine, honest and transparent. I
reasoned it out and forgave him. My long lost love for him also started blooming. The big
gap of thirty years was bridged before we could realize what was happening.
We started meeting often and even began going out together. Having a protective male
escort by my side was flattering. I liked his exuberance and optimism. He used to look for
excuses to pamper me. My heart pined for him in his absence. Our intimacy, however, was
limited to holding hands and uttering sweet nothings to each other. He probably knew the
limitations of his disease.
Our love affair was like that of two teenage virgins—restrained and yet eager to explore.
We hardly quarrelled and never even argued the way we had in our youth. We believed in
giving rather than demanding. In a way, our love was an untold compromise between the
two of us. The feeling of belonging was beautiful and divine. Life was all honey and roses.
He was recovering well from his disease and had started gaining the weight he had lost.
With his salt-and-pepper hair and boyish grin, he still looked handsome to me. I noticed that
I too was getting compliments on my dressing sense and my good looks.
One day, after about a year of our memorable togetherness, he declared that he would not
be seeing me for some time because his son was coming to wind up everything. Most likely,
since he was fully cured of his disease, he would now go away with his son. I felt
depressed. I took some time off from my job and stayed home to get over this low phase.
It struck me that he had used me again. I felt cheated.
After a couple of days, the unexpected happened. He was standing at my door.
‘Sorry, I did not come before, because I was busy winding up,’ he said.
‘So you have come to say goodbye. When are you going?’
‘I am not going anywhere, but I am going to shift into your house, as your house is better
than my DDA flat, which I have already sold off.’
‘Means your son did not take you back with him, and instead took away all your money?’
‘No, that’s not true. He wanted to take me along, but it was my decision not to go. And he
did not take any money, because it has to be deposited in your account. I do not want to be
living off you.’
‘But why did you not tell me all this before?’
‘Tell you what? Did you not see how madly in love I am with you? You silly girl, I need
you more than you need me.’
He embraced me, with a hug that was tighter than ever before, and started passionately
‘Venu, I have the doctor’s permission. I do not want to stop here.’
I did not mind it anyway.
I was screening the medical records when I stumbled upon a file that caught my attention. It