Sunil’s old, mangled hand cradled the phone back as he bid his son goodbye over the phone. He sighed at the slight twitch of his hand, wondering about all the things going wrong with him like an overused machine that has never been oiled and serviced before. Our body is a machine and no matter how well it is serviced it falls apart slowly but surely. He wondered how much more would the machine have to malfunction for him to finally fall apart. He wished he could go like Mr. Vardhan, who passed away in his sleep. It did shock the inmates of the Old Home as Mr. Vardhan played cards with them the previous night and cracked all juvenile dirty jokes that made them laugh their guts out. Yet, Sunil wondered, why they were shocked at all, were they not waiting for this ultimate day. The Old Home was more like a waiting room of a doctor’s clinic where patients wait for their names to be called.
Lost in his thoughts he looked out of the window into graveled path that led to the main gate. A car was waiting and a few people were getting off, the head nurse and the Doctor were also there greeting a young man and a lady who seemed old but not that old either. Sunil felt a strange smell of familiarity in the air. He wrinkled his nose and sniffed in the air almost like an animal. Yes, there was something in the air, that he couldn’t fathom, which felt familiar, known, almost like from another lifetime. Sunil went out into the lobby to peek in and find out if there was a new tenant.
As Dr. Tiwari led the reluctant and fretting aging lady through the door, Sunil’s heart skipped a beat. Could it really be? After so many years, she looked the same, albeit much older but it was her alright. Those deep-set eyes, that little nose, those pink lips, they were unmistakable. Her face, her laughter, her hair, her complexion, the way she looked at him, were forever imprinted in his brain. Even from a distance, even after an eternity, he, Sunil, could recognize her. He stood mesmerized, paralyzed to the spot. What game was fate playing with them? In all these years was this the only time and place to meet again. But the bigger question was, ‘would she even remember him?’.
As they crossed him, he softly whispered her name, “Ira”!
She turned around and stared at him with expressionless eyes. Suddenly those eyes gleamed and she smiled. “Do you know him ma?” asked the young man,who was walking by her side. Ira just stared into Sunil’s eyes with a strange tenderness.
“I am sorry uncle, my mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s, she has probably mistaken you for someone else,” the young man offered an explanation embarrassed at his mother’s sudden sociability with a strange man.
Alzheimer’s! Sunil’s heart froze. Ira, dear little, lovely Ira, his Ira had forgotten everything. But wait, she did recognise him, despite his appearance going through a sea change. Or was it just someone else in her mind. Or did her heart finally find a way out.
He remembered the first time they had met. They were kids; he had kissed her to stop her from crying when she lost her shoe. Much later, before he went abroad for his higher studies, they had kissed like never before, like never parting souls. He promised her that he would return and she promised him that she would wait. The memory of their togetherness that evening was etched in him for life. Her breath, her heaving bosom, her scent, her trembling lips, her softness, he carried with him ever since.
“Mr. Dey would you please take Mrs. Irawati Bose inside. She seems comfortable with you and maybe you can show her around and make her feel at home. She was in a state of shock at an unfamiliar surrounding but she seems to be fine after seeing you,” Dr. Timari almost winked at him.
“Sure doc, will be happy to show her around.”
Ira looked at Sunil and stretched out her hand as if signaling him to hold it. Sunil looked at her son, who was surprised by his mother’s bold behavior. Sunil smiled and took her hand and as they moved away slowly from the startled party, and he whispered, “Ira, our wait is finally over.” Overwhelmed with joy and a powerful emotion of seeing his first love, he bent over and kissed her.
“Sunil,” Ira muttered her eyes beaming and a brilliant smile on her face.
The light finally dawned on him. This waiting room of an Old Home was not just a queue to travel to their final abode but also to a place, where a lifetime of desire and turmoil was permanently resolved.