Oh Goddamnit! Stop it now! I yell mentally, at my incessantly ringing desk phone, cell phone, PC Pings and door bell in general. Outwardly I say, “Come in!” in a serious, yet-cheerful tone. By the world’s standards, I have turned 45 today. Vibrant and Successful. That’s what the Magazine Cover reads – Special Edition, for my Birthday. A headache is creeping in slowly to wish me as well.
“Good evening Sir. Mr. B has arrived…erm…with special birthday wishes.” My secretary Rhea announces with a grimace. She is a young lady and keeps to herself most of the time, except for when I have assignments for her. She is good. Respects my space and my privacy.
“Send him in. And no more calls for the day. Cancel all my meetings and appointments. You can leave once that is arranged. Good evening.” I tell her and start packing my materials on the desk. I need a break from this extra-shiny, extra-metallic, extra-organized and prim life. I need to be myself. I need to really celebrate my birthday with a tiny cake and just my family. Family. That word – for which I had dreamt this BIG, is no longer with me. My parents passed away old. And my wife – she would still be waiting at home for me, I know. May be, one day she would leave as well. Who wants to be with a man who has no time for his wife or family? I exhale, rubbing my temples and rolling up my sleeves. There is a huge pile of gift boxes in the corner of my chamber, few cheques, a car key and other such temptations. The Bigger the Gifts – The Bigger the Favors. Why is this man taking so much time?
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“Hello Hello Mr. Aryan! See what I've got for you!” B. enters without any announcement. He has a plastered fake grin and holds a paper which has an exotic looking palatial hotel’s face printed on it. A Presidential Suite – for one day and one night. Very thoughtful. I extend my hand and take the offered present.
“Thank you Mr. B. I must leave now, my family waits for me.” I get up, wearing my laptop bag’s strap across my shoulder, pick up my coat and start walking towards the flush doors of my cabin. What am I doing here anyway?
“Mr. Aryan….that construction project site…heh heh.” Damn the idiot. Bloody bloodsucker.
“Of course, Mr. B. Can we talk about this on Monday?” I give him a stern no-nonsense look, with a smile and walk out. I pass Rhea on the way, signaling her to leave and let B go. She nods and wishes a Happy Birthday. I give her a smile and leave. Now that I am out of my building, I desperately need to see Naina. My wife, my girlfriend, my lover. Now, she has remained a mere presence as I have ignored her for so long because of my work and other responsibilities. I sigh. What should I do? I hope she hasn’t planned a surprise with a million guests. I hate surprises. And today I need rest.
I park my car in our garage and walk slowly towards my home. The night has turned cold. It is already 10. No time to celebrate, huh? I shake my head and knock the door. Feeling irritated at Naina, I am ready to burst, when the door opens. I flinch, involuntarily, dreading people. But, there is no one. No one except Naina. My breath catches in my throat. She looks beautiful. She has done make up today – not the gaudy whattheycallit parlor stuff – just a kohl and lip gloss – strawberry, if I am right.
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“Happy Birthday, Aryan.” There she is - my Girlfriend. I am angry at her, ain't I? Where is my headache? But why is she dressed up. No, I am not going out.
“Thank you. Umm, why are you…?” I leave my sentence trailing. Red looks beautiful on her.
“Oh this. Umm, why don’t you change? I have a little gift for you.” She gives me a smile and after so many years, I feel my heart thumping.
“Naina…look…I don’t want to go out anywhere…please. I am tired. Really.” I go for the sterner tone, but she looks at me – her beautiful eyes – they look a little hurt but also, shining with humor and I die.
“I know. Lazy Bum. I am not taking you out anywhere. Just go and change.” Wow. She almost sounds like the old times. I can find myself agreeing. What is happening?
“Fine.” I mumble and go to our room. Meanwhile, I can hear her singing to herself, opening and closing refrigerator, the sound of her bangles – I think I am in love. I change into my night robe, welcoming the peace and quiet of our home. I am early, today. For my standards. I find B’s gift, crumple it and throw it in the dustbin.
“You ready Aryan?” Naina asks, peeping into our room and grins at me. She looks impish and I suddenly feel like running after her.
“What? Why are you laughing at me?” I ask her.
“Happy Birthday Old man. Here’s your gift.” Naina is giving me her full smile and I feel like proposing to her once again. She is beautiful – fine lines feathering her eyes. Her lips – still soft, still beautiful. It has been so long, that I have loved her or even showed that I care. I feel a lump in my throat and move towards her. She stops me and raises her left hand. From her index finger, dangles a key. I look at her puzzled.
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“Ohho, take it! And come with me.” She gives up trying to read me and leads me ahead – to…the staircase. Which room are we headed to? Yes, it has been that long. Usually I come home, eat and sleep.
“Shhh…now open this.”
“Terrace?” I look at her, wondering what she has been doing.
“Yep. Now open the door. I cannot wait anymore. It’s almost 11:45.” She squeals. I laugh. Something is wrong with her too. I open the door to our terrace. And there is the most beautiful gift I have received today. A table is set for two – with a small pineapple cake in the centre. There is – I laugh out loud – Orange juice? Naina drank occasionally but this was our favorite in olden times – thele waala juice. I grin at her, while she motions for me to wait. She points at one corner – there is a sofa swing. Aaah. Beautiful. And then – as I am suddenly aware of the night and the silence around us – Naina hugs me.
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“It’s been so long and you seemed to drift away… I had no idea what to give to you. So I am giving you a little peace – I am borrowing from this night. Will you watch the stars with me? It’s Sunday tomorrow…” Naina has tears in her eyes. She had missed me. I remember of her love for the stars and night sky. I used to love that about her. I reminisce of the phone calls, when I would listen to her for hours talking about this star, that mythology, this belief. I loved her knowledge. She knew every constellation – and also, when the moon would rise. My girlfriend is a pseudo-astronomer. Did I say Girlfriend?
“I would love to. Thank you for this time, Naina...” I say, holding her close to my heart. In the serene silence of the night, I celebrate for the first time, in so many years a beautiful birthday with my wife, my family.
Who says size matters? Only the Size of your heart does and I had the biggest heart in my arms tonight.