Friday the 13th – Lucky for some?
“I’ll be having dinner with some friends tonight,” Kabir said, struggling to hold the phone in one hand and sign documents with the other. Arjun took the papers from him and carefully placed them in an envelope. After a few minutes of casual conversation, they shook hands and Kabir left the building. The last traces of sunlight marked the end of his long and busy day. It was a Friday, the 13th of the month, but he was already exhausted.
Putting on his seatbelt, he started driving to nowhere in particular. Had it not been his sudden desire for isolation, he would be having a hearty meal with his loving family at home. He felt a little bad lying to his daughter-in-law since he didn’t really have any dinner plans that evening.
As he drove through the area known by the city locals as ‘town’, he felt a surge of nostalgia. These were the streets he had roamed in his youth, while working and during weekends with family and friends.
Night of Friday the 13th. Photograph by: Mohit Mordani
Even after all these years of development, the old buildings stood with an air of pride in front of the beastly towers constructed throughout the city. His thoughts were interrupted by an old song on the radio. Humming and nodding his head with the rhythm, he came across an old restaurant facing the Gateway – one of the most famous monuments in the city. It was the first time he had noticed the place and decided to try it. He was greeted by the manager who looked genuinely happy to see him. The restaurant itself was moderately filled with couples and families. Through the maze of tables, Kabir was guided to one next to a window with a view. The place had an old world charm with antique chandeliers and white and gold decor. It felt similar to a restaurant Kabir had visited with his wife in London. Western classical piano melodies were accompanying the cacophony of sounds in the place. Kabir looked at his mobile for any calls or messages but was only greeted by the smiling faces of his grandchildren on his wallpaper.
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Table for 2? Image source: timeout.com
As he turned his head to the entrance, a lady wearing an elegant black dress printed with gold and silver roses entered the restaurant. From the corner of his eye, Kabir could see a few heads turn to get a glimpse of her. She spoke to the manager and headed towards his table. Kabir stared at her, his mind a whirlpool of questions.
“Pardon me,” Kabir said looking up at the lady who was now standing right in front of him.
“Are you expecting anyone?” asked the lady smiling.
“Er...no, no one,” Kabir said.
“Then would you mind if I join you?” she asked.
“Um…alright,” he said motioning towards the empty place. The lady sat down, facing a red-faced Kabir. She was as old as his daughter-in-law, or probably younger.
“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she said politely, adjusting her pearl necklace. Kabir shook his head. There was something about her that made Kabir feel he had seen her before. “I come to this place almost every week, and always on a Friday.”
“You always come alone?” Kabir asked, immediately regretting such a personal question.
“Yes,” she said, chuckling. “Infact this is where I always sit. That’s the reason I came here to you,” she said.
“Oh, should I move to another table?” asked Kabir, immediately moving a little behind. “Not at all, I would enjoy some company today,” she said.
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Accompanied by spaghetti and chicken stroganoff, their conversation began. It was mainly Kabir doing the talking. It was the first time in many years that he was speaking about something other than his work and politics - about himself. The lady was absorbing everything he said, showing great interest, nodding and chuckling.
Kabir narrated his life history. He was raised in an orthodox family in one of the most posh locations of the city, college life was fun and he had a great love in his life. Talking about that still made his heart beat fast, just like the moment when he had first asked Anita to go out with him for dinner. He spoke about her as if they were still teenagers and madly in love. Kabir noticed the lady blushing and allowed himself to smile.
“Please tell me about your children, what are they like?”
“The most beautiful and loving children one can ever get,” he said with a sense of pride and confidence. He showed her pictures of his children and grandchildren, sharing some of their funny childhood stories. She interrupted him for the first time.
“I’d like to know how you are doing,” she said earnestly.
For an instant Kabir went blank. He noticed the music had changed to old romantic ballads with a famous singer crooning about the love of his life.
“What about me? I am fine,” he said mechanically.
“Now, tell me the truth,” she said, cocking her head.
Looking at his watch he realized that it was almost 11 and he had been doing all the talking. He knew nothing about her.
“Well, there’s nothing much I can tell you. In fact, you already have some idea about me,” she said in a teasing tone.
“Are you an actress?” he asked, scratching his head. He didn’t remember the name of any new actresses these days.
“No,” she chuckled. “But why don’t we dance and then I’ll tell you”.
Kabir suddenly felt a wave of panic. “It would look awkward,” he said in a defensive tone. In truth Kabir felt like he was talking to a dear friend and did not like where the conversation was heading.
“It won’t,” she said as she pulled him up to his feet.
Together forever. Image source: pixabay.com
With great reluctance and scanning the crowd for any known faces, Kabir followed the lady to an empty corner near the white piano. His heart began pounding. She took his hand and placed it on her hip and the other one on her shoulder. The manager had tactfully changed the music to a slow ballad. Slowly they started moving to the music. Neither of them spoke; they were deeply rooted in the moment. Kabir felt he was in a dream and not in control of his actions.
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“Isn’t this fun?” she said placing her chin on his shoulder.
He didn’t know how to reply.
“Do you remember the last time we danced?” she whispered in his ear.
“What are you talking about?” he asked, his mind trying to grasp what she was saying.
“You do,” she said teasingly.
He stood in front of her realising it was the first time that he actually looked at her face clearly.
“It can’t be possible,” Kabir said, holding his chest with one hand in attempt to stop the pain.
She placed her hand on his chest and gently guided him to the nearest table. No one in the restaurant seemed to be interested in the drama that was taking place around them. Kabir dabbed his face with a napkin.
“How are you here? Am I dreaming?” he was now holding her soft hands.
“No, you aren’t,” she said.
The sharp pain in his chest had gone. He felt his voice choke and tears rolled down his cheeks.
“You don’t have to say anything,” she said, wiping his tears. “Would you like to come with me?”
Kabir nodded innocently. “I am tired of everything. I’ve worked hard, raised the kids, followed the rules… and I have missed you in my life.”
Her eyes said all she couldn’t with words. “All these years I’ve waited for you, prepared dramatic dialogues to tell you. But now I have forgotten everything,” she said shyly. “Would you like to come with me?” she repeated. “You have done everything for others, now do something for yourself.”
“Where are we going?” Kabir asked curiously.
“You will know,” she said, holding his hand.
The following morning Kabir didn't wake up. He had a happy expression on his face and a photograph in his hand. His son immediately recognized it as the one taken during his wedding reception. His mother was wearing an elegant black dress printed with gold and silver roses.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Mohit Mordani
Cover photo credit: videoblocks.com