“Yes mom, send the maid from today itself. With this promotion, I don’t even have time to make my own breakfast.”, Sumit locked his apartment as he talked to his mother on phone.
“Okay Sumit, she will be there in the evening. She had been working with us for two years and she recently shifted to Mumbai. She is a shy little girl but you will like her work.”
“I got to go, mom. Ask the maid to get the keys from the manager. Take care.”
“Always in hurry”
“Monday is a rush day mumma. Bye”, Sumit drove away.
Surekha opened the door. Sumit glanced at her face and swiftly looked away. He entered the room and jumped on the couch. He loosened his tie and laid down staring at the wall. His shirt was covered in sweat and so was his face. Surekha walked towards him and stood straight in between the wall and him.
“What?”, Sumit questioned irritated.
“I am Surekha, the maid your mother sent.”
“Oh okay. That’s your room.” Sumit pointed towards a door next to the kitchen.
Surekha nodded uncomfortably. Sumit walked to his room and entered the bathroom. Surekha stood staring at the door she was pointed to. She opened the room hesitantly and closed the door as she entered inside. After a while, Sumit came out of his room and went to the kitchen. Surekha came running and started to plate the dinner for him.
“Calm down!” Sumit smirked.
Sumit stared at his plate happily. This was the first complete meal he had seen in his kitchen for days. Surekha kept standing.
“Please sit down and eat something.”, Sumit spoke softly.
Surekha nodded and got herself a plate full. Sumit took a spoon full of rice mixed with the curry and shoved it into his mouth. His face went pale as he chewed it. He looked at Surekha. Her face long and thin, her big black eyes and her straight brown hair, all of it had reminded him of Megha. And now, the curry with no salt, Megha loved to tease him by intentionally forgetting to put salt in the curry.
“This can’t be Megha. She left for good.
Sumit added salt it the curry and offered it to Surekha also. He finished his dinner and went back to his room. Surekha collected the plates and carried them to the basin. The next morning Sumit woke up and rushed to the kitchen. He was late. He entered the kitchen, breakfast was ready. He took a bite of the sandwich and spit it as he chewed.
“Chilly?” Sumit screamed.
Surekha came running. Sumit looked at Surekha angrily and banged the door as he left. Surekha stood there puzzled. She was a small-town girl. She wondered why Sumit was always so angry. She thought of his mother and how sweet she was. She then looked at the plate with a half-eaten sandwich in it. She smiled and went back to her work.
Sumit entered the room as Surekha opened it. She offered him water. She had decided that she would not let him get angry today. She felt excited. She had prepared dinner early today. She made fish curry, Sumit’s favourite as told by his mother.
“Dinner now?” Surekha asked playfully
“No, I got work. In an hour, maybe. You can rest before dinner.”
Surekha went back to her room. She thought she could sleep for a while. Sumit had been thinking of Megha. He remembered how she got into bad company. He loved her and he supported her to recover from her addiction. He had taught her cooking to get her distracted. She said she came out clean. Yet she left one day without any notice. She just left a note.
I love you Sumit, but my addiction is killing you. I am sorry I lied. I can’t quit and I can’t help it. Forget me and you will live happier. If you see me someday in the streets, please look away. If you find me high, please walk out. Don’t forgive me. Hate me. I deserve it because I had a choice and I chose my addiction. I am leaving you a number. I case you need to know…
Even after two years, those words still hit Sumit on his heart. It felt like she was stabbing him in his heart with a hundred knives in each hand. The numbers on the note always enticed him to call but he could not. After all, she chose her addiction over him. She betrayed him.
“Dinner”, Surekha called.
Sumit stood up and walked to the kitchen. Surekha opened the lid of the kadhai and turned pale. She didn’t speak a word and started plating the dinner. Sumit looked at his plate and gazed back at Surekha angrily.
“Megha sent you?” Sumit screamed.
“This is how she teased me. She cooked potatoes without peeling them. She put chilly in my sandwich and she always made salt less curry.”
“I don’t know what you are saying sir”, Surekha shivered, “Today was the first meal I made for you. I made fish curry as your mother said. I didn’t make this. I didn’t make the curry. I never made any curry. I thought you made those yourself and was angry with me because I didn’t help.”
Sumit froze for a while. He ran back to his room and opened the old black box that Mega had gifted him. He took the note out and dialled the numbers.
“No, I am Megha’s mother Mira. You must be Sumit. She said you would call.”
“What games is she playing with me. Please ask your daughter to stay away from me. I trusted her before. I thought she could change. She betrayed me and now she is playing stupid games with me.”, Sumit cried as he talked.
“Games?”, Mira asked puzzled, “What games can a dead man play? She died on Monday fighting her addiction. She missed you. She said she would want to take care of you and cook for you if she got a second chance. She wanted to change for you but it was too late.”
Sumit disconnected the call. Surekha kept staring at him. After few minutes, Sumit started to eat the curry with the unpeeled potatoes.
“Can I get more?” Sumit asked Surekha as tears rolled down his cheeks.