The conversations between them have now become restricted only to phone calls – roughly four times a year – once on her birthday, once on his, once on the eve of Deepavali, and once on the occasion of New Year. The words exchanged remain almost the same every time.
“Happy birthday. Many, many happy returns of the day.”
“Thanks. You remembered?” He can hear the extra softness in her voice as she asks.
“Of course. How can I forget?” His voice drops a few octaves with this, not escaping her notice
She smiles, and he hears it at the other end. There is a pause, as both wait for the other to speak.
“How are you doing?” That softness is there in her tone again, and something catches in his throat.
“I am fine. How are you?” He clears his throat and asks enthusiastically.
The conversation then moves on to the happenings in their lives and their families. “Nothing new as such. Life’s going on. Everyone’s doing fine.” – and variations of the same words are exchanged back and forth in every conversation.
It ends the same way every time too.
“Do visit us whenever you come to India next time,” she says.
“Of course, I will. Ok, then?”
“Bye. Keep in touch.”
“Bye. Take care.” Again, a drop in his tone at those last words, and his voice has a wistful quality to it.
Once again, they stand on the two opposite edges of a bridge, a bridge created consciously. A bridge constructed because it had to be there, because it was expected that it be there. A bridge that can be crossed in a moment, but which they choose not to. The unspoken words between them remain – once again – just that, unspoken words.