Ria couldn’t believe her ears. “What?”, she asked in disbelief. “Yeah, we thought you knew. I am so sorry Ria”, said Anu. Ria looked at Sunil. “Why didn’t you tell me?”, she asked. “I thought it might disturb you. Now that you are married and all, I thought it would be best if it was shushed, you know”, he said looking away from her.
“I … I want to go home”, she said.
Adila picked up her bag and led her out. “Sweetie, are you alright?”, she asked. “No, I am not”, said Ria. “I can’t believe he is dead. I kept seeing him every day Adila. He even came home last night”, she said.
Adila didn’t know what to say. “Ria you have to accept the fact that Sanjay is no more. Perhaps you dreamt it”, she said.
“No, no I did not dream it Adila. We spoke for some time. I even saw him in that old Eucalyptus grove a couple of times”. “Whoa, you went to the grove?”, asked Adila surprised. “Yeah, why?”, said Ria.
“Err… why do you want to wander there by yourself? It’s not safe”, said Adila avoiding eye contact.
“Why?”, asked Ria. “Well, I know you don’t believe in such stuff, but people here say that the grove is haunted, and I believe in ghosts big time, so please don’t ever go there.” “What rubbish!”, said Ria. “Ria I am serious. I’ve experienced things too. Just please keep away from that place. And daddy too saw something which led to his death.”
“Please Adila. What is this non sense about ghosts and stuff?”, said Ria getting annoyed. “Ok I am not asking you to believe it. I am just asking you to do me a favor and not go there”, said Adila. Ria nodded.
She was silent on her way back home. And very puzzled. How could she be seeing Sanjay if he were dead? Was she really imagining all that then? And Sanjay dead? She still couldn’t come to terms with it. She remembered his brown eyes, his hair, his forehead, his nose, his naughty smile, his strong hands, their first kiss, their first hug, that eucalyptus grove… no it couldn’t be true. Sanjay could not be dead!
They reached home. Mishti was asleep already.
“Let her be here tonight. I’ll send her over tomorrow”, said Naisha. Naisha was a superstitious woman and believed that people shouldn’t be moved from their beds when they were asleep.
“Why?”, Ria had once asked when she was a kid.
“You see, when you sleep, your soul travels out of your body and sometimes into the past and sometimes into the future. That is how you have déjà vu and stuff. So, if you move a sleeping person, the soul is not aware of it, and it’ll return to the same bed and search for its body. And when the body isn’t found, it hovers around that place helplessly. And then the body wakes up later, but there is no soul inside it. That is how some people lose their minds”, she had said. Ria had not understood a word back then but hadn’t questioned about it again either.
Ria smiled when Naisha refused to let her take Mishti along. Ria didn’t have a problem with that. She knew Mishti never stirred in her sleep until she woke up at around eight in the morning. She could always go and collect her then. Besides she wanted to be alone.
“Hey”, Adila called out when Ria turned to go. “You sure you’ll be ok? You can sleep here if you want”, she said.
“No, I want to be by myself”, said Ria and walked towards her house.
She let herself in and plopped on the sofa in the living room. Tears flowed down her cheek. Sanjay, her Sanjay was dead. DEAD!! How could that be? She let her mind travel back in time when she had first met him.