The gnawing chill in the winds knifed into Bikram’s hands on the cycle. In the dark, you could see his lanky frame swaying but his deathly eyes could delight a starving ghoul.
Turning into lane 6 on Williams Road, he nearly fell into a mound of wet mud.
The light on the first floor was on when he looked up and his brow furrowed.
“Not today,” he mumbled and tried to pull at the front tyre.
After a few failed attempts, he sighed and went up to the flat. At the door, a familiar voice chirped.
“Arrey, Tunku! How come? All well?”
“I, er, my cycle…Is Raghubir home?”
“Oh. Do you need help? Should I come down?”
“Nah. I’ll walk home and take it tomorrow.”
“Arey, come inside. Raghubir will be home soon. Have dinner. Come on in. Would you like some lemon water? I still remember your fondness for it in cold evenings like these.”
Bikram was straining at the impulse to hold back tears.
“You really must not bother, Pasha, er, Reema.”
He realised she had disappeared. She came back a minute later.
“Why are you still standing?” Her laughter now chipped away at the last wall of defence.
He wanted to interrupt her but words folded back in his throat.
“Why do you look dazed? You’re really behaving strange. Freshen up while I bring the food.”
Minutes later, he was at her side again.
“Pasha, the scent of your fish curry is like Demeter lending hope to mankind.”
“At least it’s food for thought. Good to know my old name is alive somewhere!”
They feasted for the next half hour and before leaving, Bikram held her hands and whispered a gentle “thank you” before racing downstairs.
Walking past his cycle, he smiled and decided he would walk.
When his mother opened the door, she looked as pale as a ghost.
“Maa, what happened?”
“Why was your phone switched off? I think you better sit. Raghubir had called an hour ago. Reema … Reema is no more. She died in a car accident on the way back from Kishanganj today afternoon. Tunku?”