Editor: Read Chapter III here.
‘May I speak to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, please?’
‘Anjali! What’s up?’
‘Darling Darcy, it’s me Elizabeth Bennett.’
‘I was going to call you today Anjali.’
‘Please call me Elizabeth.’ When rewarded with Rajesh’s silence, Anjali suggested, ‘at least call me Lizzy.’
‘Okay my darling Lizzy, but please don’t call me Darcy.’ Rajesh’s tone softened as he spoke, his muscles relaxed and his face brightened.
‘Come on Darcy! The main reason I fell in love with you is your old name. Even now I can’t believe that you were named Darcy.’
‘Drop it I say! You know how I feel about it. If only my father hadn’t named me Darcy, I would have definitely enjoyed playing this game. At least use some other name. Why can’t I be Rochester and you be Jane Eyre?’
‘How dare you? Don’t you know that Jane Eyre was a plain Jane with very average looks? I’d rather be Elizabeth Bennett any day, if you don’t mind,’ Anjali replied tartly.
‘Okay, you can be Elizabeth and I’ll be Rochester. Anything other than Darcy works for me.’ Rajesh made an effort not to get angry as he usually did when reminded of the name he had been saddled with by his father, who had been so different from other fathers, with his Marxist ideology, love of literature and everything extraordinary.
Thankfully, his parents had divorced when he was just ten and his mother hadn’t objected when he insisted on changing his name to something ordinary. A notice in the gazette after which his influential uncle had a quiet word with the school principal and one fine day K. M. Darcy had become K. M. Rajesh in the school records.
‘In that case, you might as well be Rajesh. I mean, pairing Rochester and Elizabeth would be the same as putting Rajesh and Elizabeth together. It’s not much fun!’ Anjali replied.
Rajesh sighed with a mix of love and exasperation and said, ‘if we play this game your way, you’ll be the only one having fun.’
‘Alight then, I’ll give you a break from this.’
‘Oh thank you! That’s such a relief!’
‘I have a big surprise for you today,’ Anjali announced, changing the topic suddenly.
‘Tell me.’ Rajesh settled himself comfortably on the bed and put his book down. Conversations with Anjali were rarely short and it would be a while before he picked up the novel again. He didn’t really mind though. It was Sunday, and he had already gone for a twelve kilometre run in the morning followed by a hearty breakfast of fried eggs, toast, butter and jam. Unless something unexpected came up, he had the day to himself.
‘What are you doing today? It’s Sunday.’
‘The Maoists have organised a big party to which I have been invited. I just need to buy some champagne and I am all set.’
‘Sarcastic as always. Guess where I am now?’
‘I don’t know.’ Rajesh decided that he did not want to play along.
‘Well Mister Policeman, don’t you recognise the background noise?’
‘What about it? I can barely hear you properly. Maybe it’s because I am inside a mosquito net.’
‘I am at an airport,’ she replied.
‘Where are you off to? Yet another trip to Bangalore? You have to tell your boss that you are not in marketing. You shouldn’t have to travel so much,’ Rajesh leaned back comfortably on the bed.
There was silence and then Rajesh asked, ‘Did this come up suddenly? You didn’t say a word yesterday.’
There was some more silence. Then Anjali said, ‘No, I am not going to Bangalore.’
Rajesh took a few seconds to digest the information. Something wasn’t quite right. He sat up straight. ‘Where are you going then? And why didn’t you tell me yesterday?’ he asked again.
‘I wanted to surprise you.’
‘Surprise me? Anjali, what do you mean?’ Even as he spoke, Rajesh could feel his stomach churn with excitement and fear.
‘Anjali, where are you?’
‘At the airport. My flight for Nagpur will leave in thirty minutes. There is a stopover in Mumbai and I will get to Nagpur by two in the afternoon. Will you come and pick me up?’
‘Anjali, what madness is this?’ Rajesh got up from the bed.
‘If you can’t come, never mind. I’ll take a taxi to Gadchiroli.’
‘It’s a four-hour drive.’
Anjali chuckled on hearing the plaintive note in Rajesh’s voice. ‘And I’ve given you five hours’ notice. Aren’t you glad?’
‘Listen, why don’t you just go home and cancel your ticket and we’ll meet up in Kerala in December.’
‘Too late, I’ve cleared security. And I took a week’s leave. Can’t allow that to be wasted.’
‘I wish you had told me earlier.’
‘Sure, that would have been a great idea! Will you come or should I get a taxi?’
‘This is so…’
‘Yes, Mr. Additional Superintendent K. M. Rajesh?’
Rajesh took a deep breath. Anjali was the prettiest girl he had ever met. Anjali was the girl he was in love with. Anjali was his fiancé and he would be marrying her in less than a year.
‘Anjali, darling, this is such a pleasant surprise. Let me get started. You’ll find me waiting for you at Nagpur airport.’
Feature Image (Cover): Nisha Joseph
© Delhi Defence Review. Reproducing this content in full without permission is prohibited.