I meant you no harm but….Antonspeak
My mind was made up. However, I did not want any of the histronics that I would have to deal with once I broke the news to Maya. For the past few days, she was draining my energy, asking me why I looked so disturbed, if she could do anything to alleviate it, if I was still offended with her….. boring! So boring! Knowing that she would not leave me alone unless I gave her a definitive answer, I cooked up a story about my dad’s failing health adding that I might have to travel to Italy soon, albeit, for a short while to make sure he was getting the required treatment.
She immediately bought into the story. Her anxiety was immediately replaced by extreme empathy and support. Her heart cried for my dad’s ‘plight’ and the fact that I was far away from home. How very predictable this woman was! She even insisted on accompanying me to the Dean’s office and explaining to the Dean why I should be granted the special leave of a fortnight before the completion of my teaching period at the University.
Secretly, I was elated. She was making it so much easier! She was quite paly with the Dean and when he heard of my ‘genuine’ reasons, he agreed to grant me the ‘break’. The Dean, however, did politely remind me that the students would be taking their exams in a couple of months so I should not overextend my stay. I nodded solemnly and thanked him for his understanding.
“Thank you, Mr Sekhawat. I knew you’d understand!” Maya’s voice was almost choking with gratefulness.
Such unnecessary and over-the-top display of emotions! It disgusted me! The Dean gave her a tiny smile but his eyes were fixed on my face, as if trying to delve deeper into my thoughts. Almost like a hawk, he was trying to watch for my reactions as Maya gushed about how I would be so grateful to him for allowing me to visit my parents at such a short notice.
I always told Maya that she talked too much. Too much! She would take it as good-natured teasing but she hardly knew that she was letting strangers into her domain so easily by giving out so much information about her likes and dislikes, her thoughts, her emotions. People who were smart enough to know what to do with that could easily manipulate her using the valuable information that she so unwittingly disclosed. I did it, quite a few times. It was easy as anything, using her childish notions of empathy, honour and ‘love conquers all’ attitude to twist her around my little finger. Such archaic emotions don’t work in today’s world.
I might come across as a villain but anyone who gives too much without even being asked always runs the risk of losing…. their self-esteem, individuality, dignity and more….
We were about to exit the Dean’s office when he stood up from his chair and escorted us outside. When he spoke to me, his voice was quiet but almost accusing.
“Professor…” he paused and I turned around, “You do intend to come back here as per the terms of your contract, don’t you? And… for Maya?”
Startled, I almost dropped my guard but the next moment I could manage a warm smile.
I would not utter a word. Glancing at Maya, I could see the puzzled expression on her face and I reassured her by taking her hand and squeezing it gently. She was all smiles then.
As we left, hand in hand, for our respective departments, I could feel the Dean’s eyes boring into my back. This man did not trust me and because of his position at the University, he could hinder my plans. I knew I had to act quickly.
The next evening, I was on a flight to Delhi. Maya wanted to accompany me to Delhi from where I had booked a flight to Rome but I reasoned with her that leaving her behind at the airport would make the departure a very difficult one for me. I promised to call her before my flight from Delhi. I did.
Maya was relieved to hear my voice.
“Anton! Is everything okay? Are you alright?” Her voice ridden with anxiety and her usual barrage of questions…all too familiar, and irritating.
However, I decided not to lose my cool. This would be my last conversation with her anyway, I remember thinking.
“Maya, there’s something I need to let you know…. it’s important that you listen before you ask your questions, ok?”
My voice was soft and casual. She responded after a short pause.
“Look, I have been here a long time and I think its time to head home…. permanently….. my research is almost over…”
I knew I would be interrupted and I was.
“What! But you…you… promised Mr Sekhawat you’d come back… Anton…and….me! What about…. me! ” She stuttered.
I could hear the hiccups as she spoke but I was prepared to ignore her dramatics.
“Maya, you know my dad is unwell and my mother all alone…” I kept glancing at my watch. I had to finish off quickly.
“I know that! But you said, you promised you’d come back after….you promised me Anton!”
She almost screamed and I had to hold the phone away from my ear for a moment or two.
“Let’s be clear here,” I resumed, “I have made you no promises, ever. I do not know what the future holds but am sure I might have to stay away for a long time! I will write to Mr. Sekhawat and see if….”
I paused. She was sobbing hysterically at the other end. I was not much bothered, really. My conscience was clear. If she had made her own plans about her future with me, a future that I never promised her, then it wasn’t my problem. However, I tried to calm her down, one last time.
“Maya, its not easy for me either, so I’d appreciate it if you could act more mature and not make the goodbye so difficult for me…”
I had used the word ‘goodbye’ with a purpose, to make the finality of my decision sink into her mind. It immediately worked.
“So…this is goodbye?” She asked hesitantly, in between sobs.
“I think so,” I answered simply.
My flight to Rome was in an hour and a half and I needed to complete immigration. I told her that and hung up. She was still sobbing uncontrollably and did not reply.
At that moment, the only thing I wanted was to shut off her sobs and go some place far away where Maya’s despair could not reach me.
However, I did not wish for her to die!