'We can have our meal here...'
Prahlad said as he signalled the driver to stop the car infront of a hut.
The hut looked bigger than the usual ones
found here, only the entrance looked outlandish.
Nikita descended and the first thing that she noticed was the row of pots and pans and other household common utensils being used as pots for growing flowering saplings.They were placed side by side right at the entrance which added to the sombre beauty of the milieu.
'Welcome memsaab!'
A girl in bright red jacket appeared at the flight of steps,
'You can get our special meal today...'
The girl declared, though her voice seemed not very loud,
It still evoked a feeling of warmth and hospitality.
Nikita smiled and went in. She found the dining hall empty, barring two middleaged men  busy eating at the farthest left corner. They were talking while eating.
Nikita inspected the hall and within a few seconds decided to sit by the window
facing the road. She always preferred the window seat, for windows always open one to the world. So she carefully dodged through the tables and chairs till she reached that table by the window which had two chairs facing each other. She put her bag on the floor and sat down. The road was clearly visible and the few cars that went up or came down were also could be easily seen. Nikita looked outside and felt that though she could see the outer world through the glass window, the sound or the noise of the outer world was not coming to her. It seemed she was witnessing a muted world.
'Your order madam?'
The same girl in red jacket came with a notepad in her hand.
'Two plates of rice, two bowls of lentils, mashed potato, and chicken stew...'
Nikita ordered,
'And a plate of salad...'
Prahlad chipped in.
He had already entered the hall.
The girl went away.
Nikita looked at the only occupied table in the hall. The two men were preparing to go. One of them pulled out his wallet and placed some bills under a plate.
Nikita looked at the man. He had salt and pepper beard and his face had the suntanned look.
It suddenly occured to her that the face resembled someone's she knew.
'But how that could be... he could not be here... '
Nikita thought.
The two men were going out.
The man with salt and pepper beard and cropped hair, held his backpack by his left hand. Nikita noticed something written on the man's left arm, a tattoo.
'God! I definitely know this tattoo and ...'
Nikita thought.
The men had already gone out.
Nikita got up.
Prahlad looked up.
'Where are you going?'
'Just a minute dear...'
Nikita pleaded.
'But our food would soon be here...'
'Ok, if you are hungry, carry on, I will be back soon...'
Nikita quipped.
The two men who were on the road just outside the entrance must have heard her.
They both looked back at her.
The salt and pepper bearded man seemed particularly surprised. He stood still. His companion was asking him to take the walk down the road. But he was not moving. He was staring at Nikita.
'Ani? Are you Ani? I mean Aniruddha ? Aniruddha Sanyal?'
Nikita asked.
The man looked at her.
'No... madam... I am not Aniruddha Sanyal...'
'We still got a long way to walk...'
The man's companion appeared a bit impatient.
'O yes!  Let's go...'
Salt and pepper bearded man responded.
'How can I be so wrong?'
Nikita thought.
She was going back to the hall.
Prahlad might be thinking where had she gone.
The girl in red jacket appeared at the corner.
'Memsaab, forgive me for my eavesdropping, but you were right...that man was Aniruddha Sanyal... he had arrived here only few years ago...'
'How many years have passed in between? '
Nikita tried to remember.
Some twenty years might be, since they broke up, she and Aniruddha.


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