Mohona was taken aback by Anupam’s call. She heard him out patiently, but could say little herself, offering only some words of comfort. Anupam understood. He had expected this.
The next day, Mohona told her father about Anupam’s problem. Her father’s response was surprising. Shashidhar and the spiritual guru had been close friends during their childhood in Allahabad. Though they had not been in touch for many years now, the spiritual guru would probably remember Shashidhar as an old friend. Shashidhar might be able to persuade the guru against his scheme, but he had no contacts to reach out to his famous friend.
Mohona informed Anupam of this development. Anupam had found a ray of hope amidst the darkness. It had to be Mohona again. He immediately narrated his conversation with Mohona to Shalini, but she was reluctant to take Mohona’s help. She was not happy that Anupam had spoken to Mohona. She suspected that they were still in love. Anupam was exasperated by Shalini’s suspicion, but he did not show it for the sake of her health. After much argument and persuasion, Shalini agreed to accompany Anupam to Varanasi. They also arranged a meeting with a PR agency in Mumbai, which would manage the press and help repair the damage that their brand’s image had suffered.
The day Anupam and Shalini were to arrive in Varanasi, Mohona was on her toes since morning, making arrangements for their welcome. When they rang her doorbell, Mohona opened the door herself.
Anupam was standing there with a bouquet of flowers, the way he had always done whenever he had visited Mohona. His hairline had receded, and grey strands stood out among what hair remained. But to Mohona, he was still that same handsome man that she had seen about ten years ago, even if he looked tired just now. Mohona smiled. Anupam also smiled but the tension was palpable on his face. He felt sad to see Mohona in her widow’s attire, but she was still as beautiful and elegant as before. She had aged gracefully.
Anupam and Mohona walked up to the Dasashwamedh Ghat and sat there, just as they had done ten years ago. Memories flashed by. Anupam talked about his life in New York, and Mohona told him about what she had been through all these years. It was dusk. The sound of aarti and bells reverberated, creating a mystic trance-like atmosphere. It reminded Mohona of how she had felt when Anupam had proposed to her.
Back at Mohona’s home, Anupam handed Shashidhar the spiritual guru’s personal mobile number. The phone call worked. The guru remembered Shashidhar and listened to what he had to say. At Shashidhar’s insistence, he agreed to meet Anupam in Varanasi in a week’s time.
Anupam urged Mohona to meet Shalini at the hotel. It was not possible for Shalini to visit their home on a wheelchair. Mohona was reluctant to meet Shalini, but Anupam’s requests eventually prevailed. The next day, when Mohona reached the hotel, Anupam was not there. He was out on some work. Shalini was alone in the room.
Shalini forced a wry smile on seeing Mohona. She was moved to see Mohona in the attire of a widow. She couldn’t help marvel at Mohona’s beauty, which shined through the simplicity of her dress. Both remained silent. Mohona understood Shalini’s discomfort. She felt compelled to clarify, “I am totally busy with my life now, Shalini. Anupam is just a part of my past.” Shalini remained quiet. Her expression indicated that she was shedding her apprehensions slowly. She believed Mohona. Mohona comforted Shalini, expressing her support in the latter’s hour of crisis. Mohona had really tried everything within her control to help Shalini.
Conversation flagged soon. They did not have much to share with each other, though this brief meeting had resolved many acrimonies of the past. Mohona took her leave, informing Shalini that it was Sameer’s death anniversary that day. There was a singing programme at her school in his memory.