Sheila’s words momentarily comforted Rajita. But in her heart she knew that the unrest was yet to die down. It was almost 1:00 AM in the night and Rono, better known as Ronojoy Gupta among his colleagues, was missing for the last 72 hours.
This was he second day in a stretch that Rajita was hopping around from one hospital to another along with a bunch of friends in this unknown city. And in this unprecedented hour of terror, it appeared more and more unknown.She had been here for the past 5 years, but every time she crossed the CR PArk Kalibari, she longed to be home. In her mind home was always a city a few thousand kilometres away, a city which was already discarded as trash.
Rajita was not cynical, in fact, she had started liking Delhi over the past couple of years. She had no other option.This city meant business and had granted many of her wishes. She had wished to reach the zenith of success and she is already on her way to do so. She also met Rono here. And her life changed. Sometimes she thinks Rono was the best thing to happen to her and sometimes the gory allusion of her relationship with Rono becomes alive…the worst living crisis she could go through. Or she thought so until day before yesterday.
“Hello, Shruti….Shruti this is Ronojoy’s girlfriend Rajita. Sorry for bugging, but is Ronojoy still in office?
“Hi Rajita! No, I think he left an hour back”
“Oh! actually it is almost 12:30 AM and he is never this late…so I was just wondering”
“He might be still stuck in traffic you know…the infamous Gurgaon traffic”
“Yes might be. But traffic at this hour! Anyways, Thanks”
Rajita had disconnected the call and decided to wait for sometime before informing anyone. Shruti worked late along with Rono in his office. Or so she had heard. Earlier it was the chap called Vinay. But the unusually attractive Malayalee bombshell had slowly been mentioned more frequently by Rono. It was not that a hint of suspicion never engulfed Rajita’s mind. But she did not confront Rono. His perceived distance while answering questions related to Shruti was palpable.
She waited till 3:00 AM when she decided Sheila and her husband Rahul, her first friends in the city. Sheila was her classmate in JNU. And since then it was a battle against time. The time when she apprehended that she might hear that she had lost Rono forever.Surprisingly, even her parents were concerned. They did not like Rono at all. There were plenty of reasons of not liking him. Sometimes they were so real that even she thought of breaking up with him.
Unlike her classy convent educated, JNU polished educational credentials, Rono had nothing. He was merely a small town boy with a Bachelors degree trying to find a foothold in the city. He managed to do an MBA from one of the mushrooming institutes in the city and found a job. A job that was much less paying and prestigious than Rajita’s glamorous corporate affair. But that did not stop him from being assertive to the point of being oppressive, egoistic, insecure and chauvinistic. He could never handle Rajita’s success or academic ventures with ease. He could never fathom or understand the cultural circle that Rajita was a part of. He was not well read and there were often instances that Rajita was left red faced because of Rono’s careless comments or deliberate attempts to demean her friends. She vividly remembers an incident even today when 4 years back, just after they had started dating, she had made a half cooked attempt of introducing him to her family. Her parents were visiting her. They met at Rajita’s aunt’s place in Greater Kailash I which was quite the home of the rich and some famous ones in Delhi. Rono had come all the way from Karolbagh where he was staying in a rented accommodation and travelling all the way to Connought Place. After the lunch was served, everyone started eating with the cutlery. Rono did not even pay heed to anybody around and started managing the chicken leg piece with his hands. If that was not enough, while her uncle played a soft Farida Khannum number when everyone had sat down to indulge in some Bengali adda, Rono audaciously told him to stop the song- “Arey! what sleepy bogus numbers are you playing on a Sunday? Play some nice Hindi song…arrrey what is the name of that new Kareena Kapoor movie? Have you heard?” He asked Rajita’s cousin, someone he did not even know 2 hours back, while patting his back and humming the song.
Rajita’s professor father was completely appalled. He could not fathom what mistake they had done while bringing up Rajita that she could make such an error of decision. Probably the most important decision in her life. They never like Rono again and the feeling was mutual. Rajita’s parents try to dissuade her from pursing the relationship till date. Everytime she visits her home, her mother always try to persuade her to meet a very eligible suitor- the kind they would like for Rajita. Rajita understood their issue.
She often tried to make Rono understand that even if he did not like her parents or her family, he could at least try to be civil around them. But he was always stubborn. He called them foolish and started speaking in harsh language which hurt Rajita’s understanding of being patient in a relationship. She gave up at last knowing taht Rono would not change. He was violent with Rajita often and even shouted at her nowadays. He often accused her of being too friendly with her male colleagues for grabbing the much desired promotion last year.
“You licked Malik’s ass too well! Did you make a trip to his farmhouse also?” stated Rono laughing his guts out. His first reaction after hearing the news of her promotion. He knew very well how much she had worked for her success. Rajita was hurt. She was even more surprised at Rono’s sense of competition when he returned home drunk next day evening and told her – “You earn more than me? I will work more and earn more than you”.
Rajita often wondered why did he stick around with Rono? She was not helpless. She could do that long before but she chose to move in with him instead. A decision which hurt her parents the most. They did not talk to their only daughter for a long long time. It was Rajita’s last ditch attempt to save the relationship. She thougt probably the increased proximity would make Rono understand her better. But the proximity killed even those hopes.
Sheila always asked her what was she waiting for. For Rono to abuse her physically? She did not know. Rajita’s did not see any hope in the relationship. She did not want to hurt her parents but she did not want to hurt Rono also. She loved him and deep inside she hoped that the free spirited self of Rono, the one that she fell in love with, loved her too. Otherwise what would explain his anxiety and perfect nursing when Rajita was at home for a month when she had a fractured ankle. Sometimes she could not understand the twos ides of the Rono. She did not know both.
“Rajita, Rajita…..I think you should go home….I don’t think we can make any more headway today”
Sheila told her while lighting up a cigarette in front of the hospital they were visiting. There was an unidentified dead body whose description matched that of Rono. She had put all her resources in Delhi to use- informed the police, publicised the matte rin the social media, took help of Rono’s colleagues and friends, but nobody was able to shed any light till now.
“Sheila please, we should just go and check the body kept at the Ram Manohar Lohia…Please!!!”
“But that is not even close Rajita…..Rono did not wear a blue shirt that day..you told, remember? Besides, the guy had a tattoo. Rono did not have one”
“Sheila please, I know that how helpful you guys have been..but there should be a limit…I am so sorry..last one…I have a hunch!”
“Rajita, that guy was admitted to the hospital by an unknown sex worker. He was found in a brothel…..Even after knowing Rono, I would not buy that”
“Neither do I….but that guy had a heart attack no? may be he was found by the sex worker….anything…please, please, please….Sheila. He was alive for a day…may be he told something.”
“Sheila, I think we should go.” Sheila’s husband Rahul who was their silent companion through these two days spoke out. Rajita thought she and Sheila would be fine but Rahul had insisted. He did not want his wife and her friend to roam around alone in the city notorious for its misogynist fervour. Rajita did not find the city unsafe…but it was not the right time to argue.
“Okay if you guys say so”. Sheila gave in and Rahul started driving towards their destination.
Rajita sat in the back of the car. It was almost 2:00 AM now. The city was fast asleep. Yet in someways, the underbelly of the city was awake-completely. Rajita had never seen this side of Delhi. They crossed a nightclub and it seemed that the youth nowadays preferred to submerge themselves in a world of their own..only with the help of alcohol and drugs. But deep inside, Rajita did not register any of these. One part of her hoped that it was not Rono. Another part of her was sure that it was him..even though the description did not match. That part of her sought certainity. an answer that she has been searching for long. May be n answer for future? But how could he get the tattoo? Was it a new thing? She should have known atleast. She again hoped it was not him. She uttered a silent prayer. This time she felt more confident that it was not him.
The car halted to stop near the hospital. Sheila and Rahul got down and hurriedly went inside. May be it was the early November chill outside which did not make them realise that Rajita was still inside the car. She was thinking of the future. What if it was Rono? Did he actually visit the brothel? Where did it place their relationship? Was he actually dead?
Sometimes uncertainty in life is a much more comfortable place than a dead end.