A few “Happy New Years”

Sona looked at the clock on her desk yet again. It was one of those fancy corporate gifts she had received this year on Diwali.
The clock said that only 5 minutes were left to ring in the New Year. She could hear some joyous chants and sounds of fireworks outside.
She smiled and submerged herself to finish the pending work. In her mind, she was thinking about the car she planned to gift her parents in the next 2 months. The “best employee” award also had to be taken care of again.


Mrittika enjoyed dancing. One day she dreamed of taking the centrestage. One day the world would be her stage, but as of now she had to satisfy herself by being a background dancer. She waited for her act to begin. This was one of those elite parties in the city where the who’s who visited to celebrate the new year.
It was cold outside. Everyone submerged themselves in gallons of alcohol while a few like Mrittika entertained then to make it a party to remember for the who’s who. The skimpy clothes and flashbulbs of lust were their tickets to fame on Page 3 the next day.


“Business has not been good today Raju bhai”
“Yes, hardly any sale in this holiday season too. Everything is available online these days”.
Raju said while counting his day’s earning. His son wanted to buy a new mobile phone. Kamala, his wife wanted to go for the picnic organised by a few of their neighbours. Each person needed to pay 300 rupees for the picnic.
300 Rupees – a figure that his sale of posters and canvases during this entire festive season had failed to achieve. He had set up a small roadside shop near Victoria Memorial. Thousands thronged the place everyday during the winters, but few bought the pictures.
He needed the money. He had promised his family to bring home the money in return of their permission to be absent during this time when the entire city indulged in being happy.
Raju wanted that money to buy a smile for his family.

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Refugee

“Basically, you are a Refugee!”

A huge round of thunderous laughter serenaded Shambo’s living room in Gurgaon.

It was the occasion of the house warming party for the new apartment that Shambo had managed to buy in one of those luxurious apartment blocks in this new city. The EMI will cut a deep hole inside his pocket, but the name plate on the door would more than make up for it.

Shambo’s mother still refers to Gurgaon as “Dilli”. Shambo had failed to explain that Gurgaon was more of an excuse in the name of a city. He went out one day to find a proper book store nearby his house, but had failed to find one. The look of disgust on his face was so palpable that the “autowallah” had to ask – “Kya hua bhaissab, sab thik to hain na?”

Yet, this place was his home now. He has managed to buy his own house here, with his own money. For every single thing that he hated Gurgaon for, he respected the place for giving him a job, an identity and the financial independence that his home town could never give him. Gurgaon valued his hardwork and tenacity.

“What happened, Refugee? Can we have some more beer please?”

Continue reading “Refugee”

Memory Closet

Piu stopped to look back. He did look familiar.

There was a glint of “recognition” in his eyes too. Did he smile? Was it that same impish grin.

Piu started hurling out those cardboard compartments from the memory closet really fast.

Somewhere deep down, that smile brought about a lot of happy memories. The smile was almost like the touch of her grandmother’s, her thamma‘s, hands which smelled of Boroline. The touch that she yearned for when that long drawn divorce battle drained her off, emotionally and financially.

And now she was back in the city where her thamma once lived, the city which always made her feel at home and at peace.

This time she had a mission. She wanted to get rid of that very house where she had met Ranjeev. That same very old house on Southern Avenue where Ranjeev asked her out for their first date. She remembers that Ranjeev tried hard to impress his father’s ‘Tolly Club’ membership, while she continued being snooty and explained to him why ‘Calcutta Club’ was a class apart.

Ironically, Ranjeev’s father wanted to bring down her thamma’s house and develop the property. That was a decade ago. They fell in love and the house remained to stay on, as per her wish.

Continue reading “Memory Closet”

Durga and Uma – 2 stories, 2 faces

(This post was originally written as a part of the “Pujo Voices” competition organised by Wedoria, an initiative actively supported by the ABP Group. I won the Critics’ Choice award for another entry, but this was my personal favourite among the five I submitted. And what better day to revisit it than today- the day everyone is busy celebrating as International Women’s Day – the day marked by heavy discounts on consumer goods and “Happy Women’s Day” messages all over social media. Not that I mind the discounts, but the irony is almost satirical. In case you have time, read, share and leave a comment. We can all go back and fill up our shopping carts afterwards 🙂 )

The row of lights that adorned the streets leading to the Pujo Pandal welcomed ‘Durga’ back home. It was almost a year that she had been here last. Her house back in Greater Kailash had all the trappings of luxury, but none could match the simple joy of seeing the ‘devi’ idol being carried into the pandal from her old and almost bedridden North Kolkata home’s balcony. The conch shells announced the arrival of the festival in the city.

This year was also special. The glitter of her community or ‘Para Pujo’ will stand out in the crowd with the ‘Devi’ idols being adorned with heavy gold and diamond jewellery, sponsored by one of the biggest jewellery retailers of the country. She was so happy that she was the one who sealed the big deal of corporate sponsorship for her ‘Para’. Everyone from the locality gave her a smiling nod of approval in the pandal where the ‘Devi’ was being adorned in all her glory. Suddenly she spotted a ‘known’ face among the bevy of workers busy making the last minute preparations. She called out-

“Rontu Kaku, How are you?”

“Arrey Shonai, Kemon acho? when did you come back?”

Continue reading “Durga and Uma – 2 stories, 2 faces”

Relinquished

I

Dalia stood at the very end of the balcony that she once called her own. Like this city, this house, the family- this balcony too did not belong to her anymore. She had left the city and this house out of her own will. Customs told her that she had severed all ties with the family that had been her own since birth. Apparently, she had relinquished her own “Gothra” to take up her husband’s one, during her wedding.

All that happened, ties of a lifetime were severed and nobody noticed, not even Dalia. Her one business decision could determine the accountable balance sheet profits and losses, but here she was unable to perform the last rites of her maternal grandmother during her “Shraadh” ceremony as she belonged to a different “Gothra”. The Purohit told Dalia that she could have performed the ceremony along with her mother, who herself had curtailed rights of mourning for her own mother, if she was still unmarried.

And that precisely gave her the freedom to not offer ritualistic holy water to the soul of  one person who had seen her journey from the shy girl in the primary section of her school who felt scared about informing her teacher that she needed to use the toilet to the one who could herald the attention of an entire board room full of people.

Dalia had heard stories that even before she was born, her maternal grandmother had started stitching dresses for her as she was almost sure that Goddess Lakshmi would bless her eldest daughter this time. Dalia had two elder brothers who enjoyed almost as much attention from her grandmother, but it was she who was her ‘Dimma’s’ favourite. She was almost overjoyed when Dalia got through one of the premium B school of the country and fetched a big ticket job. She was even happier when Dalia got married. It was on that fateful day that Dimma had told Dalia that all her wishes had come true and she could die peacefully now – the day Dalia officially relinquished her right to ritualistically mourn Dimma’s death.

II

A few guests had arrived. Dalia’s parents had preferred not calling many guests as her maternal uncle’s family was still in mourning. Some of them asked Dalia about her life. She smiled and they smiled back. From a distance she watched both her brothers and her mother completing the rituals and offering a “Pranaam” towards the departed soul.

She offered a prayer too.

It was that moment when she realised that she could manage mergers and acquisitions at ease, but for her own self a mere “Kanyadaan” is enough. Enough to relinquish her right to mourn her own grandmother’s death whom she was most attached to and probably sometime later in life, her right to mourn her own parents’ death too.

And she still did not understand how can a few mantras change her “Gothra”, her lineage and the very bloodline she belonged to, since her birth.

Has the love been arranged in this marriage?

This post was selected as one of the “Tangy Tuesday Picks” by BlogAdda for the 1 July 2014 edition.
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(This is a story written by me long back in 2010 on my old blog. Somehow this post got archived and while I was compiling the short stories written by me on one page, I decided to edit and republish it here.)
I
“But how will I survive this man ma??” Noyonika screamed at the top of her voice, “He loves onions- cooked, boiled and raw- in every other thing. ”
“So?”
“So? what?? you know I hate onions. I can’t even stand the smell of them. They are plain and simple obnoxious!”
“You should have never gone to law school you know. Now you will reject this proposal for an onion right?”
“No! am just saying that the implications will be horrendous if I have to spend the rest of my life with this onion loving fella..”
“No further questions, you add him up on gtalk, talk to him. You guys get that option, remember in 1980 when I got married at the age of 22, we did not even go out for a formal date. We just spoke in front of our elders. Now, you need to know, analyse and then decide if you can marry that person.”
“Ma, it may have worked in your case but imagine this- in case you find that you and your life partner have nothing in common to talk about or may be to even dream about, how will that work out?”
“Not again! you are being given the option right! besides you people have all these online matrimony sites with people listing out their interests and all….our newspaper advertisements never had that much space.”
“I always told you ma, cyber squatting should be made a crime.”
“What’s that?”
“Nothing, give me his gtalk id.”
(From: Here)
Noyonika knew that she had not much of an option other than following her mother’s instruction of adding up this onion fanatic on her gtalk list. Off course not on her regular id, but the matrimonial one that her mother had insisted on. This guy seemed perfect for her. In fact quite the perfect match for her. He had degrees from the best of the schools in India, went for an M.S. abroad on a full scholarship from one of those ivy league colleges, earned quite a bit, had a nice family background, was a bangal and most importantly looked forward to settling down in Calcutta. His pictures also looked pretty normal, though Noyonika knew that a few years abroad and every geek turns in to that F1 lingo spewing hot hunk every mother wants as the prized catch for their daughter.
Noyonika knew she had the option to choose. Her family was not averse to the idea of a ‘love marriage’, though they will prefer an ‘arranged’ one more. She also had been into relationships which her parents always scanned from the marriage angle. But none worked actually and now she was single all over again with a bruised heart to nurse and curse.
On a much more philosophical note, Noyonika hated her life right now. She was twenty-five and had finished her law degree from a very reputed law school, had a decent job which paid her good money, was above average in looks, had some intellectual fervor which Bengali guys in the marriage market termed as “brains” and a very very big mouth. Her parents wanted her to settle down and so did she, but the compatibility quotient held her back. Online matrimony seemed to have worked wonders in her family and so when Mishtumashi asked her mother to post her profile on one of those sites she did not even bother to ask for her permission. When she asked the reason, her mother sounded curt and logical- “If you can have your profile posted on so many of those social networking sites, then why can’t you do this for us?”
Now when your mother asks you that question all teary eyed, you can never refuse. Her latest “perfect match” Mr. Onion hunk was one of such suitors who jumped out of the virtual window to kill all her childhood fantasies about the perfect cross between Mr. Darcy and Amit Ray. Noyonika always presumed they were onion hating people. But her oh so prim and proper Mr. Ganguly does mention his onion eating habits which he describes as, “up for anything with spices and onions in it” in the cuisine column of his profile. How uncivilised, thought Noyonika.
II
“Hey”, Mr. Onion Hunk’s gtalk window popped out. Noyonika had mailed him about “her” being interested in striking up a conversation with him virtually since he is stationed in Vienna right now and when can he catch her online considering the time difference.
“Hi”
“so, we finally meet”
Noyonika’s facial expression darted from a suppressed laughter to irritation. She had been subjected to these cheesy modes of impressing a girl before also, but never expected this literature loving, Chaurasiya listening onion hunk to be in the same league.
“Yeah, virtually actually :-)”
“Right! so what did you like about me?”
Now that was something that Noyonika never expected. she was about to say “nothing actually” but refrained. She felt like blurting out, “Actually, I had a problem with your eating onions”, but said “generally.”
“Lol, you know you are the first girl to tell me that. Interesting!”
“Yeah! very”
“Ok! listen enough of being cheesy and asking what did you like in me questions..in fact am very uncomfortable with all that.”
“Oh!so…as in you understand that right?”
“Yeah, of course! now I know that you will be thinking that why did I begin with that so we finally met line..actually it was my friend’s idea”
Noyonika was on the verge of a nervous breakdown now. Well! almost. First this guy comes up with cheesy opening lines and then puts the blame on his friends! This can’t get worse-She is definitely not marrying this guy and she preferred to keep silent.
“What happened?? did i cause a big turn off?”
“Umm! yes!”
“so, Ms.Guha, you must not be contemplating marriage with me ever..right!”
“Is that even a question to ask?”
“Ha ha ha”
“What?”
“Turn Offs- Cheesy and corny pick up lines, blaming others for your own fault and farting/ burping in public.”
“You know what, you are actually cyber stalking me.”
“Hey chill! I just thought of checking out your profile on Facebook before striking up a conversation.”
“Oh! yeah! and you tried to follow it so hard.”
“actually not..In case you realize, I thought of trying the other way round…”
“Yeah! and am so happy that this conversation is virtual.”
“Right! I don’t have the scope of moving to the 3rd option.”
Noyonika could not resist a chuckle now. She did not know how to respond to that.
“Umm!so I guess we are on track Ms. Guha?”
“Call me Noyonika.”
“Ah! yes! and thanks for the smile (am not being cheesy now)”
“this was kind of weird”
“I know..actually I thought that you must have been bored to death by now by having such numerous conversations with strangers. In fact, that’s the case with me. so I thought, why not just spice it up a bit. At least a little bit of research on your virtual self showed that you will be game for it :-). sorry in case you mind.”
“Absolutely no! In fact this was quite interesting.”
“So do I move on to being Mr Interesting”
“Tch Tch, Now you are being cheesy!”
“Really?”
“Yes! Mr. researcher on virtual selves of prospective brides.”
“Lol. How do you know that?”
“Just the way you know that I will be game for the joke! come one accept it, that you have done that with all your prospective bride like species.”
“ah! yes…”
“so there you go”
“What?”
“checking people online! sheesh! am not going to marry some one who checks other people out.”
“But I am definitely in awe of one of them who just called me a kind of creep.”
“cheesy”
“Presumptuous”
 III
By the end of the conversation that nightNoyonika and his Mr Onion hunk were discovering common interests of photography, travelling, reading and food, albeit minus the onion.The first thing in the morning Noyonika’s mother did was to inquire about last night’s conversation. She was herself awake to take a feedback from her but slept when she understood that they plan to chat for quite sometime.
“I kind of liked him Ma. Let’s see.”
Her mother jumped at the mere thought of her “liking” someone. None of the other conversations lasted this long.
“so let’s fix up a meeting next week when he is coming back to Calcutta. what say?”
“Ma, he is coming back only for 5 days and that too, to attend a cousin’s wedding. Don’t you think it will be too much of an intrusion?”
“whatever.”
But what is predestined is bound to happen. Mr.Ganguly who blinked as Onion Hunk on Noyonika’s regular Gtalk list was now used to being addressed as Neel, his first name. Needless to say Noyonika’s phone often vibrated during office meetings with a distant country code flashing.
so, lets meet up then.”
“Umm! when?”
“Next Sunday may be.”
“But isn’t the Odhibaash scheduled on that day?”
“Well, I can definitely make up an excuse and don’t you think this Calcutta trip this time won’t be worth it without meeting my ms. big mouth. I swear am not being cheesy.”
“shut up Mr Onion hunk.”
So they decided and met. The venue was not the regular Barista or CCD. Noyonika detested them and Neel hated them. The Metro railway seemed to be a wonderful option for both of them. Needless to say Rabindra Sadan was the chosen station.
“Ouch! I think we got down from the same train” Neel smiled.
“Yes! considering we are both very punctual and nothing in this city runs as punctually as the Metro. ” They were both running 15 minutes late.
“Am sorry am late because of all the functions at home.” Neel knew he was making a lame ecuse.
“Its Ok! I just happened to read an old issue of Anandabazar somewhere, where Bipasha Basu advises people to be deliberately and fashionably late for their first dates.”
“So did you try this one on your ex flame…Ronojoy”
“How do you know?”
“You seemed to have told me so much about him… I think I even know which deodorant did he use.”
“Can’t help it, I still have a huge crush on him.”
“I don’t mind actually you know. I like competition”
“Geek! typical geek you are.”
“As you wish!”
“You know, you are so not like Mr.Darcy”
“But am like Amit Ray”
“Please don’t be! I kind of hate him now”
“Why?”
“Generally, I was re reading Shesher Kobita that day. Amit was a loser.”
“Erm, Labonyo was herself being the turn off and pushing him away..he had no other option.”
“Yeah Katie was the most convenient choice for her. I just hope you also don’t turn out to be like that.”
“In case we can have all these random dissection of Tagore’s creation of ultimate female fantasy am not going anywhere.”
“Is that the way you define commitment?”
“Kind of yes! But more so in giving a relationship its time and space.”
Confetti showers would have been a suitable option right then, because Mr. Neel Ganguly had pulled off something right there which many of his counterparts could not. Noyonika just shrieked out a very effeminate and oh! so cheesy “aww!”But moments are shortlived, just like the romance in them. It was just near Mohor Kunjo, that Noyonika discovered her favbourite snack of Ghotigorom (mishmash).
“Hey Neel, you want to have some of those.”
“Oh! yes!”
“Ok Dada, make 2… you want jhaal? and please without onions” she smiled at the vendor.
“Hey, one without onions and one with more of it.”
Tragedy had stuck Noyonika right then. How? how! How on earth could she forget Neel’s fascination for Onions? Also, they had never talked about her onion aversion, the main reason she was not even willing to talk to Neel in the first place.
She looked blank eyed towards Neel.
“Noyon, what happened?”
“Nothing.”
“Something must be the matter..tell me?”
“You really like onions right?”
“Really!, in fact I deliberately mentioned that in my matrimonial profile you know. In case anybody has any objection. I mean i love my food with an extra dash of onions, makes it spicy.”
“Hmm”
“That reminds me! you can cook that very delicious mutton chops you mentioned that day..the ones you make really well.”
“with onions?”
“Yes and green chillies”
“Ohk! Neel, I suppose you should know something about me”
“what? another guy..no! wasn’t ranajoy enough for my boredom?”
“this is serious neel..I hate onions..in fact I hate anything with onions in it..I hate the smell of it..cannot even tolerate it in my vicinity.”
“allergic to it?”
“No..generally hate it.”
A deathly silence enveloped the situation. Both of them returned home taking separate taxis. Nobody was in a mood for a romantic metro rail ride.
IV
“So how did it go?” Noyonika’s mother pounced on her the moment she returned home.
“Ma! please”
“Arey tell, you were so excited to meet him.”
“I wasn’t”
“Don’t lie, I could see that on your face.”
Noyonika hated this. Mothers seem to know everything. she retired to bed. Though the urge of giving Neel a call was all-encompassing, but still she resisted it.
she was getting ready for office the next day when her mother entered the room.
“Noyon, what’s the matter…you don’t seem happy after yesterday’s meeting with that Ganguly boy.”
Noyonika did not want to share, but mothers can be the perfect nest to tell and share everything stupid.
“Ma he loves onions and I dont.”
“Bas! that’s it?”
“What else Ma….I thought that onion thing on his profile is just a joke, but he was pretty serious. In fact he was being honest.”
“That’s very nice actually. But this is a very minor thing noyon. are you sure there isn’t anything else.”
“What else ma? we have so much in common excepting this very fundamental thing. Imagine food, and you know how much a foodie I am and so is Neel, will be the bone of contention. This marriage will not work out anyways.”
“Hey Bhogobaan! Noyon you guys hyperventilate.”
“Ma, don’t start that start that please! I am seriously upset.”
“Come here Noyon. Let me tell you a story. When I got married to your father we hardly knew each other. When we were on our honeymoon, we discovered we had nothing in common. He loved reading books, but only those which related to law…and I loved all the finer things in life..as you people will call it.”
“But that’s not about food…this is fundamental”
“Listen to me Noyon….You guys have so much in common to talk about, discuss about and as you say..conversations are such a big aphrodisiac. think of us 30 years ago. we did not have social networking sites to share our personal interests. We did not know what to talk about. do you understand that.”
“hmmm”
“But we still have a very successful marriage Noyon and you know why? Not because we judged our relationship on the parameters of what’s compatible and what’s not. Your father never even tried to mould himself the way I would have liked my ideal man to be. Nor did I ever take any interest in his law books. But still we survived. Actually we lived through this relationship…ups and downs, decisions- everything..together. When we fought over interest issues like I want a painting up on the drawing room wall and he being dead against anything being put up there…we were reliving the relationship that we entered by the testimony of the fire.”
“Ma..!”
“What? am I sounding cheesy or what do you think..I never had an Amit Ray in mind?”
“Oh! please Ma, Amit was such a loser.”
“Am glad that you realised that Noyon, because Labonyos always suffer. Amit Rays are meant to be part of your fantasy/ dreams…I may sound unromantic to the hilt but that’s true. All of us have to take a decision when we marry, probably the most important decision of your lifetime. There is no gender bias in that. Marriages are decisions of a lifetime. It’s about the space and time you give to a relationship. It’s not a mere coffee-house date.”
“Ma, though you sound like the big granny in the movie who hams and give lectures about marriage..you actually make sense you know….”
“I know that noyon. Marriage is also about adjustment. It’s also about compromise which may be termed as colouring your self as the other person may like it…somebody has to take the first step.”
“So you mean I start having onions?”
“No!, never, that’s you…but you can cook the way he wants..and he also can go without onions once or twice a week.”
V
Noyonika thought over the matter the entire day. she was not sure about calling up Neel right then. It was the day of his cousin’s marriage and he might be preoccupied already. Besides he might not think as she perceived the issue. It was just then that her cellphone beeped. “Hi! I needed to talk, may I call?”
In stead Noyonika herself called.
“You know what? I think I can make those mutton chops.”
“Yeah! and I also can go without having onions on special days..besides there are always mouth fresheners.”
“Yeah..Wait a min..WHAT???”
“Soorryy!! don’t kill me and please don’t change your decision now.”
“Bugger!!!”
“Meet me in 15 minutes near Maidan Metro.”
“You are insane, you have a marriage to attend in half an hour.”
“Please be my perfect wife and suggest what should I wear…erm!I need to buy some clothes you know!”
“You are incorrigible!”
“By the way, who did the brainwashing?”
“Ma..you?”
“My mom…they know everything I suppose….like creasing out basic differences..”
“Yes! and solving fundamental problems…wonder why it is told women can be wonderful world leaders. anyways see you in 15 minutes.”
“Am already there dear. :-)”

Uncertain

“It is not Rono”.

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.

(Image courtesy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Feeding-on-Robinia_pseudoacacia-uncertain-0411.jpg)

“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.