A group of five friends had formed the renowned band, The Pentagonal. They had met in the Darjeeling home of their two friends, now married, after 10 years. All of them missed the brain-child, Saahir. Fun, frolic and songs gave way to something more sinister. A bunch of different truths took strange twists and turns. Here’s Subhajit’s gripping short story.
“In the gentle waves, forgotten or recalled;
I would swim always, you mark it or not.
I would touch you, feel you; in breezes besotted.
I would love you always, you feel it or not.”
A group of five friends, only four then, read the last verse that was with them, sitting around the bonfire after 10 years, during their reunion. It was written by their unforgettable friend, Saahir, who was no more amongst them. Not that he was no more to write or breathe, sleeping on a bed of snow; cold, calm and still (as his friends believed). He had just left the pentad all of a sudden without any notice or information, leaving everything behind…his popularity, as a lyricist and singer, which made him famous not only in his college but also in entire Darjeeling. He was named to be the ‘Voice of the Hills’. He left his love, his writings behind; that were the reason for him to live, a matter to defy for few of his foes that lead to misunderstandings at times in their group, finally breaking ‘The Pentagonal’ into pieces in his absence.
‘The Pentagonal’ was a musical team of five college buddies namely Saahir, Suvreen, Ronja, Tarun and Bala. Its creator was Saahir. A popular band in history, it was ruined to dust due to the sudden departure of Saahir, 10 years ago, on the graduation day.
Sighs! “What on earth is the use of reading these lines? When he is not there, what shall we do with them?” Bala rued.
“No! Please don’t say like that! He is there, he is surely there. I find him every day when I listen to our songs, read his lyrics. All we need to do is find him. What’s wrong, man! Where did he go?” Suvreen opposed.
“Guys, guys! Relax. We will find him. He has left us with tons of questions; we need to find him to know their answers. We will find him,” chimed Tarun.
When the trio was busy buzzing, a beautiful lady sat at one side, staring at the burning logs for hours, all by herself. She was lost in a world of thoughts. Many reflections and memories crowded her mind. She had so much to ask but, couldn’t. Deep introspections took her down the memory lane that she had left behind 10 years ago. Then, she and Saahir were immersed in each other’s love. They rocked the stages with their compositions. She was his Muse. ‘The Pentagonal’, the brain child of her love, was then a history. None could write such soulful lines, compose such mellifluous melodies. He was the life source of the team, the root and anchor of ‘The Five Roses’ (as rewarded by a renowned artist after a smashing performance at the College Fest). Obviously, they couldn’t make it up to the mark as the pentad. Hence such a decline was inevitable.
“Kire! Raag korechish? (Hey, are you angry?)”
“Na, raag kore ki hobe shuni? (What would I gain being angry?)
“Achha! What’s your problem with Tarun? He is a nice guy. He admires you, drops you home, then? I believe he deserves to be your boyfriend, Girl! (Saahir giggled)”
“Shut up! Listen, I am warning you for the last time, stay away from him. He is not a good guy. The way he pretends to be good friends with us, actually he isn’t such. Believe me! I heard him yesterday talking to someone about you. He was using very bad words. So Please…”
“You overheard! Aha! That’s not good!”
“Saahir! Please, I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was just going to my classroom when I heard him talking.”
“Aw! Anyhow, I trust him. He must have been scolding someone over phone for rebuking me.”
“Na re, temonta noy. (No, it isn’t like that.) Please. Trust me! Do you think I will lie to you? I want you to be safe and happy. I want ‘us’ to be happy. See, once we pass our graduations, Baba told that he will get us married!”
“Are you serious? I mean, he won’t spy on me! (Saahir winked)”
“S-a- a-h- i-r!”
“Okay! We will. Listen, after the graduation day farewell tomorrow, I will take you for a drive. Father-in- law won’t have a problem I guess!”
“Hey! My father is quite cool about all that. He won’t mind.”
“Okay then. I will wait near the college gate. Come soon.”
“Where are you going? Sit for a while…”
“Darling, I have to meet Tarun at his house. We have to check all our instruments before sending them to the college tomorrow.”
“Not again! Can’t he do it alone? He states himself to be an expert! What kind of expert is he?”
“O, Allah! Forgive this girl. She is just messing with a genuinely nice guy.”
“Oh! Now all’s my fault. Listen, if you don’t stop now, you are going to repent one day. Then I won’t be able to help you.”
“Please elucidate how am I going to repent? Losing you to him?”
“Saahir! Don’t ever repeat that…”
“I am kidding! Chill. I will be careful. I am going. Bye. Take care.”
Ronja distinctly remembered their last conversation. She had warned him to be careful. He denied and now he has lost her, rather she has lost him. Her kohl-rimmed eyes were wet thinking about how she didn’t even bother to reply to his departing words, neither did she look back at him. Who knew it would be her last visit to Saahir, his handsome face, his charming personality yet gentle manners!
“What happened Ronja? Say something!” poked in Tarun.
“Hmm! Did you say something?” Ronja replied as she came out of her reverie. The winters of Darjeeling had grasped the relation of the two since last few years. Silence swallowed them again.
“What’s the plan guys? Shall we keep on reading his works or work out a plan to find him? Mujhe bahaut bhookh lagi hai (I am very hungry!)” Suvreen broke the silence.
“Bhukkad! (Greedy),” teased Bala.
“Ok, let’s focus! Ronja, please arrange for dinner! We are starving,” chimed Tarun. Without a word Ronja left. She had to make dinner for all.
After two hours, when the three musketeers were jotting down the places where Saahir might have gone, reading his old diary. Ronja returned with dinner and four glasses of brandy to beat the chill. The temperature was very low that day, so without the drink, they all would be dead cold.
“Ronja, tune ye sab banaya? (You cooked all these?)”
“Yes. Isn’t it good?”
“It is delicious! You took me back to my house at Kerala. The fragrance of curry leaves…! It reminded me of my mother.”
“After all, whose wife is she? Tarun Mallick’s, the chef’s!” Tarun, the comedian of the troop, joked. All laughed except Ronja. She smiled a little and left to make bed for her guests. In the meantime, Tarun and Bala sang the old songs that had once hit the sales in major musical stores.
“Listen, we should do something for this girl. We have stopped singing but still she is on her own, playing the guitar.”
“Hahaha. You’re right, Brother! She needs treatment.”
“By the way, this song’s still the same, as it was 10 years back. What lines! Kudos to Saahir!”
“Yes. But it could have been better. I told him to add few more lines but he didn’t.”
“I don’t agree with you. It is just perfect! No need to add lines, it is awesome. And why do you think adding lines would have helped? It was written and composed by Saahir, so it was his choice to decide”
Tarun yelled with rage. “What do you mean? My advice is worthless. I don’t know how to write? You scoundrel…”
Bala clarified, “No, no! Not at all! Why are you freaking out? Chill. I just meant to say it was his composition, so it was up to him to decide…”
“Don’t beat about the bush. Come clear. You mean I don’t know how to write, am no good. Don’t you remember that I composed few songs that were hits,” Tarun was seething with rage.”
“Well, I remember, those were edited by Saahir to transform into hits,” reasoned Bala.
“Yes! Don’t you know? Ok, let’s not talk about all this. Change the topic.”
Tarun’s was mad with anger. His fist was tight. He smashed Bala’s face. It was to mark the beginning of an end.
“Who is that?”
“It’s me, Saahir.”
Saahir! Have you come back? Where are you? Why can’t I see you?”
Ronja would be overwhelmed with joy when such weird things happened. She would dream of Saahir, with eyes wide open. She saw and heard him, day and night.
“You won’t see me! I am invisible. You seem sad! What happened?” It was Saahir again.
“Your absence gnaws me, always. Don’t you know? Why did you leave me all alone? I am tired of playing a good wife,” rued Ronja.
“You won’t have to do all that for long. You will come to me. Have patience,” spoke the Voice.
“What do you mean, Saahir? Kothay jacchish (where are you going).
Her trance broke. Just then she heard noises. “What’s wrong? Why are you guys fighting? Oh, No! No, no, no, no. It can’t happen. If Tarun gets angry…I need to stop it! Suvreen! Suvreen!” Ronja hurried outside.
Suvreen was so engrossed in playing the guitar that she didn’t even notice the fighting. She was jolted out of her melodic trance. Tarun was on Bala, punching him hard. Bala was bleeding.
“Have you all gone mad? What’s happening? What are you two up to? We are here to sort out a problem. Not to create one!”
Tarun was still bashing Bala mercilessly.
“Bas kar yaar, maar hi dalega kya? (Stop it. Will you kill him?) What on earth would Ronja think?”
“Chup! Just shut up! I can’t write. Now, see what I can do.”
“Stop it Tarun! What are you talking about?” Suvreen tried to pacify them. But Tarun pushed Suvreen so hard that she lost her balance. Her forehead hit a rock. She was bleeding.
“Tarun stop…,” Suvreen said feebly.
“Tarun!” Ronja yelled. She rushed towards Suvreen.
Tarun stopped. Ronja sat with Suvreen on her lap. She was nursing her wound. Ronja was seething with rage. She burst like a gas canister.
“Ronja! Please help Bala!” Suvreen said.
“Bala are you alright? Get up!”
Ronja somehow freed blood-drenched Bala from Tarun’s clutches. He was senseless.
“Ronja, listen…” Tarun said.
“Ki shonabi tui? What are you going to say? How many more are you going to hurt? Who now, Suvreen or me? What happened? Speak!” Ronja was furious.
“Don’t utter my name! I knew it was you. I have tolerated all these for years. No more. You’ll never stop. You are that beast that ends up eating its own tail. What do you think of yourself? You are cunning, smart, badass. You can do anything! Kill a man and bury him slyly! You think you are that smart!”
“What are you saying?” Suvreen said, as she got up to help Bala.
“You know one shade of Tarun. Today, I will tell you about his sinister side, the monster in him. You all saw a glimpse of it…,” seethed Ronja.
“No, you won’t! Ronja, I am sorry. I lost it. I am sorry. Please!” Tarun was on Ronja’s feet, pleading for mercy.
“Move away! Don’t touch me! Yes, I will! And don’t you dare to stop me. You guys wanted to know about Saahir’s whereabouts, Right? Let me clear the clouds. Tarun, the gentleman, is mean, full of vices, anger and jealousy. He was always jealous of Saahir. I had warned Saahir but he was a man who trusted all. His trust cost him dearly.” Ronja’s voice was choking.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, I am!”
Tarun was growling in anger by this time.
“You thought you could win the game by getting rid of him and take his place in my life! You never could.”
Tarun was about to leave angrily when Ronja held his hands and said, “Where are you fleeing? Scared to lose your image? You should be scared. You thought I didn’t know. No Sir, I did. I knew it was you who was poisoning Baba’s (daddy’s) ears about Saahir. Or else, how could you isolate him? My father had accepted our relationship, why would he oppose it, suddenly? You know what? You don’t deserve anybody. You are rotten….Ah! Leave me, it is hurting…”
Tarun yelled, “I have been listening for a long time. I was just being silent. I did not want to hurt you. I pleaded too. But no, you need to be stopped permanently.”
“Ah! Leave my hair!”
“Leave her, I repeat, leave. See, let her go. What are you doing? No! Tarun, don’t!”
A silver pocket knife stabbed Ronja’s stomach. She slumped in her pool of blood.
“Sorry guys! It’s now your turn. What can I do? You left me no choice. You know the truth, and are witnesses of Ronja’s tragic end. I love you all, seriously! But I can’t leave you with this image of mine. I am sorry again. Please forgive me!”
“No, no, please, please leave us. For heaven’s sake, please spare us! We won’t utter a word about what has happened here, Please! Bala! No, no, don’t do this. Tarun, you will never be forgiven by Him. No, Tarun…”
Ronja couldn’t hide the truth. Neither could she let her husband know about her falling in love with him for the last five years. Suvreen and Bala couldn’t escape his wrath. The Rose Villa, where 10 years ago, Saahir was buried. Ronja had been hiding her pain for few years to escape Tarun’s threat and torture. She had lost the ‘spring of her life’ in the dismal winters when she got the note that Tarun had left. She never thought that the departure would so horrific or that she’d find out the truth till she witnessed the sinister side of Tarun. Six years after their marriage she fell in love with Tarun, again. They were in Mysore. Her quest for truth brought her from Mysore to Darjeeling, the house where Tarun was born. This was the place where he hid his dark deeds, his shameful secrets to rot. Tarun was not oblivious that all decay is followed by obnoxious odor. In Tarun’s case, the skeletons in the cupboards were his hidden diaries. How long the truth could be hidden? It spilled out one day.
Tarun. He was already sunk in the depths of shame and repentance. His anger was his death knell. His hands never stopped of smelling blood. How could be live this life? Could he really flee once again and start a new life? It was not a matter of one dead body to get rid of this time.
For him, the best option was death. He met his nemesis. In that lonely hill and house, no one visited till they heard a lady screaming.
Perhaps no one would visit until the foul smell was strong. In Darjeeling winter it would take a long time. It was a better option than to face death sentence and shame in the courts. This was most suited for Tarun.
The Pentagonal had reunited that night to commemorate their 10 years. None of them were left.
There would be no reunions ever after.
Pix sourced from author.
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