Life is full of strange surprises. It’s rightly said that facts are stranger than fiction. The protagonist, Anita, found acceptance of her love with Shubho perhaps a little too late. Here’s an interesting story, by Madhumita, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Anita could no way be consoled. I sat in her bedroom, on her bed, looking on at her, with love and sympathy. She sat looking away from me, at the ceiling, tearstains on her cheeks, and a vacant look in her eyes.
“How could this happen? Why did this have to happen?” She kept saying intermittently, half to herself, half to me perhaps. I didn’t know the answer. “It happens. Strange things happen in this world. We have to accept that,” was all I could say.
I was being honest when I said that. I accepted that strange inexplicable things do happen beyond our reckoning after listening to Anita’s story. Not story, really. It was fact. As it happened last evening. A frantic phone call from Anita and I came rushing to her, calling my day off at office. I had a very lenient, indulging and understanding boss. “It’s about a life and death problem,” I had told him and he had graciously granted me leave for the day.
It was one of the most humid, hot and sultry days. Not a breeze blew, not a leaf stirred. Life lay still, half-dead, throttled by the oppressive heat. Anita had returned home, exhausted from the heat and work beyond working hours at the office, where the boss had called a meeting late in the day. She had a tough time returning home, finding transport. She returned, soggy with sweat and tired to the bones. It was a relief when clouds gathered and the sky turned orange. She took a long and leisurely shower and changing into her capris and tee, headed to the kitchen. The cool breeze that blew from the west gradually gathered speed and Anita rushed about the house shutting the windows. Soon it was a fierce stormy wind that raged across, rapping at the doors and rattling the window panes, so hard it seemed the glass panes would shatter to pieces. Storms always scared Anita. She had seen, in her childhood, in the suburban town where she had stayed, huge trees being uprooted, tall palm trees being halved and the leafy heads being blown away along with thatched roofs torn away from huts lined up in a row near the canal that flowed through their town. She was frightened of the eerie sound of the howling wind. She ran away from the kitchen and shut herself up in the bedroom. The westerly demonic gusts did not strike on the panes of the only two windows there, on the east and the south. She waited for the storm to subside. And it did, after a while. But the rains came on, hard and heavy.
Anita stopped talking and stared blankly at the opposite wall, tears streaming down from her swollen eyes. I let her cry and sat silently beside her, holding her hand.
“Will you be going to Durgapur?” I asked softly.
“No. Why should I? What is left there for me? I won’t go. I won’t go anywhere.” She sounded determined. “This room…this bed…he was here…” and her voice trailed off.
I stayed the night with her and we stayed awake all night, she narrating her experience of the previous day and I listening, with shock and disbelief. But it was true. I had called at Shubho’s home at Durgapur. I had spoken to his sister. And there was no way why I would not believe Anita’s strange but true story.
Anita was in the kitchen, humming to herself as she cooked, when the bell rang. She went to the door thinking who could have come in the rainy evening and jumped with joy when she saw Shubho standing there. She smiled and hugged him, pulling him into the room by his hand.
“Come on in, into the kitchen. I’m cooking. Give me a helping hand. You better learn, haan? Don’t expect me to all the housework alone, mind you. So what I’ll give up this job after we’re married. I’ll find a new one at Durgapur, be sure of that sir. And we’ll do the housework together, okay with that, you? You better be. Or there’ll be no marriage, I warn you.” Anita laughed and chattered as she chopped and cooked, Shubho helping her with this and that occasionally. Anita once wondered why he had come without a phone call as he usually did. “I just had to come and see you,” Shubho had said. On Anita’s asking why he was dry despite the fact it was raining heavily, he had said that he stood at a shop and then ran all the way. Anita was too excited and happy to find anything unusual in Shubho’s arrival or his explanation.
After a candle-light dinner, candles as there was a power outage, they retired to the bedroom. They made love throughout the night; several times, in the dark. They had made love before. But it was special that night. Anita was never happier, never felt so fulfilled. The rain stopped at dawn. And they slept.
Anita woke up to the sound of her cell phone ringing. It was dark. She could not remember where she was, why she was sleeping or what time of the night it was. And then it came back to her. Shubho. Shubho was with her. And she had spent the most wonderful night with him. She groped at the bedside table and reached for her phone.
“Ani…Ani…I…you…I love you…I just…” Anita sat up with a start and focused the lit-up front side of the phone on the bed. There was no one lying on the bed. “Shubho! Where are you Shubho? Where have you gone? Shubho!” Anita looked dazed at the bed as she screamed into the phone. Shubho was on the phone. He tried to tell her something. But he was with her, on the bed. Where did he go? And why would he leave at dawn without telling her? Suddenly Anita was gripped with terror and concern. She got up from her bed and barely walked two steps, when the lights came on. She looked at the clock on the wall. It was 11:30 p.m. Anita could not remember when she had fallen asleep. She went to the kitchen. The cooking was half done. The chopped vegetables still sat on the dining table in a stainless steel bowl. There was no sign of anyone having had dinner. She poured water in a glass and drank it all up and sat down on a chair, her heart pounding so hard that she felt she would die of her heart bursting. I must have been so tired that I decided to not cook and go to bed, she thought. But Shubho? Why did I dream of him? And such a vivid dream at that? She dialed Shubho’s number. The phone was switched off.
The news came a couple of hours later. Shubho’s sister, Mimi, had called. She could barely speak. Everything was over. The motorcycle was broken beyond repair and Shubho, grievously injured, had expired with an hour of being taken by the passersby to the hospital. He was identified from his driving license in his wallet. Mimi wept inconsolably as talked and Anita listened, speechless.
We sat, best friends, Anita and I, in silence, hugging and crying. I got up after a while and made coffee. I handed her the coffee and sat down beside her. “Come, get ready. We’re going to Durgapur. Mimi needs you. Shubho needs you there. He wants you to go there. That is what he had come to you for. To tell you that, in the last few minutes of his life. He acknowledged you as family. His bride.”
“The bride of death,” Anita whispered.
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Professor Dr. Madhumita Ghosh is also a poet and editor. Her poems have been widely published in print, e-books, journals and magazines all over the world. She has authored four poetry books titled For All You Lovely People, Pebbles On The Shore, Flowing with the River and My Poetry My Voice, and also William Blake; A Prophet for Mankind, a critical study on the British poet. Madhumita has presently a novel and a book of short stories are in the pipeline.