Short Story

What’s meant to be will always find a way

Deep set sparkling eyes with an aquiline nose, broad forehead with a receding hairline, on a thin tall structure, made Kaushik look distinguished. His voice carried a sonorous tone intonated with a deep bass. His satirical laughter unnerved the clients who came to meet him and cut the eerie silence to throw it afar. First time clients felt derided by Kaushik and were on the edge. The effect crafted by Kaushik was electrifying on his clients leaving them with awe and veneration.
‘ Be different, stand out and work your butt off ’ is what Kaushik practised. Conscientiously he has worked on building this image. With a religious discipline he was worked assiduously on his tone and modulations of voice, his diet and exercise regimen and on his domain knowledge. He has even practised his posture, his style of lighting his pipe and his steps in front of a large mirror lit by flash bulbs on both sides, as used by theatre actors. Clients grudgingly admired his accurate predictions.

“ I don’t give false hopes. Now stop fiddling with your mobile, it distracts me. I cannot make an infertile wife a mother nor can get you unwanted wealth. There is no magic wand in my hand. No person reading the future can make you win the lottery, get you married to someone specific or even get you to clear exams. I can only tell what to expect from a specific situation written in your destiny.”
In the same breath he would continue, “ I will tell you the truth and sometimes the truth is bitter. It stinks. You should have the stomach to digest it. Otherwise you can leave now and don’t have to pay my consultation fees. I hope you know the story of the palmist who predicted to a client that he will have some gain and a little loss in the coming week. This person was travelling in a car when his car got bumped by a truck coming from the opposite side. The guy got thrown into a bush nearby. He stretched his hand to help himself out and his hand struck a couple of eggs laid by hens that day morning. He had broken his leg and his car was damaged . He called up the insurance company and dragging his leg with piercing pain took some first aid medication in a nearby town and came back home to get himself plastered at his known hospital. He called up the palmist next day and narrated his traumatic incident. The palmist said , ‘ See you could have died or broken your head. Your leg will become well in a couple of months. And you got the eggs free. Thank God for saving your life.’ I never lie. A lie you know has a taste of its own. Like popping a chocolate laced candy only to find the filling of red chillies.”

He would now start laughing maniacally at his own sinister joke. His diminutive prospective client would smile meekly to evoke some empathy. Then Kaushik would draw the client’s sweating palm towards him. For a minute he was engrossed on the lines on the palm and then gravely say, “ Understood.” He then would lift the magnifying glass and go threadbare on dissecting every line and mound of the palm. He knew that by now the client’s heartbeat is at lowest and he is prepared to hear the worst. The client is scared of not knowing what to expect, like a turtle on its back.
After reading the palm, Kaushik would keep down the magnifying glass and stare sharply at his client’s face for sometime. While keeping his eyes fixed on his client’s eyes, he would say, “ Do you want to hear your future ? Telling the truth can be dangerous business.”

As if in cue, the client would nod gently. Kaushik would now get busy for next fifteen odd minutes in the propect’s astrological birth chart. He would make some calculations in his notebook and again see the palm of the client. For the next few moments Kaushik would be in Samadhi. He would seem like an inert object with no movement, save breathing slowly. The client in reciprocation would also go to a yogic state. Very slowly and softly, Kaushik would say,” What damned luck, I have. Not a single good hand comes my way. Saturn is spending time in your sign now , it is working against you. In coming one year you will have some misfortunes. Death of a close relative, loss of money, loss of health. I will get into this in more detail.” Kaushik’s harrowing would then continue. He would state accurate happenings of negative trends in the client’s past before moving to the future.
By now the client was trying to forget himself and his own miserable state. Why couldn’t a crater open up suddenly and swallow him ! He would gather his last ounce of courage and ask, “ Maharaj, is there no way to counter this ? A yagna following the Rig Veda or havan ?”

Immediately, Kaushik would thunder, “ No sir, am sorry. I do not belong to that class who will take Rs. 5000 or Rs. 10,000 to get a puja done and do some offerings to a consecrated fire. I am not among those who will charge you Rs. 30,000 for an emerald or pearl or ruby. Stars are millions of light years away from earth and if someone says that they will control your destiny from that far, then he is fooling you. I do not also recommend a medallion or charm wand worn across your neck or arm , as I feel those are useless. You people are educated , why don’t you answer yourself and analyse with commonsense. What will happen by lighting a fire and pouring some adulterated ghee ? It will create some useless smoke and pollution.”
“ Is their any way out ? “ the hysterical client used to ask in a shrieking voice.
“ Yes, worship the God you believe in. Take his name 10,000 times or one lakh times. Chant the mantra that gives you inner strength. Japat siddha, japat siddha, japat siddhanorsansoi. The chant will bring inner peace and help you to control your destiny from meandering. This daily ritual and your karma will provide you with inherent fulfilment and prepare you to face destiny.”

This talk did not calm the clients, who are used to some panacea from astrologers. They used to pay Kaushik his fees and go to consult some one else. Kaushik knew about it and used to say to the others in waiting, “ Now the fool will go to an astrologer and a priest and till the time he spends a lot of money on some gem stones or perform a religious ritual, he will not rest in peace. At least he will get a fake rudraksha by spending a few hundreds. ”

Couple of his friends, he did not have any close ones, used to give unsolicited advice to Kaushik, “ You should have taken some money and done a havan at least. You lost the opportunity, knowing it will be showered on some one else. Come on, this is your business.”

“ No, no. That is against my ethics.” Kaushik would get enraged at this comment. “If I get into this, then God will steal my strength and acumen to read others truthfully. The funny part is that even if they go to all sorts of God men and fraudsters , they will also come to me knowing that I will tell the naked truth. Whatever misfortune, despair and apprehension that they will have in future, they know I will catch those nuances in their palm and charts. I tend to walk on the dark side of their lives.”

He would now roam in his room with his wooden chappals making a measured, regulated sound and light his pipe. His eyes would turn red and blowing the smoke away, he used to say in a subdued voice, “ I know what will happen, I can see the unavoidable. This is the most pitiable scenario. Knowing the destiny yet knowing I am powerless to change the course. I am helpless, fluttering my wings like a caged bird. Probably that is why it is called destiny. The road we have to tread and leave behind the trail of marks is pre-determined. Probably people who cannot see the future are better off as the unknown is better not to know.”

There is a backdrop behind this rumination and self criticism. People who knew about it, used to stay mum and tried to change the topic. His so called friends had to come to enjoy the free evening tea with titbits and had no intention of treading into dangerous territory. Kaushik’s history is known by most in the neighbourhood of Naihati.

He was not an astrologer earlier. He passed Graduation and took up a job as a school teacher in Mathematics. With only his mother with him, they managed comfortably their meagre means, with a left over at the end of the month at Kaushik’s disposal. His father had built a small house before he had passed away, while Kaushik was still in college. One of Kaushik’s hobby was to collect old books and manuscripts. He used to roam in College Street in late afternoons to scan for worn eaten and torn old books, at throw away prices. Finishing a simple late lunch after returning from school, Kaushik used to catch the local from Naihati and arrive at Sealdah. From there to College Street, is a simple walk. The book sellers took a liking towards this young, middle class, educated, thin teacher rummaging through old books, which they had written off in their inventory, and allowed him his time. Kaushik used to come back by the late evening local to Naihati station and from there, walk the two kilometre stretch to his home. On good days, he spent the time in train to rummage through his latest collection. His mother used to push him for getting married and his friends pulled his leg, but Kaushik had only one addiction, of antiquated books and manuscripts.

Pages that were torn, faded and half eaten by termites, was diligently copied by Kaushik, in his calligraphic style of writing in a new copy. He brushed up his Sanskrit and took some classes in Pali and Urdu during the weekends from a couple of retired professors in those disciplines. He enrolled in a weekly latin class, conducted in private by a Catholic father of St Xaviers, as he had to decipher some pages of patristic literature. He had to spend some money now on buying grammar and dictionaries on second hand, to comprehend the writings. The subjects were varied, from religious discourses, theology, mystic songs, poems, historical novels, fables to articles of current affairs. Some of them were dated two hundred years ago and for some puthis, he could not figure out. He stole a powerful magnifying glass from the biology labratory in his school, to study the yellowed pages.

One afternoon, he got hold of a manuscript of Jamini astrology and an old faded book on Nadis in a corner bookshop at the side of Goldighi, the pond in College Street. Written in manuscript format in Nagiri script and the other one in Vatteluttu with Sanskrit translation. These were at least one century old and he went to the National Library at Alipore to enquire about the authors. They had in collection one more book on Guru Nadi, written in Gurmukhi. He had a membership made, borrowed the book and copied the entire text before returning. With this, a new passion was born. Bit by bit he understood the meanings of the style of the writing, the slokas, the commentaries, the signs and their interpretations. He learnt Tamil and went down to Rameswaram on privilege leave, to understand from a scholar the grammar of Tolkappiyam to decipher the writings. He understood the constellations drawn and bought some books on astronomy to study the congruence. He used to take leave from school and burnt midnight oil, pouring over the pages. Every week he started to collect work on ancient Hindu and Vedic astrology. He drew the constellation of himself and his mother and viewed the lines of palm of his and his mother to calculate the past and predict the future. Kaushik was reborn.

He had shown his palm and birth chart to many astrologers and had been of the view that their prophecies were based on whole lot of guesswork. Kaushik started studying the palms and prepare constellation charts of his friends and relatives to test his new found knowledge. He was overwhelmed when most of his predictions turned true and grew apprehensive of the thought of prediction the future with precision. It was like solving a complex arithmetic problem where gradually the chances of going wrong disappeared as his knowledge increased. The equations always matched.

He went to Benaras and bought some books from Godhuri bazaar. He borrowed money from a money lender by pledging some gold ornaments of his mother and went to Ludhiana to seek time with a Sikh Guru who had the original manuscripts of Bhrigusanhita. Guruji took a pranami of Rs. 200 and allowed him to go through the handwritten pages, for a full day.

Over the past few months, he had been neglecting his school duties. He had often been on leave and sometimes without pay, after the paid leaves got exhausted. The school sent him an official ultimatum for breach of discipline. The dry stem of his job was swaying in hot air when Kaushik himself decided to snap it and become a professional astrologer. From Puri, he got a new title of Jyotirbinod, by doing a short course and donating a paltry sum. He now put up a signboard outside his house and also distributed some handouts through the local newspaper vendors.

The so-called friends who had given enthusiasm earlier for his new venture gradually faded away when free advice gave way to paid consultation. Kaushik spent time alone with his pipe and pile of books in the new office he had carved out of his drawing room, by putting a wooden partition. Days and nights passed without a single client ringing the doorbell. To meet the paltry needs of his own and his old mother, Kaushik now had to mortgage his house. He read deep into the night, every book he had on jyotish and studied various constellations. His mother got frustrated as her continuous nagging of asking him to take up a job, fell on deaf ears. He simply ignored her when she told him to leave this deadly obsession, now that the only asset they had, has also been pledged. But Kaushik was convinced that astrology was his profession and will bring him fame and some money. He had analysed his own birth chart.

Two to three clients trickled in after a couple of months. Kaushik pounced on them in hunger and tried to pin his catch. He had built his theme over the last few months and it is different. He will not package the truth and will emphasise on the misfortunes that will befall the client. He will get into details of tragic events that will unfold. Destiny for most will be filled more with bad times than good times. Playing the demon would help to build his clientele.

He started practising the art now. His stare, his satire, his cynical laughter, his voice modulation, et all. His clients left with tearful eyes and fire in their ears. Still they came and referred others. Kaushik’s predictions were as true as death. He could tell a father of the impending death of his only son . He could tell the wife of the second marriage of her husband after two years. He used to bare it all. People do not believe that trying times will befall on themselves and try to figure out magical mysticism to avoid them. But Kaushik gave no hope. His clients felt bit at ease as they believed that all of Kaushik’s prophecies will not come true, as is the going in the trade of astrology. Misfortune always happen to others and not to self, is the misperception. Once the destiny changed for worse, people referred others to Kaushik. The vicious cycle continued making the profession his addiction.

He studied his palm and astrological charts and prophesized on two grave incidents in his own life. He drew up his birth chart time and again and matched with his birth time. He went again to Benaras and then to Hoshiarpur for consulting Bhrigusamhita from a Bhrigu Shastri . No, there is no mistake in his calculation.
He would be the reason for the death of his mother. How could he come with to terms with this ? His mother is his only close living relative and he owes his life to her. He thought of performing the most religious and strict, spiritually disciplined worship to offer prayers to Lord Shiva , that is scripted in the Veda for erasing this ominous prophecy. The second negative prophecy was easy to avoid. He would never marry. He had anyway aged , there is no need to invite more trouble by marrying, wherein it is predestined that his wife will leave him for someone else.
He went to Hindustani pundits for understanding the mantras . Went to Sanskrit pundits to comprehend the process to follow during the period of worship. The thought of sending his mother away from him also cropped up in his mind.

One day, during this preparation, he asked his mother, “ Ma, you have aged. We also have some money now. Why don’t you think of going and staying at Kashi ?”
Mother hesitatingly mentioned , “ Who at my age will not love to stay at Kashi- Benaras ? It is the most holy place on earth and you go straight to heaven if you die there. But, son, who will take care of you if I go ?”
Kaushik replied, “ How long will you think about it, Ma ? If you die, I have to fend for myself.”
“ That is different, son. But while living, how can I see you in distress ? I will die of thinking about your well being, if I am away.”
“ So, you will not go ?” Kaushik was getting a bit impatient.
“ On one condition. You have to get married and once your wife is at home I will go.”
“ That I cannot do.” Kaushik was very emphatic in his reply.
“ Then, I will not go to Kashi.”
The argument continued for sometime. His mother finally confessed to the actual reason, “ I am old now. If I stay at Kashi all alone, I will feel nervous. I get frightened by the thought of dying alone.”
“ Well, what about sending someone with you ?” Kaushik continued.
“ Why are you after me ? As if, if I don’t move out of this house, you will not marry ! Even if you give someone with me, when I die, my son will not be with me. My only son won’t be able to pour the holy water of Ganga on my lips.”

Kaushik was stopped at this arrow from his mother. He would never be able to share the future prophecy with his mother and even if he did, his mother would not believe. She was proud of the fact that her son loves and respects her, a paradox in modern times.

He had to perform the strict religious rites eventually. All the ingredients were painstakingly arranged by him. Out of cow’s milk, pure ghee was made. He fasted one day before , took some fruits before sunrise and then sat down for meditation . Thereafter he chanted the hymns and then offered Prasad to God. At the end was a havan. The prayers continued till sunset. After completing the full religious ceremony he tied a sacrament around the shoulder of his mother.
When his mother protested, he said, “ You have a misfortune hitting you shortly. This will protect you.”
Astonished, his mother said, “ You did this entire puja for me ? Are you mad ? I have crossed seventy already.”
“ Old age does not mean you have to die.”
“ It is just a matter of time before death hits me. You have gone out of your mind.”
His mother started irking him continuously from now on for getting him married. She knew that Kaushik is aging and this is the time for getting a young bride for her only son.
“ Cant you talk anything apart from marriage ?” Kaushik showed irritation at the continuous niggling.
His mother grapsed the opportunity and asked, “ If I make some other request will you keep it ?”
“ Yes.”
“ You are telling me that Saturn will strike me soon. One of the ways the negative effect of Saturn can be avoided is by visiting God’s abode. The char dhams, where Lord Shiva had resided. And Dwarka, the residence of Lord Krishna. After your father died, I have not gone anywhere. The entire time was spent on bringing you up on the limited savings he had left. Why don’t you take me to these places while I am still alive ?”

Is this the precursor to the destiny that will inevitably strike, in spite of all his efforts ? Kaushik contained his tremors within himself and just nodded to his mother’s request.

Some money had been saved due to his recent earnings from astrology. Kaushik had managed to repay the loan on the house also. They locked their house and left. First to Puri, the abode of Lord Jaganath, then back to Calcutta to go to Guwahati to visit Kamakshya. Thereafter he took his mother to Benaras and Prayag through Calcutta. From Lord Vishwanath’s abode it was to Lord Krishna’s abode at Dwarka. They came back to Delhi to visit Mathura, Brindavan and then on to Kedarnath and Badrinath. On their way back to Delhi they stopped at Haridwar. After more than a month’s travelling, his mother was tired. She took an immediate liking to Haridwar and the serene river flowing. The morning and evening aartis were a visual delight.
They checked into a hotel on Har Ki Pauri and Kaushik went to search for a rental apartment where they could stay comfortably for a month. He found an old Bengali priest who resided with his daughter in a small, old, one storey house on the bank of the river. With old age riddled with asthma, the priest was not able to go out to solicit clients on the ghats of Haridwar and was in penury. He had become a disciple of Bharat Maharaj fifty years back and after the Maharaj’s death had stayed back to set up his religious practise. His daughter had now come of marriageable age but how could he get her married, with no earnings to fall on ? He let out his outer rooms to Bengalis who wanted to spend some time in this temple town.

Kaushik liked them and after giving some token advance shifted his mother from the hotel. The priest’s daughter was very homely and made them feel comfortable. Kaushik saw in her an attractive female, though she did not have any ornaments and wore faded clothes. He thought of studying her palm at an opportune moment.
Next day, his mother desired to taking a bath in Ganga. It was the month of September and was a bit chilly in the early mornings. Hardly there were bathers on the eastern side of the bathing ghats. By clutching the iron ropes, his mother started to get down on the stairs to the river.

“ These are too slippery, baba, ” his mother uttered. Kaushik saw his mother slipping and immediately started climbing down himself with his clothes on. He slipped himself and fell on his falling mother. Mother could not take the pressure and her hands slipped from the iron rings. She got instantly carried by the flow of the river and Ganga was raging with strong currents. Kaushik tried in vain to catch her mother and swam almost to the middle, trying to locate her. By this time, some of the volunteers had got alerted and they dived into the river. The professional rescuers came after some time, but it was too late. They got Kaushik’s mother’s dead body.

Kaushik did not cry. He sat on the ghat with a wild stare on his eyes. Misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes. This was predestined. News got carried to the priest and he came running to Har-ki-Pauri , with his daughter in tow. Since the priest was well known in that area, post mortem was avoided.

Indira, the priest’s daughter, took control of the situation. She put her hand on the head of Kaushik and caressed him. She took him by his shoulders and made him stand, while stating, “ Come on. Dont sit like that. You have to complete the last rites of your mother. You have to put gangajal and light the pyre to repay the debt to your mother.”

He let himself be led by her and performed the last rites mechanically. After the cremation, Kaushik came back and laid down. All the energy had been drained from him and there is nothing more left of life. His characteristic sharpness was replaced by a vacant look. It was Indira who worked on him to bring him back to the times. Kaushik surrendered himself to her. She took care of his daily food ritual scripted for the mourning period, of his clothes and even monitored his bath and sleep timings. She pressed his forehead while putting him to sleep. He was like her small child, who needed constant attention.

After the Sradhh was over on the 13th day of death of his mother, Kaushik started preparing to come back to his hometown. Before taking leave he met the old priest and said, “ I do not know how to repay you and your daughter. What you have done to me over these days is not even expected of near family. If I can be of any service to you, please let me know.”
The old priest replied, “ Do you really want to bestow us with some favours ?”
“ Yes, definitely. If it is within my means.”
“ Are you sure ?”
“ Yes.”

The priest remained silent for some time, as if in meditation. In the falling sun, his veins discernibly stood out on the thin shrivelled face. Softly, he said, “ Then please accept my daughter as your bride. She is very amicable and will be appropriate for you.”
Kaushik was dumbstruck and said, “ What are you saying ?”
“ What else can I ask ? This is the biggest debt that I have. Of finding a suitable match for my poor but literate daughter.”
“ But I had taken a vow of not to marry.”
“ You can break that. You told me that if it is within your means then you will keep my request. I do not want money. I am old and spend sleepless nights thinking of what will happen to my daughter after my death. If you break your vow due to this, even Lord Shiva will pardon you and will bless you.”
“ You will not understand the reason of the vow, sir. This cannot happen,” Kaushik vehemently tried to oppose this . He was feeling exhausted and defeated, but how could he explain the reasons for this refusal.
The old priest said in an offended tone ,” I knew you will not agree. My poor girl, what a fate she will have. Perhaps poverty is the greatest curse in modern age.”
Kaushik maintained his silence. He closed his eyes and imagined his mother’s face. He tired to offer a silent prayer. Brushing the visuals in his mind, the image of Indira’s smiling face got superimposed. All the other images were pointing towards Indira and forcing him to look at her as the point of convergence. Indira looked beautiful and her lips were inviting.
As if speaking to himself, Kaushik said, “ Destiny.” Man does not choose fate..Fate chooses man.
The old priest could not catch what he said and asked, “ Did you say something ?”
“ Will do what you want me to do. But you have to give me six months of time. I will come back to Haridwar for releasing the spirits of my mother by a pind daan puja. After that ritual, I will marry your daughter.”
The old priest was engulfed in the spirit of exuberance. With tears of gratitude in his eyes, he said, “ I do not have any belongings other than this house. Will not be able to gift my daughter even one gram of gold. But I will write this house in her name.”
“ Dont worry about money. You will gift her your blessings.”

After six months, the marriage happened. Though, Kaushik was quite aged and there was a gap of more than fifteen years between them, Indira devoted her entire self to her husband. She wanted to love him and love him madly, unconditionally. Her happiness was short lived and her marital bliss was like an allegory. The barrier came surprisingly from Kaushik. Indira, inexplicably, found Kaushik to be hesitant with her, kept to himself, avoided her on occasions. She felt hurt and cried alone, silently.

The wall between them rose, with its height increasing brick by brick over time. There was nothing that could be proved in a court of law. Kaushik never shouted on her nor did he beat her. Kaushik never drank and his only addictions were his books, scriptures, his few clients and his pipe. But the hurdles started becoming insurmountable to be reconciled. When Indira would hold him with her two hands and raise his face to kiss her, Kaushik’s eyes took a lost look and avoided kissing her. He would try to wriggle himself out of her embrace. When at night she draws on his bare torso, Kaushik would not grasp her body but turned on the other side of the bed. He would not reply when she speaks , he would not caress her when she sings. Indira felt ashamed for showing so much of love. Apart from the few immediate nights after marriage , the carnal consummation of marriage remained a distant dream.

After a few months, Indira got a phobia that Kaushik suspected her. His eyes would seem to always follow her with a feeling of mistrust . A constant monitoring, unobtrusively by Kaushik, up on her daily routine activities. There was no love in his eyes which stalked her. It was a vigil, bereft of any desire.

She asked him quite a number of times. “ What do you think always ?” “ Why don’t you make love to me ?” “ Why do you follow me with your eyes ?” “ Why do you come inside suddenly from your living room to check on me ?” “ Why don’t you talk to me ?” The questions reverberated with no answers. Kaushik would stare at her with a distant look in his eyes and go back to his living room.

His practice had improved and he sometimes travelled out of Naihati to visit reputed clients. He would go twice a week to Calcutta to practise in Bowbazar, sharing a cabin with another astrologer. At night he was lost in his readings and making birth charts. There was no time he gave to Indira and with each passing day, his aloofness increased.

Indira gradually developed a feeling of hatred towards him. So, insanely that the feeling hurted her like a fire torching her heart. She could not imagine a man not looking at her curves, of not kissing her, of not getting addicted by her love. She could not draw him to her and will take revenge of this nonchalant behaviour. She started neglecting him and became more involved in her dressing and sat for hours in front of her dressing mirror, applying make up. She did not go out from her house apart from going to the nearby market. Still she spent a whole lot of time in making herself look beautiful. She started reading fiction and spent hours coiled up on the bed with her book. Probably Kaushik had lost his drive but it still did not explain his not loving her. Love is beyond sex and if much more fulfilling than sleeping together. What did he want from her ? Had she not pledged herself totally to him ? Why would he not talk and share his problems with his better-half ? No one comes for dinner, Kaushik did not invite any friend or distant family member. She was imprisoned in her own home. Though they were poor, but life was much better at Hairdwar.

Kaushik also noticed the change in Indira’s behaviour and her indulgence in herself. He put a medallion on her arm and started putting different gem stones on her fingers. His increased the height of the boundary wall of his house by a feet, by hiring some masons. He prevented her from mixing with neighbours and any outsider. The acrimony amidst the cold war increased. One day, Kaushik saw his maidservant gossiping with a young servant at the corner of the street and immediately sacked the poor female. He searched through old family members and got a young boy, just getting out of adolescence, hardly sixteen years old , to be the new servant. He briefed him thoroughly and told him that keeping a constant observation on Indira would be his prime duty.

He had now turned her into a caged animal. The hatred gave way to anger which started boiling inside Indira. She vowed before Goddess Kali, to take full vengeance of this. She laughed in her mind when the servant, Yogesh, got recruited. She focussed on seducing Yogesh. His fresh- from-the-foreskin cock is still young and tender and Indira got down to the act of making it listen to her.
A boy of sixteen years is quite naive in the ways of life and Yogesh, had not had any experience of a woman’s body. The servant soon got mesmerised and bewitched by Indira. But Indira’s retribution was not satisfied with this activity alone. Why should she spend her life within these four walls with a non-caring person ? She knew the entire world is open for her and with beauty and age on her side , she could open all the doors for achieving prosperity.

One evening, Kaushik had a lot of waiting in his chamber and was quite busy. Indira observed this and called Yogesh to her room. She tightly embraced and kissed him. Yogesh started undressing which is the usual practise he has learnt to please Ma’am. Indira stopped him and looked at his eyes intoxicatingly and said , “ Can you elope with me ?”
Yogesh became nervous and stuttered, “ Where ?”
“ Wherever. The entire country is there and we are a large country. We will put up a home somewhere.”
Yogesh could not believe this. It seemed a God send fortune which made him jittery. Nervously, he asked, “ If Sir informs the police ?”
“ I will handle the police. I will tell them that I have come out of my own wish. What will police do ?”
“ What will we eat ? I don’t earn anything. I am also not educated to get a job.” Yogesh’s eyes started twitching more and more.
“ I have so much of jewellery. We will put up a tea stall somewhere. You will sell and I will make tea and samosas.”
Yogesh felt like seeing a film. Still he had the tinge of trepidation and said, “ Will you withstand poverty and live in a simple hut. You are not used to it.”
“ Yes, I will.”
“ OK then. But I am afraid.”
Indira gave a final push and put his hands on her breasts. Then with a venom, she hissed to his ears, “ I am there.”
“ When do we go ?”
“ Now. Immediately.”
“ Right now ?” The strength mustered by Yogesh so far seemed to evaporate.
“ Yes. Sir is busy with his clients. By the time he will get some breath it will be two hours.”
“ We will pack some clothes.”
“ No. We will go out through the side door. I do not want to delay. Plus a suitcase will attract attention. I have some cash on hand. We can buy whatever we need. We will take the first local to Calcutta.”

Like a dead leaf, Yogesh did not have any counter argument to avoid the inevitable. Indira’s eyes were glistening with the glow of imminent freedom. She have to overcome all odds. Yogesh will be used by her to get out of this bondage and probably needed for a couple of more days.

She removed the rings of her fingers full of gemstones and the medallion which Kaushik had tied on her left shoulder. She carefully kept them on the bed.
Kaushik lighted his pipe after a full two hours. Couple of clients were still waiting for him. He tried to listen for any sound coming from inside the house. It seemed that the interiors were more silent than usual. He quickly laid down his pipe and got engrossed in proving consultation to the remaining clients. As soon as he got free, he went inside and noticed that all the doors were opened. There was a wind coming from the kitchen and he went to find the side door beside the kitchen, leading to the alley, to be wide open.

He shouted, “ Indira.”

There was a deafening stillness. He went to their bedroom and noticed the rings and medallion on the bed. He at once realised what has happened and started laughing like a man possessed. The outrageous laughter did not stop and went on. In the empty house, the laughter resonated. He could not contain the outflow of the river, though he cemented the banks, and it inundated his home. It spared him to live like a mad man on the roof of his house , waiting for the water to recede, to climb down, to build up his life.

Kaushik changed quite a bit after the two incidents. He started specialising more on the dark side of horoscopes and palmistry. He knew his calculations are exact and destiny unavoidable. He started deriving pleasure from sadism and saw his clients stupefied and diffident. His derisive laughter makes mockery of the existence of life. What’s meant to be will always find a way. You can just go to Naihati and ask about Kaushik in Sajanpalli area.

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3 thoughts on “Short Story

  1. Pingback: Short Story | Alekhya Talapatra

  2. Kaushilk seems to be the man of my dreams 🙂 Well, I think you have beautifully projected characters with clarity. Interesting plot and awesome use of words…I liked it! Share more, go on..

  3. Pingback: Short Story – Alekhya Talapatra

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