Sunday, June 30, 2019

A happy resolution

Siva Kumar was busy preparing an urgent report for the board meeting. His mobile rang to his annoyance.
“Siva, Chandru here. I need your urgent help. Can you give me an hour during lunch time to discuss a pressing matter?” asked his friend Chandrasekhar.
“What is it about? Is it something urgent?
“Yes, this is something very delicate and personal I have not mentioned to you but needs urgent solution,” he replied
“Sorry Chandru, I am busy with a report to be submitted tomorrow. We can meet if it suits you only tomorrow evening at 6pm at Woodlands over coffee,” Siva replied.
“Not Woodlands, it is crowded and I need some privacy to discuss this confidential issue,” and mentioned name of another restaurant nearby. “I will remind you again tomorrow morning. Please do not fail to come,” he said.
Chandru was Siva’s classmate in college for four years and after a long gap of more than a decade, they met at an alumnus meet a couple of years back. During college days, Chandru used to have many girls giggling before him for no reason and seeking his friendship. He still retained after all these years, the handsome look with his aquiline nose and curly hair with sharp features. Both of them since then have been meeting once in a while but not often. Though close friends while at college, the long gap and lack of contact had somewhat inhibited the old intimacy. They did not mingle closely as before, busy as they were with their own work and families. They had not visited each other’s house or known the family. Siva knew he was married like him and had two sons.
The next day when Siva entered the restaurant, Chandru was already waiting. He ordered spinach vada and butter masala roast dosa.
“Thank you for coming. I have been wanting to seek your help but was hesitant to broach the subject knowing that you are a man of principles and even during our college days you disapproved of my dalliance with several girls. What I am going to confide may be disgusting to you but I cannot help it. I have no one enjoying my trust as you to discuss my personal matters.,” Chandru went on till Siva interrupted him.
“Why all this prelude? Come to the point and keep it short and simple. I cannot spend more than an hour as I have promised my wife and children to watch a movie with them,” said Siva
“Hold your breath and do not get shocked. I am in love with a married woman since two years. We met at a birthday party of my wife’s friend. The host introduced her to us. She had come alone. A gregarious and pleasant personality with several interests, she impressed my wife very much. Needless to say I took an instant liking for her. Right through the party, I could sense her interest in me from her frequent discreet sideward glances. Subsequently she came often to my house apparently to spend time with my wife. On one occasion, she came when my wife and children were away. I do not know whether she was aware of my wife’s absence as she did not go away but came in to chat with me,” said Chandru pausing for a moment.
“What made you think, she was in love with you? Mere glances and exchange of pleasantries to a friend’s husband are no signs of love,” Siva said
“I cannot pinpoint any single incident. Her coy demeanour, her lingering long without withdrawing her hand when my fingers brushed hers when I handed over the glass with coke and her abrupt shifting from the single seater to my side in three seater and her giggling when I raised my eyebrows at her audacity. I could go on. These are experienced Siva and cannot be proved” Chandru said.
“Is she a working woman? Any children? What is her husband doing?” Siva asked
“Yes, she is working and has two kids. Her husband she said is a nice guy, loving and unsuspecting. When I told her bluntly that I am passionately attracted to her, she replied she too was but wondered how we could take it forward with both of us married with loving spouses and children. I concurred with her and said let us be friends with friendship remaining unknown and that we could meet somewhere once a while. She kept quiet and when I hugged her, she reciprocated with equal warmth. Since then we have been meeting regularly somewhere outside,” confessed Chandru
“I condemn this. Have you ever thought about the enormity of your behavior? You must snap your relationship with her forthwith and have no contact whatsoever. I have no other advice for you,” Siva said firmly
“Please listen. We are blindly in love and committed to each other that we would not break our relationship.”
“Did you say relationship? You said earlier friendship,” asked Siva
“Yes, it graduated into relationship. Her husband even at the age of 40 has lost the zest for life though very loving and affectionate.”
“It is sad and despicable on the part of you both cheating on respective spouses. This is nothing but brazen adultery. Tell her to move away before it becomes a scandal. Think of the children. Come to my house one day. Why not this Sunday ?I will be back from tour in the morning.Can you please pick me from the airport and take me to my home?.  See for yourself how lovingly my children and wife welcome me when I return from tour of just one day. Love your wife and your children. Spend time with them. A happy family is a heaven. Put an end to this abominable thing you call love,” Siva spoke with a finality.
On Sunday morning, as Chandru brought Siva from airport to latter’s home, both the children came rushing shouting ‘Appa” and snuggled around his legs. He lifted the little girl and showered smooches with the boy waiting for his turn,” Where is Amma?”, he asked.
“She has gone to Hanuman temple and would be here any moment,” the boy replied.
‘Give me a minute or two, Chandru. I will keep the box inside and come,” Siva said and went inside followed by children
Chandru left alone in the hall admired the neat way the hall was kept without any clutter. He got up to see the show case tastefully decorated with a Dasavathar pieces sculpted beautifully in ivory. There was Sri Ram Durbar in ebony and various other antiques. When his eyes descended on a recent photo of Siva with his wife, he looked at it with his eyes transfixed for a few moments and then peeped inside. Not finding Siva, he quickly made a hurried exit.
When Siva came to the drawing room, he found Chandru missing. He went out to see the car too missing and walked till the end of the small road and could see no trace of him or his car. When he was returning perplexed at his strange behaviour, Siva saw his wife returning home from temple with a bowl of flowers and hailing him with a large smile on her face,” When did you come? Where had you gone out? You said some friend is coming for breakfast. I have made idly, vada and sambhar.”
“He actually brought me from airport, sat for a while and abruptly vanished when I went inside for a minute. I was searching for him only and his phone is also switched off. Weird chap, I would say,” said Siva.
The last Siva heard about Chandru was that he had sought an immediate  transfer and left the city within a week with his family. Siva was happy that Chandru took his advice seriously.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The gate crasher

Biren had no great attainments to boast of being born in a poor family, being an ordinary graduate and with no special skill to fetch him a job, let alone a decent one. But strange as were the ways of god, he was endowed with a tall physique, handsome look, a very fair complexion that was usually associated with the rich and famous. Though his hairline was receding, the constant twinkle in his eyes added to his charm that evoked an instant admiration.
He had a weakness for good food that was not available at his home. Being an unemployed graduate in Kolkata looking for job in the day time, his evenings were relatively free. The leisure in the evenings gave him time for some adventure and satiation of his taste buds by attending wedding receptions uninvited. His good look and attractive personality served as an easy passport to any gathering, big or small.
 He had a finely embroidered silk Khurta in cream colour and a nice dhoti with attractive border, though used ones, gifted to him by a well to do neighbour when Biren helped him physically to shift all the things to a new house. He used this pair of clothes sparingly once or twice a week depending upon the marriage receptions held in the vicinity.
He had a close friend who was driving an Innova car for a private travel company. The car did not sport any indication that it belonged to a travel company. Dressed immaculately, he would alight before the gate about an hour after the commencement of reception. His friend would rush to open the door for him making the onlookers believe he was someone in particular. He would be welcomed at the gate with someone sprinkling rosewater and another handing him a red rose for his buttonhole. With a slight nod of his head, he would nonchalantly walk in measured steps turning his head sideways on both sides.
Once inside he would quietly walk to one of the middle rows of chairs and settle down unobtrusively listening to music if any or the noisy band that was favoured these days. He generally avoided conversation and if unavoidable replied in monosyllables with other guests who gravitated to him thinking he is someone big. The larger the crowd he felt comfortable in merging with it. After about 30 minutes he would unobtrusively sneak into the dining hall and enjoy leisurely the sumptuous feast served generally in buffet style these days.
The Bengalis love for good food is best seen in their weddings and no effort is spared to make it a gala and rich fare. The spread invariably would be large suiting the different palates of guests. The popular and basic items that are never missed vary from the starters like mochar chop and macher chop and then luchi or koraishutir kochuri with aloo dum, potoler dolma, mishit pulao, fish paturi wrapped in banana leaf, Bengali mutton curry, chicken chaap and with desserts like rosogolla, sandesh and mishti doi. Biren would not hurry but do full justice to the fare offered relishing every item by sucking his fingers and with a satisfied nod of a gourmet
Once finished, he would linger around for a short while changing seats and make an exit quietly. Luckily he has never had any hassle so far with none detecting the interloper he was.
But he had a strange foreboding this day that things may not be as smooth as it had been thus far. Nevertheless, he assured himself that he can manage any eventuality his wit. As he alighted from the car in the early night and entered the reception hall nonchalantly, an elderly gentleman of about 65 with a bald head, dressed in a typical Bengali style with the end of his long dhoti tucked in the side pocket of khurta, welcomed him with a broad smile.
As he led him inside, he casually asked, “I am sorry I am not able to place you. Are you from the bride’s side or the bridegroom to enable me to get you seated with appropriate people?”.
“Thank you, Sir for the warm welcome. I can find my way myself and enjoy meeting people to whichever side they belong.”
“I am sure of that but you have not answered my question to which side you belong. I should not be faulted later that I have not taken care of a honoured guest appropriately,” the old man smilingly persisted.
 As generally bride’s people stand at the gate to welcome guests, Biren said he was related to bridegroom. The loquacious bald man asked him in what way. Not to be taken aback Biren said,” I am actually Tapas Ranjan’s cousin,” remembering the name displayed in flowers outside the banquet hall.
“How lucky. I was just now talking to his brother. He was sitting alone. Let me take you to him” he said as he held his hand and started walking to the front.
Biren, though alarmed at the prospect of detection, could not back out except saying, “Thank you. I will go to him after meeting my other friends.”
Meanwhile someone luckily for Biren, came rushing to the bald man and took him away on some urgent business. Biren sat in a nearby chair for a few minutes and with no sign of the bald man, he sauntered towards the dining hall. Luckily no one came and he could relish the hearty meal with hundreds of others.
It was at the ice-cream stall when he was enjoying faluda ice-cream that the bald man saw him. Profusely apologizing for leaving him abruptly, he said “Tapas’s brother is   sitting alone and I mentioned about you and he is eagerly waiting to meet you,” and literally dragged Biren who started sweating profusely.
Approaching a lean man in a colorful knee long khurta, the bald man said “Hey Binod, I have brought your cousin You don’t have to sit alone without company. Lucky I could see him at the dining hall.”
Binod turned at Biren and looking intently asked him, “Did you say you are a cousin of Tapas? I am his elder brother. I should know you better.” The bald man was craning his neck to hear what Biren was about to say.
Resourceful as Biren was, he replied without batting an eyelid, “We were actually roommates at Durgapur Engineering college. We used to be together always that others called us brothers. We used to introduce ourselves as cousins.”
“My younger brother never stayed in a hostel. He attended college from home. Tell me the truth. Who are you? I can call your bluff by taking you to Tapas.,” he said in an abrasive manner.
Meanwhile the bald man siganalled to a few youngsters who immediately crowded around them.
When Biren was mum in this piquant predicament, one of the youngsters pulled his Khurta and another put his hand around his neck. Even as Binod warned them not to touch Biren, one impulsive young man hit him on his head. Soon there was a loud commotion with Biren being called, a fraud, an impostor, a fake, a chain snatcher and someone said a kidnapper of young children. Blows started raining on him, when they heard a loud voice commanding “Stop it this moment, I say.”
They turned to see Tapas rushing in and hugging Biren said, “Sorry Ashok Da, I am extremely sorry for this unruly behavior on a mistaken identity. It is years since we met. How is your Ma?” He turned to his brother and asked him how he could allow these people to manhandle his friend.
His brother Binod said,” He was your roommate in engineering college hostel. When did you ever stay in a hostel? That was why I suspected and wished to bring him to you. Meanwhile this unfortunate thing happened. Sorry Tapas.”
Tapas clarified,” Ashok Da was in the hostel and I used to spend most of my time with him. He used to clarify all my doubts and would not go for lunch without me. I am greatly pained that this should have happened,” and told his brother to fetch the yellow gift bag immediately.
Asking others to disperse, Tapas asked him when alone, “It does not matter who you are. You have come as a guest on my wedding day. I do not wish any humiliation and that was why I pretended I knew you. Did you have your food?  I am sorry for this incident.’ Biren nodded his head in shame unable to look at straight at Tapas’s eyes.
Giving the yellow bag his brother brought meanwhile, Tapas asked him, “Was the food delicious? Thank you for coming. Here is my card. Do contact me after a month if you need any help,”
As Biren folded his arms to show his respect,” No, no, you are my elder cousin” said Tapas and bent deferentially.
When his brother asked after he left who he really was, Tapas replied, “He is one of the hundreds of guests on this happy occasion who came to bless me. Leave it a t that.”
Biren opened the bag at his house to see a silk khurta and a fine dhoti with colouful border. Tears started flowing at the magnanimity of Tapas and his effort to save him from humiliation, He decided to put an end to his detestable habit forthwith.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The budding romance

The sky was unusually cloudy though it has been a hot  day and it was getting dark. Renuka hurried her steps towards the bus stand not to miss the bus. There were not many on the road with only cars and trucks whizzing past. When she turned back to look for bus, she saw a tall young man about hundred yards behind her walking fast. She increased her pace to reach the stand that was slightly away. She could in a while hear his footsteps closing in on her. Her heart pounded in fear as the place was desolate.
Very soon he was by her side and she heard him telling, “Madam, do not be afraid as I am following you only to hand over the key chain you dropped when you took your mobile out outside your office. Please wait for a moment.”
She opened her bag, even as she was walking, to notice the key chain was in fact missing. She stopped abruptly and looked at the lanky handsome guy with a key chain on hand.
“Were you afraid that I was stalking you?l” he laughed gustily as he handed over the chain.
“To be honest, yes, especially as the road is deserted being Saturday. I had to finish some urgent work and was held up. Thank you very much as you had to literally run to catch me. But for you I would have been in a mess as this my room key,” she replied with a grateful smile.
“Do you work here? I am seeing you for the first time. I am Shilesh,” and offered his hand.
“Renuka, I work in ABC bank meant for IT companies here. Do you also work in this area?” she asked without taking his proffered hand.
“A sweet name. I do not work here but have some contracts with some companies here. I come here very frequently,” he said without elaborating on the nature of contracts. As he saw a bus approaching, he said, “Your bus I think. Let us hope we get to meet once a while.”
“Yes, my bus. Thank you very much for the help. Surely we shall meet again,” she replied as she hurried to get into the bus.
Two days later as she was coming out of the bank, Shilesh sitting on a motor bike hailed her,” Renuka, I never expected to meet you so soon. As I saw the name of bank, I remembered you and lingered for a while wondering whether you would come out. To my great luck you came out.”
“Good we could meet again. I cannot easily forget your helpful gesture that day.’
“Where do you live? We can have some tiffin and then I can drop you at your place,” he suggested.
When she mentioned the place where she lived, “It suits me fine as I live close to your place. We can talk at a restaurant closer to our area,” Shilesh said.
As they sat in a cozy corner, he told her with a smile “Order what you like for both of us and tell me all about you both official and personal.”
With sharp features, mesmerizing smile and curly hair that by habit he pushed back frequently, he cast a spell on her and poor Renuka could not but lower her eyes when he looked at her intently. Dressed in blue jeans and striped T shirt that indicated his muscular athletic body, Shilesh made a favourable impression on Renuka.
The server meanwhile brought two plates of crisp onion rava dosas with four different chutneys and another plate of four Mangalore bondas with their own accompaniments straight from the frying pan.
Looking at the spread with satisfaction, he asked her “Now tell me about you, Renuka, where are your parents living since you are in a hostel? Any siblings? How long are you in the bank?”
“They live in Tirupatthur.I have no sibling. They pay no heed to my request to come here as they have some lands nearby to take care of. I am with the bank for the last one year after my training. How about you?” she asked.
“Since you are in hostel, am I wrong in presuming you are single?”
She lowered her head without answering him but asked, “What do you do? Which place are you from? You told me you have contracts with some firms here. What sort of contracts? Are you an engineer?”
“I belong to Krishnagiri but live in Saligramam with my parents. My only sister is married and in Singapore. As I told you I have contracts with IT companies to keep their systems in good condition,” and added with a mischievous twinkle,” I am also a single like you.”
On hearing this, Renuka broke into laughter with Shilesh joining her.
 “Is the pressure in bank heavy on all days? Are there enough people to share the burden?  With so many IT offices close by, there must be rush of customers always in the bank. Isn’t it?” he queried
“Actually it is a small bank catering only to IT employees. Apart from me, there is a manager and one chowkidar. We hope to get one more assistant within a fortnight. It is mostly myself in the office whenever my manager goes out to local head office. On Mondays and Tuesdays a few customers visit to draw money. There is no ATM in the bank premises. The other days very few come with practically none on Saturdays. Most do transactions online. Actually it is boring some days,” she said with a smile.
“Lucky you are. I will try to meet you some day at your office when I am free.”
He paid the bill and dropped her at her place. Except asking her to hold his hip firmly with both hands, he did not seem inquisitive and talked generally about the condition of roads, water scarcity and total absence of rains. He seemed a very decent fellow and Renuka was impressed. They met again outside office on alternate days and the same routine was happily followed with a romantic turn.
It was Saturday past 12 noon. There was no customer since morning. The manager had gone out. The chowkidar was not to be seen and may have gone to take tea in the nearby shop. It was then Shilesh entered the bank and came straight to her counter. The usual smile was missing and he had a grim face.
“What happened, Shilesh? Was there any problem in the offices you visited? Why this stern look?” asked Renuka.
He did not reply but put his hand in the counter with a note.
She grabbed the note and read, “This is a hold up. Cooperate to avoid personal harm”
She looked at him unbelievingly and asked him, “Don’t be silly. Are you indulging in a prank or what?”
“I am dead serious. To prove my earnest, see this,” he said as he produced a glistening pistol. “Do not waste time trying to escape,” he warned
Her knees became weak in fear and shock and she held her head with both her hands looking at him in utter disbelief.
” No drama or screaming. Hand over the keys to the box on your table and to the safety room. If you cooperate, I promise everything will be taken care of smoothly and we can both leave the city to some distant place and live happily married. If there is slightest attempt to stop me, I will not hesitate to do what I must, I am ruthless by nature,” he warned without any ambiguity.
Sizing up the situation, she said,” OK, I am with you on this for the only reason I am madly in love with you. But be quick as chowkidar may come anytime. Just close the front door without locking and come inside.”
She gave the keys to the cash box on the counter and led him to the safety room and opened the door.
“Within five minutes you must come out. Don’t be greedy. I will keep a watch on the front door and signal you if chowkidar enters. There is a big bag in the corner. Be very quick,” she said.
“Thank you, Renu.I am also attracted to you and I promise to keep you happily. I never expected you would support me readily. I will be out in three minutes. Please keep a watch, my dear,” he said as he patted her cheek and entered the safety room.
As he opened the locker and found to his joy, stacks of notes of varied denominations, he heard a click of the door and turned to see to his horror the door of the safety room was shut. He heard the alarm shrieking loud alternately in high and low notes. “Dirty bitch, you will pay for this with your life” he swore in anger
Renuka was seen at the front door shouting for chowkidar and hailing others for help.A police van was seen  fast approaching the bank at a short distance.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The mysterious black cat

This is a macabre presentation of a sad story. Those who have a dislike for black magic/witchcraft and who wish to have only positive feelings are requested to skip this story
“Suchi, what are you praying for with your eyes closed and palms held together? It is past 10.30 pm. Go to your room and sleep.,” said Rajan to his daughter of 10 years.
“The serial would be over now in the TV. Amma would be here anytime. I will go after she comes,” replied the girl.
“You have not answered my question. Are you afraid of something or what? You normally do not come here around this time and much less pray,” prodded Rajan.
She kept silent looking at the door of the living room for her mom. When Rajan nudged her with his fist, she started speaking. “You must have seen my best friend Kalyani.She had come for my birthday parties a couple of times. She told me three days back in confidence that her grandma is a victim of witchcraft and is under a spell behaving in weird manner and always with panic in her eyes. She has told me not to tell anyone and that the witch can sense it if I did. I could not sleep for the last two days and afraid to sleep alone. Would you allow me to sleep on the floor here?”
He pulled her close to him and put his arm around her and said, “What crap that foolish friend of yours is telling you. There are no witches or witchcraft. There is nothing to be afraid of. You sleep from today for as long as you wish between your mom and me on this bed. Don’t talk to that silly girl.”
“Appa, you had yourself told me long time back, may be last year, that your aunt, your dad’s sister, was a victim of witchcraft, lived a miserable life and died a nervous wreck. How do you say now there is no witchcraft?” countered the girl.
“I do not remember exactly. Whatever it is that must have been several decades back in a small town. People were not educated and believed in all hocus pocus. She must have been unwell and not treated kindly at her in-law’s place as she had no child. All hearsay and exaggerated versions when it goes around. I do not believe in all that. Sleep well assured that we are on your both sides,” Rajan told her in assuaging tone. Meanwhile his wife Roopa entered and raised her eyebrows questioningly at Rajan seeing Suchi lying in the middle of the bed. He signaled her to remain silent and lie down by Suchi’s side. The timid girl in the comfort of her mom’s hands on her soon lapsed into a deep sleep.
It was only next day during siesta after lunch when Suchi was out playing with her friends in the play area of the building complex, Roopa came and sat by his side looking at him intently.
“Why are you staring at me? What is bothering you?” he asked her.
“Nothing much, it is only the witch who harassed your aunt and about whom you had never told me but felt free to talk to the young child,” she asked tauntingly.
“Haven’t I told you about my aunt Vaidehi, dad’s sister? It is a long but sad story that happened long ago several decades back. She was the only daughter among the seven siblings. She was elder to my dad and his younger brother who was the last. It seems she was very beautiful lively girl and learnt to play violin very well. She stopped going to school after coming of age as was the custom then. Very talented in several arts, she was the envy of the neighbourhood. My grandfather was a clerk to a lawyer doing all his work but was paid small pittance besides several bags of rice after harvest. He had himself some tiny land for growing vegetables to supplement the income. My dad and his siblings studied in municipal school. Except my dad and his younger brother, all brothers did not attend college but took up jobs after class 11
Based on some distant relative’s suggestion, my grandpa married her off even while she was very young, selling the land and taking a loan from the lawyer, to the only son in a large family living in a small town on Cauvery bank. No enquiries were made about the family. They were supposed to be well to do which later turned out to be false. The young man Raman   worked as a clerk in municipal office and the family lived mainly on his income. He was handsome and mild mannered unlike his sisters who were plain looking like their mother Ponnamma. They were jealous of Vaidehi and disliked her from the day they set their eyes on her. Ponnamma was initially tolerant to the young girl as she brought with her some dowry, her mother’s jewelry, silver and brass vessels, silk saris and other things.
Except for three daughters in that family, the remaining two were unmarried. Raman’s father was rendered immobile after a stroke and was confined to bed. Ponnamma was harsh-tempered and overbearing. She pestered the young Vaidehi for bringing more money from her parents’ house. Knowing her father’s poor financial condition, she refused. Angered by this defiance, she was tortured, starved and made to slog all day in the kitchen while the others lazed around and relished finding fault with the girl. She was not allowed to go out or talk to girls of her age in the adjacent houses. Her sisters-in-law carried false tales about Vaidehi to their mother that soured the relationship further. To add to her woes, the girl was ridiculed for not conceiving even after two years.
One day when one of the daughters dropped a ceramic jar with pickles, she falsely accused Vaidehi of breaking. The angered mother-in-law scalded both her forearms with red hot ladle. Her screams brought the neighbours rushing to the house. She was threatened to stay inside and warned to tell Raman that she had burnt her arms accidentally while lifting pot from oven.
Raman could not believe that she could burn both her arms and suspected she was concealing something. After much prodding, she confided to him urging him not to mention about it to his mother. When he saw her the next day at the kitchen cooking in pain with bandaged arms and his sisters and mother laughing and talking in the hall, he unusually exploded in anger at their cruelty. Grievous mistake it turned out to be. Baffled at his immense anger towards them and sympathy for Vaidehi, they kept quiet then offering some lame excuses but determined in their minds she would pay heavily for it.”
“Did not your grandfather or any of the brothers contact Vaidehi aunty any time after her marriage?” asked Roopa.
“In fact my grandfather accompanied by my dad went to their place to invite them for a marriage in our house and to send Vaidehi along with them in advance. They were not allowed inside the house, nor Vaidehi allowed to see them. They were badly insulted and asked to leave the house. To add to insult, Ponnamma shut the door on their faces with a bang,” Rajan said.
“Did they come away without making enquiries?” Roopa asked.
“No, it appears my grandfather and my dad went to the adjacent houses to know about the wellbeing of Vaidehi aunt. They were not forthcoming initially afraid of Ponnamma, but one elderly lady gave an indication that Vaidehi was badly ill-treated and they were heartless people. She added that she had heard screams from the young girl in the afternoon when her husband was away and they too were not allowed to meet or talk to the young girl,” said Rajan
“Your grandfather could have with the help of police got the girl back with him. How insensitive to leave the young thing in that hell?” exploded Roopa in anger.
“Do not be in haste to criticize my grandpa.  In fact, when one of the neighbours suggested such a step, the elderly lady warned that the cruel family would only be too ready to throw her out and marry that spineless Raman to another girl for fresh dowry. In those conservative days, women suffered all indignities and physical pain to save their marriage and lot of restraint was shown in breaking marriages. My grandfather decided to find a solution after the marriage in the family was over.”
“What happened then?” nudged Roopa.
“It is the sad part of story and it is better you do not hear,” warned Rajan but continued when Roopa nodded her head sideways. “After they came to know about my grandfather’s enquiries with neighbours and the likelihood of his returning to rescue her from their clutches, possibly with police help, Ponnamma decided to engage a witch known to her maternal family from Kerala border. We came to know all these only much later when it was very late.
A deal was soon agreed upon for some unknown amount between them that by the effort of the witch, Vaidehi’s health would be seriously affected, she will become dull and depressed, will not eat due to lack of appetite and get weak, and with bouts of anger eventually leading her to commit a suicide or die. The witch in the guise of a relative was accommodated in the rear room adjacent to kitchen. That wily woman by name Ammini feigned to be very fond of her caressing her head with her palm and praising for her beauty and good disposition. She assured her that with her influence, she would make Vaidehi dear to all. Vaidehi having witnessed nothing but bitterness readily fell for her.
Meanwhile Ammini obtained through Ponnamma a bit of cloth from Vaidehi’s sari, a clump of her hair, a broken piece of her bangle. She covered a cotton girl doll with her cloth and pasted her hair on its head and tied over the waist a black thread after some incantation. It appears pins were pricked on doll’s head and stomach, red kumkum smeared on its body and black kajol on the face. This was hidden unseen in a corner in Vaidehi’s room.
In a week Vaidehi started having splitting headache that was unbearable. Raman applied Amrutanjan, pressed her head for long hours till she dozed off. She was chastised and beaten if she were late in kitchen for cooking. She lost her appetite and mere look of food was repulsive. She ate very little and the onerous work left her very weak. In three weeks she became thin and disoriented. She started forgetting and the sisters-in-law added to her misery by secretly adding extra salt or mirchi in the cooked food.
Vaidehi found to her horror one day that among the clothes left for drying on the clothesline only hers burning inside their hall. When she told Ammini about it, she comforted saying it is all hallucination and that she was not well.
Ammini and Ponnamma were happy at the outcome of their efforts. Raman took her to a doctor overruling his mother’s objection. He could not diagnose the problem and prescribed some tranquilizers. Her condition grew worse day by day.
Ammini on the pretext of giving a medicinal potion gave her something that worsened her condition. Ammini assured Ponnamma that in a fortnight the matter would could come to a head to latter’s satisfaction. Both of them went to Vaidehi’s room and took out the cloth doll from the hidden place. It was found swollen with disheveled look.
“How scary even to hear such happenings? How did you come to know of all these” remarked Roopa.
“All their cruelties came out at the end when they confessed. Listen to this. It was then my dad’s younger brother was found missing and all efforts to trace him proved futile. It later turned he was at Vaidehi’s place to make contact with her. He knew he would be thrown out and so stealthily entered the back yard and hid himself behind a tree. It was early evening. He saw Ammini dragging a crying Vaidehi by her hair much against her will to the last room. He made a noise of a bird that Vaidehi was used to. She turned her head to see her brother from the corner of her eye. Enthused by the sight of her brother, she pushed Ammini to get away from her grip. But weak as she was, Ammini dragged her in and closed the door.
He heard his sister’s long plaintive wail and was in a mind to break open the door. Afraid of drawing others attention, he waited for the door to open. After nearly 45 minutes, the door opened, Ammini came out followed by a weak black cat. Ammini went inside the house while the cat came running towards him and snuggled at his feet purring all the time. The boy dashed into the room to bring out his sister. To his shock she was not there and that was impossible as he kept continuous watch on the only door. He saw the cat hiding behind the tree and looking at him intently.
A sudden thought occurred to him and he slowly said to the black cat, “If you are Vaidehi, run around the tree thrice.” To his utter shock, the cat did so promptly and came running to him. He immdly took it in his hands and sought the help of neighbours narrating to them what had transpired as he saw.
They banged the door hard till Ponnamma opened after long delay. They forcibly entered the house, asked her about Vaidehi and started looking for her. When they drew blank, they asked for Ammini.Raman who had just returned from office forcibly shook his mother and asked, “Where is Vaidehi?? Where is that old woman you had brought? Tell me now or I will call the police.”
Meanwhile one of the neighbours shouted from the bath room that Ammini was lying inert with blood oozing from her head. Someone examined her and pronounced that she was dead. All eyes turned accusingly at Ponnamma and her daughters.
The neighbours threatened Ponnamma and her daughters of physical harm if they did not come clean. It was only then all their nefarious actions were known
My dad’s younger brother came back with the black cat to their place not knowing what to do. The cat jumped on grandpa and snuggled on his lap meowing all the time. With tears trickling my grandpa called the cat, and asked, “Are you really Vaideshi? Show me the place where you slept when you were here.”
The cat jumped from his lap and ran to one of the middle rooms in the house and sat at the place where she slept along with her mother. She ran to the puja room and stood before her mother’s photo.
“What happened thereafter?” asked Roopa.
“I have heard my dad telling of all attempts made by grandpa with tantriks/sorcerers in Kerala could not succeed in bringing her back to her original form. Grandpa died heartbroken within a few months with the cat following suit  in a few days refusing to eat anything,” concluded Rajan.
“Just one last question. Any idea about what happened to Raman after the sad incident?” asked Roopa.
“i am not sure but only a hearsay that he had committed suicide leaving the family in financial doldrums."
” Served them right,” Roopa exclaimed.