CHAPTER 1 : HONEY TRAP
“Hi!” Shruti beamed at me, her pretty face lit up in one of the sweetest smiles I have ever seen.
“I want a real big treat!” she continued, slipping under the rug which was enveloping me in its cocoon of warmth in Calcutta winter.
Shruti was my cousin, therapist, mentor, friend since my parent died in a freak accident two years ago. It was she I found whenever I needed some one to hold on to, whenever the despair gripped my soul in its dark claws.
“you remember Jhumamasi?”, she continued in answer of my questioning glance, “she called me up today, when I was in chamber, she is coming to Kolkata tomorrow for a person referred by me, who is willing to shift to Rajpur and join them as her private secretary and ultimately run her business as a manager independently. That person is you!” she grinned from ear to ear.
Jhumamasi was Shruti’s mother’s sibling. She married a rich Rajasthani businessman against her father’s wishes, because that guy had a wife and two children, her family did not had any choice but to accept her wish because she was already pregnant with his child. They shut their doors on her citing her bad example for her other siblings, she shifted to Rajpur with Keshav uncle, her husband. But her strained relationship with her family came back to normal when she showered them with help after her father’s accidental death and they observed that Keshav uncle’s first wife and sons have accepted her with warmth and respect.
I looked at shruti with tears of gratitude in my eyes. She winked at me.
She knew very well about the grave financial condition I was in. the little money my parents could leave for me was already almost exhausted because I had to finish my graduation studies and vocational courses with that. The few Fixed deposits in bank and the single room in my ancestral house shared with my uncles barely took care of my present, forcing me to gaze at a bleak future.
I knew the meager money in fixed deposit will never meet the expenses of an average marriage; forget about a standard marriage- a marriage with a person of my type. My parents passed away suddenly leaving me in dire straits, but i was being brought up with good education and taste. They could not send me to the best schools but family background and their way of bringing up has turned me into a very sophisticated girl in comparison to my current financial position.
Every time uncle, Shruti’s father tried to find a match for me dowry became the roadblock. They never searched for a hi fi guy, all they looked for was an educated guy of decent family background and decent job. They all liked me initially, because of my looks and manners, but the moment they came to know about my financial condition they backed off. After about half a dozen rejections I requested them to not look any more, I will find my match by my own and prepared myself for the worst.
I knew it was almost impossible for me to get a groom of my choice, hence I concentrated on job, but that too was betraying me. A few interviews I faced brought further despair, the amount of salary that was being offered, to accept that and continue the work; I would have to spend from my own pocket.
Shruti’s words opened a floodgate of security and happiness. I could not utter a single word of thanks as I hugged her tightly, she hugged me back tightly and laughed.
I. Journey begins:
One month later I landed in Rajpur. It was a tiny town, studded with small hills and numerous lakes… a thing which I never thought could be possible in Rajasthan. I was quite amused about my lack of knowledge in geography..
Jhumamasi was waiting for her in the Railway station. “How are you? How is didi?” she clasped my arm warmly as I bowed down to touch her feet. “Don’t touch my feet; unmarried women don’t touch feet of others in this province.” She smiled.
Her air-conditioned car was waiting outside the station. She opened the door and I sat down beside her. She drove the car to her home. A house made of sandstone. The real surprise was inside.
It was a piece of art, the floor was of marble and every inch talked about extravaganza and taste.
Keshav uncle was waiting in the bedroom. I noted that he was lot older than aunty. He has expertly dyed his hair but his face was betraying his mask. He gave me a warm loving smile which instantly won my heart and I started to worship these two kind, generous souls. Who were rich beyond measure and kind beyond words.
I was placed in auntie’s guest room. She asked me to settle there till they think about my future.
There was something in that room, I felt really bad there. I admit I was scared of ghosts, but not that much. My ancestral home was a centuries old building, and my nerves have settled down after living there for years but this room made me really uneasy.
I used to go for the switch right after entering the room and changed my habit.. I started to sleep with the night lamp on.
I still recall the first night there, I was about to go to bed after spending the whole day talking with Jhumamasi, she accompanied me to the room.
“There is one thing; we don’t close the bed room doors from inside. It’s strictly prohibited. One of Keshav’s sisters committed suicide.” She told me.
“Its alright, there are only us, no outsider can enter these rooms. A guard sits outside the gate all night.” She added reassuringly.
“That’s ok masi, I will not bolt the door from inside.” I replied.
Well I did. The moment I heard her mounting the stairs to her bedroom I softly bolted the door, soundlessly and went to sleep.
She knocked my door early next morning. “Good morning child!”, “Did you locked the door from inside?”
“No, I was changing when you knocked!” I told her. After all she could not prove any thing from outside.
“Get ready quickly. I will take you to the office.” She smiled.
It was not much far away from auntie’s home. Keshav uncle’s first wife and her two sons along with their families lived just a few blocks away from Jhumamasi’s home. Both the sons went to office, only Romit was studying away in Doon School.
He rarely visited Rajpur; Jhumamasi and Keshav uncle went there to meet him. They of course had a resort there, and that resort had a special suite for Romit. He could stay there whenever he wanted.
II. The business:
Keshav uncle ran a few hotels and restaurants in Rajpur and surrounding. Its Jhumamasi’s lady luck he openly says which has enabled him to open a worldwide chain of resorts, restaurants and hotels. Well, it had two things behind it, her lady luck and her sharp brain.
When her car pulled in the driveway a guard ran to open the doors. He saluted in local dialect. I noted he was wearing a uniform.
The office was quite spacious; it consisted of a huge hall – partitioned and three separate chambers for uncle, romit and ronit. Yes the name of uncle’s elder most son was Romit. Heaven knows why they named their youngest son Romit.
“I sit with Keshav whenever I come to work. My seat is in his chamber. His first wife Ritu visits office in once in a blue moon as a guest.” She answered as if guessing my curiosity.
“Just like me, Rekha and Sunaina sit in the chambers of their husbands whenever they come.” She continued in a way of explaining. “Rekha is housewife, sunaina is smart. She can’t come here right now because of two young children but earlier she used to help Ronit a lot. Rekha is issueless, its been more than ten years after their marriage, so…”
She introduced me to the staffs. Who stared at me as if I am an exhibit from zoo. There were a huge number of employees. The entire network was maintained from here very meticulously. Apart from these there were executives. Who were based here but handled the supervising of resorts/hotels.
“Keshav prefers local people. He thinks that reduces the chances of cheating.” She said. “Lets see what’s he planning for you.” She smiled.
I joined the office as computer operator. “We will take things slowly, so that people don’t get jealous.”
“Start with this job and then we will slowly lift you up the steps…” Jhumamasi said.
The more I saw the people attached to Jhumamasi’s company Blue star my amazement increased, starting from jhumamasi to her peons every one seemed to have found the key to el dorado, the city of gold, there was no limit of their wealth.
Keshav uncle was a little partial about his first wife ritu and her sons Romit and ronit, he has built two houses for his two wives, situated a little further from each other. Each of them owned a personal car. Even Jhumamasi’s son Ramit who was studying in Doon School and came to Rajpur only on vacations had his own car standing in garage. The houses with their elaborate decoration and size will make millionaires envious.
Jhumamasi’s explanation to it all was, “If you can make a solid base of satisfied customers, you will earn more than you can even dream of, all you will have to do is retain the customer base and increase your business assets in a way that it adds up to your present business.”
She further explained how she has slowly invested all the profits of first 15 years in building a chain of hotels in the tourist spots in which Blue Star had restaurants , so they could offer their customers rooms there at a reasonable and honest rate.
“This was my idea!” she proudly said, “And this idea brought in the harvest of gold, in last fifteen years we have built more than hundred hotels in India, and a chain of restaurants outside India, but outside India we will stick to small hotels, because it will be foolish to compete with big hotels. We should better reap the craze of Indian foods.”
She had found the long wanted listener in me. She used to share her dreams, hopes and expectations with me while we sat on the swing in her balcony or I helped her in kitchen. She preferred cooking herself.
She said even though the entire idea was her but she did not hesitated to share it with her husband’s first family and his sons, even though its because of their hostility she had to send her only son to Doon, because she was always afraid for his life.
A few weeks later when I returned Jhuma masi was sitting in the kitchen. Two women and a girl were sitting on the floor. I knew the women, they worked for her but the girl was a new face. A small girl about thirteen or fourteen years old.
III. The Lodging:
“Gina, we have finally been able to find out a suitable accommodation for you.” She said when she saw me standing at the door of the kitchen.
She has already arranged for a two wheeler for me on loan, I have practiced it enough to use it for travelling since last week. So she was spared from the duty of taking me to and fro the office.
“Lets go and see the flat tonight, and we will see it again on Sunday, ok?” she said. “Any way, Keshav has already finalized it, he is the big boss.. as you know, we will have to just see if there is some problem which has slipped his not so keen eyes.” She smirked.
My landlord Rajendra Jain was Jhumamasi’s employee, one of her senior most executives. He and his family lived in the ground floor and another tenant and I shared two separate flats on the first floor.
Mr. Jain looked after jhumamasi’s Jaipur office. He used to come there every weekend, as Rajpur was couple of hours away from Jaipur. When I shifted there he was in Rajpur for a month, to attend annual meeting and exhaust his leaves.
There was not much to finalize in the flat; I liked it very much so I shifted there next month, along with the girl, Soma, who was the daughter of one of Masi’s housemaids. She said this will be the very best for me.
“Keshav trusts Rajendra with his eyes closed. But living alone in a small town can have lots of disadvantages. It should be better if you have a local, trustworthy girl with you. Soma’s mother has worked for me since I stepped in Rajpur that is last twenty five years.” Jhumamasi said.
Jhumamasi decorated my two rooms flat with her own hand. She forced me to take a loan of fifty thousand rupee which she said will be deducted from my salary; she wanted to utilize that money to properly decorate the flat so people don’t look down upon me. I did not had any choice but to say yes because it was her prestige attached to it, I knew that people will think negative of her if they come to know that I am too poor in comparison to her peons. Who according to my observation were pretty well to do.
I was still not very habituated with driving my two wheeler, Mr. Jain requested Jhumamasi that his brother Rakesh who works in Blue star will take me to and from office till I become expert in driving.
Every one warned me against the horrible manner in which people or Rajpur drove their vehicles. Specially the local minibuses. They told me to simply stay out of their path.. They were like rhinos. Come in their path and they will bulldoze you. Won’t even stop to look.
Rakesh lived near Mr. Jain’s home, he promised he will pick me up from the door and drop me there.
I loved the home at the first sight. It was a spacious house, with a huge courtyard and big balconies. The roof was huge and commonly shared.
Mr. Jain’s wife Mona was a very friendly woman. Mr. Jain was charming ness personified. They had two children, a boy and a girl. Both were very cute.
My flat had two bedrooms, a drawing room, kitchen and toilet.
Soma declared that she will sleep in my room at night because she is scared of ghosts. Though I did not liked to share my bedroom with any one I had to give in to her. She seemed truly scared of ghosts, and she was my responsibility too.
I smoothly shifted to the new house and to Jhumamasi’s great relief I settled down well. She called me up every evening in Mr. Jain’s phone to know if I was alright. Or used to call me in office to ask the same.
Later when I started to commute to and fro office independently I used to make a short visit to her home on my way back home but I soon realized that visit without appointment was not very comfortable for her. So thereafter I used to wait for her invitation.
CHAPTER 2 : SWEET POISON
I darkness seeps in:
Jhumamasi and uncle have taken me under their wings of affection from the very first day. They even expressed their desire to adopt me, but I politely refused. It was not possible for me to give the place of my deceased parents to any one else.
Then they made up their mind to get me married to some suitable groom of Rajpur. To which I naturally did not objected, only told Jhumamasi that I won’t marry any one who will ask for a dowry. She insisted a lot that they will give the dowry but I stood my ground. Hence groom hunting became pretty tough for them.
To my deep despair two things became clear within first three months and I started to regret my decision of coming to Rajpur bitterly yet I could not leave because of Jhumamasi and uncle’s affection. The second reason was the huge debt on my head, which was being deducted from my salary @1000 rupee per month. To add up to it Shruti and her parents have shifted to Mumbai, there was only one of my relatives left in my ancestral home and I had very bad relationship with them.
This cousin of mine and his wife left no stone unturned to throw me out of my own home. They tried every possible trick that could be applied. Some of them were simply monstrous and others unthinkable.
He was a man without any morals or value. He squeezed his own widow mother dry, threw out his younger brother and usurped the house. He found out a woman exactly of his material. That was quite a surprise, because every one said that God/devil has broken the cast after creating him.
I knew that if I go back there on my own, without Shruti and her family to watch my back whole hell will break loses on me. So I waited, hoping that things will improve here.
The things which were bothering me were not very trifle. They were amply grave. First thing was that jhumamasi and ritumasi had a venomous relation, they hated each other and were always ready stab each other at their back if given a chance. Same was with their children, even school going Ramit was not above it. Under keshav uncle’s strict supervision they met the world as a single, devoted family but the venom was spewing inside forever.
I have landed in the battleground of two tuskers. I, being the only relative of jhumamasi available they immediately set their eyes on me, and my being young and woman became their triumph card.
They had every thing well planned; I realized it step by step later. There were hand counted female staff in the office, because Rajpur was a remote area. Their seats were all in one place whereas my seat was away from them, situated among a cluster of male staff.
Being born and brought up in a normal family, and West Bengal I took it naturally, because they have seated me with the person who will be guiding me. But it never crossed my mind that it may cast an adverse shadow on any small town guy.
May be that was the reason that I noted a lot of the men there were flirts or were eager to flirt with me. Though they did not dare to show it off openly but body language spoke it all.
Fortunately I always walked on ground, firmly. So those fleety gazes, flittering around my desk without work did not made any impact on me. I knew that none of them will marry me without dowry. The lowest rate in Rajpur was lakhs plus other facilities.
From the very first day I found their behaviour very disturbing. It appeared that they were forever ready to flirt with me, even though I was ordinary looking and there were some beauties in the office, they did not looked at the other stylish girls and were always stalking at my heel. This was extremely embarrassing for me, because I had to keep in mind Keshav uncle, Jhumamasi and their sons. Something inside me warned that there was some thing seriously wrong. This helped me in keeping my reserve amongst those over romantic guys.
Within a little time I observed that they all had a common habit of crowding in the room of Keshav uncle’s younger son Ronit with or without reason. Then a suspicion crept in my mind that may be they want me out of the office. They must have chosen their side in the war. The side of ritu aunty and my appearance there must have made them suspicious that jhumamasi wants to increase her strength.
They detested jhumamasi thinking that she is a woman of easy virtue and greedy nature. They showed her respect only in front of her and keshav uncle, due to the fear they had for him. She had her shield but I had none. Hence when I tried to talk politely and sweetly with female staff they snubbed me and the men started to outrageously flirt with me, making my breathing in that office impossible.
II. Deaf ears:
I tried to discuss my problem with jhumamasi; she replied with a smile, “They are jealous of you. They just cant accept that someone of your age, experience will ultimately issue orders to them within a couple of years-they are trying to make you pack your bag and leave”, she said after hearing every thing.
“You can do one of two things-either pack and leave or stay. No matter what happens and keep score of each and every insult, and settle your scores once the power is in your hands.”
“This world is not a bed of roses sweet heart! It’s a really tough world. Here you will have to fight for every foot hold. Every one knows you are an orphan, so they will try to crush you. Thank god that you have me and keshav uncle or else they would have torn you apart like a pack of wolves.” She concluded.
I too realized the blunt truth hidden in her words and shuddered. And my heart filled up with the gratitude of a devotee towards god.
I got her reasoning and decided to stay and fight. I stopped mixing with everyone and started to receive them with cold politeness with which they used to treat me. Even though it was exactly opposite my nature but their open hostility did not left me any other choice.
I had only one true friend in that hostile city, sulata, the gorgeous wife of the second tenant of Mr. Jain, Abhishek Sharma. They were one of the warmest and sophisticated couple I have ever seen. Sulata was a beauty beyond words and Abhishek manly, sophisticated and handsome.
Sulata became my closest friend within one month of meeting; I started to love her with all my heart, and did so for a long time. She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. At first she was distant and cold but finally she gave in and we became almost as close as I was to Shruti.
I used to share all my experience with Sulata, who was a good listener, and she always gave me good suggestions.
III. The blackguard and Spying:
There was a nagging feeling, which used to disturb me a lot. It appeared whatever I said to Sulata was reported to the people of Blue star word to word. The same thing happened to the conversations held at Jhumamasi’s home too, where I was a regular visitor on weekends and used to often spend my Sundays and holidays.
And the people of my office brazenly used to let me know that all my petty conversations reach their ears by mocking me indirectly, or by repeating the sentences including even comma and semicolons.
My prime suspects were Jhumamasi’s maids who worked for Ritu aunty too, and Rakesh, Mr. Jain’s younger brother, who used to live a couple of houses away from his. He was a sales representative of Blue star and almost a daily visitor of Mr. Jain’s home. I used to see his car standing outside when I returned from office.
It was due to my phobia for him I never dared to visit Mr. Jain’s residence for long span. It was inevitable that if I stayed there for more than half an hour he will appear there like Jack out of box. As if he sniffed my presence. He did not dared to visit Sharma household because all he received there was curt and cold politeness.
Mr. Jain has requested Rakesh to give me lift to and from office. That opened the door for one of the most disgusting problems I have ever faced. This made me bitterly regret my decision of going to Rajpur.
From the very first day he started to flirt outrageously with me, even though we both knew that he was married with two children. No matter how much I ignored him it only enhanced his shamelessness. He started to flitter around my desk in office like a fly hovers above honey,
Not only that, he used to do it in a sly way, pretending that I like his presence, or am giving him some kind of lift to continue such behaviour. I stopped going to office with him within a month, and started to drive my two wheeler. But to my shock he started to stalk me on my way to office and way back. Whenever I came out of home or office his car was following me from a considerable distance.
Slowly eyebrows started to shoot up and whispering began. I was naturally the one who was branded the culprit for wrecking a family. After all I was jhumamasi’s niece. I tried to ignore it for a few days by openly showing my dislike for Rakesh but it did not worked because his shamelessness increased and along with that the sniggering of my colleagues. One day I just lost my temper said some rude words to a colleague and left the office in tears.
IV. The drama:
When I reached home Sulata was back from school, “Hi!!! You are back home at this hour?” she was surprised.
“Didi, Jhuma madam called and asked you to go to her home immediately.” Rik Mr. Jain’s son peeped from his door.
I left the home for Jhumamasi’s home. Keshav uncle was waiting there.
“It’s all your fault. Nothing of this type has ever happened in Blue Star.” Keshav uncle said firmly.
“Then I won’t go there from today onward.” I replied. I was not one of those persons who get intimidated easily.
“This is not West Bengal, this is Rajasthan. You should act in that manner.” Keshav uncle has not yet finished. “I don’t blame the staffs of my office; I have seen them for years.”
“People here don’t talk with the opposite gender.” He continued adamantly.
I had a deep impulse of asking him that do people use duct tapes to seal their mouths when they are placed in a seat surrounded by only males.
“I have talked with Mr. Jain and the second tenant of his home. I have told him to transfer Rakesh to his Jaipur office. He has told me that it’s his entire fault.” He added further.
I went back home after his lecture was finished. Sulata was waiting for me eagerly. The moment she heard my scooter entering the courtyard she came out.
“What happened?” she asked after a little time, we both were sitting in my drawing room.
I blurted out the whole thing to her. “The people of this place are like that, it took me years to adjust myself with their narrow mentality.” Sulata said.
She and Abhishek both were from Delhi and have been transferred to Rajasthan. Abhishek worked as a Zonal manager of a Medicine Company, a reputed one but I have forgotten the name now. He toured the whole Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra from Rajpur while Sulata and Sonu their daughter stayed in Rajpur.
A part of my heart was relieved to get away from that office. But my relief did not last for long.
“It’s very tough to survive in private concerns of Rajpur with dignity. As you don’t have a B.Ed degree you wont get a job in school but I can help you with tuitions.” Sulata said.
I looked at her gratefully. We bade goodbye to each other. She had to make dinner for sonu and put her to bed and I had to cook my dinner.
I was brushing my teeth in the morning when Jhumamasi’s car pulled in the road. She came out of the car and started to mount the stairs, “Keshav wants to see you.” She said with a smile. “Change and come now.”
I went there apprehensively, and was shocked to see Rakesh standing there, Keshav uncle started to thrash him left to right and ordered him to call me sister and give me the respect he gives to his own sister or else he will see to it that he had to leave Blue star and Rajpur. Rakesh was as meek as lamb and left after mumbling an apology to me.
“I always do justice.” Keshav uncle said haughtily. “Rakesh thought that he will get away with it.”
“You will have to join the office, that’s where you belong and you are our responsibility.” He made the final statement.
“I want you to promise two things. First, you will always treat the employees of Blue Star as your subordinates, and second you will marry any one I select for you. I don’t want to hear any excuses. You are a child, so you should never interfere in the things adults decide for you.” He ended his short lecture.
I meekly agreed and promised him because I was the one who was caught in the wrong foot. Even though I was innocent. But even then I did not changed my anti dowry stand. I clearly told them I will not marry anyone who asks for a single rupee.
“We will give the dowry.” Jhumamasi said. “You are like my own daughter.”
“Ability is not the question, the question is the greed hidden behind asking for money. I don’t want to marry a greedy person.” I replied.
She shrugged and gave in. But could not find a match, I guess money does matters a lot in today’s world.
V Chill Zone:
I went to the office, Jhumamasi showed up within an hour. She took one of the girls of the office aside and asked her to call me up during lunch hour.
“Don’t take your lunch alone in your seat, join the girls.” She told me later. “Slowly it will break the ice and will keep the people who are bothering you silent.”
I too thought that and started to eat with them. Even though I could clearly see their coldness hidden under their politeness I practiced polite warmth. Because I knew they can afford to be rude to me, I can’t, because it was my auntie’s office, and I was answerable to her.
Slowly their second skin started to fall off. I have been an avid reader of all sorts of detective books. I started to observe certain things in them and then used to test them under the wrap of innocence.
Sometimes my relatives from home used to call me up during office hours, as I did not had a phone at home.
I used to note that whenever a phone came one of the girls used to flitter around me, as if trying to understand the conversation which I was having with the person on the other side. Though they pretended they did not know a single word of Bengali.
I started my own game, I used to watch them keenly and say most offensive things in pure Bengali about them to see how the colours of their faces changed. They used to look at my placid face keenly to note if I have guessed their games.
Though they were too sly to be caught red handed, I guessed that a lot of them can understand Bengali but pretend that they don’t.
Next I started my experiments with the eavesdropping case. There also I started to play the same game, I used to raise my voice to various levels before getting abusive about the employees of blue star, and mentioning their names… and soon I realized that most probably they have bugged the households.
My suspects were naturally Ritumasi and her sons.
CHAPTER 3 : HELL
I. Hell unravels itself:
Soma became my shadow. Wherever I went she was sure to go (other than office) even when I visited Jhumamasi’s home she stayed there with me in place of going to her mother’s home. Even if she did, she used to return before my returning from office.
It seemed mystery was second name of Rajpur. Things started to disappear and come back on their own.
I still remember the day when I first became aware of this disappearing and returning act. A bunch of letters arrived from my family, I was reading one of them when Sulata called me and I got busy with her.
I returned after half an hour and saw that the letters have vanished; I searched every where but could not locate them.
When I returned from office next day they were back, they were at a place where I always searched first… under my pillow.
That again convinced me someone is over curious about my personal life. The only person who could smuggle those letters out was Soma. But to whom? Both Sharma and Jain family were hundred percent Marwaris, though they knew Hindi well but none knew B of Bengali.
My suspicion again reverted back to Ritumasi, it was not impossible for Soma to call them up and tell them that a bunch of mails have arrived for me, someone might have been waiting outside to fetch those mails. They might have been done it before without being caught.
As it happens, when an innocent person is forced to suspect, he or she starts to suspect every one. So, when things started to go crazy I started to observe every one. If they have placed Bengali knowing people in the office then why not in home too?
I always had a feeling about Sulata that she was Bengali, and Abhishek though he claimed he was a Marwari born and brought-up up to his college in Sawai Madhopur, looked like a typecast Bengali guy.
I still distinctly remember how I asked Rik if Sulata was Bengali when I first saw her from the roof top, she was in the courtyard below doing something.
A deep suspicion started to form that they were living there with some other intention.
The thing which fuelled my suspicion most was the weird things Sulata used to say quite often.
Things which were often outrageous to my small town taste. She used to glorify the lifestyle and happiness of a friend of hers who became a mistress of a rich old man. I never had the taste of asking her if that man had another wife or not.
Or she used to do things which I have only seen sex workers doing on silver screen. The same gestures of body or eyes, which are trademark of these women.
I used to feel quite uneasy with these behaviours, even though I had deep sympathy for sex workers but I would have never loved it if someone thought her as one. So I one day blurted out some thing about these gestures and some offensive words about sex workers.
I saw the colour of her face changing. Though she recovered it instantly but for a second she lost her composure.
That one incident started a journey of nightmare for me I believe. Wise people say that if you call Jesus Christ evil he will forgive you, but if you call devil evil he will leave no stone unturned to destroy you, such is the fury of a guilty soul.
II. Vision of hell:
The harmless stalkers all of a sudden became menacing. Not only menacing they became filthy. Filthy as only human-beings can be. It appeared as if I have all of a sudden woken up from sleep and have discovered that I have been transported to the land of demons.
My Sunny’s brake started to work haywire, it was not hidden inside the body, it was open and it started to fail magically. The vehicles out on the street started to get attracted toward me magically. And the drivers seemed to quite amused by the whole incident, the funniest part was they were either driven by extremely low class people or had well dressed women as passengers.
During the next few months I spent there I realized what hell looks like. How its dwellers are.
Then truth dawned on me, I still remember that night, I was sitting upstairs when Sulata came with a plate of halwa. “I have made it especially for you.” She said.
She went downstairs and I took a spoonful and gave the remaining to Soma. She gobbled it up happily.
An hour or so later Sulata asked me if I can come downstairs and give her company for an hour. “Abhishek is not here, some of his colleagues want to download some thing from the computer, and I don’t want to stay alone with them.”
I felt a little uneasy, why I don’t know. I told Soma to call me half an hour later on any pretext and went downstairs. Yes, I am one of those who can’t refuse a request and suffer.
I settled down in Sulata’s bedroom, Sonu was sleeping peacefully in the bed. I was feeling a little drowsy Sulata asked me to lie down and take a nap. I refused. I did not felt very comfortable with the idea.
“What will you do if someone snaps some obscene pictures of you and blackmails you or traps you in flesh trade?” she suddenly asked me.
I told her what would have I done, “If someone ever tries to blackmail me I will ask him to publish it in the newspaper or make a leaflet of it. And if someone plays some funny game with my core principles, I will leave no stone unturned to destroy him or her. No power in this earth will be able to save him or her from me.” Most probably my cold tone convinced her.
“But you know, if you make someone’s daughter suffer, someone will torture your daughter too.” She said.
Why I don’t know but her weird way of speaking reminded me of an incident. I have taken up swimming in a local club, Soma of-course used to accompany me. She used to sit outside while I went to change in a dilapidated changing room.
One day she told me that some men were lurking there while she was sitting there alone; I was not alarmed because there were staffs of that club always roaming around. One raised voice will bring half a dozen of them there. But I knew she was a chicken so I asked her to wait on the steps while I changed inside. There was nothing to fear because the room was pitch dark, so any mischief from Soma would have shot blue sky.
“Didi I think someone was taking our photographs.” She said one day. A few days later I stopped going there because the temperature has dipped.
Sulata’s words all of a sudden brought that memory back to me and whatever sleep was creeping in my eyes disappeared because I had a deep suspicion that she sometimes stalked me out in the street.
She always wore a helmet while stalking but one day, if it was she after all, her hair gave her away. She had a gorgeous head of hair, more than knee length, and extremely voluptuous. I noted that the woman also had same head of hair.
On Sundays I used to go to a nearby hill and sit there with soma, watch the other hills and the surroundings. Rajpur was quite an interesting place with lots of ruins, hills and peacocks.
On my way home I saw a woman traveling right in front of me and suddenly I had a feeling that it was Sulata, just because of body structure and hair. I tried to follow the vehicle but it was a bike and gathered speed, then it took a turn and went another way. When I returned home Sulata was sitting on the porch.
Next Sunday I took that road and voila!!! It was a dirt road to my home. This was quite a big short cut too.
So on that night I stayed up like an owl, Abhishek’s friends left after midnight and I went upstairs with full determination to give Soma a piece of mind for not calling me.
I locked the door and went to her bed. She was sleeping like a corpse; actually I thought she was dead. I was so scared that I pushed her but she did not even made a sound only rolled away as far as my shove sent her. I finally placed my palm under her nose to confirm myself that she was alive.
That day I became confident that if I had eaten that halwa that might have been my doom.
Though I could not put my fingers on it but I guessed whatever was happening there Keshav uncle and Jhumamasi were part of it, and as they know every thing about my life, these things are also going on with their consent.
There were so many reasons to suspect them. Keshav uncle loved to play Mr. God and often boasted that he knew all about me, even though he lived miles away. Jhumamasi have also said a couple of times that he had thousands of eyes, and knows every thing about every one.
Then, if the people of blue star knew what movie I watched last night then how could he not know….
Jhumamasi has told me that none of her staffs knew Bengali but at-least half a dozen of them has claimed to me that they have been in west Bengal for quite long span of time, especially those who sat near me.
Why did a Marwari girl like Soma born and brought up in Rajpur insisted on listening to Bengali songs? Watching Bengali movies? Laughed at Bengali jokes?
Before those instances I used to think that over protective Keshav uncle keeps an eye on me, and was quite grateful for that. But after those harassments started I became suspicious of something else… it was not a caring eye; it was the eye of a sentry.
Most probably they have massed up that wealth by some heinous means and Jhumamasi acts as their agent to West Bengal. With that fear inside me I knew one thing; I had to get away from that place. But how? If I gave the least hint that I have guessed their secret they won’t let me out of Rajpur, forget about crossing those hundreds of miles alone in train… any thing can happen in Indian Railway.
III. Finding a way out:
From the next night I started to do three things, keeping a canister of petrol in my room, and locking the door from inside and keeping the key under my pillow.
Then a plan popped up in my mind, I informed Shruti that some thing is wrong there, and someone was trying to kill me, I deliberately withheld the truth from her. I did not wanted to say a word before I reached safe shelters.
This time, knowing very well who the masterminds were, I falsely blamed Ritumasi and her sons, saying they have appointed goons after me. I told her to inform the cops if I don’t make it there on the date I say. I told her that I will tell her after I make my reservations.
The very next day I went to Ritumasi and told her that one of my friends is getting married and if I don’t visit her she will come here and kill me.
I got the permission to go.
My reservations were on 2nd January next month, after twenty days. I told them I will be back on 15th.
A few days before I was about to start I saw a guy in Blue Star, he was standing near the girls and it seemed to me he was over eager to be visible to me. So I noted him quite clearly.
At home, Sulata grilled me to no end, but I told her the same story and I hinted her that most probably I won’t be back because Ritumasi’s sons are trying to kill me.
She was quite sad… till that time I mistook her as a good girl trapped in bad net, which misconception was to disappear forever after I met her again… Five years later, with another husband, daughter and family… she was a Bengali woman then, and very rich. I could not recognize her initially but after a while I did, with the help of her photograph which I had at home. Even though she has chopped off her hair to shoulder length.
IV. The vigilance:
With the day of my leaving Rajpur approaching my vigilance became more and more bold.
I did not have a phone connection; I had to go out to make calls to Shruti and another of her friends back at my hometown. The moment I used to reach the phone booth, a few persons used to reach there and wait, standing as close to the booth as possible. That might have been a coincident or not but I preferred playing safe. Every time I called anyone of those two I requested them to inform police if I don’t make it back on said date.
The people of Blue Star started to play a funny game with me, a game which continued for quite a long time after my return from Rajpur. And they really scared me with this game, later when I remembered an incident the fear was dispersed.
The game was: they used to pretend as if they have seen my clone at places where I of course was not at that time. Suddenly I had a panic that they have procured a look-alike of me and they may never let me escape from Rajpur… what if they imprison me and send my look alike there.
It was my first experience of a whole office lying to scare a person, a person who has never done them any harm. So they sure got me in that game.
Later when I returned to my hometown, Shruti’s friend Chaitali and some of her friends tried to play the same game with me. They said that they have seen me in my hometown when I was in Rajpur. They gave me quite a vivid description.
Well, they might have scared the living day light out of me if I had not remembered, suddenly, that Keshav uncle had seen “jewel thief” thirteen or fourteen time.
I was so happy when I remembered that incident. How happy only I know and God knows. An iceberg was removed from my heart.
Those of you who have not seen this legendary movie by Dev Anand, the gist of its story is he was tricked by a group of criminals that there is a look-alike of him. He was absolutely convinced so were the audience.
V. The 31st night:
Now back to Rajpur. There is only one incident left to say, my horrible experience of 31st night. I will never forget that night.
Mr. Jain was Mr. Amicable as I have said, and my family culture did not permitted free mixing with men, so I always kept a distance from Abhishek and Mr. Jain. I mainly mixed with Mr. Jain’s kids and Sulata.
It was 31st evening, I was in no mood to go downstairs but Rik came upstairs and begged me to go and join them. They loved to play loud music and dance. As they both were tiny children, one five or six year old the other ten or eleven years it was fun to watch them dancing. So they often displayed their dancing skills to me. And this time too he begged until I gave in and went downstairs.
Mr. Jain appeared from his rooms after a while and I could feel he was drunk. He headed straight for me, and started to stroke my shoulders and back. I got up and left the place instantly.
Soma insisted that she will watch the New Year Eve program and I went to sleep in my room. I was lying there almost sleeping when I heard a loud banging at the door.
It was Mr. Jain, fully drunk. Soma asked him what was the matter and he told her to open the door.
I noted with absolute horror that Soma was about to obey him but saw the door is locked.
“Uncle the door is locked.” She said.
“Find the key and open the door.” Was the reply from outside?
“The key is not here, I can’t see it.” She said. Well, she could not have seen it because it was under my pillow. But if I had not locked the door she would have opened it to that inebriated man.
Sometimes our instincts save us from unsavoury incidents. The next morning when I went out Jain family was not there. They both have left for their respective jobs and the kids went to school.
When I left for Kolkata next morning even then they were not there. The children bade me goodbye. Sulata cried like she is bidding her own sister goodbye, hearing some snide remarks from Abhishek. I would have guessed about her mask then but I did not.
There was another thing worth mentioning that happened on the 1st January. I went to call Chaitali and Shruti, to give them the details of my journey.
“Gina, talk with Swati. She is in Kolkata.” Chaitali handed the phone over to her sister.
“Happy new year didi.” I was shocked to hear her giggling. She knew every thing that was going on here.
CHAPTER 4 : RETURN JOURNEY
I .The train journey to Kolkata:
It was decided that I will go to Kolkata and Shruti’s uncle, maternal uncle will pick me up from Howrah station. Then I will decide if I will stay with them or return to my ancestral home.
So I started for Howrah from Rajpur on 2nd. Sulata, Abhishek, Jhumamasi and Keshav uncle came to bid me goodbye on the station.
I settled in my seat in the three tier compartment. There was a couple on the opposite seat, an elderly person and his wife. A few minutes after the train started to roll a young boy came to them. He had quite a striking face, dark complexioned, handsome and wore a pair of spec. soon another young guy, a very fair, a little chubby man with moustache and specs, when he joined him I was almost certain that this one was the guy I have seen in Bluestar, the man who was over eager to show himself to me. He was even wearing the same tee shirt, a light yellow coloured tee shirt, which was to become quite familiar to me in the coming months.
I noted that whenever I left my seat or went down from the train to buy something or fetch water etc those two used to follow me. Like a pair of watchdogs.
I reached Kolkata early in the morning after spending a semi sleepless night in train. Shruti’s uncle was waiting for me when the train rolled in.
I reached home. Shruti’s uncle asked me what was the matter, why were all those calls made by Shruti to inform police etc. etc. I tried to tell him the matter but he told me to not say single word against Keshav uncle or Jhumamasi because his mother hated to hear a single word against them.
So I shared only the information about my harassment there. He heard silently and left. Before leaving he asked me if I wanted to go back there, he will talk with Jhumamasi and ensure my safety this time. I bluntly refused.
A few minutes later I went out to fetch a glass of water and saw them in an extremely jovial mood, as if they were celebrating my doom.
I was standing on the window in the evening when I saw a car in the road outside, it was honking its horn in the empty street and it was of the same make as the cars which used to stalk me in Rajpur. A chill went down my already panicked body.
It took me a few more years to guess that whatever they did they needed women who were completely willing to work for them. And for those who kicked them on their face and left them they had these dirty tricks in their hat, to terrorize them in such a cunning way that every one else will think that they are paranoid.
My journey has just begun and I was acting just as they wanted me to act, hyper panicked.
Next morning I went to offer puja at Dakshineshwar, I felt absolutely filthy after spending that year with them. We have finished the puja and were coming out when a taxi stopped right in front of me and the duo of the train stepped out of it.
They either did not notice me or pretended that they did not but I did and watched them keenly to confirm.
I remembered that I have told Sulata that I will go to Dakshineshwar the very next morning I reach Kolkata.
Shruti’s uncle was quite rich. He worked in a shipping company and made quite lot of money. He had two homes in Kolkata and one in Darjeeling. All three made by himself. So naturally he had a battalion of maids. A woman and her three daughters worked for him at that time.
I was sitting in the drawing room listlessly and the daughters of the maid were talking with me. Suddenly one of them narrated a story to me, I was quite uneasy because the same story has been narrated to me by Chaitali’s sister Swati. It was a personal incident, so it was quite a surprise that exactly same thing can happen to two different persons and they both react to it using the very same words. I decided then and there that I will return to my ancestral home.
That evening one of my cousin sisters came to see me and asked me to return to my ancestral home and I decided to do that, without waiting for Shruti to come. I did not want to spend another night there.
Somehow I was piecing together the mystery behind soma’s Bengali knowledge and Shruti’s uncle’s immense wealth.
II. First step toward Shangri-la:
I did not want this sister of mine to know about my problems, but when I called up Shruti she said it will be best to let them know. The more people know about it, safer I will be there.
Shree was Shiv’s sibling, the cousin who was the main reason behind my not being eager to return home. They together with help of Shiv’s wife Seemana made their mother and younger brother leave home. I was a witness to all that drama and I really loathed them for that.
I have seen Seemana for a couple of years, how shamelessly she chased her brother in law. No wonder her mother in law preferred to get away from there with him before that evil woman corrupts him.
She chased me for quite a long time to get me married to her brother which I and every one else refused because everyone agreed on one point, its dumb to marry among relations. It always complicates thing. If one of the relationships is strained the effects damage the second one. Any way, I loathed that creepy brother of hers, Krishno. He was too disgusting with his over eagerness to be over friendly with me. That’s one thing I really don’t like in people. I have simple way of acting myself; if I am madly in love with someone I will marry him. If I cant I will be just friend with him. Not lover or lover-like.
When they realized that I won’t give him an inch of space he married and Seemana never took the entire episode casually.
Shree brought me over to her in-law’s place first, which was a few minutes journey from my ancestral home.
“Stay here for a few days, and then we will see if I can shift you back to home. Shiv and his wife have turned it into pure hell. Their creditors are coming there and spilling out all sorts of abuses on every one who dares to enter that house.”
“You have not met Chanchal and ma in Rajpur, have you? Chanchal have joined Jhumamasi’s Delhi office a few months ago.”
“They were about to shift to Rajpur, so you all could be together.”
“Of course I heard it from Shruti because Chanchal and ma have shunned every connection with us. I wish ma was back here, Shiv is making my life miserable. He is sucking me dry; I have to take care of his family while he throws away his money for fun.”
So Shiv has found out another host, after sucking his mother dry for years now it’s his sister’s turn. I really did not want to go back to that house but I did not have any other place to go. Shruti has told me she will meet me there as soon as possible. Till then stick there no matter what.
We were talking in her bed room. It was still under construction, she lived with her in-laws in two bedrooms in ground floor, the first floor was almost finished; only doors were to be fitted.
“Will it be alright for you to sleep in the bedroom upstairs with Mithu’s Ayah?” she asked.
As if I had any choice. I consented.
III. The stalkers:
Sulata has told me repeatedly to not tell anyone back at Kolkata what happened in Rajpur. I too had the same plans but the duo in train and dakshineshwar has shaken that resolution a little. Remaining was done by the news that chanchal and aunty were in Jhumamasi’s grip.
I spilled out the whole story to Shree and her husband Sumit. She heard silently and said she had similar suspicions.
I never liked Sumit or Shree much. Shree has always been a jealous and manipulative woman and God knows why she had always her eyes fixed on me. Sumit was one of the rudest and selfish people I have ever seen. His over eagerness to mix with me has caused a lot of annoyance in Shree’s heart so I kept a cold distance from him and he despised me for that.
I spent the night upstairs with Mithu’s ayah. I did not like that girl an inch. She was hardly seventeen or eighteen years old but there was a shadow of horrible corruption on her face. It appeared that she did not have much control over her animal instincts and that was too visible on her countenance.
Next day was Sunday, Shree asked me to get ready to visit my home, to check what the situation there is. Whether it is possible for me to shift there.
We reached the house within half an hour. Shree loved to walk whenever it was feasible so we did not boarded a bus.
The house looked like no one has lived there for years. We were intercepted at the gate by one of Shiv’s creditors. “Please tell Shivda that Sona was looking for him.” He said.
We opened the gate and entered, the house was full of bushes and overgrown weeds, forget about the garden, even the courtyard has given away to weeds. Quite big weeds have sprung out of the cemented pavement, wherever they have found a place to germinate.
Seemana came down from upstairs and on seeing me started to howl at the top of her lungs, “I am so glad you are back safe. Chaitali came to meet your brother; she said there were goons who were stalking you in Rajpur.”
Shree looked at me with an exasperated expression on her face. We left after a while. Seemana kept on asking me to return there.
We have hardly taken ten steps out of the house when I saw a car approaching us; it was of the same model and colour, same model of those cars which used to stalk me in Rajpur. The same model which I have seen from Shruti’s uncle’s home’s window. I felt like missing a heart-beat.
We took a bus to return but just before we were about to turn into Shree’s lane I saw a car of same model and make waiting patiently near it.
“They can’t be the same car, may be you are too scared or as they know where you are going they have hired similar cars to scare you.” Shree said after listening to every thing.
“I think it will be best if you shift to home. I will take care that Shiv and his wife don’t bother you. You will be safe there. Safer than any other place. I would have kept you here but my mother in law will create a drama.” Shree said.
It was decided that I will shift to my room next day.
First of all, a brief description of Shangri-la and its residents. It was a spacious two storied building. Surrounded by quite a big garden this gave it ample enough of privacy. Especially because that garden had big trees, which have mostly grown on their own. So, they gave that house a flimsy curtain like covering. A thing which I loved in my youth, it saves you from the eyes of neighbours and passers by.
Right now there were two families living there. Shiv, Seemana, their daughter and another family, the Mandals, comprising of mother and son. This family has lived in that house for years, without paying a single penny, reaping the benefits of the quarrel going on between my father’s siblings.
They were requested to vacate the premises years ago, but two of my uncles asked them to stay there, in their rooms. That gave them immense power and spies to my uncle. Spies and paid guard dogs.
They were four, husband, wife and a son plus a daughter. The daughter had an affair with Shiv, but his mother and every one else objected because neither the daughter nor her mother were very chaste. He backed off and the girl got married to someone else. She had a very bad relationship with her in-laws, extremely bad one. But finally she walked away with her husband and was well settled. The son did not bother to study; he dedicated his life to the local party office and used to spend all his days and often nights serving them. So many times I have seen him scaling the wall past midnight, startling the dogs.
Two of my father’s siblings had their rooms in the house locked up, third one, Shruti’s father now lived in Mumbai. They all occasionally visited the house.
I used to sleep in a bedroom in the first floor, but after returning I noted that Shiv and Seemana were using that room so I shifted to the rooms of Shruti with their permission. It was in the ground floor.
The Mandals lived just across the verandah of my rooms. The house was separated into two sections by a passage entering the courtyard.
Just like all old houses this house too had completely separate sections for the family members and outsiders.
The outsiders were not allowed in the inner courtyard. They had to wait in the garden, outer verandah or drawing room (my present bedroom).
A system which was maintained strictly till Shiv’s mother lived in that house. A tradition which has been pulled down to dirt by Shiv and Seemana. I noted with great fury that his creditors used to go straight into the courtyard and holler for him.
I even noted them going upstairs without even knocking at the door.
Since my return to Shangri-la after spending an ample amount of time outside West Bengal I have noted that the residents of it maintained quite a distance from neighbours. This was quite normal because it took a lot of energy to cross the garden and communicate with other neighbours, and very frankly the neighbours too were not very keen to mingle with the residents.
The main gate opened on a narrow street, narrow but very busy. Traffic moved on that street all night through. The boundary wall was cluster free when I first returned there as a teenager but then slowly some small shops opened there. All these boys were great friends of Shiv and all of them were his creditors.
After returning from Rajpur I noted a new shop has popped up there, a tea shop. A man and his wife were running the show. Shree told me Shiv spends most of his time there. He has stopped going to office and spends most of his time either there or in our village home, an hour or so from here.
“He is selling off every thing there. He does not cares if it is his or the property of others. Every one is furious at him. But he has created a big stronghold in the village.” Shrre remarked.
The more I was listening the happier I was becoming that I had to re enter that house. Without any one to stand beside me, and the only residents of that place were the ones who had played direct or indirect role behind my landing in Rajpur.
I called Chaitali to tell her that I have shifted to my home. She promised she will be there in the evening.
I was in my room when she came. “Meet Sanjay, Sanju, Shruti’s college mate.”
I just stared at that person. If I was not wrong he was the same person who has stalked me from Rajpur. “How are you didi? Where is Shruti?” he asked.
“I am so happy to see you back here safe and sound. We all were so scared for you.” Chaitali started to speak in an unusually loud voice, loud enough to draw attention of Mrs. Mandal and Seemana.
“Let’s go inside and talk.” I asked her. I instantly started to dislike her. There was something ruthless and sly in her face, a thing which I have never noticed before. But my main reason behind disliking her was her companion.
“I spend most of my time with Chaitalidi now. People call me her shadow.” Sanjay smirked.
I just could not understand how he appeared here and attached him with her. That means she had some connection with Jhumamasi, well that was not impossible because she was Shruti’s chum. So she might have been one of Jhumamasi’s agents or girls here. I decided to keep my mouth shut.
I should have done something else too, shun her from then onwards but I did not, I did not wanted them to get suspicious before Chanchal and aunty were warned.
So they both attached themselves like a pair of leeches to me.
CHAPTER 5 : Wisdom dawns
I. JOURNEY TO WISDOM:
Being born and brought up in a family which had immense faith on me and have laid endless liberty in my hands I never understood twisted side of human beings. The blood thirsty carnivores hidden inside human body. So I ignored too many signs of time and paid for them dearly. I was famous for my innocence too. The combination acted as deadly.
I forgot in my panic that I have told Jhumamasi that I was coming to Kolkata to attend Chaitali’s marriage that meant they knew from the very beginning that I was escaping from them.
I still remember Keshav uncle’s last lecture just before I left Rajpur, he has asked me to do something which I ignored, because I was already filled up with repulsion for that duo. He gave me a lecture, the gist of that lecture was he was God, and the only thing which was saving me from the wrath of God was Jhumamasi. I guess that son of devil (or devil himself) sent his sons to Kolkata to prove himself right.
I ignored the fact that Seemana looked almost like Mr. Jain of Rajpur, so did Chaitali. Actually, Chaitali seemed quite friendly with her and used to come to see her quite often with Sanjay when I was not at home.
Seemana was friendlier with Mandals then her own in-laws. I have seen her creeping out of their rooms just after her marriage, though she knew that her in-laws hated it.
I ignored that Sanjay and Chaitali were more interested in Shiv and Seemana than me; so many times I have seen Sanjay sitting in the verandah after returning from Shree’s home. His excuse was he came to meet me and was going back.
I forgot that it might have been quite easy for Jhumamasi and Keshav uncle to buy Shiv and Seemana, they were submerged in debts.
I remembered years later that they had another deadly thing in their hands, my diary, which has been misplaced during my shifting to Mr. Jain’s home from Jhumamasi’s home. A diary which held a little too much information about my emotional life.
Not only that, they had all my belongings for next two years, Chanchal booked them before returning to Kolkata. I could only bring things which can be placed inside one suitcase; I could not raise their suspicion.
I failed to notice that Chaitali and her sisters came to my life after my first meeting with Keshav uncle and Jhumamasi, in Shiv’s elder brother’s marriage.
Not only that, since that date wherever I went, whatever I did I was sure to meet a medical representative, Chaitali worked in a local railway hospital.
That trio Chaitali, Saswati and Swati overwhelmed me with their doting. They had a huge group of friends. The second sister, Saswati was the most popular among them. I too was overwhelmed by her but later, just before shifting to Rajpur I distanced myself from them because I have come to know from someone else that they were not right type of women that is they ruin the reputation of girls by setting their boyfriends at their heel. Well, I too had this suspicion from their behaviour and that was the reason I distanced myself from them but later I forgot it all in panic.
I was offered a job by Chaitali, a job which wasted two thousand rupee and was the first spec on my clean sleeve. She offered me a job of medical representative, I submitted the caution money and met the regional manager, and he always met us individually in hotel, in a hotel just near my home. A spicy dish for dirty minds. He usurped the money and vanished. But not before leaving a trail of mud on my sleeve.
I can vow I met that man later, he was not a regional manager of some medicine company, he was a doctor practicing in the same hospital as chaitali. Two persons may look alike, may have same voice or mannerism but the combination of three is impossible. At least that’s what I believe.
Most probably devil (keshav uncle) had his eyes on me even before I went to Rajpur, he was spreading his net, with the firm belief that every one walks around with a price tag like him. Every human being can be corrupted and abused.
But, I failed to put these pieces together at that time; I was too scared and frustrated to think calmly back then. Later, when I distanced myself from that quagmire I slowly started to piece it all together.
I guess wisdom comes to an innocent person after extracting its full fees. When I look back I realize I was too innocent and noble for the world which was surrounding me, so I had to pay with the walk through raging fire to attain the land of peace with which I was blessed later.
The land of clear vision, which showed me every thing in a crystal clear way and made me content for the rest of my life. Content because that journey taught me the greatest truth, if one is certain to walk on the path of truth God comes down to walk with him or her and no matter how much devil tries, he fails.
II. Can of worms:
Shangri-la seemed to have transformed into a box of slithering worms in just two years. The two years I spent outside it.
It seemed the whole household was under control of Seemana, Shiv and Mandal duo.
As they did not bothered to share their unsavoury secrets with me all I could do was guess, and they might have been or not have been wrong. So many questions started to pop inside my mind.
To not confuse I will just point them out–
1. Why did Chaitali and her sisters visited the house to meet Seemana again and again, even though Shruti was not there? They were not idlers, one of them was an intern, and the other two were pursuing post graduation and graduation in science.
2. Why did Seemana called out Partho Mandal instead of me or Pathos’s mother whenever she was having a tiff with her husband. They used to get quite violent. Throwing dirtiest words at each other and physically hitting.
3. For whom did Seemana left the doors open in stealth? So many times I have locked it by my own hands in afternoons and evenings. We had a system of locking both the doors which lead outside at noon and after dusk.
So I used to do it, and she used to come downstairs and open it stealthily. She was not a silent person; she was one of the noisiest persons I have ever encountered. A woman obsessed with noise. She could not even walk soundlessly, forget about opening a latch which was to make sound unless opened very cautiously – I tried it couple of times and it took me more than two minutes to simply open that latch and place it in its place without making a sound.
4. Why was Chaitali so eager to prescribe me psychiatric drugs? If a bunch of goons are waiting for you outside your doorstep to fling filthiest comments at you, you are supposed to be upset. But that doesn’t require psychiatric drugs. Not only that, when I asked her to give me a medical certificate which I could send to Jhumamasi she arranged for a certificate on psychiatric grounds.
Why did she picked up a fight after I coldly (not rudely) refused to take those medicines? She immediately stopped meeting me.
May be because it was not required any more. She might have finished her task and just wanted an excuse to terminate the friendship. After all, it was she who has hung herself like a leech along with Sanjay Das, to accompany me every where I went.
I later realized that even though she has been my friend before but she has never been out in public with me. Never before I returned from Rajpur. Were both of them unsavoury characters? Too ill-reputed? Or were they just pointing me out to their chums plus brushing their mud in my clean sleeve as much as they could.
Any way, those two leeches disengaged themselves from me after a year of my return from Rajpur. And I paid the price for next four years. Finally I left Shangri=la behind forever.
5. How come some of the students of a nearby type institute have stunning similarity with some of the girls, friends of Sulata in Rajpur? Shree has been a student of that institute for years.
The puzzles I pieced together were Sulata followed me to Kolkata with another woman. That woman most probably presented herself to people as me. She had an access to my rooms with the cooperation from Shiv and Shree. Shree used to invite me at her home for days and this mysterious woman used to use my rooms pretending as me.
When I met Sulata five years later, using another name and family, I noted that some of her staffs resembled spookily with the people of the tea-stall outside Shangri-la. And she had a staff whose voice and way of speaking was awfully similar to mine. Actually it was surprisingly similar, though we looked different and she looked like one of the girls of Rajpur.
Now I believe Keshav must have sent both of them at my heels along with sanjay. To scare me and ruin me. They followed me, or may be reached Shangri-la before me. When I returned they have already laid the foundation.
There were so many weak points to be encashed, Shiv’s extravaganza, Seemana’s easy morale.
Adding up to that I heard that Shiv has brought a young girl from village to work for them and Seemana has thrashed her so much one day that she ran away from home. One of the shop owners outside our home saw her crying, and instead of returning her to her family, he took her home and kept her there. Quite interesting a story for me.
III. The stench:
My condition there was of any normal human being who has fallen into a pit full of worms and is trying to crawl out. The worms with their slithery body making it extremely tough.
All of a sudden I observed that I have created a lot of deadly enemies. No I am not one of those persons who love to create enemies. I had a great reputation for being too soft. Every one used to preach me to become a little selfish and ruthless. I usually give up my own right to avoid nastiness. But to my utter surprise I started to meet them again and again. They were mostly women or men of extremely repulsive nature and character.
That is why I later started to suspect that someone else has been using my name and identity with the help of Sulata and the second girl to ruin my life, to fulfill the prophecy of Keshav Devil. Though it might have been absolutely wrong, but that nagging feeling lingered inside me.
There was some thing very wrong in that household and that wrong has surfaced in the two years I was absent from there.
To my deep embarrassment the electricians refused to go to the house and fix the wirings of my room, they bluntly told me that it has become a den of anti social activities.
I heard from at-least half a dozen persons that antisocial elements lurk outside and inside that house. They even suggested me to keep the doors bolted from inside during day hours.
A suggestion which I was not going to take. The first thing I did was I cleaned up the jungle in the garden and placed a light in the garden.
I have noted that right after the darkness the activities all of a sudden jumped up in Mandal household. Men and women started to come in and out of there rooms. Partho’s comrade brothers and sisters were always eager to visit their rooms after darkness.
I never visited their rooms because I noted after my return from Rajpur that corruption has gone over the heads of that family. They have become very rich in two years. And the boy who used to call me aunty and wear Chanchal’s discarded clothes has followed his sister and was eying me.
The moment I dared to venture out in the verandah he used to appear like a disgusting apparition. The party office where he has dedicated his body and soul was visible from my verandah so it must have been the other way round too.
His shamelessness was beyond words. With wholehearted love of Shree, Seemana and Sumit his audacity was beyond limits. They just doted after him. Specially Shree and Seemana.
I was almost sure that he stalked me wherever I went but he was too sly, he always wore helmet and sat on the backseat facing away from me.
But with time I became familiar with the scooter and I heard his voice once or twice. A thing which is hard to hide.
I have seen his mother Shyama whispering to the passengers/drivers of a fiat, one of the models which have stalked me since my days in Rajpur. This was one car which has been almost my shadow. But I was only familiar with the cars, just like any panic stricken person I failed to read the numbers and I might have been panicked or Sumit might have been right. They were different cars, but were deliberately following me to scare me. To keep me under pressure or trying to make me panic so Keshav uncle can say that I am an idiot or lunatic.
When Mandal and Shiv noted that I have placed a bulb in the garden and am monitoring the movements they got the power line to the house disconnected.
They ruled the house in cahoots it seemed. An invisible understanding was always working within them. Shiv has always been extremely close to that family, it was quite a miracle that he did not married Doll, their daughter. He was not that obedient to his mother, may be he had some other plans. Too sly plans for an ordinary girl like me to understand.
In observing him from close angle I have realized one thing, that he was weaker version of Keshav. If he had money and power he would have pulled up devil from hell and would have captured hell.
So, the story went like this, after my return it was decided that from now on Mandal and co. will have to pay for their electricity bills. In the thirty years of their stay in that house they were paying something for the first time. It was decided that each family will pay for four months.
Well, when Shiv’s first turn came he did not pay the bill; the men from Electricity department came and snapped the line.
They both hooked lines to their portions and left the rest of the house in darkness. Their activities resumed smoothly.
IV. Goodbye past:
This time I left no stone unturned. As it was my area I tried every door, my relatives, police, I even wrote letters asking legal suggestions about how to put that activity to a stop. I was suggested to “get proof”, nice, very nice, so now ordinary citizens will have to become sleuth, gather proofs, lodge case in court and get orders to STOP CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES. I just loved that part.
The strange response was from my family. I talked with them, wrote letters to them but all I received was nonchalance and ugly fingers pointed out at myself, why was I unmarried, and all of a sudden I started to hear that I was always suspected by them, well they sure wore their masks to utmost perfection because before going to Rajpur I lived under an illusion that they loved me a lot, whereas they have hated me since eternity, believing that I am indulged in filthiest activities.
May be they did not cared what was going on in that house. Or may be they did and were encashing it. I saw my uncles, the ones who wanted to sell the house having secret meetings with Mandal and his comrades.
This was also possible that my letters were intercepted because Sanjay took care of that before he left I believe.
Shiv’s mother and my mother had a joint fixed deposit. Chanchal used to send me the interest of that account every month. Earlier it was deposited in bank, but that amount was now in Jhumamasi’s hands because I transferred it all to Rajpur.
When Sanjay used to visit he once asked me how was I meeting my needs, I blurted out to him that it was with the money of interest I receive every month. He pried out the way it reaches me and for the next two months the couriers did not came.
Adding up to that, I noted someone used to enter my rooms when I was at Shree’s home because my money and other things were vanishing. So I ended up in dire straits. Chanchal said that he contacted the courier service and they said that the money has reached their Kolkata office. From next month chanchal started to send the money by post. I spent those two months eating one time a day.
Every letter that reached me came open. Someone brazenly opened them and read them. The only exceptions were when the post man handed them in my hands. He was a wonderful guy. Being a resident of that area he most probably knew the condition of that house, so he tried his level best to hand the letters to me, none else. He even used to take them back with him if I was not around.
He retired after a year of my return. The remaining three years I spent in Shangri-la were without a single letter in my name.
It seemed they were hell bent to make me leave my house and there boldness was increasing with every passing day.
Their kingpin was that dog, Partho Mandal, who was once fed by my own hands, treated as own nephew.
His behaviours resembled with those of a rabid dog. Most of the time his activities were not caught but sometimes they were. He seemed to hate every thing I liked.
He used to mercilessly chop of trees which I cared for, break the pots in which I left water for squirrels. No, there was no chance of teaching him a lesson; he had dozens of comrades scratching his back. He was their pet darling.
I slowly realized that I will only lose my own virtues by staying with those soul-less filthy animals. So I decided to leave that place forever.
Any type of discussion with my family members back-fired. It resulted in revitalized attacks. Getting dirtier and dirtier every time. So, after fighting like an idiot for four years, paying the price by ruining my reputation, I decided to erase that family out of my life. To treat myself like an orphan out of orphanage then onwards.
I thought that I have left them behind; my illusion was broken when they followed me to my new area. But by then I have become proof of all their monkey businesses, eaves-dropping, stalking, harassment at street. Cowards often compare brave people with themselves and turn out to be fools. I was only surprised that why were they following me.
Then I met Sulata and my questions were answered. I came to know that she was the manager of a company in which one of my cousins has worked for thirty years.
I recalled that this cousin of mine has placed a lot of my cousins in various jobs, including sons and daughters of both my uncles who were in cahoots with Mandal.
That daughter and grand daughter of that uncle worked in media. And my cousin was manager of a reputed bank in Delhi.
If they were involved with Keshav then I could realize their earnesty to ruin me. Their own blood, who was once adored by them.
I firmly started to believe that Keshav worked through families. That is he forced/lured his employees (?) to trap their own family members. In that way the business will run safely, a lot more safely than if they pick up at random and the families of their victims support them when they escape or are killed.
That is why I was not surprised any more when I met people resembling each other too much again and again. People who had ample amount of similarity with each other, like cousins or relations resemble. They all have one thing in common; they had some serious problem with me from the day one.
Well, two examples to make thing a little clearer, Chanchal’s mother passed away in Rajpur. We had a very close relationship. At that time I was working in an office in kolkata, there was a girl named Soma Dey in that office. I have never set my eyes on her face, yet when she came to know about the mishap she called for a party among her friends, and continued that for next seven days. She was always very cautious to hold all the celebrations near me.
The next office I joined after leaving Sulata’s office, the owner of that office was Marwari but he had quite a similarity with Soma. And I saw a woman in his family album who bore too much similarity with Sulata. They were different but the similarity was awesome. More than one thing happened with me while I worked in that office that can be termed as attempt to harm or kill. Two were quite serious, in both cases my physical agility saved me from being crippled/maimed or killed. Both could be passed off as accidents.
Then the next fraud institute I joined, it again had a young girl with stunning similarity with Sulata. A creepy fellow Arindam Guha, who has worked in my locality as a medical representative for more than ten years. In the area near my college. To add up to that, he lived near my home at that time. So one thing was for sure, Keshav was into something ugly and his dogs were going to be on my heels for the rest of my life.
There were so many things in blue star which were not at all natural. The immense wealth of the employees. Their audacity of mistreating their boss’s relatives. And another weird thing. The thing which first made me certain that there was some thing creepy going on in there.
Well, just like every office there were more than a dozen employees. Now each of them had a name of their own. And during the last month of my stay in Blue Star I became confident of one thing that the names remain same but the men change. They have bunched up people with slight or more similarity and keep shuffling them. A person’s every thing can change but his eye’s colours can’t change. I have seen one man with three colours of retina. No he did not wear a contact lens. Was it some kind of cover up? Officially he was present here but actually he was somewhere else, doing something?
Second thing happened in my swimming lessons; there were at least a dozen more swimmers when I joined. After a month or so they asked me about myself. I told them, they all vanished next day. I met one of the women later on street but her companion rudely called her away within a minute.
There was a visible disrespect for Keshav and Jhuma; I thought it was because of the type of their relationship but not any more. If it was something that trifle it would have ended in Rajpur, no one would have followed me back to Kolkata and hounded me thereafter.
Every job I joined after returning from Rajpur had something to do with either Chartered Accountants, lawyers, people immersed in debt or people locked in legal battle.
And these employers and their employees were universally hostile to me. Hostile and nasty.
Keshav’s brother published a monthly journal on law and income tax. He had a strong customer base all over India.
Later Chanchal pointed it out to me, may be with his money and spies he is forcing me to always end up in the clutches of his victims or pet dogs. So that I end up frustrated or commit suicide or he could happily brand me lunatic or utter failure. Cite me as an example of fury of his “God’s hand” to his other victims.
During the last three years I was in Shangri-la I worked on myself and came out as a person I was satisfied with. A person without any attachment or weakness.
A woman they could not hit from any angle any more. Every time they ruined some thing from my life I conquered my desire for that thing.
After all, its desire which torments us. If we destroy the desire no human being will ever be able to torment us.
This mindset delivered me from all the filth and cruelty which the showered down on me.
They left me with only one goal, wherever or whenever I will get a chance I will share my story with others. So that they never get to ruin another innocent person.
V. lessons learnt by second meeting:
My second meeting with Sulata cleared half or may be more of my confusions.
She was now a daughter of a very rich Bengali man (LOL), wife of a manager of a reputed company and manager of another reputed company herself.
I have by then known that Sanjay was not Shruti or Chanchal’s friend. It was a black lie. They both denied ever knowing him. Even when Chanchal met him face to face a few times he did not showed any sign of knowing Chanchal from his college days.
Her staffs near my home (I will include Chaitali and her sisters and Sanjay therein) tried there level best to prove that I have psychiatric problems.
I was at a time surprised by the weird ways of their acting. Eavesdropping then brazenly letting me know, mocking me.
Then after my meeting with Sulata, after two or three failed attempts of killing or maiming me I joined a fraud institute. I was tired of being stalked by her dogs everywhere so I thought about doing something home based.
When I went to the original building I was referred to another address where they have shifted.
I firmly believe one of my net friends is either Sulata, some one she can trust or her Bengali mother. That person pried out my plans so expertly that I believe she is most probably a woman. So let me refer to her as “she”, she knew my plans of joining this institute. She was always in touch with me when those accidents happened, well, cell phones can be used to pin point your location or point you out in a crowd.
On my way to the institute I met Sulata’s Kolkata father. He did not note me but I did. Because he is a strikingly handsome man.
Next I saw one of her Kolkata staff’s Ragini Singh standing in a hi-fi shop there.
Finally I met an extremely hostile girl in that institute who had so much similarity with sulata that when I showed her sulata’s photograph she cringed.
Now this institute deals with psychiatric problems and their treatment. I noted with great amusement that the fears they were trying me to speak out were all psychiatric problems. Stalking, eavesdropping, hostility of strangers. Someone conspiring against you.
That office was situated opposite the office of the company in which Sulata was manager and my cousin has worked for thirty hears.
There are three types of people expert in stalking, detective agencies, media and intelligence. I had two of them in very close quarters. Media and detective agency. Mandal has worked for an agency which supplied security guards and worked as paid detective for years.
My uncles who have kept Mandal family in the home, one of their daughters has worked in media for years. She has even trained her daughter and placed her in media.
Small and big things exposed their game to me. I remember how Sanjay told me once; if you want to ruin someone’s reputation, don’t let her hear, let the neighbours hear the lies.
A thing I have seen happen to many times afterwards. They used to target the people I mixed with and slowly succeeded in alienating me in my own locality, well they had my family to help them; otherwise I don’t know how much they would have succeeded.
So, standing here I know that Keshav did had a deep connection with people surrounding me. May be for years.
I believe they must have mistaken me for a normal Indian woman who will commit suicide or go insane. They failed to realize a big truth, every one does not crawls or lies down to die. That is why truth is still alive in this earth.
I heard so many canards spread about me after my return from Rajpur that I became canard-proof. They destroyed so many things I liked that I rose above attachment. Every angle they chose to hit me they failed and I rose far higher above them.
The higher I rose the more determined I became that if I get a chance I will expose them, so that their dirty empire crumbles down to the hell along with them. The place where they belong.