I write so I can breathe. I am constantly evolving, mindless at times, frustrating even perhaps but heck, I wouldn't change the smell of freedom that comes with writing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Once Upon a Star

Beyond the end of the road a single track wound up the slope to the tea garden and crossed over in a mesh on smaller dirt trails. Sonia hugged herself and brought her coat closer to ward off the icy wind that bit across in the silent moonlit night. Night sounds magnified two-fold as she walked rapidly towards the house set at the far side of the purple carpet spread across in front of her. At a distance, dogs began a sonorous howl and Sonia shivered, digging her hands into the warmth of her overcoat. The warmth did nothing to reassure her. She moved on with courage she found wavering every now and then, dogged determination leading her on.

The gate opened quietly, the house welcoming her with old familiarity. She stopped to gaze at the fine looking bungalow. A British official had built it, before Independence came and packed him off to his beloved England; a warm cozy retreat of a place with wooden floors, waxed with loving care and a fireplace in the centre of the wall opposite the main doorway.

She walked around to the kitchen garden and was relieved to find the door was unlocked. It was as she had anticipated. She would have had to knock at the front door otherwise. The familiar smell of the place hit her at once, a spicy tingle of rosewood with old whiffs of well-used fabric, old memories. It was quiet. Faint dying embers gave a reddish hue to the surroundings. She sighed…

She turned to the right and entered his room. Dhruv was asleep. Even in the chilly night he slept with the quilt pulled up to his waist. The moon filled the room with silver. His face was relaxed, devoid of all the mean streaks of his persona that had a habit of reflecting on his features when he was bothered or irate. The rush of memories filled her, threatening to choke, the blow of hurt almost physical. She had given him all of herself. It seemed just yesterday when she had been lying there in his arms, satiated after the abandoned madness of their lovemaking.

Dhruv was all she saw, breathed, lived and loved all of those eight months until she blacked out one Sunday morning and the doctor told her she was pregnant. She was ecstatic, excited at the prospect of becoming a mother. Sonia hurried to tell Dhruv. She found him making love to a young striking girl she had seen working at the tea garden. He had not even appeared to be embarrassed at being caught. The telltale love bites on his chest screamed at her a story of its own. Sonia’s cheek burned as she realized that she always made love with a gentleness and thoughtfulness that he had probably never appreciated. The girl had hurriedly picked her clothes and disappeared into the bathroom. He had laughed then when she told him about the baby. She could still hear the sneer as he asked her, “What is the proof that it is my baby?”

Sonia had been stunned into silence as he lashed out at her calling her a whore and telling her to rid of the baby and get on with her life. Just like that. The tears flowed in a rush as she hit out at him, at the betrayal of it all, at the indignity of being stripped to her very soul. He had hit her across the face with his fist and she was too stunned to say anything further. Her soul and body on fire, she gathered the shards of her broken heart and left. She walked out, tears of self-pity streaming down her cheeks, a part of her dead and gone forever. 

Now, as she stared at him sleeping, she felt just a simple fury that threatened to erupt. She closed her eyes, willing herself to calm down and do what had to be done.

“Dhruv…” she called out. Her voice rang clear, no sign of nerves. Her heart raced as she called out to him again. This time he stirred and awoke slowly recognizing Sonia in the haze of sleepiness.

“You!” he sat up. “What are you doing here?” Sonia drew her hands from her pockets.

“I’ve come to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye?” he snorted, “Are you going away somewhere?” He reached out for the bedside lamp and the room filled with a soft amber glow as he lit a cigarette, with exactness, drawing a protracted breath and blowing up wisps of smoke in an unhurried practiced manner.

“When did you return from Calcutta?” he asked.

“An hour ago, and I leave tonight.”

“You came all the way to say goodbye?” the sarcasm in his tone was unmistakable.

She saw it was over. There was no point.

“Say your prayers Dhruv” she said, calmer and now firmer. “I came to kill you.”

He laughed. Sonia winced at the memory of that cruel laughter and cocked the pistol she held in her hand. Mira had managed to find her one when she was in Calcutta. Sonia had called the managing director and told him that she would not return to work for him. He had understood why. Dhruv had a reputation in town and he had been relieved to see Sonia had seen reason finally. Dhruv worked in the tea estate as his deputy and very little had missed the man.

Sonia drew up the revolver and aimed. She stood just a couple of feet away; there was not much to aim at. His laughter died mid-way and he drew himself up seeing the hardened eyes focused on him. He was incredulous. She even had a silencer fitted to it.

It all happened in a matter of a few seconds. She pulled the trigger and straight it went in the vicinity of his heart. He fell back, a look of disbelief on his face, the cigarette toppling and charring the depleted carpet. He died gasping for breath, watching her light the carpet with the Zippo, her gift to him on his last birthday.

“Goodbye Dhruv.” He heard her as the flames licked at the rug. He died.

She was out, breaking into a run until she was well across to the road where she had parked the van. Nobody had seen her.

Two days later an inset in the Times of India stated how the Darjeeling Police had found the charred remains of Dhruv Chopra after an accidental fire razed the bungalow he lived in.

II

It was August; a blistering sultry wet day in Calcutta. The baby was born amid the scuttle and noise of the Calcutta milieu.

“What will you name him?” the nurse asked as she bade farewell three days later.

“Mira?” Sonia turned to the woman beside her and asked.

“Dhruv?” grinned Mira. Sonia broke into a smile, turning to the nurse and nodded.

“Oh, the star?” mused the nurse.

“Yes. The star.” Both answered in unison.

III

It was one of those rare clear evenings when they both sat out at the balcony of Mira’s Salt Lake Apartment.

“Tell me,” asked Sonia, “just a matter of tiny detail I want cleared. How did you get the pistol for me at such a short notice?”

Mira gave a quiet smile and propped the baby onto her lap, pointing to the sky.

“Look,” she told him, “ That is your star Dhruv.”

“Mother!” cried Sonia exasperated.

After a long moment of staring at the star, she turned to face her daughter.

“What do you think happened to your father?” she asked.


Copyright@Sandy1985
(One of my earliest attempts at fiction.)

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