Links to the previous parts are here:
Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose
Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise
Chapter 3: A Lovely Story
Chapter 4 The Unfinished Story
Sonu stood outside the nondescript door in a modest locality and hesitated. What was he doing here? You are here to maintain facades, he told himself sternly. But why you? Titu should be here, he’s the one who is ‘supposed’ to marry her?
But Titu had refused outright. “Let’s not get carried away with this charade okay? She wants to play pretend-to-marry-me because she wants to study undisturbed right?”
Sonu had reluctantly nodded his head.
“So how’s my landing up going to help her in her goal?”
“But her Aunt and Uncle will suspect something is amiss if you guys don’t meet up frequently.” Sonu said.
“Fine!” Titu gave in, “You arrange a meeting with her. Call her up, meet her, do whatever. Just don’t ask me to meet her to arrange a ‘for-show’ meeting.”
And here he was, outside her door, wondering rather belatedly what exactly her was doing here.
Oh yeah – to fix up a meeting with Titu.
You could have called her.
I did, remember? But she wasn’t there.
Yeah right. You could have texted her.
On her Chachi’s mobile?
You could have asked her for Lovely’s number?
What if Chachi doesn’t see text messages? Anyways I have to fix this asap as Titu is free only today.
I don’t like what you are insinuating. Sonu firmly squashed that pesky nitpicker in his head and rang the bell.
There was crash, a scream and a yell. Before Sonu could bang on the door, it opened and a pair of arms wrapped around his waist and clung to him, “Save me Papa, save me!”
“Suriiiiii!” Hair flying Lovely came up at a run and stopped short as she saw who it was at the door. The animation in her eyes died down and a mask slid into place.
“Suri,” she disentangled the little girl and hissed, “Go inside. I’ll deal with you later,” she promised in a dire voice.
Embarrassed, Suri slunk away.
“Namaste.” She said formally while trying to gather her flying tresses and coax them into a bun. “Please sit.” She said decorously. “Did you have some work with Chacha Chachi? I am sorry they are out and will be late. I’ll get some water.” She turned away.
“No!” Sonu stopped her. “I don’t want water or tea or coffee,” he added hastily at her expression.
“But you must have something! I’ll get an earful otherwise.” She fretted.
“You can always tell them, we don’t eat anything from the to-be-bride’s house before the wedding.” He grinned at her.
“Why?” She sat down. “So that you can eat her head for the rest of her life?” He could swear he saw a dimple peep out.
“You are so quick!” He praised. “You deserve to be in the IAS!” He looked at her. “You aren’t wearing your spectacles.”
She looked away. “I…I am wearing my contacts.”
“Yet that day you wore your thick ugly spectacles?” He said softly. “And not just that, you armed yourself with a shapeless dress with an oversized dupatta and topped it with an oily hairdo.”
“I did hate making a spectacle of myself.” This time he clearly saw the dimple. She sighed “I thought of scaring you away with all the paraphernalia but since it Dadaji had made his intentions very clear I decided to change tactics and get some protected time till my exam.” Her eyes twinkled and her dimples were in full view.
Sonu blinked to clear the daze. “Didn’t your Aunt say anything?”
“Chachi is always too caught up in her make up to worry about me. Chachaji approved of my traditional appearance as did Dadi.” She seemed to clam up. “Let me get you a cold drink.”
On the verge of protesting, Sonu subsided. It would give him a reason to prolong his stay.
Now why would you want to do that?
Distracted by muffled giggles, he looked up. Two bright pairs of eyes were inspecting him from behind the curtains. He beckoned them.
Tripping, pushing and shoving they presented themselves. “And who may you be?” He asked with a smile.
“That’s Suri or Surabhi,” Lovely re-entered carrying a tray, “and that’s Lata, my cousins. Say Namaste and go in.” She ordered, offering the Coke to Sonu.
“We want to stay and talk to Jijaji.” Suri piped up.
Sonu choked and sputtered. Lovely offered him a couple of napkins. She glared at the two girls looking on avidly. “He’s not…go inside!” She jerked her head.
They shuffled away.
“You didn’t say why you came?” Lovely asked rather abruptly.
“To hear the rest of the story.”
“What story?” She frowned. Her brow cleared. “Oh that?”
“Yes that story. I am sure it didn’t end there did it?”
“No it didn’t.” A small smile played about her mouth. “She extracted her pound of flesh.”
“How? She spoke the truth? And they believed her?”
“You think anyone would believe a woman over a man? In those days? Even today, when it is his word against hers, his voice is louder isn’t it?” she looked at him with a sneer. “Even if she shouts herself hoarse from the rooftops.”
He brushed it away. “So what happened? I am genuinely curious.”
“You could have googled it.” At his look of chagrin and irritation, she yielded. “Okay fine, I’ll tell you just for the sheer pleasure of showing you the power of silence.”
Sonu looked at her puzzled. “Power of silence?”
Lovely raised a hand. “Patience! Chandra was put in jail and then began the hearings. Chidham and his lawyer friend fed her with lots of escape routes – say that Radha used to often fight with me, say that she attacked me, say that she tripped on the sickle, say that it was in self-defense – etc etc. Chandra was silent through these exhortations and meetings. When the judge asked her of any bad blood between her and Radha or whether it was in self-defense, she calmly refuted possibilities and accepted culpability of the crime. Chidham and Dukhiram were shocked. Unable to bear the guilt Dukhiram confessed the truth – he was hungry and she refused him food so he had killed her. Determined to save his brother, Chidham too jumped into the fray and said it was he not his brother Dukhiram who had killed Radha because she had refused him food.”
Sonu looked at Lovely with a resigned expression. “Too little too late eh?”
“Yeah. Sort of.” Lovely nodded and continued, “Naturally the judge was not convinced and convicted Chandra. She was awarded the death sentence.”
“The system isn’t fair.” Admitted Sonu, “but things are different now…”
“Is it?” queried Lovely. “Anyway to end the story, despite repeated pleas, Chandra refused to meet her husband even once before her death. When she was asked why, she said only one word,” she paused. “Maron or die, possibly the Bengali equivalent of rot in hell or even the F word…”
Sonu looked bewildered. “How…what does that mean?”
“Don’t you have any sensibility or sensitivity?” Lovely sighed in frustration. “By refusing to meet Chidham, by refusing to give him the scope to confess his guilt, sorrow and shame, she ‘punished’ Chidham.” Lovely’s eyes glowed. “She sentenced Chidham to lifelong guilt and shame one from which he would probably never be able to recover.”
Dazed, Sonu shook his head. “Women are so…so devious and complicated.”
“Men are not?”
“Nope.” Sonu shook his head.
“You are right.” Lovely gave a bitter laugh. “They have only one thing on their minds.” She got up. “I am sure you must be busy. Thank you for coming.”
“That’s not fair,” Sonu protested without getting up, “We don’t just have S.E.X on our minds.”
“And you proved it.” She mocked. “I wasn’t talking of that one thing.”
“Then what were you hinting at?” Challenged Sonu.
“I meant power, control and dominance.” Lovely’s eyes flashed. “Isn’t that what sex is all about?”
“No.” Sonu shook his head.
“There’s no point in continuing this conversation.” She was back to her wooden self. “Was there anything else?” she asked politely but pointedly.
“I would love to continue that conversation,” Sonu got to his feet, “But actually I came to ask if you were free to go out this evening?”
“Go out where?” She was suspicious. “With whom? Why…?”
“Whoa!” Sonu raised his hands as a shield. “Give me a break! Let me complete will you?”
Lovely shook her head. “I’m busy. I have to study.” She looked at her watch. “In any case, I wasted a lot of time today.” She gave him a scathing look.
Sonu laughed. “I, on the other hand had a most educative day. I have suddenly developed a very healthy respect and regard for women. Who knows how they may turn against you?”
“And men are so innocent and blameless.” She sneered.
“We are like that only.” Sonu wore a pious expression. “Anyway, I wont take up more of your time now, but will be back around 8 pm with Titu and go for a party.”
“I told you! I have to study. Besides, I don’t do parties.”
“Come on! Don’t be such a stick in the mud. You and Titu can get to know each…”
“Hey! Wait.” Lovely jumped in alarm. “Did you not get what I said the other day? I am NOT going through this marriage.” She cast a worried look around and lowered her voice. “So there is no point in getting to know Titu or anyone else.”
“Okay,” Sonu eased off and continued glibly, “I framed that incorrectly. What I meant was that we need to maintain appearances, otherwise our families will become suspicious. You do want to be free of matrimonial hassles until October don’t you?”
“And what’s in it for you?” She asked skeptical. “I cannot believe you are doing this for purely altruistic reasons.”
Exactly. What’s in it for you Sonu?
He shrugged. “I told you. I am like that only. Kind, considerate and every ready to help others.”
Before Lovely could protest, or worse, walk off her uncle and aunty entered. They gushed and fawned over Sonu until Lovely was ready to throw up. And he wasn’t even the groom she thought sourly.
“But of course you must go Lovely!” Aunty said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know your future life partner. Enjoy and cherish these moments.” She patted Sonu. “Thank you beta. She will go. Would you like some tea?” She asked all solicitous concern. “Coffee? Cold drink.”
“Thank you.” He escaped victorious yet avoiding meeting Lovely’s furious eyes with a trapped expression. “Lovely was most hospitable and made me feel very welcome.” His eyes danced as he met hers.
Click here for Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner