Updated: Oct 12, 2021
Flight attendant just announces that this flight will land in Singapore within a half an hour. Passengers are requested to close all electronic devices now. Rajat yawns lazily, then shuts down his laptop & puts that in his side bag. Then he looks outside through the small oval shape window of aircraft; flight is still flying above the clouds. It’s like a magical world, in ninety-degree angle a bright soft orange sun & below there are cotton candy like wet and orange tinted fields of clouds. Rajat can’t take back his eyes from the window. Rajat’s life has changed a lot in last five years. In literary terms, that can be described as a paradigm shift. Rajat never wanted to move outside of Kolkata. He was quite happy with his job and his small own world within the by lanes of north Kolkata. That Rajat merely spend four months in Kolkata cumulatively in last five years. Last five years he voluntarily approached to management for all on site offshore projects & was moving across the globe. Not only that, he works all the time. He makes him always super busy in all the places, only work nothing else.
Rajat still can’t forget that Laxmi Puja’s day, five years back. Everything changed in his life since that single day. He had no clue that a cyclone of incidents was coming to his life and ruined everything. Even today he can’t sleep well in the night, all those incidents one after other haunts him in forms of nightmares. He makes himself so busy at work and keeps himself away from that city. Still, he could not escape his past. He always tries to run away from his guilt, but he cannot. Whenever he sees any baby girl in his vicinity, his feelings of guilt returns from nowhere. But this is not supposed to happen. This is not what Rajat planned for. He was happy that day. He can visualise that day, even after five years.
Rajat just dropped Shreya into her room and moved to puja's room to check how was the preparation going on for big Laxmi puja. He returned to his room after roaming here & there for some time. He fell in his bed & started thinking it passed well all, why not he and Shreya planned for a vacation? That could change Shreya’s mood also & he could repair their relationships too. He said to himself in mind that day in dinner table he behaved rudely to Shreya, which he should not.
It broke his chains of thoughts when he saw Shreya entered the room. Rajat said casually,
“You should have taken rest properly now. In the evening there will be a lot of guest. Already you are tired and there is an effect of medicines on you. Why you are roaming around just like that?”
Shreya didn’t bother to reply to him. She brought two trolley bags from wardrobe and got ready to leave. Rajat now observed that Shreya still wears the same dress as it was in hospital. Then he noticed that two large bags in front of Shreya. These all could not make any sense to him at first, but suddenly it reminded him of Shreya’s few lines of dinner table discussion. Did she really mean those lines? He jumped to his feet and held Shreya’s hand and asked,
“Hey, where are you going now?”
Shreya removed her hand from him and said,
“As agreed Rajat, you and your family want this abortion, so I did it. Now I need to fulfil the commitment I made to myself. I am leaving you and your family for ever. Please stay aside from my way.”
“What absurd things you are talking about. It can’t be true? How you can leave me. We love each other. I love you.”
Shreya smiled sarcastically.
“Where was your all those loves, when I begged your support to save our own daughter? When I asked you to let leave these worlds of pseudo-aristocracy, brutal family tradition and set our own small happy family of three, somewhere else. Why did you step back then? Most importantly, that night you told me that either I do as you said or else leave this house. So, I am doing the same; what is the problem with you now?”
“That night I told you those words in anger, did not mean it really. I never want you to go out of this house. Please don’t do this, please.”
“It’s already too late, Rajat. I can’t stay a single minute in this house anymore.”
Shreya pushed Rajat away and moved through the door. Rajat was absolutely direction less what he would do next. He ran to Ranjan’s room and screamed.
“Baba, Shreya is leaving. Please stop her. She will listen to your words. Baba, please.”
Ranjan was sitting, ideally looking at the celling blankly. He turned his head and looked straight to Rajat and said,
“Let her go, Rajat. Don’t hold her in this dirt further.”
“Baba, what are you saying. We need to stop her. I can’t let her go, baba.”
“You can’t let her go, but you actually murdered her that day when you put her technically in a position, where no option left apart from killing her own daughter. She left you that day, my son. That same day.”
Rajat shrugged his shoulder in frustration and ran to Nirmala, in puja room. She shouted at Nirmala,
“Maa, Shreya is leaving us forever. Please stop her.”
Nirmala was cutting some fruits for puja. She stopped for a moment and then again started the same.
Rajat again asked Nirmala impatiently,
“What? Why you are so worried about such a minor issue? In extreme scenario, she will go to the nearest bus stop or else to her father’s house, after two or three days she will return automatically. If not, then you visit once she will come with you gladly.”
“No Maa, you don’t know her; she would not.”
Rajat again ran towards gate to stop her, but she was not there. He started looking for her in all possible nearby places, but she was nowhere.
He was running like a mad from one place to another. In between, as the evening had spread her wings across, it was getting dark. Rajat saw their head priest was running towards him by screaming his name. Rajat also moved towards him. He thought maybe Shreya returned to home. The priest was coming to inform the same.
Head priest was an old man and bulky, so running made him totally exhausted. He was out of breath for some time then said,
“Choto Babu, please come home with me. A big mishap happened in pooja room. Your mother….”
He stopped there with a hesitation.
Rajat asked impatiently,
“What happened to Maa, tell me now.”
“I came as per pooja time of today. Once I entered the pooja room, I saw entire room was on fire and room chocked with dark deadly smoke. I could not breathe even. I could not notice in the first instance that your mother was fallen there & then opened some windows and asked others to help too. We bought some water and tried to bring down the fire under control. Your mother had found senseless in front of the throne. If we were little more later, it was difficult for her to survive.”
Rajat ran towards home kept the discussion incomplete. He was worried about his mother.
Once Rajat came to home, Ranjan already left for hospital along with Nirmala. Old servant of house informed him that Ranjan asked Rajat to stay at home only so that he could inform the upcoming guests about this incident and returned them with complete courtesy.
Rajat entered the pooja room step by step. It was all most entirely burned. Still, some red radiance was coming from left-over fire from here & there of the room. This radiance and the smell of burning woods were creating an eerie environment over there. Rajat looked at both the idols. In this low red light and darkness, Devi Laxmi did not appear as an affectionate or caring mother. She looks like a Devi Kali, the destroyer. Rajat closed his eyes in fear.
Rajat opens his eyes because of a big jerk from ground. Flight eventually touches the tarmac of Changi Airport. His connecting flight to Kolkata is almost after six hours. He is returning home after one year approximately. Now he is not sure that he should call that building as a home or not. After that incident, Nirmala backed in senses after two days, but she fully lost her mental balance. She could recognise no one of them. She was just kept on chanting,
“Hey girl, just get out from here, don’t touch my saree. It is too dirty.” And started cleaning her saree with hand even there is no dirt at all. Sometimes she just screamed,
“No, I shall not listen to your voice, any of your words. Get out of my room, you little witch. I want to sleep. Why don’t you let me sleep?”
Rajat consulted lots of Doctors but they could not help Nirmala. Majority of doctors believed that exposure for a long time in smoke, oxygen supply to her brain dropped to a lethal level. It was adversely affected her brain tissues, as a result, she lost her mental balance utterly.
Now Nirmala stayed in the mental asylum. There was no option left for Rajat, apart from putting her there. Ranjan every weekend visits her, but she can’t recognise him even now.
Shreya didn’t pick up his call or responded to his thousands of messages since she had left the house. Within all that chaos one fine morning, Somnath appeared to their house, but not as a father-in-law, as an advocate of Shreya, and handed over the divorce petition of Shreya. Rajat could not believe the same. He initially thought that he would not sign it and give a fight. However, Ranjan stopped him and convinced that mutual separation was the best for both. Shreya was so adamant that she never appeared, even in this entire separation procedure. Her father handled all her parts as an experienced advocate.
Rajat takes his bag and looks for a comfortable sitting cum resting place. Spending six hours in the airport is always irritating for him. He finally goes to the nearest lounge. At least crowd will be less there. Rajat chooses a corner seat in the lounge. He keeps his handbag there and moves to buffet counter to get some food. When Rajat returns; he sees an almost four-five years old girl playing with her doll just beside his seat. She was not there when he left the seat few minutes back.
Rajat always tries to avoid any interaction with kids normally, because they all remind him the death of his own daughter. He can’t forgive himself for that sin yet. But this girl draws his attention automatically, because she is speaking Bengali. Sitting in foreign airport if you hear someone speaking in Bengali just beside you and that does not draw your attention, then you are not a Bengali at all. Rajat concentrates on what she is saying, but she is actually not saying she is scolding her doll for not having food rightly. Rajat smiles after a long period from his heart.
Rajat says politely,
She replies after some pause,
“Hi.” Then she continues,
“Are you a stranger? Mom told me not to have any chat with stranger.”
Rajat loughs and then says,
“No, I am not a stranger. You tell me, any stranger ever talks to you in Bengali.”
She puts her hand in chin and looks upward and pretends as if she is thinking like a mature adult. Then after some time she says,
“Yes, you are correct, they all spoke to me in other languages.”
Rajat then asks with a smiling face,
“So, may I know who this young intelligent lady is, whom I am talking to?”
“Myself Gudiya, and this is my daughter Tozo.”
“Quite an adorable name your daughter has.” Rajat says with a very serious face.
She frowns to him and looks sharply to judge that he is mocking her or not. But looking at his innocent kind face she says,
“Yes, she is. But you know she is very naughty. She doesn’t listen to any word of mine. I am so angry at her today.”
“So, Gudiya, from where you are coming and where are you going?”
“I am coming from my Dadu’s house, which is in Kolkata and now going to Sydney. I stay there. You know my vacation is over, so I need to resume school from next week.” She says sadly.
Rajat Loughs loudly, and then said,
“It’s a terrible news indeed.”
Gudiya looks with a pseudo anger. Then she also breaks into loud laughter.
Rajat and Gudiya keeps on talking and nobody can say that they met just a few hours back.
After some time Rajat asks Gudiya,
“Don’t you feel hungry by now?”
“Tell me what you would like to have? I shall bring for you?”
“Okay, then bring me some hot Gulab Jamun with vanilla ice crème.”
Rajat astonishes with this statement, because he also likes this combination when he used to be happy.
Rajat brings two plates of it. It is difficult for him because getting Indian sweets in Singapore airport is not a cakewalk. Somehow, he gets both, but it takes a little more time than normal. He is feeling very enthusiastic to do this nonsense job, running from one point to another to only make that girl happy. However, it is very exciting for him to see the smile on her face when he presents her favourite dish. When Rajat ultimately reaches his seat, nobody is here. Gudiya already left for her flight. He asks the gentleman sitting opposite her.
“Hi, have you seen that girl who was sitting near my seat?”
That man replies,
“Yes, she has gone few minutes ago with a woman.”
Rajat throws his body on the chair with full of lethargy. He puts both the plates on the side table reluctantly. Rajat doesn’t have any appetite left. He looks at his watch & surprises to see that three hours already passed but he doesn’t even realise. Gudiya is a special girl, he thinks in his mind. Her parents will be so lucky to have her. Even he does not want to remember, but it comes to his mind that, if he could not kill her own daughter, he would also be a proud father of a beautiful daughter like Gudiya. It is also true Rajat never feels so closeness with any other children like the way he had it for Gudiya. In a few hours, she has captured a lot of space in his mind.
Rajat gradually gets up to move for his designated departure gate number. He just looks last time to Gudiya’s seat, then he realises a boarding pass is hanging between arm rest and seat cushion. Probably this one popped out from her jacket and stick there. Rajat thinks if it is for current flight then it will be a big problem for her, so he picks it up and starts checking. No, it is not current flight, this one for Kolkata to Singapore's earlier flight.
Rajat collapsed in his chair suddenly. There is a blackout for few minutes, he can’t believe how this can be possible? But he is still holding the truth in his hand. The name is written over boarding pass clearly, Miss. Anisha Raychaudhuri. Is this just a pure coincident? Rajat thinks quickly and gets up hurriedly. He just checks the display board and finds the nearest time flights for Sydney and the gate no. he runs towards that gate, he needs to confirm one thing before it’s too late.
When Rajat reaches the desired gate of departure, he is entirely exhausted and his face full of sweats. He asks the person who is standing at the gate.
“The flight to Sydney?”
“Sir, boarding has been closed. Flight is ready to take off. Sorry sir, we can’t let in.”
“But I need to. It’s extremely important to me. Please help me.” Rajat literally begs in front of that person.
“Sir, I am so sorry, but fights already started take-off procedure. We can’t help you, sir.”
Rajat thinks momentarily and then says,
“Then please help me in one case. I need to know details of two passengers.”
“Sir, that’s confidential, I can’t provide the same.”
“Please. It’s my life and death situation. Please help me.”
Rajat holds the hand of that person and request.
“Okay sir, I can only provide names, nothing else.”
“That will be enough. Please let me know, is there any kid traveling on this flight, called Anisha Raychaudhuri?”
After checking the computer monitor, he says,
“May I know the name of the other person who is traveling along with her?”
Rajat asks by holding his breath. There is so much adrenal rush right now in his blood that he controls his excitement after a lot of efforts. Every second seems to be as if it is a full year for Rajat.
Finally, the counter person says,
“Sir, it is Miss Shreya.”
Rajat simply does not believe what he hears. He smiles faintly and says,
“Thanks a lot.”
After that he walks heavily towards his designated gate of departure to Kolkata. However, his mind is full of two things, the pure happiness of knowing that his daughter is alive & more curiously how this is happening?
Five years back: twenty-second of October: Kolkata
Shreya was sitting on a chair near the window. She was crushed inside. Loosing Anisha made Shreya absolutely empty. She was feeling so lonely, which was unbearable. A winter evening was covering the entire city like a dark cloak outside. She thought that how much pain Anisha took when she died, or she had just slept peacefully. Tears were rolling over her eyes continuously.
There was a knock on the door, Shreya turned her head towards the door. It was Doctor Subrata Bakshi.
“May I disturb you madam for few minutes?”
Shreya wiped her eyes and said,
“Yes, Doctor, please come in.”
Subrata pulled the chair near the window and sat in front of Shreya. Before Subrata said anything, Shreya asked,
“I don’t feel any issue regarding my health, then why you have put me in observation?”
Subrata smiled and said,
“Yes, you are correct. You are absolutely okay and we could release you in morning too. But we have strict instruction to keep you here for today.”
“Instruction? Why is such instruction for me? And who is that person giving such instruction to me?”
Subrata kept hanging his smile and was enjoying the statement of Shreya. He said,
“Madam, Ranjan uncle gave these instructions.”
Shreya was totally puzzled. Why Ranjan gave such ridiculous instruction to Subrata. What gain he would have by detaining Shreya here. She could not think about anything. She looked at Subrata with an inquisitive vision. Subrata clear his throat and said,
“Madam, I need to tell you something. Before Rajat came to me for your abortion, Ranjan uncle, called me and informed that Rajat might visit me any day for this purpose. He also told me that the moment Rajat visited me, I should inform him immediately. I did the same. Basically, he wanted to save your child.”
Shreya released a long breath and said,
“It’s already over. She is dead. I could not save her.” Shreya sobbed.
Subrata gave some time to Shreya to calm down. Then he said,
“Madam, I am here to inform you one thing: that in the morning we did only anaesthesia to you, not the abortion. Your child is absolutely safe and alive. We do it as per Ranjan uncle’s instruction only. He gave me the instruction clearly and how to execute the same. Apart from me, Ranjan uncle and Doctor Isha only know it. Ranjan uncle also sends a message to you that, you leave your in-laws’ house as early as possible forever. So that they never get to know that your child is alive. We detained you so that after the effect of medicines is over, we can explain the situation to you perfectly.”
Shreya was speechless. Her Anisha is alive. Nothing more than she required in this life. She looked up and prayed to the god for saving her daughter with folded hands. Subrata left silently. Shreya picked up the phone and dialled a number. It was Somnath.
Ranjan stands near the railing of the balcony. Few times back servant informs him that Rajat just comes home from the airport. Ranjan is watching those birds for quite some time, quietly. They are building their nest by bringing tiny parts of straw each time, piece by piece. There are two birds, one male and another female. Ranjan is amazed by seeing their level of coordination, dedication & patience to build their small home. Ranjan thinks in his mind, if a creature who is gifted with flying ability can understand the value of home and can spend so much time to build it, then why a human can’t learn it from them. Why we can’t make harmony with our partners, can’t make a small happy family with mutual understanding, cooperation, dedication & patience. Ranjan does not know the answers yet, but he is hopeful.
Ranjan’s phone vibrates. It showed notification for one message on the screen. Ranjan opens it.
“Baba, we reached Sydney safely. One thing more, yesterday I saw Rajat talking to Anisha. I didn’t reveal myself or Anisha. But Baba, am I doing wrong by keeping Anisha away from his father?”
“No Shreya, Rajat earns this punishment for himself by his own actions. Unless he passes this test of fire, Anisha should keep away from him. Time has changed Shreya, no more women will do, now man has to prove his purity of thoughts & soul by walking through the fire, time and time. God bless you.”
After sending the message. Ranjan looks at sky and starts reciting.
āstāṃ tāvadiyaṃ prasūti-samaye durvāra-śūla-vyathā
naairucyaṃ tanuśoṣaṇaṃ malamayī śayyā ca sāṃvatsarī |
ēkasyāpi na garbha-bhāra-bharaṇa-kleśasya yasyā: kṣamo
dātuṃ niṣkṛtim-unnato’pi tanaya: tasyai jananyai nama: ||
(The acute irrepressible pain endured by the mother at the time of delivery, the distaste towards food and the resulting emaciation of the body during pregnancy, the year-long period after delivery, during which the bed was dirtied by the baby–let all these be. But the suffering that the mother endures in carrying the weight of the foetus throughout pregnancy, can never be compensated the least by a son, even if he is great and famous. Salutations to that mother.)