tagRomanceThe Scarface I Hated Pt. 02

The Scarface I Hated Pt. 02

byTrambak©

Chapter-5: The Man in White

The day passed on. Sumitra after her initial discomfiture turned out to be pleasant company. However, she appeared to be pulled back by some apprehensive force that I failed to measure. She had that immense capacity to run a conversation while working. I too got caught up in work, unknowingly.

She showed interest in my School duties and asked whether I planned to pursue my job. I wasn't sure so I sidestepped the answer. On my part I was still searching for the equation between Sumitra and Imran. It was baffling. I was trying to find out what she was in the household. Was she a maid or was she a relative (that was unlikely). Why was she staying here? Wasn't she scared of the society? Meanwhile, I found that Sumitra was studying in a college that made her only a couple of years younger to me. This was a big revelation and I grudgingly viewed her with more interest and some admiration.

I realised that my initial assessment was correct. The house had space because there were very little domestic items. But thanks to Sumitra the everyday administration appeared efficient. Things were happening with clockwork precision. On my appreciation Sumitra said that henceforth I would be required to take over but once she recognized my awkwardness, she didn't press further. Despite discussions on myriad nature I steadfastly avoided any mention of Imran but Sumitra by habit brought him in midst.

Time passed and Sumitra insisted that I take rest and I agreed. I needed time to think, to reflect and ponder. What would I do? I could think of nothing and I let it rest. There was no point in contemplating unknown boundaries. Lack of sleep brought to the verge and I fell asleep. This time it was much more relaxing. I woke up only near lunch. Again, Sumitra had prepared a satisfying fare. I was grateful.

I was curious to know about the people who were likely to visit and somehow, I was detecting the disquiet both in me and Sumitra. She was not as forthcoming this time and so was I.

Around 4.30 pm Imran came back and he waited at the window, looking towards the street. There was an uneasy silence pervading the air. At around 5.00 pm, one gentleman in white along with some more similarly dressed persons entered the house. The gentleman in white appeared self-assured and in control. Rest were only following him. He came directly to Imran and embraced him and looked towards me. Imran called him "Bhavaniji" and introduced me. He brought both his hands to a namaskar and spoke with a greatly subdued voice congratulating me. He then brought out a small box, opened it and offered it to me. I hesitated and looked at Imran who imperceptibly nodded his head. It was a silver coin with Laxmi embossed on it. Once I accepted the gift he looked behind. I now realised that my uncle too was there with the group and so was Suresh.

Bhavaniji as Imran called him summoned Suresh and asked him to be at my beck and call, whenever I required. He didn't talk to my uncle. Finally, he went near Imran and with great gentleness caressed his scar, turned sharply and moved out. The rest went with him. Me and Imran kept standing. I now realised that Sumitra all through this had stayed indoors. The visit had lasted barely five minutes.

Never in my life did I witness anything so short but so overpowering. Who was this man? He appeared to be a person of great authority and influence. How did Imran know him? Who were these people with him? Why was my uncle there? And finally, why was he so gentle with Imran? I had so many questions but not privy to any answers.

I went in and to my great shock found Sumitra weeping and shaking in fright. Before I could say something, Imran bypassed me and embraced Sumitra as if trying to protect her from all calamities. Sumitra continued to sob and held on to Imran. Embarrassed, I moved out. It took quite some time for Sumitra to normalise and recover herself despite Imran comforting her.

The evening passed in a state of bewilderment for me. I couldn't connect anything. Things were moving haywire and I wasn't in control. Suresh came back and sat with us. Quietly. He kept on glancing at Sumitra and appeared to be greatly disturbed himself. There was very little conversation going on. All of us were in a way captive of that 5 minutes of the visit by that man wearing white. He left behind him a trail of chaotic insights.

Dinner came and went but none were hungry.

In a way, it was funny. Each one of us were affected by the tribulations and evils of life that doctored our destinies. In my view, I was an outright victim. But others had their own stories shrouded in mysteries and obscurities. All were hesitant to admit that they were a bunch of normal people leading normal lives. The face of my uncle in the crowd had surprised me. Who knows what were his compulsions and obligations. Suddenly, it appeared to me that we were all a cast in a dark play, puppets whose strings were attached elsewhere, unknown to each other.

It did not frighten me anymore. I wanted to laugh out loud. I was not alone. There was hope amidst futility.

Today Suresh was quiet, immeasurably so. He sat with Sumitra, both bound together by lack of speech. Then, he left, leaving behind uneasiness and fatigue. Although, there was hardly any physical exertion, I felt tired. Weariness encompassed all round. I was grateful to sleep. Imran, as usual slept on the other side of the bed. He was letting me off the hook yet again.

Funnily, today his scar looked a little less intimidating.

I was exhausted from trying to be stronger than I felt. I didn't believe everything I thought.

Chapter-6: Amaya and Ardeshir

The next morning was like the first except that Imran had not left for work. But, he was out of his bed sitting with Sumitra in the kitchen. As I entered, both looked up simultaneously and Sumitra hurriedly went to get my cup of tea. Me and Imran were alone.

Imran looked at me and said, " Can I speak to you?" I nodded. " Not here. In our room." He moved to the room and I followed. Once in the room, he closed the door, looked at me and said, " I am really sorry about all this. I know you are unhappy. If I had options, I would have not allowed this to happen. Not because of you but because of me. I scare away even dogs and cats. You deserve much better. Not me. I can't undo things. But you are at liberty. Do what you want. Whatever that brings you peace and happiness."

He stopped. I was surprised at the mild tone of his voice as well the clarity of thought. It was so unexpected. But I had to say something. I said, "Who is Bhavani?" He was clearly embarrassed and said, "Give me some time. I will tell, I promise. But if you want to know immediately, I will tell it now." He said.

I was annoyed. If he must tell then he should better do it now. But then, he was clearly under strain. I decided not to force his predicament. So, I just said, " Okay. Some other time."

He appeared relieved. He said, " One more request. I want you to continue working. Will the School take you back? Sumitra goes to college. I will be grateful if you can guide her a little." I was again surprised at the request but did not resent it. I said that I would try. I had to speak to the Headmistress and things had changed. Imran appeared a little relaxed but our conversation had ended and the awkwardness had returned. Imran hurriedly opened the door and Sumitra was waiting for me with tea.

The conversation reverted to its pedestrian state. Imran left for work and we two were left behind. I realised that for a long time now, I had become accustomed to continued work and free time did not suit me well. And as usual, Sumitra hadn't left anything for me to do. So, I started talking to her and in a very short time realised that she was extremely sharp and well read. She appeared well versed with the geopolitical nuances of our country as well as the world. She was a revelation. We quickly gelled and time flew. Soon we realised that an hour had passed and Sumitra was embarrassed.

I felt better in two days. But a thorn was still pricking away. Regarding Sumitra. For me she was a riddle.

Not having to do anything, I opened the small box that belonged to my parents. The dress was really nice. Old fashioned but striking in its elegance. There was a book of verses named, "Ol' Man River and other songs. Paul Robeson." This was presented to Amaya by Ardeshir. Fancy names. My parents? Now I was getting the clue about Meherunissa, my name. Then there was another book titled, "Life and contribution of Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya."

There were a few magazine and pamphlets. There were two newspaper that had turned yellow due to age. The first one was a copy of Indian Express dated 20 Jan 1976. On the top, it was marked and underlined, "Chasnala-372." Another paper in Gujarati was similarly marked, "Morbi- 25000." This was dated 12 August 1979. And there was a diary. There were certificates and two medals (blacked out, certificates pronounced it as gold). The name of the University surprised me. So that was my pedigree.

I sat with those remembrances that I for 20 years never thought important to even look at. Had never ever glanced at. Today, they appeared close. I felt proximity to Amaya and Ardeshir, my parents? Who else? Unfortunately, there were no pictures. How were they? How old was I when they died? Nothing. It was a big void and I had no way to go forward. Did it matter? People whom I neglected for 20 years had now suddenly become important because I was in turmoil? That was typically selfish of me. I had lost the rights. I was inhuman bereft of minimal emotions. Suited me right.

But I felt distraught. Logic did not work.

Time passed on. Nature demanded and it was evening and time for Imran to return. He did so at the appointed time. I noticed that he was quite a stickler for time. He came in and handed over a package to Sumitra that turned out to be samosas. First, I thought that I would refuse but later decided against it. Today, the atmosphere was better and congenial. Although I had decided to get to the bottom of the Bhavani affair, I put it off for later.

Imran asked me what I did the whole day. I told him about the books and pamphlets though not the details. He probed further and asked about the books. That irritated me. I shot at him, sarcastically, "Do you know who Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya was?" He was stumped for a moment but recovered smartly and said with a smile, "Ah Russian, I think she is the one married to Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. Am I right." And he started laughing loudly at his own joke. I was infuriated and I was in no mood for a gag. I stormed out of the room. Imran looked rightfully mortified.

At night Imran came to the room and apologized for his frivolity. He said that he was only trying to make me happy but didn't realise that he had overshot the limit. By now I too was kind of seeing the joke so I let it pass. After some pause he said with hesitation, "Look, the place where I work has a tradition. When someone gets married, the staff throws a party for them. A very short function. They want you to come. I have told them that I will ask you. Will you come?"

That was a new complication and I wanted to say no straightaway but the downcast look on Imran's face prevented me from saying it. I asked him, "Can I say no?" Imran said, "Of course you can, if you are not comfortable." I said with some hesitation, "All right, I will go. But when?" "Tomorrow, it is a half day. Can you come at 3 pm? Suresh will bring you." Imran replied with some relief.

"I can come on my own, just give me the address, I will reach." I retorted sharply.

Another night passed.

Relatively peacefully.

Life begins on the other side of despair. Jean Paul Sartre

Chapter-7: Kiana-The Workshop

I was getting used to the daily routine. Imran gave me a card of the workshop where he worked. It was called "Kiana". I wanted to ask him what Kiana meant but decided against excessive familiarity. It was not very far off and near my School. So, I decided to visit the School first and then go to the workshop. I was very uncomfortable with such formalities. But, I had said yes and I was going to stick to it.

Today I woke up early but by then Imran had left. I helped Sumitra with work and insisted (somewhat strictly) that she should not miss college anymore. Initially she was uncertain but later warmed up to the idea. She was worried that whether I would be able to manage alone or not. I shot her a scathing look and that made her scurry towards college.

And I was alone. Suddenly, I felt oneness with the house. Everything was mine, if I wanted to. I could give it a shape of home if I wanted to. But the million-dollar question was that did I want to? I was torn between too many variables that life was throwing at me. Unable to solve the problem, I started towards my School and reached during the lunch time.

Teachers and students were happy to see me. Somehow the news of my marriage had reached them all. They complained about not being invited and I had no answers. Some teachers asked me in a conspiratorial tone regarding my state of marital bliss which I managed to answer by looking duly demure. Everyone wanted me to join back and so did I.

Eventually, I met Shubhra Mukherjee who was genuinely happy seeing me. She took me to her office and asked many questions. She had no problem in taking me back. Apparently, she hadn't informed the management about my resignation at all. For the School, I was on leave.

After the initial euphoria, she tentatively asked me about my new life. What could I say? I said things that were relatively better but that did not fool her. She knew that I wasn't as happy as I portrayed. But she didn't explore further. But she asked me out about Imran and his behaviour towards me. Despite my antipathy, I had to admit that I was not being mistreated and let it slip that Imran was essentially instrumental in my coming back to the School.

During the course of the chat I mentioned about the Russian fiasco the night before. The headmistress was interested so I told her about 'Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya'. She was surprisingly intrigued and asked me Imran's reply. I continued the banter and told her that he thought she was wife to one 'Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov'. I also told her how he had laughed at his own joke and my dismay. Shubhra Mukherjee was surprisingly silent. I looked at her. She quietly said, "Lenin!!" Then after a pause she said, "Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov is the original name of Lenin and his wife was Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya. Fancy Imran telling you this."

I was stunned. Who was the teacher in a School? Me or Imran!

The headmistress deftly steered the discussion away from Imran and asked me about other general things. I told her about the impending evening celebration at the workshop. I told her that the workshop was named 'Kiana'. Again, she appeared startled. I left at 2.40 pm thinking about the weird happenings today. Coincidences, I surmised.

I reached the workshop exactly at 2.50 pm, ten minutes before the appointed time. Contrary to my expectation, I found Kiana to be a fairly large car repairing workshop. Many advanced cars were parked inside. I entered a large foyer and found many smart men and women. I was a little perplexed and uncertain, when a smartly dressed girl came forward and then suddenly gave a broad smile and asked if I was Meherunissa. I nodded my head. In no time, a number of people came around to welcome me. I was feeling a bit out of place. I had dressed normally (not shabbily though) but the people around me were much better dressed. Though unreasonable, I felt that Imran should have told me to dress better.

Meanwhile, a middle aged distinguished looking gentleman came and shooed the others away. He introduced himself as Mr Desai, the manager. I asked him about Imran and he escorted me to a large glass partition wherefrom the entire workshop was visible. I found many people in blue overalls working on cars. Imran was busily running from one car to another and shouting instructions. In work, he looked impressive, I had to admit. Mr Desai said that some delay was anticipated and he took me to his office.

He started telling me about the workshop and how it had grown over the years and it actually had no competition. He said that he was proud to be the manager for the last five years. I suddenly saw a board in his office that had pictures of about a dozen boys and girls. Mr Desai saw me looking at it and said that the management provided full scholarships to the children of the workers and many of them were studying in big named colleges that their parents could ill afford. I was suitably impressed.

After some time, a girl came and called us. I found that the foyer had been decorated and two fancy chairs had been placed in one corner. Many people were milling around and Imran was standing in a corner looking nonplussed and self-conscious. The girls made me sit on one of the chairs and literally forced Imran still in his overalls to sit on the next. Everyone settled down and the program started with a song which was nice and was followed by a stand-up comedy by one of the workers that was hilarious. He took pot shots at the management and demonstrated how bad, things were out here. I found Imran laughing to his heart's content although I seriously felt that the assault on the management was a little out of place. I tried to see Mr. Desai's reaction and genuinely felt a little worried about Imran and the comedian.

Finally, Mr. Desai got up and gave a small but elegant speech. He congratulated us and wished us happiness. It was really touching. He ended it all by saying that henceforth, if the comedian had any complaints or grievance against the management then he should directly approach the maalkin (owner) of Kiana namely Meherunissa, me, for redress.

I was startled and looked around in utter disbelief. Through the haze of incredulity, I could hear catcalls and applause that seemed to go on for ever and ever. I had never felt so silly in my life. I had a serious doubt about the sanity of it all. There was a deluge of people congratulating me. I must have looked stupid. I tried to search out Imran but he had conveniently vanished.

I wanted to kill him.

And it started to rain heavily.

Suresh brought me home and Imran did not surface back till 9 in the evening. Suresh was petrified and so was Sumitra. Both thought that I was most unhappy with the turn of events at the workshop. And surely, I was. I was completely taken for a ride although if someone had asked me why I felt so, I actually had no answer. Honestly, I did not expect to be told anything that I did not show interest in. Still, I felt strangely agitated. Possibly, Imran and his lifestyle and demeanour failed to indicate his stature. So, when he came at 9, bone drenched in rain, I looked the other side. He looked perfectly ashamed. He tried to apologise but I did not look back. He went to sleep without having dinner.

Enjoy, endure, survive each moment as it comes to you in its proper sequence -- a surprise. Vera Nazarian

Chapter-8: The Scar

During the night, I could hear Imran tossing and turning. He was restless. Suited him well and I did not bother. But around 4 in the morning he started coughing and I was a little worried. With a lot of hesitation and for the first time, I touched his forehead and he was burning with fever. His body shook with cough. He was not well. I did not know what to do. I called Sumitra and indicated towards him. Sumitra took over and in no time, she started sponging and gave medicines. I stood on one side, useless, like furniture. At six, Sumitra asked me to wait while she went to call the doctor. After what seemed an eternity, Sumitra returned with a doctor who examined Imran and advised injections for pneumonia and many other measures. Sumitra was like a demon possessed. For two days, she nursed Imran. Called the doctor, brought medicines and sponged him. The house had changed into a hospital. I only stood by the window, doing nothing. Suresh too stayed round the clock. He had quietened. He would rush and do a work that was entrusted, return quickly with and sit at the door looking at Imran. He seldom spoke a word.

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