It was getting late enough to be worried. Rhea stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a street-dog, there was not a soul to be seen on the barren street of Salt Lake in the city of Kolkata.Only faint street lights bathed the half drenched pavements by a drizzle a couple of hours back. Did she hear a soft knock at the door?
Rhea Sanyal is my school-friend, a 28-year old software-developer working for an overseas IT Giant—an independent modern woman with orthodox perceptions towards life. She had been an average-grade student with good but not stunning looks. I still wonder how she caught the fancy of the handsome hunk Rishi at college!
The knock at Rhea’s door was heard louder. “That must be my soulmate Rishi. I was waiting so anxiously for him to return”, she thought aloud. But as she peeped through the window-panes, she was surprised- a bunch of policemen waiting for her to open the door. With a melee of apprehensions she rushed downstairs.
“We are from local police station”, they thundered. “Are you Mrs. Sanyal?” Rhea could only manage a silent nod. “Is this your house? They continued. “Do you live here alone”? “No officer,” she muttered. “This is my maternal house. I have recently shifted my base to Netherlands with my husband as our job demanded. I have flown down to Kolkata a week back along with my husband to be with my ailing mother recently diagnosed with a complicated neural disorder.”
Officer: “For how long have you been married?”
Rhea: “Only a couple of months officer”.
Officer: “Was it arranged by your family or was it out of a love affair?”
Rhea: “Sorry, I am in no mood to reveal my personal facts to any stranger” and displayed some disgust on her face.
Officer: “You are bound to give in to police enquiry madam. Please cooperate with us and don’t compel us to take strict actions.”
Rhea: “It’s an out-and-out arranged marriage sir.”
A wave of chill ran down her spine as she started juggling frame of words one after another in return of the array of questions these cops nearly smothered her with in course of their formal steps of interrogation till she lost her patience and retaliated with a squeak. “Officer, you guys are going on asking me questions one after another without even throwing some light on why am I facing such interrogation? What crime have I committed or am I the victim of some crime myself?”
Her crippled mother intruded into the scenario in her wheelchair with a wave of worries. “Rhea, what’s going on here? Why are you screaming and why police in our household … that too at such odd hours of night!!…. And where is my son- in- law? Why is he not here Rhea, at midnight?” she exclaimed.
“Mataji….” “The officer continued… “Sorry for intruding into your house so late at night but the visit is not purposeless. Actually we have recovered a badly mutilated body with a poorly recognizable face by the roadside with his I-Card showing the name of “Palash Sanyal, your son-in-law.” Then he turned to Rhea and asked, “Am I right Mrs. Sanyal, your husband’s name is Palash Sanyal?”
She did not know… how to react. They both became dumbfounded. Mother-daughter duo burst into tears. They spent the next few moments in each other’s arms, consoling each other and calling up and texting near and dear ones. “Follow us to the police-morgue, Mrs. Sanyal”, said the officer solemnly.
Weeping, lamenting and crying, Rhea went to the police-morgue but failed to identify the body. Not a single mark of identification could be deciphered, so brutally it was crushed by a running vehicle. But the torn pieces of the grey shirt on the body and the accessories matched that of Palash. Her eyes and lips trembled with pain and fear. “Palash….” she wept, “How could you be so cruel to leave me alone like this! I don’t know how to spend the rest of my life without you!” Some female cops held her tightly as she almost fainted and escorted her back home.
Wiping her pseudo-tears, Rhea thought, “My husband’s death was not unprecedented. I knew it would happen soon someday as it was destined. I always strongly believed that each event of life is pre planned by the God of Destiny and nobody has the guts to challenge or change its decisions. We could only manage to get a glimpse of it astrologically. With this plausible belief that I harbored within my inner soul for the past quarter of a century, I have embarked on this gory mission today of which, I am the mastermind but the not the executor.”
The next morning her villa was thronged with a condolence-gathering. Amidst all the real and fake tears, Rhea only kept worrying for Rishi. “Where can Rishi be for so long since yesterday evening? I last saw him driving a Mercedes and disappearing into the dark of the night after vowing to return only after winning this stupendous game of destiny. Now that Palash is no more, the victory has surely been on our side. Then why is Rishi still not reaching out to me!! Or is he in a safe hideout! I am in a dilemma whether to give him a call or drop a message as each and every step of mine will surely be under strict observation of police and that may make Rishi land up in some trouble.”
Rhea’s thoughts and worries got cuddled up in joy as she started imagining a suave and settled life soon with Rishi when I stepped in from behind, “Hey Rhea!”
Rhea: “Hey! Sree, my childhood-buddy with whom I lost all touch after my marriage to Palash. Surprisingly enough, it seems you are in no mood for consolation of my loss.”
Me: “Rhea, you remember how we used to share every petty thing with each other since our kiddy days? Then why you shying away from me today in confessing the truth?”
“Truth?” Rhea’s lips started trembling in some obscure sense of guilt. “What truth you mean?”
Me: “You had always been in love with Rishi, then why you married Palash? I know it’s not exactly the right time to ask these questions, but I couldn’t help. These have throttled me since your mother arranged your marriage to Palash ditching Rishi and that’s why I cut off all contacts with you just after your marriage.”
Now anger superceded all her emotions. Rhea felt like choking me to death “How dare you! Who told you I ditched Rishi! I have always loved him and will continue to do so.” “Then why you not married him instead of Palash, Rhea?” I shot up, “In spite of our immortal love, an unscrupulous fate that destiny has kept in store for us came in way of our marriage.”
She swallowed up her harsh behavior and sobbing aloud said, “It’s one of the most ill-fated love stories that me and Rishi shared. In spite of having a long affair, when we finally decided to tie the knot, my mother advised me to match our horoscopes. I readily gave in since you know very well, to me; every move of life is always planned as per the wish of destiny. My horoscope showed a miserable blunder made by the god of Destiny. It was written that my first husband would die within few months of marriage. Knowing such tyrannical fate how could I put Rishi’s life into such a mammoth risk?”
Me: “So why didn’t you finally call it quits?”
Rhea: “Please understand that me and Rishi can never stay away from each other. It’s like…. Till death do us part”.
I started clapping with mocking gestures, “What a well-scripted story, Mrs. Sanyal coupled with an Oscar-winning performance!…. I know the real reason why you married Palash. He was highly qualified with a rich background and a cultured well-educated family with high-salaried job and his flawless character and strong personality drove you away from Rishi and got you attracted to Palash. You readily sensed that Palash is going to be a far better life-partner than Rishi. This horoscope-matching fiction is all bullshit!”
Rhea could not keep a control on her anger and started making offensive slangs, “I have never pardoned anyone who ever dared to doubt or raise any finger to my relationship with Rishi.”
Then she slipped into a state of trance – “Try to understand, Sree. If I married Rishi, then according to predictions, he would have died an untimely death. So we had to plan some means by which we can be together forever and that would have been possible only if Rishi would be my second husband. So both of us started frantically searching for an emotional fool who would volunteer easily to fall into our trap of being my first husband and write his death in his own hands. That is how Palash came into picture via a matrimonial profile. He had no affinity for astrology. So I hid from him my cursed fate of my first husband’s death.”
“We married soon and moved to Netherlands so that Palash would never come to know of Rishi and meanwhile Rishi stayed back in Kolkata to arrange the pawns for Palash’s death. When he gave a green signal that everything was ready I flew down here with Palash feigning mother’s illness and finally the day came when destiny was to execute its verdict. Rishi hired a brand new Mercedes from his friend and went after Palash just as he stepped out of our house to take a quiet evening-stroll. Rishi told me before leaving that he would crush Palash under his wheels and make it look like an accident.”
I screamed, “That means it’s a planned murder schemed by you and Rishi. Palash had to sacrifice his life just to make destiny’s predictions true!!!”
Rhea suddenly regained consciousness, “Oh God! In damn hysteria I had confessed all my crime to this stupid girl who can anytime report it to the police.” She quickly picked up a sharp knife from the dinner-table and prepared to plunge it into my chest when the police held her hand tightly and snatched away the knife. “You are under arrest Mrs. Sanyal.” When she was about to resist, her eyes startled in dismay. It’s Palash standing by Rhea’s side!
Rhea: “Oh My god! Palash, you are alive! Then whose body did I see in the morgue?” “We are sorry Mrs. Sanyal”, said the cops. We had to do a little bit of drama with you just as you did with Mr. Palash, to bring out your confession. Mr. Palash had sensed the danger much earlier while in Netherlands itself.
Palash: “Yes, my dear cheater wife….. Once I secretly heard your conversation with Rishi over phone and could sense your ugly plot. Since then, I quietly started keeping track of your calls and messages with help of both Netherlands and Kolkata Police and cajoled Sree into our mission of bringing out your confession.”
“Then where is Rishi?” Rhea shouted. “Did you arrest him too?” “No” said I, “He is not in jail. He is now where he got destined to be when he made an idiotic mistake one fine morning.”
Rhea: “What mistake Sree?” “Rhea you must have forgotten you told me one day a month before your marriage to Palash you exchanged garlands and rings with Rishi in a nearby temple?” “Ya, said Rhea, but that was done just playfully.” “Rhea, in destiny’s eyes, it was your first marriage though both of you ignored. So Rishi became your first husband, not Palash.”
A senior cop said, “We were waiting to catch Mr. Rishi red-handed last night, but to our surprise, all of a sudden he lost control over his Mercedes and collided with a tree and fell down from it and was run over by a racing truck from behind. The body was of Mr. Rishi, not Mr. Palash. We just put on Mr. Sanyal’s clothes on his body.” Rhea fainted on Palash’s arms.
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