‘How are you feeling?’ asked Roshni. Ajay did as much as move his brow and looked up at her. He shrugged his shoulders and shot back at her ‘How should I feel? I’m fine…’
Unsure what she should say next, she lingered in the room a little bit more. Ajay got restless and shot her a questioning look along with a volley of questions, ‘What’s wrong with you? Why are you still standing here? Is the breakfast ready?’ ‘Oh yes…it is ready, I will lay the table… you come….’ replied Roshni and hurried back to the kitchen. Ajay was feeling irritated, more so at the sight of Roshni. He had never thought life would double-cross him in such a manner. He was the one, who had always called the shots in life. He was used to leaving behind others in pain for his actions, he never felt sorry for that; call it his arrogance, attitude or ego. That was how he was. Throughout his life, he had done what he wanted to do and in the process he has hurt many, including his loves ones, his parents, friends and many others. But today Life had dealt him a trump card. For the first time in his life he was confused.
He was confused of his emotions, he couldn’t figure out whether he was sad or happy or angry. His mother had called in the morning to inform him of his wife’s sudden death. It was there that he was headed to; his ex-home or the home of his ex-wife and children. The cremation rites must already in progress; his elder son had found no reason to wait for him and had specifically asked his grandmother to inform him that he should not hurry to reach their home, because he will not be allowed to touch his mother’s pyre in any case. He felt foolish now, remembering the way he reacted to the news of his wife’s death.
‘What about the property?’ he asked his mother almost instantly. His mother’s voice sounded heavy with crying. ‘My daughter has left everything to you and has also left a letter with me to give you. You don’t need to come to collect it. We will courier all those to you!’ saying so, she disconnected the call. Ajay felt that someone had slapped him hard across the face. His wife, the wife whom he had left years back for another woman had given her property to him in charity. How dare she? He wanted to thrash her like old times to show her just how un-important she was to him. On top of that his parents referred to his wife as their daughter after disowning their only son…. How dare they? He wanted to yell and shout and leave them all alone, again. If only he could…. she was no longer around to take in all his abuse! At sober times, he had tried to judge his feeling for Neeti, his dead wife now. It was not that he hated her….. It was just that he was angry at being left behind to face the world.
Roshni was at a loss of emotions it seemed. Her sole purpose of existence seemed pointless now. Since the news of Neeti’s death, she could not figure out, how exactly she should react. Who exactly was she? Was she just the other woman in Neeti’s life….the woman who had taken away all of Neeti’s happiness and her husband of 12 years. Was that the only relation she had with Neeti…..? She could still remember the shock and awe etched all over her sister’s face when she had discovered her relation with Ajay. Roshni was happy to have become the cause of pain in Neeti’s life, because she thought that justice was finally served and she was freed from a whole life of comparison with her elder sister. But it did not take her long to realize that she was wrong….justice was never meted out…Neeti always remained the favored daughter and later the favored and beloved daughter - in - law while she remained the outcast sibling and the other woman in her sister’s life.
She suddenly felt out of love with Ajay. Soon after he had moved in with her after leaving her sister, Roshni had realized that he was not a very pleasant person to be around. The only thing that was some solace to her was Neeti’s pain. She continued living in her own misery with the consolation that Neeti was also suffering. Roshni closed her eyes and concentrated on her present. With Neeti gone, maybe she could marry Ajay and start a respectable life….like everything else in her life Neeti had given her marriage to Roshni in charity. She did not feel particularly interested to marry Ajay now. The battle of Neeti’s refusing to divorce Ajay had become the driving force of her life. She had never thought that life could take a turn when she would have her opponent defeated even without a fight. She tried to remember the initial days of their courtship…..she tried to remember the extra love and care she displayed towards Ajay… the numerous times when she had shared his bed, thinking how punishing it will be for Neeti when she found another woman’s scent all over her bed. The act of making love took an almost devilish turn for her….with she being satisfied more because she was punishing Neeti. Ajay had become her way to take revenge on her elder sister.
What was her mistake actually…? Neeti had always loved her younger sister trying to make way for her in the world. She had gone out of her way to help her with her studies and with every other thing she did. But what she overlooked was the fact that in the process she was killing Roshni’s individuality…. She was all but reduced to Neeti’s shadow, a girl with a super genius and well behaved elder sister. From home to school and friends all had only one thing to tell her: ‘Hope you also grow up to be as good as Neeti!’ she hated it….she hated them all…her hatred became the most potent of her emotions, and she did all that she could to become completely opposite to her elder sister. She got the chance of her life, when Neeti had left her at their home to baby-sit her sons, while she attended some social event. Ajay was not supposed to return home that night, but a sudden change of plans made him return home in a completely sloshed condition. Roshni always recognized an opportunity when she saw one…. And this was one such opportunity!
She put Neeti’s children to sleep and entered Ajay’s room to untie the garb of her decency and the nuptial knot of her sister. That night sealed the future of everyone related to her. She changed all the equations and became the sole point of discussion of every member of the family and all her friends and neighbors. She had defeated Neeti; for once in her life people were more interested in her than in her elder sister! She could almost feel the joy of the triumph, staring outside the kitchen window now. But now…. what would she do now? Her life seemed to have taken a U-turn again…. And Neeti had again become the topic of discussion.
‘Where is the breakfast?’ hollered Ajay from the living room. Roshni was jolted back to her present, she quickly picked up the plate of breakfast she had prepared and headed outside the kitchen. ‘You Bitch! What took you so long? Don’t tell me you are sad because that whore is dead….!’ shouted Ajay at the top of his voice. Roshni looked at him with all the disgust that she could master….she was looking at the face of the man who was once her biggest weapon in her fight to attain her identity, now she felt irritated at his sight! She banged down the plate in her hand and yelled: ‘To hell with you and your food!’ crashing down the plate she walked towards her bedroom trying to pack her stuff and leave.
‘How dare you say that to me?’ shouted back Ajay and kept hurling abuses. She turned a deaf ear on him and started stuffing her clothes in a bag. Ajay could take it no longer and entered the bedroom to hammer some sense into her. He slapped her hard and started to hit her blindly, all the time shouting: ‘How dare you?’ ‘How dare you say this to me?’ ‘How dare you do this to me?’ and finally ‘How dare you die?’ that was it….. The last question gave her all the strength that she needed to stop him. She stood stiff and pushed Ajay with all her might. Ajay was taken by surprise and by the time he could react, she picked up her purse and ran out of his house!
Tears kept rolling down her cheeks and inflamed the regions of her face, which were bruised by Ajay. She quickly stopped a passing auto-rickshaw and gave the driver an address. By the time she reached her destination, she had started sobbing uncontrollably. It was, as if, she was crying for the first time in her life; all her hurt, all her hatred, all her pain and all her self-disgust came out in torrents of tears. She somehow paid the auto-rickshaw driver the fare and staggered inside the house, the same house that was once her sister’s happy home! She could feel all eyes on her and people pointing at her to discuss what she had done to her sister. All over the place she noticed people clad in white attires mourning slowly! Although she was not invited or in any way part of the surrounding, her grief had surpassed that of all others!
She could feel her mother come rushing towards her to stop her from entering. She stared at her mother’s aging face to think: ‘How old had she become’; the last she remembered her mother had looked quite pretty in a pink chiffon sari and pearls and now she was looking reed thin and almost lifeless….
‘What are you….’ started her mother and stopped midway to look at her surviving daughter’s face. Gone was the arrogance and the hatred, her face was bruised badly with swollen reddish-black marks and all over it repentance was etched. She stepped aside and did not stop Roshni from moving closer towards her sister. Roshni staggered and sat down with a thud beside her sister’s lifeless body. Neeti looked peaceful in death; with her forehead smeared with vermilion her face looked coy like that of a newly-wed bride.
‘What have I done?’ wailed Roshni, too afraid to touch Neeti’s body lest she did something worse!
[Image Courtesy: sinnerinrepentance.blogspot.com]