Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Red Over Silver

She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. Her moist sad eyes kept searching for him. The aroma of the strong coffee reminded her of the first time she had met him five years back.
A nineteen year old nervous girl poured a cup of coffee for him.  
Antara you look beautiful” he said with a mischievous smile.

The cup slipped from her hands. She was scared to look at him. She was told it was impossible to find a man like Vikkram. It’s because of her lucky stars that she was getting married to him. But Antara never wanted her lucky stars to smile at her in this manner, not when she had just started her college life. She wanted to study further and pursue her career in investment banking. She badly wanted to tell Vikkram about her life, her interests but he did not seem to be in a mood to listen. He kept flaunting his lucrative business, his new ventures, and his foreign trips. Antara’s mother held her close and whispered “Antu you are so lucky!! He will keep you really happy; he is perfect.” Nobody asked for her opinion. Rings were exchanged right there on their first meeting. Not in her weirdest nightmares had she ever thought of getting married to a stranger. She had a smile on her face throughout the entire ceremony but her eyes spoke a different tale. And since then her eyes and her smile always speak two different contradictory tales.

She never got a chance to speak to Vikkram again till they met each other on the wedding day. They had spoken three or four times over phone but the only words that Antara was allowed to speak was “yes, no and okay.” They barely knew each other and Vikkram never really made an attempt to know her any better. Antara was never sure if he was the man she wanted to spend her lifetime with. But she chose to believe what everyone told her. He was the most eligible bachelor and she was lucky to have him.

 A nervous and scared Antara had shared her secret dream with her father hoping her Baba would understand.

An Investment banker? You are not a man Antu, you are a woman. You are not meant for it. This is simply foolishness, a silly interest.”
This was not the reply she had expected from her Baba.

 “But Baba what is so foolish about my dream?” she asked timidly.

Her Baba roared “the college environment has polluted your mind, stop trying to be a man. Flush the silly ideas out of your mind.” 

She never spoke about her silly foolish dream again but could never flush it out. She hoped that Vikkram would understand but he was never interested in knowing her. She showed him her naked soul, her fears, her love but never her dreams and he just ripped her apart. If only she had protected her dreams and lived them her life would have been so much different.

She ordered another coffee and kept staring outside. He would be here any moment. The same thought had raced in her mind on their wedding night as she waited for him “he would be here any moment.” She wanted to talk to him, know him better. And like always she was not allowed to utter any words. It was Vikkram’s tongue, mouth, and hands that spoke to her whole body. Her friends had told her that love making was supposed to be pleasant and beautiful. Later she realised they never really made love, they just had sex whenever Vikkram wanted. She never had a say in anything. She was a devoted wife who kept to kitchen and bedroom taking care of her husband’s needs. When his demands were not satisfied on time she had to tolerate the devil in him.

“Excuse me mam, sugar? Mam do you need extra sugar?” 
The hot liquid burnt her lips and she was zapped back to the present. She nodded.The boy smiled back and left. She realised she had been drinking a strong coffee without sugar. It tasted okay. Not the way Vikkram had reacted, when she had forgotten to add sugar in his coffee and the whole cup was thrown at her face. She wished she had the courage to walk out of that loveless marriage that choked her soul then and now has killed her, not just her, but her little hopes and dreams. She looked at the blue silk scarf and her eyes were flooded with tears. She pushed them back and used her kurta sleeve to dry up her cheeks. This wasn’t the time to be weak. He would be here.

She remembered the time when she was happy with Vikkram. She had called him up to say that she was pregnant. Vikkram had rushed home and hugged her. She was happy and hopeful that things will change for better. She started dreaming of a loving husband, a home and a happy family. She was smiling. Vikkram had stopped being rude to her. Though he never bothered taking care of her, not even accompanying her to the doctor but he did not interfere at all and that was a relief.                             
But one day he called her up from work “Antara did you go for your check up?” Antara was surprised and was on seventh heaven. She shouted in her mind “HE CARES FOR ME!!” She replied softly that she would go later in the afternoon.

Okay listen to me carefully. I want you to do something for me. Promise me you will” he spoke very softly.

Yes anything you say...” she chirped with excitement.
Okay sweetheart find out whether we will have a son or a daughter. We can start finding out names accordingly.”
She smiled and said sure.
He responded in a very cold voice “I hope you bring good news.”
The reports made her more excited. Her little princess will be with her in a few months. She had already started talking to her princess, while touching her womb and smiling. Vikkram did not utter a word. Neither did he talk to their princess nor did he suggest any names. He smiled and said “we should find a better doctor.” He did take her to a better doctor. He was a better doctor, who killed her little princess. By the time Antara realised what was about to happen she also knew it was too late. Like always she did not have a say in it. That night she died for the first time. A sense of guilt and weakness engulfed her. She did not even understand why her princess was killed even before she was born. Vikkram never told her why he did this to their princess. Antara’s cries and pain went unnoticed. What a horrible mother she had been. She could not save her little princess. Months passed and things kept getting worse and yet she tolerated everything. Her second abortion was not a shock to her anymore. She had accepted the fact that it was a men’s world and just like her even her daughters do not have a place in it. Vikkram stayed away from home most of the time. They barely talked. His occasional visits simply meant forceful sex. She did not have the right to ask him his whereabouts. She was better off without him. She wished to run away from him yet she did not.

She was alone and lonely until one day when she realised that there was someone breathing inside her. She was scared to tell Vikkram, but at the same time she could not hide it from him for long.

As she walked out of the doctor’s clinic she messaged him “it’s a boy...Do we need to see the better doctor?”
The next day he took her out for shopping. She shopped like never before. She bought a blue silk scarf for the one who would finally come to the world and call her “Ma”. Her eyes could not move an inch from the pink scarf. It was her favourite sugary pink colour. But blue was meant for boys. The next few months were spent on planning the baby’s grand welcome. The little one already had a room for himself even before opening his eyes. Antara got one wall painted blue with Disney characters on it. She did not wish to paint the other wall blue, she longed for the sugary pink colour. Hence the walls were left half painted. A small cot was placed in the middle with ducks, fish and stars dangling above. A huge teddy bear sat on the cot along with the silk blue scarf waiting for his little friend. The room was filled with toys of all kinds. In the midst of all the toys hid a Barbie doll invisible to everyone.

Her eyes were still fixed outside the window. She never had three cups of coffee in a row before. She looked at her watch. He was late, like always.

 He was late even on the day when she was alone in the hospital bearing the pain of child birth. Now she wished he had never turned up that day. She was alone with the nurse who told her stuffs that her ears did not pay attention to. She prayed like never before. If a lie could save a life, she did not commit any sin by lying.  Vikkram will be angry with her, and she might be punished. But she was ready to bear anything for the little one. She believed the moment he would take the little angel in his arms he would forget everything. He would accept the fact that she is their daughter. Her smile would melt him. She did not remember what happened next. By the time she opened her eyes her little angel was in Vikkram’s hands. He simply smiled and showed her the angel’s face. Antara’s eyes were full of tears, tears of happiness. Her angel was asleep. What a beauty! She looked at Vikkram and could hardly speak she tried saying sorry.

She needs to undergo few tests. You take rest.”  Vikkram said softly and left holding the little angel in his arms.

Antara waited impatiently for them but they did not turn up for hours. The nurse helped her dress up and gave her a note.“Dearest Antara, Our angel is in her dream world fast asleep. She looks beautiful wrapped up in red. Come soon. I have a surprise for you.” love Vikkram

Did he actually sign with love? She was happy that her angel had melted his heart. She rushed home. Vikkram hugged her at the doorstep and whispered in her ears “upstairs in her room.” Antara’s heart raced as she took every single step to her angel’s room. As she opened the door she looked at the half painted walls. The musical train and the monkey were already playing their part. And her little angel must be asleep on the blue scarf. As she stood near the cot, her world fell apart and so did the dangling ducks, fish and stars. She could not breathe. She could not find her baby there. A silver knife bathed in red was wrapped in the blue silk scarf. A note was fixed to the teddy bear “she is there where she was meant to be. Your lie cannot create miracles.” 

She screamed till her throat burnt. She kicked away the musical train and monkey. She lowered herself to the floor and pulled her legs close to her as if trying to hug her own self. Her little angel was killed while she was still in her dreams. She never got to know her mother. She did not deserve this. A knife was pierced into her soft body by her own father. She was murdered in her sleep. She picked up the blood stained knife wrapped in the scarf, held it close to her and walked downstairs. She did not look at Vikkram. She simply walked away from him to her Baba’s place. She knew she should have done this years back.

She locked herself in a room for two days. She did not eat or sleep. She cried and then laughed out loud. Sometimes she simply screamed at the top of her lungs. And sometimes she would hold the scarf and the knife close to her bosom and sing lullabies as if she was rocking her little darling to sleep. She never opened the door. Every knock at the door was reciprocated with a shrill cry. On the third day she finally got up and took a shower. She sat on the floor and looked at the mirror. She stared at her reflection and shouted “You are pathetic! You are weak.” She realised she was weak yet she had the strength to tolerate what she should not have. But she never had the strength to stand for herself; to stand up for what has always been right. She did not just fail as a mother but she knew she could never forgive herself for not following her dreams. She knew she would hate herself forever for being a puppet in Vikkram’s hands. She knew she deserved this pain. But she wished there was a statutory limit to it. Life would have meant something if only she had lived it. She knew she was sad but had nor fallen apart. She wiped away her tears and stood up and whispered to her sad eyes in the mirror “you are not allowed to fall apart, definitely not now.”

She dialled Vikkram’s number and perhaps for the first time she spoke in a clear loud voice “meet me at Starbucks in an hour, it’s urgent.” She disconnected without waiting for his response. She knew he would come.

And finally Antara’s wait was over.

 He walked towards her with the same pride as if nothing was wrong. She has to end this. She has to walk out of this meaningless painful relationship anyhow. She got up and hugged Vikkram and whispered into his ears “let my last tear fall on you and there will be smiles henceforth.” He never got the time to respond as he felt the already blood stained knife plunged into his heart. And the last thing he saw was Antara’s smile.
                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                        

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