Short Story - by Kakuli Nag
I am Rudro Banerjee, an electrical engineer from Kolkata. Will this script have enough meat and spice to reach out to people? This was the first question that struck me when I began writing this.
I tried telling the editor guy that this will be discarded in no minute, not evoking any intelligent debate or thoughts, let alone literary genius - labeling it as a pale diary entry of a loser. My readers will lose interest when they learn that I am forty four, an ordinary looking next-door guy with a simple 10 to 7 job. I live with my ten year old son, in an 1100 square feet area apartment. Why would anyone want to know about me?
My house is not in Golf Green. My wife has a beautiful apartment there which is popularly known as “Towards the Sky”. I have never seen it and yet I can imagine that it must have a great view of the sky from the balcony or the bedroom window. Do I have to add the statistics of real estate rates there or I can comfortably assume most of us are aware that it is indeed shooting “Towards the Sky”?
I called her Moni. She played the main character Monimala - a village girl who made it big in Kolkata - a popular soap in those days and I had fallen for her from there. In those days, when mythological series was in fashion, Monimala was the first serial to tread the paths that were not explored before – realistic drama.
Moni’s performance got her awards, major accolades and a couple of interesting roles from Bollywood as well. Just that her first movie there bombed so bad that she got replaced in the second offer she had, which made her pack her bags and return to Kolkata to marry me - No love or romance, just plain security driven marriage.
It was my shoulder she leaned on to cry when Monimala’s TRP began dropping, and when Bengali TV producers made derogatory comments about her weight after Ratul was born. Even I noticed, she looked tired and most of that glamour people fell for, was fading. This is probably what happens when you pursue an ambition and you do not quiet see that being fulfilled or even remotely achievable – slowly a few of those cherished dreams slip to oblivion, unnoticed.
In one of the parties, when Ratul was three years old, someone made the mistake of telling her how good she was in her role, how the serial gradually became a bore and blamed the failure on the poor script writer. That was stimulation good enough for Moni to try something beyond my wildest imagination. The next big thing I had to do that night was drive to the hospital in Eastern Bypass for her stomach wash. Moni never could come to terms with the fact that she was an average actress without much substance in her abilities. Sleeping pills were her easiest escape.
While I never really could figure out if acting was her first passion or was it music, within two years of marriage, I had learnt who her first love was though. It was one of the boys her cousins played with, practiced music with and it never occurred to me, that it could be him. Though I earnestly wanted to believe Moni was true to me, the crumpled sheets of our guest room when Ratul was at her mom’s place, two cups on the bay window with cigarette butts in one of them, an unfamiliar shirt in the laundry and several such hints each time I returned from an official trip triggered my doubts.
“Baba, this car runs on battery, Dipu mama will teach me to use the remote. Do you know how this works?” Ratul innocently, fuelled my doubts by confirming Dipu’s presence while I was away.
“Did all your other mamas come home to practice music in the last few days?” I had asked Ratul, fidgeting with the remote which he wanted to learn to operate, from Dipu. I was unaware Moni stood right behind me. That night I had to rush her to the hospital again at 2 am, not for a stomach wash but for a few stitches. She used the kitchen knife to slit herself. She knew that night, that I knew – somehow I could not be vocal about my displeasure. I gulped the insult and continued to live with her.
How does one deal with a situation like this? – I thought for nights together, sleepless and helpless. No one suspected anything was going between the two of them, not even her cousins. When I tried discussing my doubts with my mother in law, she labeled me as sick jerk and howled at me stating how could I even think in those lines? Dipu is just a kid, almost fifteen years younger than her. It is just celebrity awe that he has for her, she clarified. I had images of “Demi Moore” flash in my mind. My mother in law does not know her, so no point explaining her that the whole thing was not limited to awe alone.
It was one of those nights when Moni’s mood was storm – I never get to really know why those stormy moods occur – On every such occasion, I just make sure Ratul is asleep in his room, neatly tucked in his bed. I purposely drag a yawn to let her know, I am all set to sleep and in no mood to cater to her tantrums. She has been nagging about this for the past few days – classic movie, reputed director, excellent star cast and all. She wanted me to permit her to accept a role which demanded a semi nude scene and she chose this very time to discuss it again.
“You know, I hope, what a semi nude scene is like, where you are not really nude but the camera man makes it look like one. The movie has terrific star cast and it is just couple of scenes. I am not kissing or anything, just exposing some part of my bare neck, shoulder, and ….” She wanted me to imagine. I hated her. How desperate can one get to be in the limelight – She was forty and I had a son who had a school to attend and friends to face. I never thought about myself or my contacts, even for a brief second. I only had Ratul in my mind.
“Over my dead body” I declared and switched off the light to sleep.
That was the night I went to Eastern Bye pass hospital for the third time. She used her saree to hang herself - choked, puked and survived. My attempts as a savior now were almost rehearsed and practiced. She somehow managed to blackmail me to allow her to take up the role. The strangest thing was there was some kind of loyalty string that hospital had with me over the years that not a word ever went out of those walls to the world outside. The media reacted outrageously after the movie was released with those much awaited scenes, because they probably wanted to remember her as Monimala. She was severely criticized for those bold baring scenes. I did not want her to kill herself again and became fiercely protective of her from any external harm including media hounding, however I was terribly off track. She thoroughly enjoyed the importance she got from the media and it was almost like her second innings in the industry – She was back in Mumbai with TV serials, though in mother-roles.
I could not relate to her any more. I and Ratul did not matter to her and I faintly realized even Dipu was just an ego boost factor for her. He will know that some day that he made her feel like a queen, kept her on a pedestal when she had a sagging career, worshipped her as if she was some goddess, wasted his entire life pursuing her. I grew aloof after she moved to Mumbai and did not care to know how often Dipu kept her company. I was waiting for her to ask me for divorce and when she did not, I did.
“Cheers” my friend lifted his glass and gave me a sly look. I stared at my glass, guiltily – I was beginning to understand why my editor friend had not added any literary flavor to this piece as he wanted the truth to reach people in a voice that was natural, raw and original. I was a thousand miles away from the truth in my interview. How come I never thought of Rudro even once, when I was interviewing Sonali? He just did not exist. For all celebrity interviews, it is always like this – others in the family become non-existent, dormant or extinct. I tried to imagine for a quick second the impact of those accusations on the poor man for all her suicidal attempts – while in reality he was just there to save her. How will Ratul face his friends in school after my interview?
“I selfishly used this interview as a ladder in my career” I whispered, still staring at the liquid in my glass –coke or pepsi, whatever that was – I had forgotten.
I slowly ran my fingers on the picture my friend had clicked of Rudro and Ratul for the article, and continued staring at the perfect fusion of their smiles and felt like an alien in their little world.
“Who are you eying” my friend asked mischievously. “You just have to wait for a few more years if you want to repeat Sonali’s history – You and Ratul and then I can write the sequel of this article – Ratul’s voice under a new column Fusion of Generations. I hissed and threw the contents of my glass right on my friend’s face – Face the facts was lost in his roars of sarcastic laughter and perhaps in Ratul’s silent sobs.
Disclaimer: Any resemblance to live characters is purely coincidental.
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