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A Short Story by  Pragati Bakshi

Arsha was sitting on a broken wooden bench for more than one hour, waiting for bus to arrive. All alone amidst the paddy greenery, rhythm of her heartbeat was the only song of silence of that forenoon. With every heartbeat, her apprehensive mind was growing too vocal inside her to be tolerated. Hundreds of admonitions that her mind dropped on her impulsive decision to travel in this remote area made her feeble and submissive. This was first incidence in her life span of 33 years, when Logical and meticulous planning was capitulated by frail yet distinctive voice of her heart. And yet her mind incessantly rebuked that this was the consequence of leaving her planned and disciplined life, which she had adhered her whole life with.

A worn off bus, which resembled more of a tired middle aged man stopped without much noise. “Madam, where are you heading to”? question dipped in alarming curiosity brought Arsha back to senses. “Damodar Valley Corporation. I mean there is an on-going project of DVC near Jhumra Mountain. I have to reach there by evening”. Her emphasis on have to reach subtly conveyed her desperation to reach the destination before sunset. Arsha was politely given accommodation, costing her 100 bucks. Finally, she started easing down as she adjusted herself in a small seat with her crimson bag. “Didi, Didi” , “Are you addressing me?” Arsha replied, turning her head towards the sources of the voice. A dark complexioned man through his copper colour translucent pupil was intently looking at Arsha. “May I know whom do you seek at DVC, as there are very few families who reside inside the project campus. And out of these three two have left the campus for vacation”. Hearing this Arsha s’ heart began sinking. “Oh no, what if I do not meet him. What will be of me, if get stranded in an isolated place like this. I may be biggest of a fool to think any kind of paid hospitality in a sparsely inhabited place”. Her deep thoughts were once again interrupted by another question thrown by same person. “Didi whom do you know at DVC?”.” Kaustubh Shandilya” Answered Arsha. “Kaustubh, the light complexioned bara sahib?”  “How would I know what complexion Kaustubh carries!”. She mumbled this to herself. But her curiosity was aroused and she wanted more information of Kaustubh from the old man without making her curiosity apparent “Yes Kaustubh”, she muttered something incoherently just emphasising on “Kaustubh.”

“Hello, this is Kaustubh Shandilya, Am I speaking to Miss Sharma?” This was first sentences spoken by Kaustubh Shandilya, five years back. Yet the frequent resonance of these words in Arsha mind has kept his voice and words alive like fluttering butterfly. Arsha with lots of trepidations answered, “Yes.” “Hi, Miss Sharma. I dare this telephonic conversation as you showed interest in my profile and hence you provided your cell number to me. Are you willing to talk to me?”. “yes “was only answer by Arsha, perhaps she was tongued tied or all words in her repository vocabulary disappeared, which she still could not understand.  After a long pause from both the end, Kaustubh ended the conversation wishing her Good day. Arsha that day, sensed as if blood running in veins would burst off! A strange panic caught her, she assumed herself as a culprit waiting for verdict for the crime of adultery committed. In all her 28 years of life she never befriended a man or boy and therefore getting acquainted with a stranger through a matrimonial site was tantamount to defying norms of her regimented life.

Arsha was young fascinatingly charming girl; worked as junior economist in one of the largest private sector banks. Second of three Siblings, born in a dysfunctional rather toxic family she worked hard to grab a lucrative government job. Her father, since her childhood was too willing to die every now and then, died before Arsha could complete her post-graduation. And now in crumbling old bungalow lived Arsha with her two brothers and prematurely old mother. In this toxic household, Arsha was only one who calmly bore the all toxicity flung towards her by her mother and brothers. Her elder brother often blamed her of dooming the household. He frequently abused her because according to him she was not a desired commodity in marriage market. Many a times her mother along with her brother, after her arrival to home in evening would hurl abuses. She was held responsible for blocking all the marriage proposals for her brothers. Indifference of her mother towards her and tonnes of negativity in such a setup, sucked all her life force. Dark pigmentation around her eyes was now apparent. Many a times, she thought of ending her life.

Kaustubh Shandilya contacted her through a matrimonial site. And here matrimonial site played a saviour if not cupid to poor Arshas’ life.” Kaustubh” is a rarest of fabled gems in possession of lord Indra, but Arsha felt as if she possesses the gem and this gem would annihilate all her tribulation in her life. Marriage now was the last thing in her mind, all she wanted to be free from stinking negativities.

“Hi, this is Arsha” gathering all her courage, she dared to call Kaustubh day after their first conversation. “Hi, Miss Sharma, may I call you Arsha, if you don’t mind?”  “I won’t mind, Sir” answered Arsha. “Please don’t call me Sir, you know I love to year my name called by a honey soaked voice”, replied Kaustubh. Honey soaked voice at the other end of phone was speechless. “Arsha, Arsha are you there”? Regaining her composure Arsha answered back. She was delighted to hear her name by an honest, stable unassuming and assuring voice. Gradually Kaustubh and Arsha started talking about their families, professions, hobbies, birds, lizards and mundane day to day activities etc. etc. Arshas life changed: stinking negativity did not threaten her existence now.

One fine day Kaustubh called and pleaded her to fix an appointment with her mother for their matrimonial negotiation. Kaustubh even suggested that he would ask his father to initiate the negotiation provided the willingness of her mother. Arsha heard everything very patiently, but inside her, the looming darkness indicated the consequences if she talked on this matter to her mother. Yet she assured him that she will do the very best. Arsha with heavy heart approached her mother. The old lady, rolled her eyes in disbelieves and refused to speak to Kaustubh or his father. Her brothers’ sarcastic words implicated that he was sure that his sister had committed adultery. Poor Arsha or rather destitute Arsha cried gallons of tears breaking the embankment of sorrow. She pleaded to all lords in heaven, birds, butterflies, lizards, all flowers and vegetation surrounding her. No one came to help her. Finally, she called Kaustubh to bid him goodbye. She told her marriage will not be arranged nor she has audacity to elope with him. Kaustubh with quiver replied, “My lovely Arsha, have courage, be with me”. Again after a long pause, Kaustubh heard Arsha voice, “Goodbye, Kaustubh”.

The Short Story continues here...