My Life had come to a stand still. I had put up a facade of being composed and unaffected.. unaware. I was more than alert.
The next day, a Solar Eclipse had occurred. The major one that happened in decades in Delhi. I had gone upstairs to watch the sun go Black Spot. Uncle had almost dragged me down- why?
College was closed for Divali offs. Whole bunch of sheets were to be painted for “submission”. I had to sit with my drawing board and paint. Visitors were more than surprised seeing a young girl sitting in the Living Room and painting. I would as much as only greet them. Rememeber, that young girl had lost her mom only a few days back?
A Ritual was completed on the 4th day; even when it should have been on 13th day. I was forced to wear a sari. Was that an occasion to celebrate please? When I had questioned exactly where was the “dress code” defined, he had looked offended. A Puja was performed in Mayur Vihar-II Kali Bari.
After consultation upon my obstinacy; another one was conducted on 13th day of mom’s death. I had asked the Brahmin about the dress code the last time. So the next time, I had worn my white suit instead of sitting dolled up in a sari. I had actually fasted for all the 12 days as was required to. One was required to sleep on floor and observe certain very strict dictum. I had followed all of those. Elder masi too had come.
Only I had performed that Puja; since no- one else in the extended family had observed any of those required “sacrifices” for a few days. Glad..
I had gone to NTC one day to locate my dad. I did. He had refused help. Clearly.
I had approached Shambhu Uncle. He had refused to give me any details of his whereabouts. I had observed their “friendship” pretty close to understand that he was lying. After close to an hour, he had called up dad from his phone. The code seemed to be of Chandigarh-0172. Upon seeing me peeping over, he had shifted. I could not note the next series of numbers.
My dad had stayed indifferent to the news of mom’s demise. He had asked me that what I proposed to do next. I had pleaded not to disclose my visit to NTC and my conversation with him. He had called every one in Kolkata to confirm. From Kolkata, relatives had calledup masi to tell her that I had called up. What the …!!!
Uncle would keep inquiring about mom’s Gold. I would not answer. It was placed right in his room in the wooden almira. The keys were with me. He had gone berserk when he couldn’t find the keys. How was he to? That was amongst the 1st things that I had attended to that morning.
One evening, when I was completing my TD assignment; as if a voice over my shoulder had whispered to me. I had emptied that drawer in an instant. He was in shower. I only had 10 minutes to walk from his room and enter my room bang opposite the washroom door. Infact, I had left the drawer unlocked when that voice had made me go over again and lock it back.
I had disappeared in my room well in time. 10 minutes thereafter a baffled Samanta had walked in my room wanting to speak with me. I had walked out to the Living Room. He looked lost (as in war) since he couldn’t find as much as a cue. He had broken the Drawer Locks and opened the safe, the same evening. Both my cousin Runa and Patel aunty had taken turns to safeguad the valuables for me. It was a small steel tiffin that would not hold even two chapatis. I still own that steel box.
Uncle and I would not speak. Till a letter and a cheque had come through post. Mom had invested in Peerless years ago. Both in her and my name. Before her death, both the amounts had reached their maturity. Since I went by my “earlier name”, and the investment was in “Olivia”‘s name, one amount could not be retrieved. I had so not believed the fact. A simple “affidavit” would have done. Not that he was unaware of that. Who knows what affidavit he may have submitted..!!
The amount in mom’s name was decided to be re-fixed in my name. I had denied to sign the papers. Uncle had wanted me to be the IInd nominee, I had wanted to be the 1st. Mom had apparently agreed to not include his name. It was a small amount of Rs.15000/- that was fixed in mom’s name, with Me as the only nominee.
Uncle had then wanted me to open up an account- jointly with him. I had once again pushed back. A huge argument had taken place around that. I had won. I had coldly declared my unwillingness to submit to his dictates. I had never appreciated Samanta intruding so much into finances. I mean I was a Major then. Shouldn’t I be holding an Individual Bank Account?
He wasn’t still aware of my account in BOB. Neither I had revealed a word about it. I guess I used my brains and held back the information. I could have told him that I already was an account holder- I had not. An account in SBI was opened up, in my name individually. The amount of Rs.17000/- was transferred to the account.
A couple of maids were hired. One came to clean, the other one to cook. Not that I hadn’t venture to. He had so wanted to keep the tradition of 3- 4 veggies alive. He had also wanted chapatis instead of the usual rice. I was neck deep immersed in my course. I could not afford to take out time for cooking elaborate meals and then sit repenting after the power- cuts.
He had started to talk to me- about marriage. About My Marriage. To him. Reading my clear denial, he had started looking for other “women”. Mom had passed away only in October- 1995. He was wanting to settle down ASAP. He had started contemplating shifting Me to dad. I had refused to move out.
I was awarded scholarship grant to pursue TD at University of Northumbria- UK. Half the money and stay was still to be funded by parents. Obviously, I could not enroll myself. He had wanted to settle down. Use that amount for his Honeymoon. I had not insisted thereafter.
He had wanted me to see the “bride’s” snap a couple of times. I mean, what could I have said about that- anyways.?He had wanted my “opinion” too. Really?? I had expressed none.
He had once traveled to his hometown too. I had not accompanied him. I had not felt comfortable. Who knows what was on his mind. I could have been forcibly married upon or worse still left out empty handed. Stuck up forever- in a mess..
Only that I got stuck up in a mess very soon.. How Ruby took me out of that one, was one hell of an effort..
All this while he had been conspiring with a few Community people. One of them was Punjabi. I did get some hunch of what was happening but didn’t find any concrete evidence. I could see him looking at me with distasteful look; turning away the moment I looked up. I got in touch with Ruby and Sudipa. I would talk to them at length.
Ruby had met me one day. She had dropped in un- announced and “lectured” against my then current boy- friend.
One, I had no intentions of settling down with him. Two, Ruby was DAMN RIGHT.
Uncle got married with Shipra on 31st July, 1996.
Her cousins who had come along with had warned me against her. God Bless them. I had taken them out for sight- seeing for few days. That Lady was as dark as night. She had worn a forlorn look. She was an English Hons or maybe even MA in the subject- don’t recall.
Masi had come over and an elaborate meal was prepared for them. I had only ventured around Mattar Paneer (Cottage cheese and green peas) and Green Chutney. Non- veg preparation was not my department. A dining Table was bought and so was a Dressing table. Or was that a part of dowry?
I had to stay locked up in my bedroom for most of the time. Thats how they had wanted me to. That was my own home. Or was it? Anymore? With both of my parents missing; I was only an unwanted element. My painting stuff too was packed up from the Living Room. The Diwan was given over to some Saha. One of the members of the Conspiracy Group.
I had sniffed the trouble that was approaching. I had told Runa that I so felt that my days were numbered in Chetna Aptts.
I still don’t hold anyone responsible other than dad for the entire everlasting mess that was to soon happen..
Here, Samanta too seemed to have joined heads.