The Key to Your Life
I was traveling to Guwahati for my business purpose. I was introduced to Tanushree on the train. She was sitting just next to me. She was around twenty-eight years old, five-foot-five and had a perplexed beauty. She had the big eyes of a month-old child, perfectly crafted nose, flawless bright pink lips and a milky white complexion that would put Photoshop to shame. She had put her hand on her cheek and looking through the window. The trees, the fields, the tea gardens, the huts and the rag pickers everything was leaving behind. Her melancholic face was clearly indicating that she was not happy.
I was always afraid of talking to a girl first. She might know hundreds of better and handsome guys than me. I had a bad habit of assuming that girls would not be interested in me and that was the reason I was still single at the age of thirty. I stand five-foot-ten tall and looked like someone you would miss on a busy road.
Gathering all the guts in me, clearing the throat I asked her, ‘Hi, Where are you going?’
She removed her hand from the cheek, turned around as if someone had jostled her and looked at me.
That look, those limpid, wet, black eyes ravished my heart.
‘I’m going to Gauhati and you?’ She said in a soft and mellifluous voice wearing a smile on her face.
The smile was not the real one. I could feel that. She was trying to hide the ocean of her pain through that smile but her eyes were innocent, they spoke the truth.
I replied her that I was also going to Gauhati and to continue the conversation I asked what her name was and if she was going to spend a holiday there.
‘My name is Tanushree Acharjee and I’m going to Gauhati, Moonlight School for an interview as an English Teacher.’
‘Oh, I see, well my name is Vihaan Das and I’m going there for business purpose.’
She simply said, ‘oh, hmmm.’
She didn’t pay much attention to me. She had again put her hand on her cheek and started looking through the window. She was lost in her own world and I started to think as usual that she might not be interested in me.
I too decided not to disturb her anymore.
The next evening after the business meeting I entered in a restaurant, Elite, near Paltan Bazar to have my dinner. Suddenly Tanushree entered the restaurant and wearing a smile sat next to me. I was surprised to saw her sitting next to me as there were many empty tables. She was happy that day. The smile on her face seemed real, unlike the previous day. There was a glow on her face as if she had achieved something.
‘Hi, hope you’re not disturbed. I’m totally new to this place.’
‘It’s a pleasure of mine to have you again with me. So how’s your interview.’ I hit the nail on the head.
‘It was good.’ She replied with an excitement.
‘By the way, where are you from?’ I asked.
‘I’m from Bogapani and you.’
‘I’m just ten kilometers away from you, Digboi.’
We started to eat our dinner. I was too hungry and was concentrating on my plate. For the next few minutes, there was complete silence.
‘So tell me something about you.’ I finally broke the silence.
She didn’t answer my question. All of a sudden her happiness and her excitement flew away. The glaze in her face was gone, her eyes were glistening which she was trying to hide. My question made her serious. As soon as I smell something fishy I tried to make her comfortable.
‘So where are you staying tonight.’ With a hope that she would be comfortable I asked her with an exciting tone so that she couldn’t understand that I’ve noticed her so well.
Pausing for a while she replied, ‘Hotel Horn Bill’
‘Wow! I’ve also booked my room there.’
After the dinner, we were walking to the hotel room. The hotel was within a ten minutes walking distance. Suddenly she spoke up, ‘I had eloped from my house.’
The moonlight that reflected off her perfectly sculpted face seemed the only light illuminating the place.
She continued, ‘I was working as an English Teacher in Oil Valley School, Bogapani but my family was forcing me to marry an Engineer. Initially, I ignored but when things got out of control I decided to elope. I want to be an independent girl which my family never wanted. For them, marriage is the only solution for a girl to settle in life. I respect my family, my parents but for them, I don’t want to sacrifice my dreams and my wishes. I don’t want to be a living corpse.’
I was numb. Her words reminded me of Amrita.
‘What happens?’ She asked me looking into my face.
‘No Nothing.’ I smiled.
It was 9:00 pm when we reached the hotel.
‘Would you mind to spend some more time with me only if you’re not tired?’ I asked her.
She smiled and following me she entered my room and sat on the sofa.
‘What happens?’ She asked me again.
I paused for a while and said, ‘Your words remind me of Amrita, my girlfriend.’
Every year during the summer holidays I used to visit my aunt’s place in Dibrugarh. My aunt had a small house near the bank of Brahmaputra. Summer vacation was something I would look forward to the entire year. The bonding I shared with my aunt was quite a special relationship. She was an independent woman. Being a nurse, she used to tell me the stories of success and the power of girls, their importance in the society.
During the daytime, when the aunt was often in the hospital I spent a few hours of time with my only friend Amrita, Amrita Devi who lived two blocks away. She was the only child of her parent. Amrita’s father was a judge in Dibrugarh. She was fifteen, two years elder than me but that never made any difference in our friendship. We shared an inseparable bond with each other. Every year during the summer holidays we shared a great time together and before I left I used to promise her that I’ll marry her when I’ll be settled. She always used to smile. She wanted to marry me just as badly as I wanted to marry her but she never admitted to it or said anything about it.
From sharing chocolates to making houses of sand in the bank of Brahmaputra, from stealing mangoes to stealing pickles from houses, from childhood to adolescence we had grown up together. It was an innocent and pure teen romance blossoming during summers that we spent together. Nobody else knew about it except the bank of the Brahmaputra, the silent roads, birds, sky, the sun and the trees. Two lovebirds were making their best memories, unaware and unknown about their future.
After my 12th exams, I went to Dibrugarh. I was eighteen then and she was of twenty years old. I was waiting for her near the bank of Brahmaputra to hold her tight. After fifteen minutes she came and everything changed as if a storm came and destroy my whole life. She said that she was going to marry by next month and she didn’t want any type of conflict as her father was a heart patient.
‘Please forgive me. It’ll be better if you forget me.’ Amrita said with her glistening eyes.
Everything got shattered in a single blow, my love, my hope, my dream and my wishes were in the row.
‘So your parents are marrying you without your consent?’
‘Can you live without me?’
She was silent for a while and after some time she said in a small and unsteady voice, ‘My consent is not greater than my father’s health.’
Her father was the hero of her life and she was sacrificing her life for him. She was trying to hide her emotions, her feelings and when tears were coming out of her eyes she ran away.
I never saw her again…
When the people you love the most leaves, the whole world seems to be empty and void, the whole universe seems to be meaningless and useless. When the people who are so close to you, who means a lot to you leaves you the life turns into ashes destroying every hope, wishes, and dream.
‘Where is Amrita now?’ Tanushree interrupted in between.
I paused for a while, exhaled a long breathe and replied controlling my inner emotions.
‘Amrita is no more. She is dead.’
‘After one year of her marriage, she committed suicide because of the torture of her husband.’
My words terribly jostled her. For the next two to three minutes, there was complete silence. Tanushree hadn’t expected that.
Every day her husband used to rape her, scold her and used to treat her like a slave. There was not even a single day the drunker didn’t torture her. All these things came into limelight after her death.
‘An Ex-Judge couldn’t give justice to his daughter.’ It was the heading of the newspaper.
Amrita’s father also died due to a heart attack.
Tanushree stood up fetched a glass of water and offered me. She patted on my shoulder and sat beside me.
I wish Amrita had made a tough decision like you she would have been alive now. I couldn’t control my emotions anymore and burst into tears…
Tanushree gave me a hug and tried to console me.
‘Life is like a journey on a train… with its stations… with changes to routes… and with accidents!’
She paused for a while and continued, ‘A train ride is full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells. The train passes through the jungles, through the slums, and through the cities. Similarly, our lives also have to go through different phases of life. It is a mixture of every human emotion. Sometimes we’re happy, sometimes we’re sad, sometimes we laugh and sometimes we cry. We’ve hard times as well as good times. We lost people and we find new people.’
‘The only difference between the journey on a train and the journey of life is that on a train journey the final destination is known to us but in the journey of life, we never know our destination earlier. That’s the mystery, that’s the beauty of life.’ She added
I wiped my tears and looked at her with lots of love in my eyes.
‘It’s too late. You should sleep now. Good night.’ She stood up and move towards the door.
‘One tough decision, one long journey or a special night can change our definition of life. Vihaan, the key to your life is in your hand. Only you can open it, unlock it and change it the way you want…’
She turned around said the above wearing a smile on her face and entered her room.
By Biplab Kr. Das
Author of – You Made Me What I Am, The Boy Who Finds His Life and Aarohi The Missing Girl