February 2, 2010
Kapil planned a vacation to Mumbai soon after obtaining his Canadian passport. He had been living in Mississauga for quite sometime. It was his second visit after moving over to Canada. Three years had passed since his last visit.
He was the eldest among two siblings. His sister was married off to a software engineer based in Houston. They were in touch mostly through messenger, SMS, e-mails and sometimes over the phone. They had lost their father almost six years back. If not for the mother he would not have had planned this vacation. She was completely attached to her Indian roots and had shown no inclination to separate from her late husband’s apartment in east of Santa Cruz.
Tears rolled over her cheek as she received him at the airport. They spent first couple of days in exchanging news from both ends and recollecting their past. But on the third day she confronted him with a query which he had been avoiding.
“Why are you not getting married?” she argued. “You have to settle down with a family of your own. You won’t remain young forever. How long do you plan to remain unattached? If you are in love let me know. I have no issue.”
“I will not hide if I am in love.” Kapil replied.
“Then what’s the problem?” She persisted.
“If you have any good proposal I would be interested.” Kapil searched for escape route.
“I hope you remember your father’s friend retired Lieutenant Jagajit’s daughter Tanushri.” She reminded.
“Yep, they used to live in Pune.” Kapil remembered.
“They still live in Pune and she is in the banking sector. I am in touch with Tanushri’s mother.” She eagerly explained. “I think we should go to Pune. Let us give a try. Tanushri is beautiful and well brought-up girl.”
“Let’s see.” Kapil wasn’t very keen.
His mother was disheartened by his reaction. However she persisted and remained adamant. He was left with no choice but to accompany her to Pune. They returned back after three days stay in Pune. Tanushri was smart and pretty. But somehow she did not appeal Kapil’s fascination. His mother was left disturbed and disappointed.
Kapil could understand his mother’s anxiety. He was already 35 and she desired her son to have his own family. On the contrary his aspirations in life seemed uncertain. He remained tentative and unsettled. The fear of ageing did not bother him. He respected his mother’s sentiments. He had his reasons for the indecision. He was drawn once by the fatal attraction during his college days and he was yet to be pulled again by similar magnetism. Then he was seriously involved. Perhaps he had not recovered from the deadly blow until now. The impression of the bitter episode was still haunting him. He was held back by his first debacle. Conceivably past trauma had created a mental block. Once bitten twice shy and any such sentimental attachment was given least space in his mind.
The breakdown had caused a wide gap between his past and present. His attitude and perception towards life was hit by disparity.
Three days passed after his arrival from Pune. Kapil decided to make a visit to Lord Babulnath’s (Shiva) temple on Tuesday evening. This temple was located at the end of Marine Drive and south of Malabar Hill, which was built in 1780. He was about to step down from the taxi that a stunningly beautiful lady caught his eye. He was taken aback when he saw Chandini walking out and stepping closer to her car. Kapil had least expected to see her at this point of his life. The fleeting glimpse brought back the memories which he had buried or he had presumed so. The unknown excitement wobbled his heart. That really surprised him.
So easily he recaptured and hooked up to his past. The gap had slightly narrowed and psychologically it appeared so. He was stimulated and strongly inspired to run behind her. Somehow he restrained and managed to keep his moves in check. He entered the temple, but failed to concentrate on prayers. Chandini’s face reappeared in his brain like waves of a troubled sea.
Kapil tried to reason out the cause for this particular emotional vibration. She was all alone without the company of her husband. Could this be the motivational reason to approach her? He didn’t know. Her husband Pankaj was no stranger to him. They had studied together in the same college and shared a friendly affiliation. They had interacted freely and openly. But Chandini’s wedding with Pankaj had created the detachment. The unbearable detachment had paved way to a clear-cut gap.
Chandini was Kapil’s first and last love. He was not involved with any girl before and never after. Many of his friends had warned him when he was getting serious with Chandini. They had seen her with Pankaj. Kapil imprudently had ignored their advice when he was cautioned. She was vocal in her commitment and he had trusted his love. She had wept when he had left on his first assignment to Singapore soon after his graduation. He had promised her to marry on arrival after the completion of two years of job contract. But then he was given no chance to fulfill his promise. She had married Pankaj by the time he was back.
Pankaj was millionaire father’s only son. If she wanted to tie knot with Pankaj, then why did she vow to marry him? Why did she encourage the tender and dreamy liaison? The questions had remained unanswered. The mysterious riddle was left unsolved. He believed that the gap would take them too far and ultimately he would forget her. If last ten years of gap had widened their bond, why was he drawn passionately closer when he saw her outside the temple?
Kapil ambled out, hired a cab to the railway station and reached Santa Cruz. His mother had given him a list. He walked into a shopping mall and entered super market. Items were selected and placed in the trolley. As he stood at the cash counter to settle the bill, his attention was pulled by a man with a lady in the opposite coffee shop. Their proximity indicated the undercurrent of their relationship. To his bewilderment the female alongside was almost in his arms.
He was unmistakably Pankaj. What a coincidence! The couple had remained non-existent in his life for all these years. But surprisingly they stumbled upon, same evening at two separate points!!
If Pankaj was faithful to his marriage with Chandini, what was his relationship with the woman in the coffee shop? Their comfort level was unduly friendly and defiantly intimate. His fingers trembled while paying the cash. Kapil hurriedly collected his items and walked out. The taxi was stopped and he stepped inside.
Pankaj was known for his playfully alluring ways during the college days. The casual flirtations were well noticed in the campus. Perhaps even the marriage had failed to fix Pankaj’s attitude and faulty lifestyle. Was Chandini aware of her husband’s infidelity? Kapil tried to identify the splintered gap. He spent sleepless night and by morning he was more than curious. The pros and cons were analyzed. A lay out of his objective began testing his wits.
Mr. Jagajit’s wife called from Pune just before lunch. Tanushri’s mother expressed her eagerness in understanding Kapil’s interest. Kapil’s mother took him for task during lunch. Somehow he escaped by asserting he wanted more time. The uncontrollable persistence of his sentiments towards Chandini was forming into shape. Three lives were bound to be affected in an emotional turmoil and this was in close proximity. By evening he called a common friend and noted down Pankaj’s current address in Colaba. Ultimately he had taken a furtive, but resolute decision.
Next morning he woke up with new found energy and enthusiasm. His actions exhibited vivacity and dash. The behavioral pattern void of sluggishness must have had surprised his mother. She happily noticed unexpected verve in his pattern. However she did not irritate him by questioning the transformation. By eight thirty in the morning Kapil entered a restaurant opposite Pankaj’s palatial house. He occupied a chair close to the glass door, sipped a coke and kept a watch on the gate. By nine Pankaj moved out in his car. Kapil paid the bill and stepped out of the restaurant. The excitement stimulated him in anticipation of his encounter with Chandini.
He was stopped at the gate by the watchman. The watchman spoke over the phone perhaps he checked Chandini’s consent. The permission was granted in less than three minutes. Chandini was in her track suit as she greeted Kapil at the entrance. Taking a deep breath she wiped the sweat with the towel on her shoulder. It seemed he had disturbed her training session.
“Hi. Please sit down.” Chandini’s response elevated his comfort factor. “I think I saw you outside the temple last Tuesday. I could not speak as I was late for my kitty party meeting.”
“Before I could open my mouth you had left,” Kapil was relieved.
“Would you prefer some coffee or breakfast?”
“Thank you. Tea would do.” Kapil made an effort to be at ease.
“Do you still work in Singapore? Are you married? Any kids?” She shot series of questions.
“I am still single.” Kapil did not exhibit the grin. “I have shifted my base from Singapore to Canada. I live in Mississauga.”
“You must be playing in millions.” She giggled.
“I always belong to the middle class.” Kapil laughed nervously. “We do not play, but we try to save as much as possible to convert into millions.”
“My Pankaj sleeps on millions.” The haughty attitude was well visible.
Was she deviously justifying her two timing during college days? It looked certain that she picked Pankaj on the basis of wealth. What did she get in 10 years of wedded life with Pankaj other than riches? Did they intentionally avoid the option of children?
Sleeping on millions was one aspect, but sleeping with other women was a dangerous facet! No wife would tolerate her partner’s adultery.
Their domestic helper appeared with a tray containing tea and biscuits.
“What made you to come this way?” Chandini threw a straight question.
“I thought of meeting you and Pankaj.” Kapil obliquely answered.
“Are you sure?” She challenged.
“What do you mean?” Kapil felt uneasy.
“What I mean is you are not here to meet Pankaj.” She removed the ambiguity. “You have come here only to see me. Otherwise you had no reason to wait and stake out in the restaurant opposite our house. You waited for Pankaj’s departure and then turned up at the gate.”
Her annotations sounded similar like live commentary of a football match. On the other hand, by illustrating the situation, the setting had turned more transparent. Kapil was encouraged to be less apprehensive.
“Don’t be surprised.” She informed. “Our private gym is facing the restaurant. I was astonished by your unexpected appearance and movements. You interrupted my routine workout. Now could you let me know the purpose of your visit?”
“I am curious to know if everything is all right between Pankaj and you.” Kapil wasted no time.
“What made you to think so?” She snapped back.
“Day before yesterday we bumped into each other at the temple.” Kapil said thoughtfully. “The same evening I also came cross Pankaj with a lady in his arms. On my way back from the temple I was shopping at the super market in the mall. They were in the coffee shop and their body language suggested the degree of their intimacy.”
He sipped the tea and waited for his disclosure to sink in. Chandini’s face gradually turned pale and she remained silent.
“The destiny separated us some years back.” Kapil’s voice demonstrated the desired warmth. “But I am your eternal well wisher. You must have had your reasons for selecting Pankaj as your life partner. I will not question your decision. I have accepted the gap created by your choice. But somewhere down the line I have soft corner for you and I would be saddened if you are treated unfairly.”
Kapil pretended to be truthful with an indirect assault on Pankaj. The scale of impact was still unknown.
“Why should I trust you?” She failed to accept the reality.
“I revealed what I saw,” Kapil concluded. “Now it is left to you to find out facts. There are ample numbers of private agencies who does such jobs. I would be in India for next fifty days. Whenever you need my assistance you can call me.”
Kapil cited his contact numbers both residence and cell phone. He had found the ploy to enlarge the gap between Pankaj and Chandini. He wanted to break their wedlock. Strategically it should yield in narrowing his gap with Chandini and he was ready to accept her back in life.
Chandini’s reaction suggested she was shaken by the reality check. He knew it was just a matter of time. Initially she would be traumatized and ultimately she would get succumbed to conflict with her present partner. Kapil wished to gain back what he had lost in life.
Next morning, Kapil informed his dislike to marry Tanushri. His mother wanted to know the reason. She remained discontented as he failed to convince her. He didn’t pay much heed to her sentiments. Things had happened quite quickly and unexpectedly. He had turned active with his new found zeal. After losing Chandini all these years he had lived for namesake, completely withdrawn and remotely connected to the people around. But now his frame of mind and attitude had shown the makeover and vibes of oomph.
Kapil waited anxiously for Chandini’s call. She didn’t respond for a week. Perhaps she was working in her rummage around. His uneasiness prompted him to call her as the week was over. Her confirmative talk made him affirmative. After all he had confessed what he had seen. Pankaj’s unfaithfulness was bound to be real if cracked! Thereafter she called him more frequently and she was always in tears. Kapil comforted her by saying he is around whenever needed. The gap was shrinking and he was inching closer to Chandini. Kapil was enticed by his passion. In the process he skidded into idiocy as if being sucked by quicksand.
“Why does that vamp call you?” His mother objected after noticing frequent calls from Chandini. “It is not worth having her friendship. Keep her away from your life.”
Kapil was in no mood to listen. He had believed Chandini was the only therapy and antidote to his ailment. He was waiting for Pankaj and Chandini’s annulment. Once separated the task of taking the mother into confidence would be less complicated. Her main concern was perpetually her son’s happiness. Kapil knew ultimately his mother would lend a hand.
A month had passed after his arrival from Canada and Chandini called him on his cell phone.
“I want to meet you.” She sobbed.
“Are you alright?” Kapil was concerned.
“Nothing is alright.” She remonstrated.
She wanted to meet him! His heart almost stopped in exhilaration. The time to abolish the gap wasn’t very far. He was virtually triumphant in a nerve breaking contest.
“Where shall we meet?” Kapil controlled his excitement. “I can visit your place.”
“I would not prefer it.” She declined. “Let’s meet at Colaba Yacht club at six in the evening.”
“Sure, I will be there.” He thrillingly assured.
His imagination was stirred. Meeting his lady love at the Yacht club during the sunset seemed the ideal ambiance for the tenderly emotions. A romantic tale was back in the making.
Kapil reached the Yacht club by 6:00 pm and Chandini was late by 10 minutes. She stepped out and locked her car. The setting of the sun below the western horizon had the reddish atmospheric glow. They walked together on sea side with as minimum gap as possible. Their silent saunter continued for sometime in search of the right chord to communicate. The backdrop of sunset was inspirational in its elements. It insinuated optimism in quest of a fresh beginning.
“Your news has been accurate and spot on.” She unfolded after a deep breath. “I have gathered enough evidence through my sources. Pankaj is unfaithful and he has been betraying me.”
‘You should divorce him!’ The thought occurred in Kapil’s mind, but he kept it in check. “He always had looked for casual sex even during campus days.” Kapil reminded her.
“I thought he would change after marriage.” She wiped the tears. “I agree my two timing when we were in college. I was aware my marriage would leave you brokenhearted. But I would have struggled from your middle class average income. Pankaj was a millionaire’s only son, hence I opted for him. Believe me, once after marriage I have been all along faithful to Pankaj. How could he do it for me? In spite of this I thought of forgiving and yesterday I pleaded him to mend his ways. Do you want to know his reply? He claims he has done a favour by marrying me and he warned me to stay out from his private life.”
Kapil was strongly tempted to declare his promise to accept her soon after the split-up. The words were stuck down in his throat. He struggled to open up.
“What do you want to do now?” Kapil tested her.
“Would you like to stick with me?” Chandini challenged him with least hesitation.
His emotions were stirred by her plea. Her audacity astonished him. Chandini’s receptive approach touched his heart.
“I am always ready for you.” He announced with an undercurrent about to explode. “Your wish is my command.”
“Pankaj has betrayed me and he has no regrets for his disloyalty.” She turned furious like a wounded tigress. “I will teach him a lesson. I need your help and support. The game is slightly dangerous, but it is worth it….. You have been struggling in Canada. I have heard how life is for middle class Indians in such places. It is always hand to mouth existence. Here is your best opportunity to lift yourself from your average status.
Pankaj’s business profile is beyond his father’s shipping business. Now they are also into construction, coffee estate and exports and they earn in millions. I am the only heiress and legal inheritor to his business, money and property.”
“What do you mean?” Kapil slowed down.
“It’s very simple.” She continued as she walked. “Just think of a master plan to exterminate and eliminate Pankaj from my life by hired killing or any other way. Once the job is done and I take charge of the affairs, I will pay you a minimum of fifty millions. Then let us split and part our ways as if unknown for the rest of our lives.”
Unsettled by the impact of her decree he stopped. Chandini continued her walk assuming he was on her side. Kapil realized and identified the realistic gap between the two which was wider than his envision.