Raima had been thinking about Shom all day. How was she going to live without him? Rather, how were they going to live without each other? Right from the beginning, they had been clear that their relationship couldn’t be at the cause of hurting their individual families.
She didn’t like living in Calcutta anymore. The city had lost its charm, though the club culture prevailed. Grandpa was a member of the Calcutta Club and Grandma, 15 years his junior, was a member of the Saturday Club.
Shom had an office in Calcutta and usually, he would be in Calcutta at this time of the year. Raima knew he was coming; this time there was more than one reason for him to do so. Being away from each other for close to a month with only FaceTime to keep them connected, they had planned several clandestine rendezvous during his forthcoming visit.
During this time Raima had been introduced to five eligible men and had rejected them all. She had made it clear that marriage being a commitment for a lifetime, she would be extremely careful in choosing her partner. A divorce would harm the family’s reputation, she would argue to put off her family members.
The pressure to get their only granddaughter married had been playing on the grandparents’ minds ever since their daughter-in-law had passed away. They would often remember their only son who had died in a motorcycle accident when Raima was a child.
The sentiments weighed so heavily that Raima started developing cold feet. She did not have the courage, nor could she think of a pretext to go out and meet Shom in the city that now seemed strange. The prospect of managing her overly-fussing grandparents looked increasingly difficult as Shom’s arrival at Dum Dum airport drew near.
No sooner had Shom’s flight landed than he received a call from Raima. There was a new boldness in her tone. She did not want any surreptitious dealings any more, she desired freedom. She gave Shom a start by inviting him home the next day on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan. On this day, sisters tie a talisman or amulet called rakhi to the wrists of their brothers in gratitude for protection in times of difficulty. Brothers offer a gift in return. This was very typical of her, thought Shom.
The doorbell rang and Grandma looked up, wondering who it could be. Raima rushed to the door, knowing that it would be Shom. She called out, “Shomda aapni kaimon aachhen, please come in, eshun boshun,” as she opened the door and welcomed him.
The grandparents looked alarmed on seeing a middle-aged man enter. Shom was surprised too. He had only half understood her game plan. She winked at Shom to help him relax and get over his awkwardness. Shom nodded at her grandparents, managed a smile and looked around. The atmosphere in the house was serene. It was an auspicious day and Shom reasoned to himself, “What the hell? Why not?” He remembered Tapan Ghosh’s advice: You have to be an actor to face life, not the camera.
He quickly adjusted himself and apologised for visiting without prior intimation. Raima told him about the recent meetings with eligible Brahmin bachelors she had been forced into.
“I don’t want to marry, Pitamao is pressurising me. I don’t want to be here anymore. For twenty years I have been looking after my dying mother,” she said, sobbing profusely.
”He did not come to my help, my aunt was the only one who looked after me. Do they even know what happened to me? What my uncle did to me when I was just thirteen?” she added.
Today, she had no option but to let him know. She quickly got the thali and a beautiful rakhi which she tied to Shom’s wrist. Thrilled, he gave Raima his blessings along with a wad of Rs 2000 currency notes, as she applied the traditional vermillion powder on his forehead.
It was a touching scene. Both grandparents joined in. They were happy about Shom being able to make it to their place despite his busy schedule. They hugged him like a long-lost son. Shom told them that his knowledge of Bengali was limited as he had been living in Bombay since childhood. “Aami bangla kauthata bujhte paadi, aito kichu bolte paadi na,” he added in such a perfect accent that Raima was surprised.
Soulmates can alter their relationship to suit the situation. They go with the flow like a meandering river. This was nothing new for the two, they had done this time and again, to face life and to live it. They had always remained faceless. It was the only way out.