It was a surreal charismatic evening for Dev and Leena as they were absorbed in each other. They were totally immersed in the enchanting environ of love and passion. It was their first evening after tying the knot. The couple just couldn’t overcome the blizzard of sensuous vibes that swept them together. They were madly in love after all. After an arousing candle light dinner, they headed home and this how their story begins….
It was six months since their wedding, but the honeymoon period was still on. Dev especially had totally given in himself. He loved her immensely. Dev did have relationships in the past, but with Leena he felt this indescribable, ardent connection. He felt blessed and complacent to have her. Leena served a perfect wife, right from her lip-smacking cuisines to her comforting deportment. She was just what Dev ever wanted. They complimented each other in every facet of existence. They were inseparable. Being quite introverted they befriended very few.
One morning, Dev woke up to find, Leena was not by his side. He thought to himself about the empty fridge and assumed she must be out for some grocery shopping. He made himself a cup of coffee and got busy with the newspaper. It was only after an hour he looked at the clock to remind himself that it's been long since Leena had not returned home. It was usually Dev who brought in the supplies for home. Her sudden long absence made him feel a little uncanny but then he pinned his hope, thinking she must be busy purchasing some fancy girly stuff, which usually takes immeasurable time.
Soon it was evening, now Dev was really perplexed. Anxiously he got ready and walked out of the house hurriedly to look for her. He first went to his neighbour's house. As he pressed the doorbell, a middle aged lady opened the door, Dev asked, “Hello madam, Iam your neighbour.”
“Oh! Of course I know you. Tell me, What is it?” replied the woman.
“Actually my wife has not returned home since morning, have you seen her anywhere around?” questioned Dev.
The woman appeared puzzled
“Wife?? When did you get a married son? I have not seen anyone except you around your house.” reverted the lady.
“It’s been six months Iam living here with my wife, what are you saying ? It’s ok if you don’t want to help but please stop this nonsense, thanks anyways." said Dev angrily.
As he went around his neighbourhood, he got similar replies. All denied seeing his wife.
He lost his mind and started running here and there. He blanked out completely. It was getting dark outside and inside of him as well. He went to the nearby police station and reported a missing case. As the cops asked for a photo of his wife, he realized he doesn't have any. Leena never liked to be clicked. She always kept the cameras at bay. This made things really difficult. Dev went back home. An empty home welcomed him..... he was stoned.
The next two days went in looking for Leena but it proved futile. The worst thing was where ever Dev went, people denied seeing him with his so-called wife. He felt sick and demented. His whole world had come crashing down. Dev remembered that last night he had spent with his wife, she had happily announced that they were soon going to become parent. He was on the verge of starting a family but now he was left all alone, with no meaning to life. He wept and wept like a baby, with no one around to even lend a shoulder. He felt terrible and slept lying on the floor.
From the next morning, Dev started connecting the dots, he rushed to the marriage registrar office and asked for the advocate who had got his marriage registration done. But he was aghast to know, that the person had passed away sometime back. He then asked for the document in which he and Leena had signed. The officials looked for the file but couldn't trace it through the racks of innumerable files. The file was missing. There were no CCTV cameras operating either in the registrar office on that day, citing some maintenance work. Dejected Dev came out of the office absolutely clueless.
He had invited his friend, Rohit and his wife Kavita, as a witness to the court for his wedding. They lived in the country side. He travelled all the way to meet them.
"Hi, how are you Dev? long time no see.." Rohit welcomed Dev with a warm hug, and continued "What happened?? you look anxious..:"
"Hi Rohit, can we talk inside", requested Dev.
Dev narrated all that had happened to his friend, and asked in utter helplessness, "Do I appear mad to you? I have been with Leena for six months, and now people tell me she doesn't exist. Who Am I to believe? I have seen her around me day and night. Inside - out of my house, cooking, cleaning, watering the plants. How can all this be untrue? Tell me?." Tears couldn't stop rolling, Dev cried his heart out to his friend.
Kavita too couldn't hide her tears. Rohit was a psychiatrist, he was not surprised as he had come across many patients who hallucinated. Rohit waited for Dev to come back to his senses.
After comforting Dev. Rohit said, " We shall go to your house now."
Dev drove Rohit home. Upon reaching Rohit asked Dev to show him Leena's wardrobe. Dev was too broke to react, he escorted his friend to the room and opened Leena's wardrobe only to find it empty, he was dumbstruck. He had never opened her cupboard even when they were together, but he could recollect the pretty saree collection she had.
Dev just collapsed. Rohit hugged his friend and said, "The day you had called me for your wedding my friend, their was no one except you. I didn't tell you anything, as I knew you would disagree. The registrar too obliged to my request. But the truth is, Leena was your strong and a vivid hallucination. Please my friend, come out of it at least now. Dev didn't utter a word, he was in a state of shock and felt almost paralysed.
Days passed by, Rohit stayed with Dev for some days. Dev had stopped going out, he refused to enter his room. All he did through out the day was reminiscing the time he spent with Leena. Rohit tried various treatments on him but nothing seemed to work.
One night, glaring the moon, Dev was reminded of an incident.
Holding Leena tight in his arms he spent hours on the moonlit terrace of his house. On one such occasion Leena had said, "There is this beautiful village named Mahalgad in the foothills of Shivaliks, I would love to go there.
" But why there? " questioned Dev.
"There is something I want to show you and you must know." Leena said looking deep into Dev's eye.
As Dev recalled this, he at once made up his mind to go there with a hope to find Leena.
He booked a train ticket and reached Mahalgad. It was a beautiful picturesque hilly terrain just as Leena had alluded. He wandered every street, every corner to look for her but all in vain. In the end of the day, tired, he rested on a cliff, viewing the sunset, but actually he felt the sinking of his heart. As he rose to walk back he hit an old lady accidentally. The lady was blind, her stick fell down. she was looking for it. Dev at once apologised and gave the old woman her stick and insisted, to drop her home. As they reached the old Lady's home. She gave him the keys to open the door. As Dev opened the door, he was breathless and almost fainted to see Leena's photo on the wall. It was an old black and white photo. As both entered the house, Dev questioned in a terrified tone, "Whose photo is this on the wall? "
In a shaky voice, mourningly, the old lady replied, "Oh, that photo, it's my daughter, Leelavati, she passed away almost forty five years back."
Dev knelt petrified, he constantly glared at the photo and the old lady continued, "My daughter was very pretty, very efficient girl, she cooked well, took care of the house, did everything that an ideal woman should do. But she couldn't turn her monstrous husband into human, who killed her for dowry. She loved her husband immensely, she felt so empty without him. He was her world, but that man brutally killed her. You know son, what were her last words, she said, "Mother, one day he'll come looking for me.". Such was her devotion, but that never happened."
Dev cried in silence.
"The cupboard near the window has some old photos, you can have a look at them." said the old lady.
Dev reached the cupboard with trembling hands, as he opened the photo album he was in for another big shock, for he found himself next to Leelavati as her husband. His eyes shed blood. Guilt, lament, torment all vicious emotions surrounded him.
"What happened to her husband then?" asked Dev inquisitively, wiping his tears.
"After my daughter's death, he married another lady, but he never could beget a child from her. Nature has its own way of giving back. A man who killed his five months pregnant wife has no right to be called a father. He too died in an accident later." the old woman replied remorsefully.
Dev left the old woman's house and ran as far as possible screaming his heart out. His entangled past had tangled his present. He understood Leena was not his hallucination.
With a heavy broken heart, Dev returned home. An empty house welcomed him. He could still feel, smell and imagine Leena everywhere. He slept and woke up with her memories.
One day, as Dev was passing by the marriage registrar office, he was called upon by officials. He said the file that Dev was looking for had been recovered. The officer showed him the document, Dev was in for another blow, with insurmountable pain he saw the sign next to his, was in the name of Leelavati.