The Creeping Dark Shadow
The Creeping Dark Shadow10 mins 310 10 mins 310
Punit, the assistant manager entered and said, “Sir, the team from the software solutions company had come. Will you please kindly come down to meet them?”
Manas got up and straightening his coat came out of his cabin. A bunch of eight, both men and ladies were standing in the centre of the office while all the company staff was standing in their places waiting for the arrival of Manas.
Manas walking quickly joined the group and said, “Hello guys! Welcome to our office”.
As the group murmured a” Hello Sir”, a lady from the group came forward and said. “Sir we are happy and feel honoured that you had chosen our company for the project and we will definitely…” Her fast-talking abruptly stopped as her eyes locked with the eyes of Manas. Both stood staring at each other as moments ticked on.
Pavitra was first to regain her stand and she said, “Yes Sir, we will do our best for the installation” Manas stammered a little and said, “Thank you Ms Pavitra. My manager Punit will be there with you people to coordinate the work and all your needed actions will be met at priority basis. See you all later than”
Pavitra said, “Thank you Sir” and both shook hands. Her hands were icy cold and seemed almost like non- living. Manas turned and quickly walked back to his cabin.
Manas entered back his cabin and banged his cabin door with a shivering hand. He loosened his tie as sweat poured all over his body. He gulped the glass of cold water kept on his table and tried to breathe normally.
His heart wept. Pavitra – the last person he dreamt of meeting after all these 7 painful years. Her appearance ripped opened the scar of the old wound and his heart started bleeding. The same question haunting him for years once again echoed in his heart. “Pavitra, why did you do this to me? Where did I fail to that you shattered my life and drowned me in bottomless dark chasm? Why? “He sat very still unable to do any work.
His cell phone started ringing and brought him to the present world. He wiped his face and picked up the call.
At home later in the night he was tossing and turning in the bed. His past happy life seven years back came alive in his mind. Manas was in Kolkata at that time finishing his final year MBA when he met Pavitra, who was in her final year of Software Engineering. It was like love at first sight and grew every day.
Pavitra lived in an old type of huge house with his mother. And one day as he was curiously asking her about the very old type of house she told Manas that all their properties were swindled by her uncle after their father’s death and even that house was heavily mortgaged and they were fighting a bitter legal battle for the possession of the house. Both of them had mutually decided that they will marry only after they get settled in god job. On most of the weekends, Manas use to spend his evening with the family and her mother used to serve delicious vegetarian food as per his choice.
It was that fated Saturday that he could never forget in his life. As usual, he went to meet Pavitra with a large banquet of flowers. When he reached the house he was surprised to find the front door, which generally remains open was closed. As it was an old house it had large French windows and the veranda was running all around the house. Today, surprisingly all the windows were also shut. Wondering for a few minutes he was about to walk back when he heard a low murmur of voices.
Becoming curious he walked through the veranda and found one of the windows a bit ajar and he could see the living room. His heart nearly stopped when he saw a young man with a lot of beard sitting on a chair and Pavitra kneeling on the floor very close to him holding his hand. Manas could not make out what they were they were talking as they were talking in Bengali. But from the gesture he could make out that the young man was angry and arguing and Pavitra was pleading and trying pacifying him. Pavitra had not mentioned about any close relative so far and this youth appeared to be of some different origin. Now the boy got up and hugged Pavitra.
Later together they went near the door. Pavitra at first peeped out and making sure that there was no one around allowed the boy to go out of the house. Manas stood still for some time. He did not have the heart to go in. He went back. He though that Pavitra may call him and tell him about the incidence on her own. But a week passed and there was no call from her. Final he decided to meet her.
They met over coffee and he found Pavitra absolutely disturbed and sad. Still, there was no mention about the youth. He thought he will play a joke and startle her.
He said, “Pavitra, I had come to know all about your truth. So I think there is no use in our continuing this relationship.” He expected her to get startled and ask him the reason and he can make her laugh about the situation.
But unexpectedly Pavitra’s face became red and her eyes flashing with anger she kicked the chair and got up and said, “ “So this is finally your true colour? You want to break up because you know the truth now? Oh God! How did I ever loved a mean creature like you? Thank God I discovered you before it is too late”
She ran out even before he could stop her. The whole night he tried to call her but she did not pick up the telephone. He thought of giving her some time to calm down. But when he went to her house the next day the house was locked and was told by the neighbours that the family has vacated the house and the neighbours were not told as to where they were going.
One month Manas hunted every road and gully in search of her and understood that she had left the town itself.
He came back to Mumbai. He started working in an international bank
Life went on and he had become one of the Presidents of the bank. Only one month back he had come to Latur on duty. The bank he worked had taken over a small cooperative Latur bank which was going into liquidation. The process of merging the accounts and staff etc. were pending for which the software company was called in. Thus unexpectedly Pavitra had come back to dig the old wound again.
Next day it was late when he got up. When he went to office Punit told him that all the arrangement for staying for the software was done on the second floor of the bank which had guest room facilities. The arrangements for the stay was pre-decided as the software people had to work late hours to finish the merger job in a short time.
He went to the second-floor area a number of times as if to see the progress of work but every time he appeared he found Pavitra disappeared somewhere and he could never talk to her. His desperation increased in search of the big question as to why?
It was the final day for the software company. It was nearing three in the morning but all of them were working. Manas waiting in his office went up. When he looked around for Pavitra one of the assistants said, “Madam had gone to the coffee machine in the Kitchen” He quickly walked to the kitchen. He saw her back near the machine and was happy that there was no one in the kitchen and he could talk to her.
Pavitra turned around with the coffee mug was startled to find Manas standing very close to her. Manas was blocking her way and he pleaded, “Pavitra for one last time, tell me why you broke up with me?”
Pavitra glared at him. Then she said “Manas leave me alone. I owe no explanation to you. Please go away and…..”
As she was hissing the words the coffee mug suddenly fell down shattering and splashing the coffee all around. As both of them looked at each other wondering why the coffee mug fell, the earth below their feet started shivering badly and in one-second Manas caught Pavitra in his hand before she fell. The rocking continued and now the ceiling of the building started crashing and there were screams from the staff sitting on the next room.
Before they realized that it was an earthquake both of them were hurled down and mount of columns and plaster of the building started covering them and everything was immersed in total darkness as the electricity went off.
Time ticked on and after about ten minutes Manas came to consciousness. In pitch darkness, he tried to move his body and some deep pain in his right knee made him aware that something heavy had fallen on his leg and he could not move. He searched with his hand in the derricks nearby and repeatedly screamed: “Pavitra, Pavitra, where are you?”
Though he thought he was screaming in high pitch the debris around him muffled his voice. As he panicked he heard a soft whisper. Pavitra struggling to breath answered from somewhere, “I am here Manas, I don’t know how far from you. Something heavy had fallen on my right shoulder and I am not able to move”
Manas said, “I am also trapped and cannot move. But let us do one thing. Keep talking and stretch your hand. I will try to follow your voice and stretch my hand and we will try if we can help each other”
Calling out each other’s name and a lot of struggle their fingers locked in the darkness. Both were choking due to the lack of oxygen and Manas said, “Pavitra, by the time help comes we may not be alive. Please before I die, will you tell me why you walked out on me?”
Pavitra was sobbing and that sound broke his heart. Among her sob, she said, “The previous day we had lost the case in the court, and the cruel uncle made us vacate the house in the mid of the night not even allowing us to pack some clothes. Besides this, we had a huge debt on our head because of the legal battle. We took shelter at my friend’s house and when I came to you were so cruel that …”
Manas said, “But Pavitra, I did not know anything about this court case. I was taunting about the boy I saw in your house with whom you seemed to be pleading behind a closed door”
Pavitra cried, “Oh God, You were talking about that issue. That boy was my neighbour whom I knew from childhood and was about ten years younger than me. Suddenly one day, when he was in tenth he ran away from school and joined the Naxalites and got involved in so many atrocities in Kolkata. That day the police were chasing him and he took shelter in our house and originally threated me with a gun. Somehow I talked for a long time and made him agree to surrender to police, promising him a good lawyer and minimum punishment. I never dreamed that you would have come home and seen him”
Manas said, ” Pavitra both of us had ruined 7 precious years of our life by misunderstanding each other. You thought I am ditching you for the loss of property while I did not know at all as to why you……”
Their fingers locked tighter as both gasped for breath and Manas managed to say, “At least before death we understood each other and I …..” His voice trailed off.
The siren of the police van, the bell of the fire brigade, the search dog squad’s barking started nearing the debris but they were no more conscious to hear that.
After twenty days it was an evening and both of them were sitting in the garden of the hospital. He had plastered on his leg and her right hand was on a sling. They were hardly talking anything. The dark shadow of death nearly touched them and finally, they realized how misunderstandings are trivial and how life is so precious gift.