Stella was ecstatic. Her happiness knew no bounds. Her husband was coming home after a year, but to her, it had seemed a whole life-time. She had been excited about his going abroad for further studies, but though she knew she would be miserable without him, she had helped him to get the scholarship, as his betterment was all that mattered to her, even at the cost of her own sacrifice. She used to wait all day for his phone-call. If it happened that she did not hear from him, she would be off-mood, and even spent a sleepless night. She loved him from the core of her heart, and now she counted every hour, every minute, left for his home-coming, but as the saying goes ‘a watching kettle never boils’!
Stella and Ronald were classmates at Calcutta University. Both had been pursuing post-graduate studies in English. They were in their early twenties, and therefore very emotional. Ronald was strikingly handsome. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and was very conscious of his good looks. He had styled his hair according to the latest trend; middle portion standing up in a peak, and the hair at the sides, cut short. He had also dyed his hair brown, which went very well with his fair complexion. One could not make out whether he was an Indian or European. His features were like the Romans, sharp and masculine.
Stella on the other hand was proud to be an Indian. Her jet black, flowing hair had a beauty of its own. Whenever she smiled, the dimples on her cheeks became prominent, and she looked ever so attractive. The softness of her features reflected her personality. Driven by the impetuosity of the young, and feeling that they loved each other so much that they could not wait to be called ‘man and wife,’ they went to the Marriage Registrar Office and got married. Besides being a product of the modern generation, they did not think that their parents’ approval was necessary. This is the background of two people, who felt they were a complete unit, in their all compassing love for each other.
Now to go back to Stella, who could not contain her excitement, the day Ronald was arriving. She paced the floor like a wolf, which had been caged. She went up and down the stairs to calm down her ebullient high spirits. The hands of the Time Piece did not seem to move. At last, Ronald arrived. She crashed into his arms like a four-wheeler, which had lost control because of a defunct brake. His bags were full of only gifts for her, all souvenirs from the countries he had visited on his trip back from the U.K. She had only one gift for him which was an oil painting of him. She had infused into her work all the passion and love she felt for him.
But as days went by she felt that there was something missing in their relationship. In the by-gone days, they had come very close. After their university classes, they would board the air-conditioned public bus for a joy ride, just chat, enjoy each other’s company, and pour out their hearts to each other. No relationship could be more intimate. But after coming back from the U.K, though Ronald talked incessantly, without stopping like a waterfall, which in its feverish haste has to go on and on. However, there seemed to be an unbridgeable chasm which stood in between. What it was, could not be analysed, but could be only felt by the most sensitive antenna.
Stella cooked special dishes for Ronald which she knew he liked, listened to enthralled and en-rapt, when he narrated all his experiences in foreign countries. She tried to shower on him all the care and comfort which she had not been able to impart when he was away. But she was a bit puzzled, and duly perplexed when every now and then, his mobile phone would ring, and immediately he would leave on some pretext or the other. His usual explanation was that he had an important meeting, which he had to attend. She could not figure out how he could have fixed up so many meetings, within hours of his arrival. But Stella always believed that trust was the corner-stone of marriage, and despite her analytic mind, she gave him the benefits of her doubts. Every time, she waited patiently for him to come back, and sometimes she had to wait for hours. Then as more days went by, he would not come back at all, and late in the night, he would ring up and say he was held up at a Conference. Stella knew her husband was working for a foreign firm, so at first, she was not worried, as she surmised that such were the exigencies of his office work.
As days went by, and friends and relatives called her up just to let her know that Ronald was seen in various restaurants and hotels with a certain glamorous lady very often. On hearing the rumors, Stella felt her world had crumbled. To her, it was a hideous nightmare— she did not believe it could not be true. Her pressure went up, her heart pounded like a war drum, announcing belligerence and Confrontation. She loved him from the core of her heart, how could he ever be unfaithful?!
When Ronald came home with a lipstick smudged on his shirt, and red color all over his neck, Stella could not control herself. She exploded like a nuclear bomb. Ronald was struck dumb at first, not expecting the aggressive bombardment. But gradually he got back his presence of mind. Then brazenly he said" You know Stella I love you, but being a man, do you think when I have the option of having Mutton Korma, and Chicken Biryani, I will settle for only plain rice and dal? It is not that I am chasing after women, but if they fall head over heels for me, being attracted by my looks, do you not think that if I don’t take advantage, I will be a fool?"
It was true that she loved her husband, but greater the pain as, more intense the love! Her words came out like the lethal bullets from a machine gun,. “Ronald today because of your handsome appearance, you have been able to make your conquests. But I curse you that within a year, no woman will even care to even look at you! At this very moment, I will take leave of you for good.”
Ronald stood there as if petrified. He had never seen Stella in such a wild temper, but he knew she meant every word that she had said. He also knew that a curse pronounced from the innermost core of one’s heart was bound to strike with the precision of the latest warheads.
Was it a psychological effect or retribution from the Almighty, the handsome Ronald found that tufts of hair would be on his brush, every time he used it. Then he saw that white patches were appearing on his face. He could not believe that he had got Vitiligo. Frantically he consulted the best Skin Specialists, but to no avail. The patches became bigger day by day. He discovered the ladies would ignore him. The glamorous lady-love with whom he had been going steady, would try to avoid him.
At last, he came to his senses. Ronald repented and was remorseful. He realized that those who were attracted by the outer shell and did not value the person for who he actually was, was not worth cultivating. He missed the comfort of his home, the joy of being loved, and the security of a permanent friend who would always be by his side, through the vicissitudes of life—through ‘thick and thin’.
Ronald mustered up his courage to go to Stella, and tell her how contrite he was for hurting her. He had realized that it had been madness on his part to have taken the risk of losing her. But he was confident that if he went to her on 'bent knees', she would not send him back empty-handed, as she had loved him sincerely.
It took him some days to find out her whereabouts. At last, he reached Kurseong, where she had gone for a change and a short holiday. He had memorized a thousand times what he would say to her. He could also visualize how she would melt in his arms, and tell him that she had forgiven and forgotten.
Ronald knocked. The door opened. Stella came out looking as attractive as ever. There was vermilion Sindoor in the parting of her jet black hair. She smiled at him in her friendly way and looked happy. She introduced her husband as Sanjoy Sen. She invited him to have a cup of tea with them, but he declined as he knew the liquid would not go down his throat. Alas! His treasure was now out of his reach!