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Indrani Ghosh

Tragedy


3  

Indrani Ghosh

Tragedy


The Soul Mate

The Soul Mate

11 mins 73 11 mins 73

Yami looked at her watch and sighed. It was 7 pm on a Friday evening and she was all alone at home, totally at a loss of what to do. If you looked at her, sitting in her bedroom, in a dejected posture, you would think she was all alone in the world. She had come from work an hour earlier and now regretted not having gone out with her colleagues who were all going for dinner and drinks.

Well, the interesting thing was, Yami was not all alone in the world at all. Five years back, her parents had found a nice boy for her to get married to. Shekhar and she had gone out a few times before they got married, and he seemed like a good choice from every angle you could think of – had a steady job and was successful at what he did – retail banking. He was quite nice to her when they went out together, although she felt very shy initially. On their first date, Shekhar bought her a cold soda and when she did not lift it to take a sip, he said, "You have not touched your soda." "I am waiting for it to cool down…" was her nervous response. She hardly knew what she was saying. Yami had not had any serious boyfriends and she was a shy person by nature. Shekhar went out of his way to make her feel comfortable and would often fill her silences with some anecdote of his. She gradually warmed to the idea of being married to him and could envision a life with him. They had gotten married with all the pomp and ceremony that their middle-class families could afford. Tragedy struck when a year after they were married, her parents were killed in a road accident. Yami was left all alone in the world.

In the years that they had been married, Shekhar took good care of Yami. He encouraged her in her career, he provided well for the household, and he made sure she was safe. However, emotionally he was just not available for her. It was as if the Shekhar of the early days had ceased to exist.

It was not as if Shekhar had someone else on the side or that he did not like Yami. It was just the way he was. He did not think spending hours chatting with his wife served any purpose. A wife was someone who should have her own life and as long as he took good care of her, he did not believe in spending long romantic hours with her. He would rather catch a ball game, or read that business article, or go out with his own buddies if he had some free time. The first few years of their marriage had been turbulent, because Yami had tried to make Shekhar see, that she needed his company and his time. They had many big fights over this, but Shekhar just did not want to change. He has put in all the effort necessary to woo her, and now that she was his wife, he refused to play the romantic hero. And then one fine day, Yami just gave up and decided to let him be. It was as if she had had an epiphany. She just relinquished all her preconceived ideas about marriage and what a relationship should be like and decided to try a different approach to living. Yami busied herself as best as she could and stopped expecting Shekhar to spend time with her apart from the odd movie together, or the stray trip to the mall to buy something necessary for the household.

What she had not counted on, was that even though she had resigned herself to having an "unavailable" life partner, there were times like this Friday, when the loneliness caught her unaware and crept up on her like an insidious snake. That particular Friday, she felt that the snake's grip on her was becoming unbearable. As she realized that Shekhar would be coming home late, there were two choices before her – try to find something to do at home, or just go out on her own. Normally, she would have opted for the former. That evening, however, something prompted her to tie her walking shoes on and go for a walk. Yami tied her long black curly hair into a ponytail, took one last look at herself in the mirror, seeing a tall slim woman with eyes that spoke volumes about the way she was feeling, and exited the apartment she had lived all her married life in.

The world outside teemed with people going about their business, and for a while, as Yami walked the streets of her neighborhood, she became lost in that crowd. She went up and down the familiar streets, walked one round in the park, where some children were still playing, while the mothers chatted on the benches, managed to control herself from having any pani-puris, and found her steps taking her back towards her apartment.

Yami and Shekhar lived in a high-rise built in a new township just outside Kolkata, and while it meant that both of them had to travel quite a distance to the heart of the city daily for their jobs, it also meant a life that was slightly removed from the hum-drum of city life. The complex had all possible amenities and the neighbors were friendly yet not overly nosy.

Just outside her apartment, there was a creek across which the developers had built a bridge. As she now got onto this bridge to walk the last lap back, she suddenly noticed a man, standing on the bridge alone, half in the shadows. She could make out that he was looking down at the water below. Something about him caught her attention – there was such an air of dejection and gloom and he seemed unaware of the world around him.

It seemed to Yami, that this man might be contemplating killing himself by jumping into the water, and in a move totally uncharacteristic of her, she walked up rapidly to him and was about to call out, when the man turned and looked directly at her.


Yami took a step back in shock. The strange man's dark midnight eyes seemed to stare right into her soul and for a few seconds, both of them stayed where they were, looking at each other. "Err…" she said, not able to think of anything better. "Are you ok?" emerged when she managed to pull herself together. The man kept looking at her and nodded. "I live in that building over there, and I noticed you standing here. You seemed to be in trouble….." Yami's voice trailed away as she realized she was babbling. Falling silent, she looked down in embarrassment.

"I am fine!" replied the man. He was dressed all in black and now that Yami had gotten a grip on herself, she realized he was quite good looking in a brooding, tall-dark-handsome kind of way. "Don't worry, I am not about to jump.," he replied with a smirk that showed that he had read her mind.

Yami went red with sheer embarrassment and laughed nervously. The two of them stared at each other for a few more seconds. "Okay then, if you are sure you are ok?" she confirmed when she was able to speak.

"Yes" came the one-word reply as the man continues to look at her. Yami took a step forward and the man stepped away from the shadows into the light of the overhead lamp. "He really is very good-looking," thought Yami. The man was dark-skinned and had quite a long face, with slightly long hair. Even though he was standing under the light, an air of darkness seemed to persist about him. Unwillingly, Yami felt extremely drawn to this stranger.

"If you really want to make sure if I am ok, have a cup of coffee with me?" said the man. This confident invitation would usually have drawn a "No thanks" from Yami. She did not know the guy and she was in no mood to have coffee with him. Strangely though she found herself nodding "yes" and the two of them fell into step together silently as they started walking back towards Yami's building complex which boasted of an all-night coffee shop.

Yami kept sneaking glances at her companion. He seemed very much at ease with himself as they entered the coffee shop and he ordered two cups of latte, after asking her what she wanted. Suddenly, Yami felt ravenous and she ordered a chocolate muffin as well.

They sat down at a small table to wait for the coffee and food. Again, Yami realized that this was not like her at all - sitting down like this with a stranger. "I don't even know your name..." she blurted out, wringing her hands nervously

"Sorry, I am Mritu" said the man and extended a hand towards her to shake. They shook hands and both of them smiled. Yami felt slightly more relaxed and they started chatting. "Have you lived here long?" asked Mritu.

"Ever since I got married – five years.." replied Yami. "Where do you live?" she asked

"Not here" came the cryptic reply as Mritu steered the conversation back to her. Yami found herself telling him all about her childhood and her parents. She felt emotional as she told him how they had died in a car accident four years back. Mritu seemed to be a great listener. He did not interrupt, just asked questions to which her answers kept pouring forth. Yami had often heard that it was easier to talk to a stranger than to someone she knew. She found that it was true. Mritu made her open up to him quite easily.

Half an hour flew by and they graduated to their second cups of coffee. Yami gradually started talking about her marriage and Shekhar. "It is not that he does not take care of me, you know? It's just that he has no interest in spending time with me…"

Mritu nodded and kept listening. His eyes seemed to look deep into her soul. Over the course of their conversation, Yami asked him what he did for a living. "I am a collector" was his response. He did not elaborate and Yami wondered if he was a collector of fine items or had a government job. Somehow she did not feel he fit either of those two.

As the evening slowly merged into the night, she talked about how alone she felt. She poured out all her anguish and resentment at being alone in her marriage. "Look at me. It's Friday night and I am sitting here with you. My husband is not yet home, and I have no idea when he will be…" The longer she talked, it was as if she was purging herself of all the negative thoughts that she had been harboring within herself. She never realized it, but finally, when she turned her head to look out of the window, she could see the pale pink light of dawn in the sky. She had spent a whole night with another man, talking about how miserable she was. And now she was finally done! Yami fell silent and looked at the guy who had been so patiently listening to her. Mritu also looked out of the window and then took her hands in his own.

"Yami – I am a collector. A collector of souls…" he said. "What?" stammered Yami, confused. "My name is Mritu – another name for Yamraj. My duty is to collect the souls of people who die and guide them into the afterlife. That is what I came here for. I am here to guide you. Your job on this earth is done. Come with me!" he replied.

Saying this, Mritu stood up and extended his hand to Yami. "But what happened? Am I dead? How did I die?" asked Yami even as she hesitantly put her hand in his.

"Those are questions that your husband needs to ask All you need to know is that you must come with me.." said Mritu.

A feeling of incredible loss and peace at the same time stole over Yami and she realized that this was her release from all the pain that she had been feeling. She followed Mritu out of the coffee shop and in the pink light of dawn, the collector of souls finally had the soul he had come to get for his collection….


Shekhar reached home almost at 1 AM. He had been out drinking with his office colleagues. He hoped that Yami was asleep and would not ask him any questions. All he wanted to do was go to bed. As he entered the darkened bedroom, he could see that his wife was not in their bed. Switching on the light, he looked around and found Yami slumped over on the stool in front of the dressing table.

"God" he exclaimed and rushed to her, feeling for a pulse. There was nothing. She had bled from her nose and she had no heartbeat. She did not respond as he shook her and called her name. As he called for the doctor, Shekhar cursed himself for not coming home earlier. The medical personnel came in a matter of minutes and rushed her to the nearest hospital where Yami was declared dead. She had had a brain aneurysm that had ruptured, causing a brain bleed and her death.

Yami was now in another place, with her guide Mritu, who had come to take her from the earth. She was no longer alone – she had met her soul mate….


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