Crime Classics Romance
The hand wavered for a moment before languidly putting pen to paper. The strokes were bold and unwavering, and the writing it produced cursive, yet purposeful.
Today it all ends, for today is when the one I hate the most shall die. Everything has been taken care of as only I can. The poison by now must have taken its due course - slow and steady. Following a dutiful regime, it must now be all set to reach its fatal destination. Today the final dose has been administered. It’s just a matter of time before it all ends.
It has been said ‘a good beginning makes a great ending’ but before revealing the ending, I can’t help but contemplate the beginning. Was it the day when I, Surya Pratap Choudhury was born with deformed feet? Did my father actually hate the hideous newborn son he held in his hands? I am not sure. What I do know is that he had taken one look at me and stormed out of the private ward of the hospital. It had taken the combined efforts of my determined grandparents to remind him that children were not to be measured by their grace or beauty, but by their gender. I was a male and that was all that should matter. And hence I too had mattered. The ugly duckling destined to remain just that – ugly.
I was about six years old when my father died. He was already on the other side of forty. In case you are wondering, my father had married my sixteen-year-old mother when he was almost forty. And when he had, the whole family, including distant relatives - as is the norm - along with business partners, and well-heeled family friends and acquaintances had celebrated his submission into domesticity with a set of celebrations that lasted for days.
My father had chosen to return to his ancestral home in Chitpur after having made a fortune travelling the world with his Indian wares as a merchant. This gave the family the perfect opportunity to display their social standing and cement their place as one of the wealthiest families of Bengal. It was time for him to settle down into a family life with a docile wife. But not for long.
If the hushed whispers from the servant’s quarters were to be believed, he had hated his uneducated and demure wife and the rules that society made him follow. Being a son of an erstwhile earl, the Zamindar blood in him had made him become a patron of the arts; not the kind to be displayed in a museum, but rather the ones to be performed over ceramic tiled floors and under bright glaring chandeliers.
Gradually he grew addicted beyond repair - to the touch of the crushed Jui flowers and the intoxicating smell of attar released upon the rubbing of the skin; to the sound of ghungroos resonating to the thumris and the taste of the Benarasi Pan as it melted into his mouth. And last, but not the least, to the wanton pleasures he could acquire the moment he wished to indulge in them.
It was suspected that he finally succumbed to Syphilis and Cirrhosis of Liver, along with a few other diseases that the gossiping tongues hadn’t quite managed to decide amongst themselves. Whether it was imported or homegrown, no one could tell, but the tongues had wagged long enough for the rumor to become a truth.
Upon his death, his vast and luxuriant property was passed on to his only son – me, as pointed out by an uncontested will. My mother, lost in grief, found out soon after that she was pregnant with her second child and tried to get back to the routines of her life, dedicating her time to the well-being of her unborn child.
When my brother was finally born, young, fair, and healthier beyond any doubt, the celebrations were however muted for our mother had passed away during childbirth. There was also the pity for a member of the family who would bequeath nothing and had to live his entire life on charity. This fact, of course, was something no one wished to celebrate. Thus the compounded twin tragedies of death, and that too within the same year, made it impossible for anyone to celebrate. Neither did they feel the need to openly display any love or affection for the newborn.
However for my brother I had nothing but love. He was what I could have ever been. Instead of being jealous about it, I welcomed my sibling. There weren't any signs of him being the usurper for my affections. For one, I had received none, and for him, there wasn’t any left to shower such affections. Hence we, instigated by me, soon forged a strong bond.
What helped me immensely was the family solicitor – Mr. Bakshi – who time and again managed to find out as many loopholes as possible in the will to ensure we were raised equally – till we were adults and the possession could be passed onto me to decide for myself. The vast fortunes of my maternal grandparents also helped, as did the traditions of sons of the family being raised like princes while ensuring that there wasn’t ever any doubt whatsoever about the heir apparent.
But I deviate from my story, at least for the time being, for this story is not about love, but about hate. As the days turned to weeks, the difference between my brother and me seemed to become starker. While Aditya carried within him the charisma of our ancestors, I looked uglier than anyone could ever remember. I had no friends at school. Did they hate the way I looked? Or the money I had? I could never quite tell. My club feet that made me walk with a permanent limp did not help me to limp back to normalcy either.
No one dared tell me, but I could sense the look of disgust mixed with horror and loathing on the faces of strangers, even if for a moment when they first saw me, especially when my handsome brother was by my side. However the power I wielded upon them more than made up for anything they may have had to say.
What also helped was the business acumen I had inherited from my forefathers which I quickly set to use as soon as I came into possession. Overlooking what I did not have, I began to completely devote my time and attention to the family business and my pursuits to try and take it even further. Nothing else would matter to me. Of course I loved my family, but as the time I spent with them lessened, my passion towards work increased making it impossible for me, well almost, to think of anything else – the idea of settling down included. All that changed the day I met Jennifer.
It was Sunday. The venue was the stately gardens of Maidan, off Chowringhee, and the occasion - a Founders Day Basketball match of which I was a chief guest. She was the captain of her team - competitive in spirit, and beyond competition in the way she carried herself. Jennifer was slim, svelte, and sensational; with a spring in her step and with dreams in her eyes, she immediately caught my attention. There was something about her that was impossible to ignore. Her Anglo-Indian spunk did not take away her humble beginnings. Be it her home at Bow Barracks screaming out for repairs, or her accent, Anglicized effortlessly, without much difficulty she became that which I wanted more than anything else.
What I wanted wasn’t merely the flesh. I instead wanted something I had not bothered with so far – I wanted her love. That I loved her wasn’t enough, I wanted her to love me back and to pursue that, I was willing to do anything.
With millions at my disposal, it wasn’t difficult to find out more about her. She worked as a backup singer during the evenings at the famed Moulin Rouge in Park Street while her days were spent in pursuing her passion for Basketball. With a natural flair for singing and a natural ability to lead from the front, she was somehow able to manage the unfairness of her financial conditions in the past with a fair and positive outlook towards her future.
I made it possible for our paths to cross over the next few months; it was easy really. A lunch to honor the winning team along with the chief guest Mr. Surya Pratap Choudhury, yours truly; that’s when we first held a relatively interesting conversation and I finally settled on her laughter being the most beautiful thing about her. What came next was an offer for her to move to a rival, more prestigious Club in lieu of a recommendation by a mysterious benefactor willing to fund the up-gradation of their basketball court. No prizes from guessing the identity of the benefactor!
As we bumped into each other one day, supposedly by accident yet again, I asked her if she would like to go out for dinner with me. “I would love to Mr. Chaudhuri. But then I have an appointment in the evening…” she answered truthfully, for she was slated to perform that very evening. “Don’t worry Ms. Fernandez.” I replied, smiling for the first time that evening with a sense of inner satisfaction “I have already secured the permission of the manager of Moulin Rouge.”
Though I did notice the quick intake of breath, but being surprised was something that she almost did not show. But she wasn’t able to keep up, for what followed next, at least for her, I would like to believe, was magical. The venue was the Grand Hotel, an elite 5 star Hotel, and the menu a seven-course meal handpicked by me.
Pan seared Scallops with Chicken Puree and Chanterelle along with Basil, Olive, and Tomato Bruschetta was what we started with. This was followed by Minestrone Soup along with Smoked Eggplant and Philadelphia Ravioli Pasta. The main course was Apricot and Cream Cheese filled Chicken breasts, Grilled Tenderloin, Herb and Cheese Crusted Halibut, and some Smoked Chicken and Parmesan Risotto on the side. I kept the wine a simple Italian – Danzante Pinot Grigio.
After dinner, we took a leisurely stroll along the corridors finally stopping in front of the glass-fronted aviary housing a brilliant flock of exotic Indian origin birds. Her face seemed to light up as she saw the magnificent flock of Rose Ringed Parakeets as they flew with gay abandon. But then suddenly the next moment, a shadow seemed to fleet across her face.
“Is anything the matter Ms. Fernandez?” I asked, suddenly fearing for the worst. Was the food a bit too much for her? Was it the wine?
“It’s nothing, Mr. Chaudhuri. It’s been a long day for me. Thanks for making this the most magical moment of my life!” and then she suddenly bent forward and kissed me. The immediate expression of surprise that crossed my face was unmistakable and her eyes suddenly widened with worry “I am sorry Mr. Chaudhuri” she began, “I didn’t really meant to… It’s the wine that…” but she couldn’t get to complete whatever she had meant to say as I silenced her with a lengthy and passionate kiss.
As I finally drew back from her, I could see that she was breathless and yet desirous for more. But I knew this wasn’t the time. Not yet.
“It was a wonderful evening for me too, Jennifer. My chauffeur will drive you to your home now if you please. Good luck with your next game. I will be amongst the audience, cheering for you.”
As the car began to leave, she suddenly downed the window pane and waved at me. I waved back, smiling and trying to gauge the expression on her face. She seemed happy, delighted even, but something about her eyes gave her away – she was terrified.
Over the next couple of days, business overshadowed pleasure. I knew she had an important game coming up and that she had to prepare hard for it. I, on the other hand, had to prepare for an important client visit. Ever since I had taken over my father’s business, things had started looking up. Take our Exports and Imports Company East and West for example. I had managed to not just add bigger clients, but also new geographical locations to our repertoire. The latest client I had in mind was an influential American millionaire from Minnesota who had come down to India along with his wife.
This was the year of their 25th wedding anniversary and he was looking at opening an exotic chain of boutiques to indulge his wife. That she had a delightful taste in arts, and, luckily for me, had suddenly developed a fascination for all things Indian, made it the perfect business opportunity. I found the perfect opportunity when I found out that they were on a whirlwind visit to India. Knowing fully that the Taj Mahal had already been captured for posterity’s sake, I realized that it was time to play the charity angle.
Mr. and Mrs. McAllister, for better or for worse, were known for their humanitarian side and affiliation towards charitable institutions. The year being 1987, the terrific work being done by the Missionaries of Charity in general, and Mother Teresa, in particular, had already turned Kolkata into a beacon for those wishing to help the poor and the downtrodden.
Thus an invitation from me that would facilitate them to meet with Mother and get to see her work, turned out to be a masterstroke that was lapped up with delight. What followed was an evening meant to mix business with pleasure.
It was towards the end of the evening, however, when I spotted him – my younger brother Aditya. To say that he was sloshed would be an understatement. His hair was a mess, his eyes were blood red, his legs were barely managing to hold him up, and his mouth was not holding back. A stream of expletives resonated across the ballroom of the Taj Bengal, one of the city’s grandest 5-star hotels while onlookers either looked away or looked at the spectacle in front of them. It wasn’t long before someone would recognize the scion. The newspapers would soon have a field day reporting this, I realized with worry.
Before things could go further out of hand, I decided to quickly put an end to it. A few phone calls were hastily made and soon, a wad of notes used to shush tongues that may have otherwise wagged. The faithful security men were called in and Aditya escorted back home, semi-conscious, in a car that had rushed to the spot as soon as was possible.
“A minor accident,” I remarked to the McAllistars’, “a matter of the heart I believe!”
“These young men,” said John, turning to his wife, “it’s the same everywhere, isn’t it Ruth?”
“Yes, it is.” She had replied with a sigh “Love can really make people do things they may have never thought themselves to be capable of. But do you know what I feel is even greater?” she asked, suddenly turning her gaze towards me.
“If I may be enlightened Mrs. McAllistar,” I asked, smiling, “What is it?”
“What is greater is hate, my boy,” she replied looking into the distance. “Hate can also turn tides and mountains, especially when it is born out of love. For that really is the most dangerous of all.”
Before I could comment on her sudden poignancy, she took a deep breath and continued, “But love can always overcome hate, Mr. Choudhury. Thanks for showing us around this city. We truly appreciate your help in connecting us with the Missionaries of Charity.”
She need not have said it, for I already knew the deal had been sealed. I smiled back my most generous smile, even as we departed. While the John and Ruth moved towards their luxury suites, I limped towards my car, skipping through the random thoughts that occupied my mind, and forming a plan of action to stop the family name from spiraling away as it had during our father’s time.
Aditya didn’t have the courage to even look up at me as I told him about my plan – for him to leave India. I felt it was best to not have him spend as per his whims but to become more accountable in life. I had decided to provide him with a steady monthly allowance to ensure his essentials needs were taken care of, even as he completed his higher education from his choice of an educational institute in England.
His schooling from the Eton of the East – St Paul’s Darjeeling, I hoped would ensure that he was able to take care of any challenges that came his way. His grades were already good. All he needed to do was stay away from gambling and alcohol as he pursued his higher education, if he had any plans to add on to his father’s estate as a hard working part of the organization rather than a useless part of the family.
Before he left we met one last time in my office. In spite of my efforts a rogue newspaper had already splashed the news under a headline that shamelessly screamed ‘Like father, like son’. When Aditya finally looked towards me, trying his best to hide the hint of tears that might soon ebb out of his heart, I for a moment almost found my resolve wavering. But I knew this was the only way out.
“I am sorry for what happened the other day. I truly am Dada. But I promise you today. This shall never happen ever again.”
“I expect nothing less from a member of the Choudhury family,” I replied, keeping my voice firm. “You may now leave.”
The next Sunday was the basketball match. With everything happening around me, I had almost forgotten about it till my secretary, reminded me about the appointment. With a smile back to my lips, I began to ready myself for the day that was to change our lives forever.
I had already ordered a customized gold ring from ‘PC Chandra Jeweller’s’ in Bowbazar, to hold a Topaz that had once belonged to my mother. I was going to propose to her that very evening. We would have an Anglo-Indian Engagement followed by a Bengali Wedding. I am sure that’s what my mother would have wanted.
I had it all planned. I had already begun to refurnish the master bedroom in a way I perceived Jennifer would have liked it. I had a private investigator find out from her friends about anything and everything she liked and appreciated. The only condition I would hold down for her would be to let go of her Basketball. The clothes would not befit a daughter in law of the Chaudhuri family. Nor would the place she currently called her home.
I had already booked an apartment in Stephen Court in one of the elite locations of Calcutta, Park Street. I wanted her widowed mother to shift here along with Jennifer post our engagement to ensure her family’s life too could be upgraded. This would allow Mrs. Fernandez and Jennifer to live a life of contentment and luxury, even as she waited for us to get married.
By the time I reached the venue, it was already 4:45. A procession taken out to protest against no action being taken against a charge of corruption against our Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had caused a terrible traffic snarl near Chowringhee. After blaring horns unnecessarily for much more than what was civic, or even required, my imported Bugatti finally reached Maidan.
The game had already begun, but there was still time to carefully put my plan to action. Jennifer, as expected, led her team to victory. She did glance at me a few times during the match but did not let my presence distract her from the game. While I handed her the trophy for leading her team to victory, I whispered into her ears “Meet me in my car in an hour’s time.” She smiled back, nodding her approval.
I was waiting for her as she walked towards the car, her slender frame silhouetted against the setting sun in the background. She smiled a broad happy smile that quickly turned to shock when she realized what I was doing. “Yes!” she exclaimed in delight as I gingerly pushed the ring onto her index finger, not bothering with the stain of the grass on my left knee, or the pain in my right as I proposed to her in a way she should have been proposed to. “Let me help you, Mr. Choudhury,” she said extending her hand towards me, “I am fine” I replied, “and from today, please call me Surya, Jennifer.”
That night we made love for the first time in a suite of the ‘Imperial Inn’ that I had reserved especially for this occasion. At first she was extremely shy and nervous, but then as the wine began to work its charm, she began to enjoy herself. I was gentle and loving and as I finally climaxed deep inside her, she held my face with both my hands and whispered, “If this is a dream, I never want to wake up from it.”
Sweating in spite of the air conditioner and panting slightly I laughed, “This isn’t a dream – though I admit, it does feel like one!” and saying this I kissed her once again, before plunging myself to the pursuit of discovering the contours of her body like a determined explorer.
I had no intention to dilly-dally and wanted things to be solemnized as soon as was possible. The marriage date was set after consultation with the family astrologer within three months and I had already begun to personally supervise preparations for a grand reception in our ancestral home in Chitpur.
The who’s who of society were being sent personal invitations while the rest of the world promised of a glimpse of the mega event through exclusive pictures destined to reach the front page. Our engagement was announced through the newspapers a week later and congratulatory messages kept pouring in from all quarters.
I received the first anonymous letter about a fortnight later. It was left in the backseat of my car and addressed to me. Its contents did not make sense at all. It simply said - Are you sure you can trust her Mr. Choudhury?
I found the second letter about a week later. This time it had been slipped inside my folder during a conference. Anyone could have placed it there. But who would dare to? The message was almost the same as earlier. But one more line had been added. You can find out for yourself. It also mentioned a time and place - The Great Eastern Hotel, Room No 304. 9:30 PM.
In hindsight, maybe I should have hired my trusted private investigator to investigate the matter. But having absolutely no clue about what was in store, but curious nevertheless, I decided to take matters in my own hand. Something about the entire incident had seemed ominous, to be frank. But never being one to read omens – good or bad, I had foolishly allowed myself to be drawn into an incident that was to change my life forever.
I asked the manager for a key to the room in question. The question of refusing me did not arise. Even though he must have known that this should not have been done, he didn’t have much of an option but to helplessly relent. I observed him as he fidgeted with the keys. His hands were shaking slightly while beads of perspiration dotted his brow. The management knew about my recent stake in the property, eve about talks of a future takeover. I wondered how much he knew. More importantly, what else he knew. But I would have more time to ponder on that later. The key had been handed over to me and I had begun to walk towards the stairs.
I always preferred them rather than elevators, in spite of the delay due to my handicap. For they assured me that irrespective of obstacles, if and when one wanted, one could always climb upwards. But by the time I had reached the 3rd floor, I had begun to pant slightly. Whether my breathlessness was due to my recent forced exercise or an unexplained foreboding about what was to happen next, I did not know. All I wanted just then was to find out.
I had a feeling there was something amiss. I hadn’t thought as much as I had come in today, but the look on the face of the manager upon seeing me had made me realize there was more to this than might meet one’s eyes. But was I ready to find out? I wasn’t sure until I reached the door and saw the sign hanging outside which boldly stated - “Do Not Disturb”.
Taking a deep breath, I carefully unlocked the door and stepped inside into the room’s foyer. As far as I knew, I hadn’t yet made the slightest of sounds. But I could hear every word being spoken between the two occupants of the room. One of them was a voice I would recognize even in a dream – Jennifer’s.
“You know I can’t live without you. I have no intention to!” she said, clearly agitated. “If he finds out about you, I am not sure how he would react!”
“But I don’t care!” repeated a man’s voice. It was slurred, making it evident that he was drunk. “Listen Jennifer. You cannot hide me. Not now, not ever. So it’s pointless trying!”
I couldn’t help but gently step ahead to get a better view. That’s when I saw her bend down and kiss him on the forehead before hugging him tightly.
“You know I will always love you, Alfred. But this is not the time. I am going to be married within three months. Nothing can ever come between what is there between us. But I need more time!”
I could have confronted them right there and then, but something made me stop. I slowly tiptoed out of the room and reached for the elevator, not having the strength to climb down the stairs just yet.
“Not a word to anyone,” I warned the manager at the reception as I handed back the key. He nodded in agreement while patting himself with a handkerchief.
I was driving the car myself that day. It was a Fiat Padmini that had recently been launched, but I did not switch on the AC and instead downed the tinted windows for a whiff of some fresh air. As the wind rushed into the speeding car, I slowly began to formulate a plan.
Jennifer and I did not meet the next day, or the day after. She called me up from the phone I had got her a connection to at her place in Bow Barracks, to ensure we could stay in touch whenever we wanted, to ask if everything was alright. I assured her that everything was fine and that we will meet soon.
When I finally met her after almost a week, the first thing that struck me about her was her smile. It seemed like there wasn’t even a bother in her life; somehow my heart was filled with a loathing I hadn’t felt in years. I recalled the taunting of my classmates, and the look on the faces of strangers when they saw me for the first time. But nothing, not even all of it combined could match what I felt right then in comparison. I wanted to watch her that day. Watch how she smiled, how she shook her thick curly hair, how she sipped the cold coffee, even as she played with the thick straw with her fingers, and especially when she laughed and her voice carried itself as if it had wings of its own.
I wanted to capture every single moment of her being happy and carefree in my memory forever. I took out my Polaroid and started clicking her pictures. Already used to my whims and fancies, she did not protest. In a way, I was relieved that she wouldn’t get to see the face behind the camera. If she had, she would have probably been stumped by the smirk that had replaced my smile.
I had already confirmed with my private investigator about my worst suspicious. Since the last four months, Jennifer and Alfred had met several times though always secretly. He had also spent the night at her place on a few occasions. I didn’t wish to dig up anything more on Alfred. I wanted to instead concentrate on Jennifer. I had loved her, truly, madly and deeply. And she had decided to repay my love with betrayal.
There have been those who have tried to stand along my path, and I had mostly destroyed them, at least professionally. But for her it was entirely different. What I felt about her was hate. A deep agonizing kind that made me lose my concentration at work, reduce my appetite, and wake me up in the middle of the night. I finally decided to get my revenge the traditional way. She had poisoned that corner of my heart which was dedicated to loving her more than anyone else. I was going to simply return the favor, albeit in my own special way.
I mixed the first dose of the colorless, odorless, and tasteless Thallium in her soup that very night. There was a time I was fascinated with Chemistry, and had even decided to get a master’s degree in it, but had to finally drop out due to the need of joining the family business. However, my prior knowledge of Chemistry and easy access to libraries made it fairly easy for me to calculate exactly how much was to be administered, and for how long. Administering it would be easy really. We went out for dinner on most nights. I just had to ensure we were more regular from now on.
Slowly it began to take effect, just the way it was supposed to. She had severe cold, and fever which refused to go away. Mrs. Fernandez and Jennifer had just shifted to the apartment in Park Street, so I put it as a reaction to the new air conditioning and asked her to refrain from using it for a while. Nausea followed soon after, but this time instead of being worried, Jennifer seemed extremely calm. Almost as if the cat had swallowed the canary.
But one day, as she fell down in the bathroom, claiming a strange almost convulsive trembling in her legs, she called me up.
“Surya, I want to meet you as soon as possible,” she said, not caring to hide the urgency in her voice.
“What is it my dear? Could it wait please? I am in an urgent meeting planning for our Honeymoon in Switzerland. And how are you feeling today my dear?”
“There is something I wish to tell you. I don’t think it can wait. Could we meet up tonight?” she pressed on, her voice laced with apprehension.
So had she finally decided the futility of it all? Was she going to at least reveal her treacherous mind? Or was this yet another lie? I wondered, all at once.
“Listen my darling,” I replied, as calmly as I could manage. “Don’t exert yourself too much now. I will come down as soon as I am done with an important client meeting. You can share whatever is bothering you then! Till then, do take care! Goodbye for now! - and don’t forget the soup I sent you earlier!” and saying this I slammed down the receiver into the cradle.
If my calculations were correct, it would take maybe a day, at the most two, and then all of this will be over! I sipped the glass of whisky that had become a steady companion off late and closed my eyes, slowly counting sheep till sleep finally swept over me like a tide.
I was woken up the next morning with a hurried knocking of the door. The news it seemed had reached the household before it could reach me.
Jennifer had died in her sleep the previous night. I rushed to their house in Park Street with the expressions befitting a fiancée who had just had his dreams crushed before his very eyes. In between her sobs her inconsolable mother finally whimpered, pointing towards an envelope that lay by her bedside. “She had written a letter addressed to you,” she sobbed, “she wanted to speak with you last night. But maybe it was not meant to be.”
I slipped the sealed envelope addressed to me into my pocket and after shedding some more tears, addressed the media who had gotten a whiff of the news, requesting them for some privacy and consideration during this personal tragedy.
It wasn’t until at least an hour later that I finally got to read the letter.
I wanted to break this news to you myself but wasn’t where to begin. But believe this cannot wait, and am hence writing this letter to you. Our family has a secret we have been trying to hide for many years now. My father had an illicit relationship with someone and I have a half-brother - Alfred. I understand the importance of reputation that you hold in your hands. Believe me, your wish to have me give up on Basketball and singing in Clubs does not matter to me at all. I also do not mind shifting to this beautifully furnished apartment in the heart of the city, instead of staying at the Barracks.
But what I cannot do without is my brother. We have always kept his existence a secret, but I believe you must know now. And I hope you understand that the love a sister has for her brother cannot be overcome. I know what you did with your own brother, but I beg of you to not send Alfred away from us. I will never be able to stop loving him, and I hope I won’t be compelled to once we are married.
And one more thing, I am pregnant with our first child. I guess that explains the constant vomiting. You are going to be a father! Congratulations!
Love and hugs,
By the time I had finished reading, my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I called up my secretary and canceled all appointments. She acquiesced without asking any further questions.
“Oh, what have I done?” I asked myself aloud “She was pregnant with a child… Our child! And… I killed her… killed our child…!” And then, I suddenly saw myself in a reflection in the Belgium mirror and I realized once and for all why so many people, all through my life, had hated me.
You see, I was ugly… not just from outside, but also from within. I supposedly loved my brother, and yet did not think twice before bundling him off to England, lest he spoil the family name. I supposedly loved Jennifer and wanted her to be her wife, and yet did not think twice before assuming that she could betray me, and went on to irrevocably punish her for retribution.
Even as I looked, I finally found the person I should have hated more than anyone else. That person was none other than me. I screamed in agony hitting the mirror again and again till my hands were red with blood. The last thing I remember was the mirror, cracked from side to side, and the hideous face it reflected – of the person I hated more than anything else in the world right now.
On the day of Jennifer’s funeral, I decided what had to be done. I spoke with the family solicitor, Mr. Bakshi and made a will that would effectively transfer most of my assets to my younger brother – Aditya. I bequeathed a steady allowance and their Park Street apartment to Mrs. Fernandez and decided to leave a sizeable amount to Alfred.
When I drank soup that night, it was still the same colorless, odorless, and tasteless as it should have been. But somehow, as I finished my dinner, I slowly found the guilt seeping away from my conscience for the first time in weeks.
Aditya asked the secretary to leave him and the family solicitor – Mr. Bakshi alone and to shut the door.
“So does anyone else know about this letter?” he asked, staring him straight in the eye, the moment he heard the door close shut.
“I don’t think so, Aditya! I managed to find it on his desk,” he began but was abruptly stopped with a wave of his hand.
“Don’t call me by that name. I prefer to be addressed as Mr. Choudhury.”
“But son!” he began, his voice brimming with emotions; “you know the truth, don’t you? So how could you say that to me, your own father?”
“The world does not need to know about a trusted family solicitor who impregnated his employer’s wife. Nor does it need to find out that Surya Pratap murdered his fiancée and went on to poison himself.”
“But what about Alfred?” he replied “It was her brother who wrote the letters which you made me pass on to your brother isn’t it?”
“Half-brother, Mr. Bakshi” replied Aditya, smiling “that actually does make a huge difference.”