“January 7th, 2005: Mumbai - Mrs. Pallavi Mehta, wife of a businessman, Mr. Vinay Mehta, from western suburbs, Mumbai is found dead. The matter was reported by the maid of the house early morning, yesterday. She also informed the police that Mr. Mehta was off to
Sandeep read the news and laughed. He stared for long at the photograph of Mrs. Mehta, the paper had published. It was a party photograph of Mehta’s. He said in an indecently loud voice, “You are beautiful.”
He felt happy; but he told himself that this was such news which was not meant to generate happiness, except in the minds of sadists. And was he a sadist? He shrugged the thought and folded the paper to put it on the table where all other papers were lying.
Sandeep was a graduate in Science. He tried hard to get a descent job in his city,
The only thing he used to get pissed off at was when somebody used “Bhaiya” to associate his origin to Uttar Pradesh, a northern state of
* * *
Mr. Mehta had gone to
The postmortem report informed that Mrs. Mehta had been poisoned. It posed an equal possibility of this being a murder or a suicide case. For the next two months, the police tried hard to probe into the case. The maid and Mr. Mehta were the only two suspects, if it was to be a murder. Mr. Mehta found lesser support as he was reported not to be on good terms with his wife by the neighbors and Mrs. Mehta’s parents.
* * *
Sandeep read it. But this time, neither he could laugh, nor feel happy. Rather he felt a pang in his heart. He had been in a different world for last two months.
Mr. Mehta was happily acquitted. For the entire period of the trial, the case appeared seven times in the news paper; three times in the first week, rest three in the following three weeks and the last on the day of the police declaration. On all days, to everybody’s ignorance at the Homecare, the reports were articulately removed from the newspaper.
The Manager at Home care called for Sandeep. He was supposed to go to a high rise building in Andheri (E) to fix up their water pipe problem. He then left for the day’s job.
“To travel by road in Mumbai is hell in peak hours, that too in an area like Sakinaka,” Sandeep said to himself, sitting in the BEST bus. He was looking outside the window particularly at nothing, generally at everything that passed his sight. A thought crossed his mind and he smiled to himself.
“There are times when your own nakedness doesn’t appear absurd to you. Rather it appears perfect. Perfect to the need of the moment. And that was such a moment.” He thought of the last afternoon he had made love with her.
They were standing, facing each other - his hands on her waist, looking into each others eyes. She allowed the masculinity of his palms to challenge the femininity of her hips. He, then, moved his rough, worker’s hands along her line of spine up to her nape, caressing in a way that she felt tickled and scratched at the same time. He lifted her face, kissed her gently and moved his left hand to hold the web of her ribs on the left. Then, with a sudden reflex he turned her, lifted up and put her, with a great care, onto the bed. He whispered into her ears, “You are beautiful,” to which she replied with a smile. Oh, what a divine smile that was!
The bus was caught in a traffic jam. So was Sandeep. On the memory lanes of the life he had just lived.
She had once told Sandeep, lying naked by his side on her bed, “A man should be a man. And when he is, he becomes a god to a woman whose bodily desires remain unsatisfied. Then the face, the status, the caste, creed, color, etc, etc doesn’t matter. What matters is his Manliness.”
He wasn’t the best looking guy around. His face was like any other walker on the street but the faultlessness of his body could make any woman desirous. He was never a professional gigolo. Neither had he cared to seduce any woman. Just a few smiles to make his plumbing job easier, rest he remained carefree. To some woman this carefree attitude of a man impresses. At least it did to her.
Sandeep remembered his first meeting with her.
That day, he had arrived to fix a tap in the bathroom at Mehta’s. He was wearing blue denim jeans, a leather sandals and a half sleeves shirt, with the top two buttons open, which clearly said the fact that he wasn’t wearing any under vest and had a hairless chest.
She stood by the door, in her night gown, while he was fixing the tap.
Of whole of his body, the only parts she was aware were the solid, hairless forearms, a part of the biceps which got into shape when ever he moved his arms and a slight of his chest. But then she never needed anything else, at least in that moment of time. She noticed some drops of sweat on his forehead which started dripping down by the side of his ears and finally dropped on his hands, realizing which he tried to wipe them off. She took a deep sigh and said to herself, “Oh, My god! How can a drop of sweat make a man so handsome?”
He was called again a day after to fix the same tap. And since then, he was called day after day to display the dexterity of plumbing wherever he could, in the whole apartment. And then one day he found himself on the bed of Mehta’s.
Many such afternoons passed. One afternoon when they were done with their act of love making and he was about to leave, the call bell rang. When Mrs. Mehta opened the door, she found her husband standing next. Horror and shock combined can make the most beautiful woman look the ugliest of the species; she was just an average looking housewife.
Mr. Mehta answered the question which was suppose to be asked by Mrs. Mehta but was displaced by a horrific silence, “I wasn’t feeling well. Thought will have some rest.” He walked in. He found Sandeep at the door of his bedroom. Mrs. Mehta hurriedly followed Mr. Mehta, who then asked, “Who is he?”
“He… He is a plumber. I called up to get the bathroom leakage fixed. They sent this bhaiya.” The introduction was given in a manner which appeared good enough to the speaker but was the ugliest to the person being introduced.
Mr. Mehta asked Sandeep, “Where are you from?”
“I didn’t ask that mister. That I already got to know. A bhaiya is always from UP. I meant which company?”
“Get me the bill. Will pay you.”
Bill? He could not give a bill. He wasn’t called from office. He was here on a personal service. And what service? What should Mr. Mehta be charged for? And for how many afternoons?
“I forgot the bill book. Will send you from office. You can pay later.”
During all his conversation, Sandeep never looked at Mrs. Mehta. But when he left, he smiled without giving any particular look. That was their last afternoon together.
Mr. Mehta did understand what was being fixed and where, when he looked at his bed. But he said nothing. Never, till the day had Mrs. Mehta died.
* * *
The size of the insult? Large, Medium, small? This can be decided only by the person on whom the insult is imposed. The world’s limits end at the act of the imposition; after that it’s only the receiver’s prerogative to decide how badly he feels insulted and what kind of settlement he is going to have for it, forgiveness or revenge? Whatever.
Sandeep chose the later option. He took revenge.
Mrs. Mehta could not look up in her husband’s eyes. She tried hard to let days pass. She thought, “Time is a great healer. Things will settle down.” But things didn’t. She could not stand the silence of her husband. Neither could she stand the noise of her physical desires.
She called Sandeep on many days after that day. He mostly avoided the calls; if ever received, he declined her persuasions, her offerings, her apologies and what ever she offered to have him back. He knew that if he meets her she will have a chance to forget the otherwise unforgettable guilt she was living in, at least for those moments that they would be together. He did not wish to give her such chance.
So what could be the intensity of the affront confronted by the rejection of a sexual advancement made by a high class socialite, by some one of his status? All right, she wasn’t from that high a society, but a rejection coming from… say… A Bhaiya!!!
Was it an insult or a murder of the desire? The guilt or the fear? These all are quite dangerous instruments, good enough to kill, or at least nearly kill a person.
But he used all of them, together. He created a weapon of massive destruction.
He forced her to live a life of a woman who lived with a continuous guilt of infidelity towards her husband, a permanent fear of shamed to the society where she was respected for none of her own virtue, a ruthless murder of her physical desire and an insult of her ego - which was based on the emptiness of her social and economical status, by the same desire. He forced her into a continuous battle of her existence versus numerous emotions. Emotions that held strong contrast against each other. Emotions, that pulled her apart in different directions. Who could survive such contradictions? Who could stop the rupturing of the psyche in such a state? Which was more dangerous – The destruction of the body or that of the mind? For her, the first would have been easier to take, probably.
When Mr. Mehta informed her that he was leaving for
“Please come. I just can’t live like this. I need you.”
“You know that I love you, don’t you?”
“You don’t, Pallavi.”
Sandeep disconnected the call. Next to next day, he read in the newspaper that she was dead.
Even though she killed herself, he planned her death. But no one would ever get to know this. No law could prove this. No court could punish him.
The bus had arrived at the stop he had to get down. He walked up the housing society he was to report. He tried finishing his job faster. There was certain uneasiness in his mood today. He declined further assignments for the day and went home.
Reaching home, he undressed himself and fell on the bed, naked. He thought of her. At this moment he found his nudity absurd and vulgar. Her thought made him uncomfortable about his own body. He felt as if his existence was maimed by her absence. What was stronger – guilt of the murder or the acknowledgement of his physical needs, pain of the lost love or the void created by a lost relationship? He did not understand. He pulled up a sheet, up to his face. He found himself crying under the sheet.
A week later, on a bright sunny day, Sandeep was found dead in his house. When people entered inside his room, they found his naked body wrapped under a clean sheet. The room looked clean, as if was prepared for a guest. Only some newspaper cuttings were lying around the bed.
His own weapons had boomeranged upon him.