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A story of two friends, when one finds herself in a dark place that she cannot rise up from. Sadness, despair and hope all blend in this short story.
Dark clouds loomed over the cemetery . It was eerily dark and lonesome in there. The priest had held the final prayers and Rina was laid to rest in a white marbled grave with her name engraved on a black granite tombstone.
Although the burial took place early in the morning, the entire atmosphere looked dusky and gloomy; an impending threat of rain and thunderstorm was brewing up in the skies. Naina felt that the weather itself was agitated over the unjust turn of her friend’s fate.
Naina wore a black dress to the funeral, with a beige shawl covering her head. The dark shades she wore had kept her tears hidden from the world around but the tears she shed in her mind were unstoppable. Only two families and the security staff of the apartment were present to pay their last respects. There was nobody from Rina’s family, not even her husband or parents. Naina could not digest the fact that anyone could hold on to hatred or grudges even after a person was dead.
Naina stood a bit longer, even after the others had dispersed. She could not believe that Rina was no more. From now on, she would miss their lively and non-stop chats, their regular shopping trips together and their hangouts at their favorite joints!
A few drops of rain fell upon her forehead and Naina snapped out of her thoughts. With a heavy heart, she walked past the grave towards the gate of the cemetery, where her husband waited for her in his car.
On her way back, Naina did not talk much. Nevertheless, thoughts about Rina flooded her mind.
It was only yesterday that she had talked to Rina…if only she had heard her words!
The phone bell rang relentlessly . Wondering who was calling her frantically so early in the morning, Naina got out of the shower, hastily donning her bathrobe and rushing towards the phone.
From the other end, a familiar voice answered. Rina had a sweet and melodious tone, just right for her job as the front office executive of a popular publishing company. But today it sounded harsh and heavy.
Rina stayed in the same apartment as hers, in the southern block. She was her only friend in Worli. Naina was a South Indian and she had married a Mumbaite, When they shifted to the Imperial Gardens Apartments in Worli, she was happy to find another South Indian, that too hailing from her own native place of Krishnagudi in Andhra Pradesh.
Her volley of questions was interrupted by Rina. “Err, I do not know where and how to begin with Naina.. I have always created a picture of a happy go lucky woman in front of you. But it was all a facade, my dear. Karthik and I were never happy together. I have been a mute witness to many of his extra marital affairs. He squanders his money away on card games, women and booze And when his salary gets exhausted he usually lays his hands on my meager salary.. When I used to raise my voice he used to physically abuse me. ”
“But what Rina..?” Naina raised her voice…..” Damn, Why didn’t you tell me all this before? If this man mistreats you, I will in no way advise you to go ahead with the marriage or even compromise…and being a lawyer myself I assure you I shall myself help you in getting a divorce.”
“But that’s not the actual problem Naina…That’s just the preface.”
Naina could see her evading her eyes..She was constantly looking down, as if she was deciphering some strange puzzle on the tiles of the floor.
“Well”, she began hesitantly still avoiding eye contact, “It was the beginning of a new relationship for me.” Her eyes showed a deep pain when she said, ‘a new relationship.’ She struggled to hold back her tears and then continued.
“There was something about him that got my interest. He had a very gentlemanly air to him, and many of the women in our office used to be crazily infatuated with this guy and compete to get his attention…He is…”
“He is none other than the Editor of our publishing company, Mr. Sathya Narayan Reddy… His family stays at Indore. I am told they are leading an estranged life. I was once writing a short story and accidentally sent it to him instead of some other information that he had asked for. After reading that story which had more or less shades of my own life , he grew interested in me and a bit smitten by my writing prowess. He wanted me to set my eyes on higher goals rather than limiting myself as the office receptionist. On the pretext of one thing or the other he began calling me into his cabin…and started making advances. Once or twice he hinted that he would like to make me his..and I foolishly thought he wanted to marry me after I get my divorce from Karthik.”
Rina paused a little..and looked beyond the balcony into the vastness of the sky. The pain in her eyes deepened, the usual blush on her cheeks had vanished making her look so pale . The smudged kohl enhanced the dark circles over her eyes adding to her worn out look. .
“Like a fairy tale twist of fate, I started dreaming about a life with him…a happily married life if there could be one! But later on I sensed that he was just playing with my emotions and taking advantage of my disturbed state of marriage and mind.. When I started talking about a divorce and remarriage, he began avoiding the topic.
“Then two days back he asked me to come over to his house to discuss about our future plans..When I went in there I saw some other man in his room waiting for me. I tried to run out of the house but he caught me by my waist and hurled me into bed. However I struggled to free myself from his grip and managed to escape …and these are the marks I sustained in that melee. I do not know who that person was, but I assume he is a dignitary capable of showering some benefit upon Reddy.
The next day I barged into his office to confront him but he began swearing at me in the filthiest of language and accused me of being a slut engaged in extra marital relationships and that there was no reason for me to act chaste…and threatened me that if I do not oblige his demands, he will circulate some obscene pictures taken by him in our intimate sessions.
The intensity of our heated argument crossed the four walls of the cabin and fell upon the management’s ears too, but unfortunately nobody was willing to hear my words. I was handed a termination letter for reasons involving moral turpitude as Reddy complained that I tried to influence and manipulate his position through the use of sexual maneuvers for attaining a higher position in the company.
That son of a b**** had managed to tarnish the whole reputation I had built up over the years in a single moment. Not just that, I fell so badly in my own eyes, Naina. I do not feel I hold an iota of self respect back in me.”
After a meaningful look at Rinas face, Naina asked, “Why didn’t you prefer a written complaint to the management against this man?”
Men are excused automatically considering it a trivial misdemeanor on their part while women are held as immoral. Two standards of justices for a man and a woman…
“Even if I manage to convince them that I am innocent, they wouldn’t take any action against him. Men are excused automatically considering it a trivial misdemeanor on their part while women are held as immoral. Two standards of justices for a man and a woman…How cruel! It’s always the woman’s fault.”
Naina could feel the anger and depression in Rinas voice. “Moreover, they will get thousands of receptionists but not a brilliant editor like him. So he stays while I go.”
Rina could not contain her tears anymore and she burst into uncontrollable sobs. “Oh, Rina…now enough… ” A lawyer herself, Naina did not know what to say to console her friend.
They both sat there in silence for five minutes. And then breaking the ice Naina said, “Don’t you worry.We will do whatever we can first thing in the morning tomorrow. We need to file a case against this man for blackmailing you with those pictures. Until I come in the evening, keep a calm mind please?”
“Don’t you too feel ashamed of me Naina? Don’t you feel I am a person without value or morals?”
“No … Not at all dear. Do not think like that. I will be back as soon as I finish some work at Court. But in the meanwhile, promise me you will not remain brooding.”
“Naina, I should have talked to you earlier, isn’t it? If so, I wouldn’t have landed in such a mess.”
Naina held Rina’s face in between her palms. “Now hush, there is nothing to worry. We will handle this…okay? Trust me!”
Rina nodded in half acquiescence. “Its okay, we will talk tomorrow. I need to be alone today…”
As Naina retreated, she was disturbed at her friend’s state of mind.
There were two men in her life..One who was ‘using’ her just for eliciting money, and the other who was ‘misusing’ her sad state of affairs. Which one is more despicable, she wondered. Sadly, at the end of the day, the lady bears the brunt of their roguery.
Later in the evening, on her way back from work, while she was parking her car, Naina saw a crowd in front of the apartment. Her heart began to race. Without bothering to lock the car, she ran in, only to find Rina hanging from the ceiling fan of her bedroom.
Three years later, Naina sat in court with her bundle of files and law books. Her eyes had a determined look. The court room was full with clients and lawyers and police stood outside the hall with the accused in handcuffs to be produced before the court. Some students with note books for court work too waited impatiently for the Court proceedings to begin.
The hullabaloo in the court room stopped abruptly and sensing the sudden silence Naina knew the Presiding Officer was on his way. The case was called as the first one that day and made over for pronouncement of judgement. The wait seemed endless. She had been facing such situations regularly but Rina’s case touched a personal chord in her heart. Reddy had tried his best to avoid being implicated in the crime by influencing the investigating officials. In fact, some witnesses did turn hostile too. But Naina left no stone unturned. She filed a private complaint against him and meticulously adduced all the evidence. As a result, today, here he was standing in the accused box. The case was again called after the roll call and the judge after a meaningful pause, read out the judgment.
“The accused is found guilty of criminal intimidation u/s 503 and for abetment of suicide u/S 306 IPC…. Sentence to be proclaimed on 25-03-2014.”
Naina’s eyes filled with tears of joy. Rina would get her best birthday gift ever on the day sentence was pronounced against Reddy. On 25th March, the Court after hearing the plea of Reddy, sentenced him to undergo a term of two years rigorous imprisonment for Criminal Intimidation and ten years imprisonment for abetting suicide. The sentence was to run concurrently.
Naina let out a sigh of relief…at last, Justice!
As if she heard Naina’s words, a gentle breeze brushed her cheeks. She knew it was Rina’s kiss…a kiss to acknowledge her deep gratitude and love towards her.
This time Naina walked down the steps of the cemetery with a light heart. As always, her husband was waiting for her at the gate of the graveyard.
A legal consultant, settled in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; my first love is and has
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