Thursday 15 August 2019

Short Story 2019 Featured Writer, Sukanya Majumdar

The 10th One

Kolkata, 18th August 2019, 8:45 pm.

Inside they hurriedly rushed in. The incessant rains outside made the roads inhabitable. Ananya was soaked to the skin. Arjun managed to pat him dry with his handkerchief. From the sixth floor of this very eerie construction site, they could hardly see any soul walking down the streets. The lamp posts stood witness to this major downpour of the season. Ananya had no other option but to meet Arjun today. Her parents were against this relationship. No matter how many times Ananya made her parents understand that she was compatible with Arjun, they never gave in to her demands. Ananya’s heart skipped a beat as she knew her decision already made Arjun nervous.

“Did you bring it with you?” she asked placidly although she had great difficulty in calming her nerves down.

Arjun replied “Yes, I did. I hope we are doing the right thing”.

A thousand thoughts crossed Ananya’s mind. She remembered Varun, her childhood friend and confidant. Varun was always sweet to her. He cared for her, always made her feel so comfortable. They dreamt that someday they will marry each other and settle down. Everyone in their locality would say so. Every aunty in their neighbourhood secretly felt that Varun and Ananya would make a great pair. But, Arjun, he was something more. Arjun was perfect. She had met Arjun in her second year of college. It was such an unexpected turn of events that caused their meeting, but as they said, you expect great things to happen to you when you least expect it. Ananya was a singing sensation in her school. Everyone praised her voice. Her talent was equally appreciated in college. Soon, she became the lead vocalist in her college band. It was during the college fest, that the guitarist did not turn up before the main event. Ananya had almost given up hope of performing. Arjun came to her rescue and after rigorous rehearsal sessions for an hour, he turned out to an amazing substitute. Arjun and she were unstoppable. Together they had taken part in multiple inter-college fests and events and have always emerged victorious. It was only when the college was about to end Arjun proposed her. She was unsure at first but later she obliged.

Arjun shook her up and said “Focus, Anu, Focus. We got to do this. We have come so far and by this time my parents might have already discovered the letter. I have written it exactly the way you have said.”

Ananya gave a wry smile. She dropped her bag down. Today, her bag felt lighter than her emotions. She said in a grave tone “Papa will be furious once he reads the letter and Ma..?” Ananya knew her mother had a soft heart. She will break down after reading the letter. Her father, on the other hand, was a practical person. He will probably go to the police station and lodge a complaint against his missing daughter and her lover. She thought it would bring great shame and humiliation to her family. People will talk behind their backs about her character. Everyone will go around gossiping about her, her school friends, college friends and even her colleagues at work.

Arjun made her feel better by saying “This is temporary. It is all according to your plan. We will come back to them once they give up.”

 Ananya knew her parents were always against love marriages. She remembered snippets from her past when her grandmother got offended by their neighbour’s remark of her and Varun getting married once they grow up. Her grandmother had replied scornfully that Ananya will never get married to someone like that.

She missed Varun. Varun could solve all her problems. Everything was going great unless Varun’s parents got seriously ill and he had to go back to their village home. Varun’s family struggled to make ends meet. Uncle got Cancer and Varun did not have enough to spend to cure him fully. He died within a year. After Uncle’s death, aunty went to severe depression and one day she took her own life. Since then, she had heard very little about him. Later, she was informed by one of her aunts, Varun had to sell the little land that their family had to pay off the huge debts and leave the village. She thought how difficult it must have been for him, homeless and orphan. It often irked Ananya why Varun did not contact him after the mishaps. She could do all in her power to make him feel better. Varun was a great teacher, observer and had a charming nature. He could have easily got a job in government schools. He was the first one to teach her Algebra. She was only four years younger to him but Varun always had this air of maturity around him. Maybe all the family pressure and monetary responsibilities hardened him at a young age. It was only two years back she met Varun at the metro station looking completely lost and dazed. Varun did not recognize her first but soon Ananya was able to break the ice.

Arjun would probably make a great husband, she thought. Both of them together will make it happen. By hook or by crook, they will make this plan work.
Ananya checked Arjun’s bag. For the first time in her life, she had seen so much money.

“Thirty Lakhs?” she asked?

“Yes!,” Arjun replied.

Arjun’s father had saved his hard-earned penny and had created the fixed deposit of such a large sum of money for his son’s future. Arjun reminded himself that he is using this money for a good cause. In no other way, he could have eloped with Ananya and they will require money. In a way, he was using it for his future.

It was raining cats and dogs. Arjun dozed off a little. Suddenly, he felt immense pain on his chest. He pressed his hands on his chest and found blood gushing out from his t-shirt. “Good lord” he exclaimed. He was unable to breathe. He tried calling for Ananya...”A....N...U... ,A...N...U”

Everything around him was becoming a blur. He could spot a silhouette at a distance. Suddenly he felt someone was sitting next to him. He could hardly keep his eyes open. He managed to look and found Ananya sitting right next to him with tears rolling down her cheeks. He could spot someone else too, a man?
He looked at him with his half-closed eyes and gradually darkness fell upon him.

Ananya turned to Varun with teary eyes “We did it Varun. Our two year old plan is eventually done.” She knew that now she could happily live with Varun with no interference but Arjun was too good to be true.  Two years back, she met Varun and Varun had confessed her love for Ananya.  Ananya had mentioned about her soft corner for Arjun who had recently proposed to her. Varun’s love seemed to be so over-powering that Ananya had to decide to be with him. They could have eloped but Varun needed some money to start his own business and she managed to get hold of it.

She hugged Varun and said “I have exactly written the letters the way you have said out of newspaper cuttings, and so did Arjun. There is no way anyone could ever suspect your involvement. We are now as free as a bird”

The newspaper on 21st August:

“This is the 9th murder in a row in the city of joy but this time there has been a man who had been found dead on the sixth floor of the construction site near Rajarhat. Arjun Mitra, who was found to be shot dead in his chest had left the house with his girlfriend Ananya Banerjee, on the 18th of August hoping to elope with her. Sources report that he had taken thirty lakh rupees from his house before eloping with the girl, which, however, is missing from the spot where his dead body has been found. The matter would have been an open and shut case but on 20th August Ananya’s dead body have been found with a pistol in her hand near Kharagpur Railway station. She had shot herself dead and a handwritten suicide note has been recovered which stated that she had taken her life due to the restrictions imposed on her from her strict family. The money, however, was found along with her body. Preliminary observations reveal that the pistol with which Ananya shot herself was the same with which Arjun was shot. Investigations lead to ideas of honour killing. Some say that it is alignment with the previous eight murders in the city, the only differentiating fact between this one and the other ones were that the last eight victims were all women. The murder has intrigued many and has created an atmosphere of fear and tension in the city of joy.”

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