LIFE AND JUS­TICE

How a false “in­car­na­tion” be­comes the bane of a cou­ple’s life.

Woman's Era - - Contents - Namita Roy Choud­hury

Iam go­ing to start this story with the world’s old­est cliche, but then, com­ing from a woman it is

not a cliche at all: Aparna was the most beau­ti­ful girl I had ever seen in my whole

life. She was one of those tall, slim, lazily smart and exquisitely beau­ti­ful girls who could win a man’s heart with a mere flick of her eye­brows or a drop of her eye­lashes.

We hap­pened to be her neigh­bours, class­mates and the best of friends. Aparna’s fam­ily had moved into our neigh­bour­hood when I was in the ninth stan­dard.

It would not be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that a size­able por­tion of the male pop­u­la­tion in the im­me­di­ate neigh­bour­hood was trans­formed into im­me­di­ate and ar­dent ad­mir­ers of Aparna within a neg­li­gi­bly short pe­riod of time. Among all the ad­mir­ers who ap­proached her, none were down­right re­jected, but Aparna was care­ful to watch her step. She never com­mit­ted any­thing to any­one.

As the years went by, Aparna passed her school ex­ams and en­tered col­lege. She was a rav­ish­ing beauty by that time, be­witch­ing her way into boys’ and men’s hearts alike. Well, Aparna did not do all that con­sciously or in­ten­tion­ally, it was just her beauty and charm that did the trick. As for her­self, she was a young woman of 19, in the full bloom of youth, ea­ger to meet the world head on and find out what it had in store for her.

Even­tu­ally, she fell in love with a neigh­bour­hood boy called San­jay. There was no par­tic­u­lar fea­ture that could sin­gle San­jay out from the mul­ti­tude of suit­ors who craved Aparna’s at­ten­tion ex­cept for the fact that he was a poet of sorts and a ro­man­tic one at that.

Well, if you ask me, I would say that his po­ems did not ap­pear to be of very high stan­dards to me, but they were a hit with Aparna. Within a short time, both were stupidly in love with each other. You could see them sit­ting in moon­lit gar­dens, hand in hand, look­ing at the moon or at each other for good­ness knows how much time. Their ini­tial in­fat­u­a­tion with each other ul­ti­mately ma­tured into a fine love af­fair. San­jay and Aparna were deeply in love and were find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to stay away from each other.

Well, if you ask me, I would say that his po­ems did not ap­pear to be of very high stan­dards to me, but they were a hit with Aparna. Within a short time, both were stupidly in love with each other. You could see them sit­ting in moon­lit gar­dens, hand in hand, look­ing at the moon or at each other for good­ness knows how much time.

Their ini­tial in­fat­u­a­tion with each other ul­ti­mately ma­tured into a fine love af­fair. San­jay and Aparna were deeply in love and were find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to stay away from each other. When he was away from her, Aparna would read his let­ters, most of which were love po­ems prais­ing the arch of her brows, the chis­elled fin­ery of her fea­tures, the nec­tar of her breath and soft­ness of her em­brace. Well, um…i got to know all this be­cause she forced me to see some of his love let­ters and ap­pre­ci­ate his po­etic prow­ess.

San­jay promised Aparna that he would marry her the day he landed a job. He was still in col­lege, sec­ond year to be ex­act, and that meant he had to wait for one full year be­fore he could even try for a job, let alone land one.

The year rolled by, and San­jay died. Just like that. Road ac­ci­dents gen­er­ally oc­cur with­out any prior no­tice and San­jay was alive one mo­ment and dead the next.

It is bet­ter to move quickly over the pre­dictable af­ter­math. Aparna be­came al­most a recluse, hardly com­ing out of her room and re­fus­ing to ac­cept the hard truth. Any­way, time mel­lows even the worst sor­row, so in a few months, she started in­ter­act­ing nor­mally, but emo­tion­ally, she was still quite un­sta­ble and re­quired sup­port and care.

I felt sorry for her be­cause I had al­ways felt that she and San­jay would have made a fine pair which was never to be and it was re­ally painful to see her alone, drained, list­less, mov­ing around like a zom­bie. She re­minded me of a movie called The Lace­maker in which a woman had un­der­gone a sim­i­lar meta­mor­pho­sis un­der deep per­sonal sor­row and an­guish.

One year passed by and Aparna fell in love with her aunt’s brother Swa­roop, who used to fre­quent her place. He hap­pened to be a bank of­fi­cer and used to stay at a nearby of­fi­cers’ mess. When I went to see her, I found her hap­pily laugh­ing and chat­ting with this per­son.

Okay, I was sur­prised, just as you are, to see her trans­for­ma­tion. In fact, at first, I felt quite dis­mayed. Was love so tem­po­rary, was the grief of be­reave­ment so tran­sient that in less than one and half years, she is again in love and laugh­ing joy­fully? I re­mem­ber hav­ing thought along that line at that mo­ment. It was a bit un­nat­u­ral for her who had stopped smil­ing for such a long time. I

asked her, in a guarded man­ner (lest she take of­fence) the rea­son for this sud­den change in her mood.

She em­braced me tightly and replied hap­pily, “You know, San­jay has come back.”

“W...what?” I could hardly stut­ter out my be­wil­der­ment.

“San­jay! He has come back! Swa­roop that you see is not Swa­roop at all – he is San­jay!” breathed out the breath­less Aparna into my per­plexed ear.

Now up till this point in time, I had never had any se­ri­ous doubts re­gard­ing my friend’s san­ity but I was now in­clined to re­view the sit­u­a­tion with a more crit­i­cal dis­po­si­tion. Fix­ing her gaze with a stare, I asked her how she had stum­bled on this pro­found truth that seemed to be quite ob­vi­ous to her but was not so ap­par­ent to lesser mor­tals like me. She replied with vo­cif­er­ous ex­u­ber­ance that it was Swa­roop him­self who had re­vealed it to her.

To say the least, I was very an­gry, al­most trem­bling with emo­tion to col­lar Swa­roop and wring out this sick hu­mour from his sys­tem. When I fi­nally got to him, I asked him what he ex­actly meant by opin­ing that he was noth­ing but San­jay rein­car­nate.

“Ac­tu­ally this body that you see is Swa­roop’s,” Swa­roop said sagely. “It’s me who is in­side, I am San­jay. Don’t you re­mem­ber me?”

“Swa­roop, this is pure ba­nana oil!” I roared, draw­ing heav­ily from my Wode­hou­sian vo­cab­u­lary.

“No, it’s not,” croaked Swa­roop, but while he could fool a lovelorn Aparna, he could hardly fool me. I asked him to sum­mar­ily cut out the non­sense and come out with the truth.

Swa­roop hung his head in shame and came out halt­ingly with the truth. When he had vis­ited his sis­ter’s house, he had seen Aparna there and fallen deeply in love with her. How­ever, Aparna was mourn­ing San­jay’s death at that time and had hardly as much as no­ticed Swa­roop’s pres­ence. Swa­roop had painstak­ingly found out all about Aparna’s life, learnt about San­jay and got to know him al­most as a per­son…by read­ing up Aparna’s di­ary. It is hard to guess how re­spectable peo­ple can be­have when they are in love.

Day af­ter day, Swa­roop had vis­ited Aparna’s house and tried to act like San­jay in ev­ery pos­si­ble way. Day af­ter day, he had main­tained this façade un­til one day, Aparna had no­ticed …not him, but the re­sem­blance of his be­hav­iour with San­jay’s. She had no­ticed this and tried to find out more about it. This had brought them close to­gether and at the

Swa­roop hung his head in shame and came out halt­ingly with the truth. When he had vis­ited his sis­ter’s house, he had seen Aparna there and fallen deeply in love with her. How­ever, Aparna was mourn­ing San­jay’s death at that time and had hardly as much as no­ticed Swa­roop’s pres­ence.

penul­ti­mate mo­ment, Swa­roop had ‘im­preg­nated’ the fact into her mind that he was none other than San­jay.

Re­al­ity and fan­tasy are per­haps sim­ply two lawns on ei­ther side of a fence called logic. It does not re­quire much per­sua­sion to make a per­son cross the fence and go over to the other side if the mind is weak and is yearn­ing for a lost one. So, my friend had crossed the fence of logic and ac­cepted Swa­roop as San­jay.

Do you think I should have dis­suaded Aparna from this re­la­tion­ship? Well, my brain felt that way but my heart did not. Af­ter all, my friend was happy and merry with the joy of life and I felt that I should not spoil it.

Achange in Swa­roop. He had a ca­dav­er­ous ap­pear­ance, with a drawn face, cob­webs of wrin­kles on his face and a lost, haunted look. In short, he looked like a ghost.

Ihad an op­por­tu­nity to draw him aside and ask what the mat­ter was. He al­most broke down in front of me. “You can­not imag­ine what I am hav­ing to go through. I have to act like San­jay day in and day out. I some­times have doubts whether I am re­ally San­jay or Swa­roop. I don’t think I can go through this much longer.”

I hardly had any sym­pa­thy for him. He had got jus­tice, in real life and in real time. Aparna would suf­fer too, when he would be un­able to con­tinue with the farce. That would be jus­tice for her as well, be­cause, how­ever shat­tered you might men­tally be, you are not sup­posed to cross the fence of logic and em­brace the im­pos­si­ble. Last of all, I got my jus­tice as well. I should have stopped the mat­ter at the be­gin­ning but I did not. So I would have to go through the tor­ture of watch­ing two lives get de­stroyed. Love is com­posed of a sin­gle soul in­hab­it­ing two bod­ies.

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