A Short Story
Author- Kumar Padmanabh
From where I should start, I don’t know. I am not sure whether I should pen it down. I am also not sure whether I will be able to translate all my internal conflicts into proper words which have been tearing me apart. There is chaos of thoughts in my mind overwhelming me every moment. I am tired, exhausted and completely drained out, now. I know no one would understand me.
This is a story about me and this beautiful lady Ritu. Most of the people of her neighborhood have forgotten that real name of Ritu is actually Rituparna Pandey. It has been three years now but she is still a subject of gossips in the neighborhood. She has been cornered, ignored and isolated.
Yes, it started from our respective childhood. However, I have a very weak memory about Ritu’s childhood. All I know is my father and her father was best friends. They studied together. They were lucky to get government job in Indian Railways in this dusty and crowded city of Gorakhpur where every third person of the town work for India Railways. Unlike their colleagues they bought houses during their early days and decided to settle together in the same neighborhood. They married together and had their children around the same time. Elder brother of Ritu is of my age.
After my schooling I seldom stayed in this city. I have a vague memory of Ritu. When I was in highschool she was in standard six. I remember when we were playing cricket in our street; she used to beg us to allow her to play in one of the team. Her own brother who was my classmate did not want her to join any team. However, many a time I considered her pleading and inducted into my team. I used to put her as a third man. She was happy doing job of third man. She had only two conditions that when ball would go to the dirty water, she would not take it out and people would do a one bounce balling to her, always. Many a time, I could not accommodate her. When she would not get chance to play cricket, she would go to the nearest golgappa shop on her new bicycle and eat six golgappa from the pocket money that she would have accumulated. When in financial crisis, she would manage with just three golgappa. I remember many a time she would get scolding from her mother for playing cricket in her school uniform. My friends including her own brother would always oppose her playing cricket with us. Because when her best friend Neha would come to see her, she would ditch us to go ahead and play Ludo with her in her living room.
I don’t know anything about Ritu beyond this. Immediately after intermediate I was selected in NIT and went on to study Engineering from Thrichy. Ritu’s elder brother also got selected in Engineering and he got admission in Durgapur. Email was not so popular in those days; neither was any social networking prevailing at that time. We were returning home twice a year during semester break and then we were updating about ourselves. Ritu was never a part of our discussion. Yes, when her father expired in an accident, I wrote a consolation letter to her brother. At that time I think she would have been in class ninth.
Barring above mentioned facts Ritu was never part of my life. I finished my engineering and then I went to US for higher studies. Brother of Ritu also followed me. Although we were studying in different universities however we were meeting occasionally. When either of us would come home we would carry gifts of other. Ritu was never part of that also.
Since my father was the best friend of Ritu’s father, he had additional responsibility of Ritu’s family. Immediately after my higher studies I got a very good job in Bangalore. There were lots of opportunities in India also. Bangalore was flourishing with startups. I decided to settle in Bangalore. However Ritu’s brother did not return to India. He got a very good job in California. He had only one responsibility “Ritu”.
Ritu’s mother had a high opinion about me and she thought she would not get a better groom for her. She told this idea to my father, who readily accepted it. Finally she insisted Ritu’s brother to approach me. During his last visit to India, Ritu’s brother came to Bangalore. He requested me to consider her. In last 7 years, my opinion about Ritu did not change. Whenever I thought about her, a school girl playing gully cricket as a thirdman or going to nearest golgappa shop on her bicycle and ditching all my friends for Ludo was coming into my mind. I did not saw her since long. This marriage proposal was appearing very funny to me. I sent her brother home without giving my verdict. When I came to Gorakhpur in holiday, my parents insisted me to see her. My father was performing duty from both the sides, he was taking responsibility of his deceased friend and of course as my father.
After so much of earnest request from her brother and my parents especially my father, I decided to meet her. I strictly told my father that after seeing her my verdict would be final and I insisted him to also take opinion of Ritu.
When I went, she was well prepared appearing in a peacock green saari. She was appearing stunningly beautiful, meticulously designed dense hair, with her wide forehead and with her big and deep eyes. It was not a zero size, rather she was appearing realization of deity of khajuraho with hints of grace present everywhere. It was a mesmerizing moment for me. I was wondering how a young girl who played thirdman in her school uniform, who was going to golgappa shop on her bicycle and who once preferred Ludo over cricket would turn into such a beautiful maiden. From a lower middleclass I evolved into a highly paid MNCs employees with an degree from top American universities. Professional success of a young man is incomplete without a beautiful wife. Ritu would be most precious feather in my cap. She was appearing to me a trophy to be won and to be displayed to the world.
After two rounds of tea, in the presence of my parents and her mother, I could not stop myself. I said, “If Ritu agrees, I would like to marry her”. In response to my words, I have seen her fleeing to other room. Her mother followed her. I overheard her mother asking, “do you also like him, do you have any problem marrying him”. I further overheard her mother asking Ritu, “why are you crying”. After this Ritu did not return back to the living room. A lower middle class Indian girl of marriageable age, can cry for anything. They can obviously cry when they are sad, but they would also cry when they become very happy, they can cry when they don’t have any answer and they will also cry when they are feeling shy. Her mother returned back with big smile and thanked my father. She was crying because she was happy and shy both at a time. Ritu’s mother requested my father that wedding should happen as early as possible.