She quickens her steps. She can almost hear the footsteps, they are drawing near. The sky was clouded since morning and now it has started pouring. She opens her bag to take out the cell phone, if in case…..
Rita used to work at the reception desk of a garments showroom at Durgapur market. The recession did not spare even the suburban markets; the showroom downed its shutters six months back. Almost at the same time one fine morning Sudip, her husband, was called up and unceremoniously asked not to attend his office any more.
Time really flies. She vividly recalls the day when she first set her eyes on him. Yes, it was she who was first hit by the cupid’s arrow. He was not a sinewy Salman or a glamorous big B, rather a slender framed dark haired man of thirty with a rugged face. But what made him so charming was his sharp wit and repertoire. Her father, an employee of the local civic body was in charge of the water supply Department. That year summer came with a vengeance and Sudip came on a Sunday morning in a huff to ring their door bell to deliver a letter of recommendation from the local MLA for water connection to a forlorn village, bordering Durgapur to Abinash Chowdhury, her father. Sudip was an ardent party worker with the hope of landing a government job someday though his dream always seemed to be elusive.
Rita is panting. She glances back for a moment. The person seems to be wearing a black mackintosh. She was waiting at the bus stop for the last bus from Chandidas market when she felt a cold shiver slithering down her spine. She spotted the silhouetted figure hardly fifteen yards away, leaning on a lamppost looking intently at her. After getting off from the bus near City Centre she realised, she was being shadowed. Durgapur wears a deserted look as evening approaches. She casts a glance around her not to find a single soul in the entire stretch. She can hear nothing but the sound of the droplets on the leaves. She enters the ally on her left. The shadow follows her.
Suddenly her father’s reproach thuds in her ears, “Never stay out of the doors after the evening.’’ and while in college she never failed to bend her father’s manuals any more. Sudip’s entry in her life ushered in a whiff of fresh air to shake her from her the bottom of her existence. The taste of liberty unshackled her from the bondage of discipline and rigour. He brought her out of the stupor she was entrapped in for so many years. But happiness came at the cost of father. From the beginning there was no love lost between Sudip and Abinash. It was a nightmare for Abinash to let his darling be ensnared in the web of the blockhead.
Rita lost her mother when she was barely six. Abinash, a strict disciplinarian, after two sleepless nights decided to rear up his only child himself. Father was a prospective groom even then, and offers were not rare to flow in from the families of young widows or divorcees though most of them considered the little angel to be the only hiccup in the smooth sailing of a new journey. Unsolicited counsels from various quarters were not rare- ‘why not put her in a boarding school?’ ‘Better, send her to her mamar bari.’ Wearing a wry smile father warded them off as pesky mosquitoes. His stubbornness sometimes got reflected in his clenching of jaws but he was not a person to be drawn into any verbal discourse. His reticence had never earned him many friends. He had only one aim, to let the angel of his heart grow wings. She was not unwilling to fulfil his dream, coming up with flying colours in every field she stepped into, academics or music and dance and then entered Sudip to crumble father’s guarded castle to dust. College periods were replaced by amorous classes at the parks and nooks of the city. Rita had no other option but to desert the cosy nest of her father to be sheltered under the wings of her hubby after she failed the final exam. Abinash succumbed to a massive coronary attack, just after six months of his daughter’s elopement. Rita found to her dismay her sweet father had disowned his only child before his death. What she didn’t know was that her only solace, Sudip’s petty job in a private company after a strong recommendation of the MLA was as fragile as a premature baby.
Recession set in. Everything went haywire after the debacle. Sudip suffered an attack of depression soon after he lost his job. He used to stare at the ceiling for hours. Rita could not bear the sight of happy faces on the streets. She didn’t know if Sudip would survive the fatal blow. Their savings would feed them for two months, she calculated. What after that? She was standing at the precipice of an abysmal future but she knew she hated to die an inglorious, obscure death.
The dark alley seems to be devoid of any sign of life. The person is coming with long strides. She almost misses a beat and starts trotting. She braces herself up, takes out the umbrella from her bag and looks back. She can see the poke marked face with a mischievous grin hanging from his lips. Come on, she beckons. He comes two paces. The stink from his stale raincoat is repulsive, in a jiffy she pounces on him. The man trips on the road at this sudden attack. Sudip appears at the right moment to hold a knife at his throat. Rita swiftly searches his pocket.
Six clients a month, not a bad going my dear, Sudip seals his lips with hers. The sleazy night gradually engulfs the moaning couple.